Disruption and Social Media Campaign Planning

A packed out room was the audience to the first Techmap Monday in London, with a keynote presentation by Mike Williams from Isobar.

One of the most interesting things that came out of the talk was the concept of Disruption. What Mike was suggesting was that the really successful campaigns build on the ideas of DNA (our physiological ability to perceive phenomena), schema (our expectations of the world), and then attempt to disrupt these expectations to stand out.

As a concept it seems to have grated with a few of the attendees, although I’m not entirely certain they were on the same wave length as Mike. Disruption as a stand alone word or concept is admittedly not something you’d want to do to an audience, it has aggressive and dubious connotation. When put into the context of schema, however, it holds a whole new meaning, and is indeed something that any marketing campaign should aim to do.

One of Mike’s key examples was a campaign he was involved with for Nokia. The campaign essentially involved rigging up a huge signpost in London and handing the control over to the passing public. People were able to text things to the signpost and get temporary control over where it pointed and what it read.

Disruption on a big scale. Signposts are things that are concrete and unchangeable. No one really knows how they are made, who makes them, who decides what goes on them and how many get put up. However, the potential to suddenly take control over the linguistic landscape, and not on just a normal sign but on a HUGE SIGN. This gave people control over a huge temporary landmark. It temporarily removed power from the controlling bourgeoisie and gave it to the people.

Aside from sounding revolutionary, and perhaps guilty of a tinge of hyperbole, it is a true example of how disruption works. The huge sign disrupted the idea of a normal sign, the control over its contents disrupted the idea that we have nothing to do with these things.

The Old Spice Guy, for example, disrupted the relationship between the YouTube format and time. Instead of every video being old and heavily edited, it was as live as it could be, it was candid, it was really interactive.

It would be imprudent to say that this is the holy grail of marketing – disruption tactics would not work for every campaign, and if they were used uniformly across the industry they would inevitably be less effective, but it is fair to say that a large proportion of the ‘viral’ content that comes and goes does violate these ‘norms’ that we hold about the world.

With social media marketing and campaigns there are undoubtedly elements that cannot be violated, but even in this domain (which is arguably a removed form the digital marketing spectrum regardless if whether it is used in the marketing mix or not) the cases which are earmarked as very effective or most creative are probably utilising disruption at some level to make the message salient to the target audience.

An excellent presentation by Seth Godin on TED has this underlying message also. It’s about standing out – no one notices a cow, because a cow is mundane and banal. A purple cow, though?

It is important sometimes to step back and look at why things work, and to try to evaluate the processes involved in developing the concept for a campaign, right through to its completion and evaluation. It makes it easier to focus the essential creative energy needed for successful social media campaign design, and it gives us better insight at an earlier stage into whether an idea will work or not. It’s not just about

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What Is Viral: My Thoughts

This was going to be called ‘The War On Viral – AKA stop using that bloody word’, but I refrained because a.) I’ve become a little more SEO conscious recently and b.) the apparent negative slant to the afore mentioned title does not give precedence to genuine viral content, and runs the risk of detracting from it.

And please don’t get me wrong – I LOVE viral content. For one thing it truly epitomises what is awesome about online culture and perfectly exemplifies, in a way, how much we love weird shit.

Excuse my french.

My problem lies in the intention behind viral content.

Let me explain.

As I have used this example before, I see no reason to not use it again. Although it might be considered bad practice to re-use examples, this perfectly makes my point. Video in the break (pretty sure you’ll recognise it)

The old classic. For many this was the beginning of online marketing (or at least it was a wake up to brands that online activity could seriously damage their brand). While other videos have gone more viral in its stead, it still set the precedent – and for me at least is an example of the pure form.

United breaks guitars was not created for hits. It was simply the response from a pissed off customer to a complete lack of customer service and care from a huge airline (they subsequently got fu**ed I believe, although this was only one of the reasons – don’t quote me on this)

And that is my problem – now days people are spouting BS, promising viral content, providing viral video as a service and generally completely missing the point.

Viral is a description of a state, not a service.

I’ve seen a fair few blogs that have echoed this point – You cannot make a viral video, you can only make a shareable video. Whether it goes viral or not it completely and utterly down to the audience which consumes it.

This is certainly worth thinking about. There is probably a loose formula which can make a video more shareable than others, and therefore more likely to go viral, but there is not a magic formula for viral content.

for example, a recent Techmap event saw Mike Williams from Isobar talk about digital planning. He talked about the concept of disruption; that campaigns needed to disrupt a persons view of the world to make a lasting impact. I will talk more about this idea in a subsequent blog post, but the point I am trying to make it that Mike was looking at how to navigate human psychology to make digital campaigns more effective. Unlocking the code to Viral behavior/exposure.

Perhaps a more salient example of this is the famous CVIV from the ‘comms anarchist’ himself, Mr Graeme Anthony. Graeme was completing a move from Manchester, where he had been a successful PR professional, to London, where he hadn’t. Wrestling with a changing world and difficult job market, Graeme thought outside the box to get employment. But he didn’t stop there…

He thought outside the stratosphere.

Graeme took a tired format, and added new media. He combined new tech with old ideas and came up with a fresh and exciting permutation on how to sell yourself.

If I had more to my CV than intern experience I would have followed suit.

You can read over at Graeme’s blog about the aftermath of this incredible spark of genius, but if you don’t have the time to click (I appreciate this is already quite a long piece) then I shall pick out the most important bit in the context of the viral discussion. The @wearesocial crew asked Graeme if they could publish the CVIV to the world. 2 hours later and after a flurry of Twitter and email activity, Graeme emailed Robin Grant to see what the hell was up.

A simple response was received: ‘you’re going viral’

And this is my point. Graeme never intended for his video to even be shared, let alone hit the viral mark. Now you can ask anyone in PR or digital media who has half a head screwed on and mention the CVIV and they will glow in recognition of this incredible effort by Graeme, and how it really gave a breath of fresh air to a tired concept.

Viral video cannot be enforced. Viral video can only be created through mass consumption. A video maker cannot produce mass consumption, and so must rely on making the video as consumable as possible.

Quite often viral video is unexpected. It is borne of creative professionals who like to think outside the box, and who know the idea will resonate, but don’t see the degree to which this will happen before it does.

So next time someone pitches you the creation of a viral product, be it a video, an app, or a game, just stop them in their tracks and ask them how.

Because as they say, the pudding is in the eating…

And if you have made it this far, I shall treat you with one of the greatest viral hits of them all, starring Will Farrel no less in… The Landlord.

I think over 70 MILLION views pretty much equals viral…

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Social Media & Social CRM

Part of my day to day activities at the moment, a large part in fact, is researching the digital marketing industry in the search of companies who might want to employ me who I’d like to work for, either now or further down the line (the list is large and growing at an alarming rate). Something that I’ve been considering for a while as an aside to this is the distinction that some are making between social media strategies and social CRM. One such company who place the emphasis on social CRM is Neoco, ‘The Social CRM Agency’, who are based in London.

I’m not going to use this post to talk about neoco, their (snazzy) website and blog are a lot better at doing that, and as such you can go check them out if you fancy a look (comes highly recommended), but I thought I’d use this instead to add my thoughts on the distinction, and see if any of you (the few that read this!) agree or disagree with me.

Social media marketing is taking off like a rocket. As the world at large becomes more ‘social’ (as if we weren’t before!) the attraction of social media marketing is ever increasing, and investment into the sector is on the up. But social media marketing has a tinge of pejorative connotation. Marketing has been considered in the past to be an aggressive process of convincing people to part with their hard earned cash for products that they don’t want or need. The addition of social media to that equation doesn’t necessarily negate that potential for no good, but it is a fresh permutation of the marketing machine, and it adds the element of conversation to the mix.

From a physiological perspective we are social beings. Humans are predisposed to communicate, to arrange themselves into social units, to coexist with each other. We are, as Marx suggested, ‘gregarious creatures’ (yes, that is wikipedia, I’m not pretending to be a well versed authority on Karl Marx’s literature). ‘Social’ and ‘Conversation’ are intrinsically linked; the person in the corner of the room chatting to his shadow is dubbed ‘antisocial’ due to their lack of involvement with others, and a ‘social life’ is something that involves plenty of conversation with other people that you enjoy seeing. ‘Social media’, therefore, is ultimately the facilitation of conversations using digital platforms, albeit without the physical element of normal human interaction. Social media marketing, therefore, could be conceived to be the use of digital conversations to market products and services. In reality there is a world of complexity which spans from this expression, but from a lexical perspective this is the (my) root meaning.

Conversations, of course, are not necessarily the use of simple text. Platforms like Foursquare and Flickr give the option of using geo-location and photography as elements in the conversation, or can be the core of the conversation text being the periphery. The combination of these different platforms can and have resulted in a world of both intricate and simple digital campaigns, some of which were incredibly effective.

Social media marketing, however, falls short of the full monty. While the emphasis is on conversation, it isn’t necessarily a lasting or quality one. The conversation can be short lived and can lack longevity. Some campaigns only use social media for the duration of the campaign, or tail off when it is over. This is where Social CRM comes in.

Just as social media marketing was a new permutation of the classical marketing model (in response to advances in technology), social CRM is the fresh paradigm of social media marketing which is borne not of technological advances (although there is still an element of this), but of advances in understanding what consumers want from the companies and products they purchase / buy into. With classical marketing there was a one way flow of information, with social media marketing there was a conversation, and with social CRM there is a relationship between the brand and the consumer.

