Archive for the ‘Branding’ Category

Heinz Ketchup Ranks No. 1 in Brand Equity

July 2, 2008

Marketing VOX

Henry John Heinz said “to do a common thing uncommonly well brings success,” and Heinz Ketchup is apparent proof of that maxim, ranking consistently among top brands in Harris Interactive’s EquiTrend brand-equity study — and claiming the No. 1 equity score in 2008, reports MarketingCharts.

harris-equitrends-top-10-brands-overall-2008.jpgEquiTrend is a 28-year brand-equity study that measures more than 1,000 brands across 39 categories based on six base measures: familiarity, quality, purchase consideration, brand expectations, distinctiveness, and trust.

Notable 2008 category winners among brands measured:

harris-equitrends-category-winners-2008.jpgWord-of-Mouth

This year’s EquiTrend also includes specific questions that help quantify the level of word of mouth marketing within a category and identify demographic sub-groups, Harris Interactive said.

The Restaurant category has the highest volume of word-of-mouth activity, followed by computer related products, foods, consumer electronics and resorts/attractions, Harris found.

“While there are many ways to strengthen the bonds between brands and their stakeholders, it is becoming increasingly important to understand the social networks to which stakeholders belong and how they operate, in order to proactively influence the spread of positive brand experiences and minimize the damage of negative experiences,” said Carol Gstalder, SVP, Brand & Communications Consulting, Harris Interactive.

About the study: The 2008 EquiTrend study was online conducted among 20,289 US consumers age 15+, between March 27 and April 16, 2008. The total number of brands rated was 1,170. Each respondent was asked to rate a total of 60 randomly selected brands.

Each brand received approximately 1,000 ratings. Data were weighted to be representative of the entire US population of consumers ages 15 and over on the basis of gender, age, education, race/ethnicity, region and income. Data from respondents ages 18 and over were also weighted for their propensity to be online.

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5 consumer touchpoints for viral viability

May 2, 2008

iMedia Connection

http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/19064.asp

The key to getting consumers to pass along your viral campaign may just be rooted in your ability to meet a basic human desire. Here are a few ways to plant the seeds of a connection.

Way back in time, when the human race was, arguably, living in caves, man spent all his time satisfying his basic needs, like food, air, water and sex. And while some of these pursuits were as satisfying as their eventual attainment, even our primitive ancestors realized there had to be more to life than just the day to day struggle to prolong it.

Then man created tools. These tools, including the old standbys like the wheel, fire and sharp rocks, afforded man the luxury of free time to pursue other interests — like communication and artistic expression (language; cave drawings), the culinary arts (wooly mammoth tastes much better when cooked than when raw)… and probably more sex.

Thus, the human race evolved.

Kind of like how internet advertising evolved. At first, it focused on basic forms of communication (email and websites). Gradually, it grew more sophisticated, moving from providing basic information to improving the quality of marketing communication (behavioral targeting; search) and enriching life itself (MySpace; YouTube). This, in theory, has led to today’s golden age of online marketing – where people gather in their modern “caves” and use electronic tools to interact, express themselves and acquire goods like fast food, carbonated beverages, and sex.

Maslow culture
Fundamentally, viral campaigns rely on marketers’ ability to tap into these basic human needs and wants, as well as their means for achieving them. In his hierarchical theory of human needs, Abraham Maslow outlined many of the key principles that marketers embrace in their efforts to engage audiences in the name of this goal.

If we extend his psycho-social theory of needs and wants to the practice of marketing, we get an idea of the innate drives that dictate the purchase process. For starters, there are the basic needs like, “I need to eat every day or I’ll die, so I’m going to buy a sandwich at Subway,” or “it’s cold outside, so I’m going to buy a pair of Ugg boots to keep my feet warm.” But thanks to online tools, human beings of the marketing persuasion have moved beyond satisfying basic consumer needs, and now have the free time to appeal to individual and collective desires on a more evolved level.

So what do humans desire when communicating about a product or service? Well, connection is definitely on that list — we want to connect with others, and often we do so based on shared interests. And if someone shares our interests, we want to share our discoveries on those interests. Thus, the viral marketing campaign was born.

When it comes down to it, marketing is nothing more than matching people to the things they need, and then to the things they desire. And when you don’t have the chance to connect with the right people on an individual basis, the next best thing is to connect with what makes people, well, people.

Therefore, if it is true that the most effective advertising is based on a knowledge of human nature, then it is in the satisfaction of desires that the secrets to viral success must lie.

What else are humans interested in while on the path to actualization (psychological, spiritual or consumer)? Here are some common themes, and how they may affect your campaign’s viral viability.

Humor
Let’s go back to our favorite basic need: sex. Ask anyone on a dating site what they are looking for in a potential partner, and a common theme will be humor. Everyone wants to be with someone who will make them laugh, because when we laugh, we feel good, and when we find someone who laughs at the same things we laugh at, we satisfy our social need to feel connected.

