Are you a small business owner or considering going solo? About to set up a Facebook Business Page as one of your marketing channels? If the answer is yes and yes, then my latest article for Anthill, an online magazine for Australian entrepreneurs and innovators, is for you!

Did I just sound like a salesman?! Seriously. You may find it useful. There I am sharing my first-hand experience of trialling Facebook marketing as a start-up business on a budget.

Simply put, like zillions of other SBO’s, I have fallen victim to the ever diminishing returns of Facebook organic reach with my zero-dollar-advertising policy.

If you too have been hit by this sad-but-very-real phenomenon in recent months, we would love to hear your thoughts on the impact it has had on your business. Plus any tricks and tips you may have for those of us fighting the fight against The Big Brands with Big Marketing Dollars. Just leave your comments and hit reply!

Don’t get me wrong, I love GoPro.

I follow them on Instagram, and regularly like and share the stunning photographs and footage you could not capture without their state-of-the art camera gear.

And so as I have been following their every Insta move intently, I couldn’t help notice that they are starting to resemble another big favourite brand of mine – Red Bull.

Here are some compelling reasons why you could be forgiven for mistaking their moves for Red Bull’s own:

A week ago I learned that GoPro had just launched their own energy drink:

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 5.18.17 PM

Then yesterday they announced the launch of their own channel on the Xbox 360 console and home entertainment system:

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 5.18.38 PM

Incidentally (or not), Red Bull has its own web TV channel and is a fully-fledged multi-platform media company too.

Now… one may rightly argue they have got something major in common: their target audience.

Both brands are not for the faint-hearted but for the adventurous and sporty types amongst us. They are particularly big on extreme sports enthusiasts. Just take a look at the 2 snapshots below of their Instagram feeds – you could easily swap images around. The one saving grace is the Red Bull branding being prominent as you scroll through the feed.

photo 1 edited

photo 2 edited

A shared target audience partly explains how their NPD efforts and marketing tactics may cross over.

GoPro is also by the very nature of its product a great source of content, with their move onto the Xbox platform the next logical step of an existing multi-channel content distribution strategy.

However, how many glaring similarities can a brand get away with before it becomes detrimental to the brand image itself? How sustainable can it be as a business strategy? If your brand stands for adventure and versatility, how could one’s perception of it as a copycat be a good thing?

In my view, to dispel any doubts in the consumers’ mind, GoPro ought to work harder on finding its own creative voice and key differentiator. That or it may face the risk of becoming uncool amongst the cool, edgy audience it is trying so hard to woo. Copycat brands have never been popular to my knowledge – if you know of one, please hit reply and share your thoughts with us. I genuinely can’t think of any as I write this.

As a further test, I did a quick search on Google scanning for any public outcry over what strikes me as a lack of creativity. And I saw that AdWeek did very recently touch on this topic. Their article title was a give-away: GoPro’s Super Bowl ad looks a lot like Red Bull, Circa 2012.

GoPro may be forgiven for wanting to share some of the limelight on the Stratos jump – the footage was captured with their cameras after all. It’s just that the Stratos jump has been done to death. Also, their Super Bowl TV ad is heavily, well, Red Bull-branded. Enough said.

 

 

Last July, I wrote a blogpost about what makes or breaks branded content. One of my learnings and tips for successful content marketing read:

Be Brave: have a point of view. This will help reinforce your USP.

Since then, I have been exposed to many brands on a daily basis. And until only recently, I can’t honestly remember any of them coming to my attention for taking a stance on a worthy cause. Yet it is what we as consumers have come to expect – quoting the 2013 WARC Trends report:

Brands need to show consumers they are trying to help solve the issues society faces. (…) That may mean a greater focus on corporate ethics and authenticity.” 

In other words, brands need to make a positive difference to society, over and above selling products and services. This means identifying the social mission at their heart, showing true commitment to it and letting it be known.

The fact is that brands that go the extra mile like Patagonia, the outdoor apparel company, or female antiperspirant brand Secret, remain a minority still. Patagonia is not afraid of taking a political stance to help protect the environment. Secret famously fought for the rights of female athletes to be allowed to compete in this year’s winter olympic ski jumping games.

Then, this month, something magic happens. Hopefully, a sign that brand activism is slowly but surely becoming the way one does business.

4 brands unexpectedly grabbed my attention for taking a stand very publicly. They stood up for a cause worth fighting for. For what they believed was right and true to their mission. And by doing so, they have won me over. Or rather, they have won my gratitude as a consumer. As a result, I am more likely to buy from them and spread the word, with competitors fast disappearing in the back of my mind.

Google with its Sochi Olympics-themed doodle in support of gay rights was the first of such brands to come to my attention.

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 11.05.50 AM

Scottish Craft Beer company BrewDog also stood up for the Russian gay community by simply mocking Putin’s anti-gay laws and Putin himself. They created a special edition beer “not for gays” called “Hello, my name is Vladimir” – hilarious and useful; you can buy it online here. This only shows what a powerful weapon humour can be against oppressors.

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 11.51.52 AM

On a smaller-scale yet in the same spirit, hats off also to Russian snowboarder and Olympic Athlete Alexey Sobolev, who defied his country’s government by flaunting his Pussy Riot-themed board during the competition.

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 11.39.19 AM

Coca Cola celebrated a multicultural America in one of its Super Bowl ads this year. Simply, beautifully and very openly with more than 100 million viewers exposed to it. A bold, commendable move from a great, iconic American brand. We want more of these please.

And as I am wrapping up this blogpost, I came across one other brand that publicly supports diversity and inclusion. This time, a brand closer to home.

ANZ, one of the top 4 Australian banks, has been one of the major sponsors of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras since 2006. This year it became Principal Partner and to celebrate this, it turned its ATM’s into GAYTM’s on 23rd February:

Some may see seasonal brand activism (around major events only) as opportunistic and a mere PR exercise only, bringing into question the authenticity of the brand’s commitment to the cause – as opposed to being deeply integrated into their business model and company’s DNA (Raven+Lily and ecoATM are both great examples of this).

Regardless, seasonal or not, if it helps the community, it is a good thing. It may also be the start of bigger things to come or the manifestation of a long-term yet punctual commitment (ref. ANZ example).

Finally…

I thought of ending this post on a high… At first. Ending it on a low however is just as effective.

Subway grabbed my attention for the wrong reasons this month.

First, for its lousy Super Bowl ad – why spend millions of $$ on a made-for-TV ad at the Super Bowl?

And most importantly, shame on them for using the same chemical in their “freshly-made” sandwiches as the one used in shoe soles and yoga mats – yes, you read right.

The company has since withdrawn the chemical following a petition from 50,000 consumers. In my view, it should withdraw itself from the market altogether for making us eat plastic in the first place.

This simply reminds us of the enormous power we also have as consumers to make positive changes and punish (banish?) brands behaving badly.

Now… Any brands close to your consumer heart, that stand for something big and you want to give a shout out to? Or any brands you love to hate for the right reasons?

Let us know by hitting reply!

By Cecile Ferre

VD may be over but who’s to stop us from continuing showing and sharing the love? N o  o n e :D So here is a quick roundup of the brands’ love messages that won me over this year.

First, Victoria’s Secret…

Victoria’s Secret takes Valentine’s Day VERY seriously – not surprisingly. After all, it is the most romantic day of the year and so the perfect occasion for dialling up sexiness in the form of, er, sexy underwear.

Leading up to D Day, the brand made a real effort of owning 14th February by calling it something else, and most importantly something that would strongly resonate with its target audiences (male and female). In Victoria’s Secret world, VD is now known as Bombshells’ Day – named after one of its most popular brands. The words Valentine’s Day were banned from its communication strategy, nowhere to be seen in the posts. Bombshells’ Day as a communication platform is not only a key differentiator but also has the bonus of longevity – it can be reused year after year.

The brand kicked off a month-long rallying call on its social networks around its #bombshellsday hashtag, inviting all women out there to celebrate themselves first and foremost. Its social networks were peppered with feel-good and ego-boosting CTA’s interspersed with lingerie-clad model shots throughout the 4-week period. A YouTube video was created, primarily as a sales tool intended for a male audience. It is the brand’s cheeky one liners on Instagram however that resonated best with me.

The tone was right on brand –  playful, flirty and sexy. Below is a chronological snapshot of my favourite posts from kick off to D Day:

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 8.28.52 AM

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 9.34.13 AM

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 8.29.43 AM

Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 5.40.57 PM

Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 5.36.15 PM

Unlike Victoria’s Secret, Lululemon only had one thing to say – a bold and funny statement that struck a chord with all yoga lovers out there like me.

Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 4.35.47 PM

Don’t we all love freebies? A simple human truth that works every time. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf company knows this too well as it lured its fans and their special loved ones into its shops with its 2 for 1 promotional offer – as seen on Vine. Perhaps not as original, yet as effective.
Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 8.10.07 AM
Lastly, the award for “going above and beyond a simple tweet” goes to Necco for its Tweethearts web app and accompanying catchy tune – the app lets you create and order a pack of personalised sweetheart candies from a tweet – see mine below:
Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 8.06.00 AM
Nooow how about you?
Did any of your favourite brands strike a (positive) chord with you on social this VD?
Don’t be shy and just hit reply to share and spread more love :)

With NY’s Day and Chinese NY celebrations now behind us, it’s that time of the year again. Time to look ahead and re-appraise the technologies likely to change our lives – f o r e v e r.

I am talking about pretty radical and unexpected uses of technologies here. Those that make us sit up and take notice amongst the zillion of tech news we get bombarded with every day.

In my humble opinion and in no particular order, here are some of the exciting things awaiting us…

Is there anything that can’t be connected these days?

The Internet of Things will continue to gain new and surprising grounds – no surprise there. Technology research firm Gartner predicts that the IoT will grow to 26 bn units in 2020, up from .9bn in 2009.

In no time, we have gone from connected wristbands and rings through smart cars, eyewear and fridges to rackets and T-shirts to name a few. This is bound to accelerate over the next 12 months, and with it the rise of wearables that are there to help us… disconnect – like fashion staple MEMI.

3D printing is breaking into new and more serious territories.

3D printing has found its true calling, and I am glad to say it is not about printing plastic guns, phone cases or toys at home. It has much bigger fish to fry.

The technology is increasingly being put to industrial and scientific uses, from printing houses and organs to key aircraft engine components and complex parts for healthcare. Famously, General Electric has been tapping into the collective mind of innovators and entrepreneurs alike all over the world to great success, inviting them to submit their designs through its 3D Printing Design and Production Contests. All entries are carefully reviewed and the best ones implemented.

Digital OOH is becoming more intelligent and more effective as a result. 

Outdoor has been enjoying a revival lately, something close to a rebirth thanks to digital OOH, which is getting more sophisticated and effective by the day.

Lenticular printing (a fine example of which can be found here), QR code or NFC-enabled outdoor will continue to play a role. Here however, I am talking about the kind of outdoor that serves you real-time, contextual, location-based and highly personalized content as you simply walk past, stand in front of it or choose to interact with it. MediaCo Outdoor’s CityLive touchscreen network exemplifies the many possibilities of the outdoor of the future perfectly – quoting:

“Each CityLive unit is fitted with multipoint touch functionality, built-in NFC, WiFi, HD cameras, high-quality directional audio, a live local news and weather data feed (aarrgh), city interactive wayfinding and MediaCo Outdoor’s CityLive Look facial detection system (based on Quividi).”

This state-of-the-art digital OOH network launched last November in Manchester, UK. Here is to hoping that it becomes the standard in 12 to 18 months from now.

Dynamic Shape Displays are making headways and shaping the future of video conferencing amongst other useful applications. 

These displays came to my attention only recently when I read about MIT’s new Dynamic Shape Display inFORM.

inFORM lets you interact remotely with objects on the other side of the screen.  This means that remote participants in a video conference are able to interact physically at a distance. It can also interact with the physical world around it e.g. moving objects on the table’s surface.

MIT are exploring a number of application domains, including but not limited to 3D modelling and design (interestingly as an alternative to 3D printing), architectural models and urban planning, and medical imaging CT scans.

So one to watch in my opinion.

The rise of the Robots…

Robots will be part of our future – Honda got it many years ago. In 2006, its advertising featured Asimo, then the world’s most advanced humanoid robot or so we were told. The robot hasn’t lost its WOW factor to this day and even has its own website for all die-hard fans amongst us out there. The car manufacturer has ever since been using all sorts of other cute robots to promote its vision.

In 2013, we learnt that the top 3 tech giants were busy investing heavily in robotics – Amazon in its Prime Air drone service (with CEO Bezos, the ever optimist, predicting it could be operational as early as 2017),  Apple in factory robots and Google in, er, lifelike walking machines (unclear what it intends to do with these as yet).

And hot off the press is the bionic hand – a little bit creepier, yet very real and a substantial scientific win.

… And with Robots will come Anti-Robots.

Anti-robot Prosthesis looks pretty mean at first and until you realize that it is actually entirely human-controlled. So harmless really and certainly not a threat to the human race.

The idea behind anti-robots is that their aim is to give us ‘super powers’ as opposed to making us redundant. Phew! So a good thing all in all.

Everyone (or nearly everyone – my mum hadn’t :) has heard of Google Glass in some shape or form. It is by far the most talked about wearable currently. Yet, it is also one of the least mainstream with only approximately 10,000 users in the world as I write this – all carefully selected for the ongoing testing phase of the product.

Following in the footsteps of Nike’s Fuel band, Glass has stolen the spotlight as its deserving successor. Newsworthy in its own right, the extensive and constant media coverage is also no doubt partly the result of Google’s well-oiled PR machine.

Not surprisingly, quite a few other connected wearables have since launched, all equally eager to tap into our insatiable hunger for new and shiny hi tech objects. Some loosely reminiscent of Glass in design offer super niche functionality with only limited audience reach (e.g. Nissan’s 3E HUD), whilst others are of questionable use – if not taste (e.g. a collar camera for your petMicrosoft’s bra).

Despite everyone’s best efforts, Glass remains unsurpassed to date in my opinion. And as I was getting tired of the abundant PR, one particularity suddenly piqued my curiosity and has since made me follow the product evolution with great interest.

Unlike most – if not all – other wearables, the device strength appears to lie in its ability to constantly evolve and extend its many practical uses. This in my view makes Glass stand out and puts it firmly ahead of the pack.

Below are some of the most recent product evolutions that are good cases in point:

Glass as the surgery tool of the future

As I found out recently on the Australian Popular Science website:

Glass as a publishing platform for apps

It may not be mainstream yet but by the time it goes to market, Google Glass will come with hundreds if not thousands of apps. I came across one of these recently – the ColorSnap Glass from Sherwin-Williams:

Glass as a life changing experience for the disabled

Google has been paying close attention to how the disabled use its eyewear, as a way of improving their lives.

Glass as a way of modernizing orchestras

More recently, a conductor and music professor has been experimenting with Glass in a number of ways. It has proven to be a useful feedback tool for her students in particular. The eyewear is also being considered as a possible alternative music stand and paper score.

According to Hunter Walk, “Google is Love + Greed”. It may well be, but for as long as it endeavors to change our lives for the better, it is okay to be greedy.

A lot has been written about the benefits of using game mechanics and game design as marketing techniques – or gamification as it is also known – in particular when marketing to the young hyper-connected audiences (Gen-Zs and Millennials).

There is plenty of research available that shows how immune these age groups are to traditional advertising techniques. To get their attention, instead we are advised to listen and invite their feedback, play the transparency and authenticity cards at all times and most importantly provide them with top entertainment. In Edelman’s 8095® 2.0 Global Study, we learn that 80% of Millennials simply want brands to entertain them, making games one of the obvious ways to their young consumers’ hearts.

Having said this, the latest research for the IGEA has dispelled many myths about the age and gender of the typical gamer, as we learn that the average Australian gamer is 32 year-old and 47% likely to be a female. Other revelations include the fact that 81% of mums and 83% of dads play video games nowadays, with 71% of Australian households counting 2 or more gamers.

But I am digressing here.

The reason why I set out to write this post in the first place was to show that gaming as a marketing device is as effective for raising awareness about a social cause and getting people to act as it is for entertaining.

I recently stumbled upon a couple of such ‘serious’ games – and to my surprise, as I started playing one of them, it had the desired effect on me i.e. it made me too acutely aware of the complexity of the issue at hand.

If you haven’t come across it yet, I strongly encourage you to play the below game, SPENT, and see for yourself what I mean. You can play it here. This is one of these instances where actions speak louder than words.

Another game in the same vein, currently in the making and that caught my attention, is the crowd-funded game Choice: Texas. It bravely addresses the highly sensitive and divisive topic of abortion access in Texas.

The funds have now been raised and the game will soon be made available online. I invite you to regularly check its dedicated Tumblr site and experience the game as soon as it becomes available.

The fundraising campaign video gives you the background to the project and its intent:

%d bloggers like this: