Marketing and Communications Digital Trend Review [DOWNLOAD]

Making sense of today’s evolving digital marketing techniques

If you live and work in the world of marketing and communications, you are no doubt aware that the way brands are sharing information and engaging with customers changes daily. In fact, making sense of all of these new changes and trends can easily become a full-time job.

To help you stay on top of the latest and greatest trends, we’ve audited the marketing, branding and communications industries to see what’s working and what isn’t. We have defined what we see as seven trends likely to stick and play a leading role in 2013 marketing strategies across the globe.

To spark some ideas in your 2013 planning, download our Marketing and Communications Digital Trend Review to learn how LEGO, Target, Subaru, ExactTarget, Banana Republic and others are leveraging today’s hot marketing techniques to engage customers today.

Find it here.

Hashtag haven: How Twitter adds value to in-person events

If you aren’t following designated hashtags at the next event you attend, then you are missing out. And, if you are going to a digital conference, such as the ExactTarget Connections conference, then it is an absolute must!

While not an avid Twitter user on a ongoing basis — my posts are sporadic and I have a very modest number of followers — I’ve found that cueing in to conversations on Twitter at events and conferences adds a whole new dimension to the learning process.

Here’s how I maximized my experience at the Connections conference by following the #ET12 hashtag:

Find hot topics in advance: A week before the conference, I started following the buzz on Twitter to gauge the most talked-about aspects of the conference to help plan my itinerary.

Join live discussions: While the sessions I attended did not have a built-in Q&A, the real-time discussions on Twitter added a new dimension to the experience. If someone had a similar question, I could easily follow along for a response.

Follow post-event blogging: After the event, I continued to follow the hashtag for a more in-depth perspective on the event. Since many attendees blogged about the event, the hashtag served as a useful aggregator in culling through these posts.

Network with other professionals: In addition, I used the hashtag to determine if there were other professionals that I wanted to follow on an ongoing basis. For me, this is a great way to connect with new industry thought leaders.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I did not share some of my favorite tweets from the conference.

Have you followed an event hashtag? Did it add to your experience?

Even the best bubbles get popped by social media

How the Internet has altered our political-media exposure since 2008

In preparing to write this, my first-ever blog post, I couldn’t help but look at the calendar and notice that November 6th is fast approaching.  Election Day. I suppose it can’t be ignored, and since my blog posts should be current, I feel the need to address the election in some way.  But there is one tiny little problem: I pretty much already know whom I am voting for and have put myself in a news bubble—avoiding, to the best of my ability, all political conversations.

Life in a political news-avoiding bubble

Living in my bubble has been fairly easy for the most part, and it’s pretty happy here. I watch most TV shows on DVR so that I can fast forward through the commercials.  Any mail I receive is reviewed immediately, and the politically oriented direct mail pieces are tossed out.  I change the radio station when the negative ads air during drive time.  And, I have been able to politely avoid most political conversations at the office and in social settings.

But, there is one place where political discussions and advertising have been able to permeate my bubble, and that’s the Internet.  Between online advertising and social media, I can’t seem to escape it.  My personal email account is bombarded daily with emails. Pop-up banner ads and constant posts in newsfeeds are invading my social space daily. And for some reason, this has really gotten under my skin.

I can’t check Facebook without ads appearing on the right-hand side of my home page. And the countless posts, from both left- and right-leaning friends, are right there, mixed in with baby and graduation pictures, and comments on the weather.  I try to stay away, but my online activities have become so much a part of my everyday life that I feel compelled to go online whether I really want to or not.

Politics and social media: 2008 and 2012

The 2008 election was dubbed the “social media election,” with the Obama team’s innovative use of the Internet and social media to raise money and build its grassroots network.  But think about how the social media world has changed since 2008.  Back then, Twitter was fairly new, and Facebook only had around 100 million users.  We were just beginning to understand how to use social media for marketing, branding and communications outreach.

