Stop Whining about Facebook and Google Changes…Follow Their Lead Instead

Stop Whining about Facebook and Google Changes

Several weeks ago two internet superpowers – Facebook and Google – made changes to their user experience that made users happy and marketers cringe. The changes were indirectly directed at “marketing” tactics common to their services and part of both companies’ quest to bring more value to their users.

Marketers like myself wax poetic about delivering great products and customer experiences to build a strong brand. But heaven forbid Google or Facebook do the same thing and affect our marketing toolbox. It’s easy to get frustrated, but by taking a look at why these changes were made, we’ll understand and change-proof our marketing efforts. First let’s take a closer look at the changes.

Facebook’s Like-Gate

Facebook effectively killed the “Like-gate” – a practice where the brand forces a visitor to “Like” their brand page before they can access its content. It was a way to drive up Like numbers for a page and open up distribution for future content. From Facebook’s perspective (and mine after some thought), it created an unnecessary barrier for the Facebook user, negatively affecting their experience.

The reason marketers loved the like-gate is that those slightly cooked-up “like” numbers made it easy to look good on paper. Furthermore, often these like-gates were contests for prizes for liking the page, which begs the question, were the users “liking” the brand or the contest? Facebook wants a more honest approach from brands in order to deliver a more organic experience to its users.

Gmail Unsubscribe

Google stirred the pot by adding an “Unsubscribe” button to the top of emails in Gmail. Having an unsubscribe link in the email is a best practice and any good marketer has one in any promotional email, newsletters, etc. Those good marketers also bury those links in the fine print at the very bottom of the email. Gmail now moves that link right to the top.

While this change was met with seemingly less angst, the concern is obvious – subscriber numbers could go down. In realty though, if users click this unsubscribe button, they were already lost. Those emails were going unread and probably getting really annoying. Google just helped make that loss more official. While subscriber numbers may go down, open and click rate would theoretically increase with a more engaged list.

Watch and Learn

Google and Facebook are keeping marketers honest – honest in their numbers and interpretations of those numbers. Both companies want to deliver the best experience and content to their users. While these platforms will continue to evolve, that underlying principle will always be constant. By keeping that in mind, these and future changes can be counteracted and even rendered moot.

Google and Facebook are focused on making a product that users continually engage with. As technology changes, so do consumers’ needs and expectations. Staying on top of industry trends, addressing future needs and throwing in a little original innovation keeps users using the their platforms. That list applies to any product or service wanting to stay connected with their users, customers, fans, etc.

Google and Facebook are content delivery platforms designed to provide users with the best possible content. What is the best possible content? That depends on the audience, but it should be some combination of original, informative, entertaining and valuable. A consistent stream of quality content will drive anyone to click, like or subscribe more so than adding marketing-based walls and mildly questionable tactics.

In a convenient twist, all of these changes are made to boost Google’s and Facebook’s user and engagement numbers. They gather vast amounts of data that help them serve those marketers looking promote their brands. By gathering more honest data they are able to provide better value to marketers and watch the price of Google and Facebook stock go up.

The formula is simple. Focus on delivering an experience and content that users love and the number will go up. That is how you beat the change. Focus on what Google and Facebook are focusing on and the next time they make headlines for changes in their platforms, you won’t even blink.

 

photo credit: Jeremy Hiebert via flickr cc

Have You Put a Pool in Your Football Stadium Yet?

TFootball Splashhe Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League are in the midst of renovating their home stadium, EverBank Field. This renovation features the standard stadium upgrades like gigantic scoreboard screens, but it also includes one peculiar one: replacing 9,500 seats with a party deck featuring two swimming pools with cabanas. That’s right, swimming pools in a National Football League stadium.

Pools and other recreational amenities are not uncommon in minor league baseball stadiums across the country. Those teams are looking to create an experience to attract passive fans and the uninterested to come to games. So why would a team in arguably the most popular sport in the country need to resort to a gimmick like this?

Therein lies the marketing lesson.

Not All Markets are the Same

Many times renovations like this include adding seats for more tickets and revenue. This makes sense, as tickets to NFL games are typically a hot commodity and most games are sold out. The game itself is the attraction. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case for the Jaguars, who have had to place tarps over thousands of seats in order to “sell out” games and avoid local TV blackouts. Here’s a quick assessment of the Jaguars’ situation:

  • Demographics – Of the 32 NFL teams, Jacksonville has the 4th smallest metropolitan area and the second highest population turnover rate in the country.
  • Lack of interest – The team has made the playoffs only twice since 2000 and has had just as many winning seasons in that time span. Losing seasons plague attendance of many NFL teams, but the effect is exponential when factoring in these other circumstances.
  • Lack of loyalty – The Jaguars are still a relatively young franchise in just their 20th season of existence. Most teams have existed for 50-80 years and have generations of loyal fans.

A stark contrast to the Jaguars’ plight is the Green Bay Packers, who play in the smallest metropolitan area in the NFL (and the other three major sports leagues). However, the Packers’ unique ownership structure has nurtured a profound connection with their hometown. The Packers have a storied history as one of the NFL’s founding franchises, including the most NFL championships (13) and numerous legendary coaches and players. All this leads to a diehard fans base that spans generations, packs the stadium every Sunday and would find pools in Lambeau Field sacrilegious (and really, really cold).

Jags stadium

Image: Jacksonville Jaguars

Adjusting the Experience

Jaguars fans were not going to help the team maximize their profitability as a football franchise. The organization saw that the standard fan experience of just enjoying the game was no longer cutting it in the Jacksonville market. Thousands of empty and tarped seats leave a lot of revenue on the table. The Jaguars needed a new approach to bring people, or more importantly, revenue into the stadium each Sunday.

“We’re targeting businesses who want to entertain some of their clients or even their own employees,” said Chad Johnson, the team’s senior vice president of sales in this ESPN article. “What we’ve built here you can’t get anywhere else.”

The team had to appeal to the people of Jacksonville, particularly the high earners and business leaders who weren’t necessarily Jaguars fans. The pools provide a unique and more lucrative fan experience for the team. I don’t know the math, but I’m guessing the projected revenue generated by these cabanas would be more than regular seats would bring in if they were full. It’s definitely more than empty seats.

While the pool is the biggest splash of the renovated stadium experience, there are other things that are being implemented to attract more than just Jaguars fans to the games. The team will broadcast NFL RedZone – the league’s exclusive, real-time highlights program – during games. Rather than focusing solely on the action on the field the team is providing a better experience for the casual fan. Fantasy football’s popularity may make this a standard practice in stadiums, so the Jaguars may be way ahead of the game day experience curve here.

With a small and unreliable pool of fans, Jacksonville is relying on those who are looking for a unique experience and not necessarily wanting to see a football game. With this party-like mindset, football is secondary to the experience. To compare, having a luxury suite at a Packers game (comparable to the pool package in Jacksonville) is a unique experience because of football. The game makes the experience, rather than the backdrop.

Playing to Win

With increasingly connected consumers who have everything available at their fingertips, owning your niche is important. Like any good marketer, you have to know what your audience wants, because they can and will get it somewhere. Larger corporations have used their consumer data to anticipate needs and deliver useful experiences. Consumers are used to being heard and expect a personalized or at the very least a local experience.

Just as the Jaguars are counting on a uniquely Jacksonville experience rather than a typical NFL game experience, your niche is looking for a uniquely “me” experience rather than an “everyone” experience. Find that niche, make them love you, and turn all of those connected consumers into an advantage as they communicate their experience with those looking for a similar one.

Competitors, fellow franchisees or nearby locations may all sell the same thing, but customers for the same product don’t always want or expect the same experience. A more granular understanding of your target markets will tell you if and where you need a standard game day experience or if you should shake it up with some swimming pools. Sure it may seem sacrilegious to the traditionalist in your industry, but you’re not doing it for them. You’re doing it for the ones that pay your bills.

Pros and Cons of Samsung’s Selfie Stunts

Samsung selfies

It was the selfie seen around the world.

Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscar selfie took the internet by storm, setting a record for most retweets. It was one of those great cultural moments shared by nearly everyone thanks to everyone. Then Samsung, whose device was used to capture the moment, claimed that they were behind it.

Several weeks later, President Obama hosted the World Champion Boston Red Sox at the White House. Slugger David “Big Papi” Ortiz took a selfie with the President on his Samsung device that grabbed social media’s attention as a special moment. It was later revealed that Ortiz had signed an “social insider” deal with Samsung a few weeks before and again the company again branded a seemingly spontaneous event.

Samsung strategically and creatively capitalized on the selfie trend. It was a bold, clever move to place its devices in the hands of celebrities and leverage personal (or seemingly personal) content to promote the brand. As with any bold move though, there is backlash. For all of the pros, there are cons.

Pro: Owning a moment

With a constant cycle of information and entertainment, creating a moment that causes people to pause and say ‘hey look at that’ is the goal of every social media marketer. Those moments are usually personal in nature and rarely happen with brands attached to them. Samsung created an exception by capitalizing on moments created by celebrities using the company’s devices. The company created cultural significance for themselves, which is necessary in their quest against the cultural icon that is Apple. By utilizing selfies – a cultural phenomenon themselves – the company created instantly relevant and relatable content. With the personal nature of selfies, this content created a stronger personal connection between the celebrity, the audience and Samsung.

Con: Ruining the moment

“Pix or it didn’t happen.” Nowadays, amazing personal moments or encounters are verified on social media by snapping a selfie or just a normal picture. This social proof is taken at face value as authentic. Now that authenticity is somewhat tainted when it comes to brands on social media. Samsung has seemingly hijacked special moments via selfies. People and brands around large events and potential cultural moments will have a heightened awareness for selfie seeking brands. The steps taken will ruin the experience for the average person looking to verify their place in the moment with a selfie. For instance, the White House now seems to be prohibiting people from taking selfies with the President. Sorry Olympians.

Conan's White House Selfie Joke

Pro: A New Level of Celebrity Endorsement

Samsung has been going after Apple’s “it” status for the past couple years by going after Apple fans and head to head comparisons. With the selfies, they are trying to knock the iPhone from its status symbol status by trying to transfer some of that celebrity status to its brand. Plus, celebrities tend to hang around other and sometimes bigger, celebrities who can grab more attention for the brand.

These “social insiders,” armed Samsung devices, documented these moments and provided the company with original and unique content. The selfies provided a level of authenticity to the endorsement with proof that the celebrities actually use the devices. Some may still be skeptical about the authenticity, but everyone knows that Ellen and “Big Papi” weren’t using iPhones.

Con: Celebrities May be Gun Shy with Selfies Now

Usually these guerrilla tactics are used on average people, who, assuming a positive experience, will allow use of their likeness after the fact. But Samsung is using well known celebrities whose likeness is more guarded and in most instances, their paycheck. Their personal brand is now tied to Samsung whether they like it or not. It will be interesting to see what legal issues come from this.

Will unsuspecting celebrities sue Samsung for unauthorized use of their likeness? Athletics could be particular interesting. Say a Nike sponsored athlete takes a selfie with an Adidas sponsored athlete back stage at the ESPY’s and Nike pulls a Samsung. Are there consequences for the Adidas athlete for essentially appearing in a Nike ad? I have a feeling that those who sign these “social insider” contracts will start to include boundaries.

Pro: Better engagement

Samsung was able to insert itself into big events in a very personal way through these selfies. By combining tactics like real-time marketing, product placement, celebrity endorsement and social media they created connections between people, an event and the brand in a way no other brand has before.

Selfies are personal. Spontaneity, imperfections and moments make them that way. Samsung’s use of selfies was in stark contrast to carefully planned and measured photos and posts normally delivered by brands on social media. They were able to add an additional layer of humanity to their social engagement and people responded.

Con: Further Infiltration from Advertisers Into Daily Lives

“Nothing is sacred anymore” is the typical response to an advertising first like this. People are leery of brand engagement on social media and see it as an invasion of seemingly personal space. Samsung’s stunts take that angst a bit further by turning something very personal – the selfie – and cheapening it. Another seemingly spontaneous cool event turned out to be another advertising stunt.

Our devices have become completely integrated with our daily life, new boundaries will be discovered as advertisers look to take advantage. Advertisers have always looked for ways to be seen by their customers and maintain relevance. That will never change despite people’s best efforts. As technology expands and new trends emerge, so will advertisers’ desire to be a part of it. People just won’t like it.

Now What?

People in business and marketing circles will continue to debate the how much of this was spontaneous or manufactured. No one will debate that Samsung touched on something with this tactic. They discovered a new boundary to cross and no one is quite sure what happens next. It’ll be interesting, and a bit messy.

