TAG | marketing
The internet is a weird and wonderful place. It connects people all around the world, people with niche and sometimes bizarre interests, people that would never meet in everyday life. I once saw a couple on a forum – I was doing that creepy thing where you read everything but don’t join in – who claimed to have been in a long distance relationship for a number of years, they had formidable ‘rep’ and were ‘respected members’ of the forum but it then emerged that they had never actually met. Through these relationships, and others, the internet gives rise to hundreds of new ideas, fads and crazes daily. An internet sub culture has formed and given birth to the internet meme:
What is a meme? Memes are spontaneous, amusing things which reflect some aspect of society or culture and can become every very popular very quickly. Recent popular internet phenomena are the Harlem Shake, before that Gangnam style and in the past we’ve seen planking, Rick rolling, lolcats and the list goes on and on and on and on. They can be anything from images, catchphrases, videos, words or themes, in fact here is a list that Wikipedia has complied and it’s all pretty random.
Yet these seemingly pointless phenomena have much wider implications, particularly on marketing. The aim of marketing is to promote a brand; you want to spread your brand image far and wide. This can be done by brute force – pushing your message in the consumer’s face through relentless adverts in magazines, on buses, on billboards, on TV, on the radio and on websites. But the holy grail of the marketer is known as ‘word of mouth’ – make the customer do the work for you and spread your message on their own. No only is this much less work intensive, but it also is more effective since consumers believe other consumers more than they believe billboards. The internet is busy changing everybody’s lives as usual and has the potential to revolutionise word of mouth marketing through memetic marketing – using memes, as concepts that spread from person to person via the internet, to encourage consumers to share a brand message.
Such phenomena are born and live on the internet, like a shameful secret they were once confined to the shady corners of chatrooms or forums but now they are plastered all over Facebook walls and taped to tweet decks. They are even slowly clambering out of our screens and into the ‘real’ world. (The real world is a place where two individuals in a relationship have had actual face to face physical contact.)
These are ideas and messages that go viral with lightening speed, reaching hundreds of thousands, even millions of people will little to no effort on the part of their creators. It certainly sounds ideal if you’re trying hard to get a certain message across – enter memetic marketing. Memetic marketing, is a term that seems overly technical for something which essentially started just for a bit of a laugh, and it means using memes in marketing campaigns. Simples. Only it’s not quite as simples as it seems.
As we know from the story behind key board cat, these phenomena tend to be things that somebody does messing around in their bedroom late at night that at the time they think is kind of funny, then the internet swallows it up and vomits it out everywhere, so they wake up in the morning and suddenly everyone is doing it. So these things tend to arise fairly organically and happen by chance. Nobody knows what will go viral and what won’t. Satire and political parodies tend to be popular, such as Mitt Romney’s ‘binders full of women’ but ultimately circulation and uptake are decided by the ‘internet community’ on forums, chat rooms, social networking sites and all other areas of web 2.0.
It is important to remember that memes are at heart humorous and simple which renders them not relevant to all marketing campaigns, but if memetic markerting is what you want then you have several options. The first is to piggy back on an existing meme and use this for the basis of your campaign. This is what Virgin Media have done with ‘success kid/victory baby’.The ‘Y U NO guy’ has been used on hipchat adverts and keyboard cat has been used to advertise pistachios. However, choosing the right meme can be tricky. The choice of meme and its meaning must be selected carefully to avoid any mis-interpretations. Memes have a shelf life and die out so using an existing one means that people could already be tired of it. Most importantly, stealing memes could initiate a back lash from an internet community unimpressed by your lack of creativity and willingness to free ride on others.
The second option is to create your own meme and this is obviously a lot harder but can be more rewarding. Old spice created a meme with their campaign ‘the man your man could smell like’ and Compare the Market have created one with their meerkat campaign http://www.comparethemeerkat.com/. You need to come up with something that is genuinely appealing or funny yet is still relevant to your company or product. There is no point generating a hugely popular meme that nobody associates back to you. In this way the meme replaces the traditional marketing ‘catch phrase’ and it needs to be very cleverly designed so that people want to share it of their own volition.
