Lessons Learned from 2013 Super Bowl Ads

The twitpic heard 'round the world. Image: Oreo.

Now that you've had a little time to absorb an 108-yard touchdown and a 34-minute power outage, let's take another look at all of those insane 2013 Super Bowl ads. I want to talk to you about what we, as stewards of (slightly) smaller brands can learn. We probably won't have 3.8 million to spend on a 30-minute spot anytime soon, but there are some good lessons nonetheless.

1) Tell a great story, but connect it to something related. Commercials from Jeep (agency: GlobalHue) and Dodge (agency: The Richards Group) told great stories, with high quality imagery and emotionally gripping content. Unfortunately, at the end of a heart-wrenching story about how much we want those in our military to come home safe, we're pitched a sport utility vehicle, rather than, say, a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project. The Dodge commercial had the same issue. We're called upon to stop taking farmers for granted and to realize the true value of American agriculture, and just when we're moved to support our local 4H or CSA, we're sold a pickup truck.

2) If you truly have the connection, then capitalize on that. Don't be theoretical about it. These ads got high ratings (though they aren't generating a lot of vehicle purchase consideration), but the retired service members who were at the Super Bowl party I went to felt manipulated and felt the tie-ins to Dodge and Jeep were inappropriate. The worst part is that Dodge and Jeep are big supporters of Future Farmers of America and the USO, respectively. But they were unable to make the most of these connections in their ads because they didn't effectively explain (at least not to the folks at my party) what was going on with these partnerships. There was a Jeep/USO logo at the end of the Jeep ad, but my fellow partygoers were so turned off by the ad that they weren't paying attention. The Dodge ad never seems to mention FFA.  How do you think these ads would have been received if they'd opened with each brand explaining how and why it supported its partner non-profit? Don't assume that your audience knows everything about your brand. 

3) Make the most of the moment. Marketers like us have heard a lot this week about Oreo's timely tweet in the midst of the Super Bowl power outage. How did they do it? They put together a war room of everyone involved in their campaign (designers, writers, creative directors, Oreo's own brand messengers, etc.) so that they could get content created, approved, and published in record time. At smaller organizations, we aren't going to have such complex structures, but we can take a lesson from this: Think about opportunities you might have this year to capitalize on events in real time, and figure out who would  need to be in the room if you wanted to turn on a dime like Oreo.

What did you think about this year's Super Bowl ads? More backward sexism and cultural stereotyping than last year, or less? Better music and dancing? Cuter baby animals? Let me know which ones you liked and which ones made you wanna go "meh."

What Mobile Means to Your Marketing in 2013

It's time to get out of denial.

Image: Social Media HQ on Flickr.
You can't look the other way any longer. A new study by Experian finds that 44% of email opens happen on mobile devices. At the same time, eMarketer predicts that US consumers will spend $37.44 billion on mobile shopping in 2013. Mobile seems expensive and overwhelming. Your marketing budget's already stretched to the limit. What's a small operation to do?

1) Visit your web site from your mobile device, and your friends' mobile devices. Do you have to do a  lot of zooming in and out? Are the links too small to click? Is data that might be critical for mobile users (like your location and hours) easy to find? What's the difference between the phone and tablet experience?

This is called "responsive design" and even though your budget's stretched, it's critical that your site can respond to whatever device is using it. Otherwise, you may be turning your audience away at the door. Decide which elements aren't working for mobile users of your web site, and then invest in a web designer who can fix this for you. Make sure to find a specialist in responsive design. You'll want to incorporate easy clicking, quick loading, and simple navigation.

2) Don't just visit your web site, try buying something, making a donation, signing up for email, account login, and any other transactional functions from your phone and tablet. Note what's kludgey and what works well. Have your responsive design pro fix the kludgey parts. Does your purchase process take three or four screens? This is too many anyway - now's a good time to reduce that to one screen, no matter what device folks are using.

3) Figure out what mobile apps already exist that can help you. Are you on Facebook and Twitter, where lots of people surf while on their mobile devices? Are you on Yelp and other local review sites? Have you thought about selling your products on Amazon or other shopping sites? Can people check into your store on apps like Foursquare? If you're a non-profit, have you investigated Facebook Causes or worked with mobile providers to make text donations easy?

4) Then, and only then, consider whether or not you need to go the expense of having someone develop a mobile app for you. What will you do with it? How will it support lead generation, sales, or donations? On which devices will it be available? How will it leverage your brand? You may not even need a mobile app. Making your web site mobile-friendly is far, far more important.

Is mobile marketing giving you hives? Share your angst in the comments.

2013 Marketing Trends

What are your 2013 marketing resolutions?

There are a few things I'd recommend you do this year to make sure your marketing does what you need it to. Some ideas:

1) Make a plan. What are your business goals this year? Is there a level of growth you need to achieve? Are you opening new channels or locations? Are you launching new products? You should map your marketing plan to your overall business plan for 2013. Then, you'll be marketing intentionally and you'll see better results. This will also help you to discard tactics that don't support your business goals.

Plan. From Flickr user J'Roo.
2) Keep mobile in mind. Mobile marketing isn't going away - more of your customers will be looking at your web site or reading your emails from mobile devices than ever. In fact, more than 8 in 10 smartphone owners surveyed used their smartphones to research and browse for products for their recent holiday shopping.

Your takeaway? Remember, you may not need to spend lots of money developing your own mobile app, but you should make sure your web site and your emails are readable and clickable on a variety of devices. With so many people using touchscreens today, think about how you can make links more accessible. Also, can you make mobile buying easier with one-click buying?

3) Customize whenever you can. Are you still sending out identical non-personalized blast emails to your customers and prospects? How are they doing? There's a lot of good reasons to use dynamic content to personalize your messaging - customers want to know that you know who they are  and what they like. If you can help make their next purchase a little easier, everyone benefits. Also, by respecting prospects and meeting them where they are, you can get them ready for purchase in a way that feels more like a dialogue and less like a command to buy.

What are your 2013 marketing resolutions? Unsure how to get there? Let me know, I can help.

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How to Deal with Your Competition

Make the case that customers should buy from you and no one else.

My curiosity has been piqued lately by Bing's "Scroogled" campaign. The premise is that if you're using the Google Shopping product, you're now seeing paid search results, and the advertisers who bid the most come out on top. Vendors who don't pay to participate aren't listed at all, even though they might have a better price or be a better match to your search query. Bing, however, doesn't use paid shopping results, giving you more options to find what you want at the price that works for you.

Bing is doing a great job of directly addressing the competition here. They've drawn attention to an important but oft-forgotten weakness of Google, and shown how their product has strength in this area.

Your Takeaway

As you strategize for 2013, think about your competition. You've researched them and you know more about them than anyone else. What do you wish your customers knew about them?  Conversely, what do you wish your customers knew about you? What's the one thing that would bring them to your side every time?

Try some free-writing. Open up a blank document and just write all of this out.  Now you have a basis for your next ad campaign.

Pro tip: If you're going to name names in your ads, make sure that what you're saying is factual. Otherwise, you may be subject to a lawsuit. Bing points to Google's own SEC filings and press announcements to back up its story.

Here's the latest "Scroogled" ad from Bing. Happy Holidays!

Does that free-writing exercise I suggested give you the shakes? Let me know, and we can work on it together.

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What to Expect During This Year's Holiday Selling Season

We're Almost There.

Thanksgiving's in two days, and then the madness begins. Millions of emails, millions of ads, millions of sales, millions of people crowding your stores, your phones, your web sites.

What Should You Expect?

There are a few trends you should be ready for this week, and here's what to do about them:

1) The early start. A growing list of large retailers are going to be open for part or all of the day on Thanksgiving itself. I'm not sure I like this trend; it takes people away from their families and glorifies buying new stuff on a holiday that celebrates being thankful for what we already have.

That said, you can still send a message on Wednesday, wishing your customers a happy holiday and giving them a special online sale just for them for Wednesday and Thursday. Your web site can work for you while your employees are enjoying the holiday with friends and family.

2) Comparison shopping and showrooming. If you own retail locations, expect a lot of people in your stores to be looking at their phones while shopping, using price comparison apps like RedLaser and Amazon's Price Check to help them decide whether to buy with you or not.

The best defense is a good offense. Prepare by researching your pricing and justifying it. You can offer things that larger retailers can't - like personalized service and a more flexible return policy. You can also package items together to make comparison shopping a little trickier. Consider offering price matching on some items if you notice a lot of people showrooming certain products.

3) Layaway. Layaway made a comeback a few years ago, during the recession. It's still here and services like online layaway are driving the growth of this payment method. It's a little late to set up layaway now if you don't have it already, but you should be alert for customers who might want this service and determine what portion of your shoppers might use it. You might ask people who are leaving your store empty-handed or putting back items if layaway service would change their minds, or do a survey of your email customers.

What are you doing differently this holiday season? Please share in the comments.

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Are You Ready for Cyber Monday?
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Are You Ready for Cyber Monday?

I hope you've got your online promotions planned for Cyber Monday, which is coming right up on Monday, November 26.

Target Christmas Sale
In 2011, consumers spent more than $1.25 billion online during the Monday after Thanksgiving, up 22% from the $1 billion they spent in 2010. What's more, average order value was also up almost three percent, to $198.26.

Want your share? 

Of course you do. Even if you're not quite prepared for Cyber Monday, there's still time to make the most of the opportunity. Here's how:

1) Make your deals simple and shareable. Your offers should be easy to understand, redeem, and share. People do a LOT of comparison shopping on Cyber Monday and you don't want your deals to get lost by being too complicated. Also, easy-to-share deals mean customers can get you other customers. Make sure there are share buttons on every page, and include an "I got a great deal" sharable message with your purchase confirmations so folks can tell their friends what they bought.

2) Tell them about it! Announce deals for Thanksgiving, Black Friday, the weekend, and Cyber Monday on all of your channels. Customers expect consistent experiences on email, social media, and your web site, so make sure everything's updated.

3) Don't forget about SEO. Make sure you're using keywords like "Cyber Monday," product terms, and deal-related messaging in your web copy, so that search engines can find your work.

4) Update your ads. If you're running online ads, update your creative to reflect your Cyber Monday offers. Outdated ads will confuse your customers.

5) Is your operational house in order? Do you have what you need to keep your inventory status current, ship out extra orders, deal with special requests, handle complaints, send out additional promotions, and update your web site? If not, now's the time to act.

Need help getting ready for your best Cyber Monday ever? Let me know - I can help.

How Grey Poupon is Generating Leads, Collecting Customer Data

You may have seen some recent buzz about Grey Poupon's Society of Good Taste, a club you can apply to join on Facebook (yes, people do get rejected). I thought this was a little mysterious, so I started talking some friends into applying with me to see what happened.

Image: GreyPoupon,com
If you go on over to Grey Poupon's Facebook page, there's an app you can click on to apply, and then Grey Poupon will use a Wolfram-Alpha-like app to assess your Facebook presence.

Grey Poupon will look at how many friends you have, how many photos in which you've been tagged, how many schools/employers you have listed on your page, how many other brands you like, and your listed interests (in bands, hobbies, movies, etc.). It will then give you a score and let you know if you've made it into the Society.

If you have, then you'll be extended a special offer. Right now, in exchange for more information - your name, street address, and email, you're promised a free tote bag. Then, you're encouraged to invite friends to apply to the Society for Good Taste.

I am floored by the amount of data Grey Poupon is able to collect for marketing purposes here. The data-head in me is feeling hungry, and not for fine-grained mustard.

Grey Poupon (a Kraft brand) can now crunch age, sex, school, employer, location, hobby, and interest data for its fans, and see their photos and other content. It can also use the address data it collects to purchase income, net worth, and other household financial data for its Society members.

Also important, it does reject people from the Society: Those who don't have lots of Facebook friends, aren't tagged in a lot of photos, or don't have a long list of brands, movies, and music they like listed on their pages. This means that Grey Poupon is building a community of Facebook influencers whose power they'll be wielding on behalf of their brand.

I think this is brilliant strategy, and it's interesting to see thousands of people willingly give a brand so much information about themselves in return for a totebag. As a lead generation program, this is brilliant and inspiring.

What do you think? Please share.

PS - I'll be blogging here on and off, but I'm still working on Tito's Greenhouse. The garden is coming along...

PPS - If you go to GreyPoupon.com, the brand's Pinterest page comes up. What do you think of that? It's the first time I've seen a brand do this and I'm wondering what folks think. Is this something you'd try?