Super Bowl Splash or Consistent Current?

Super Bowl Splash or Consistent Current?The Super Bowl is an opportunity to make a big splash, tying your brand event with one of the most watched telecasts of the year. This year, advertisers are busy leaking and teasing their Super Bowl ads. However, a study was released just prior to the Super Bowl run up stating that 80% of Super Bowl ads are ineffective. Talk about a buzzkill.

At $4 million a spot, attaching “ineffective” to Super Bowl ads should not be taken lightly. However the study relies too much one singular ad appearance to move someone to buy. The problem with big splashes like the Super Bowl is they rely on one broad stroke and hope that a majority of the audience wants what you have to offer right then and there. Most buying decisions take long-term influence – a consistent current of brand activity.

A sustained presence in the mind of the customer means that when they are ready to buy, you are the one that they call. But, sometimes a brand-jolt like a Super Bowl ad is need to grab their attention. Both approaches have their pros and cons.

Super Bowl Splashes

Pro: Super Bowl splashes grab attention
The brand takes center stage in front of a captive audience that’s excited to be there. It’s an opportunity to do something memorable, make an impact and build momentum. The Super Bowl splash is best when you have something new to share. However, to take advantage of this momentum a follow up plan is needed.

Con: Short and ever-shrinking shelf life
Without looking it up, name one Super Bowl ad from last year. Super Bowl ads have shifted from selling to entertainment. Viewers are just not in a buying state of mind when watching them so the message is easy to ignore. Big splashes are becoming more ineffective with ever increasing amount of information and entertainment being consumed today. Super Bowl advertisers have been combating this over the past few years with mini campaigns for their ads to create additional touches.

Consistent Currents

Pro: Consistency breeds familiarity.
All things being equal, people will buy from brands they know and trust. To build a brand or community or loyal fans, persistence is the better option. GEICO, for example, has done such a great job of consistently using their “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance” tagline, that in their current campaign, they don’t have to finish it.

Con: Becomes white noise
Familiarity can turn into background noise and become common place. It can easily fall victim to the increasing consumption of information and entertainment that Super Bowl splashes do. GEICO has used several campaigns and characters including a gecko, Dikembe Mutombo and a pig to deliver the message over the years. While the message needs to be consistent, changing up the delivery or creative keep it fresh and interesting.

Best Case Scenario

Beyoncé’s much discussed surprise album drop was heralded as a game changer in marketing. However, it was a result of “old” marketing tactics that combined the consistent current and Super Bowl splash. Beyoncé consistently delivered a brand experience her fans wanted and left them craving more. So when she goes for the Super Bowl splash, the response is mind boggling-record sales.

Super Bowl splashes keep the brand fresh. A consistent current builds loyal followings that anticipate big splashes. The best plan is a combination of the two, allowing them to feed off of each other.

photo credit: Steve and Sara via photopin cc

Beyoncé’s New Album is the Culmination, not Death, of Marketing

Beyoncé's New Album is the Culmination, not Death, of MarketingThe internet was all a buzz with Beyoncé’s midnight surprise album release last week. In case you missed it, she dropped the album with no advance notice, single release, or any other buzz inducing activity and sold over 600,000 copies within the first couple of days. While fans were gasping and scrambling iTunes to download it, those in the business and marketing circles contemplated the non-promotion move.

Kevin Roberts, CEO of the global advertising agency Saachi & Saachi, commented in an interview with Bloomberg that “Marketing as we knew it was dead.” His claim is that brand awareness and demand generation are being replaced by movements created through intimacy and social connectivity.

However, his analysis ignores the work it takes to get a brand to the point where people feel compelled to join in those movements. People didn’t just all of the sudden like Beyoncé. She spent her entire life marketing herself into a world-wide mega brand. She gave fans an amazing brand experience at her shows. She continually honed her craft and delivered a product that connected with her fans and found new ones.

Roberts is half right in that people want more from brands, but without “old-school” brand awareness and demand generation, they won’t know what brand that they want more from. The Beyoncé of ten years ago would have had a hard time pulling this off (if you ignore the fact the iTunes didn’t exist 10 years ago, you see my point). Only mega-brand Beyoncé could pull this off and expected it to wildly succeed. That takes years of marketing and brand building and being really, really good at what you do.