Memetic marketing can be very dangerous, once you’ve released your meme out into the internet wilderness anything could happen and many end up subject to vicious parody http://arcticready.com/arctic-ready. The advice when this happens seems to be ‘just go with it’ – no publicity is bad publicity right? In fact, another way to stir up some meme attention is to create the inspiration for a meme rather than a meme itself – is this the purpose of some campaigns which are so bad they’re good? These campaigns can get a vast amount of attention, although they tend to be more popular if the attention is negative. I cannot believe that the instigators do not foresee the way some campaigns are going to go, like the #IShopAtWaitrose or #susanalbumparty – the latter must be deliberate, how could it not be? If it was it definitely worked – who cared about Susan Boyle’s new album before that and then suddenly, with that hashtag, everyone was interested.
Conclusion – is memetic marketing the future? I’m not so sure, it seems a bit gimmicky to me. Using memes in traditional marketing campaigns seems a bit odd, like taking a fish out of water and then expecting it to leap back into the water to tell all its friends. In digital marketing, however, it is more natural – using memes on social media is like speaking the local language. I suggest we turn to the King of social media for advice – Barack Obama. The subject of many a meme, Obama, during an AMA session on reddit referenced ‘his meme’ and the crowd went wild. He’s following the age old rule of talking to your audience in their own language. He looks cool and people love it. I think this highlights that there are two different ways to use memes – you can acknowledge them and use them to relate to an audience or take advantage of them. Obama does the former, aggressive traditional campaigns do the latter and speaking on behalf of ‘the internet community’ I think we’d all prefer Obama, I mean, the former.
Google Glass is the latest augmented reality (AR) technology which has caused a stir in the mobile advertising and marketing sector. Over the past few years augmented reality (AR) has become an integral part of several companies’ advertising and marketing strategies, fulfilling consumer demands for more creative, innovative and interactive methods of engagement. Increasing levels of investment in AR technologies are forecasted over the next few years, with a significant proportion of this investment likely to be for the purpose of advertising and marketing. According to a study by Hidden LTD, currently, almost 20% of AR applications are for the purpose of ‘bringing to life’ online campaigns and an additional 10% of AR applications are aimed at enhancing point of sale material.
The unveiling of plans for Google’s latest venture, Google Glass, has caused a recent resurgence in interest surrounding the possibilities of augmented reality in advertising and marketing strategies. Despite Google releasing statements that ‘there are no plans for advertising on this device’ and that they are more interested in making the hardware available, there have been high levels of speculation surrounding their advertising and marketing. As Greg Stuart, CEO of the Mobile Marketing Association commented, Google Glass could impact marketing in unprecedented ways.
The technology has the potential to revolutionize SOLOMO (Social, local, mobile) marketing. It is predicated that Google Glass will facilitate instantaneous access to information about local businesses when moving through an area. Social features such as Foursquare check-in and the potential for apps similar to the ‘Find Friends Nearby’ app, could allow intensified social interaction and social marketing surrounding local businesses. Google Glass could also facilitate more subtle, social, video marketing, with the potential for consumers to use the device’s video functionality to record short social videos of purchases, experiences and places, which could be shared online instantly. Finally, it is predicted that the technology could also enable increased targeted advertising and marketing, with the potential for tracking of website visits and search data; this could allow different people to interact with different types of promotions or adverts in the same virtual/physical space at the same time. However, it must be noted that there is still high levels of uncertainty as to how much information users will be willing to provide (See here for some of the latest on the Google Glass privacy debate), how wide spread the use of Google Glass will be and the exact form this new technology will take.