Similarly, when we find something that makes us laugh, we want to share it with others we have connected with, to make them happy and to reaffirm our status as someone who knows quality entertainment when we see it. As Russell Scott said in his recent iMedia article, “Make ’em laugh, and you can make them do anything.” This includes supporting your brand.

Entertained but not pitched. While academic literature has not seemed to make a definitive connection between humor and advertising success, there’s no arguing that we remember things that make us laugh. And this potential for recall is key when researching our purchasing options. An additional benefit of humor in advertising is that we feel less manipulated and pitched-to with humorous campaigns. If a brand goes to the trouble of entertaining us, we have a greater tendency to believe that this is the prime motivation, rather than the cold, hard sales pitch.

Recently, some brands have done an excellent job of putting funny first, including Hanes’ recent battle against the wedgie. Women across the world can relate to this spandex-induced struggle, and thus have found a good reason to share the humorous — and brand-promoting — struggles of actress Sarah Chalke.

Apple has also embraced its warm and fuzzy side, with its series of spots featuring “Mac” vs. “PC”. These humorous viral campaigns  have been updated and altered to coincide with holidays and OS updates, and have spawned numerous parodies, including those from shows like “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “South Park.”

Nostalgia
As evolved as we are as a people, there are always some things we look at as not changing for the better. New Coke, the buzz of the Blackberry when we are on vacation and suburban sprawl are just a few things that come to mind. Some things were just better in the “good ole days,” when we were carefree kids who didn’t have to worry about bills, responsibilities and ROI for the great idea we convinced our skeptical clients to shell out additional budget for.

This is where nostalgia comes in, and why its use is so powerful when marketers look to connect with consumers and get them to pass messages along to their social circles.

Ask any hipster: Retro culture will always be a powerful touchpoint because once we are far enough removed from the embarrassment of things from our childhood (like pet rocks and parachute pants), we realize that they are part of our pool of experience, part of our personal history… part of the innocent days where advertising was a novelty and not so much of an assault on all media fronts.

Geico’s recent Ben Winkler ad revisited the days of the Cabbage Patch Kid in an effort to relate to 1980’s-loving Generation X-ers. Moving in a less cuddly direction, but still capturing the power of the past, Orville Redenbacher Popcorn brought its iconic company founder back from the dead (literally), in a new series of ad spots.

Innovation
Even though we may long for the simplicity and purity of how we remember the past, that has never stopped the human race from striving to conquer the next frontier. And, as every conquest must start with a first step, we respect and revere the trailblazers who followed their dreams and paved the way for progress. It’s these first steps that we remember and celebrate: first dates; first man on the moon, first time we downloaded a new U2 song for free on Napster or saw a grainy video of the “Blair Witch” and needed to learn more about it.

Maslow believed that humans have a need to increase their intelligence. This cognitive need manifests as the expression of the human need to learn, explore, discover and create to get a better understanding of the world around us. Ads that appeal to our desire to see something new taps into this need to explore and discover. This is followed closely by our desire to be in-the-know and on the forefront of that new thing; hence, we are driven to share our new-found knowledge with our peers.

Early web marketing innovations such as BMW Films paved the way for first-of-its-kind ad creative to secure a spot in the cultural Zeitgeist. Our industry’s beloved Honda Cog is another prime example of the human love of discovering something unique. Even more recently, projects like LonelyGirl15 and films such as “Cloverfield” used unique means of online subterfuge to garner early enthusiasm and word of mouth. And indie-film pioneers like Kevin Smith used the power of online to transform die-hard fans into MySpace activists by rewarding those who helped him spread the “Clerks 2” message with a personal film credit.

Involvement
Of course, not everyone can be the groundbreaker. But the rest of us still want to feel included, or at least feel that we aren’t going to be left behind when our peers evolve and start to walk upright.

Our need to participate is the foundation of one of the key principles that marketers should strive to convey in any campaign: letting us know what’s in it for us. If people can find a place for them in your brand activities, they are much more likely to pay attention to those brands.

Mash-up campaigns have been particularly successful on this front, as they allow users to play with official campaign assets — like movie trailer footage or commercial clips — and add their own unique touches. Advergames like Get the Glass also let users directly interact with brands and reward them for the time spent playing.

Another tactic to garner involvement is online and mobile voting. When watching a show like “American Idol,” viewers like to feel like they are part of the action, that their opinions matter and that they have the skills to recognize true talent, so they will go out of their way to send that text message and deliver their preferences to the receptive “Idol” format. In addition, by rewarding participation in these mash-up and dial-in opportunities with prizes or additional behind-the-scenes information, brands can amp up users’ interest in the brand — and their willingness to pass the message along.

