Are you starting to plan-slash-dream about a summer getaway? Well, then, you best consult this list: We’ve asked some aesthetically minded, inspiration-hungry, overworked designers where they check-in when they can slip away for a few days, and they’ve shared three dozen spots—from boutique hotels…
“I was given my first story to check. I vaguely remember that it was something about new mutual fund products, and it was written by a freelancer. It sounded good — that is, until I started checking it. In essence, the entire thing was wrong. Up until that point, words on the page, in their unambiguous black and white, had always conveyed such authority that I didn’t question them. I never read that way again. An editor once said to me that good writers were really dangerous because you could be so seduced by their writing that you simply drank in their unsupported leaps of logic.”—
As part of Percolate’s programming track, The Content Marketing Revolution, we hosted a panel discussion titled “The Biggest Challenges for the Biggest Marketers” – a 30 minute discussion on how the world’s largest organizations were dealing with the dramatic shifts in content marketing.
Joining us were representatives from three major brands – Brandi Boatner, Digital Experience Manager at IBM; Andrew Bowins, Senior Vice President of Digital Corporate Communications at MasterCard; and Michelle Klein, Vice President of Smirnoff Global Marketing Communications in Digital at Diageo.
In the first of three parts summarizing the program, our panelists discuss the definition of content marketing and best-in-class examples from across the industry. The conversation brought to light several key takeaways that could assist brands of all sizes with their approach to content marketing.
Jordan Bitterman, Mindshare [moderator]:
I do think it’s important, at each time an audience gets together to talk about content, that we reset the definition of content. Give us a sense of a piece of content that you’ve seen from a brand recently that has you excited.
Michelle Klein, Smirnoff:
What I’m most interested in, actually, is where brands find that symbiotic relationship between stuff that happens in the real world and stuff that happens online, and create experiences that can be appreciated in either format. For me, the stuff that Vice has done with the Creator’s Project with Intel, what Red Bull does, is where the sweet spot is for marketers and brands.
Andrew Bowins, MasterCard:
It must have been about a year ago when I learned a really valuable lesson from Noah at Percolate. He was on a panel like this and a similar question came up, and every brand that was on the stage was self-congratulatory about how well they had done and scored themselves an eight out of ten. Noah kind of sat their blank faced until it got to his turn and he said, this industry changes so fast and content has evolved so much, but we need to not be so self-congratulatory. We need to recognize that we have to continue to learn and test.
So that stuck with me. But I’ll give you my personal opinion on two pieces of content that I love. Everything that GE is doing right now around ‘My Mom Makes Electricity.’ To me that’s a brilliant piece of content that was created and delivered through channels with a specific audience and purpose in mind. The ability to track back and measure its impact makes it exceptional.
From a pure emotional perspective and the power of rich storytelling – the ‘Thank You Mom’ work that P&G has done. You can’t find anybody that hasn’t seen that and been touched or discussed it. And again, powerful storytelling matched with a prescribed audience creates brand preference.
Jordan Bitterman, Mindshare [moderator]:
Is there a difference anymore between content that runs as a 60 second spot and content that runs on the web? Or is it all kind of merging into one another right now?
Andrew Bowins, MasterCard:
For me again, I’m aware of short snackable content that I discover through a personal feed. I’m not aware of a 60 second spot. I watch TV still, but where I get my impression about a brand and where the content lives these days is more and more within social channels that I subscribe to.
Brandi Boatner, IBM:
I like content that appeals to the human experience. We were talking about the Olympics and the Super Bowl. The General Mills commercial with Gracie’s family was exciting, at least for me. I remember when I saw the first spot – on YouTube, not watching television.
At first, I said “oh, what a cute commercial”. And then I read all of the backlash on Facebook around the commercial. General Mills took all of that feedback, all of the negative things people were saying about the little girl and her family and interracial marriage, and then they came out with the follow-up spot during the Super Bowl. The human experience really resonates, and I feel a lot of marketers are doing that and yielding results.
Jordan Bitterman, Mindshare [moderator]:
Since we’ve been talking about these examples, they’ve all been videos. Does video have to be at the center of marketer strategies?
Michelle Klein, Smirnoff:
At Smirnoff, we actually see music at the center of a lot of our content strategies. Not just getting behind an artist, but actually co-creation. We’ve done things in the past with the DJ Tiesto where we’ve created a collaboration between him and an up-and-coming DJ in Africa for an exclusive track that we gave away free to our community, with millions and millions of downloads. The reward for participation was not only the track itself but also the opportunity to go to South africa and be part of the experience when it happened.
Because Smirnoff by its nature is a social brand – you socialize when you enjoy the product – I am really fastidious on how we define social experiences. They have to be as powerful online as they are in the real world. If you think about that context, music plays a huge part for us.
Andrew Bowins, MasterCard:
I think video is a big crutch. I think it’s one of the most important aspects, because of the visual web – but how many of us have sat in a room and heard an executive say “ I want a funny video” or “I want a piece of content like what P&G did”?
