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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:

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

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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.

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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.

 

 

Instagram photos make unsexy brands and content look sexy. Fact.

And more often than not with the help of a professional photographer (forget those built-in filters).

For this reason, I love Instagram as much as I love Vine.

And to prove my point, here are some of my favourite finds and Instagrammers.

#1 FAVOURITE:

Reuters has mastered the art of making news (even bad or mundane news) look sexy through the use of stunning photography.

Simply, the photo catches your eye first, and then 9 times out of 10 makes you want to read the accompanying story. See for yourself with this small selection of some of their posts:

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Their newsfeed is highly addictive I must admit, so much so that I find myself grabbing my phone first thing every morning to check it out – sad but true. On the plus side, the snackable format keeps me informed of and interested in what’s going on in the world at large (outside of the world of advertising that is), with minimum impact on my time.

This is an ingenious way from Reuters to make itself relevant, top of mind and build a direct relationship with end consumers like me, without relying on news organisations to broadcast its up-to-the minute content.

By feeding beautifully packaged news bites to the time-poor and easily distracted amongst us, it brings critical information to our attention in a pleasing way. In other words, it delivers utility content and entertainment into one post.

The downside of their eye-candy photo teaser approach is that sometimes the photo is more interesting than the news it portrays – this is however a minor inconvenience compared to the delight the photography gives you. One other issue I can foresee is that it may spark controversy by making the ugly look beautiful (e.g. the aftermaths of a natural disaster, violent protests etc). However, I would argue the latter is a good thing if it raises awareness of said problem and mobilises people to get behind a cause.

#2 FAVOURITE: 

For those of you who read me regularly, you will know by now how much I worship General Electric’s social media and content marketing efforts.

As well as mastering the art of Vine-making, the giant conglomerate has become an Instagram expert.

As a B2B company, it is not the type of business or brand that naturally excites the masses i.e. clearly not in the same vein as Burberry or Nike. Indeed, for the latter, the nature of their industries (mainstream and aspirational) combined with a ready access to shots of glamorous models and athletes make the photo-sharing social network a natural playground.

Yet, GE has against all odds managed to make its day to day business look sexy to the wider public, so much so that I actually find myself liking its photos on a regular basis – and in the process, I am learning lots about how the company crucially powers and supports a myriad of industries.

So yet again a great example of an unsexy brand that makes itself relevant in a simple and enjoyable way.

Cases in point:

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#3 FAVOURITE:

I thought of Burberry and its ongoing #THISISBRIT Instagram campaign, peppered with beautiful B&W shots of the gigs the brand is sponsoring in different countries.

But that would be too easy!

So watch this space for more *unexpected* Instagram goodness – and don’t hesitate to let me know of any little gems you may have uncovered yourself.

Vine has been gaining momentum ever since its launch in January, piggybacking on Twitter’s considerable user base and fast becoming the new social media darling amongst younger users.

To this day, and despite the recent launch of arch-rival Facebook’s Instagram video sharing feature, it is showing no sign of abating. On the contrary, if anything Twitter promises us that with Vine ‘2.0’ soon in market this could well be the beginning of greater and bigger things to come.

In terms of reach, the latest publicly available figures stand at 40M Viners worldwide (up from 13M in June), with an estimated 50K in Australia (source:@SMN_Australia, thanks David!).

Now some of you may argue that’s a drop in the (South Pacific) ocean, hence not even worth considering as part of your marketing mix.

I beg you to reconsider and here is why.

Vine offers a unique, playful way to connect with your audience that drives differentiation for your brand.

Vining has been described as a new ‘art form’ by Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, and rightly so. Simply, the 6-second videos (or Vines as they are known) are ‘little windows’ into your consumers and fans’ creative minds.

Unlike Instagram’s ‘generous’ 15 seconds and various props (e.g. 13 filters, cinema mode etc.), Vine’s time constraints and ‘raw’ approach to video creation truly put the power of your imagination to the test. The art of Vine-making is tricky to master as it requires you to be creative not only in the story you are telling but in its execution also – with only 6 secs to get your message across artfully.

And so not surprisingly, the 6-second short-form video is particularly popular with the creative community, with some art directors specialising in Vine-making and advertising agencies using it as a tool for hiring creative staff. It actually takes skills to create something meaningful and beautiful at the same time, in such a limited amount of time – just have a go and see for yourself.

The first Vines I saw were rather painful to watch, jerky and hard to comprehend at the best of times. However, as advertisers and Viners at large got the hang of it, the micro-video blogging network grew on me as did the quality of the content.

9 months later, it has turned out to be a great way for brands to seek participation from their fans. Successful examples of this abound in the US, where the adoption of Vine is the most prevalent amongst consumers and marketers.

Famously, GE with its successful ongoing #6SecondScience projects; one of which can be seen here. And its #GravityDay campaign – the longest Vine chain ever to my knowledge – as sampled here.

Other early adopters include Virgin Mobile USA with its #happyaccidents campaign and Airbnb which took Vine-making to a new level by inviting the audience to co-create the first short film entirely made of Vines.

Vine may never reach the same scale as Instagram (with 10 times as many monthly users today); however I can foresee its community and loyal following building steadily over time. Vine-making is hard to master for a start and so when you do, you tend to stick to it. Simply, as a brand it gives you an edge (or USP) hard to compete with in your category. As a fan, teenager or aspiring creative, it makes you stand out amongst your friends or peers; it makes you feel good.