Social CRM places the consumer at the heart of the business, and ultimately focuses on the wants and desires of the customer. Grievances, suggestions, criticisms are all seen as an opportunity to increase the quality of a product. Criticisms in particular are a unique opportunity for a brand to reach out to those unhappy customers and address their problems, listen to their criticism and give them an opportunity to have a voice on the matter. Confronting negative WOM is so incredibly important in a modern business strategy – what often starts out as a whisper can turn into a roar, so it pays dividends to give those voices something good to say.

The knowledge that a brand is listening and acting upon the opinions of its customers makes that brand more attractive. It makes it seem less like one way traffic, and more like an exchange. I’ll bet a large proportion of people would choose a brand that listened over one that didn’t. In this respect social media and subsequently social CRM has given brands an avenue in which they can prove that they care about their customers, that they are committed to improving their business, and that the users of the products can have a say on how they develop over time.

Reasons such as this are why I’m so excited by this industry, and why for me this isn’t just a fad. Social media, it could be argued, has had the makings of ‘fad’ culture, but when you get past all that superfluous nonsense, you see how social CRM is giving switched on brands an avenue for organic and sustainable business which will last far into the future. If you listen, you will be listened to.

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Youtube, Footlocker and More Viral Campaigns

Before I start, I understand that it is a little rich labeling any video on youtube as automatically ‘viral’. Linking Youtube and ‘viral’ video culture is more a meta-commentary on the format of youtube and the history of viral videos, which have often been originally hosted on or have ended up at Youtube (remember some of the first viral videos were decidedly ‘gonzo’ in style, which Youtube with its largely amateur videographer user base lends its self perfectly to). Initially ‘Viral’ was a term used to highlight the ‘virus-like’ spread of a video (or other media form), but now there is a clear ‘viral’ element to some videos and campaigns, especially considering that there are marketing and communication companies who are purposely attempting to exploit the phenomenon of viral media. This is no secret, they make no attempt to hide it, and so in this respect a video can have ‘viral’ elements just as a documentary has certain documentary elements. Whether these videos do in fact become ‘viral’ or not is another question all together, and one that is hard to answer considering the various and wildly varying ideas on what constitutes ‘viral’ exposure.

Now, unless you have been living under a rock for the past 3 months, you will probably know about the Old Spice Guy (hereafter OSG) in some form or another. The basic premise was an interactive ‘conversation’ between the old spice guy and the youtube audience at large. The result? a gargantuan beast of a social media campaign which resulted in around 1.4bn campaign impressions and 40m video views within one week of the original ad going live. Not only that but Old Spice sales are up 27% since the campaign launched, and 107% in the last month alone. Considering the cost of filming a good-looking, ripped & half naked black guy in-front of a green screen can’t be that huge, we’re talking serious ROI for Old Spice, and the potential for huge investment into the digital and social media marketing world – everyone wants to do what Old Spice did.

Frankly these lofty aspirations are unrealistic. It really is once in a blue moon that seriously good creativity and business acumen meet in the right place, and even if those two are present the market needs to be ready for it. There is a certain ‘decompression’ after a campaign such as that. People simply wont respond in the same way over and over, there needs to be a cooling off period.

Thats not to say there is no point, just don’t go thinking that you have the next Old Spice tucked up your sleeve, or that the digital agency you just went to has either.

Onto Footlocker. ‘It’s a sneaker thing’ is the clever hook attached to the current Footlocker campaign which has been rolling out across the internet and TV screens for some time now. A recent development has seen a collaboration between Footlocker and Youtube celebs ShayCarl, KassemG and Bret the Intern; two teams under Kassem and Shay fight it out in a food fight to the death in an otherwise deserted high school cafeteria.

The Footlocker element is brought in with some clever vary-focal camera shots of a hall full of brand new sneakers and the use of sandwich bags to protect these nice new sneakers from the ensuing mess – all of which are put on AFTER the ‘foodfight’ shout. Check the video’s below:

And the voting video:

Shay Carl and Kassem G alone have a combined subscribership of around 1.6m viewers. Unlike the Old Spice advert, however, these viewers are already invested in the institutions of Shay or Kassem (or like me both). There is a whole community built around them already. With Old Spice we saw a new face who could engage the entire Youtube audience without your having to belong to a subculture first. The interactive element, also, is lacking a certain focus which the Old Spice campaign had (and was arguably the thing which stimulated the most on and offline word of mouth). In this we get to vote for the winner, as opposed to being able to actually interact with OSG. For these reasons, this campaign is unlikely to reach the proportions of Old Spice.

I can’t decide if this is clever marketing or not. The audience is fairly limited, but it still can’t have cost much to do which makes ROI a much easier figure to achieve. As I said, the OSG’s magic was his novelty and fresh faces always make more impact. I’ll be interested to see how this drives sales to Footlocker. It is, however, evidence of companies seriously looking for new ways of promoting their products, which is a good thing for the digital marketing industry. Whether they are all getting it right or not is something we shall have to wait and see.

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