Despite uncertainties regarding the Google Glass, it is clear that augmented reality, in general, is beginning to take off as an important tool for generating increased brand engagement. Recently AR has been used in campaigns across a variety of sectors. Notable examples include: Net-A-Porter’s interactive store front, Airwalks’ invisible pop-up store, Mabellines ShowColor nail varnish app, Absolute Vodka’s AbsolutTruths Campaign, the National Geographic AR Installations (one of which is shown in the image below) and, Frauennotruf Munchen’s (A German Charity) domestic abuse AR campaign (see here for examples of more AR campaigns). It is evident that AR technologies are offering new and unique consumer-brand interactions, radically altering the way in which the physical and digital worlds interface. As Christina Austin, in an article for Business Insider, commented ‘AR campaigns resonate with consumers in a way that most other ad platforms fall short’. For this reason we can expect to see AR increasingly becoming an integral part of many companies advertising and marketing strategies, leading ‘us into a new era of active and reactive brand communication and experience’ (Mashable.com).
Since the first links between smoking and lung cancer were published by Richard Doll in 1950, legislation has been passed to try to control tobacco consumption. In addition to counter campaigns such as anti smoking adverts and specialist NHS services the Government restrict and regulate the tobacco industry in an unprecedented way. We’ve seen limits on smoking in public places, a ban on vending machines, compulsory warning messages on packets, excise taxes and unparalleled restrictions on advertising. This year the government are stepping up their game with more graphic campaigns and grotesque imagery.
Today most advertising campaigns are run online with a complementary social media campaign and since regulations began as early as the 1960s some of the most successful corporations, in one of the world’s largest industries, are unable to fully utilise any digital marketing. Furthermore, anti-smoking groups have been able to take full advantage of digital resources in the form of help quit websites, mobile apps, online adverts, infographics and web apps. So why do 157,000 children aged 11-15 start smoking every year in the UK? Why is smoking still a desirable thing to do? And why is brand loyalty still so strong – the highest of all consumer products?
The Government can ban tobacco firms from promoting smoking but they cannot ban the public from doing so. The tobacco industry invented marketing as we now know it. The first known advert for a cigarette brand was in 1789. The industry has a substantial legacy with strong, historically established brands to which few others can compare and this is not a market that is open to new entrants. These brand titans have been putting in the marketing ground work for the past 200 years.
As a result they are in a unique position; a comprehensive social media campaign is run – inadvertently – by smokers themselves. Whilst the only official smoking advertisements online are anti-smoking, there are ‘unofficial’ or implicit adverts for smoking all over the internet. Social media is full of indirect materials promoting smoking – photos, tweets, pinterest boards, discussions, polls, tumblrs, videos - all posted solely by consumers which perpetuate the brand message and cannot be regulated easily by the Government.
The Government have to be very carefully when justifying the regulation the tobacco industry for fear of appearing paternalistic. It cannot look like it thinks it knows better and needs to protect us from ourselves or from the big bad tobacco firms. As a result bans and restrictions are enforced with a focus on protecting children. Therefore, the focus of many campaigns is passive smoking and the messages are ‘I’m worried about mum/dad’, ‘you’re killing your children’ and ‘only way to protect your family’ is to quit.
Tobacco firms have been equally ingenious in response – their apparent aims are not to attract non-smokers only to try to get existing smokers to switch brands – but they’ve got into trouble. With the cartoon character ‘Joe Camel’ R.J. Reynolds were accused of intentionally targeting children. Internal documents emerged claiming that children were the ‘future’s smokers’, detailing that brand allegiance is formed before age 18 and instructions for campaign materials to be distributed near schools. R.J. Reynolds denies this but voluntarily ended the campaign in 1997. A study into the accusations famously found that that at one point more 6 year old children could recognise Joe Camel than Mickey Mouse.
So branding is important. It is powerful and the Government are worried. Branding is what gives your company an identity through slogans, name, colour, music etc. and advertising promotes this. Branding is what makes smoking ‘look cool’. It is renowned that teenagers are keen to ‘look cool’ and are more easily swayed by peer pressure – this has historically been sited as the main reason for teen smokers.
But whilst brand image is traditionally formed physically through packaging, labels and adverts, today brand image is predominantly created digitally. The brand ‘voice’ speaks through twitter, is showcased on the company website, interacts with consumers on Facebook and networks through LinkedIn. Therefore, every time someone tweets ‘need a ciggie #addicted’ or a picture is posted of someone smoking at a party, brand image is re-enforced. Smoking advertising has gone viral. It is shared, liked and retweeted constantly.
Due to past decades of years of truly extensive marketing – and a highly addictive ingredient – the tobacco industry have a product that people want to share and promote of their own accord. Studies have noted for years how smokers tend to use their cigarettes as a ‘badge’, a ‘prop’, a ‘symbol’ and as long as they continue to do so – and post it on social media – they use their cigarettes to reflect and promote the brand image.
The irony is that this kind of promotion is so much more powerful than commercial, official, paid-for adverts. Consumers are much more likely to be swayed by what their best friend is posting or what Kate Moss is papped doing rather than a banner at the top of the page or an ad word on google. This is why businesses today work hard to create ‘share-able’ content on social media sites. This kind of marketing is self-perpetuating and there is not much the Government can do about it.
As seems to happen every time a new year rolls around, the media focus has now shifted from the recaps, summaries and top-ten lists of 2012 into predictions, forecasts and a crystal ball gazing free-for-all for 2013. A quick glance at the prognostications of those with their ear to the ground of the digital marketing terrain reveals all manner of cheery optimism for this year’s prospects. To give you a sense of the exciting things to come, we’ve put together this round up of the leading experts’ views of the field.
As always in the digital realm the key players (Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are discussed avidly with a certain degree of fear combined with sycophantic praise. Rob Eleveld writes for Forbes, ‘we predict that Google is making a move towards charging for the data it collects and stores, and we might see this happen as early as next year.’ However, this daunting prospect is offset by his predictions that, not only will the number of digital marketing agencies double in 2013, but the marketing budgets of companies will expand to keep up with the growing digital demand.
Add to this the outlook of Lara O’Reilly at MarketingWeek, who reports on findings by the research company Forrester that digital budgets will grow to account for 20% (£31bn) of worldwide marketing budgets. Based on last year’s trend of 13% growth in the UK alone, it is reasonable to expect 2013 to be a year of marketing breakthroughs for companies on the digital front. If 2012 was all about ‘big data’ then 2013 appears to be time for some ‘big spending.’
With numerous other trends and developments to keep up with, 2013 promises at the very least to be a year of new opportunities to engage in interesting ways with more targeted audiences. Whether any of these experts can accurately predict the future of digital marketing is uncertain, but it is clear that whatever new surprises 2013 brings, the areas of search, social and other facets of digital media can no longer be ignored by competitive businesses.
It was only ever a matter of time before our two main channels of media communication were united. The Internet has revolutionised everything from accessing news to purchasing music – our social lives are managed online, and now the opportunity to transform television has been given the green light.
For those of you who are new to the idea, YouView (née Project Canvas), in a nutshell, is TV delivered over the Internet. It is a collaboration between broadcasters (the BBC, ITV, Five, Channel 4 and Arqiva) and broadband network providers (BT and TalkTalk) to develop a subscription-free, web-linked TV service combining Freeview digital channels with on-demand content such as iPlayer. This long-awaited IPTV project, hailed as the ‘Holy Grail’ for future public service broadcasting by BBC Director General Mark Thompson, promises to ‘change the way we watch television forever’, and is coming to our living rooms in early 2011. Such proclamations are to be expected from one of the project’s main backers – but they leave the rest of us wondering whether we really need another set-top box to add to our collection and whether IPTV really is the way forward.
