Marketing with Meerkat…Meerkatting?

To be honest, I’ve avoided learning of the purpose of supposed social media newcomers Meerkat and Periscope. Upon learning that the two are virtually indistinguishable live-streaming apps, I decided that one of them is probably worthy of discussing for my blog.

For us meerkats that have been staying underground, Meerkat is a mobile application that allows users to stream live video from a mobile device with real time interaction. Now, live-streaming isn’t necessarily a groundbreaking concept, but Meerkay makes streaming and sharing the content simple, efficient, and engaging. Meerkat is connected through a users Twitter account and is shared to the user’s network for everyone to consume and interact with. The content vanishes, kind of like Snapchat, once the video is done airing. Meerkat has proven powerful because of its ability to spread content easily and quickly. Live-streams can be scheduled ahead of time and Twitter followers can be notified of upcoming lifestreams.

Brand Opportunities

You didn’t think that brands would stay away from this platform did you? Even as a relatively new platform, launching in February 2015, people in a variety of professions are finding use for the app. Journalists have used it to provide live coverage of events, musicians use it to stream performances, cooks use it to broadcast their own low-budget cooking shows.

One notable brand that has jumped on using Meerkat is Red Bull. Red Bull used Meerkat to broadcast snowboarding trials from the Red Bull Double Pipe Finals in Aspen. Another is the Miami Dolphins, using the platform to cover a live press conference when it introduced free agent signee Ndamukong Suh. At its height, the Dolphins’ Meerkat broadcast had almost 1,000 viewers.

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I think there is a great deal of opportunity on live-streaming platforms like Meerkat to broadcast live events and provide breaking news. It could be an effective PR tool for covering product launch events, sponsored events, exclusive announcements, or even for transparency purposes. Behind the scenes tours could be conducted in facilities or food service brands that show how the product is created from start to finish. Meerkat is yet another platform that bridges the gap between brand and consumer.

As marketers however, we must think ahead concerning how this platform could be used against our brands, or what could go wrong. Concerns I have with live-streaming apps like Meerkat include glitches, live backlashes (yikes), and using the app in an ineffective, boring way.

With it being such a new app, there are bound to be bugs and glitches that turn up and it might be risky to host and hype up a large live stream event, only for it to not work out. I’m sure most of the time things turn out fine but you do not want to put your brand in a position where it cannot live up to expectations.

Since the live-stream is able to be commented on and have interaction with viewers, it could very easily get out of hand if users pointed out something odd or inconsistent with the video and the brand. Users could potentially get into that “mob mode” and completely turn the live streaming went upside down and into a negative event concerning the brand.

Lastly, an app like this requires creativity and preparation to use it in a way that will be impactful for viewers of the streams. Brands need to recognize this is a platform that you don’t just sign up for and live-stream a random event without building buzz about it beforehand. For example, if Pandora wants to live-stream an exclusive sponsored performance of a popular artist, they need to utilize other platforms to communicate that this is an event that users will want to tune into. Utilizing IMC should be an integral part in getting viewers to tune into a live-stream event. Social media posts, press releases, mobile ads, and many other strategies will need to be developed in order to build a strong presence on Meerkat.

What are other opportunities brands have for Meerkatting? Have you seen any successful examples of live-streaming applications?

In Defense of the #Hashtag…

The rise of the hashtag has been somewhat of an underdog story. Before it was known as a hashtag, it was fondly known as the pound key used on telephones. Rarely used and unappreciated, the ‘#’ symbol waited it out and unexpectedly rose to internet stardom.

Hashtags even have their own timeline that depict their rise to fame!

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Ok that sounds a bit dramatic, but seriously, hashtags are everywhere these days. Originally adapted on Twitter, hashtags are now used and searchable on other notable social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. The early days of hashtagging on Twitter were for purely functional purposes- a simple way to categorize tweets so that Twitterers could follow conversations that interested them. Other tags served as straightforward metadata that directed people to tweets about news, events, and other interests. Overtime, like anything else, the hashtag evolved. They are used for many purposes, including delivery of humor, wordplay, poetry, and many other things.

Hashtags are not exempt from criticism and backlash however. When individuals or companies use too many hashtags with their content, it can be viewed as overkill and just a general turn off. Hash tagging excessively can come across as desperate, seeing as the more you use, the more chance you have of being seen- kind of like entering a raffle or drawing 100 times to increase your chance of #winning. It doesn’t come across as genuine.

Just like anything shiny, new, and hop, marketers have hijacked the hashtag and used them as a strategy to get their content visible to a relevant audience. The truth is, it actually works and is incredibly helpful! Before slapping on just any old hashtag to your Instagram picture, Tweet or Facebook post, stop and give it some more thought. Here are a couple of simple but valuable rules to follow when selecting and using hashtags on social media:

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These guidelines will prevent marketers from going overboard with their hashtags and appearing desperate for followers, business, or money. Using relevant hashtags when making a post is always appropriate, just be sure to use a select few as opposed to every single related word you can think of. Make a unique hashtag for your product or service and encourage people to use it when posting about your brand. This increases visibility for your brand and creates searchable opportunities for interaction and engagement.

Please don’t blame the hashtag, blame the people who are using them ineffectively and improperly!

Sneaky Snooping: Retailers are Watching You.

Smartphones with location tracking abilities have made it easier than ever for retailers to monitor and collect data on the consumers who pay for their goods and services. Facial recognition devices, customer loyalty programs, and cell phone signal trackers are all used in clever tactics to collect data to determine various concepts like where to place a product in the store and how and where to advertise. There are many sneaky ways in which retailers use your information to benefit themselves, in fact here are 12 ways. Many of these involve emerging technologies that consumers may or may not be aware of how exactly their data is used or when.

For example, facial recognition technology is used to find out who a retailer’s core customer is. This technology can generally determine age and gender. The concern here is that the technology might be able to track individuals, however, according to the FTC, it is only used for demographic purposes. Customer Loyalty programs also have the potential to house more information about us than we ever considered. Business use these programs not only to hook us and keep us coming back for deals, but they also track shopping habits, what we purchase, and determine buying patterns. With this information, retailers are able to tailor and target ads that we might be more responsive to based on our purchase history and habits.

At the rate that technology is developing this day in age, there are many concerns that retailers are taking advantage of the unknowing consumer. Where does the line get drawn concerning technology and consumer privacy?

Digestible Content Marketing and the Rise of the Listicle

Traditional articles and blog posts with headlines have always been successful in grabbing attention on the internet. These content forms became even more accessible with the rise of social media and the ability to share content in our networks with the click of the button. But over the past few years, a new form of content called a “listicle” has taken the internet and social media by storm.

A listicle is a post that is arranged in a list format, with each point being supported with relevant information, often quirky or humorous, and a lot of the times it includes images, videos or GIFs. Marketers have found that, as opposed to traditional articles, listicles are highly shareable and have better chances of going viral. Short content that is creative and contains an element of humor or something a reader can relate to has become very valuable in today’s vast array of content.

Buzzfeed can be credited for the rise in the listicles we see on a daily basis. This website relies on listicle content to drive traffic and clicks. The way listicles are presented are just downright more appealing than clicking on a regular article of the same topic. “Target has Potential in Female Millennial Segment” or “8 Reasons Target Needs to be Your New BFF”- which link are you most likely to click on (if you were a female millennial)?

There are a few reasons that explain why the listicle has been so successful. For starters, our brains have natural tendency to be drawn towards content where there is a noticeable pattern, making the content easily understandable and digestible. Real-life relation also plays a big part in the reason why people are more likely to click and read a listicle. One of Buzzfeed’s most viewed posts “40 Things That Will Make You Feel Old” has over 6 million hits. Lists like this prove to be successful because they are highly relatable and shareable.

Another reason people like listicles is because they know they won’t take up too much of their time. The “Too Long, Didn’t Read” generation of today won’t shy away from a listicle with 10 or 15 points because they know the format and it will only take a few minutes to read through or skim over. Moreso, a listicle’s link normally includes how many points it includes, so the reader can predetermine whether they want to take the time to read it or not.

“Click Bait” often sounds like a negative way to draw people to a link, but with listicles, value is often provided. Listicles can be click-bait when headlines like “10 Ways to Workout Without Leaving Your House. Number 4 Will Blow You Away. It provides an enticing point for readers to explore immediately when they click, and then are likely to explore the rest of the listicle while they are on the page. It is basic human psychology to be curious about what “Number 4” could possibly be!

Lastly, listicles are able to generate a great deal of traffic for the website. If the reader deems it humorous, relatable, or thought-provoking, they typically do not hesitate to share the listicle either with a specific person or to their whole social media networks. Typically, readers also commit to reading the entire listicle because they initially clicked on it because the topic it covered interested them.

Many companies have found it valuable to sponsor their own listicle in many ways. Check out the following image to see how brands like Discover have leveraged the power of the listicle.

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What are your thoughts on the listicle? How can we use the listicle in other forms of emerging media?

Blue Moon Buzz (No, not that kind of buzz!)

What’s the first thing you think about when you hear Blue Moon beer? Artfully crafted? By a small, independent brewer? Yeah, we thought so too for awhile. Turns out, Blue Moon isn’t craft beer, it’s the product of crafty marketing – and they’re paying the price. Blue Moon’s parent company is MillerCoors and a lawsuit was filed in April 2015 because it was said that the brand is misleading and is false advertising. The Brewers Association says that 25 percent of a brand can be owned by a megabrewer, and a craft beer brewer cannot produce more than 6 million barrels a year. Well, MillerCoors produces 76 million barrels (2.4 billion gallons) or beer annually. Not exactly small batch! The lawsuit argues that MillerCoors is deceptive because it actively tries to distance itself from the Blue Moon brand, for example, the Blue Moon labels exclude its parent company.

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They painted the advertisement? That’s such a craft beer thing to do!

Despite being associated with an older-brother “bro” beer, cool younger brother Blue Moon is still able to get the cool kids talking. It has been able to use social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to create a presence and communicate with Blue Moon fans. In 2013, Blue Moon was 9th in the top ten beer brands on social media. It was able to achieve this high rating for various buzz-building techniques it used in its social media marketing. To increase engagement, Blue Moon abundantly shares fan photos, which further encourages others to keep sending in their Blue Moon experiences.

Blue Moon uses several of these rules of social media marketing to achieve their success. They interact with their audience, offer value, target content based on network and audience demographics, and they post timely content to build on other buzz.

Here are some of these social media rules in action on Blue Moon’s page:

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Holidays are good opportunities to post timely and relevant content. The target audience is more likely to pay attention to posts like this, as opposed to a post that makes no mention of the current holiday or hot topic.

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Using and posting quirky content submitted by users is a great way to build engagement and interaction with followers. This picture of a cat in a Blue Moon box is an excellent opportunity to have a caption contest!

Despite having struggled with appropriate marketing on social media due to the platforms being heavy on younger users below the age of 21, beer companies like Blue Moon have seized the opportunity and gotten creative with it. Age restriction features are used to address the issue of access. Even with these limitations, Blue Moon experiences great engagement because of the interactive elements it features. Even with the success it has had, however, Blue Moon shouldn’t stop at Facebook. Optimizing their brand for Pinterest could prove very beneficial in terms of growing and appealing to a female audience. Tasty drink recipes or even Blue Moon inspired cooking recipes is just one way they could get creative on Pinterest and reach a new audience segment.

What other emerging media could you see as being beneficial to brands in the beer/alcohol industry?

Behind the Scenes in Brand Identity Creation

Creating and maintaining a brand identity seems simple enough: pick a color theme, logo, and font and BAM! You’ve made it. Well, yes, that is a big part of a brand’s identity, but a lot of the time we don’t think about all of the other moving parts of the identity.

Think about your favorite brand’s logo. How was that chosen? Where did the idea for that funky little shape come from? A brand’s identity is born out of more than just a shape and some colors. Coming up with and deciding on these elements require, you guessed it, research! This is part of Phase One of Three in designing a brand identity.

In Phase One, a number of foundational questions should be addressed in the research of a brand. How is your brand perceived against competitors? Who is your audience? How do you want your brand to make consumers feel, take action, and think about your brand? What is the positioning of your brand? What is the heritage of your product type? If the brand was a person, what type of personality would it have? etc.This phase should be thorough and may be time consuming, but it is the most important as it establishes the foundational direction and values of the brand.

In Phase Two, logo concepts are put into action and an identity system is established. Logo concepts are developed and evolve into what becomes the official selection, for the time being. Take a look at these concepts for Mozilla Firefox:

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After a logo is complete, the identity system is developed in order to for ma systematic visual language around the logo. It is designed to be complimentary of the design and create a family of elements that serve as a catalyst for marketing elements. Color palettes, fonts, and white space are all factors that go into an identity system of a brand.

Phase Three of designing a brand identity is the maintaining and monitoring of all of the elements discussed above. These need to be monitored for opportunities to keep evolving a brand’s identity and to keep it current, modern, or up to date. This is crucial because markets evolve, target audiences shift, and a brand’s services and products all change over time. I bet you can think of at least three logos that have evolved for one reason or another right off the top of your head!

Not sure why all this fuss over brand identity is so important? Consider all of the different types of platforms that have emerged in the past ten years that brands have had to establish a presence on. Examine the chart below to see just how far brand identities branch out into your everyday world. Social networks, smart phones/tablets, data exchange systems, brick and mortar store interactions, apps, and the list will go on and on and on as we continue into the increasingly digital based world!

What is the most unique/creative place you have observed a brand’s identity? What struck you as unique about it?

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Snapchat: An Emerging Media Opportunity for the Tourism Industry

We’ve all thought about doing it. The disappearing photo app makes it like it never even happened. Taking on Snapchat from a brand perspective seems like a groundbreaking approach adds real brand value. Wait, what did you think I was talking about?

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Snapchat has evolved as its user base continues to use the app as a primary means of communication. Since its inception, video and sound components have been added, as well as a chat/text messaging feature. Most original components are in tact, including the ability to draw on pictures taken, provide captions, the “10-second or less” time frame and the ability to screenshot photos. The feature that shows a user’s three best friends was removed in January and sparked reactions of both joy and horror from users. Snapchat’s most significant feature was added this past January, known as “Discover”. Discover is a section on the app where a menu of different brand channels are available. Each channel contains long form content and video curated by Snapchat’s new editorial team. The future of Snapchat seems to be bright, knowing how well their changes have gone over in recent years.

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Images from a story curated for EDC 2014, an electronic music festival. Shows the event from a firsthand perspective!

I think Snapchat also holds a future of new opportunities for certain industries. Tourism and travel in particular seems to be a natural fit for what the app offers. With Snapchat’s story feature, users can create a story that lasts for 24 hours. Given the visual nature of this feature, brands have an opportunity to showcase what their city, state, or region has to offer through these stories. For example, a regional CVB could create their own story and take pictures and videos of landmarks and events going on around them, or they could also arrange for an “Our Story”. Our Story is a curated live stream of user-submitted photos and videos, typically centered around a large event, like College Football games or The Grammy Awards. More importantly, it has been said that this feature is becoming somewhat of a “slice of life” type showcase for users. With the ability to geofilter and curate these streams of content, stories that showcase various aspects and events in a city is a great way to reach potential visitors with fun, real, and fresh content that would have a better impact than a standard :30 second commercial would. Total views for “Our Story” have reached higher numbers than popular TV series views. For example, a “Techies in Vegas” story had 27 million views compared to the Breaking Bad series finale audience which reached 10.3 million broadcast viewers. With this visual nature of Snapchat, and the large numbers of potential reach, I think professionals in the tourism industry ought to be taking a closer look at what Snapchat can do for their destinations.

What do you think? What other industries lend themselves easily to Snapchat’s powerful emerging format?

Understanding Emerging Media: Traits and Trends

Throughout the next nine weeks, I will be posting my thoughts and observations on various topics in relation to emerging media. Before I begin my rambling, it is important to understand what emerging media is and what traits this type of media typically has.

I tend to define emerging media as innovative technology used primarily for some form of communication or interaction. Think about social media, blogs, gaming, and smartphones and how each has evolved from innovative technologies. See more examples of what may be considered “emerging” here.

Henry Jenkins likes to focus on emerging cultural practices instead of emerging technologies as a way to describe the “New Media Landscape”. Examining emerging media from this perspective is important because it will help us understand how we can engage a culture that now thrives on the “participatory” nature of new and emerging media. Jenkins also discusses eight different traits that emerging media can be identified by:

  • Innovative
  • Convergent
  • Everyday
  • Appropriative
  • Networked
  • Global
  • Generational
  • Unequal

Identifying trends within emerging media is also critical to crafting new and innovative ways to interact with audiences. Emerging media expert Jeremy Lockhorn identified four key emerging media trends that have helped shaped the new media landscape thus far:

  • Increased web connectivity (i.e. tablets, smartphones)
  • Traditional media going digital (i.e. digital billboards, e-magazines)
  • Personalized content
  • Widgets and applications (“apps”)

Trends are what help emerging media continue to evolve. This brings us back to the word innovation from my definition of emerging media. For example, the trend of personalization allows us to think beyond simple “insert name here” types of personalizations, but to utilize innovative technology that provides consumer data in order to send a product or service message that resonates better with that particular consumer. Innovation in technology brings about improvements to the way we communicate and interact with the media landscape of today.

What are your favorite forms of emerging media that you use daily? How has new technology and innovation affected the way it has evolved over time? Think about the introduction of the Facebook newsfeed and then compare it to the feed we see now. How has technology and innovation played a role in that evolution?