Personalization
Once we’ve satisfied the universal needs that make us human, we have the luxury of satisfying the need to feel unique and special. Maslow described this as moving from physiological need to self actualization need, which includes the need to be creative and to be recognized and valued for who you are.

One of the most recognized campaigns that leverages this need for personalized attention was Burger King’s Subservient Chicken, which allowed viewers to directly interact with the web mascot and think up personalized commands that it would follow. There was no list of tasks users could ask the chicken to perform, and while the chicken certainly had a roster of tricks he was programmed to show, users could be rewarded with a little-seen move for thinking out of the box.

Last year’s “The Simpsons Movie” offered the ultimate personalized encounter with its world: a Simpsonizer engine that let fans create their own Springfieldian likeness, which could then be inserted into the background of the website’s many play areas. Within the first day of the Simpsonizer’s debut, core and casual fans alike passed the world along so virulently that the site was unavailable for long spans of time.

Conclusion
Though marketing, like the human race, has certainly evolved, few would deny that there’s still a spark of magic — perhaps even a divine intervention — in why one campaign seed grows and another dies out. There’s the science of adapting the potential elements of success — like humor and innovation — to meet your particular marketing challenge, and then there’s the art — the unquantifiable “it” factor that puts something like “Flavor of Love” on the map. And that’s why a true formula for viral success will likely remain as unattainable as the true and definitive meaning of life. But of course, there’s a Darwinian reward in this industry for experimenting with a new, potentially successful pathway — even if you never find that same road again.

A low-cost plan to elevate your brand

May 2, 2008

iMedia Connection

http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/19129.asp

As the economy weakens and your competitors cut budgets, you can get the leg up with a thought-out digital marketing strategy.

As the economy grows more uncertain, a common reaction is to cut marketing budgets. Before following the crowd you may want to look for the silver lining. It is likely that your competitors will cut their marketing budgets thereby reducing their media presence. With a few adjustments in your marketing plan, you have an opportunity to eclipse the competition while remaining mindful of budget restrictions.

Now is the time to engage the full range of interactive media to create a powerful, targeted marketing mix. The following presents effective ways to move forward.

Use your data
More than likely your company has been collecting data from numerous channels — website, call center, direct mail, etc.­– but if you are like many companies this may be as far as it goes. Now is the perfect time to analyze your data.

A thorough analysis may uncover a trend that can be acted upon in a significant way, such as repositioning your website. As major overhauls are time-consuming and expensive, it may be easier, less costly and potentially more beneficial to create a targeted micro-site focused on a particular product, service or niche. With the intelligence gathered, this site should be optimized to yield meaningful results from major search engines. A micro-site is a good way to test the accuracy of your analysis and it can be the basis for a website overhaul later.

You may also consider creating several SEO (Search Engine Optimized) landing pages to target different audiences, which is one of the most effective ways to get powerful results from Google. Here, users arrive at a welcoming page that speaks directly to their search, and are guided to relevant sections of your site. This can bring them closer to a purchase decision or connect them with the information they want. Now analytics equals results.

Digital deals and opportunities
Traditional media buys typically have long leads before their effectiveness can be measured, providing little opportunity to tweak campaigns. By the time measurable results arrive, your budget is depleted. While traditional advertising can be expensive, digital media offers a wide range of affordable advertising options. With the ability to build highly customized campaigns that can be tracked up to the minute and down to the individual user, search engine marketing should be part of almost any advertising campaign. But effective digital marketing does not need to stop there.

Here are a few effective approaches:

Blogs and beyond
Advertising on a community site whose audience is inclined toward your product or service can build strong brand association. By getting involved as an active contributor with valuable content, you become part of a community and are able to monitor what is going on in your industry’s corner of the blogosphere. This can gain you invaluable market insight.

To take it a step further, consider micro-blogging through services such as Twitter or Pownce. Here you can keep a group informed of your every move on a moment-to-moment basis and learn what they are up to as well. This can be an even deeper way of involving yourself in the lives of a core group.

Podcasts
Often overlooked as an advertising vehicle, podcasts can also reach a core demographic. For example, if you’re looking to reach a tech-savvy audience, consider TWIT (This Week in Tech’s podcast.) Or create your own custom podcasts to get your message out. Startup costs are minimal, and if you offer valuable information, you can create a meaningful relationship with your listeners. (See “The Perks of podcast advertising.”)

Niche and community websites
The internet has no shortage of websites with unique audiences. MySpace and Facebook are the two communities that come to mind, but there are many others that are even more geared toward specialized interests. Check Ning.com for examples of easy-to-create niche social networks.

If you build it (right), they will come
Besides web-based advertising, consider fostering relationships with customers by creating a destination worth visiting or a useful widget to download. These interactive platforms can be custom built to effectively reach your audience.

Some possibilities follow, with a few examples of what has worked from my company’s clients:

The micro-site
Micro-sites provide a great way to promote a product or service at lower cost than a corporate site and can provide greater flexibility. Additionally, these sites are often more fun to visit as they can be built around a single creative concept. The Oprah, Dove and the Girl Scouts of America site, which we based upon Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, is an example of an effective micro-site. This provided an engaging environment built around user-generated content.

Landing pages
Landing pages are a powerful way to stretch one’s website development investment. A landing page designed around a specific search query, such as “hammer,” can send a prospect to the home page of a hardware store, where he will have to navigate through that site to track down the product. Alternatively, if the search engine had directed the consumer to a landing page for that same hardware store where a variety of hammers, nails and tool belts were featured, you not only have a result that brings you closer to making a purchase, but that also offers cross-selling options. This is where valuable online customer relationships can begin.

Mobile
Mobile communications as a means of marketing is one of the fastest growing options and enables users to connect with people in unique ways. For example, SiiTE Interactive worked with PayPal to create a mobile shopping environment that brought mobility to ecommerce. The way this works is the following: If a user spots a product in a store front window, in a magazine, on a billboard or almost any place, and she sees a PayPal ID, she simply texts the ID code from her mobile phone and the product is purchased and shipped directly to her mailing address.

Widgets
Widgets are distributed components used to present data through a user interface. They break into three major types. The first is the desktop widget, which lives within the highly coveted real-estate of your computer’s desktop or as an add-on to the operating system. The second is the embedded widget, which is typically placed into blogs, web pages and personal pages such as Facebook. The third type is the mobile widget developed for smart phones.

Widgets are powerful because they are trackable, easily distributed, and if the content is compelling, they will show up everywhere. Creating a custom widget can be a great broadcast medium for advertising or sponsorships. (See “The art of widgetry: a primer.”)

SiiTE has developed numerous widgets including branded shopping widgets that serve up favorite items for avid shoppers on a daily basis. This widget has a calendar-based system on the back-end that allows an administrator to serve new products on any date and for any duration.

Viral content
The current rage is creating content that is so compelling, humorous, or off-the-wall that people are driven to pass it along to friends. Well-known examples include the JibJab spoofs, the Cadbury drum-playing gorilla, and of course, Diet Coke-Mentos’ eruption videos. One favorite is Will it Blend, a website with 3.5 million viewings of the infamous iPhone in a blender video. More importantly, Blendtec quadrupled blender sales after the video hit.

This can be a great marketing tool on a small budget. It is even possible to create live streaming content from your mobile phone with services such as qik.com. However, purposefully creating content in the hopes of it going viral is a long shot. Have fun and get your content out there but don’t expect it to explode unless you’ve really got something unique or you have content that serves some positive social value. (See “5 consumer touchpoints for viral viability.”)

SiiTE Interactive worked with a major pharmaceutical company to help create personalized video messages directed toward caregivers of specific medical conditions. These campaigns generate tremendous pass-along appeal because of their personalized nature. Once customized by a friend or family member, a collection of video clips are automatically edited and sent to the recipient. The final video presentation speaks directly to the caregiver, even going as far as having the video spokesperson refer to family members by their first name.

Measuring success
Measuring the effectiveness of traditional media is often subject to a significant amount of interpretation. Digital media metrics, while not perfect themselves, are often more precise and more targeted. Digital media metrics can more easily track niche groups or even individuals right through to a sales conversion. This said, when money is tight, it may be comforting to see where one’s budget is actually going.

With the lower cost of entry that digital media offers, it becomes affordable to experiment. You can test various targeted buys that yield results within days or even hours, or build precisely crafted micro-sites. The bottom line — now is a fantastic time to explore the possibilities of digital media.

McDonald’s Happy Meals Go Digital!

April 2, 2008

AdRants

In conjunction with Fuel Industries, McDonald’s Europe is launching digital “toys” for Happy Meals through April and May.

The “Fairies and Dragons” universe (for girls and boys, respectively) can be accessed via CD-ROMs inside old-school McD’s Happy Meals. The campaign and associated characters are original creations by Fuel (for mommies who get moody about rampant product placement).

Once the disk is inserted in a computer, characters can be pursued and played-with across the desktop. Kids follow clues that grant them access to games in the make-believe universe.

Fairies and Dragons will also be easy to distribute worldwide because the characters communicate without language. At outset, the campaign will go live in 49 countries.

Hrm. That’s way better than plastic 101 Dalmatians drinking cups. Oh, what we’d give for a European Happy Meal right now.

Average Search CPC Data by Category for February 2008

April 2, 2008

CLick Z

A look at the average cost-per-click in search by vertical in the U.S. for February 2008. Data and research are provided by Efficient Frontier. “Total finance” includes auto finance, banking, credit, financial information, insurance, lending, and mortgage. Each vertical contains data from multiple advertisers.

Average Search CPC by Category,
February 2008
Category CPC ($)
Total finance 2.43
Credit 2.65
Mortgage 2.05
Auto finance 1.47
Insurance 7.87
Travel 0.72
Automotive 0.50
Retail 0.37
Dating 0.37
Source: Efficient Frontier 2008

A roadmap to creative success

April 2, 2008

iMedia Connection

By Tiffany Young

Part of what makes a campaign work is appropriateness of media and message for each stage of the purchase process. Here’s how to map it out.

I recently judged an online advertising competition and I found a very clear distinction between the great work and the rest of the work. The great online ads were few and far between — even in a competition in which agencies submitted their best efforts — because doing great work is difficult (no surprise).

As I looked at the best ads, here’s what I noticed: The very best ads surprised me. And while they were unexpected, they were not irrelevant or unfocused. Most were inventive without being obtuse. They were approachable and appropriate for their target audience. And finally, the very best ads engaged consumers by putting them in control of interactivity.

So those are some simple tips, right? Easy peasy! Just go out there and invent a campaign that’s surprisingly relevant and approachable while being fun and engaging. Unfortunately, that’s only the beginning.

The beauty of online advertising is that it encompasses so much. But this can also be the ugly part. Many media plans are presented with an emphasis on rich media. All the “other stuff” like newsletters, contextual content and keywords are often treated like value-adds, because they cost less or require less time to produce.

By emphasizing the most expensive online media, it’s easy to mistake the “other stuff” as unimportant. But each component of a comprehensive online media plan is an important piece of a puzzle that can help bring consumers from awareness to purchase. Taking time to map each piece to the purchase continuum can help your creative teams craft messaging that resonates with consumers right where they are, both emotionally and in terms of how much information they have about your brand.

It seems like common sense, but I don’t see it done that often. I imagine media plans as road maps for consumers. If I get each piece of communication right in a comprehensive online media campaign, I give consumers driving directions from where they are to where I want them to be.

So let’s start with the first turn on the map: awareness.

Run-of-site and run-of-network display ads can help build awareness of your brand through multiple impressions. These ads shouldn’t be complicated. If a consumer doesn’t know about you yet, he’s probably not going to drill down into multiple tabs of an expandable rich-media ad unit. Focus on a simple, compelling message that catches the attention of consumers and leaves them with a good impression of your brand.

Now as for relevance, section placements and e-newsletters place your brand in the context of something consumers choose to view. For instance, say they’re reading a home furnishings blog. You could serve a geo-targeted display or text ad for your brand that tells them “hey remember me? You just met me. Guess what, I’m in your area — funny huh? Yeah I’m totally relevant now.” This is also the point at which to share more of your brand with consumers. Splurge on the rich-media ads with more interactivity and information for these types of media placements wherever possible.

Moving along the purchase continuum, consumers eventually get to preference. They know you, they know you’re relevant to them and in their area now, but they have other options. When they search for products like yours, the search results they get should give them a reason to prefer your brand over the others. Are you better, cheaper, faster, more exclusive or more fun? Make sure your search results tell consumers why you’re the best option.

When consumers are interested in you and your brand, you’re in a great position. Unfortunately, many brands drop the ball at this point. A media plan doesn’t normally include what happens after consumers click, so it’s easy to get caught up in planning and forget to fulfill your end of the deal. Give consumers a compelling, relevant landing page to take the next step towards purchase. Make sure they’re glad they met you, and then make it easy for them to get what they want.

Lastly, once you’ve made it easy for consumers to purchase, utilize that success by putting measures in place to analyze your website. Make sure you’re set up to track results so you can garner the most learning for next time. Remember that a consumer’s first purchase can be the beginning of a long-term relationship, or it can also be her last purchase. Strong analysis is key to turning more first-time buyers into lasting, loyal customers.

By mapping creative executions and your media plan to the purchase continuum you can get the most out of every bit of your media budget while giving consumers a great online experience with your brand.

Pepsi to Launch Summer Web Series

April 2, 2008

MediaWeek’s Digital Download

Gail Schiller, The Hollywood Reporter

Pepsi-Cola North America is launching an original online series in the summer.

The soda giant will serve as its own studio for a serialized action-adventure production from film writer-directors Shawn Papazian and Art Brown (“Rest Stop: Don’t Look Back”) that will be a branded-entertainment play for soft drink Mountain Dew. The untitled project will bow in June on Web sites still being determined.

But in a twist, viewers will able to alter the story line by selecting from a menu of options after each episode that take the series in different creative directions, akin to the “Choose Your Own Adventure” book franchise.

“Putting this kind of interactivity in the story line allows the consumer to have some engagement with the brand,” Pepsi vp marketing Frank Cooper said.

The project will bow in the form of five shortform interlinked episodes, which will be followed up by a batch of more episodes at a date to be determined. Cooper didn’t rule out eventually migrating the property to TV or DVD.

“It will start online, but we think that it can evolve into a broader experience that can come offline,” he said.

Cooper declined to disclose budget figures but indicated it was far less than the traditional 30-second Pepsi spot.

The Mountain Dew brand is no stranger to unconventional promotions blurring the lines between digital entertainment and marketing. In November, Pepsi launched the casual game “Dewmocracy,” which allowed users to create a new flavor of the soft drink. Co-produced by Forest Whitaker, the game drew 600,000 unique visitors who averaged 28 minutes per session on the site.

11 reasons to extend your brand with games

April 2, 2008

iMedia Connection

By Mathew Georghiou and Mary Beth Schoening

Increasing popularity
The marketing process is really just a numbers and efficiency game — the more people in your target market that are open to hearing your brand message, the better. And the more effective you are at delivering your brand message to those folks, the higher your conversion rate. Online games and simulations have been booming in popularity because they deliver increased reach and effectiveness for brand messages.

According to PQ Media, advergaming and webisodes are the fastest growing branded entertainment segments, climbing at a 51.7 percent CAGR from 2002 to 2007.

Online games and simulations are great at educating prospects in both the consumer and B2B marketplaces across a broad range of industries — financial, health, lifestyle, technology, sports, retail, automotive and more.

Check out these reasons why you and your brand should start playing the game.

Reasons 1-2
The bottom line is we just want to have fun
According to the National Institute on Media and the Family, 35 percent of Americans rated video and computer games as “the most fun entertainment activity.” (TV was a distant second, at only 18 percent.) People are intrigued and open to trying something they think will be entertaining. This not only leaves them more open to hearing your brand message, but they may be more receptive to taking action as well.

The beauty of an online game is that it can be designed to reward specific behaviors that move your prospects along a qualification or buying spectrum.

Online games can be viral and ubiquitous
Online games are very portable and can be emailed in marketing campaigns, hosted on your website, syndicated to other high traffic websites and distributed out to mobile phones.

Traditional point of purchase materials can direct prospects to games on your website. From a viral marketing standpoint, game users can “rip” the games and put your branded games on their blogs, websites, MySpace and Facebook pages or send them to a friend via email.

Reasons 3-4
They deliver results
“By embedding a brand and/or product within a relevant activity or associating it with a lifestyle, advertising effectiveness increases significantly,” according to Fast Company. “America’s addiction to video and computer games is leading the way to a new advertising medium with astounding clickthrough rates, play times and peer-to-peer potential.”

Some say that advergaming offers retention rates 10 times higher than broadcast commercials; 15-45 percent of consumers who receive an advergame actually play it, and for an impressive average of 25 minutes. (Source: YaYa LLC.) These kinds of engagement metrics speak for themselves.

Games and simulations are a great way to educate your prospects and customers
Marketing is really just a two-part education process:

  1. Educate your prospects on how your product or service solves a pain-point or meets a need.
  2. Educate them as to why your solution is better than your competitors at meeting those needs or solving their pain-points.

Online games and simulations are a great branding tool because they are a powerful way to draw in your prospects. Educating prospects, or even your own sales reps, on complex concepts can be done very effectively in the framework of an online game or simulation.

Reasons 5-6
Online games create an impetus to interact with your brand
Online games create an impetus for your prospects to engage with your brand. Why is this? Online games appeal to our emotions — there is excitement, intrigue, hope of winning and an appeal to our competitiveness that creates a prospect “pull” toward your brand. It’s the start of a brand relationship. Then it’s up to you to continue to “work” the relationship.

Online games deliver greater brand recall
We’re more likely to remember the message from an experiential learning situation. Research has also shown that people remember more when involving all of the senses in the buying or education process.

Highly visual, interactive and engaging learning experiences, sophisticated artificial intelligence and vivid real-life graphics enable people to almost literally place themselves in real-life business and life interactions as if they were actually occurring. This can be helpful for reaching your prospects, training customer service and sales reps and synching up your workforce with respect to your brand messages.

Reasons 7-8
Provide greater customer insights
Online games allow brands to turn unknown prospects into known prospects. Customers are more willing to give contact information or personal/preference information in exchange for the ability to play a game. In fact, a well-designed game allows for personalization, enabling the player to be more emotionally invested. This gives you the ability to market to prospects one-on-one in the future and to personalize your message based on their preferences.

Games engage the emotion to reach the intellect
You can almost envision a hand reaching out from a computer screen to “grab” the prospect and draw them in. The emotional aspect really is the impetus for drawing a person in — the fun, the thrill, the challenge, the chance to win — but then you have the opportunity to appeal to the person’s intellect by delivering brand messages and information that appeal to the prospective buyer. It’s a one-two punch.

Reasons 9-10
Provide your prospect with an active (not passive) experience
People know that when they approach an online game they will be required to participate in an interactive experience. If your prospects are active participants with your brand, their experience is more likely to be what might be described as a “deep tissue experience,” whereas a passive experience is only “skin deep” and doesn’t sink in as far. Experiential learning trumps passive experience, no matter how you look at it.

Multiplayer games can be the glue to build community around your brand
Simulations, serious games and massively multiplayer online worlds are revolutionizing communications, learning and collaboration for people of all ages and cultures. Virtual worlds and multiplayer games add a level of socialization onto an already fun experience. We have seen a steep parallel trajectory in the social media world and the gaming world, but now we are seeing the points of intersection between the two.

Imagine that part of your training as a brand new account rep at a regional bank is to learn how to start and run a business using a business-simulation game. You will have to make decisions such as how to price your products, how much inventory to order, how many employees to hire, how much capital you need. You can see firsthand the impact of your decisions and understand the interrelationships in a way that would be too abstract otherwise. Multiplayer gaming allows multiple participants to interact together to conduct real business in virtual worlds and connect with a larger community.

Reason 11
Synchronize your brand vision across all touchpoints
Communicating your brand vision across multiple divisions, geographies, languages, job functions, industries, target markets and partner communities can be costly, time consuming and incredibly challenging. The Holy Grail is to have all the people touching your brand be synchronized on your brand vision and be consistent in the representation of it to others.

When the portability of online games is combined with a fun and entertaining activity, its reach can span far and wide — to every brand community and every brand touchpoint with the control of a consistent brand message. Experiencing the business brings a greater depth of understanding so that the people representing your brand are more authentic and can give specific examples and greater detail. You maximize every conversation about your brand at every touchpoint.

Jump-Starting Keyword Demand

April 2, 2008

 By Erik Dafforn, The ClickZ Network,

Get Your Foot in the Door

Paid ads such as Google AdWords are one of the most effective ways of interjecting your perspective into an existing online conversation. For example, if you have a new sort of high-definition television technology, you could buy ads focusing on existing high-def, LCD, and plasma terms: “Confused About High Definition? Discover Why SarahVision Is the Answer.”

Even if you don’t get clicks right away, you get visibility. When enough people associate SarahVision with plasma and LCD TV confusion, having seen it for multiple queries on multiple engines, they’ll begin to wonder what the fuss is all about.

Similarly, become a reliable, authoritative part of one or more online communities. I spend time in the Audio Visual Science Forum and constantly see users recommending vendors to each other because of how helpful the vendor has been in answering specific technical questions. Remember, this has nothing to do with whether the vendor’s signature link passes juice or whether it has a “nofollow” attached. The most successful vendors don’t say, “You need cable X; come visit my site.” Instead they say, “You need cable X,” and their affiliation is noted in their signature.

Get Offline and Head Outdoors

The birth of online marketing initially made a lot of people sigh with relief because it appeared that such annoying activities as getting dressed and talking to people on the telephone would no longer be necessary.

While it’s possible to conduct a successful marketing initiative on the Web only, it’s foolish to ignore other media when they can bolster your online presence and the interest in your project.

Television is a natural complement to online advertising. But not all of us can afford 30 seconds during act two of “The Office.”

My friend and outdoor advertising expert Brent Bolick pointed me to a fantastic study performed by Reagan Outdoor. It showed that in a telephone poll, only 1 percent of the greater Austin, TX, market knew that Calvin Coolidge was the 30th U.S. president. After a 60-day outdoor saturation campaign (billboards said simply “Calvin Coolidge was the 30th President” and showed a URL), that number rose to 24 percent of the market. As a control group, 30 percent of the market also knew that Rick Perry was the state’s lieutenant governor before the campaign ran. After the campaign, those numbers had not changed.

The traffic numbers were impressive, too. The site logged over 36,000 unique visits, with 5,400 people visiting the registration page. And 2,500 of the registration page’s visitors actually registered, getting a chance to win a T-shirt and a personal billboard run.

Bolick also shared some interesting data regarding the overlap between heavy commuters and search engine use. Using Arbitron data, he looked specifically at people in his market (metro Jacksonville, FL) who regularly use search engines. Nearly half of search engine users (46 percent) are considered “heavy” users of outdoor advertising as well, due to their commuting distances. So before you look askance at offline advertising, you’d be smart to figure out how it can help you.

Conclusion

Before you spawn massive amounts of search demand for new query phrases, be completely sure you’re ready for the traffic. I don’t mean your server; I mean your message. When your coverage starts to reach a tipping point and consumers start looking for your words in droves, what’s your organic search visibility like? Do you answer all the questions they have? Are your corporate blog, Web site, press releases, and social media assets properly organized, crawled, and indexed so that when the queries start, you control the message? Or are you leaving gaps in your message that an eager blogger or competitor will jump on?

What’s your paid search visibility like? People lie in wait to jump on a keyword bandwagon (remember the Pontiac “Google us” campaign?), so make sure you continue your paid ad campaign even after natural search takes off. After all, someone else might want to offer users an alternative to SarahVision.

 

Your key demographic speaks its mind

April 2, 2008

iMedia Connection

By Jodi Harris

Want to know how to reach Gen Y consumers on their terms? In iMedia’s first survey with Peanut Labs, see what media they can’t live without, what makes a website trustworthy, their thoughts on ad-subsidized console games and more.

The questions plague every marketer at some point in his or her career. What do consumers really want? How do we earn their trust and loyalty? How do we know when we are strategically moving in the right direction in our campaigns, media buys and new product or service launches?

On a fundamental level, the answers should be easy. We are all, after all, consumers in our own rights, so shouldn’t we have some level of natural insight as to what motivates people to connect, click, engage and purchase one product vs. another?

Of course the answer to that is yes. And no.

Digital media’s ability to personalize messages has complicated the right-message-at-the-right-time equation, and generational differences in consumption habits has added dimensions that media buyers never dreamed of before. Furthermore, certain demographics are particularly tricky when it comes to delivering messages to them. In particular, those comprising Generation Y — who currently are enjoying their teens and twenties — have been distinguished from their generational predecessors by their reported reluctance to be marketed to. It’s not that they don’t want to use digital media to learn about new products — they just want to be part of the marketing dialogue and to select where, when and how they are pitched to.

Helping to build this dialogue is a company called Peanut Labs. Through survey applications integrated with the social networks that these segments live and breathe for, Peanut Labs provides direct access into the minds of Generation X, Generation Y, Boomers and other highly targeted custom consumer segments.

With this consumer mind-reading tool available, I decided to ask some industry experts what they wanted to know about media consumption habits of the under-30 set, and then get a sample of how these targets view media’s role in their lives.

Essential media
John Durham, managing general partner at Catalyst asked what one key media platform could this demographic not live without. It turns out that while both television and mobile phones have a tight grasp on young consumers, it’s the internet that is indispensable to 56 percent of the 309 survey respondents.

Media multitasking
Greg Smith, COO of document.write(‘Neo@Ogilvy’);Neo@Ogilvy , asked about activities that Gen Y engages in while watching TV. Reading, taking and making phone calls, and hanging out with friends all made the list. But, fortunately for the digital industry, the overwhelming majority — 57 percent — reported that they use the internet while watching TV.

Trust and time shifting
Doug Weaver of the Upstream Group inquired about what it takes to get viewers to watch a TV show at the exact day and time that it is broadcast, rather than time shifting their viewership with DVRs and online viewing. And it seems that good, old-fashioned quality content still triumphs in the digital age. Fifty-five percent of respondents reported that being an enthusiastic fan of a show is the biggest reason why they would watch it when it airs. Another good reason to watch on time: event viewing, such as the Oscars, the Super Bowl and other live sporting events.

Weaver also expressed an interest in the most important factor in Gen Y’s decisions on whether or not to trust a particular website and the information it gives. Surprisingly, the site’s association with a trusted media outlet or other trusted source trumped the recommendations of friends and family among survey respondents (44 percent vs. 21 percent).

Highly networked, yet disconnected by phone
Gen Yers have been cited as consumers who are always connected to their online lives through any and every means possible. But when Adam Broitman, director of emerging and creative strategy at Morpheus Media, asked how often they view content on a mobile device, the majority of responses indicated that mobile has not yet reached its tipping point as a web delivery platform.

While mobile content isn’t quite ready for primetime, social networking has certainly achieved mass penetration. Most respondents said they spend up to 30 percent of their average day on Facebook and other social networking sites; and 5 percent reported that networking takes up more than half their day.

Your site, your choice
Broitman also inquired about research that depicts Generation Y as a “pragmatic and future-oriented generation that expects its ideas to be heard and acknowledged.” Although the people in this group certainly do want to play a part in content providers’ decision processes, the majority of respondents (58 percent) prefer that a site retain its authority when incorporating users’ suggestions into its content.

Ads get game
Tom Hespos, president of Underscore Marketing was curious about consumers’ acceptance of advertising on one of the hottest new platforms: console gaming. According to respondents, 58 percent would be more likely to buy a console game if advertising could keep the price under $30, while only 10 percent would be less likely to buy.

It’s obvious that this target market has a lot to say, and loves to be asked for input. Now let’s just hope marketers are willing to really hear them.