Category Archives: Social Media

The Digital & Social Era: Unlocking Brand Value in a Nanosecond

 

Monopoly, Scrabble, Mr. Potato Head, G.I. Joe, Nerf, Little Pony, Transformers.  These are only a few of the brands we are all growing old with, and are also seeing our children grow up with. They are all household names that have an extensive legacy and franchise around the world. They’re all Hasbro brands.

While many brand managers often think of extending a brand in terms of new product in the physical sense, the digital and social era offers the opportunity to transform brands into new media properties in ways that unlock the brand’s legacy. The age of new media offers up the chance to pull brands literally “out of the vault” and make them fresh again by relaunching them in an entirely new format.

Hasbro is a company that not only manufactures and distributes toys and games; it is an entertainment company that now competes with the likes of Disney. For example, one of the largest and most successful movie franchises is Transformers. Introduced in the mid-1980s, Transformers was a toy line that featured parts that can be shifted to change from a vehicle into a robot action figure and back again. A number of spin-offs followed, including an animated television series.

In 2007, a live-action movie, under sponsorship of Steven Spielberg, was released, with the latest installment to be released this summer. Around the brand is a vast array of media, including video games, a website, online games, TV commercials, a Facebook community, books, gear and all sorts of toys. Yes, there are apps for iPhone – in 3D no less – that include puzzles.

Not only has Hasbro become a force in the movie industry, it also is a direct investor in television having recently launched The Hub channel in the U.S. in partnership with Discovery Channel whereby the Discovery Kids platform was renamed The Hub. In Canada, Corus Entertainment and Hasbro Studios have come together to distribute Hasbro brands across the various Corus kids television platforms, such as Treehouse, the TV home of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (with HD episodes available on iTunes).

What makes the discussion even more compelling is how Hasbro has been able to artfully blend instinct with formal management process. I say this because the toy business, like fashion, has for many years been built on having a nose for what’s hot and what’s not. In the age of digital, so much is in the moment that risk and reward take on much shorter cycles, thereby requiring a balance between management discipline and entrepreneurial behaviour. As Michael Hogg, President of Hasbro Canada, says: “The toy business is like packaged goods with your hair on fire,” in that much of the action is in the moment, about today. This makes me think of the phrase Carpe Diem – on steroids.

Underlying this “360 degree” approach to defining the media mix is the foundational belief that there is also a value chain with regard to the media platforms. In Hasbro’s case, TV is the anchor to build brand awareness in key segments, whereby other media take on a supporting promotional role to augment consumer engagement.

In the days of traditional media, there was much talk about unlocking ‘incremental brand value’ by building out line extensions and adding ancillary products. In the era of digital and social media, brand value can be unlocked in an exponential way by developing the optimal media mix and devising the right formats for each brand.

It also means sticking to the fundamental questions: what are the demographics, who are the buyers, what are the right media choices and how do we build the trust factor into everything we do? The latter is most important especially when engaging audiences of ‘mommy bloggers’ who have valuable opinions about product safety, play value and ideas for innovation.

It also requires a change in mindset since metrics are not always conveniently at hand. In fact, it may be advantageous by allowing managers to take risk by investing in more trials, seeing what works through iteration and then building metrics that support additional investments for a calculated payoff.

For Hasbro, one formula that continues to prove itself in effect leads the consumer through the channels. Television is the anchor for certain target segments for brand building; websites are ideal for promotional activity and driving consumers to the retail store.

So let me end with a few more Hasbro brands that you may well recognize: Twister, Battleship, Yahtzee, Risk, Tinker Toy, Play-Doh, Sorry! and Easy Bake. And yes, there are and will be more apps.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia

 

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Media Integration: The Tradigital Mix

This post originally appeared in the Association of Canadian Advertisers newsletter, The ACA Edge:  http://www.acaweb.ca/en/media-integration-the-%e2%80%98tradigital%e2%80%99-mix/

I was recently reading Golf Magazine, a publication of the Time Inc. Sports Group, which includes Sports Illustrated amongst its media assets. Golf Magazine serves as a hub, trigger or catalyst for viewing relevant content through a range of media types and other brand platforms. Here’s why:

There is a section in Golf Magazine called “Your Game” which is an instructional piece made up of various illustrations, stats and descriptive text on, for example, how to improve putting from short distances. In the bottom left corner of the page, there is a pointer to the magazine’s website at www.golf.com/putting  where there is an online video of the same lesson featuring additional information about the putting process. Golf.com has a link to Twitter (@si_golf). Videos are featured on YouTube, Golf Magazine’s channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/GolfMagazine.

At www.golf.com , there are links to various sites related to events on the PGA pro tour, content related to golf travel, course ratings, opinions and reviews to name but a few of the possibilities. In the current issue of Golf Magazine, there is even a new program that brings it together with SI Golf and Golf.com to enable the audience to “See, Try, Buy” the latest in golf equipment with links to OEMs and dealers. Many advertisers in Golf Magazine have links to ‘freemium’ social network platforms – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – offering additional product content.

