Augmented Reality – will it make your 2010 plan?

04 February 2010

Hello – I’m back, it’s been a long time. Please excuse my absence. I took some time to re-group over the holiday season – and it worked. I am refreshed!

One of my projects as soon as I returned this year was an extensive research project to benchmark best practice online engagement models. Obviously content is king, but good content with no engagement strategy is a shameful waste. Therefore I also analyzed web site designs, tools, social utility applications, widgets, and more. Interesting piece of work that was both broad and very specific at the same time. Ultimately I was able to extract insight in order to interpret the effectiveness and corresponding drivers for success. I am laughing at myself reviewing this intro as it is says so much, and yet so little at the same time…. Anyway, I am only trying to give context to my topic today – Augmented Realty – or more specifically how it is advancing rapidly in both utility and innovation in a way that I have to agree with the many 2010 social web predictions it is the ‘trend’ to watch for.

Quick overview on Augmented Reality (AR). As described by Wikipedia, AR “is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are merged with (or augmented by) Computer-generated imagery”. In more concise words, it is the real world with an added virtual layer. Here is an example of an interesting Lego point of sale display which showcases how it works:

While not new in social media or youth marketing, until tail end of the 2009 it was only really championed by early adopters, and certainly was not considered part of a mainstream consumer consciousness. Developers have nailed the cool factor which we know builds credibility with a youth audience, but experience tells us innovation must drive utility and function, and therefore word of mouth appeal, otherwise it can quickly die. I feel this is in a large part due to the time it requires to engage with these new advancements, high barrier of entry needs to deliver high return.

However many argue the barriers are breaking down, the Lego video above is an example as everything you need to experience it is right there at the point of purchase. You might also recall a Dec 2009 AdWeek feature which outlines predictions on how the advancements in GPS-enabled smartphones could propel this technology in 2010. My own prediction is that to really take off a big brand needs to come in and create awareness and educate consumers about the technology….bring in some recent announcements.

To help get us thinking about the possibilities, I have included recent AR examples including some big brand names, to help you decide for yourself if you think this is going to become a major player in marketing – or just another gimmick.

BEATLES AR TOUR
So I think tourism and travel seems to be an obvious functional use for AR. Inevitably once we see one great example, many more grasp the capabilities and the technology takes off. In this case some clever people at AugmentReality were invited to beta test Layar 3.0 for Android and launched The AR Beatles Tour in December. Users can follow the story of the Beatles around London, including the iconic Abbey Road. The pic here shows if you point your enabled-smartphone over the crossing at Abbey Road you can actually see caricatures of Ringo, Paul, John and George – the app suggests to get your friend in and take a photo. The virtual walking tour covers 42 locations, and the next destination only appears after the previous location has been visited (if they haven’t already I think Lonely planet should get onto this….). I should add I am not in London to test this one for myself….but looks cool!

ADIDAS LAUNCHES FIRST AR SNEAKER
Ok, maybe not the most contested race to market, but still newsworthy. The most recent – and highly publicized – example of AR is the new adidas Original sneaker line which unlocks a world of 3-D games (note while I am not associated adidas is a client of my agency in other markets). The say “adidas Originals AR Game Pack is a set of 5 shoes, each printed with an AR code on the tongue. When you hold the code in front of your webcam, you’ll gain access to a virtual version of the adidas Originals Neighborhood. Each month between February and April, we’ll launch a new interactive game within the Neighborhood and your shoe will be the game controller.” What’s interesting about a leading brand getting involved is that it has the resources to also develop the education campaign for new users, which otherwise could be a barrier. Check out the hype video here, which showcases the design style they are going for.

Hallmark Launches Webcam Greetings with Augmented Reality
Hallmark also recently announced the release of webcam greetings, new cards that use augmented reality technology to bring the card to life on a computer screen. The person receiving the card can visit www.hallmark.com/extra and follow the directions to view a 3D animated feature. You can sample the technology on the site as well. Again, the combination of the education campaign and a mix of younger generations encouraging their parents and even grandparents to join the fun might help mainstream awareness.

We are living in a Transmedia World, and I am a Transmedia Girl (Part 2)

10 December 2009

As promised I wanted to share some thoughts I had about transmedia storytelling and how it relates to brand storytelling. While Transmedia storytelling seems to be an obvious extension of properties such as comic books, we often forget how important the role of storytelling is in brand marketing. Dynamic brands talk to consumers at more than a functional or utility level and cross-media marketing can help us communicate more effectively.

Below are elements I consider important in marketing and idea development as initial guidelines to get us thinking in the right cross-media frame of mind.

  • Start with a central idea, not channels. I find often we want to jump straight to solution in execution – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, iPhone app. Yes these are priority platforms but consider the entire ecosystem first as there are many others that might be more effective. Don’t fall into the trap of bandwagon campaigning and most important please keep in mind offline executions as well.
  • Various channels for different audiences. Create different points of entry for different audience segments, for example as Henry Jenkins points out in this Transmedia 101 post, for the Spiderman property consider what link will be particularly attractive to females (a romance comic “Mary Jane Loves Spiderman”) or younger readers (coloring book or picture book versions of the classic comicbook stories ).
  • How does your brand fit within the role or organic nature of these channels. Discuss the nature and the social utility of relevant channels as part of development – outside of your motivations or brand of course. Many good ideas are executed without this insight, resulting in a half-assed branded community somewhere. Strategy is more important than ever so while I wouldn’t criticize for trying something new, I would for not thinking.
  • What is your brand’s participatory culture. Once and for all, adding a share function is not encouraging participation – consider not that you engage with your audience but how you can allow your audience to engage with you.
  • You don’t decide the value, your audience does. This is one of the most important things to keep in mind when creating great content that will get audiences in social media communities to interact and engage with you. Without the value to the audience, you will get the inevitable “so what?”.

What I love about marketing in today’s culture is it makes you think deeply but connection, engagement and relevance. For those of us not blessed with off the cuff creativity (ahem), what will survive are those brands that value a customer-centric, holistic approach. If you don’t get analysis paralysis and over analyze – it is way more fun.

Image credit, Geoffery Long

We are living in a Transmedia World, and I am a Transmedia Girl (Part 1)

03 November 2009

A great video on transmedia storytelling by Henry Jenkins, author of Convergence Culture. Here Jenkins (my hero BTW) discusses the fundamental shift from spectator culture to participatory culture and inspires us to think of the opportunity presented now that individual voices carry so much weight. This is an intellectual look about how the world is changing – not just media or marketing.

From my perspective I find the concept of multi-platform storytelling especially intriguing as it is fueled by relevant youth marketing trends – the proliferation and popularity of new media forms like video games, social web and mobile platforms, as well as user demand for spreadable content and assets. Each platform makes a unique contribution to the brand narrative, and at the same time build on each other to create a larger story. These stories are non-linear, constantly shifting and ever engaging. What keeps marketers awake at night (figuratively speaking, otherwise take a vacation) is that a growing proportion of this is now formed outside of corporate HQ.

In every challenge is an opportunity and here we find it is in exploring and delivering on every possible media platform to effectively engage an audience. Transmedia storytelling is not a new concept, and sometimes it happens organically for fan-building brands. However this is more than marketing-speak – to me this is Opportunity #1 for thought-leadership in shifting from the old to the new.

Next post I will discuss my ideas on important considerations when developing transmedia brand stories – so stay tuned!

Why I think the Ford Fiesta Movement rocks (and no, I’m not an “Agent”)

02 September 2009

This is an update on an previous entry on my blog “Ford Fiesta Movement Calling for Agents – but are they agents of change?

In April, Ford tapped 100 top bloggers and gave them a Ford Fiesta for six months as part of a huge blogger engagement program. To enter people had to upload a video that demonstrated why they would be the best ‘Agent’ – ie who had the largest network to tap both online via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc, as well as offline. The 100 successful “Agents” were provided a loaner Ford Fiesta and have since been given missions to complete – all cleverly featuring the Ford Fiesta – which they capture and share via their social networks. From what I can see the program was designed to stimulate grass roots hype online, and as well as allow Ford to participate in authentic conversations about the new model.

I think this campaign is great – I loved it in April and now I really love it! Here’s why:

  • It exemplifies best practice social media engagement in a clever, and yet authentic way. In a time when brands are cautiously stepping into an important new engagement model – a very personal and direct model which couldn’t be more different than traditional advertising methods – Ford has proven a brand can authentically and successfully stimulate online conversation. While there was a little controversy surrounding ‘cash for comment’ initially, many of the participants and other social media advocates stood by the genuine approach of Ford – in no way does Ford control the content so if someone is unhappy with the car they are free to say so, and it is pretty up front what the arrangement is for any one who runs across this content. Not sure how many people would bag out a free car (no such thing as a bad free car my stepdad said when I was begging for my Mustang Convertible when I turned 16!) but from a marketers perspective who likes to control product messages it would still be risky. Really, it is a simple and yet innovative concept – one I believe may (including myself) will replicate parts of. One vlogger sums it up here, she thinks Ford does it best as they have allowed her to feel she is part of something bigger, not just selling out to get free stuff.

NB read more from Scott Monty, head of social media at Ford in today’s USA Today story here. Follow Scott Monty on Twitter (@ScottMonty) - not quite the Ashton Kutcher level but a Social Media celeb indeed.

  • Ford Fiesta Movement is delivering huge results proving that social media is an indispensable business tool. Recently (July 2009) Ford released initial impressions from the campaign including: more than 2.2 million YouTube views, more than 312,000 Flickr views and more than 2 million Twitter impressions, resulting in more than 13.4 million impressions. This highlights how social media is progressed beyond a niche channel – even given different non-youth audiences – and when done well actually drives mass impressions. Obviously I would like to see some more Social measurements that showcase the impact of the conversation, sentiment, changes in brand perception perhaps – but most don’t necessarily reveal that information (well, unless an agency is trying to win an award). I add that the ‘missions’ are a clever way to integrate key messages. In one instance, “Agent Joe” is tasked with filling up the gas tank of his Fiesta (a fuel efficient car) and driving until he runs out of gas. He makes it 432.5 miles.
  • The Hub and Spoke model in practice, a strategic approach to managing an online brand presence. The Ford Fiesta Movement site – or Live Feed they call it - is a great example of what I call the ‘tentacle’ approach (others call it many things, this is not an original theory) – which is about having a strategic presence in many different social networks and online platforms, and aggregating that content back on your own site. This approach empowers people to spread the word for you, and takes into account that people engage on various social networks in different ways. To truly harness the power of social media (key word being social) we need to understand the ecosystem of how people play online, and at the center is where we should sit. When managed strategically and integrating insight derived from key word research, these conversations can be an important factor in driving web site optimisation – a hugely influential piece of the online marketing pie. This is a great reason why Social Media should not be executed in silos with a couple random people on computers punching out tweets – we as an industry need to move beyond this idea and show how we can integrate Social Media activity to deliver back to the business (see point Number 2 above).

So in summary the campaign is great because it’s innovative, strategic and delivers results – what more can we ask for?

I have one thing to say to Ford, Scott Monty and the others behind it – wish I had thought of that…..

Why you should market your company culture, not just products

24 August 2009

While a shift from traditional formulas for advertising ROI, I believe that the best youth brands have discovered how to not only market products, but market the companies.

This is important for two reasons – 1) your company is your products/offer, and your products are your company – seems obvious but unfortunately there is often a disconnect here as companies get bigger and execs get removed – CEO’s need to make an effort – cue Richard Branson. 2) there is a very fine line between your offer and your reputation, therefore you need to consider your company from a holistic point of view – no more left-brain and right-brain business structures.

Red Bull – the gold standard for which most youth brands aspire too (and I would argue most brands full stop) – is organised so that at heart of the company sits the brand and marketing. This is a fundamental difference to more traditional corporate structures where the marketing department is there to support the business. Red Bull understands that they are in the business of energy, not energy drinks, and this is why the brands resonates.

I love the idea of promoting the culture of a company as a branding exercise in order to deliver these messages to the consumer. Clever companies are realising their biggest brand fans and advocates are sitting right next to them and experimenting how to leverage this.

Zappos is a great case study of how to democratise social media within an organisation to help communicate the company culture outwards to consumers. We are not talking casual Fridays and a beers on Friday night, but what the company stands for and how this is communicated form the inside out. For example in this latest Zappos video several employees show off their tattoos and tell the stories behind them. Quite personally the tats seem a bit ‘hey look at us, we’re cool’ but I think that is more my personal feeling of tats then the initiative (btw I have tattoos and therefore am able to make such generalisations).

Check out insidezappos YouTube channel here for more company culture videos including baby showers, profiles of employees work spaces, and general antics.

Another company has recently announced a similar initiative. PUMA has a new integrated campaign which features a selection of 14 employees proclaiming their most random thoughts – their love for chicken nuggets and cupcakes, date-seekers and ex-girlfriend rants. Believe the photo shoot featured here will also form the new advertising campaign. I think this is great, PUMA is cleverly using employees to highlight how as a brand they are young and creative.

Check out PUMA’s YouTube channel here for more info.

I would only add an element to make this even more integrated by using this content at retail level. I think it’s a really good feeling if you were to walk into a store and get a sense of the corporate culture. I could see this content on loop in stores, each location creating and incorporating their random thoughts as well. Integrate the ad campaign with an internal comms initiative and watch it grow.

I think we all get at some level that being good is no longer good enough, companies need to be relevant. Youth want to buy into more than a product. Considering this audience participates in 145 CONVERSATIONS a week about brands – twice the amount as adults – I would suggest we all consider how we can resonate at every level, not just product.

It’s official, banning viral marketing from my vocabulary

11 August 2009

Ran across an article on Advertising Age – a book review and interview with author Bill Wasik, the Godfather of flash mobs. In his new book, “And Then There’s This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture,”* he ponders the life (and possible death) of Word-of-Mouth Marketing in a Social-Media World. Mr Wasik notes that with the rise of social networking in which people are familiar with the ideas of personal branding, it poses certain future challenges for marketers – ie the more savvy consumers are, the harder it is to tap into them via social media.

While I have not yet read the book and do not want to misrepresent the context – it has got me thinking. I feel Word-of-Mouth marketing by nature is more important than ever. Research suggests peer influences are very important factors in a customer’s purchase pathway – for items big and small. They also influence perceptions of brands. I also feel social media with peer communities presents heaps of opportunities.

However I agree with the statement that viral marketing might be dead. Perhaps this is because the idea of viral marketing at its foundation is based on old advertising-models. As noted by Henry Jenkins in “If it Doesn’t Spread, It’s Dead”** (a must read), the very definition uses a metaphor of viruses being spread involuntarily by unaware consumers. Like Swine Flu. Why would anyone want to be involved with that? The term was created by marketers who were comfortable with disruptive advertising models to hold onto an inflated sense of their role in the process.

But we all know the truth – we (collective we as in the marketing industry ‘we’) have lost control. Unpredictable results in social media campaigns, fueled by unpredictable behavior by consumers, is a source of great anxiety within business. It is a common story – we built it, why didn’t they come?

Therefore I have ditched the term viral and instead adopted Mr Jenkins’ theory of ‘spreadable media’ – which emphasizes the role of consumers, or what he calls ‘multipliers’, in shaping the distribution of content. This notion of spreadability is a direct contrast to outdated models which emphasize centralised control of distribution and message. The power is with those who spread, not those who create.

If as marketers we want to be able to harness and effectively engage the power of WOMM marketing within social media we need to better understand the role we all play.

Here I have developed 3 overarching principles I feel are important when successfully creating spreadable culture and ultimately developing communities. I originally had more but I felt everything else kept falling into these buckets – so this is what I am sticking with:

  • Stop and ask why – without your brand hat on. It can’t be said enough but in order to engage your audience you need understand the motivations – and let me give you a hint – your recent ad campaign 99.9% of the time is not serving the interests of the consumer. Consider what content you are offering and how that is going to strengthen the relationship with your consumer. Another way to look at it is to solve your customer’s issues, instead of your own.
  • If your strategy relies on one video to “go viral to extend reach” – go back to the drawing board. To best integrate into a connected society, you need to provide as many layers as possible, building an ecosystem around the brand. You might want to consider the role of RSS feeds, corporate blog, Twitter, EDM, mobile apps, Wikipedia, LinkedIn, Yahoo! Answers, etc – that is not even to mention offline activations which should feed into all these as well. Social media is not “a” channel – it’s is heaps and these should play many roles in your marketing strategies, just not a mere campaign extension as in my opinion that misses the point a bit.
  • Stop thinking of your content as ‘free’, think of it as a gift. As Mr Jenkins notes in his whitepaper, “in a gift economy the gifts we share say something about our perceptions of the person we are passing them to as much as they express our own tastes and interests”. It is important to think that all these interactions should reward your consumers for participating in your brand. What gifts are you giving your customers?

While it may seem trivial to focus on the language, when you drill down it’s not the words we use it’s how we understand the mechanics of it that are misleading and ineffective. Perhaps by changing the language, we will change the deeper meaning.

For more information on the sources quoted, please see here:

*Bill Wasik’s new book “And Then There’s This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture,” a survey of the rise of the “nanostory” in America and its impact on culture, art, politics and, of course, marketing, is out now. Check out these Amazon reviews.

**Henry Jenkins’ white paper “If it Doesn’t Spread, It’s Dead”, co-drafted by Henry Jenkins, Xiaochang Li, and Ana Domb Krauskopf with Joshua Green, was developed by the Convergence Culture Consortium on the topic of Spreadable media. Check out the paper available on Henry Jenkin’s blog Confessions of an Aca Fan here.

The real insight from 15-year Morgan Stanley intern – LISTEN

14 July 2009

Yesterday it made international news that a 15-year old intern at Morgan Stanley has “shocked the industry” by reporting on the “real” media consumption habits of teens. By around the world – I mean Tokyo, New York, London and Sydney. Not sure how this is breaking news but the report by Matthew Robson titled How Teenagers Consume Media found “Twitter is for old people, teenagers do not listen to the radio and a mobile phone is used for talking to girls”. Mr Robson researched via his networks of friends and says he believes the data represents the collective wisdom of about 300 teenagers. His research method — “I texted a few friends to get ideas,” he told the Financial Times. Edward Hill-Wood, executive director of Morgan Stanley’s European media team said: “His report was one of the clearest and most thought-provoking insights we have seen – so we published it.”

As we know Mr Robson’s “network” are probably all kids like him, so in reality provides more of an insight into his specific demographic than the world as a whole – in fact read the barrage of comments on each and every news site and everyone apparently has an opinion about the validity of his findings. Groundbreaking stats to shock the world, I think not. But I do think that it is great that this report has generated interest in Listening to Gen Y. Listening with Capital L and Big Ears.

Often we make our market research overly strategic, and in reality it is often framed by people outside of the target which therefore influences the results. Mr Robson’s view – straight from the horse’s mouth. I think a really interesting insight that comes from this is not the media habits, because (hopefully) most people in Youth marketing would have a grasp of that. More it’s that you can spend $200 and give a kid a camera and it will give you more insight than $25,000 worth of data. Insight is funny like that – it needs to create that “aha” moment for you to make it relevant.

My point is if it’s you are in Youth Marketing and it’s been a while since you have spent a day at a music festival, chilled out on university campus or even chatted with a teen-something at a local Surfing event – maybe you would be better placed to spend a day in the life as a bit of a reality check then spend another day reviewing market research in your boardroom. This is why Youth brands such as Red Bull – which are on the ground with kids every day – get it. By get it I mean youth marketing but also marketshare. And really, is this only a “youth” thing or could all marketers take a page from this manual?

One final note – and to no discredit to Mr Robson who I could only imagine is a very confident, well spoken and interesting kid – but not sure why exactly he is labeled a whiz kid? Why do the established always fail to recognise the potential of the unestablished – aka their own workers? This is not a Gen Y versus “old people” argument – this is a theme throughout history. Why do companies not harness the value of the insight that younger generations bring to the table as opposed to groan about their attitudes and expectations?

Hope this an “aha” moment amongst all my 50-something CEO’s CMOs, Recruitment Officers, etc.

PHOTO CREDIT, Financial Times: Matthew Robson, 15, says teenagers don’t read newspapers, use phones to make calls or go to the cinema.

Levi’s Go Forth: Over the Hype, Let’s Talk Substance

10 July 2009

Interesting debate on Ad Age regarding the new Levi’s campaign, “Go Forth”.

I think everyone has had their say on the credit or merit of the creative. I like it, and I am the target, so take that for what it’s worth. Might be a bit lofty even for myself with an advanced Literature degree – Walt Whitman and all – but it’s good. Check it out below. Check out the site here.

I think this brings a truly interesting concept with youth marketing to life – how to mean something and be relevant to your audience. Creative agency reps and media contacts can bag, applaud or turn their heads from the new creative concept, if it resonates with the youth audience does it matter what accolades it receives? I think not.

However let’s discuss ‘relevance’. There is a thin line – if one at all – between brand and reputation and that should be the true test for brand marketing campaigns. So – does Levi’s stand by its positioning? You need to be authentic (yes that buzz word again) to be credibile (two in one sentence). This means more about what they stand for not what they say.

Inherently it seems to fit with me – Levi’s with its heritage also bringing forth the New American spirit. Nice message. But other than creative, how do they stand for the New America? Not arguing, just posing the question. I am very interested to see how they roll out this element for submissions of ‘good ideas’ supporting American pioneers (see here), I love a good empowerment campaign!

So let the war of opinions wage on if this is the next Cannes Lions award…I think let’s move beyond the hype and talk about how Levi’s will deliver on this positioning – because it is a strong message.

Nestea takes Nes-step Online

07 July 2009

Coca-Cola’s Nestea is the latest brand to launch online-only branded content. As noted in a recent Brandweek article, “[CTRL], which launches on sites such as NBC.com, USANetwork.com, Hulu.com this month, stars Tony Hale of Arrested Development as an office worker with the ability to change everyday reality by drinking Nestea”. The webisdoes will supplement the current Nestea “Liquid Awesomeness” campaign running online, and launches in mid-July. You can read the full interview with Annis Lyles, VP of Media and Interactive for Coca-Cola, North America in Brandweek here which gives some interesting insight.

The strategy seems right to me – empowerment. Adding value and content to youth’s lives. Ms Lyles also noted that it takes more than building the site or posting the videos to draw attention, there is a seeding strategy in place to drive awareness (I hope that seeding strategy doesn’t mean banner ads, by the way). Another tick for success. Furthermore, entertainment as a core youth pillar seems a natural fit for a brand trying new engagement models.

However I do feel there is a major hurdle for any brand moving into a youth space – it can seem hollow. I think this is because youth feel brands need to earn a certain level of credibility that offers this humorous, playful tone for example. Cracking the youth demographic is difficult, if you look at really successful brands like a Boost Mobile or Red Bull, they are ingrained at a really grass roots level. Boost Mobile people are present at local surf events, pick-up basketball games, and the other relevant places their target audiences are – in real life, and online. That level of commitment and authentic interest from a brand is a cultural thing, and if that is not your company’s brand I think it poses significant challenges. Red Bull is a unique company where the marketing runs the organisation, not vice versa.

That said we all have to start somewhere whether trying to find a new audience, or making the jump to an online engagement strategy. It is all a learning process and evolution for us and I am surely not one to criticise brands for making the leap. I look forward to following [CTRL] – sounds like something I would like and yes, I am the target millennial. Anyway maybe some more of my millennial readers (which believe it or not there are quite a few) will check it out as a result as well…

YouTube Summer School – Literally….

03 July 2009

I have often written about the role of technology in education – I think it’s an important topic that does not get enough attention. However there is a reverse side of this – and that’s educating youth about relevant (and safe) uses for technology. I think having not just basic but advanced skills with a variety of formats, channels and technology is a must.

Needless to say there is a huge opportunity for technology brands to embrace the young generation, providing the educational resources that are relevant, and in turn develop advocacy at an important stage. This is adding value 101.

That said today I have seen an interesting Apple initiative today –“From you to YouTube” – a training program on the evolution of creation of video content. The site says it’s “an intensive hands-on summer workshop for young adults in writing, shooting, directing, editing and even distributing work.” Awesome. I find it really interesting and an amazing sign of the times that “distribution” is an area of study. It got me thinking that before they just send these kids on their way, I hope as a Master Class they offer advice on Personal Branding and how to manage and maintain your reputation online. We all know the dangers of public vs private spaces, but what about how to maximise your online brand. Seems a natural next step here.

Not only do I applaud Apple for having a presence and taking a role in this space (note this is only one of many education initatives for them), I heart the grass roots foundation they have. Sounds like Summer School of my dreams!