“The goal is to gain a “disproportional share of popular culture”

An article on Fast Company.com caught my eye this week.

Why Companies Promote Games Through Huge Events

The article explores how some companies are adding something extra to their integrated marketing campaign, they are running huge events to keep their fans engaged. The article focuses in on the gaming industry and specifically BlizzCon 2011, an event put on by Blizzard, the creators of the immensely popular World of Warcraft.  This is a wonderfully expensive event, which operates at a loss. A loss? And they still do it? Why?

Paul Sams, COO of Blizzard says it’s worth it. “[BlizzCon] started out as, and has continued to be, an opportunity for us to connect with our very passionate player community. We wanted to have a celebration of Blizzard games,” Sams told FastCompany.com. For a video game company supporting one of the most profitable entertainment franchises in existence–WoW earns over $1 billion per year–it only makes sense to give back to the fans, he suggests. “We run BlizzCon at a financial loss…[but] we get to see to the passion in person, to hear the enthusiasm in the voice of the players.”

Other game companies, like Activision are offering “IRL” or in-real-life fan experience events.  To their Call of Duty franchise they created a Call of Duty XP event.

“Activision’s CEO Paul Hirschberg said, “We did everything from building levels of the game at actual size and using them as paintball stadiums, to recreating a level from Modern Warfare 2 as an obstacle course, and a jeep experience where you are riding with a professional driver, through a jeep obstacle course that looks like the game come to life, with mortal shells and gunfire going off all around you.”’

Sounds pretty bad ass. The 8,500 people who showed up and millions of people who followed thought so. Their Facebook page received tens of impressions and they were a trending topic on Twitter. Massive PR attention was round as well with stories being published in the gaming media and even Forbes. In the end this marketing experiment had a solid return on investment.

This kind of activation and promotion strategy makes sense for big brands like Blizzard who are racking in 1 billion a year off of the faithful fans of WoW.   But does this approach make sense for the more mainstream non-gaming brands?

Coke thinks so.

Jonathan Mildenhall, Coca Cola’s vice president of global advertising strategy and excellence, was the focus of a MarkeingWeek article last week. “Creative content will fuel Coca Cola’s growth”  Mildenhall states that companies advertising strategy is going to “move from creative excellence to content excellence.

” The goal is to gain a“disproportional share of popular culture”.

(Is that a great quote or what!)

Coke is to use a combination of crowdsourcing and mainstream popular culture (artists, music, the film industry) to create creative content through storytelling.Ditching traditional methods of marketing is gutsy. You hear a lot about how brands need to offer an experience and tell a story, but not to many are backing it up with a budget. Seems like that is going to shift.

Mildenhall goes on to say that “We want to double the size of the business in 10 years so we need to disrupt everything about the business.” I bet that guy has the bean counters sweating!!

They are kicking things off at the 2012 Olympics, where they will showcase a 120 pieces of creative content.  Sounds like they are going to be offering some “IRL” with a Coke spin. Excited to see what that is going to be.

I predict we are going to see more of this strategy inserted into the marketing mix. Brands like Coke who have decided it is CONTENT that drives creativity, the ability to provide substance and value to the consumer through an experience (not just in the product). Creative wit is easy (budlight) creative substance is not.  Coke is going to try and set the bar.  The gaming industry is showing us that while the events may not make a ‘profit’ the return on investment can be achieved. It is working for gaming because games by nature provide new content and interactivity. Can soda pop do the same thing? Maybe.

I am suspicious of the idea that a brand can bring “substance and value’ to my life through creative content. That their motives are some how being pushed by a deeper value system is suspect. With that said I much prefer creative content curated by the genius of Mildenhall (big fan) over 30 seconds of dribble or poor IMC strategy. I am rooting for him. Perhaps Coke can melt some of my cold skepticism.


Original Articles:




Where people don’t use Facebook

Found this great map today. (Thank you @abe1x)
Where People Don’t Use Facebook. It is two maps really. The famous facebook connections map on to of the classic NASA night view of the earth.

The black areas = people using Facebook.

The light areas = no Facebook access

I am surprised we don’t see more black areas in the middle east, considering the media is calling it a revolution supported by social media.

The future of the half time show!

Prediction…The future of the half time show. Interactive gaming.

Fans win a chance to engage with real motion gaming/projection technology during the halftime. Throw the winning touchdown, hit that magic 3 pointer, destroy aliens (as seen below). For the college football crowd the marching band could interact with DigDug. What!!

Can’t wait till this is main stream!

(Watch how 4 members from Chelsea mop it up with Space Invaders!)

One More. Rugby and dragons

Have you seen the birds flying all over the Internet?

“Have you seen the birds flying all over the Internet? Start #BirdingTheNet to spot them all and win awesome prizes. http://t.co/5ZovZWUUhttp://t.co/5ZovZWUU

This tweet sparked my interest. Birds fly over the internet? What does that mean? So I clicked the link and a second later the Facebook page of the Nationa Audubon Society popped up.

Whoa! That looks really nice. Really nice!

Great colors, fun illustrations, patterns and textures combined with a legible serif font does a lot to provide credibility to the campaign.  The details are fun. They use touches of birds and secondary design elements like clouds and wood grains to echo the essence of their brand. (Their buttons remind me a little of Stefan Sagmeisters old site, minus the annoying animation.) The style of illustration is consistent through out each section. Consistency in the aesthetic of a campaign is as important as consistency in message.


A quick bounce over to their official website and you see the same style being applied.


Well done National Audubon Society. Many brands with much larger budgets need to take a page from your book.

Quality and consistency. And we did even talk about the actual campaign, which is a great way to engage your audience.
We will tackle that review on a different day!



“It’s a bit creepy…” ReTargeting

This past week I had the opportunity to help brainstorm social media strategy for a midsized brand. I can’t share who due to confidentiality agreements…sorry.

For the past few years this brand has neglected their social networking sites. However big cuts to their media budgets have forced them to try and leverage this channel. Despite the neglect they have over 600k FB fans.  It seems that big brands have an advantage on these social networking sites in the sense that they don’t have to do anything expect have a page to generate “likes’ and fans. That said a quick visit to their FB page and you see it is full of spammers. Can’t be good for the relationship with their fans. It could be causing more harm than good.

So as we develop strategy for the brand I was doing some research and came across ReTargeter. Great name. Techcrunch provides a good review on their product. Here is the short description;

“It’s a bit creepy, as brand-vertisements can seem to follow us around the Web as we surf, as retargeted ads are basically displayed to people who have shown at least some idle interest in engaging with the advertiser’s brand, but have yet to turn themselves into a juicy conversion. (The majority of web traffic, by the way.)”

So when you sign up with ReTargeter they provide you with a simple retargeting solution that enables businesses to place one line of code on their websites and begin serving their ads to would-be customers across major sites like Yahoo and The New Your Times. But that is not all they do. They just lunched a social solution. “This allows marketers to replace static ads with and interactive ad experience, sharing their latest articles, videos, polls, customer forms, and realtime feeds from a blog, Twitter, or their Facebook account.” Apparently the author of The 4hr Work week used this tool to boost his social presence.  The tool allows brands to place ads based on user activity and demographics, geographic region and context. Pretty impressive.

Our clients do not have the budget or the knowledge base to engage with ReTargeter but I have them bookmarked and I will be looking for their competition. It is only a matter of time before this becomes the default way leverage social networks and online advertising.

What do you think?

Banner ads suck – The fragmentation of online marketing

The video below is a short keynote speech by Fred Wilson, an extremely successful venture capitalist. He has invested in companies like Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, and Etsy, and that is just a few of a whos-whos list of companies he’s touched..

His keynote speech offers up a short but interesting review on the current condition of online marketing.  His main points. The internet is fragmented. Online advertising options are very complicated. Banner ads suck and will not give you the reach you need…and those that embrace native systems and their advertising tools are going to get the most out of their campaigns.

“You get more performance out of advertising that is native in the medium you are advertising in. Promoted tweets work better than banner ads. Facebook ads work better in Facebook than banner ads…”

To help make his point he talks about two emerging categories, streaming audio and venue based advertising.

 Streaming Audio

80 million listen to internet radio.

50% of internet users

Listeners respond to advertising, especially if you have an integrated approach.

Venue Based Advertising

Venue based advertising is about hitting someone in the moment in real time.

He references how American Express used Foursquare to reward card users for checking into a store (and using the card).

“Cardholders that synched their Amex and foursquare accounts spend 20% more than cardholders without the access to the AMEX foursquare specials”.


The idea that online marketing is fragmented and complicated is not a new but the reminder to embrace the native system is worth the time to hear him talk. The information on emerging media was interesting, if not a bit self-serving. I would of found this more interesting if he had used a few more case studies and some competition to the more mainstream (Foursquare..ect).

What do you guys think?

Click Fred to watch the video:


Never Quit – The Birth of a Shoe Company

“When the rules prevented Kenneth Cole from launching, he broke the rules: http://t.co/M0osJ9PZ”


If you have the time read this article. It is a great story (and a short read) about problem solving. If you have a great idea, and you believe in your product never quit trying to achieve that goal. Kenneth Cole hit road block after roadblock and instead of being discouraged each roadblocked spurred an innovative solution which in the end resulted the successful launch of his business. Wow. Next time my team hits a roadblock we are going to breakout the KC bag-o-tricks-&-hammers and find a way to get the job done right.


Conceptor VS Social Media Strategist

So at the office we have a team of conceptors. Their job is to make sure our strategies are creative and engaging. The make sure we have the right strategy which will engage the right audience across the right media and all the while capturing the right metrics. Key word  is “right”… a lot of people can come up with ideas but very few are able to find the right mix. These guys are essentially are the problem solvers. The big guns.

I came across a new infographic from Mashable today, a full 360 of what a social media strategist looks like and the path you have to take to become one. Jokingly I forwarded it on to our team conceptor and said ‘this is what you do…right!?”  It was a joke because while social media strategy is something they help develop it is just one piece of the much larger integrated marketing mix tour campaigns require. The chart reinforces this in their section titled;

“THE SUCCESSFUL SOCIAL STRATEGIST OF THE FUTURE: Being a social strategist in the future will mean a STRONGER FOCUS ON INTEGRATION in other business practices and showing ROI, and in some cases being able to monetize social media and even drive profit.”

Those that want to drive IMC will become conceptors. Those that want to help support IMC will become social media strategists. There is a big difference.

My final comment on this before sharing the chart is being a social media strategist sound exhausting. You have to be in the mix, scanning, reading, filtering and posting on a constant basis. You have to have a confident voice and be able to echo the voice of the brand you are representing. These are not entry level skills, not if you are going to do it well.

Enjoy the chart.

“Email is the absolute center of the Internet universe.”

Say what? No way. Email is boring. It’s old news. We use it all the time but it has become so common that is is like breathing, or eating…we just do it. It is how we communicate. Is it a key tool in my marketing strategy? Uh…no. No really. It does not have the sex appeal of new media. Brand managers are not going to swoon when you say “we have this bad-ass’ email blast as a key part of our communication strategy. You’d get yawns. Recent research from Smarter Tools might change their minds on this.

The fact is email is the workhorse of the internet.

188 billion messages are sent a day. By comparison the daily activity for Facebook  stands around 60 million updates and we see about 140 million tweets per day.  That is chump change compared to the email traffic. And those social networks, they rely on email. It When you sign up for your social networking accounts what do you have to provide? An email address. It may not be sexy but it sure is functional. So lets take a look at some of the numbers.

(Jeff Hardy of Smarter Tools has provided this visual. ( http://www.smartertools.com/)

So should we use email to build our business? Let’s ask uncle Perry. My uncle Perry Marshall has built an empire on helping businesses understand how to use the Google Ad words system. Read some of his customer testimonials and you would think the guy walked on water. “Perry Marshall is the best kept secret in marketing today.” A big claim but backed up by the fact that he has  #1 website in the world for independent advice on Google’s advertising system and you soon realize he is indeed the real deal.

What is the key to his success? Ad words right? His dashing good look and stunning wit? Nope. It’s email.

His words: “… my own real secret isn’t Google AdWords, it’s my ability to use email. To gain access to someone’s inner sanctum (that’s what email is, really) and be a welcome guest. I contend that THIS is the most profitable single skill you can master as an online marketer. The simple, lowly medium of Email.“

So what do I take away from this chart and the words of a marketing guru?
I need to take email more seriously. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement and engagement of social networks and emerging media. These tools are extremely useful and we need to master them, but in our excitement let us not forget about that workhorse, that jauggernaut of communication over the web, email. It has a place in our integrated marketing strategy.  If we are to impact the ‘inner sanctum” then we need to hit it with the heavy…an email. Posts and tweets won’t break the skin. Emails will.

How are you using email in your integrated marketing strategy?

More on Twitter…and the B.S. test

After this weeks post from Ben Wallace on Twitter, lets follow up with a little more data.

This week Twitters CEO Dick Costolo shared some stats:

Twitter currently has 100 million users a month.
Half of them log in every day. 55% of them are logging in with a mobile device.
5 billion tweets are being posted every 5 days.

Twitter has around 400 million unique visitors a month. What does that mean?
Constolo says “..the 400 million monthly uniques number shows that people are getting value out of Twitter without logging in.”

This statement rings true with me. This is why I use Twitter. I consume information. On average I forward 2 to 7 tweets a day to my email so I can read the content later in the day. Twitter has become a fantastic resource for accessing information on both professional and personal interests. It’s almost overwhelming. Too much information. I need more time to read!

So twitter is useful for information, and a lot of people are using it, but can it be used as a strategic marketing strategy?

I try to run this kind of question through the ‘dad’ filter….and true to our midwest roots this could have another name, the B.S. filter.

My father runs a 501c3 that helps poor children around the world. If I were to come to him and say “you need to use twitter’ in your marketing strategy he would ask me why…what would it do for him. Why is it worth the time?

This past year the organization started an aggressive college internship program, and they are actively recruiting.  I would start my pitch by pointiing out that twitter may be a useful tool for communication because college students are using this platform. My old man is a visual guy so I would show him the following chart by Flowchart. Who is using twitter and why.

So numbers are in favor of using twitter to engage this audience. If they were able to ensure their posts were honest, engaging, and relevant to their followers it could work. The key benefits would be;

  • Twitter allows us to share our personalities in small sound bites. This is unique to the media spectrum.
  • It is a platform to strengthen relationships. Twitter is the written word, and the written word is a powerful thing. Used well and you will build relationship with your followers. Do it poorly and you will be seen as spam.
  • It is a way to share information.* and point followers to he most current need*

* A report came out this past week that stated the half life of a link shared on twitter is 2.8 hours. The half life of a link on facebook it’s 3.2 hours. So if you are posting links on twitter you better do it frequently through out the day.

Rabbit trail on sharing links on twitter. Do it wrong and you become spam.
I have stopped following a lot of design resource sites because they would blast my twitter feed with the same link 6 or 7 times a day. They did not bother to repackage the link…it was copy paste. Spam. Unfollow. Companies and brands have to be careful with how they post their information, especially if they are trying to say the same thing/same link through the day. 

A final benefit would be cost. Maintaining a twitter feed requires smart writing, not a budget. They have writers on staff so they would just need to ensure one of them owns the twitter feed and keeps things fresh.

So would the benefits above pass the B.S. test. Maybe. Building a base of followers and then strengthening the relationship with those people through engaging and positive twitter posts makes sense. Since the cost is minimal it would be something they might explore.

Next steps. Introduce my father to twitter and test my theory.
Final question: What other benefits could a non-profit organization find in using twitter?