Fast forward to today, and current 2012 reports reveal that Twitter has grown to a network of 500 million users making over 340 million tweets per day, and Facebook users have hit the 1 billion mark.  Access to personal data about each and every one of us, and our online activities, has resulted in micro-targeting, where specific messages are developed based on what/who we like, who we follow, and what we buy.

Frankly, I’m not sure how I feel about all of this. From a marketing perspective, I love its potential. But from a personal POV, I’m a little creeped out. I need to adjust my bubble.

How do you feel about all this?

If you’re curious to learn more about how social media and micro-targeting are being used in this year’s election, check out these two articles:

2012: The Social Media Election
Digging for Voters with Big Data

I think you might find yourself a little creeped out, too!

Related posts:

The politics of advertising: Is your brand in the bully pulpit?
Advertising around the election

[photo via]

8 ways to host a boring, lackluster event

Or, how to ignore ExactTarget’s example

As working professionals, we’ve all attended good events where our basic needs are met, the speakers are competent, and we come back to the office with a few nuggets of useful information. We’ve also attended bad events, where we get lost trying to find the room and the presenters read endless stats straight from their text-heavy slides.

But when we get the opportunity to attend a truly GREAT event, it stands out. These kinds of events are rare gems. I got to attend one of these great events last week: ExactTarget’s annual user conference, Connections, at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.

These folks really know how to host a top-notch event. Not only did I come away inspired and with lots of great digital marketing knowledge, but many other aspects of the conference helped to take it over the top.

But if you want to ignore ExactTarget’s example, just do these eight things:

1. Branding? Forget that. Want to confuse people? Throw consistency to the wind and use every color under the sun for your event materials. While it can be tempting to get creative and make full use of a multicolor palette, sometimes you get the most bang for your buck if you just embrace your signature color. It makes you hard to forget. ExactTarget’s primary brand color is orange, and boy, do they own it.

2. Don’t sweat the small stuff: Event planning can be overwhelming. But your guests do notice when you’ve put thought into the little details that make their experience unique. Do you know what I heard people at Connections talking about right off the bat? The dispensers of orange soap in the restrooms. Another little detail I appreciated: at registration, they offered travel-size bottles of dishsoap so we could clean the reusable (orange) water bottles in our swag bags.

3. Let your guests fend for themselves: If your event takes place in the one and only room in the building, sticking a sign on an easel may be sufficient. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s never been to your facility, though. From the moment I arrived at the JW Marriott—where the conference occupied three floors of meeting space—at no time did I question that I was in the right place. ExactTarget had signage everywhere directing guests to the right locations: outside, in the lobby, overhead, behind the registration desk, on the tables in Starbucks… When you have 4,000 people to corral, clear directions are important.

4. Cut costs in the food budget: Hungry, thirsty people are distracted and lethargic. Want to ensure your guests are paying attention to the presentation? Make sure they’re sufficiently caffeinated and their stomachs aren’t growling. Snacks don’t have to be fancy to make people happy, and to help you cover the expense, you can make it a sponsorship opportunity. For example, during two separate breaks at Connections, they offered us single-serving bags of trail mix and chocolate-covered pretzels—emblazoned with a partner’s logo.

5. Choose a facility that doesn’t offer wi-fi access: iPhones, iPads, tablets, laptops… Your attendees will be bringing multiple connected devices, and they will use them simultaneously. Make sure your facility’s wi-fi will be able to handle the load ahead of time, because people do get irritated when they can’t connect.

6. Ignore social media: If your event is something small and for internal audiences only, then by all means, don’t worry about incorporating social media in your plan. But when you have a great event, people want to talk about it. Let your attendees be your publicists by clearly communicating where they can find you on social media and establishing event-related hashtags.

7. Fail at Marketing 101: You’re a marketer—you know people respond to incentives. If you want people to fill out your feedback surveys or be your brand’s publicists, give them an incentive. Money and gadgets are easy bets. On the last day of Connections, I noticed people wearing orange (of course) tshirts with ExactTarget’s user-community name, 3sixty, on them. Were they wearing them just because they wanted to? Perhaps. But the more likely reason was because of incentives like this:

It’s a great combination of incentive + event hashtags, and a nice reason not to forget to use the basics you learned in Marketing 101.