You have to kind of step back and say – within the content channels and audiences that I’m trying to communicate to, what’s the best mix of content? And in a lot of cases it could be video because its such a powerful storytelling platform, but more often than not its words and a powerful image that stimulates conversation around your brand – that to me is the golden ticket.
In our industry and as digital content people, we have to do better than saying ‘we have 10 million followers’ and call that “brand”. The amount of investment that is required now, the amount of strategy and science that measures how this content performs, it has to do more than just support brand. You have to show how it can support a P&L, drive a defined KPI, really bring home business value. When you get into the executive boardroom, you can’t be talking about likes and shares. You have to be talking about business statistics and analytics.
What my team has been working on, and Percolate has been a big partner in, is – we call it ‘big data at the intersection of code and content in the era of digital storytelling.’ How do we set up our platforms to listen in 43 markets and in 26 languages? How do we glean insight from that to understand what audiences are talking about? How do we earn our way into that discussion with relevant content 70% of the time, and then 30% of the time be really effective brand marketers to deliver a message that compels an action.
Video is good, but if you’re just using your agencies and your creative teams to come up with content that you emotionally like – without that defined KPI and that ability to say this is the impact of it beyond brand, it’s kind of a fool’s errand.
*** Look for parts two and three of this panel in the days to come. Special thanks to Brandi Boatner, Andrew Bowins, and Michelle Klein for participating as panelists, to Jordan Bitterman for moderating, and to the Social Media Week team.
“Fraternity issues, like choosing a sorority to partner with during Homecoming or electing fraternity officers—so trivial in hindsight, but gravely important at the time—really did inspire hours of heated debate during chapter meetings. Sometimes you make your point and convince the crowd. Other times, you’re not able to, for whatever reason. Learning to come to terms with your defeat was just as important as figuring out how to get your way.”—
“Please be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.”—Andrew Zimmern (via bon-aventure)
This post is an open letter to Art Directors working at advertising agencies. It’s based on a presentation I gave at Social Media Week NYC where I shared some thoughts on how Art Directors and Designers can help their clients create more effective social marketing in 2014.
The first thing you should know is these thoughts are coming from a former Art Director. Before joining Percolate, I was involved in the conception, planning and execution of digital campaigns at agencies in London and New York.
Over the last 10 years I have seen how the web, social and mobile have shifted the ways teams create brand campaigns and content marketing. Let’s take a look at how this went down.
The year is 2004, I have just graduated from the University of Huddersfield with a degree in Multimedia Design. For those of you who haven’t visited Huddersfield before, we were surrounded by all the sheep.
Shortly after graduating, I swapped the sheep of Yorkshire for the red telephone boxes of London and began working on marketing campaigns at digital agencies.
My first job was to make fish come out of computer screens for Sony.
Well, not quite. It was about mastering the art of designing banners. You know, editing graphic details, optimizing messaging placements in an effort to get down to a 15k file size.
We also helped telecommunications company Orange sell phones.
Over the course of our relationship we moved away from creating “big idea” campaigns and started turning out a piece of interactive content every month. Simple, fun ideas designed to be shared on Facebook walls.
We worked for the Observer newspaper to promote their monthly magazines: music, food and sport.
Here we created a weekly email newsletter to inspire subscribers to pick-up a copy of the paper that coming weekend. This was about picking up our photoshop template and setting content in place each week.
Another one of our clients was high street fashion retailer Topshop.
We redesigned Topshop.com from the ground up. Brand guidelines helped us understand the fonts, color palettes and photography direction styles we could use to structure and shape the new editorial templates we introduced over the commerce foundation. Templates that would be used to published 2/3 blog posts a week.
On moving to New York, I started working with Samsung. They wanted to raise awareness of their new laptop, which came equipped with an Intel processor.
We created Boosted, a series of mini campaigns that played out in Facebook tabs and microsites. This was also the first time I had been involved in the planning and creation of three solid weeks of content updates and status messages.
This brings us to 2010. I like to refer to this moment as the big design pile-up. Design requests were coming in at an amazing rate. The social web stage of marketing was well and truly in full force. There was so much stuff to make.
You can see the shift from creating campaigns to sustained marketing illustrated below. What we’re looking at is how we moved from a delivery of banners every four months, to a constant flow of social campaigns — campaigns full of design assets.
Our response to the need for so many assets? Photoshop. Of course Photoshop was our answer. When you are holding a hammer, the only thing you see is a nail, right?
But Photoshop didn’t solve our problems. Things got worse. From here the growth continued as more and more brands created campaigns across social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, whilst new platforms like Tumblr started to emerge as places brands could reach new audiences.
This is when we introduced a new member to the team: the Community Manager. This was someone who mostly worked client side. As an agency we needed Community Managers to guard the front lines during campaigns.
These were people who had been on Myspace as early as 2007. Back then they were responding to fan wall posts and handling the trolls.
They quickly got known for customer relationship management skills and their ability to handle weird customer enquires, but they did far more than that.
Since 2011 I have been following Community Managers and all the jobs they do as we’ve built our technology platform. They have gone beyond the frontline. They are playing a leading role in defining brand strategy and content design for some of the most successful brands on social.
The reality is, if you want to make good work today, the Community Manager is the most important person you can work with. If you are an Art Director, the Community Manager is your new creative partner. An absolutley vital member of your team. Let me explain why.
Let’s not worry about the design thing. You know, when you say keyboard shortcuts, they think keyboard cat. Paul Rand is met with “Ron Paul?” And your favorite typeface Gotham, well that’s got to be Batman.
They pick up things fast. And what they bring to the table is huge. They are going to help you grow.
They understand the pace of platforms better than anyone. Their Photoshop is an application made up of streams of social content. It is what they are using everyday to craft communications. From here they understand the pace and the perspectives of your brand’s audience.
When the social platforms introduced new visual news feeds they became flooded with images fans related to the brand. This only increased with the mass adoption of smartphones. A new visual language arrived. Simple, human photography won the day. When representing your brand, this is the new creative.
With this huge influx of fan imagery, community managers had a new source of content. This obviously included cats. These images created new post styles like “Fan Photos.” Here Community Managers developed a more personal dialogue between the brand and fans, when previously there had only been cold messaging and direct promotion of product and services.
This wasn’t just about Facebook. As new platforms grew, Community Managers got to know how the room responded across all platforms. They knew how to craft the message as they shifted the brand look and voice from Facebook to Twitter, as they transitioned from day to night, from one audience to another.
They have an ability to pay attention to the world around them, understand trends, and react to all of this. They made planking Pepsi cans into a real thing. This ability is what built followers and friends. This is what gave brands a moment of fame on social.
With the rise of mobile apps such as Pic Stitch, Meme text generator and later Instagram, Community Managers became more and more confident in making design decisions. With these apps they are doing the work we used to do for a couple of hours a week (cropping and manipulating images), but they are doing it in minutes.
Community Managers connect brands with cultural moments. For example: It’s Christmas. Everyone is watching Home Alone. Suddenly Pepsi’s Community Manager brings back Fuller and makes sure no one over does it. This is a great example of how they married the visual language of social to a timely and relevant piece of culture.
Today, Community Managers are working with some of the world’s largest brands to tap in and understand what makes their audiences different, and then work with the team to create content for them specifically. Oreo’s Daily Twist Campaign is the example I’m sure you are all familiar with. The team won a Grand Prix at Cannes last year.
So lets talk conclusions. What am I asking you to take away from all of this?
First and foremost, you should hang out with your Community Manager more. I know some of you won’t be in the same office each day, but make it happen. Get together for an hour a few times a week.
This will be quality time for you to share learnings from both sides of the table. On your agenda should be how your audiences are developing across platforms, the latest social tools and formats (today this is Vine and Snapchat and the next ones are coming soon), talk about events happening in the real world you are excited about for the brand and get into design: discuss what’s happening across campaigns, industry and social.
The number one thing you need to work on together is context. Ensure the content and campaigns you are creating doesn’t fall on deaf ears. Understand why each platform is unique. Understand what time of day people on each platform are online and engaging with content. Understand what they are talking about and reacting to. This is the most important thing you need to do.
So this week, drop your Community Manager an email. Invite them to get coffee and chat. Get this going. Trust me. You’ll both be better off for it.
“That was the year, my twenty-eight, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination, every word, all of it.”—
Will 2014 see the rise of user as marketer? Will the average unverified Joe or Jane start putting paid promotion behind their content?
Take a step back from the groans that ensue when people talk about their “personal brand” and instead, start with the motivations behind advertising.
Why do brands advertise? In simple definition, it’s to create awareness for their goods & services.
On Facebook and Twitter recently, I was given clear prompts to market “myself” to my friends & followers, to put paid promotion behind my content and presence to increase visibility.
So, what’s going on? What motivated these platforms to activate me, as a user, to advertise? I’ve made no declarations as to be a “brand.” I’m not a business owner. This is me, regular “Joe.” And the prompt had no affiliation to my employer or industry.
1) The Long Tail of Brands
As platforms scale revenue, they activate the “long tail” of brands, going far beyond the Fortune 500. There are already over 18 million small and mid-sized advertisers on Facebook, and it makes sense to extend that figure to the billions of smaller user advertisers potentially contained in the general population. The above prompt was subtle enough that it was more likely to be noticed by the more power users within the community.
Users aren’t going to consistently declare themselves as a “brand” or business owner, but the side hustle is evolving from anathema to an almost standard practice.
3) It’s All About the Stream
Much like Buzzfeed has evangelized that an experience that varies from serious to frivolous is normal for readers, the platforms have already normalized an experience that interweaves organic content and paid promotion.
It is natural that the next wave of user behavior will be we will pay to promote our posts that matter.
Here are a few examples that could become commonplace for paid promotion by our friends or followers:
Our house is for sale!
My son is seeking a college internship in Architecture
So if we are truly going into the new wave of “Brand You,” how do you decide if you want to get involved?
The mantra here is to embrace change. This is one to watch. Platforms are moving away from likes and followers as your standard of reach. Think about who you’d really like to reach and why. If it’s important, why not advertise?