Then there are those who write for Golf Magazine who are also commentators on television networks that broadcast golf such as CBS and NBC. It goes without saying that many PGA pros are featured throughout all of the golf media choices. Writers and PGA pros (some 85 are on Twitter) contribute content. Readers and web viewers alike also post their opinions often indicative of topics that drive engagement. There are several blogs: http://blogs.golf.com/equipment.

Golf Magazine is a good illustration of how the “Tradigital” media mix can provide a rich experience through a host of choices for accessing relevant content by integrating traditional and new media. This transformation of brands to a broad media mix reflects the adoption of a new business model that optimizes traditional and new media in order to bring about the right mix for the audience –paid, owned, sold, earned. CMO’s should find this inspiring. It’s not really complicated. Get started, try things out, see what works and like a recipe, add to the media mix until it’s just right.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia

Ahead of the Curve Behind the 8-Ball

It wasn’t long ago that the clamoring for CEO’s to get with the latest program by using Twitter and various social media platforms, reached a feverish pitch.  As usual, those forever looking for shreds of evidence that ‘social media’ pays out a clear cut ROI, would trot out lists of companies (and their CEO’s) who ‘got it’. Funny thing was, most of those lists, and many related cased studies were  mainly of obscure companies in the early stages of growth. Naturally, a 500% growth rate as a result of using Twitter, was impressive though less so when the base number for that growth rate was near zero, the kind of stats that investment fund advisors like to use when people have little appetite for buying stocks following a market meltdown. 

There have been case studies, some from reputable technology analysts, touting remarkable cost savings. Beyond the headline, the data showed a savings of $4M over 3 years for a certain USD$100B technology provider using social media as a collaboration tool.  In the end, this seemed a bit on the light side. No pun intended here but greater savings might have been had by turning the office lights off when people left for the day.

There has also been a lull in those declaring their location. Shout outs for Foursquare and various locational platforms seem rather muted of late. The initial interest seemed to be focused around luring people into retail premises by pushing discounted offers out to the latte-rati, more recently up-sized to the Starbucks version of 7-Eleven’s Big Gulp. Adoption hasn’t been that broad and one wonders if location-based applications are still looking for a real business problem to solve.

Lastly, not to make too fine a point, recent press by ‘those in the social know’ are now suggesting that too many offers, tweets, friending by brands for the sake of friending and a general overloading of Facebook fan pages by some brands, has started to turn some people off. Mashable had some recent thoughts on this issue of why people are unfollowing certain brands. I also expressed in a post from last year, building on a thought piece by the Economist, that there is so much data out there, one wonders what is to be done with it all – and that was when YouTube, Facebook and the like where just getting ramped up with the posting of video and photos. Clearly, when a brand fails to deliver on the promise, even CEO tweets can’t come to the rescue, GAP logo changes notwithstanding. Again, ask yourself, are we solving a business problem or just creating stuff to do because we’re not sure exactly what to do?

If you’re indeed feeling both ahead of the curve implementing certain technologies and behind the eight ball in terms of getting measureable business results, consider this: any organization that undertakes a transformation, in this case toward the Social Enterprise, cannot achieve success by leading with technology. This is what happened to early adopters of CRM in the last decade. Success can in fact be achieved, notably for companies that are truly customer-centric (culture/process/technology) who understanstand those things that deliver value to the customer relative to competition re. the “Outside-In” approach. IBM, Ford, McDonald’s, P&G are a few companies who do this consistently and have the financial results as proof.

This is not news, in fact, it’s an old principle advocated by Peter Drucker some 50 years ago. While it’s tempting to drink the latest elixir of technology, it pays to stick to managerial fundamentals, much like accountants use GAAP methods to keep track of every dollar earned.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia

Media: The Sum of Its Parts or Something Else?

Reductionism says that a complex system is nothing but the sum of all of its parts and understanding those parts can tell us everything about the complex system that they belong to. This idea was supported Thales of Miletus, the first known philosopher of the western civilization circa 580 BC.

Shortly thereafter, in 2010, the ‘Galaxy of Media Choices’ (a term coined by The Boston Consulting Group) presents us with a complex system of communication with a series of moving parts.  There are some 70+ media choices, or parts if you will, including traditional (television, radio, outdoor, POS and print) and the Internet (digital,  mobile, geo-location, video, QR codes, SMS, social networking platforms etc.) – no need to list everything here.

The advent of Internet and digital technology in combination with the amount of time we spend on media is what makes the media system so fascinating and correspondingly difficult to grasp. Why? Because, like space, it is seemingly infinite.

How do the parts help us understand our complex media system?

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia

United Airlines: Broken Guitar Triggers Stock Rally

A few days ago some of the bright lights in the social media domain were all lathered up about a group of academics who were able to ‘prove’ that Twitter ‘predicted the outcome of stock market’. As it turns out, it was a worthy attempt by some academics who looked at historical data and found a parallel relationship between public sentiment and stock market movement (go to the link here). They were the first to admit that they did not find any causality between Twitter and movement in the stock market. The paper was unpublished and had not been through an academic peer review. Nary a peep from those same lathered up socialmedialists since (I think they might have been avatars anyway, not real people).

This got me thinking about the United Airlines incident whereby some poor unfortunate troubadour had his guitar allegedly mishandled and damaged by United Airlines. He was so incensed that he wrote a song about the incident and posted it on YouTube. The digerati swooned as it was ideal fodder for these Internet imperialists to take down yet another brand. So United was vilified as have many airlines since the rise of social media platforms. As they are fond of saying, Mr./Mrs. CMO – you no longer control the brand.

Well, here we are a year since the United Broke My Guitar incident. It’s earnings week in the US airline industry. So far, AMR, Southwest and Delta have fared quite well and most airlines are expected to post strong Q3 results.

Which brings me back to United Airlines. Since July 2009, United stock has been steadily on the rise. In fact, it would appear that the rally coincided almost to the day of the Broken Guitar incident and the stock has risen 10-fold since. Maybe there really is something to this social media analysis stuff.

Broken Guitar Triggers Rally

 

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia.

Management by Algorithm

In a recent post by Brian Solis “Influencing the Influencer” I was struck by the image showing a definition of leadership. Solis goes on to suggest how important people are in the marketing mix. Rightly so, he sets the context as the ‘attention economy’ as many who participate in social networks have an insatiable appetite for attention, notably those who see themselves as “authorities and tastemakers” or at that exalted level of self-actualisation, brands. Apparently, these are the folks that brands must recruit across the social media galaxy in order to truly lead, then connect with the broader audience – the ‘everyman’, in a most sincere and meaningful way.

So, like the days of television rabbit ears, brands need a shill: “A person who publicizes or praises something or someone for reasons of self-interest, personal profit, or friendship or loyalty.” (via Dictionary.com)

This is the oldest game in the advertising playbook.  The difference is of course, that the brand is supposed to recruit people who come from a superior gene pool, that of the online reviewer or opinion leader. It’s real time, it’s from the heart and… it’s transparent. To reinforce this approach, a number of SaaS applications are mentioned such as Klout and PeerIndex that use ‘human’ algorithms to calculate one’s social currency (capital?). It’s so valuable, anyone can calculate their influence scores for free.

Has it occured to those who advocate this kind of approach to identifying influencers that some consumers have no interest is what others think? Rather, consumers prefer to try things themselves. In otherwords, they prefer to take the lead, thank you very much.

For marketing managers, understanding customer preferences and value drivers, is really the first place to start. Management by algorithms alone is a very dangerous thing to do as it places limits on the ability to learn, develop insight and understand consumer behaviour in context.

As in using spell check, your facility with language doesn’t improve over time.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia

The Social Maze

Where are all my customers?

 The funny thing about all the endless advocacy of social media is that nothing has really changed in the business of matching consumers with brands. Oh sure, now that consumers ‘control the brand’, companies are at the mercy of infantile twittering tantrums such  as when consumers don’t get their way (especially on an airline) hoping to unleash a social firestorm primarily with the hope of getting noticed for a nanosecond or two. (The same folks likely get back on the same airline, content to collect their frequent flyer points.) 

One would think, with all those folks splaying their private lives out in public via the likes of YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Foursquare – lest we forget this thing called a phonebook or the science of geodemographics and credit card purchase data – that people would be easy to find. In fact, with all of the yottabytes of data out there about consumers, it should, in the year 2010, be a matter of running an algorithm or two to find customers, understand preferences and match any product or offer with any consumer 24/7 in any country with high Internet penetration.  It would be the end to the need to advertise using traditional channels.

Funny indeed. The search and storage/processing technology required to make the social web possible has, as the main output, data. Whether you call it media or content it’s still really just more data taking up space on some distant server farm deep in the Mariana Trench. As such, are we all the wiser? Not really. With free cloud apps having a shelf life not much longer that the vegetables in your local supermarket, many are wary of the risks of implementing something that will be obsolete by the time it gets traction in the marketplace. With the yet to be proven value of social media monitoring and analytics, it’s not as if the world has abandoned representative random sampling or in-market product trials.  

Do companies really have the strategies, skill sets or business processes to effectively leverage the social web? With only $2 billion slated for social media spending in the USA this year, I doubt it. Yet, evangelists are forever hopeful, as that is their stock in trade. Like Charles Revson, founder of Revlon once said, “In the factory we make cosmetics; in the store we sell hope.”  

On the other hand, Charles Revson didn’t have social networks at his disposal but his customers had no trouble finding the Revlon counter.  

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia