viral marketing

Changing Brand Opinions of Consumers

Posted on December 22, 2008. Filed under: advertising, Apple, blog, consumer marketing, iPhone, Mac, marketing, Twitter, viral marketing |

A recent HARO post, a reporter asked the following:

“Looking for experts on consumer behavior or branding strategies or even psychology to discuss how press/consumers develop an opinion about a company and whether/how that opinion can be swayed.”

It got me excited that someone may be looking for new ways to engage with consumers other than the same old shotgun marketing that has been going on. I focused on consumers, as that is my area of expertise.

Here was my response:

Consumers are influenced in their opinions of brands by many factors:

Engagement – a consumer’s actual experience with a brand. This usually but not always refers to their actual use of a brand’s product or service. Sometimes this can manifest itself in their experience with the brand’s customer service.

Marketing – of course marketing, advertising, coupons and the like are a big influencer, or brands wouldn’t spend the money! A fine example is Apple. They developed a product (iPod) that was marketed as hip, cool, and trendy. Their psychographic was not just people who were hip, cool, and trendy, but those who thought they were, and those who wished they were.

PR – this taps into the same channel as above, what people are reading or hearing about a product.

Peers – Peers have replaced celebrity endorsements in the mind of consumers. They’re not going to by a t-shirt because Michael Jordan wears it (much to Hanes’ chagrine), they are going to buy it because their big brother wears it. Consumers are much more likely to engage with a brand based on what kind of experience a close contact, friend or family, has had with the brand. This may mean that I’ll buy a CD (or more likely download an mp3) of a new artist because my buddy Roy likes them (he and I have similar, but not identical tastes), or I may decide not to make the purchase because my buddy Steve (whose tastes I can barely stand) recommended them.

Peripheral Peers – while these aren’t close contacts, they are other consumers with a similar psychographic makeup. For example, my wife and I are expecting our first child in February. She did not put a single item on our baby registry without reading every single review on the site of the company through which we’re making a list. Often she would double check the reviews on another site, say a portal like thebump.com, or with our neighbor who has a 6 month old (see Peers). While these influencers have less of an impact, they make it easier to get input from those with the same mindset. I’ve used Twitter recently to get feedback from my Followers on a video camera I’m looking to purchase. This gives me a broad range of honest, yet in-depth feedback. I have to take some with a grain of salt, like the podcast pro who only uses high end Canon products, or the 22 year old that just love, love, LOVES her Flip Mino (mostly because it’s pink I think).

As a side note, I use the term psychographic when discussing groups with similar interests or mindset. A 16 year old boy and a 60 year old woman wouldn’t necessarily be in the same demographic, yet when considering marketing for the New England Patriots, it is important to keep in mind that they belong to the same psychographic: New England Patriots fans. I find that targeting a psychographic is much smarter than targeting a demographic. A psychographic is a qualified lead, while and demographic is a quantity play. When I was 16 I knew many other 16 year olds, they were all very different with very different interests, why would anyone want to market to all of us the same way?

As for your question on whether or how a consumer or PR reps opinions can be swayed, it depends:

What has lead them to form an opinion? If their negative opinion is based on marketing a good Peripheral Peer review would do it. This or a Peer influencer would overcome almost all other types of influencers. My brother-in-law got an iPod that gave him endless trouble. He was totally turned off of Apple products. Yet, after a year of influence based on my own engagement with the brand (iPod, iPhone, Macs and home and work), he changed his mind. He has since bought a new iPod, an iBook and has been begging for an iPhone. Peer input is the strongest influencer, and in it’s absence, Peripheral Peer input. Both are hard to overcome, Peer being the hardest. Only ground breaking marketing and PR can change a negative Peer influence to positive.

I assume that the question pertained to changing a negative opinion to a positive one. That takes alot of work. However, changing a positive opinion to a negative one is pretty easy. All of the influencers I’ve mentioned above can very quickly change a consumer’s opinion about a brand. Recently a viral email was sent around showing images of dead chickens (not killed FOR selling, but long dead) being cleaned for sale to Walmart. I received it from several sources and forwarded it to many more. Regardless of any of the recipients’ past interaction with Walmart, I’d guess that few that saw the email would be very likely to go back to Walmart. PR mistakes, bad press, word of mouth or a bad personal exchange with any brand can very quickly change an opinion.

That being said, customer service goes a long way. I’ve had some trouble with my car and my computers. In each case, my frustration was quickly erased by excellent customer service. In every case, a similar engagement with a brand would have sent me to a competitor, not to mention negative word of mouth. However, thanks to excellent encounters with customer service, I’m an even bigger fan of the brands (signing up for their newsletter, becomming a brand ambassador).

Customer service is going to become a larger part of corporate marketing budgets in the future as products and services (as well as advertising) become more personalized how-the-economy-back-during-the-depression-of-2009-changed-the-world-part-8-marketing), advertising becomes trickier, and more brands are vying for the eye of every consumer.

One of the best low-cost ways to generate positive branding is to find brand ambassadors like myself, those with peripheral or direct peer influence, and take advantage of them. I hear and have experienced being a targeted blogger or Twitter user who is engaged by a brand. The brand would send products, ask for, or pay for reviews, hoping that the blog or Tweets would influence others. This is a demographic approach that doesn’t often work. Many bloggers won’t do it, often their readers will see through it. Rather than finding digital influencers in general, who will at best ineffectively market their product, brands should take the extra time to find those who are already fans, ambassadors or at least interested in their products and services. These are your influencers!

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<3 Your Brand

Posted on November 11, 2008. Filed under: advertising, consumer marketing, Social Media, Social Network, Twitter, User Generated Content, viral marketing, Web 2.0 | Tags: , , , , , |

I’m reading an article in Fast Company Magazine (Oct. 08 – yes I still like print especially with nice paper covers) about thanking companies you appreciate (I Love You. Now What – Heath & Heath). The gist is that while companies have sunk millions into call centers to smooth the ruffled feathers or complaining customers, there is virtually no way to thank them. They go on to show the positive impact it has on employees of the company, if marketing shares the compliments.

While I could spend the rest of my ride on the T talking about ways that social media could be the medium to share the good will, no one is going to pay me for it, and with a recent layoff, I’m feeling much less gracious with my free marketing advice. The holidays are coming though and we should all be looking at what we’re grateful for, even if we need the Large Hadron Collider to test the theory of the existence of something to be grateful for. With the coming rush of holiday consumerism and travel I thought we should consider Paying it Forward to some of the companies we appreciate. Perhaps @GoodWill and @Karma will get the Tweet and our holiday season won’t be tarnished with bad company-customer interaction. Perhaps customers will be a bit more patient and understanding, and corporate employees will be extra diligent and helpful in their job execution.

So I’m asking readers to think of a company whose products or service they admire or have had a positive interaction with, and give them a shout out. A simple “hey, nice job” is enough. If you want be more expressive, feel free. Use whatever medium you feel comfortable with; post a video to YouTube, write a letter, call the service center, start a Facebook Fan page, post a Tweet (#iLuvBrandX), hug a stockboy!

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Twitterers For Obama

Posted on October 28, 2008. Filed under: advertising, Social Media, Social Network, Twitter, viral marketing, Web 2.0 | Tags: , |

Twitterers For Obama

Twitterers For Obama

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BMW Shoots Viral Piece, Does it Hit or Miss?

Posted on June 25, 2008. Filed under: advertising, blog, Boston, Consumer Generated Content, consumer marketing, DVD, Facebook, iPhone, Michael Durwin, movies, MySpace, new media, User Generated Content, viral marketing, Web 2.0, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

BMW movie The Ramp

Earlier this year BMW launched a viral video to promote the launch of it’s new model in the U.S. The video was released as a documentary following the stories of a small Bavarian town named Oberpfaffelbachen. The town’s citizens include a stunt driver, over zealous police chief, event promoter and mayor, trying to save the town from hard financial times. They devise a promotion in which they will launch a 300 horse power BMW 1 Series from a 454 meter (1486.5 feet) ramp from Bavaria, across the Atlantic to the U.S. The town has created an entire festival around the event called Rampenfest. Towns folk are turning their houses into gift shops, town managers are tearing down forests for parking. I won’t give away the ending, but obviously something goes wrong. Not as dramatically as I’d hoped unfortunately.

The quality of the video is excellent, the acting, direction and effects (as subtle as the ramp, as obvious as the teeth) as good as a movie. The video has been seen by millions which can give BMW the opportunity to claim a positive impact, especially considering that it was shot overseas and cost far less than a U.S. 30 second spot. Was it successful? It’s hard to say.

As with any viral, guerilla or virtual advertising, it is hard to judge success. Many still talk about the negative impact of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force guerilla stunt, requiring a payout of 2 million to the city of Boston to cover lawsuits and the cost of our crack bomb squad (who apparently can’t tell the difference between a bomb and a light brite!). The press loves to bring up the GM (Chevy) Yukon promotion run on YouTube. Many people made anti-SUV ads from the audio and video clips GM posted in the make-you-own commercial promotion. This brings us to what determines success.

The GM promotion was considered a failure because of the thousands of ads that were created that shed a positive light on the Yukon, there were a few that were negative. But, is that a bad thing? Most people learn by making mistakes or being told they’re wrong. Negative feedback is just as important, if not more important than positive feedback. How will you know how to improve your product unless people tell you what they DON’T like about it? GM learned that there are alot of people that consider their giant SUV bad for the environment and a gas guzzler. If this prompts them to make eco-friendly, gas-conscious improvements to their vehicles, is that a bad thing for the company or the consumer?

And let’s not forget that with the launch of the BMW campaign, the GM promotion was brought up as a failure again. Really? The Chevy Yukon is mentioned in the press for another car manufacturer’s promotion and that’s a bad thing? Sounds like free press to me. Even when a guerilla or viral campaign can’t be measured in sales or doesn’t have quite the immediate impact a company would hope, there is always the fact that it will continue to keep the brand in the public’s conscience for months and years to come.

Brand visibility is the best way to consider whether or not your viral or guerilla campaign is effective. You can’t often track sales back to a campaign like this or even sign-ups. You may get a solid number of visits to your microsite, but when visitors pull down your video, or assets, or talk about it in their blog, it can be difficult to track especially since those co-opted branding placements end up living for months out of your control.

So, how successful will the BMW campaign be? Well, they millions of viewers at the moment. Add on a few million views of the video once people (like me) download the clip to their iPod/iPhone and show it around, upload it to their YouTube, MySpace, Facebook or blog accounts, hundreds of discussions of it in marketing or news related blogs (where I found it) and then it’s recurring mention every time another automaker or major corporation does a viral or guerilla campaign and it sounds like a success to me.

But BMW knows this. They were arguably one of the first to use viral video not just as a tool to sell cars but a way to engage consumers with their brand, and to redefine their brand as cool. I still have a DVD copy of the BMW Movies from the promotion in 2001. The shorts were directed by Ang Lee, Guy Ritchie, John Woo, Tony Scott, John Frankenheimer and featured Forest Whitakker, Madonna, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke and others. It received rave reviews at Cannes, from the New York Times, and Time magazine. They very successfully hit their middle-age, married, 150k/yr target.

The new spot however, at least in the words of Marketing VP Jack Pitney, was, rather than target a demographic, to target a psychographic. While most companies want to stick to categorizing their demographics by generation, age and finances, BMW is smart enough to know that they can pull an 8 year old boy and an 58 year old woman into their brand halo just by virtue of the fact that they may share common interests, like flashy cars, or mockumentaries.

Despite my feeling that this viral video may be a bit long for most viewers (35 minutes), I’m fairly certain that the folks at BMW will be pleased with the outcome. And I’m happy to help them broadcast their brand (even though I drive the “other” german car)!

Links:
Official Film Site

BMW Films Wikipedia

BMW Films Site (no videos here)

BMW Film “Star” (you can find the rest of the films here as well)

Digg submission where I first found out about the promotion

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Corporations Leave Second Life. We never knew you were there!

Posted on July 25, 2007. Filed under: advertising, American Apparel, Bank America, Burger King, Consumer Generated Content, consumer marketing, H&R Block, Lost, NBA, Sears, Second Life, Social Network, User Generated Content, viral marketing, Warcraft, Web 2.0, Web3.d, Wired Magazine |

I got a good laugh out of the recent Wired article stating that Second Life was officially over.
Many companies who tried to market themselves in Second Life failed and are now leaving. Coke, American Apparel, NBA, Sears, H&R Block, etc. (edit: Some of these companies aren’t leaving, just complaining that their real world strategies failed).

The problem with these companies is they try to market in it the same way they market in the real world. This is a virtual world that they know virtually nothing about. Why would an avatar want a Coke? Duh! There is no thirst in Second Life as their is no rain.

It amazes me that these companies look at a brand new technology and say, “let’s make money in it right away. If we build it they will come and spend.” Very few of the marketers who have delved into Second Life have engaged users. “Come drive my car”, okay but to get there I’m going to hop on my hovercraft or just fly. Once the novelty of driving your car for 5 minutes wears off, what else do you have to engage me? A chance to win a Pontiac to the person who creates the coolest concept car in Second Life? No? A Mercedes racing game? No? Oh, a free racing suit. Thanks. ALot of people talk about American Apparel closing it’s store. It may have been one of the first but it was also one of the worst. There was stage but no posting as to when fashions shows took place. AA clothes are for the most part non-descript. Why would it appeal to me to buy one of your plain t-shirts for my avatar? I have an alligator head and fairy wings! Not to mention that there was no staff at the store, no events, NOTHING of interest, oh, except the free 6 pack of beer on the desk (random).

One of the few real world entities that has a presence in Second Life that works is the L Word. Why? Because they’ve created locations from the set to hang out, they let Second Lifers sell their L Word-related merchandise their, they host events, there are greeters to meet you and answer questions. Second Life is a waste of time for most companies just like Bud.tv was. Why go to a web site just because it has the bud logo. What are they offering consumers? Why go to Coke Island or wherever? Because it’s Coke?

I’m surprised Burger King hasn’t tried to replicate their games or created new ones in SL. That would generate some interest. I’m further surprised that game companies don’t host mini, playable previews of their game environments there, or more record companies don’t do virtual artist shows, or tv shows (Hello Lost) put on spin off episodes, meet the cast, or tour the island events on. These are the kinds of companies that can benefit from Second Life. Bank America isn’t going to get people to use their ATM machines! What is H&R Block going to do in Second Life, help people with their virtual taxes?

As for Wired’s article above, it’s further sensationalist journalism. “Second Life is Officially Over” they say. Only 1 million visitors in the last 30 days. I’d bet there are alot of companies that would like that kind of turnout on their web site.

Second Life does herald the next generation of the Internet, only a fool can deny that. The thing is, not unlike early 90s web sites, it’s not ready to be an ecommerce tool. Brand awareness, generator, maybe. Possibility for consumer engagement? I’ve got news for you, consumers are in charge now and no place is that more apparent than in their own world.

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Save Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Posted on June 15, 2007. Filed under: Jericho, Michael Durwin, movie promotion, NBC, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, User Generated Content, viral marketing |

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

If the fans of “Jericho” can bring it back from the dead, why won’t fans of “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” convince NBC to bring it back for another season?

Read the rest of the article here:
http://blogs.mediapost.com/tv_board/?p=99

My Response:

I agree with Jack in his appreciation of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. It seems that broadcasters are so hungry for a show that targets the entire population that it overlooks shows that can attract a smaller, intelligent viewership. With that ideal it’s no wonder that almost every show on is so watered down, politically correct and intent on being unoffending that they don’t strongly appeal to anyone. I remember heated debates about Martin Sheen’s Presidential decisions on West Wing as if he was really the President (I wish). I highly doubt that Deal or No Deal, America’s Got Talent or 30 Rock inspire such thought.
The fact that a show can attract an audience that rarely watches tv is amazing. Has NBC considered that they just tapped into a new revenue stream? Maybe they should take a lesson from their own show and load up on a few reality shows aimed at the masses to counter a couplle of smart, contemporary dramas. I guess they could even play it safe and broadcast Law and Order: The TV Studio.

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Failure to Launch (Correctly)

Posted on April 4, 2007. Filed under: ABC, advertising, American Express, blog, Boston, broadcast, Chia Pet, consumer marketing, Kate Beckinsale, Lost, Michael Durwin, movie promotion, movie trailer, new media, OnDemand, Sony Pictures, tv ad, Vacancy, viral marketing, YouTube |

Vacancy Poster

I just saw a preview for the new movie Vacancy. Kate Beckinsale is in it so of course I’ll see it, when it comes to OnDemand. The trailer was interesting enough, mostly because Kate Beckinsale was in it, but I was most intrigued by a bit of text at the end of the trailer under the In Theaters…
The text gave a number: 1-888-VACANCY. So of course, being the marketing/tech geek that I am, I ran to my phone to give the number a call. 1-888-982-2262(9) for those who can’t stand dialing by letter. The extra 9 is moot, but necessary to spell the title. First, the number flashed so fast that I thought it said 1-800.. I got the Alliance Data Help Desk. Obviously the wrong place. I rewound my DVR and saw that it was 1-888. I called. Nothing. I just got a ring then a disconnect. I tried several times with the same result.
I did try again the next night (just a few minutes ago) and finally got through. There is a very creepy message with a few options; 0 for operator, 1 to hear specials and 2 to make reservations. The operator was a bad voice mail, 1 talked about slashing prices and 2 asked me to leave a number and hit pound for them to get back to me.
So first things first. When you run a commercial with a phone number attached for more information, make sure the number works and the system can handle the estimated amount of calls you expect. Even the people who sell Chia Pet know that. Next, make it worth my while! If I, as a consumer, are willing to make the effort and take on the expense of chewing up my minutes to interact with your marketing, make sure I’m going to get something out of it. A chance to have dinner with Kate Beckinsale would be a nice start, but even a chance to sign up for advanced screenings or unlock special features on the web site.
This promotion reminds me of the one American Express ran with Lost. They gave a special URL to a landing page with esupposedly exclusive content. Wrong! To begin with, once you hit the site it said nothing would be available until the next day. Great way to lose 75% of your audience. Then, when the content was available, it wasn’t exclusive, at least not to the show. It was merely clips from that episode. You could get that on ABC.com any time you wanted, or YouTube for that matter.
In all I think it’s great that companies are trying to take advantage of new media and new strategies online. But, when they do run a promotion like this, the only way it is going to be effective is if something engaging is going to be offered and for promotions like this that have the potential to reach millions, make sure it works!
Oh yeah, make sure it includes Kate Beckinsale!

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