The answer from the YouView consortium is, unsurprisingly, a resounding ‘yes’. It maintains that this simple and free-to-access service, with its easy-to-navigate interface, will soon be a necessity for all UK homes. YouView Chief Executive Richard Halton says the scheme is a great alternative for those who lack the ability or inclination to pay a monthly subscription for similar services offered by companies such as Sky and Virgin. These rivals are predictably unimpressed by YouView’s developments. But complaints to Ofcom that YouView will stifle competition are undermined by the fact that they’ll always have the lure of additional premium channels to tempt viewers.
The evolution of Project Canvas has been something of a roller coaster. It didn’t exactly have an easy start, with the failure of a similar BBC project (Kangaroo) back in 2008 still looming and vocal criticism coming from the likes of Richard Branson and Rupert Murdoch. To make matters worse, Five opted to pull out of the deal in July (they later decided to rejoin). Recently, the scheme has earned a little more support, and Project Canvas was re-christened ‘YouView’, a name touted for some time, in September. Perhaps it’s just a happy coincidence that this name bears an uncanny resemblance to both Freeview itself and a certain global video sharing site owned by Google. A more appropriate moniker might have been ‘iView’, in keeping with ‘iPlayer’ or, better still, ‘iTV’ – although I’ve definitely heard the latter somewhere before.
In terms of functionality, YouView will enable you to watch so-called ‘Linear TV’ (the channels currently offered via Freeview and Freesat) as before, along with video-on-demand services like iPlayer and 4oD. In addition, you’ll be able to access popular sites like YouTube, Facebook and Flickr and on-demand pay TV – films, US drama and sport – all with a wave of your remote control. A recent YouView press release also boasted that it would be a potential platform for local TV services, making it ‘easier for viewers to discover and interact with localised content’.
It’s true that there’s nothing particularly revolutionary about YouView. It has the usual suite of features you’d expect – HD, a video recorder and the ability to pause/rewind live TV – but what it does do is combine this with the enormous potential of the Internet in one nifty, take-home box. The fact that VoD services are available on something other than a laptop screen (or a Virgin Media package) will be the biggest draw for some.
On top of this, as an open platform, YouView is set to boast a whole array of interactive features – apps, widgets, games, you name it. This presents a massive opportunity for content, device and application developers to dip their toes into the IPTV market. The implications for viewers (or perhaps ‘users’ would now be a better term) look exciting.
It will be interesting to see whether this BBC-backed venture pays off. As competition to take over the small screen hots up from a clutch of other big names like Apple and Google, we have to wonder whether YouView will be the one to make the cut. If you’ve been following YouView’s development, or would like to comment on any of the above, please get in touch!
It is a truism to say that the internet has sped things up. One two-word phrase, coined just three years ago, has now pervaded popular culture to the extent that your gran’s probably heard of it.
No, not Britney Spears. The two words are ‘Social’ and ‘Media’. In the UK, traffic to social networking sites surpassed that of search engines for the first time last May, and in the US this happened long before. Comment on the internet, once the preserve of hardcore forum users with their cliques and in-jokes, is now open to all: in 2010 pretty much everyone, from Barack Obama to us (and yes, Britney Spears) can, and does, have their say.
The benefits of the new connectivity seem huge: the popularity of social media around the world demonstrates the huge capabilities the web has to enable communication between completely disparate populations. Social media is providing freedom of expression to countries like China, as well as allowing the sharing of contacts, information and a considerable amount of entertainment.
And it hasn’t taken big business long to appreciate the potential of social networks. Some firms have started moving their main online presence onto existing networks. Given the everyday use of sites like Facebook, it can really come as no surprise – brands want to operate in the same space as their customers. The networks are hardly going to stop them. “What’s the issue?” you might ask. We’re constantly bombarded with adverts on all media platforms, all trying to convince us to do this, drink that, and definitely BUY MORE. This is a part of life, and when social media marketing is done effectively it can be fantastic – encouraging interaction from consumers and providing organizations with an opportunity a chance to engage with their audience in ways hitherto unheard of.
The problem is when it is done lazily, without thought for the individuality of the end user. Social networks provide advertisers in particular with the opportunity to interact with consumers on an individual basis. It is important that they take this opportunity – rather than using the networks as another tool to broadcast a single, bland message to an outdated conception of the uniform audience member.
For all companies in the current climate, existing social networks may seem the cheap and easy route to consumers, but they can only be part of their answer. Consumers want something interesting, interactive and secure when they use the web, and clicking a ‘like’ button shouldn’t be the end of the communication. In the interests of the sellers and the buyers, the experience has to be more fulfilling.
So. The BETT show is over. Online CC spent a great deal of time at the event, which for the second year in a row struck me as an unholy marriage of a livestock pen and a telesales call. I only spent a day at Olympia, but the experience sapped my strength so much that it felt like a week.
I don’t have much of a problem admitting that I didn’t like BETT – it seems to be pretty much unanimously agreed by everyone I spoke to there that time at a show like BETT takes its toll; which isn’t to say that the whole thing is pointless or uninteresting of course. It’s a very good thing for people in the industry to get together like this, and every year some real gems come up, which make the over-priced refreshments and crawling through Learning Management Software stands worth it.
Take Rafi.ki, for example. Rafi.ki is an online learning community which builds partnerships between schools all over the world. Pupils exchange information with one another, embark on projects together, and make friends. Simple? Yes. Worthwhile? Undoubtedly. Successful? It seems so. The gent on the stand (one John Macnutt, lovely guy) pointed out that on facebook, most children simply collect people who are already their friends and remain in those groups. Here was something that allowed children to make new friends, and work together on projects that can be extremely valuable.
Or Roar Educate’s “Us Online“, an ‘online learning module’ which allows children to learn about what exactly you can do on the internet, via the experience of a set of fictional characters. I saw a demonstrator show how a learner can help a girl set up a myspace page, from choosing her screen name and picture to making friends; and it’s only once you’ve set up a profile picture of the character in her underwear and befriendied a suspicious individual called fluffybunny73 who says he ‘likes to play’ that the program takes you step by step through what you’ve done that might have gotten you into such a situation. This kind of digital literacy is working its way up the agenda as people accept that things like Myspace are now a fact of life, and learning through experience and simulation is a great way to get across the idea that your actions in the digital realm are not without consequences.
Or Pixton, a really fun site that allows people to (fairly) easily create and share their own webcomics. I don’t know a great deal about ‘Pixton for Schools‘, but there’s been a lot of talk about video games’ ability to present content to children. Comics, as another staple of my youth, show real potential to do the same.
Rambling around the upper levels I stumbled across some charming gents from Rolling Sound, who run multimedia courses for schools, community groups and young people ‘at risk’. Roll 7 is a recent expansion of Rolling Sound, and are a company making socially responsible video games, actively recruiting from the young people that complete courses at Rolling Sound. Their flagship piece is a game called ‘Dead Ends‘, which managed to make it onto Channel 4 News in its treatment of knife crime. It’s even got Jon Snow in it. I also almost tripped over Serious Games Interactive’s very small stall; these guys make a series of games called ‘Global Conflicts’, which aim to inform on the (extremely complex) issues behind some of the most intractable and damaging conflicts in the world. As ever, I’m a sucker for video games and so must admit to taking a disproportionate amount of interest in stalls like this…
Finally, I did a double take at the back of Olympia Grand Hall when I walked a stand where grown men and women seemed to be playing Dance Dance Revolution on the kind of wet-pour rubber surface that you get on playground floors. It turned out to be Smartus by Lappset, an intriguing hybrid of digital game based learning and physical exercise – whether it’s stepping on marked tiles in the right order, or running round posts as quickly as you can, Smartus has developed installations for playgrounds or indoor halls which have children taking orders from weather friendly consoles. Though I didn’t partake myself, I imagine it to be like performing mental arithmetic whilst playing ‘tag’.
I’m not sure I like the sound of that.