It was an incredible three days in Chicago at the 39th Association of National Advertisers/Brand Activation Association Marketing Law Conference, “Breakthrough: Legal Strategies for Dynamic Businesses.” During yesterday morning’s general session, I gave a presentation titled “Transformation Sweeping Advertising and Marketing: Key Trends and Legal Developments,” exploring not only the trends and changes in
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Maybe you’ve seen them on Instagram or Facebook – pictures of babies dressed up in grown-up suits like so many chubby-cheeked David Byrnes. It’s called “baby suiting,” and it’s the latest photo craze instigated by mom blogger Ilana Wiles, who just a year ago launched a surge of “baby mugging,” which is just what it sounds like (well, maybe not) – taking pictures of babies as though they’re sitting in coffee mugs.
Wiles and her blog – MommyShorts – are part of a growing and influential trend of moms who blog. According to recent research by eMarketer, there are roughly 4.2 million moms who blog, accounting for eighteen percent of all adult bloggers. An established mom blog can have hundreds of thousands of regular readers.
As Wiles and her MommyShorts blog has proven, mom bloggers wield an enormous amount of influence. If you can get thousands of other moms to dress their infants up in their husbands’ best jackets and ties, what do you think happens when she mentions – let alone reviews – a product she likes? And like Wiles, many mom bloggers are quite entrepreneurial, and actively court brands to advertise on their blogs or to submit products for review.
The Way I See It
- Blogs are an effective way to reach important demographics. Most moms have a list of blogs they read daily, and almost seventy percent of them believe the word-of-mouth information they get from blogs is credible. In fact, eighty-one percent of all consumers trust the information they get from blogs and social media.
- I see brands actively courting moms and their audiences, often participating at events like the “Mom 2.0 Summit” and other events for mom bloggers, which, among other things, also teach bloggers how to work with brands.
- I see the relationship between brands and mom bloggers, specifically, growing. Who better to receive advice from than a fellow parent?
The Way the Industry Sees It
I sat down with Ilana Wiles, founder of MommyShorts, to discuss mom bloggers and their influence as brand ambassadors.
What was your goal in launching Mommy Shorts, and how has that goal evolved over time?
Almost four years ago, I was laid off from my job as a creative director shortly after I returned from maternity leave. I had a hard time finding a full-time job at my level when most of my portfolio was in traditional advertising – television, outdoor, print. I had very little digital experience. Many of the brands at my old company had recently started paying attention to mom bloggers, and I thought if I got involved in that space, it could end up being a real asset in the advertising world. I decided to work freelance and start a blog in my down time. I became immersed in social media, building my own brand and creating content to engage a growing audience of new moms. As my audience grew, I received more ad jobs where agencies wanted to leverage my reach for their clients. They were building Mommy Shorts into their pitches and their proposals. I decided it made more sense to pursue the blog full-time and see where it could go if I focused all my energy on building my own brand. In the end, my advertising experience helps me be a better blogger instead of the other way around. As I work with more brands, I find the ideation and the partnership possibilities even more exciting than I did at a traditional agency. This year I started to realize my brand can be bigger than the blog. I have a show on ulive, a licensing deal in the works, and an Instagram following I am leveraging all on its own. I’m not going to be writing about my kids in the same way ten years from now, so it’s nice to know there are lots of possibilities of where this can go.
What’s your relationship with your readers like? Do you feel you have a responsibility to them? If so, what is that responsibility?
I put my readers first always. There are lots of bloggers who are writing entirely for themselves, and their readers love them for it. I am more about reader response. Their engagement determines my content entirely. Every sponsorship I take on means my content has to be that much better. You can’t just sell to people. They aren’t interested. You have to be entertaining and authentic.
Marketers promote, entertain, celebrate, and explain. In other words, they talk. But Dave Kerpen, cofounder and chairman of Likeable Media and founder and CEO of its sibling company, Likeable Local, believes that a different skill is needed in a media landscape increasingly driven by social media – listening. And by listening, Kerpen means more than just using social media channels to respond to consumer questions and complaints. He sees listening via social media as a means to tell stories and engender authentic conversations with and among consumers and to promote conversations that strengthen and reward brand loyalty.
In a lot of ways, it’s the next step in the evolution of branding. Branding started with the idea that companies and products had actual identities and that consumers would affiliate with brands that enhanced or fit well with their own identities. And – without invoking John Roberts and suggesting corporations are people – the next step seems to be making brands part of the consumer’s social circle, or at the very least, using the social circle to validate the brand.
Kerpen first made a splash in all media – not just social – when he and his then soon-to-be wife raised over $100,000 selling sponsorship rights to their wedding, which was hosted at the Brooklyn Cyclones ballpark. They then leveraged their notoriety to launch Likeable Media, a social media and word-of-mouth marketing company that is one of the fastest-growing privately held businesses in the United States. Kerpen also authored two New York Times Best Sellers: Likeable Social Media and Likeable Business, and was also named the #1 LinkedIn Influencer of All Time last summer when his article, “11 Simple Concepts for Becoming a Better Leader” garnered 1.8 million views and 21,000 likes. The first concept on his list – listening.
The Way I See It
- As much as things still keep changing – and will likely continue to keep changing – I see a growing maturation in the use of social media. Whether marketers are arriving at it through Dave Kerpen’s advice or their own observation, more and more brands are realizing the central nature of listening and storytelling to the way social media works.
- I see consumers heavily relying on participation as a means of measuring trust. They want brands they can engage with and relate to. And they want that engagement validated by their own social networks.
The Way the Industry Sees It
I sat down with Dave Kerpen, cofounder and chairman of Likeable Media and founder and CEO of Likeable Local, to discuss listening, social media, and his most recent book, Likeable Leadership.
Two of the strongest themes in your writing and speaking are listening and storytelling. How are those two skills related?
I always say, “Listen first and never stop listening.” Listening is the single most important communication skill, and sometimes it’s harder than you think. Often when we think we’re listening, we’re just waiting to talk. Try shutting up and really listening to everyone: your customers, your fans, your employees, your husband or wife, your children, etc. You might be surprised at the valuable insight and stories you’ll hear when you do. The next step, of course, is to share those stories. No one remembers facts or statistics, but everyone remembers a great story. Practicing listening and storytelling will make you a better communicator and, ultimately, more likeable, and more successful.
What did you learn as you were “listening” to the stories you collected for the new book? Did anything surprise you?
I am constantly surprised by how much I learn when I just shut up and listen. People’s lives and stories are so fascinating to me, and there are always lessons to be learned. Last year, I wrote an article about my interaction with an older man on a flight to Boston. I chatted with him, asked him a few of questions, and listened … a lot. I had met Frank Lautenberg, the late United States Senator, who taught me, in just forty-five minutes, one of the most important lessons of my life: Career Highlights Won’t be on Your Tombstone. With a few questions and a lot of listening, you can literally change your life.
A few weeks ago, Chester Cheetah, the beloved “spokescat” for Cheetos, joined Twitter as @ChesterCheetah with a campaign to reach 50K followers. And when he does, “a family gets a kitten.” Chester Cheetah is just the latest of many brand mascots that have taken social media by storm in recent years. Furthermore, digital media is allowing brands to create more developed story lines and detailed backgrounds for their mascots, resulting in consumers becoming more drawn to the characters, and, of course, to the brand and product they represent. The insurance industry has made quite a splash with its brand mascots, including the GEICO Gecko and Allstate’s “Mayhem,” launching YouTube channels and earning verified Twitter accounts (i.e., celebrity status). Creating such humorous and quirky characters allows insurance companies to engage with consumers and help them better understand the complex insurance offerings, while also staking a claim in the competitive insurance landscape.
Take Progressive’s “Flo,” the now infamous female insurance broker who dominates the company’s commercials. Known for her humor and larger-than-life personality, Flo is the same way on Twitter – posting witty one-liners and tips on insurance topics of interest, things making the news, and Progressive Insurance offerings and updates. She has over 19K followers on Twitter and more than 5 million “likes” on Facebook; Progressive’s Facebook page only has 58,000 “likes”. Flo is featured in many YouTube videos and has led social games and giveaways through Facebook and Twitter.