8. Entertainment? What’s that? One way to take your event from expected to exceptional is to think in terms of hosting guests, not just attendees. Treat them like friends and help make their stay in your city more enjoyable. While cocktails and dinner parties are expected and necessary, get creative—some of the extracurricular events ExactTarget organized:

  • Live entertainment: The enviable budget of Connections included an exclusive concert at Victory Field by The Fray and a midnight concert by Mayer Hawthorne. Very few events can organize evening entertainment of that magnitude, but it’s the idea that counts: can you arrange for some discount or free tickets to a performance? Or bring in a local band or performance group? How about tickets to a sporting event?
  • Pub crawl: Take the cocktails offsite and give your guests a walking tour of your city. Plan it ahead of time with the bar owners and treat your guests as VIPs.
  • Morning run: Not all activities need to happen in the evening. Your more health-conscious attendees (probably those who didn’t pub-crawl the night before) will appreciate organized fitness activities. It can be as simple as establishing a meeting time and place to go for a run, like 7:00 a.m. in the lobby of the hotel.

Events of every size and scope can be extraordinary. It’s less about budget and more about the consideration you show your guests.

So tell me: What tips would you offer for hosting a great event?

The faces of MB

Meet: Matt Dennis, Interactive Director

Our fearless leaders are often the first people from MB you may meet, but since they’re tasked with keeping our machine well-oiled, you might not have the chance to really get to know them. As part of an ongoing weekly series, we’re sharing a fast, interesting Q&A with one of our people that will let you (and us!) get to know them a little better.

1. What do you have in and on your office desk?

More technology than should be legally allowed. Pictures of my daughter. A Menards coffee mug. Several job tickets. A stack of Hot Box cups. And a ton of other miscellaneous junk.

2. What was your major in college, and how did you pick it?

Computer Graphics Technology. I chose it because it was one of the only programs like it in the country at the time. Well, that and I am a computer nerd. I have the pocket protector to prove it.

3. How do you remember playing with your siblings?

Does constantly bickering and fighting = playing? Actually, growing up we were really good friends with one of our neighbors. He basically became the 4th brother. We even started our own gang, “The Ridgewood Boys,” and we ruled our block. Basically it meant we could run over old ladies on our big wheels and charge people to watch us do The Super Bowl Shuffle in our backyard. Ah. The good ol’ days.

4. What are your favorite sports teams, college and/or professional?

Da Bears. Need I say more? Oh you said “teams.” I enjoy all sorts of sports, but I do root a little harder for the Bears, the White Sox and the Purdue Boilermakers. I can really pick a bunch of winners, huh?

5. Are you a doer or a procrastinator?

A doer. According to my Strengths Finder profile I am an Achiever. One of the telltale signs of an Achiever is someone who likes to make and keep lists. And boy, do I like making lists. I have no less than 5 to-do type apps on my iPhone right now. I’m such an Achiever that if I do something that is not on one of my lists, I add it so that I can cross it off.  And you can be sure that the first item on every list is “Make list.”

6. What would you do if you had $500 to spend on anything?

If left to my own devices, I would probably blow it on something and then immediately feel buyer’s remorse. So I guess I would have to really think about it. The safest answer would be to say I would buy something for both my wife and daughter.

You can learn more about Matt in last year’s profile. Check back next week when we profile a member of our public relations team.

There is no General Public

Even large audiences have unique qualities

A co-worker and I recently volunteered to help a local organization judge communication and marketing plans, campaigns and tactics for another state’s annual awards. We judged roughly 10 of the nearly 100 entries, and were shocked by the number of communication and marketing professionals who felt their campaign, plan or tactic was geared towards the “general public.”

Let me make this clear, there is no such thing as the “general public.”

Even the campaigns for the current Presidential candidates and a new brand of sugar-free fruit snacks are not targeted to general audiences, but rather specific groups of people. You would never launch a new product or initiative and toss it out into the world with hopes that it sticks to anyone who will listen.

Third-graders and baby boomers have different interests

One of the entries we reviewed was for an education institution that claimed a certain tactic was targeted toward the “general public.” My co-worker asked me what I thought about it, and my response was simple: “Would my eight-year-old niece be interested in this? No. Therefore, general public is an inappropriate audience.” My niece has zero interest in what’s going on beyond third grade and her gymnastics class. What might have made more sense in this particular case, would have been a defined audience of 18-54 year old men and women, living within a certain distance, who were interested in pursuing an education that could be flexible with the realities of working adults.

This is just one example of what we encountered while judging, but the unfortunate part is that out of the roughly 10 entries we reviewed, only two had well defined audiences. How does this happen? How can smart, educated marketing and communication professionals forget one of the most critical elements to any successful plan, campaign or tactic — the audience?

Define your audience, even when it’s broad

When identifying the target audience for a communication or marketing campaign, or specific tactics, it’s critical to define the audience. Which gender should receive your message; should they be within a certain age range; do location/proximity, education or wealth matter? What about psychographics? These are all questions that must be answered in order for any campaign or tactic to succeed.

In today’s hurry-up-and-get-things-done environment, it’s easy to maybe not review materials or documents as closely as we should, and if someone has worked with an organization or client for a long period of time, it’s easy to forget to communicate the fine details of the target audience, especially in a short award submission.

I’m confident that if most of the professionals who submitted the award entries went back and thought more about the question, “Who was the target audience?” they could come up with a more specific segment of the population than the general public. But, regardless, all of us need to keep the audience in mind when putting together materials and communication and marketing plans.

Live-Tweeting a kidney transplant surgery

IU Health shares what they learned from their live Twittercast

Combine health care, education and social media, and what do you get? A first-in-the-state live Twittercast of a living kidney transplant surgery, broadcast by Indiana’s IU Health (@IU_Health) in June 2012. Earlier this week, I attended an Indy Social Media breakfast at which the two orchestrators of the Twittercast (@kristoferkarol and @callmegeno) shared a behind-the-scenes look at the campaign and results.

Live-Tweeting a surgery: an idea one year in the making

Kristofer Karol of the IU Health PR team first started contemplating the idea of live Tweeting a surgery in 2011. A few other hospitals had successfully live-Tweeted surgeries, including Aurora Health Care in Wisconsin, which IU Health ended up using as a model for its own campaign, learning from their objectives and experiences.

When done, this would be the first live surgery Tweeted in Indiana, and it offered great opportunity as an educational tool.

Selecting the best surgery to Tweet

How do you choose the right surgery to broadcast in your first live Twittercast? The team chose a living-donor kidney transplant for four main reasons:

  • Needed to be a relatively short surgery: for a living-donor kidney transplant, both the donor and recipient surgeries would be completed within a 4-5 hour window
  • Best possible outcome: they wanted to select a surgery with the best chance of patient safety and a positive outcome
  • Scheduling: Because the donor is alive, a team can easily schedule a living-donor kidney transplant surgery
  • Expertise: IU Health does 250 kidney transplants a year, so the surgical teams have a great deal of experience

Preparing for the surgery

The idea for live-Tweeting a surgery may have originated a year in advance, but when the transplant team was asked to recommend a potential donor and patient, the selected pair’s scheduled surgery was only nine days away. It posed a significant challenge for the Twitter team, as they had a little more than a week to get all parties on board, including legal, risk management and the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer.

Once they had approval, preparation began in earnest. Among their list of 27 pre-surgery tasks, they:

  • Researched and prepared factoid Tweets and answers for possible questions in advance
  • Selected a hashtag—#CalebsKidney—that would be catchy, easy to use, and personable
  • Planned for possible complications
  • Assigned day-of roles for all team members, including one person dedicated solely to fielding questions
  • Did a dry run during another transplant surgery, enabling them to test their equipment in the basement operating room
  • Selected a platform for Tweeting: initially, they planned to use Tweetdeck, but when they realized that no IU Health employees could access it, they ended up just using Twitter itself

Live Tweeting #CalebsKidney surgery

During the surgery, the team used two laptops and three smartphones to maintain a steady flow of Tweets, each of which was reviewed by a member of the medical staff for accuracy before posting.

Campaign results

The campaign was wildly successful. Not only was the surgery itself a success for both the donor and recipient, but IU Health easily surpassed its initial objectives.

  • Objective 1: gain 500 new followers. Actual result: gained 1,363, with 500 on the day of the surgery alone
  • Objective 2: get 50 mentions or retweets. Actual result: 1,754, including one from Alyssa Milano, who retweeted @IU_Health’s tweet to her 2 million followers
  • Objective 3: secure 25 media placements. Actual result: 100, including one from the LA Times

What’s next for the understandably excited and exhausted team? In support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, they’ll be hosting a Q&A Twitterchat with two breast cancer doctors on Oct. 2 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern with the hashtag #ThinkPink.

Another presentation attendee created a great summary on Storify, which you can check out to learn more.

Did you follow #CalebsKidney on the day of the surgery? Or have you ever considered live-Tweeting something that makes your brand unique? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo via @IU_Health.

Quality vs. Quantity

Why I’m a fan of Grey Poupon even though I didn’t cut the mustard

For the past several years, I’ve followed dozens of brands on Facebook. The experience has felt like the stereotypical frat party back in college — you go because everyone else is going, you drink rum-infused Kool-Aid because it’s what’s offered, you’re crammed into loud, crowded quarters and act like you’re having a great time. Like many companies’ Facebook goals and metrics, the success of the event is based on the number of partygoers you woo through the doors.

Collecting fans on Facebook is intoxicating. Hosting contests, promotions and giveways may increase the number of “likes”, but does it really create authentic, meaningful engagement with your customers?  Have we forgotten about quality?

Grey Poupon: cultivating quality connections

Grey Poupon is taking a drastically different approach to Facebook where quality connections rank supreme. Using selective criteria, they’ve established the “Society for Good Taste.” Once you apply to be a fan/member, an application scours your Facebook stats and posts for specific parameters (i.e., interests in classic literature, gourmet cuisine, luxury vehicles, geographic location and grammatically correct posts).

While I didn’t make the cut — which was incredibly surprising since I’ve never purchased their product (ha) — there are some key takeways for other brands:

Don’t forget who you are. By creating an exclusive club, Grey Poupon remained true to their sophisticated, elitist brand identity. In fact, the look and feel of their Facebook page is consistent with their legendary Rolls-Royce commercial from the 80s.

Instill competition. The competitive nature of the site is also generating buzz in both traditional and social media networks. Quite frankly, I was slightly disappointed when I received the rejection notice. Of course, I’ve told all my friends about the app and am anxious to see who makes the cut.

Identify ways to sustain interaction. After being denied membership, I was provided with four recommendations on how to improve future applications: watch PBS’ MasterPiece Theatre, listen to Mozart on Pandora, read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, and visit an online Grey Poupon recipe book. In my opinion, these recommendations were very tastefully curated, since only one directly related back to their product and was useful information not product hype.

Know thyself – and know thy customers

Analyze your personal Facebook profile for a fresh perspective on targeting

Between in-house databases, Salesforce, Facebook Insights, Google Analytics, and services like Klout, we have mountains of marketing data at our fingertips. Making use of it is important, but it can be intimidating.

But let’s take a break from intimidating and have some fun: when was the last time you analyzed your personal Facebook data?

Psychoanalysis courtesy of Facebook and Wolfram|Alpha

I’m a bit of an information geek, so when I hear about new tools, like Wolfram|Alpha’s Facebook analysis (via Mashable), I’m intrigued. This report performs a quick, free, Insight-like analysis of your personal Facebook profile.

(Analyze at your own risk. You may learn things about yourself that you’d rather not know.)

Allow it to analyze your Facebook data, then in a matter of seconds, you’ll have a report of your Facebook activity that would make both psychologists and marketers salivate.

I learned that “great” is the word I use most often (32 instances in 420 analyzed wall posts), and my average post length is 20.52 words or 124.6 characters. 75.2% of my friends are female, and 72.3% are married (significantly higher than the 48% national average).

The report also revealed whom I have the most friends in common with, who my top commenters are, and which were my most liked and commented-on posts. My most commented-on post exemplifies what we talk about all the time in Facebook marketing when it comes to increasing engagement: I asked a question of my friends, seeking their feedback—and they responded.

A company targeting me would be interested to know that I do most of my posting in the 8:00 a.m., 8:00 p.m., and 9:00 p.m. hours, so that’s a good time to be in my News Feed. For mobile strategy, they’d also like to know that I use my iPhone to access Facebook much more often in the evening, after 7:00 p.m.

Analyze your most valuable resource: your customer data

Facebook and LinkedIn, among others, are making targeting options more sophisticated—so it’s more important than ever that you understand your customers. Third-party research is certainly valuable, but nothing compares to firsthand knowledge.

Give this analysis a try. How do the results compare to what you expected? Does it confirm what you’ve been hearing about Facebook marketing strategies, such as recommendations for the best times to post? What did you find the most interesting? Does it give you a new perspective? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.

Frankly, my dear, I’m exhausted

A media director in Olympic-coverage withdrawal

The Olympics almost killed me.  I love watching the Games, both Winter and Summer, and really, I didn’t want to miss a thing. With over 4,000 hours of available viewing by NBC properties on multiple platforms, I didn’t have to. I did, however, have to stay up way past my bedtime for almost two weeks straight, and I could not help but launch my NBC Olympics apps (two of them!) constantly.  Spoilers?  Bring them on.  Live feeds?  I might have watched team handball while working at my desk.  I’ll not lie.

The results of this?  An epic TV, digital and social media hangover, and I know I’m not alone.  In my media-saturated mind, I feel I know swimmer Nathan Adrian personally, and since he was born the day before my daughter, I feel like they’re soul mates and should date.  I legitimately shed a tear when Jordyn Wieber didn’t make the all-around gymnastics finals, even though I cheered Aly Raisman when she did.  Her parents honestly wore me out.  Get them off my screens, please—all four of my screens.  Bela Karolyi is wet-your-pants funny and a great ambassador for his sport.

Keep up with four screens? Bring it on.

I enjoyed this sportsfest from the comfort of my command center – my chair in the family room – surrounded by my laptop, iPad and iPhone.  The dogs were upset that they had nowhere to sit.  To me, the actual competitions were secondary to the polls, trivia, Tweets, and personal backstories that I inhaled 24/7.  Finally, the icing on my five-ring cake was the constant photos and video of Kate, Will and Harry (who I still maintain looks surprising like James Hewitt – just sayin’).

Constant connectivity: help or hindrance for engagement?

Has this constant connectivity become too much?  More importantly, does it help you reach and engage your target without wearing out your welcome?  It’s a fine line, for sure.  P&G did a great job leveraging so many touch points with their “Thank You, Mom” campaign. I never tired of it, no matter how many times I saw it or where it appeared, but I will admit to feeling a little like a failure as a mom because I didn’t raise an Olympian.

The consumer used to be a one-screen consumer.  Then with the advent of digital, you could reach them visually on two screens.  Now with mobile and tablets, you can reach your targets multiple times and in so many ways that the combinations can only be calculated in a 400-level stats class.  Studies tell us that your reach and engagement increases incrementally when you add another platform, but some companies are still slow to embrace the multi-platform strategy.  It’s incumbent on agency partners to understand the benefits of this strategy and help educate their clients.

I think I am in the homestretch of my Olympics-overload recovery.  Only 535 days until Sochi in 2014.  I bet by then there will be yet another new technology for me to embrace.

What was your experience during the Olympics? Did you plug in and monitor the events on multiple screens? Or did you try to avoid all time-delay spoilers and get your coverage via television?

Related reading:
The Games of the 30th Olympiad
Staggering social media statistics from the Olympics [Infographic]
Olympic sponsors go for gold online [Infographic]


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