It's Official - Forbes Agency Council

I have officially accepted my invitation to join the Forbes Agency Council to share my marketing expertise and content with a larger audience.

I'll be writing primarily about entertainment marketing - celebrity activations, social media, event activations, and other entertainment related trends.  Each piece will provide some takeaways that can be applied to various brands and industries and shared via Forbes as a "Community Voice".

Forbes Councils' goal is for business professionals to "connect, collaborate, and grow" - and learn from each other.

So now I ask you to "Help Me Help You". (but seriously, help me out here)

What do YOU want me to write about? What do you want to learn from me?  

I'm in some pretty good company, so help me up my game and better serve my network!

Forbes Agency Council - Help Me Help You 2.0.png

Brand Spotlight: KFC on Twitter - "11 Herbs & Spices"

Know your brand. Win over the consumer.

For a little Friday fun, I checked, because I couldn't fathom a more perfect social play (ok, maybe I could--damn Oreo let me down with the Totality, but anyway...) and this post is 100% accurate. (Also checked, and it doesn't apply to their Instagram, only Twitter) KFC's account is following the 5 Spice Girls and 6 guys named Herb to live up to their tag line of "11 Herbs & Spices" for their famous secret fried chicken recipe. It also aligns perfectly with the brand's quirky personality.

This post is also up to 193k RTs and 409k Likes on Twitter and climbing (in less than 24 hours), with multiple users praising the social media manager and recommending they get a raise. It has also caught the attention of media outlets currently running the story. The guy behind the account (seemingly just a guy out of South Dakota with a few hundred followers) that 'cracked the code' that just blew our minds should get free KFC for life, and maybe KFC can setup a meet & greet for him to formally meet all 11 Herbs and Spices.

Bravo, KFC. BRAVO.

Brand Highlight: The Iconic OREO & their Marketing Mix

Oreo has been a brand on our radar since their "You can still dunk in the dark" social media win during Super Bowl XLVII. While we're not a fan of all the new flavors Oreo's Wonder Vault has released, from Oreo thins to candy bars, we love that Oreo is constantly reinventing their brand and trying new ways to spark conversation around their products.

Today, Oreo launched their #MyOreoCreation social media campaign with the help of celebrity endorser Ellie Kemper and a number of social media influencers. It's slightly reminiscent of the Lay's "Do Us a Flavor" campaign that is successful year over year. Social media contests are a great way to engage your current customer and keep your brand top of mind.

Oreo is more than a iconic cookie. Oreo has established itself as an industry leader and innovator, diversifying their marketing and advertising mix with social media contests and influencers, celebrity endorsements, product development, and more.

If you don't have an eye on Oreo already, start now. While entertainment marketing tactics are not "one size fits all", Oreo might inspire your next campaign.

And Oreo, one request...make this next flavor in MEGA STUF, please :)

http://bit.ly/2pYo5da

How The Zoe Report made Like2Buy a Social Media Solution for Original Content Sharing

The Like2Buy feature has been touted as the "missing link" finally making Instagram easily shoppable and a monetizing tool for brands. There is no doubt that this tool is helpful for brands and social media influencers alike, but there is one group I've noticed (not to say there aren't others) that is using this tool to drive traffic to their original content without constantly updating the clickable link in their bio. It's brilliant, clean, and well executed. Today on a call I referenced it as an example of a strategy that could work for another brand so I wanted to share it for those that haven't seen this workaround - This is a tactic other brands and publications could incorporate into their social media marketing strategies.

The Zoe Report is a lifestyle account curated by Rachel Zoe. They have utilized this tool not to shop (although I'm sure there are advertisements included and brand partners mentioned in their content), but to drive traffic to their original content on their website. It's not for every brand, but if your social media content is a tease to a larger story or educational content for your target consumer, this might be the social media solution for you.

Check it out - http://bit.ly/2qKwjEK

Calling all Cannabis Brands – 5 FAQs about Entertainment Opportunities

I’ve spoken with a countless number of cannabis brands since I founded my agency and while it’s still unclear what government agencies will decide when it comes to future regulations (state and national), with recreational marijuana being legalized in key states, the prohibition is over and the stigma is slowly being lifted from the cannabis industry.  The cannabis industry is about to BOOM.

Up until now, social media and cannabis industry-specific media outlets have been the primary platforms for brands to promote their products and/or services (aside from working directly with dispensaries and budtenders). Many cannabis brands have successfully leveraged niche lifestyle influencers through successful affiliate marketing programs with proven ROI. Those tactics are a great way to build a business and those programs will continue to grow, but it’s time to go a step above and really differentiate yourself. 

