Tag Archives: strategy

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

 

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.

Commentary: Media Companies Need To Become Marketing Companies

The following is an excerpt from an online post authored by Andrew Heyward and Jeffrey F. Rayport in a recent edition of Harvard Business Review:     

                                                                                                                                                                         These consumers, people we like to call “Customers 3.0,” live in a blur of mash-ups, blogs, RSS feeds, links, text messages, tweets, and “life-casting” on social networks like Facebook and MySpace. For Customers 3.0, the very idea of content includes everything, embracing all media formats as well as advertising. And they collect, collate, and customize such content according to their individual tastes in personalized online environments (like MySpace or Facebook “pages”). This is what we call “user-generated context.”        

In this environment, it’s increasingly difficult for either publishers OR advertisers to stand out. The long-standing value proposition of publishers to brands – we create compelling content that attracts a desirable audience and then sell you the privilege of placing your commercial messages adjacent to it – is becoming a tougher sell.         

That’s because marketers don’t get much value out of seeing their messages appear in anodyne ad units (like banners ads). They need rich integration of their brands with content users are seeking or creating on their own. That leaves publishers in a sticky position: either they stand by and watch marketers build compelling online experiences without them, or they put their editorial and creative capabilities to use to help their clients – the big brands – cut through the clutter.         

In our practice, we like to say that “every company is a media company.” Increasingly, every media company must also become a marketing company. For online publishers, the challenge is to achieve that goal without damaging the very reputation for credibility and integrity on which their market positions rest. If online publishers can’t manage that balancing act before it’s too late, they’ll have more than mud on their faces.          

Here is my take:  As brands/national advertisers transform in part, to media, publishers have an opportunity to seek new partnerships by redefining their roles. For one, extending the value proposition means that publishers can be purveyors of a paid subscription base that is made available to brands as participants in making the message. Media and message become united. Message and media finally merge in a way that makes business and cultural sense.    

What this may mean, by necessity, is the redefinition of how the paid print advertising model is architected as ‘earned media’ become currency. This is not to advocate a ‘freemium model’ – after all, you still only get what you pay for – rather a model that attributes a business value to user-generated content reflecting the effort and subsequent return of the medium.     

Those that see the opportunity will find the right tools for the job. New cloud applications are about to come out of the gate in such as way that makes the cost of entry low and the opens the door to test this new media paradigm.      

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia      

Beyond Brand: The Kawartha Dairy Company

The Kawartha Dairy Company, since 1937.

Yes, this is about ice cream. My favourites are strawberry, chocolate, butter pecan and french vanilla.  Here is French Vanilla: 

FRENCH VANILLA: ALL NATURAL. No artificial flavours or colours. Pure bourbon vanilla and eggs give that bold flavours and a sprinkling of vanilla seeds.

Kawartha Dairy has a website, several storefront locations and is distributed throughout Ontario, Canada and notably Metropolitan Toronto. The “Kawarthas” as they are known by, are located northwest of Toronto by about 100 miles. It is cottage country, rural. Lots of forests and lakes. It is also the home of Kawartha Dairy. Every time I eat Kawartha Dairy ice cream it reminds me of the years we spent at the cottage – family, friends, puppies, children. Ice cream that has always been a part of our lives.

No Facebook, no Twitter, no mobile apps, no need to check-in at their stores on FourSquare. All you really need is a scoop, a bowl, some wild blueberries maybe or fresh strawberries or perhaps even some Canadian maple (light amber #1)  syrup as occasional toppings.

Kawartha Dairy. The tastiest ice cream. Beyond a brand.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

Marketing Technology: Mobile People & Portable Brands

The idea of mobile communications is not something new, it’s just that things have progressed immensely since the days prior to the Internet and PDA devices.

What lies ahead is a huge opportunity for brands to get closer to their customers daily lives by  becoming integral to their cutomers’ processes. For me, the idea orignated when I was at IBM where self-serve technologies, such as the ATM and airline check-in kiosk were beginning to take hold. One of my colleagues quipped “Yes, it’s really about the customer saying to the brand ‘come into my process’ but I will remain in control of the transaction”.

This was compelling as it freed the customer not only from delays (lineups at the airport) but it suggested that the customer could transact when and where they pleased – on their own terms.

With mobile devices – PDA’s if you will, customer (and brands) can enjoy more freedom than ever before. No longer encumbered by a fixed location to transact, bank customers can now do their banking from wherever and whenever they choose. The same goes for those who travel by air, say, using Air Canada or Virgin Airways.

Mobile applications can and are being developed for many brand categories. Pharmaceutical apps can help patients with prescription continuance and information on disease states; automotive dealerships send service alerts so that maintenance schedules are adhered to; transit systems can notify passengers when the next bus is about to arrive at a stop.

At the end of the day, its about people who are mobile, devices that enable ‘anywhere computing’ and brands that are portable – the ultimate engagement & collaboration.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

MaaS Marketing the new Mass Marketing?

Is marketing now only about placing the order?

I have worked in a number of environments where marketing technologies have been at the centre of business transformation. I don’t mean to suggest that customer wants and needs were not a consideration. Rather, there was a tendency to undertake business tranformation in a way that was technology-led where the requirements of the client were the last consideration in defining the vision and implementation strategy.

Today, we have what appears to be an increased love affair with marketing appliances. What I mean is that there is an almost universal embracing of the latest piece of technical wizardry to hit the marketplace. When a new gadget hits the market it’s not just covered in a technology publication, it’s a major event that makes the front page of the daily news. On the consumer side, it’s been about various tablets, e-readers and smart phones. On the business side, it’s been about apps ranging from the latest in search tools for consumer-generated content, customer relationship management and licenced applications in general that provide augmented value through Internet access on demand known as SaaS – Software as a Service. Implicit here is the pervasive expansion of social networking platforms.

By no means am I suggesting a dislike for gadgets – I have plenty of them myself. It’s really about the illusion that using applications or appliances in and of themselves augment the value of a brand experience or address a complex business challenge. For example, having a website or microsite has little effect on consumer behavior if it does not enable something (or someone) and lead to an action or at best, a positive result. The same can be said for having a fan page on Facebook, opening a Twitter account or running banner ads on the Internet. Similarly, “ordering up” the latest in mobile applications might demonstrate that a marketing manager is taking an action but unless that application delivers value that the customer can see or experience, an enterprise is best to take the money, put it in the bank and let the interest payments flow to the bottom line.

We are a society that makes an increasing number of decisions based on data. Business goes to market with an array of marketing appliances. We all spend more time on the Internet. What we seem to be missing is the opportunity that technology should enable us to do and that is to have more time to create. What I mean is create new artforms in business – incorporating creative ideas that reflect an advancement of culture, art and intellectual enlightenment, something that seems to more of the past than in our future.

I was influenced early on in my career by Theodore Levitt. He wrote a book entitled  “The Marketing Imagination”. I was also influenced by Wally Olins, a practitioner of corporate identity and author of “The Corporate Personality”. Both books were about ideas, identity and shaping the corporate personna.

If we want to uncover opportunity in our own marketing futures, let’s take a turn toward the creation of ideas and not rely too much on appliances to do the work for us. That’s the difference between between having 15 seconds of fame in web-wide world and creating brands endure long after a marketing technology has reached the end of its lifecycle.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

Social Media is a Croc

There’s an awful lot of chit chat on social media networks about Apple’s latest product – the iPad. This is yet another successful product launch and continued revolution that Apple is leading in bringing new technology appliances to the consumer marketplace. It’s absolutely stunning that Apple doesn’t spend a cent on social media yet has garnered an enormous amount of publicity (admittedly good and bad) from people who just can’t help talking about Apple products on the social web. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why Apple doesn’t spend any money advertising on social networks – all of the publicity through Word-of-Mouth from those who desire, own and love to talk about Apple’s products is FREE anyway.

By the way, anyone who purchased Apple shares a few years ago would have made enough money to fund their iApple desires for the next decade…

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM