Archive for the ‘Viral’ Category

A low-cost plan to elevate your brand

May 2, 2008

iMedia Connection

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.

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 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 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 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 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.


Studios’ viral marketing campaigns are vexing

May 2, 2008


By Andrew Wallenstein

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – Viral marketing has gone positively bubonic. While this unconventional approach to building buzz online is nothing new, it has achieved full-blown plague status in the walk-up to the summer movie season.

“Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “The Dark Knight,” and “Hancock” are just some of the movies employing viral marketing — and the sheer volume is only part of why this strategy has becoming problematic.

For the uninitiated, viral marketing involves hatching multiple interconnected Web sites that plug a movie by extending its story lines online. That in turn gets blogs and social networks linking in — hence its viral nature.

Gone are the days when marketing a movie online involved simply buying a URL like and uploading a trailer. Warner Bros. has launched more than 30 Web sites during the past year in support of the latest in the “Batman” franchise, a trail of virtual bread crumbs intended to sate fans until the July 18 release.

Although the bulk of these campaigns play out on the Internet, they also frequently move offline, often in the form of wacky public events intended to amass die-hard enthusiasts. One “Knight” site provides clues pointing to screenings that were scheduled for Monday in 12 different cities.

But fans expecting a handy online guide that lists dates and locations for the screening will be disappointed. Instead, you’ll arrive at a spooky Web site featuring portraits of presidents whose images had been defaced by the telltale makeup of the Joker. Clicking on each portrait links to a set of coordinates that require accessing Google Maps to decipher.

Nothing is ever simple in viral marketing. Take the sheer depth of the “Knight” campaign, in which dozens of seemingly marginal elements of the film have Web sites of their own, including a fictional bank, a travel agency — even a deli, for crying out loud. Some are simple, single-page trifles, while others lead into games that would require wartime code-breaking skills to manoeuvre.

That’s viral marketing for you — compelling, creative and intricate but above all just plain exhausting. Since when should marketing feel like doing homework?

There’s no direct pitch to consumers urging you to actually see a movie. Instead, these sites ask you to suspend reality before actually stepping into the theatre. Just check out , which arranges video clips from the film as if sightings of the titular superhero performing incredible feats were being witnessed by some obsessed fan.

What better way to cut through the promotional clutter that has become so enveloped in cliche that the mere sight of a movie poster makes the average eye glaze over? That’s the simple brilliance of “Sarah Marshall,” whose stark black-and-white scrawlings echoing the movie’s title — and referring to the Web site — were crudely effective.

But when too many movies adopt the same understated marketing tone, its novelty wears off. When “Cloverfield” played around with viral strategies, it was cool. Now that everyone else is copying — not so cool.

Fine, you might say, viral marketing isn’t your cup of tea. Why ruin it for those who enjoy it?

But are these elaborate schemes worth the resources the studios devote to them. Even among the most dyed-in-the-wool fans, it is hard to believe too many have the time or inclination to justify all this. And even if they did, what sense is there in pitching woo so fervently to an audience already guaranteed to show up to theatres? Maybe money is better spent targeting audience segments that aren’t as likely to buy tickets.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

DoubleClick’s Self-Publishing Widget Ads May Monetize Social Networks

April 2, 2008

Marketing VOX

DoubleClick, now a Google property, is launching widget advertising into the self-publishing ad market.

Powered by Gigya Wildfire, the option enables advertisers to encourage viral dissemination of interactive ads across social media. Gigya will provide metrics for advertisers.

DoubleClick expects the medium to blossom into an effective way to monetize social networks.

The Brand Fan Marketplace

March 20, 2008

Meet Jules (not her real name). Jules runs a site that should make every marketer sit up and take notice. Ikeahacker is one of the most amazing things on the Web.

One reason it’s amazing is the content. Another reason is the fact it exists in the first place.

The content is simple: Ikeahacker is a blog featuring projects people have engineered using Ikea products. Someone used a Sniglar baby changing table as the base for a wicked cool Blue Man Group style musical instrument, for example. There are tons of projects like this on the site. It’s the perfect resource for the DIY crowd. Each starts with a product you can buy off the shelf and includes step-by-step instructions to turn it into something completely new.

And these projects aren’t all created by Jules. She’s the moderator. Most of the projects are created and submitted by the community. Jules just posts the best ones.

Clearly, Jules is a fan of the Ikea brand. According to her “about” page, she has no affiliation with Ikea and isn’t getting any money directly from the company. The site is its own reward for her. As she jokes on her site, “Finally, I am of service to mankind (heh).”

Really, Jules has built an amazing asset for Ikea. It’s a classic case of a consumer creating new value for a brand. The good news is at least one Ikea employee has noticed and posted some words of encouragement in the comments. But there are a few other things on Ikeahacker that hint we’re on the verge of a wide-open market for fan sites to grow and prosper.

Let Brand Fans Profit

Online brand fans have, for the last few years, represented an important strategic opportunity for many companies. Marketers now understand the power not only of CGM (define) but also of product reviews from peers and the incredible distributive and persuasive power of a YouTube video.

Most brand fans see content creation as its own reward. This is certainly great and amazing, but we must be honest: this drive can only last so long in a person. There are piles and piles of dead sites, blogs, and forums out there, and many are dedicated to a particular brand. OK, someone created a fan site for your brand back in 2003 but hasn’t updated it since then. A potential buyer stumbling across it from a Web search will likely be underwhelmed.

But that needn’t be the case. In fact, a key plank in your strategic platform ought to be to make sure brand fans’ content remains fresh. You need to ensure brand fans’ content is as dynamic and motivating as that on your own site.

There are three things you must do to ensure brand fans’ work stays strong and consistent.

Find Them

This seems obvious, but make sure you consistently scan the CGM space to find any and all mentions of your brand. Technorati is good for this, as is Google Blog Search, BlogPulse, and a score of other services. Use the tools available on social networks like and Facebook as well to help find people who talk positively about you. If someone mentions you once, keep a note. If someone mentions you consistently, reach out to her.

Open the Info Spigot

Treat all brand fans like the media. Don’t lose sleep over philosophical debates about whether a blogger and a reporter are the same. If you have something to say, say it to the brand fans as early and deeply as you can. Give them FTP access to your marketing assets server. Let them listen in on conference calls. Whatever you can do to get them behind the curtain, do it.

Help Them Profit

This is the single most important aspect of the brand fan strategy in terms of keeping their sites alive and the information flowing. There are a lot of options for small publishers to generate revenue from their sites. Contextual ad networks like AdSense are ridiculously easy to set up, and there’s a whole new crop of widgets that can be installed directly from the Movable Type blogging interface. No publisher need be without a revenue source, unless they choose to be.

Of course, you need to have a solid line drawn. Don’t pay them for their content. Instead, make sure they’re able to get paid. I’ve consulted with a few organizations about hiring a person to actually work with brand fans to help them get their sites working for them. This person doesn’t build the site and certainly doesn’t post. But she does help them get ad networks installed, works with them to understand affiliate marketing, and consults with them on using free tracking tools.

A Positive Brand Fan Environment

Right now is an amazing time to be a brand fan. The ease of publishing, the nature of collaboration, and the availability of revenue is unprecedented. The only thing that’s really in short supply is motivation. Smart brands will focus on this, working like mad to make sure motivation stays as high as possible.

Is the influencer model dead or evolved?

March 19, 2008

It has been said that the influencer model is dead. That may be true offline, but it is alive — and essential to marketers — on the net.

Last year, Columbia University sociology professor Duncan Watts received media attention for criticizing the word-of-mouth influencer model, saying that it’s society’s susceptibility to a particular trend — not a select group of influencers per se — that dictates how successful a product or service will ultimately become. His assertion is that social connections are so complex and consumer trends so random, that there’s no way for marketers to effectively rely on select groups of influencers to quickly spread a message.

Watts’ theory may ring true when considering the way influence works offline. In that realm, it’s hard to pinpoint whether a large sample of consumers buy iPods because someone influential told them to, or because there are simply so many people around them actively using the product.

However, when you think about how consumers are influenced online, it’s a different story. Unlike in the physical world, internet users leave a trail of footprints as they traverse the web, and smart marketers can use these as a window into how consumers are influenced and by whom. To put it simply: In the online world, you can quantify the power of influence, and use this to drive successful marketing campaigns.

So that leaves the question: Is the influencer model dead, or has it simply taken new shape in the online environment? My take is that the influencer model is alive and well online, and it’s a powerful force that can be harnessed and leveraged by today’s interactive marketers.

What is influence?
Influence can be defined as the ability to convert the raw material of one’s life into something that has the capacity to affect another’s choice. But let’s get our heads out of academia and into something real — as online marketers, we’re looking at the power of influence as it relates to consumer purchasing decisions and buying behavior.

Watts says influence is propagated not by individual “hubs” that can spread a message, but by a “critical mass of easily influenced people each of whom adopts, say, a look or brand after being exposed to a single adopting neighbor.” This supports the assertion that a broad, blanketed advertising approach will reach enough of that critical mass to expose just the right amount of “easily influenced people” to an idea.

But in the online world, that thinking goes against the current advertising trend of unearthing the most qualified leads with heavy-duty targeting to drive higher ad performance. Watts’ assumptions may work when considering a large heterogeneous population, but this level of simplicity is not reflective of the nuances of our fascinating, and often complex, online experiences.

In an online context, a person’s experience is incredibly specific, personal and peered. The web is populated by clusters of like-minded folks who share ideas through creating, reading and iterating on each other’s content. This behavior takes the form of networks, which can be both formally organized like Facebook, or open networks of online influencers, like blogs, linking together around topics such as hybrid cars, high-def TVs or fly fishing.

Following Watts’ line of thinking, finding online influencers would do little to help your marketing initiative, so let’s consider the alternative. Will a far-reaching ad strategy — say a banner ad blasted on a traditional media site — give you the biggest bang for your marketing buck when it comes to influencing today’s online consumers — people who are increasingly using the web as an on-ramp to a personalized world of social media and niche sites?

I’d say no. Enticing the right consumer with the right message will be much more successful, not to mention cost-effective, if you understand the influencers driving those passionate conversations and go to them first.

Online consumers & influence: an open book
Public displays of trust are everywhere on the internet. And the ability to personalize your online experience means that web users typically surround themselves with the kind of content that is truly meaningful to them. Both of these characteristics reinforce the argument that the influencer model is alive and well online.

From traditional media sites to niche blogs, from Twitter and Digg, to Facebook and Myspace, consumers are engaging with online content — and each other — in totally different ways from in the offline world. Friending someone on Facebook, linking to or leaving comments on someone’s post, blog-rolling a trusted blog, adding a story to your social bookmarking service of choice — these are implicit actions that communicate trust. It is safe to say that the ability to use the web to aggregate and analyze these collective activities would paint a very powerful picture of both who and what influences a particular consumer. And this is marketing gold.

Even passive consumers — those who aren’t telling as clear a story through their daily web activities — are admitting to being influenced by very specific people and content. We know 65 percent of consumers read blogs because they are seeking opinions, and 65 percent of power shoppers access consumer-generated media — like blogs — before they make a purchase decision, spending an average of 10 minutes engaging with this content before buying. Again, influence in this context is specific, personal and peered. Finding where it lies and who wields it is the key to a successful online marketing initiative.

New connections between influential content and online ad performance can be quantified, and this is a serious weakness in Watts’ theory. The ‘single adopting neighbor’ may not be connected with the right kind of people — those who have an intent to purchase. If we look at influential bloggers who have gained credibility on a certain subject over the last two years, we will likely also see audience growth, word-of-mouth referral, content consumption and, eventually, greater clickthroughs, consumer adoption and sales.

So is the influencer model dead? It depends on who you talk to. I would say that, before casting the concept away, take into account how the internet is changing the way we discover trusted content and connect with one other, and how influence is core to these trends. Online, influencers are alive and well — to find them, you just have to know where, and how, to look.

Video Product Reviews: An Idea Worth Five Stars?

October 10, 2006

Fans of and’s reviews might rejoice at a new breed of product reviews: video reviews., I’ve noticed, carries quite a few videos of product demonstrations, though you have to search for them. And I recently stumbled onto The site also offers video reviews submitted by users.At, not only do you get to hear what reviewers thought of that book, car, camcorder or toy, but you actually get to see them point things out to you in a video. You can also read video transcripts and rate reviews.Currently, the site doesn’t offer that many videos. In the camcorders section, for instance, there’re only 35 reviews. But has been playing around with the idea of compensating people for their opinions. Winners of its games review competition recently got flat-screen TVs . Though Sept. 30, the site also offered people $10 for submitting qualifying video reviews. The idea is somewhat similar to PayPerPost’s, which my colleague Rob Hoff wrote about on Oct. 2 (see below).I don’t know if this pay-for-review model works, but I certainly like the idea of being able to watch video reviews before I buy products.

Video Product Reviews: An Idea Worth Five Stars?

MySpace, Facebook Point Way for Jeep Compass

August 18, 2006

Jeep has launched an interactive campaign for a concert series
promoting its smallish SUV, and it’s relying heavily on MySpace and
Facebook.DaimlerChrysler’s Jeep is next week launching a nationwide concert
series (“Uncharted: The Jeep Compass Music Tour”) to promote the launch
of the 2007 Jeep Compass, which is aimed at young adults – and it’s
relying on MySpace an Facebook to get its message to the right
audience, reports
AdWeek. Instead of trying to drive that audience to or a
separate tour site, Jeep agency Organic decided “to fish where the fish
are,” according to Chuck Sullivan, group director and engagement
manager at Organic, part of Omnicom Group.

There’s now a MySpace Jeep page,
where fans can add Jeep as a “friend” to receive information on
concerts in their areas. Jeep has a similar profile page on Facebook.
Concert updates are sent to friends’ pages or via text message.

Jeep will use banner ads on MySpace and Facebook to drive traffic to the Jeep profile pages.