Digital Dating: Like Shopping on Amazon?

It’s compelling to believe that now, more so than at any point in our history, it’s possible for each and every one of us to find The One. If not The One, then perhaps close to The One. Very close. After all, surely that person is out there, with thousands and thousands of eligible singlets on a plethora of dating sites – both niche and mainstream.

Plenty-of-Fish, eHarmony, OkCupid, Lavalife, Match.com, JDate.com, certainly amongst these online stores everyone can find their perfect match, the perfect size, the perfect fit? No?

I have a number of friends who have met their relationship partners through online dating, and the relationships formed have been loving and long-lasting. I think that’s awesome. I will readily admit that I use online dating, and I will continue to do so. But I have come to realize, recently, that I have fallen into a trap. I wonder, how many other people have fallen into the same trap?

It seems that dating, for lack of better works, has become …. commoditized.

It’s the search for the elusive perfect match, The One, that has led people – men and women – to treat dating like shopping.

Not satisfied with a recent date because she’s brunette and you’ve come to realize that you really prefer blondes? Then fine, there are plenty of blondes out there. Back to eHarmony.

Although you really like the arts, perhaps he’s not quite into them as you are? Whatever the reason, there’s certainly someone who has a stronger interest on OKCupid.

Go on a date that was actually quite fun, but still she’s still “only” an 7 out of 10? Well, get out your iPhone and find that 9 or 10. Go! Get to it!

It can be an ongoing cycle, really. “One and done” dates, with the feeling that somewhere out there, in galaxy not far away, you will find “The One”.

But, what if?

What if the brunette truly is awesome, in every other way that you want your ideal woman to be awesome?

What if he just hasn’t had the same exposure to the arts as you’ve had, and he really does have a keen interest?

What if she was really nervous on the date, as people tend to be, and she wasn’t completely herself? What if she is the star you’re looking for?

I believe online dating is great, and I am fortunate to have met some great women as a result.

I also believe that too many people now treat online dating like shopping and maybe, just perhaps, these people are too quickly passing judgement when meeting others. Clicking through to the Next One, instead of investing more time to see if the current one might be The One.

Cultivating Brand Advocates – Four Remarkable Communities

Perhaps the pinnacle achievement in marketing today is to build such a strong relationship with your brand’s biggest fans, that they become true advocates – speaking so enthusiastically and positively about your brand, that others might think they actually work for you.

It is, indeed, a rare accomplishment to develop such a relationship. In part I believe that many companies do not recognize the opportunities and benefits associated with nurturing and enabling fans to become true advocates. Nor do they fully realize the path they must embark on.

Serving as a guiding light, here are five brands that have done it right:

Fiskars

Hands up anyone who would’ve thought that Fiskars, a scissors brand, would be able to develop a successful online community? They make scissors! Scissors! But guess what? They recognized a core and common passion that many of their fans have – scrapbooking – and they built a community around it. In fact, the thriving community has evolved to include a variety of different artistic categories. See www.fiskateers.com.

The lesson: A successful community doesn’t need to be centred around your brand. Find a common passion your fans have, related to your brand, and build a community that truly unites your fans provides them with value.

Intuit

Intuit is an award-winning developer of business and financial management software, having developed a variety of leading products including TurboTax, online income tax software, as well as QuickBooks, accounting software for small business. The company truly has excelled in developing a customer-centric approach to their business. For example, when using TurboTax, people have access to an entire community of other TurboTax users – to ask questions and gain insights as they fill out their tax returns. Moreover, people can also enter into a private chat with income tax professionals, before they have even paid for TurboTax!

The lesson: Brands should do what they can to pay it forward. Provide value to people before they have even paid for your product or service, and imagine the loyalty, enthusiasm and sense of community that can be be generated.

Genius Crowds

Here is a company and a community with a big twist. The community creates the company’s products, and in essence, the community is the brand. Genius Crowds is a community through which people can submit their ideas for products they’d actually like to see manufactured and sold on store shelves. The community collaborates on product ideas submitted, in an effort to help improve them, and then they vote on their favourites. Genius Crowds then reviews top voted ideas, and selects a few that have the potential – based on a manufacturing and marketability assessment – to be sold in stores.

This is a great example of crowdsourcing. In fact the first product, the Speed Bather (a dog squeegee) is now ready to hit store shelves!

The lesson:  Companies can benefit from letting their customers collaborate and participate in the development, and evolution, of their products and services. By tapping into the collective intelligence of their customers, they create opportunities for innovation.

Disclosure: I was a Community Manager for Genius Crowds when I worked at Chaordix.

Vancouver Canucks

Sports franchise brands and social media go hand-in-hand, as social media provides an amazing opportunity for fans to bond with their favorite team – regardless of where they are in the world. Canucks fans have turned to social media to share their experiences and emotions, expressing themselves through compelling content ranging from short tweets to engaging videos. At the same time, the organization itself has really excelled at leveraging social media to encourage fan participation and build loyalty – and there is little doubt that the strength of the Vancouver Canucks brand has been significantly augmented as a result.

The lesson: Be open to having your fans generate content, and help them share it on social platforms. Doing so will result in increased loyalty, and will aid in building your fan base.

Are you aware of any remarkable online communities that have helped a company cultivate true brand advocates?  Does your company have one, or have you considered developing one?

Social Media Promotions: An Interview with Joeline Hackman from Strutta

Planned and executed effectively, social media contests and promotions have significant potential to help companies expand their breadth and depth of engagement with customers, grow their fan base, and identify their most passionate advocates. Companies have a plethora of options and opportunities with respect to creating promotions that will truly resonate and drive business. The primary challenge, however, lies in gaining people’s time and attention to participate amidst an increasingly fragmented media landscape.

Recently, I had an opportunity to chat about contests and promotions with Joeline Hackman, Director of Marketing at Strutta. Strutta, a Vancouver-based company, provides tools and expertise to power online promotions for companies, and possesses a top tier client list that includes Microsoft, Edelman and Coca-Cola. Joeline shared insights on the evolving social media landscape for promotions, as well as best practices that can help companies achieve success.

Q: How have brand metrics with respect to online promotions and contests evolved?

A: I feel like we’ve gone from a stage where people are counting likes and followers to one in which measurement is focused on engagement through shares, retweets and mentions. It’s also about identifying who those people are that are engaging with your brand, being able to talk with them directly, and identifying top influencers. It sets up this ecosystem where you can identify the most valuable nodes and communicate with them.

Q: How has Facebook’s switch to Timeline impacted social and promotional apps?

A: For us it’s all about engagement. I understand that Timeline has really impacted the experience on Facebook. It’s been mandatory for people to switch over, it was done so that there is more real estate on Facebook where people can engage on a company’s page with photos and other posts, with highlighted relevant content bubbling to the top. Tabs are still at the top and companies can directly link to them on their walls, using an image or any other content. It’s been great because it’s made Facebook a more immersive experience, and more valuable. Rather than just being a constant newsfeed, people have been able to assign a quality score to posts and drive traffic to elements within Facebook that are most relevant. With our clients, they post interesting content from within the contests, which drives more engagement from their fans.

Q: What best practices should companies consider in order to achieve maximum value and ROI from promotions? Are there any common traits you notice in successful promotions?

A: Just be responsive and engage with your audiences. Social is social. I see a lot of companies publish things, and there’s not that interaction. For us, we encourage companies to take us much data as they can – and understand there are individuals behind the data. Someone’s talking to you, then respond, take information and demonstrate you’ve listened.

Also, the prize should be commensurate with the value of what you’re asking someone to do. If you’re just asking someone to enter a basic sweepstakes, then there are guidelines for the value of the prize based on the amount of people you expect to participate. If asking people to enter a video for the contest, the prize has to be a lot more indicative of the effort involved. We recommend prizes are unique to your brand, no one is going to be engaged over period of time to win free iPad. We encourage companies to create unique experiences.

What are your thoughts on online promotions and contests? Do you have any best practices you’d like to share, or perhaps examples of innovative and effective promotions that have truly led to positive business results?

A New Agency Model: An Interview With Peter LaMotte from GeniusRocket

With agency models in the marketing world in a state of flux, opportunity is ripe for new, more nimble and potentially more innovative agencies to arise. One such agency is GeniusRocket, a small and creative firm focused on video production that brings together the best of traditional advertising with modern crowdsourcing ideas.

GeniusRocket has developed a crowdsourcing model that enables companies to source ideas from a hand-picked and vetted community of creative and video production professionals. Collaboratively, GeniusRocket works with clients to ensure that content produced fits clearly with the client’s vision and strategy while still providing the security, privacy and control associated with more traditional agency models.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to ask a few questions to Peter LaMotte, the President of GeniusRocket.

Q: What do you feel are the most notable benefits for clients of GeniusRocket’s unique agency model?

A: I think it has to do with comparison to what else is out there. The paths that have always been there have been “go local”, meaning essentially freelance – like a local guy or someone you might know – or go to an agency for the creative space. What crowdsourcing has done, through its evolution, is provide a third alternative. By using GeniusRocket, clients get the benefits of privacy, creative oversight and direction, and quality that an agency delivers as well as the speed, choice and the affordability of your traditional crowdsourcing paths. So, it’s meant to be the best of both worlds. We feel we’re the best approach out there for creating video content for a brand that really isn’t interested in just sophomoric humour or some of the stuff that tends to come out of contests. When you say “hey, $5,000 to the best video” and anyone can submit ideas, you tend to get a lot of college humour, a lot of students participating. When people are truly looking for agency level production, and quality of ideas, GeniusRocket delivers that through our crowdsourcing model.

Q: Often times with more traditional agencies, you’ll have the same creatives dedicated to a client account over an extended period of time. Is that possible through your model?

Yes, it is. Traditionally in an ad agency there is a small team dedicated to an account – and when a brand goes to the agency, you will typically get variations of the same idea. Someone will pitch idea A, and someone will come up and say “that’s great but what if we do this”, and all of a sudden you have ten ideas but it’s really A, AB, AC, AD. Someone else may come up with something new, but it usually ends up being B, BC, BD, again variations of the same idea. Whereas what the the crowd delivers through crowdsourcing and GeniusRocket’s curated process, leveraging established relationships with professionals, is a diverse range of creative and production choices. As a result of our relationship with the creatives, if a client comes back to us and says “I loved working with that team”, then we’ll make sure the same team either participates in another crowdsourcing initiative with the client or works directly with the client. Now where we see that happening more is actually in the production side, so what people will say is “gosh, I love the fact that we got 25 original professional ideas from you”, and “I love the fact that I used that production company, is there anyway going forward we can continue to work with that production company?”. We do that a lot, for one of our biggest clients we’ve done six national TV spots with them across three different projects, four of them done with same production company.

Q: How do you envision agency models evolving over the next number of years? Are you seeing other agencies coming in, with models that are similar to yours?

A:  The trouble with large agencies trying to adapt to this changing environment, and yes they do have to adapt, is that they’re going to have a tough time shaving off excess baggage that they have to make themselves more nimble. It’s not that they’re not going to do it, its just going to be difficult for them and they’re really going to turn to maybe more virtual teams than they have in the past and learn a lot from what is working at companies like GeniusRocket and Victors and Spoils from a more traditional approach. I believe you’ll see some disappear, more will acquire companies like ours to give them that agility

For a post on another innovative crowdsourcing firm in the ad industry, read my interview with Ignacio Oreamuno from Giant Hydra.

Building a Brand Presence on Facebook – A Great Example by Silk

Recently I’ve been paying particular attention to how CPG brands are leveraging Facebook. The reality, from what I’ve observed, is that most CPG brand Facebook Pages are literally engagement graveyards. Sure, the brands might have attained a high number of “likes”. However, for the most part, many brands are still treating Facebook primarily as a promotional tool and not as a social platform for nurturing a deeper level of engagement and brand affinity.

However, I came across one CPG brand that truly stands out for it’s focus on using Facebook in its proper context as a social platform – Silk. Silk is effectively using its Facebook Page to build conversation and brand engagement, while also creating sales opportunities through contests and coupons, and I believe that other brands can learn from them.

Here is a snapshot of activity on the page, as well as some thoughts on how engagement can be further enhanced.

Positive issues being discussed:

  • Numerous posts and comments about the delicious taste of Silk’s products, as well as the variety of available flavours
  • Notable community appreciation for product coupons offered by Silk

 

Negative issues being discussed:

  • A couple of concerns have been expressed regarding product quality (see post on June 24th by Kelly Elliott, post on May 15th by Suzanne Morrison and post on May 9th by Bill Gilchrist)

Synopsis and opportunities for Silk to better connect with people and spark conversation:

  • Silk has developed a very healthy, active and engaged community on Facebook – the brand is well-represented and the discussions, for the most part, are fun and light-hearted
  • Several opportunities exist to enhance and expand the conversation, further engaging with the community, building on what Silk has established:
  1. Entice community members to share how they use their favourite Silk products as an ingredient in recipes – potentially sparking ideas for others.  Include a related picture for each post, such as a dinner dish or a dessert.

    Sample Facebook posts:

    Do you have your own recipes using your favourite variety of Silk as a secret ingredient? Please share what they are in the comments below!Which favourite recipes do you like to include Silk in?

    Cobbler, cookies, and cupcakes – yum!  Do you have any favourite recipes that include Silk, which you’d like to share?

  2. Share how Silk contributes and gives back to the communities it participates in. Many people now look beyond the products and services a company provides, with a desire to know how a company participates in initiatives focused on the greater good. From Silk’s website and several mentions on Facebook, it’s clear that the company cares about health and environmental causes. Silk should communicate the partnerships they’ve established and the initiatives they’re involved with to the community – by doing so they can spark discussion, generate positive word-of-mouth, and enhance customer loyalty.

    Sample Facebook posts:

    Did you know that we are partnered with The Organic Farming Research Foundation, a national non-profit that fosters the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming systems? http://ofrf.org/ [link to The Organic Farming Research Foundation; include The Organic Farming Research Foundation logo with post]

    We are committed to taking care of our planet and providing healthy food choices. Here are some inspiring organizations we’ve partnered with: http://bit.ly/OaCegr [link to “Working Together” page on Silk website, listing partner organizations]

    We are focused on renewable energy – we offset the electricity used to make our products by purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates, representing energy from sources such as wind and solar. What are some things you do to reduce your environmental impact? [include picture of wind turbines with post] 

  3. Silk products offer a number a number of notable health benefits, which should be made more prominent in discussions within the community. Focusing on health can help educate community members on benefits they might not have been aware of – generating conversation and helping to build word-of-mouth.

    Sample Facebook posts:

    My favourite health benefit of drinking Silk is __________.Have you had a glass of Silk today? Did you know that each glass of Silk True Almond beverage contains as much calcium and vitamin D as dairy milk? [include picture of glass of Silk, beside Silk True Almond carton, with post]

    Silk beverages are great sources of protein. Check out the recipes on our website for some healthy and tasty Silk-based smoothies: http://bit.ly/LsmVOx [link to recipe search on Silk website]

The Rise of Mobile and Location-Based Marketing

The rapid advancement and adoption of mobile technology, as well as the evolution of location-based marketing, are creating significant opportunities for companies to increase profitability and grow their customer base. Marketers are now better poised to influence action near the point of purchase in a timely and relevant manner – and we are just at the tipping point of what’s to come.

Research presented in May by Mary Meeker, a venture capitalist and renowned Internet authority, reveals that we are still in the early stages of smartphone adoption.