The Way I See It
- I see online and social media allowing brands to further develop characters and brand mascots to be more than just the face of the brand, but standalone, likeable characters. They have colored histories, interests, and well-defined traits. Brands have found success in fully developing their mascots, as consumers are more likely to engage with and like more complex characters.
- I see companies taking risks with brand mascots on social media, as it allows them to test how consumers respond to initiatives without making too much of an investment. For instance, M&M’s sassy Ms. Brown held a live video chat with Facebook fans and even has her own Pandora music-streaming channel, both of which take the traditional social media campaign one step further.
It’s finally here. Football fans everywhere have spent the last year counting down to Super Bowl Sunday, the main event for the NFL. But advertising and marketing executives have spent the last year actively planning for Super Bowl Sunday. And let’s face it, a lot of people who are not football fans watch the Super Bowl for one thing: the commercials. The ads typically dominate water cooler conversation the next day, and now take over social media and traditional media as well – for many, the final score doesn’t even matter.
In ad land, Super Bowl Sunday is a holiday. A lot of us are like little kids on Christmas – only we’re glued to the television instead of staring at the chimney waiting for Santa to slide down. Year after year, brands deliver. The ads are creative, hilarious, inspiring. We talk about them for a year after they air… until the next Super Bowl. Which brand do you think will have the most popular ad this year?
The Way I See It
- For advertisers, Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest day of the year. I see brands paying millions of dollars for 30-second spots during the Super Bowl and investing in ads that they hope will draw lots of sales and big returns.
- I see brands using Super Bowl commercials not just to entertain, but increasingly to engage the consumer offer by incorporating social media or mobile elements to their TV ads.
- I see each brand that advertises trying to push the envelope with creative spots that will stand out to consumers – helping the brand to achieve a coveted spot as one of the top ads of the year, but also boosting sales for the brand.
- I see advertising executives from all ends – creative, compliance, consumer, privacy, legal – coming together to create ads that define their brands, attracting consumers and creating buzz – and making sure that the buzz around an ad translates into buzz around a brand, which is often easier said than done.
- What is the lesson for advertisers from the “blackout in New Orleans”? How do you protect yourself when there is a problem at a live event? I see advertisers thinking about integrated campaigns not just on the positive side – how they can all work together, but on the negative side – what happens if something goes wrong.
The Way the Industry Sees It
I sat down with Jeff Klein, Senior Director of Marketing at Frito-Lay to discuss advertising during the Super Bowl and the importance of the NFL’s biggest game for the advertising industry.
Doritos’ “Crash the Super Bowl” has become one of the most anticipated consumer contests of the year and is very successful, having won the USA Today ‘Ad Meter’ polling in three of the last four years. On a larger scale, consumer engagement through the use of contests, giveaways, and social media engagement, has become a huge trend for brands around the Super Bowl. Do you think consumers now have different expectations about the types of initiatives that brands will launch around the big game? How has consumer engagement with Super Bowl advertising evolved in recent years?
I think expectations of brand communication and activation have evolved considerably regardless of the communication medium, but they are certainly amplified at the Super Bowl. The days of talking at your consumer and expecting some sort of action are long gone. It’s more about consumer engagement – how can you continually engage your target in a conversation that goes well beyond the 30-second ad. How do brands achieve this on the world’s largest advertising stage? That depends largely on a brand’s narrative, but you can bet there will be innovative ways to extend their messaging beyond the game. Doritos literally invented the crowdsourcing model around the Super Bowl, and a few brands have been inspired to take similar approaches. It works for Doritos because it’s authentic. It’s not just a Super Bowl campaign, it’s part of our brand’s DNA.
90% of Super Bowl ad spots were sold by early September 2012 – just over five months before the game airs. What makes so many brands look to invest in this expensive space year after year? What is it about the Super Bowl and its viewership that holds such importance for brands?
For brands, it is absolutely a huge investment, but it also offers a unique communication opportunity in today’s fragmented media environment. From a pure eyeballs perspective, no program comes even close to the reach Super Bowl offers. There are few opportunities better in the year to drive awareness of a brand’s positioning, innovation, or programming – and the timing of the game allows you to set the tone for the year. Beyond this, it’s important to understand that not all Gross Rating Points (GRPs) are created equal. It’s very easy for consumers to avoid a brand’s messaging with technology. Not only is the Super Bowl virtually DVR proof, but people actually tune-in FOR the commercials.
Spotting industry trends and making forecasts for a year ahead is a challenge, especially in an age of constant change and technological developments. The way I see it, in terms of trends, it is critical to seek out the best when you need to spot trends and discern the real change elements at work. After offering my year in review and looking back at the trends in 2012, it’s time to also look ahead. We are at the dawn of a new year – a year filled with potential and uncertainty. So, let’s get some clarity on what the future holds.
The Way the Industry Sees It
I had the pleasure of speaking with Marian Salzman, CEO of Havas (formerly Euro RSCG) Worldwide PR, North America, who is viewed as the trendspotter in the world today, about her thoughts for the year ahead and some secret tips to spotting trends for the advertising industry.
I’m always fascinated by your annual trends reports. Without revealing any secrets, could you explain your process for identifying trends and making forecasts for the coming year?
My thing is pattern recognition, incorporating an eye for the oddball statistic. There would have been no metrosexual mania, at least not instigated by me, if there hadn’t been a few stunning numbers popping. Back in 2003, guys began to feel they were no longer guaranteed to be CEO of the bedroom or the boardroom. They suddenly had a serious interest in the kitchen. Straight men were increasingly comfortable socializing with gay men. 2003 seems like the dark ages, but it illustrates the kinds of observations that set me off on an investigation. Ever since Al Gore invented the Internet (kidding) in the early 1990s, I have been a huge information surfer. Today, this process can be automated for me with services such as Factiva clipping in real time. Finally, my trendspotting would be much less robust if not for an informal network of trendspotters around the globe who log in all kinds of sightings. (In fact, I did not invent the word metrosexual—it was invented by journalist Mark Simpson in the early 1990s. But it was forwarded to me by a colleague and I matched the word to my sighting, Men Get Softer – the rest was history.) This past year, I launched TrendsU, an e-learning program about how to trendspot, for all Havas staff around the world. About 550 people from around the world studied the four modules and shared their sightings with me, and even pictures are now compiled (the thousand-words adage never rang more true) on our TrendsU Pinterest board.[/a]
In 2012, you focused on the trend toward achieving a grainy, “Polaroid” effect for digital photography with the popularity of apps like Instagram and Hipstamatic. How do you think the world of apps and wireless will evolve in 2013?
Wireless will be so ubiquitous that discussing it will be almost like talking about the Internet or even the dial tone. I agree with a recent post of yours that it will be very interesting to see how the advertising, marketing and communications industries will adapt to a wireless world. I remember helping on a pitch for IBM back in the dark ages for which we interviewed people about the future, and Kevin Kelly, the co-founding editor of Wired, talked to us about the future like it would happen a week from Thursday. Well, it’s finally a week from Thursday, and always-on, constant connectivity is the new normal. People take mobile devices to bed, to the toilet and onto airplanes and assume, voilà, they’ll be connected because connectivity is a given. Back in 1993, Kelly told us connectivity would be like air or water. Apps for 2013 are like software was a decade ago, except that the innovations are coming every 22 seconds. Before you know you need an app, there it is. Simplification has been a trend for 15 years, and apps are the epitome of simplification. Branded apps are a given. Tablets are making apps even more essential. I want to do more on the fly, more quickly, and an app ensures I get it done, seamlessly. The app I expect next year is for voting – the most prehistoric thing we still do without much connectivity. Seriously, in 2013, you want me to walk to a school and fill out some paperwork and pull levers? How very last century. Once Americans can vote online using apps and smartphones or tablets, expect a much more engaged population to be that much more connected on issues and topics that matter to them.