Brandtainment

Brands that invest in creating content that entertains and delights are poised to stand out, through genuine fan engagement and sharing of the content. It seems obvious, doesn’t it? Create a video, or a picture, or a blog post that in some way makes people glad they spent the time watching the video, viewing the picture, or reading the blog post, and they’re more apt to like what you created, comment on it, and perhaps even share it with their friends.

My question is very straightforward. Why are so many brands still creating boring content?

Here are a couple of examples of the kinds of videos brands should be producing more of. NBC Sports will be airing English Premier League games this year, and they created a very funny promotional video – “An American Football Coach in London”. The video could easel be a Saturday Night Live sketch, and in fact it stars SNL alumni Jason Sudeikis. One week after launching, the video has generated over 3.5 million views. Golden!

At Intuit, we were brainstorming triggers that would entice people to file their taxes using TurboTax in advance of the April 30th tax deadline. With a week left to go, I saw an ad on CBC mentioning that the NHL playoffs were starting on April 30th. Bingo! With the Maple Leafs returning to the play-offs for the first time in nine years, and the Canucks and Habs also participating, we found our trigger. Within 72 hours we assembled a team, authored a script and produced a video using iPhones – “The Great Canadian Face-off: Taxes vs. Playoffs”. No, we didn’t have SNL talent, but we did poke fun at the situation and managed to garner over 12,000 views.

(Guess who’s wearing the Canucks jersey!)

Brands don’t need to invest a lot of money to create an awesome video. However innovative thinking and creativity are definite musts. I foresee a lot more brands going this route in the future.

We Are All Canucks

Wow, do those words ever ring true. Thanks to a loyal, ardent fan base, and the power of social media, Vancouver Canucks fandom has risen to an entirely new level. 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.

Let’s first look at fan participation in creating and sharing content. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the blogosphere have all been significant conduits for the spread of entertaining and engaging videos, images, and opinions on the Canucks.

Numerous fun, high quality videos have been created – many by relative amateurs. This one, a parody of Rebecca Black’s viral hit “Friday”, was posted on YouTube at the beginning of April and has already garnered over 320,000 views.

People have also developed Canuck-themed avatars, posting and sharing on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.

The blogosphere is also abuzz with postings related to the Canucks. Enter the term “Canucks” in Google Blog Search, and over one million results are returned. No, not all are related to the team – but given limited alternative applications of the word “Canucks”, it’s a fairly good indicator of the conversations that are happening.

On top of all this, Twitter and Facebook truly enhance the experience of watching a Canucks game, by enabling people to partake in banter as the game unfolds – no matter where they are watching from.

Paralleling the fan generated content, the Canucks organization has really done a great job in engaging with fans through social media.

For starters, the Canucks have built a strong presence on Facebook, with over 445,000 fans, and Twitter, with over 113,000 followers. According to sportsfangraph.com, the Canucks rank 7th amongst NHL teams with respect to total following – and second amongst Canadian teams, trailing only the Montreal Canadiens. They also have a strong degree of activity in forums hosted on canucks.com.

Of course, numbers only tell part of the story. The Canucks have used their website and social media platforms to share compelling content including, for example, polished highlight videos, player interviews, and behind the scene glimpses of team activities. They also run fun, compelling contests that fans enjoy.

One neat social initiative the Canucks have launched for the playoffs is This is What We Live For – a website through which Canucks fans can help create a mosaic. Upon submitting a personal photo for the mosaic, people are asked to mention why they are a Canucks fan, and are then prompted to share the mosaic through Twitter or Facebook.

I find the mosaic itself to be quite fitting. Yes, fellow Canucks fans, We Are All Canucks.

A Great Example of Customer Service by KLM

I would like to share an amazing example of customer service, and what can be accomplished when a business truly puts a customer – and not a brand, product or service – upfront and central in its core focus. This is also a great example of why businesses need to be listening to and participating amongst the conversations that are happening about them in social media.

