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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.

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.

 

 

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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.

Brands across multiple categories are increasingly investing into content marketing. Yet, for the vast majority, their efforts are more often than not met with mixed results. I have been looking into why that is.

The learning curve appears to be steep on a number of levels still for most advertisers.

First, content creation remains an art that simply most haven’t mastered yet, with only few brands having become experts at it, at both a strategic and executional levels (Red Bull is famously one of them).

Many need guidance on how to develop a content strategy in the first place, including advice on how to identify what content will resonate best with their target audience, how to achieve content relevance and stickiness whilst staying on brand, or where and how often to publish their content for maximum reach.

The prevalent state of play was summed up recently in the UK Outbrain survey: it revealed that whilst 93% of client-side marketers expected content marketing to become more important, only 38% had a strategy in place.

So whilst the intention to get serious about brand content is there, how to go about it is where the problem lies more often than not.

Additionally, the resource advertisers are prepared to commit may not be adequate – the dollars may be insufficient or the investment strategy short lived, with strategic, creative and editorial skills poorly represented.

Overall, the trial-and-error approach prevails, with a great deal of debate around who should own the content creation process: the brand (and within the organization, which team: marketing? social media?), the creative agency, publishers, content distribution platforms or a combination of all 4?

As the approach takes time to fine tune, and the brand learns what content works and doesn’t work over time, the lack of an immediate ROI makes the business case for continuous investment hard to defend in most organisations.

As I was reading about Virgin Mobile’s own journey and its test & learn approach, one particular comment piqued my attention: “The obvious risk, as with all brand content, is it does nothing for the brand” the article says.

An argument that Virgin Mobile’s head of brand marketing Ron Faris refutes however by saying that the company has data that proves that “creating fun content people actually like helps improve people’s perception of the brand — and the likeliness that they will then listen to its sales pitch”. Faris goes on saying “The more content they see the more they’re willing to consider us. You have to be more patient than with display advertising.”

I agree. Brand content is no fast way to your consumers’ hearts (and wallets); but a slow-burn approach to guiding them down the purchase path. Its sales impact builds up over time as it primarily drives awareness and consideration.

Where to from there then?

Listed below are the key learnings from my investigations to date on what to expect with brand content marketing, what works and what doesn’t:

#1 – Have a clear content owner and champion within your organization (e.g. your marketing team or social media team), who will become the guardian of your content strategy and give all your content across multiple channels a single-minded focus.

#2 – If new to content marketing and/or lacking the in-house strategic, creative or editorial skills, partner up with your creative agency on defining the content strategy that best aligns with your corporate and marketing objectives.

#3 – Let your creative and media agencies assist with setting up content partnerships with publishers. Publishers may be vying for your attention (and budgets) and approach you direct. Best you let your agencies broker the deal on your behalf: they will research publishers (incl. their audience demographics, quality and relevance of content being offered, engagement levels etc.), evaluate how well their offering matches up to your corporate and marketing objectives and work out the anticipated ROI for you.

#4 – Have a content plan. Some of the content may be organic or created in real-time in response to topical events or issues as they arise. Some of it should be planned for in advance through the development of an editorial calendar.

#5 – Create content that your audience wants to consume. Is your content entertaining (e.g. high adrenaline extreme sports content for Red Bull fans)? Is it genuinely useful to your audience (e.g. American Express’s Open Forum provides small businesses with content they want and need)? If the answer to either question is no, then drop the idea.

#7 – Be brave: have a point of view. This will help reinforce your USP. Patagonia, the outdoor apparel company, does this very well.

#8– Where your content lives depends on the target audience and the audience reach you are aiming for ultimately. It may be seeded on the social web (e.g. Red Bull YouTube channel), live in a dedicated destination (e.g. Virgin Mobile Feed), be embedded within a publisher site (e.g. Virgin Mobile on BuzzFeed), or a combination of all.

#9 – Your advertising itself can be a source of brand content – a great example of this is the TVC developed by Wieden + Kennedy for UK mobile network provider Three that went viral at the start of the year – a fine example of how content can entertain.

#10 – Or your brand content may become your advertising – Carlsberg does this very well as it started turning to its fans and the wider public to create its ATL advertising. Famously, its biker stunt ad has successfully helped reposition the beer as the reward for an act of courage (in line with its new 2011 strategy and tagline “That calls for a Carlsberg”). The results were impressive: 11 million views on YouTube within 8 months of the launch, Facebook shares in excess of 1.5 million, 364K mentions on Twitter and free publicity in more than 900 blogs, 150 news sites, numerous TV shows, newspapers and magazines with a 98% brand attribution (source: mashable). All of these led to a 4.3% increase in sales volumes in the 6 months following the campaign launch according to Carlsberg.

#11 – Arm yourself with patience and be willing to test, learn and optimise.

This list is by no means exhaustive; just a good starting point in my view. It will no doubt evolve over time as we all become more “content-savvy”, and roles and responsibilities change as the content production and publishing industries mature.

For now, don’t hesitate to let me know of any more must-have’s from your point of view we ought to add to our list!

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