With the “stoner stigma” being lifted and the fact that cannabis will be legal on a national level (if the projections are accurate), the opportunity for any cannabis brand is about to grow exponentially. It’s not just about sales anymore, the conversation will turn to brand awareness and perception with the goal of reaching new demographics and creating new potential customers across the US and internationally.

So, what’s next?

·      How do you become top of mind?

·      How do you make your product a national brand? 

·      How do you pull away from the rest of the pack, in an already saturated market that continues to grow rapidly? 

·      How do you get ahead of the curve? 

·      How do you maintain your brand image and amplify it to a larger audience?

ANSWER: Entertainment is KING. Whether it’s a beach bum vibe or sophisticated creative mindset you’re trying to recreate, it’s all about how the consumer “experiences” your brand and there are entertainment partnerships to help your brand achieve your goals through branded content.  

Hollywood events, celebrities and influencers are looking for strategic partnerships in the cannabis category NOW.

FAQs

1.      How much for a celebrity to post on social media about our brand? And are they open to an affiliate program?

A.     The cost will vary by celebrity, based on social media reach, current project, and many other factors. Social media influencers, even with a large following, are almost always cheaper, but that is because there is value associated with being attached to a celebrity that has another platform outside of their social media.

I don’t generally recommend “social media post ONLY” campaigns, as they are more successful when they are linked to a larger campaign or piece of content. That being said, in terms of budget, there are few celebrities that will be willing to post for less than $5k per post - And many celebrities only want long-term engagements, not one-offs. Some may be open to an affiliate/% of revenue program as part of the deal, but celebrities will always require an upfront cash fee in addition the % of revenue. 100% revenue based deals are not an option when dealing with this level of talent.

2.      Are music festivals open to cannabis-related sponsorships/integrations?

A.     Yes. Activation details and budgets vary per music festival and type of associated event. (Coachella and Stagecoach are both open!!)

3.      What other opportunities are available for cannabis brands?

A.     Approval for cannabis brands is still a case by case basis, but the following are all open for discussions:

· Celebrity Event Appearance

· Celebrity Licensed Product Line/Celebrity Endorsement

· Music Video Integration

· Music Tour Sponsorship

· Private Party Sponsor (Malibu Beach House, Celebrity-Hosted Music Festival Parties)

· Event Sponsorships (Customized per Event)

· Gift Lounges

· Branded Integration – Web Series or Horror Film

· And more…sky is the limit.

4.      What kind of budgets do we need?

A.     Budgets are flexible and negotiable. Generally we can find something for every budget, but please refer to the “New Year, NEW BUDGET” blog for more budget and asset details.

5.      We’ve been approached for gift bag sponsorship opportunities. Should we do it, is it a good idea?

A.     NO. NEVER. Save your product and marketing budget for something with a larger ROI.

Final Thought: There is no limit to creativity. Brands, celebrities, productions, and events are all open to suggestions and ideas to a degree. It will come down to the final details of the activation and budget to see if it can become a reality.

Marketers: Don't rule out the Pro Bowl next year - Social Media WINS the 2017 NFL Pro Bowl!

“IT’S GOOD!”

This past weekend the NFL hosted their 2017 Pro Bowl and associated events, where the top NFL players compete in a friendly all-star game before the season has its grand finale the following weekend.  I personally don’t know anyone that has tuned into the Pro Bowl or paid particular attention to the surrounding events in the past.  The game itself has no impact on the season and the actual Pro Bowl game itself had lower ratings than previous years. So what was different this year that made the Pro Bowl activities buzzworthy and potentially a stronger strategic partner for brands in the future?

EVERYTHING.

Ok, maybe not everything, but last weekend the “No Fun League” was FUN.  In fact, it was all about fun and sharing that spirit with fans through social media.  Here are a few reasons why this year’s Pro Bowl was a win-win for participating brands and players alike:

1)    LOCATION: Initially you may think “what does that have to do with anything?”, but in a world that gets their news, current events, and celebrity content through social media – the timing of shared content is key. 

In past years, the Pro Bowl was held in Hawaii, and (for those teams recently eliminated) some players might have considered it their first vacation of the off-season.  I’m sure the players loved it, and who could blame them? But Hawaii is 2 hours behind the west coast and 5 hours behind the east coast.  “LIVE” content could easily be missed by a majority of NFL fans in the contiguous United States, not to mention our newly discovered international fans in Houston, Scotland which is 10 hours ahead of Hawaii (Thank you, Skittles and Beastmode!)!

The NFL, brand partners, players, and other media outlets were able to share content in real-time with their audience and engagement was HIGH!

2)    SOCIAL MEDIA: Speaking of social media – HOLY CONTENT!  As an avid NFL and football fan who admittedly, has never followed the Pro Bowl, I was astonished by the quantity and quality of original and engaging content shared on social media.

ESPN, @NFL, team accounts, and others, were constantly posting original content and reposting players’ content.  Considering the NFL was infamously dubbed “The No Fun League” (and arguably deserving of the nickname) by The Seattle Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman, events like the “Drone Drop” and NFC/AFC Dodgeball looked pretty damn fun and kept fans checking in to see what was going on.  There was so much content accessible via social media between the league, media and brand partners, and players, it was hard to miss the Pro Bowl coverage last week. 

The Pro Bowl got a social media face lift this year and effectively leveraged NFL, media, brand, and player accounts to evoke emotions and engage with their fans.

And PS. It looked like Richard Sherman had some fun with his teammates and family,too: http://bit.ly/2k5BuPu

3)    PLAYER PERSONALITIES: Every season there are players that make a name for themselves – good and bad.  Maybe they had a breakout season, maybe they had their worst yet.  Maybe they talked the talk more than they walked the walk.  Or maybe they got in a fight with sideline equipment that ultimately got the last laugh (**cough, OBJ, cough**)?  

The Pro Bowl is another opportunity for players to engage with their fans, show their personalities, and hopefully attract even more fans!  Players shared video and pictures of their experience, from New York Giants’ Wide Receiver OBJ nailing the “Drone Drop” skills event and dancing with the Colts mascot, Blue, to Cincinnati’s Quarterback Andy Dalton playing along the sidelines with his son, to Richard Sherman taking his kids to Disney World’s Animal Kingdom. 

When players’ personalities are showcased they have the opportunity to earn fans, build a personal brand, and attract future brand partners.  It also encourages fans to follow their favorite players, team, and tune in for the following season.

What brands and marketers can learn from the Pro Bowl:

·       Use social media to evoke emotions and engage with your audience

·       Change can be good – New circumstances can mean new opportunities.

·       Be relevant – Try new technology or trends that appeal to your target demographic

·       Have some fun with it – Try things, experiment.  No one wants to be compared to the No Fun League.

 

What can players learn from the Pro Bowl:

·       Leverage additional exposure and platforms to create a brand for yourself – You won’t be able to “ball” forever

·       Be human – So you’re a machine on the field, but off the field be relatable.  It will go a long way with fans and potential brand partners.

 

What can the NFL learn from the Pro Bowl:

·       Let those touchdown celebrations go, let there be dance!

 

Brand Spotlight – What we can learn from Protein World’s campaign with Khloe Kardashian

Let’s get something out of the way upfront - Protein World is arguably my favorite brand based on their marketing campaigns and fresh tone shared through their social media accounts.  I also use their products – they are effective and yummy!  I have recommended this brand to many of my friends and family, and while I normally shy away from highlighting brands I have a personal connection to, they are a great example of a brand that is executing successful marketing and advertising campaign.  We can all benefit from that. 

I’ve been following this UK-based health & wellness brand for a couple years now and they’ve just hit a homerun with a “Go Big or Go Home” campaign that not only puts them on the map in a saturated industry, but is in line with the same fierce brand personality their existing fan base has grown to love.

#TBT to Protein World’s bold 2015 “Are You Beach Body Ready?” advertising campaign.  The brand received international attention (mostly a lot of heat) for using a sexy model in a bright yellow bikini in their ads promoting their weight loss program.  Body shaming and how women are objectified by society is a hot button – now more than ever.  Every brand is wary of the trolls just waiting for a misstep, so they are extremely careful when it comes to any mention (or criticism) of the female shape.  And when critics ripped into Protein World, instead of cowering down, apologizing, and having their ads pulled, Protein World stood tall and strong behind their brand messaging.  In some cases, their responses flat out mocked their “haters” and celebrated the record-breaking sales brought on by all the publicity! 

Protein World promotes a healthy and active lifestyle, nutrition supplements that support that goal, and leverages influencers to share their message through social media.  They have loyal fans and haters alike.  Protein World is also a fierce and fearless brand that can talk-the-talk AND walk-the-walk.  So when it came to their “New Year, New You” campaign promoting their 30 Day Challenge, who better to represent their brand and voice than a public figure that faces that same type of love/hate on a daily basis – Khloe Kardashian.

Whether you love or hate the Kardashians, you cannot deny their success.  Through family scandals, breakups, and media frenzies, Khloe has reinvented her mind, body, and soul since she first entered the Hollywood spotlight.  I could give you a slew of reasons about why Khloe Kardashian and Protein World are a perfect pairing and why this campaign will be a success (the website basically crashed during the campaign launch!), but let’s highlight one overarching theme demonstrated by this successful campaign and many others: 

COMMITMENT. 

In order to have a successful campaign, a brand must COMMIT

to their Voice, Influencers, & Messaging.

Brand Voice & Tone – Protein World has demonstrated strong conviction through their engagement on social media and public statements for C-level executives.  They are confident and consistent with their voice and tone, which indirectly instills confidence within their core consumer about the quality of their product. 

Lesson: Find your voice and stick with it.  If you vary in tone and messaging, your content will not resonate with your consumer – in fact, it will turn them off entirely.  Commit and stick to the script.

Influencer Partnership(s) – Protein World works with numerous influencers and now, most notably, Khloe Kardashian.  They will now reach a wider demographic than with previous partnerships due to her overall reach, international appeal, and younger following.  Her fearless and witty personality, and occasional “clap-back” retorts to heat from the press or fans, aligns with Protein World’s “not backing down” stance and tone.  They have secured Kardashian for 6 months for this particular campaign, which will include countless social media posts from Kardashian, media coverage, and additional assets that will be hard to miss within that timeframe. 

Lesson: Identify influencers that reach your target consumer and match the brand’s lifestyle and tone.  Consumers will not only sense a disingenuous relationship with influencers, they will also notice if the influencers’ tones change within the branded content.  Don’t fall for the “firework effect” and expect an overnight ROI.  These campaigns take multiple posts and time to see the full impact.  Commit to your influencers for a longer engagement to maximize the impact with their fan base.

Campaign Themes & Messaging – Protein World is known for their sass, crisp branding & marketing, and influencer marketing tactics.  This has been consistent throughout their campaigns and has grown over time as the brand matures and continues to expand.

Lesson: A brand’s overall voice and tone shouldn’t vary too much from campaign to campaign, but strengthen and evolve with the brand.  That being said, the individual campaign themes and messaging may diverge - sometimes you have to shake things up!  Regardless of the campaign theme, commit to the associated messaging, tactics, and platforms to maximize the impact.  Campaigns can be short term, but invest and commit to each and every campaign to maximize the reach, impact, and overall ROI.

 

3 Influencer Marketing Statistics You Need to Know for 2017

With 2016 winding down, here are some statistics about a marketing tactic that’s expected to nearly double in 2017 and should be incorporated into every brand’s marketing mix:

Influencer Marketing.

The Why:

Entertainment is King!  Branded content held the throne for long enough, but if the content isn’t entertaining it will be dismissed by the viewer.  Consumers, especially millennials, hate being marketed to so baking your brand messaging into a piece of entertaining content has become imperative for future successful campaigns.  Influencers create unique and authentic content that increases reach, recognition amongst consumers, and most importantly – It entertains their fan base while sharing your brand messaging, driving engagement, and increasing traffic to the brand’s social media pages, website and/or landing pages.  The most successful influencer campaigns allow for the talent to put their personality into the content, which allows for an organic and authentic campaign that engages your target demographic. 

3 Influencer Marketing Statistics You Need to Know for 2017*:

1.       94% of marketers find influencer marketing to be an effective strategy

2.       78% of marketers say proving ROI will be their #1 hurdle in 2017 (so nothing’s changed here!)

3.       2016 Average Budget per Influencer Campaign: $25k - $50k**

**Influencer marketing budgets are set to DOUBLE in 2017.

STILETTO specializes in entertainment and influencer partnerships.  Contact STILETTO to build your next successful marketing campaign.

 

 

*Data sourced by Linqia, via Adweek.

Week Weed PDX 2016 - 8 Hot Topics

In my professional career, I’ve attended conferences and trade shows across all sorts of brand categories: fitness & health/nutrition, tech, outdoor recreation, consumer food & beverage - you name it, I’ve probably been there!  This past week I attended Weed Week PDX 2016, which is a cannabis industry event where professionals specializing in each aspect of the business get together to share best practices & innovations, industry trends, and network.  While in many ways, the programming was very much like your traditional industry conference, the discussions I participated in allowed me to take a step back to more fully understand how the industry currently functions and see where the industry is headed.

The cannabis industry is in a state of transition and innovation, and on the verge of a big boom with recreational marijuana being legalized in a number of big markets this past election.  In sessions, I spent most of the time listening – listening to the questions of consumer brands, growers, retail owners/operators, etc.  I glanced at the notes of those sitting around me to see what their big takeaways were.  From very green to branding experts, it was clear that with the cannabis industry is still finding its legs to some degree.  Trial and error will be the game for a bit, but the good news is that at this stage there is room for experimentation. 

Here are the top 8 topics of discussion that were of most interest to the contacts I met at Weed Week PDX 2016:  (Please note: Budgets outlined are not quoted by STILETTO, but by other cannabis industry leaders)

·       80:20 Rule (Sales): Highly saturated market with more and more products entering the market, while 80% of the sales are from 20% of the available product.

·       Relationship-Oriented Business: Sales are heavily reliant on the relationships with Budtenders, and the Budtenders’ recommendations to consumers.  Will this shift as the industry grows and brands begin marketing directly to the consumer and if so, how do brand effectively market?  Answer - Yes, but the importance of Budtenders will still be a top priority.  Social Media and PR will play a large role in reaching existing and new consumers.

·       Social Media: Social media is a huge opportunity as it is less regulated and accessible to everyone, but has also created some hurdles since cannabis has been a controversial product in the past (and sometimes, still is). 

o   Brands also have difficulty allocating time to a process that doesn’t have a “proven” ROI in terms of sales or driving foot traffic.

·       Influencers (Digital, Social Media, & Celebrity): Playing a larger part in marketing cannabis than ever, and expected to increase along with the expansion of the industry

·       Consumer & Industry Data: There are services that can provide real-time analytics, such as Headset, there is very little consumer data available since transactions are conducted in cash and few consumers sign up for a “subscription” or “frequent shopper” program. 

o   Current Stats Include*:

- Average $ per Transaction: $33

- Male/Female Purchaser – 2:1 Ratio

- Average Consumer Spend per Year: $1k - $2.5k

- Average Age of Consumer: 37

*Data provided by Headset

·       Cannabis Media/News Outlets & PR: Top Content that is Featured

o   Promoting an industry event

o   Content Marketing - Focus on educating the reader versus selling the product – If the product is innovative, especially in the medical arena or reaching a new demographic, focus on that aspect.  If it feels like an ad, it won’t be included in their content

o   LOVE research/data-driven content – There is a lack of data in the industry, so independent studies that carry weight are likely to be shared.

·       Branding: How important is branding? Answer: VERY. 

o   Investing early in branding materials that align with your brand and price point will help your products stand out in a saturated market, increase Budtender recommendation, and save you from a re-brand after your product is already established and recognized by your consumer.

o   Branding Budget: OMD Agency recommended a minimum budget of $25k for comprehensive branding.

·       Marketing Budget: Recommended Marketing Budget - $3k/mo Minimum*

*May vary by product category and medium/platform.  Also, dependent on tactics utilized (influencers, etc.).

In addition to the above information, in the Day 1 recap, we touched on many marketing tactics that will be leveraged as brands further develop their marketing campaigns and expand their consumer base.

STILETTO will develop and execute marketing strategies that maximize the impact of your budget, as well as secure strategic brand partnerships and PR.

Please contact STILETTO directly for a free consultation to discuss marketing strategies to differentiate your brand.

Day 1 @ Weed Week PDX 2016 - Make Your Brand Top-Of-Mind

It's fair to say I never thought that my professional career would bring me here: Weed Week PDX 2016. That's right, there are cannabis conferences and they are awesome.  And no, they aren't super laid back and no, the attendees and presenters are not high.  Recreational marijuana is a business, and a very lucrative one that is growing rapidly.  While the attire of attendees and presenters may range from grunge to business professional, everyone is on a mission to grow their business. Very much a "work hard, play harder (or higher)" atmosphere, there will be some product sampling as part of the conference experience.

While there are sessions focused on product trends, legal guidance, industry best practices, etc., for all parts of the cannabis trade, there is one question that has been brought up in nearly every session: "What about that marketing plan?"  As more states legalize marijuana for recreational use, how will that change how these products are marketed, sold and distributed?  How is the industry changing and what does the future look like?

Truth is, it's somewhat the "Wild West" right now since individual states have their own restrictions and regulations.  However, there will be a shift with many brands marketing directly to consumers versus the retail locations themselves.  

Yesterday, Cy Scott, Co-Founder of Headset, a real-time data platform specifically for the cannabis industry, shared that the 80:20 principle also applies to marijuana sales.  If you're not familiar, this means 80% of the purchases are from 20% of the available products on the market today.  If you've been to Uncle Ike's or any other retail location, you know there's an overwhelming selection of products in all categories (flower, vape, topical, edible, beverage, etc.).  

With that in mind, a number of growers, consumer brands, and retail locations have asked how to differentiate themselves before the cannabis bubble bursts.  How do they stand out and continue to grow their business as more and more products and locations hit the scene?

As with many industries, relationships are key and the recreational marijuana market heavily relies on the "Budtenders" to educate the customer and make appropriate product recommendations based on the desired effect.  Budtenders are incredibly knowledgeable about the products, what's new and worth a try, and often times are responsible for establishing brand loyalty with the consumer.  But as more and more products hit the market, will the cannabis industry follow in the footsteps of the pharmaceutical industry which transitioned from physician recommendation to the advertising tagline: "Ask your doctor about (insert brand here)..."? 

My Prediction: The next wave of recreational marijuana consumers will ask for products by name.  (NOTE: The Budtenders' opinions and recommendations will still be valuable, but the "guinea pig" new consumer will be curious to try products based on how they are marketed.)

How do you make your brand top-of-mind?

Here are some suggestions highlighted during Day 1 at Weed Week PDX 2016, with STILETTO's recommendations baked in, on how to achieve your marketing and branding goals so your product is top-of-mind for consumers (which can also be applied to nearly every other business):

  • Brand Creative Brief
    • Define your brand's core competencies and identify your target consumer
    • This will determine the direction for branding and all facets of your marketing/advertising campaigns
  • Branding 
    • Invest in high quality branding and packaging
      • This will not only appeal to your consumer, but the Budtenders and retail locations are more likely to promote a polished brand
      • Use a creative agency that is familiar with the industry to make packaging and design recommendations, which may also expedite the production process
  • Social Media Marketing
    • Social media platforms are currently the most flexible and least restricted marketing mediums
    • Develop a social media plan with multiple content buckets
    • Identify where your target consumers are spending time and reviewing content (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.), then prioritize accordingly.
    • Leverage your branding and creative brief to determine the tone of your social media content
  • Digital, Social Media, and Celebrity Influencers
    • Mix it up: Industry-specific influencers to maintain your current customer base and target consumers most likely to be in a "buying stage", but also broaden your reach by working with similar lifestyle influencers that can attract NEW consumers
    • Identify appropriate influencers and analyze their audience demographic and engagement 
  • Content Marketing
    • "Content is King" - It's not just content, it must also entertain.  Whether it's on social media or another medium, consumers know when they are being marketed to so be sure entertain them to earn their business and remain top-of-mind.
    • Make sure the content is in-line with your brand and current strategy
  • Entertainment-based Content Marketing* (which will become more widespread once recreational marijuana is legal nationwide)
    • Event Sponsorships - Similar to alcohol, event sponsorships offer excellent PR & media coverage, social media assets, interaction with talent and influencers, and provide the unique opportunity to reach consumers and influencers through experiential onsite activation and sampling.   
    • Music Video Integration - Again, similar to alcohol and e-cigs, this is a less expensive method to reach millions of potential customers and receive an "implied endorsement" from top celebrity talent.  Exposure and usage is agreed upon prior to production to make sure your brand messaging is shared with the viewer.

*Depending on other brands participating, this could also increase your brand's reach and value in terms of association with other recognizable brands.

STILETTO can assist with each of these components to ensure your brand receives maximum exposure with each activation.

Stay tuned for a recap of Day 2 and feel free to reach out to STILETTO directly with questions.

"Will you go out with me?" #OptOutside

That’s one of the slogans from this year’s edition of REI’s absolutely BRILLIANT #OptOutside marketing campaign that is returning for its 2nd year and is on course to become its own Thanksgiving holiday tradition … right up there with turkey, pumpkin pie, and a good ol’ fashioned turkey bowl.

If you somehow missed all the buzz around this award-winning campaign (literally, won nearly every marketing award this year), here are the details of the original 2015 REI #OptOutside campaign that shocked the marketing and retail world:

  • REI closed all off their retail locations on Black Friday, the unofficial national holiday for retail stores (approximately 143 locations)
  • Gives a paid day off to all of their employees (approximately 12,000 employees)
  • The REI.com site featured a takeover screen encouraging visitors to #OptOutside, rather than big online sales
  • Goal: Instead of waiting in line and fighting with other shoppers over the last sleeping bag, #OptOutside – camp, hike, whatever it is you want to do … do it in the great outdoors.

This year, it’s bigger and better.  Approximately 275 local and national partners are participating this year.  Partners range from nonprofits and national parks to big corporations.  For example, Subaru will be donating a fleet of cars for New Yorkers to take their dogs and/or shelter dogs out into nature, Google is working with REI to support outdoor activity-focused nonprofits in Seattle and Austin, and numerous outdoor apparel and equipment brands will also promote the #OptOutside mission to reclaim Black Friday.  In addition, REI launched an outdoor activity finder to find nearby hiking trails, share pictures with fellow “outsiders”, and connect with nonprofits for continued interest in supporting the outdoors and outdoor recreation. 

The campaign is beautiful and genius for so many reasons, but as marketers there are a few takeaways we all can be reminded of from time to time.

1.       Know thy consumer – And empathize.

REI CEO, Jerry Stritzke, was quoted, "As a nation we're still spending over 90 percent of our lives indoors and it's a trend we need to tackle.”

OMG.  90% can’t be right (as I sit here realizing I was outside for a grand total of 1 hour today for a run)?!?  Just another reason we should all #OptOutside.

But it isn’t just about dropping mind-boggling stats like the above, it’s about understanding your consumer and their behavior.  REI is not known for huge discounts or blowout sales, but they have a very niche consumer that spends big dollars on apparel and equipment to enjoy the great outdoors.  While a sale here and there is appreciated by any customer, theirs isn’t planning on using that tent to camp outside waiting for their doors to open at 12am after a Thanksgiving feast.  They would much rather spend their Black Friday camping, hiking, rock climbing, or whatever it may be to explore while also working off that 2nd slice of pie.  It’s a passion, but also an activity that requires time to enjoy … and perhaps some high-quality gear from a retailer who shares your passion.

At the end of the day, consumers are people – and so are marketers!  Act like it.  Think, feel, and be human.  This campaign focuses on the values of their customer and employees, proves that REI “gets it” and is willing to sacrifice sales for the betterment of their community (albeit they are receiving positive and free press, but still!).  Brands that demonstrate that they share the same values and feelings as their customers will also have the most loyal customers.

Want to know what REI customers and employees are thankful for this Thanksgiving? Another day they can spend outdoors.

2.       Remember, and stay true to, the brand’s mission.

Fun Fact: REI was founded by a group of mountaineers.  REI’s overview is essentially a mission statement and commitment to their consumer, as well as the great outdoors.  “REI is a national outdoor retail co-op dedicated to inspiring, educating and outfitting its members and the community for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship…We are passionate about the outdoors and committed to promoting environmental stewardship and increasing access to outdoor recreation through volunteerism, gear donations and financial contributions.”

It’s one thing to provide a service, it’s another to declare a passion.  All mission statements include a core purpose.  REI’s mission is to live and breathe the outdoors through their actions and service, and while they are a business that has a “bottom line” like any other, this campaign shows they understand their consumer and share the same passions. 

Because this campaign is so “on brand” for REI, it doesn’t feel like a PR stunt.  While they are getting a ton of free press, it’s been received as genuine and inspirational.  Customers know when they are being marketed to so it’s imperative brands understand how their voice comes across to the consumer so their campaigns are heard as friendly invitations to indulge in a passion.

3.       Communicate

Marketing is really a conversation between the brand and the consumer.  You have to listen to the audience to know what they like, feel, want, need, etc.  REI’s campaign includes a social component and allows participants to share their #OptOutside plans and pictures with others.  Not only are they servicing their customers’ needs, but they are also collecting data and consumer insights through this engagement.

The more you communicate, share, and have an open dialogue with your audience, the more you will learn about their needs so you can better service them now and in the future. 

4.       Timing

Black Friday is a great opportunity for REI to set itself apart from major retail chains and make an impact with their customers, but that campaign wouldn’t make sense for all brands.  Black Friday may not be a day your customers purchase your product or visit your store and you don’t need to close your doors to appeal to your consumers’ inner desires. 

Try to identify opportunities where you can make the most impact and create a campaign that resonates with your target audience, tap into what they really want when they purchase your product, and evoke emotion.  These can be small or large campaigns targeting niche or broad groups, but if they are speaking to the heart of the consumer they will prove effective and impactful.

Many brands carry the same messaging throughout the year with few seasonal themes and sales spikes.  Brands that are present, aware, and listening to what’s currently on the customers’ minds can mobilize and leverage social media for quick activations. 

There are a few brands doing this really well in the Seattle area, but one that comes to mind is Cupcake Royale – If you follow them on Instagram (which I highly recommend), whether it’s Pride, football season, or #NationalIceCreamDay, they are constantly monitoring their consumers conversation to see “what’s hot” or “trending” and deliver seemingly-impromptu social media specials that lead to long lines of eager costumers.  While cupcakes, ice cream, and donuts aren’t always the answer, Cupcake Royale is developing a relationship with their consumers by showing their understanding and support whether celebrating or mourning.  They also share images of their fans living the experience of their campaigns – from waiting in line, to when they finally get that luscious cupcake in their hands, to that first heavenly bite.  They have tapped into the emotions of their consumer and it pays off “Royaley” (Sorry, I had to.).

Using the above as an example, there is likely an untapped special time or event for every brand’s audience.  How does the brand build and demonstrate empathy while fueling the passion during those special times?  Dive in, engage and communicate with consumers.  Once you identify the opportunity, the next steps of planning and activation will become more clear.

#OptOutside is reminding us of the basics.  It doesn’t have to be a big nation-wide campaign to strike a chord and have a positive impact with a consumer base.  “The basics” can be implemented on all social media platforms for quick and cost-effective activations.  Whether it’s on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or another social media platform, your brand can leverage those platforms to demonstrate and build empathy by being present and listening to the consumer voice.

Back to the basics.

Happy Thanksgiving, be thankful.  And #OptOutside this Black Friday - Cyber Monday is way better anyway :)

 

 

5 Mistakes Brands Must Avoid with Influencer Campaigns

As with any project, things are overlooked and fall through the cracks during the implementation process, but below are 5 easily avoidable mistakes that are all-too-common. Also, here are a few tips to ensure your influencer campaigns will stay on track and achieve (and exceed!) the desired result.  Influencer campaigns not only yield great results, but they're also fun and often provide great content that can be picked up for additional press and PR.

1.      Not Defining the Goals & Relevant KPIs in Advance

Too often brands don’t determine the campaign goals and KPIs before an influencer activation. They get excited about the activation and work on the other details, but don’t outline where the bar is set for success. There are 2 problems with not documenting these specifics in advance. 

a.      How do you determine if the campaign was a success if you don’t know what to measure? You can read analytics reports, track sales and website hits all day, but without a set target it becomes more difficult to determine which campaigns are more successful and what components of each were most effective and should be utilized for future programs.  

Side Note: This also allows you to fairly compare campaigns against each other when establishing and allocating budgets. If the metrics are available you can more easily evaluate where you can get the most bang for your buck.   

b.      By setting the goals and KPIs in advance, the campaign scope and direction will remain intact. Is the campaign’s focus to increase overall brand awareness or are you targeting a niche consumer base within your industry? Is the goal to drive consumers to your website or to build a social following? There are many questions to be answered when building a campaign, but when all the components are outlined in advance the brand messaging will be concise and consistent, the influencers will be identified and secured with those goals in mind, and the campaign will be more successful as a result.

TIP: Be specific with your goals and be sure to put measurement mechanisms in place so you can track each component and course correct mid-campaign if necessary.

2.      Not Identifying the Correct Platforms

Where is your target audience?Who is your target demographic?  Old, young?  Male, Female? Is your product more of an impulse purchase or does it require a bit more education before a consumer buys in? The answers to questions like these may uncover that specific platforms are better for reaching and engaging your consumer. And remember, you don’t have focus on all platforms.  Snapchat and Instagram Stories, while newer and more “hip”, but is your audience engaging on those platforms and will those platforms help you hit your goals?

This will also dictate the influencer chosen to drive the campaign. Before selecting an influencer, you need to identify where your audience is finding information about your product and where they engage with their friends, family, and other brands. Choose an influencer that aligns in those areas. An influencer’s voice and audience can vary based on the platform.  The type of content (video, boomerang, static image, etc.) created may also vary based on the preferred platforms.

TIP: Ask for detailed information about the influencer’s audience and engagement rate on each platform before including them in the campaign. Available details will vary by platform.

3.      Handcuffing the Talent

The influencers have proven themselves capable of creating unique content that the consumer genuinely enjoys and actively engages with on a regular basis. It is fair to request certain brand message points to be included or share inside knowledge of what has been “successful” in the past, but DO NOT handcuff the talent by taking away their creative control and voice. Share what has worked in the past and what has not, but no one has a better sense for the community than the person who built it and engages with it on a daily basis.

While the brand should always have final approval on content and copy to go live, the branded content should still entertain and feel authentic to the influencer's audience.  If not, the engagement and overall success will be compromised. 

TIP:  It’s ok to take a risk and let the influencer put their spin on the brand messaging and content. While the brand is an expert in their field, the influencer is the expert when it comes to their audience.  

4.      Limiting your Impact with Short Term Engagements

Unless there is a particular event or a firm expiration date for a campaign, most are successful if there are repeated engagements so the audience can build a relationship with the brand.  It also reinforces the authenticity and organic relationship between the brand and the influencer.

On the flip side, don’t overdo it.  The consumer can sense when a product is being forced on them. Too many posts or really heavy content will lead to decreased engagement and potentially negative feedback.

TIP:  Add in the option to renew or extend an engagement based on the success of the initial campaign.

5.      Focusing on Impressions versus Engagement. 

Don’t be lured in by a large following. Weigh your options.

Sometimes the influencer with the smaller follower has a more niche audience and perhaps a stronger influence over their following. Impressions matter, but engagement is key and much more valuable. 

TIP:  Consider the influencer with smaller followings and niche focus areas. Engagement on smaller accounts is often higher due to the follower feeling they have more of a “voice” within the community.

Now you're ready!

There are many ways you can work with an influencer and when executed correctly can yield big results. Get creative, take a risk or two. Start small or big, there is no reason to not dabble in the influencer-driven campaign space!

Feel free to reach out to me directly for questions and assistance!