Last month, Dutch airline KLM announced on Twitter that they would be restarting their Amsterdam to Miami route on March 27th. Following the announcement, a Dutch DJ and a filmmaker replied, both indicating that the flight was too late for a DJ festival that was starting in Miami a week earlier. They also mentioned that they could easily gather enough people for a full flight, should KLM wish to move up the launch date so they could attend the festival.

It’s safe to say that most airlines would likely have ignored this request – at most, the DJ and filmmaker would have received a polite reply on Twitter.

What did KLM do? They took the DJ and filmmaker up on their challenge! If the DJ and filmmaker could get enough people to book for the flight, KLM would restart the route to Miami a week earlier. Within five hours, 150 requests for the flight were collected.

On Twitter, KLM announced that they would be re-starting their Amsterdam to Miami route on March 27. A Dutch DJ and filmmaker then replied, mentioning that the flight was too late for a DJ festival in Miami starting a week earlier.  They indicated to KLM that they could easily gather enough people for a full flight. KLM  took up their challenge – and within five hours, the DJ and film maker collected 150 subscriptions for the flight.

Here is a video that tells the tale:

I really hope more companies follow KLM’s lead, truly focusing on and engaging with customers. You can bet that KLM won over a number of new customers and increased the loyalty of existing customers by changing the date. Sure, there’s no doubt it cost KLM a fair bit of money to make the change – but imagine what the longer term returns will be over the course of the life-cycles of customers who took the flight?

Clearly, social CRM has become part of KLM’s DNA. Rather than just focusing on traditional advertising, they leveraged social media to engage with their customers – and they made a difference, providing true value. Bravo! Way to go!

Observations on the Old Spice Campaign

Old Spice’s “Old Spice Man” campaign may just be a precursor of advertising and brand engagement efforts we can expect to see in coming years. The campaign, orchestrated by Wieden+Kennedy, started off with a TV commercial in the winter which garnered attention from notable bloggers and celebrities, and received numerous views on YouTube.

On Tuesday, the Old Spice Man became a social media sensation, with videos uploaded to YouTube featuring the character responding to people’s comments and questions from Twitter, Facebook and other Internet sources. A few of the videos were filmed in advance, featuring Old Spice Man’s responses to comments on the original commercial, however the majority were filmed on the fly – sometimes within thirty minutes of someone submitting a comment or question.

Approximately 180 videos were created over two days. At last count, Old Spice’s Twitter following had increased to over 70,000, and most of the videos were downloaded over 100,000 times. There were also a couple of hundred news articles on the initiative, and no doubt numerous mentions in other media. It has been an amazing viral marketing campaign.

There are many things worth mentioning about this effort, here are a few that come to mind:

  • Mass and digital media can work beautifully together. Old Spice firmly established the character in the TV spot, there was already a strong degree of familiarity prior to the social media blitz.
  • Blogger and celebrity outreach planted some of the seeds for the viral nature of this campaign. It was smart to create videos mentioning influential bloggers and celebrities who were already fans of the TV spot – no doubt they became bigger fans, and again let their networks know about it.
  • The videos were FUNNY and ADDICTIVE. Viewers, myself included, were compelled spread the word, sharing with their friends and followers.
  • Old Spice Man is a very likable character, one that people are easily able to gain an affinity for.
  • A handsome guy with sex appeal. Women have an influence in 80% of all purchasing decisions, including men’s grooming products. Many men aspire to be like him. Enough said.

I’m curious to see what Old Spice’s next steps will be, given the large following that has been garnered. How are they going to continue to engage the social media community they have built?

Another question on ponder, do people like the Old Spice brand or just the campaign itself?

I’m also interested in the processes and metrics that are in place to evaluate success. Will there be a sales lift? A measured increase in brand affinity?

Lots of questions asked, and some valuable insights already gained. What are your thoughts?

Award Winning Cannes 2009 Commercials

Recently, I had an opportunity to attend a screening of award winning commercials from the 2009 Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.  Many of the commercials are available on YouTube, click here to view a selection of them.

I thought I would share a couple of my favorites.



Homeless to Harvard – An Inspiring Story

I learned about Liz Murray in a recent issue of Success magazine. I thought I would share this video, which I found on YouTube.


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