In my opinion, it is the creativity at the core of its proposition that gives Vine longevity and makes it appealing to the hyper-connected 15-to-30 years old and creative at heart the world over. Twitter made that clear on the day it announced its launch and so did Dom Hofmann, Vine co-founder, when he said “constraint inspires creativity”:

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The arrival of Vine on the market was timely for a number of reasons.

Not only does it tap into our growing appetite for consuming and sharing visual content on social networks and on the go, it also gives advertisers a new tool to achieve cut-through on social media amongst the ever-increasing noise.

As recently outlined by Ipsos, competition for ‘image attention’ has indeed never been greater as we hop from one screen to the next and back, and our senses get solicited all day long by hundreds of messages in different media formats.

Vine is simply a great tool for creating attention-grabbing rich visual content and generating earned media amongst social media users.

How critical is Vine to your social media marketing mix?

GE’s CMO Beth Comstock admitted recently that social media had played a critical part in helping turn around the company’s fortunes. In her view, social media had helped make GE “relevant in a lot of new ways”.

I agree.

I recently became a fan of GE’s social media initiatives, and in particular of their marketing efforts on Vine, which I follow with great interest and amusement. For a company whom I never felt connected to in any way, and whose purpose and business were obscure to me to the say the least, through its own but also fans’ Vine videos,  this once faceless corporation has managed to make itself likeable and its purpose tangible – in other words relevant to me.

The performance metrics speak for themselves.

Here are some recent stats on the effectiveness of the various social video formats in market:

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At a glance, during that one-month period, we can see that Vine outperformed Instagram on both engagement rate and number of retweets. Further, according to Unruly’s research in May, 5 Vines get shared every second on Twitter.

Together, these metrics clearly demonstrate how complementary Twitter and Vine are as engagement channels.

If that’s not enough, what else does Vine have in its favour?

Unless Facebook whose usage and appeal amongst millennials is declining, Twitter and by association Vine are still happily used by teens and 20-somethings (source: eMarketer May 2013).

So if you have a substantial Twitter following and Gen Y’s are a key target audience, then it is worth trying Vine in a complimentary way to Twitter.

Oh, and unlike Instagram, Vine will remain ad-free for the foreseeable future – which makes the user experience all the more immersive and attractive to social media users who are seeking to escape advertising-heavy networks (such as Facebook).

So all considered, Vine makes for a brilliant opportunity to build a 1:1 relationship with your audience, in a space free of competitive noise.

So come on, be brave, start SMALL but start experimenting NOW. Down Under or wherever you are.

Back in March, I published my first post on crowd-sourced advertising. My focus then was on Ford and Coca Cola’s novel efforts in co-creating advertising campaigns and branded content with their respective target audience.

I am pleased to say that since a few more advertisers have come out of their shell, gone the extra mile to successfully evolve (if not reinvent) the crowd-sourcing game with their consumers. Here are those that have stuck with me specifically.

In July 2013, Lexus released its LexusInstafilm.

In a nutshell, the advertiser invited 212 instagrammers to collaborate on the shoot of a promotional film for its 2014 Lexus IS model. The film was to consist of instagram shots only (all individual shots can be seen here). The shoot was planned like a military operation, with nothing left to chance, as the video below shows.

This was a one of a kind opportunity for the Lexus car lovers, creative types and Instagrammers who were lucky enough to be able to participate into the making of an ad for a brand they admire and aspire to.

Incidentally, the making of the film and final output are brilliant pieces of advertising for Instagram also – which makes me wonder what their contribution to this project might have been in $ or otherwise…

In August, Nissan’s #JukeRide project took crowdsourcing to a new level by inviting motorsport enthusiasts and social media fans to help co create a new car focused on improving the performance of Nissan’s Nismo team of drivers.

Ideas for new car features were captured via social media and also in person via brainstorms with ex-Formula 1 driver & brand ambassador Johnny Herbert and his team of engineers. In the end, more than 3,000 individual ideas were contributed to the #Jukeride product by over 1,000 fans. A social experiment that ladders up wonderfully to Nissan’s tagline: Innovation that excites.

Harley Davidson is notorious for pioneering crowd-sourced advertising. A few years ago, with the help of a crowd-sourcing specialist agency, it launched its Fan Machine – a Facebook app that crowd-sources campaign ideas from the brand’s fans. Its 2012 ‘Stereotypical Harley” campaign was one of the successful outcomes. Recently, they revealed they had extended their crowdsourcing strategy to product development with Project Rushmore. Their latest range of bikes is the result of a collaboration with riders and fans of the brand, as reinforced by the “Built by all of us. For all of us” tagline.

Lastly – my 2 favourites:

The award-winning “Perfect Lager Project” – a product launch campaign for winemaker Casella Wines that kicked off without the product per se. The campaign idea was indeed to use crowdsourcing to identify what made the perfect beer from Aussie beer lovers, which Casella would then brew for them. This was a clever way of standing out from the fierce local competition and overcoming the winemaker’s late entry to a very crowded market.

And –

As part of its Hollywood & Vines campaign, Airbnb has just released a short film made entirely of crowd-sourced vines – a first in the art of film-making. 750 viners participated by submitting their selected shot via Vine and Twitter (nice corporate tie-up here); 100 vines made it to the final cut that screened online and on Sundance channel.

This is how it all started:

The end result is truly magic, beautifully stitched together and a real prowess considering how challenging the app’s time constraints can be.

Given the diversity of crowdsourcing initiatives (from co-creating a car or a bike through co-brewing a beer to co-making an ad, a film or a song), it makes me wonder:

Is there anything that can’t be crowd-sourced these days?

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