From Meeker’s Internet Trends 2012 presentation:

  • 3G penetration is just over 60% in North America and only 18% globally
  • Year over year 3G subscription growth is 37% globally (31% in US and 34% in Canada)

Meeker also revealed that consumers now spend 10% of their media time in mobile and 7% in print. Conversely, print accounted for 25% of advertising spending in the US in 2011, while mobile only accounted for 1%. It seems reasonable to conclude that companies stand to benefit by shifting towards mobile.

Smartphone adoption is key to location-based marketing, which focuses on the integration of media to influence people based on physical location. Asif Khan, Founder & President of the Location Based Marketing Association, stated in his presentation at the 2012 Canadian Marketing Association Summit that only 13% of 3G subscribers use location-based services to search for deals or offers – underscoring the opportunity for marketers, as consumers don’t yet have set expectations.

Marketers can already leverage location-based marketing in a variety of ways – for example, promoting nearby offers through mobile ads or location-based apps such as Foursquare. Many more innovative ways are emerging, using customer data and technologies such as augmented reality to create relevant and engaging experiences.

Technology is advancing and media habits are changing. Now is the time for marketers to embrace location-based marketing.

Six Keys to Effective Blogger Outreach

Companies that properly invest in blogger outreach have a significant opportunity to engage audiences with well-targeted messages, potentially leading to business growth. Given that the online space has become cluttered by brands vying for customer attention, essentially evolving into an ever-rising ocean of display ads, video ads, Facebook “Likes” and other promotional efforts, blogger outreach stands to become an important focal point for companies in their digital marketing efforts.

Blogger outreach requires commitment, resources, and a well thought out process. Often times companies don’t make the investment required, resulting in failed initiatives. Here are several key steps you can take in building an effective blogger outreach program.

Target Relevant Blogs

Conducting research to determine which blogs are most relevant to your product product or service offering is absolutely integral. Unfortunately many marketing and communications professionals bombard bloggers with pitches that are not relevant – with the consequence of making it more difficult for your offering to get noticed. Realize that bloggers are busy people, for many blogging is not their full-time profession, so focus your efforts accordingly.

Invest in Building Relationships

This point is so important I’m going to repeat it:  invest in building relationships. Think of a relationship with a blogger like a bank account – you first need to invest some savings before making a withdrawal. Once you’ve found some blogs that are relevant to your target, take some simple steps like, for example, commenting on the blogs in a manner that contributes to the dialogue and conversation. You might also consider sharing relevant posts with your audience and network. A food and beverage brand could share a blogger’s recipe by posting it on the brand’s Facebook Page.

DO NOT wait until you are set to run a campaign before engaging with a blogger, you will most likely be ignored.

Engage Advocates

Don’t just target bloggers who have large audiences. You should also focus on bloggers that have a passionate following – regardless of size. This will help immensely in building a groundswell of advocacy for your offering. Realize also that bloggers with smaller audiences may not yet receive as many pitches as those with larger audiences, making it more likely that yours will get noticed. When evaluating a blog, consider it’s reach and relevance, as well as the level of engagement amongst the blog’s followers.

Focus on Value

When pitching bloggers, adopt a mindset that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” and consider how you can provide value to both bloggers and their audiences. Study each blog and make note of any offers provided to the audience, before making the pitch. If you take the time to tailor an unique, interesting and relevant offer your pitch is more likely get noticed. For example, a company operating a local tourist attraction might offer a blogger a behind the scenes tour or access to a special event with exclusive privileges. The same company could provide tickets for the tourist attraction, for the blogger to give away in a contest for audience members.

Say Thank You and Follow Up

If a blogger does choose to cover you, be sure to send a personalized note of thanks. You can also use the opportunity to request feedback from the blogger, both on your pitch and the offering for the blogger’s audience. If relevant, be sure to keep investing in the relationship and continue the engagement – do not wait until you have another campaign you’d like to pitch.

Be Genuine

Above all, remember that you’re dealing with other humans. Be nice, and be respectful.

Additional resources:

Raul Pacheco-Vega, creator of hummingbird604.com, developed a guide on he prefers to be pitched. It is geared towards his blog, but serves as a great example.

Dave Fleet’s Blogger Relations – Getting the Insiders Onside presentation provides excellent insights on communicating with bloggers and influencers.

WestJet Takes Flight to NYC Using Experiential and Social Media Marketing

I enjoy learning about and experiencing innovative, well-executed marketing campaigns. In my opinion one of the best examples in a long time occurred on the streets of Toronto, and online, this past Friday. WestJet teamed up with agency Mosaic for an integrated experiential and social media campaign to promote the launch of WestJet’s new 7 times daily service from Toronto to New York City’s LaGuardia airport.

Given the intense competition from firmly established Air Canada and Porter Airlines, the latter of which offers direct flights to NYC from the conveniently located Billy Bishop City Airport, WestJet needed to launch with a bang – and did they ever. On Friday, 100 Statues of Liberty took to the streets of Toronto, visiting high traffic areas to give away valuable prizes to passersby – notably, 150 prizes for 100% off the base fare for a round trip to NYC and 23,000 promo codes for 20% off of the base fare.

The contest leveraged Facebook and Twitter to generate excitement and and provide hints on where people could find the Statues of Liberty. People also had an opportunity to win five free flights on Twitter by tweeting @WestJet and #NYCASAP.

  • @WestJet: Enter to WIN a flight to NYC! Follow @WestJet & send a Tweet that mentions @WestJet & includes #NYCASAP. Rules: http://fly.ws/nycasap
  • @MKRoberts: Sure would love to go to #NYCASAP with @WestJet 🙂
  • @Osfreddy: @WestJet I want to win @WestJet promo on #NYCASAP please I need to see my dear friend that just had a baby. Thanks @WestJet

Ultimately, this campaign will be best judged on whichever metrics WestJet has established – presumably including passenger loads and the redemption rate for the 23,000 promo codes. However, there are several reasons why I really like this effort.

First and foremost, the tone and execution of the campaign were well-aligned with WestJet’s DNA. They have already established themselves as being a customer-centric company, and they’re not afraid to joke around and have fun – I’ve noticed it in their ads and whenever flying WestJet. Complementing this, the company is firmly established on social media. They know how to use the platforms correctly as mechanisms for both promotion and engagement.

Further, a very significant value offer was provided. It’s hard to resist 100% off the base fare for a flight, with a reasonable chance of winning, even if taxes have to be paid – or the opportunity to receive a promo code for 20% off. WestJet wasn’t giving away swag, they offered tangible value.

Also, it’s an excellent example of integrated social media and experiential marketing. People were actively tweeting (I counted several hundred tweets in the last hour alone) – often identifying where some Statues of Liberty were.

  • @savagecookie: RT @lindacam75: @WestJet Found lady liberty at yonge & bloor! #NYCASAP! #Toronto http://pic.twitter.com/SecQuXpl
The message was simple and concise, helping to make the tweets easily shareable. There were A LOT of retweets, people shared the promotion with their followers.
  • @shepherd_group: Booya! RT @amydehaan: I would love to win this!! RT @WestJet – We’re giving away 5 flights to NYC via Twitter today! #NYCASAP
  • @AmyDeHaan: I would love to win this!! RT @westjet – We’re giving away 5 flights to NYC via Twitter today! #NYCASAP
It was a fun campaign. A lot of people wanted to get pictures taken with the statues, as evidenced by the number of pictures being shared.

  • @IamVenusMonroe: Hanging with lady liberty x 3 lolz #NYCASAP http://pic.twitter.com/rdpsiiFs

In addition to the Statues of Liberty, another iconic NYC figure also made an appearance!

  • @AllisonChoppick: RT @ashmarshall: And then that just happened… #NYCASAP http://pic.twitter.com/qjMR081i
Unfortunately I didn’t win, but here are a couple of happy people who did. Bravo, WestJet.
  • @sabrinakareer: Ran into these #NYCASAP ladies this morning and scratched a card giving me 20% off a flight to NYC! #Woohoo http://pic.twitter.com/waMuKi4f
  • @lditkofsky: Just won a free trip to NYC!! Thanks Westjet! #NYCASAP