Marketers Must Take Stock of Their Data-Driven Power Now

With the 2020 elections already underway, social media marketing is in the spotlight. Although I am not sure if the spotlight was ever really off of its data-driven science since the 2016 election. Although all of the major social networking platforms have been dragged in front of congress to discuss how they use data, it was the relationship between Facebook and Cambridge Analytica that drew the most media attention and become the poster child.

With the 2020 elections already underway, social media marketing is in the spotlight. Although I am not sure if the spotlight was ever really off of its data-driven science since the 2016 election.

Although all of the major social networking platforms have been dragged in front of congress to discuss how they use data, it was the relationship between Facebook and Cambridge Analytica that drew the most media attention and become the poster child.

What data-driven marketers need to recognize is that what happened with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica was not some off-the-books, sneaky misuse of social data. Rather, it was executed very much in line with the broader vision of social media marketing. That has implications for how we use social media as part of our digital marketing mix.

Why Data-Driven Marketers Must Take Stock Now

What makes social media a powerful platform for marketers is that it not only targets individuals based on demographics, but it could also targets based on their location, personality and current context.

Considering all of the conscious and unconscious information users can share on social platforms, there is a powerful amount of information algorithms can mine to generate marketing content and messages most likely to resonate with users. Not only can social media know where you are and what you like, but also your closest friends and your emotional state on any given day. It is even likely that social media algorithms have a better understanding of your underlying emotions and motivations than you do. To anyone who has spent time micro-targeting, this is not a surprise. Given enough data, a shockingly perceptive algorithm can be developed. This is why social media had mile-high stock valuations even when platforms were still hemorrhaging cash.

Let’s face it; marketing has always included an element of manipulation. The function of consumer insights and research is designed to provide marketers levers for manipulation. With some exceptions, we have been able to sleep at night knowing that the consumer stood a chance or that we were also offering a real benefit, so some manipulation was just part of it. When we started using rich data with algorithms to develop more targeted models, many of us saw this as the ultimate example of customer empathy. This was going to empower marketers to become highly relevant to their consumers.

Those who were not on board were behind the times. (To confess, I used to view most cautionary voices as laggards or technophobes. Some were, some weren’t, but they were also right to worry.)

Today, we need to take stock of how that empathy is used. With great empathy comes the power of even greater manipulation. Despite all of the data policies out there, we are not addressing the real question: How much manipulation is too much?

Is it fair to push an antacid ad at someone who posts about a visit to the county fair and winning the pie-eating contest? Seems “big brother-ish,” but benign?

How about pushing anti-anxiety medication ads to a college student going through a breakup during finals week?

While this sounds horrible, we technically can.

Don’t Do It Just Because You Can

How companies manage and leverage consumer data is becoming part of the company’s ethical standards, but we need to extend beyond data privacy to data use.

Just like use of child labor, environmental footprints and other ethical standards, standards on the use of consumer data will be a critical way that companies define their brands and the role they wish to play.

3 Examples of Social Media-Worthy Outdoor Advertisements

It’s important to see how social media enhances outdoor advertising and vice versa. Many companies are making their ads more “shareable” and social-media friendly. Here are three examples of social media-worthy outdoor advertisements.

Many look at the relationship between outdoor advertising and digital advertising as combative. We already know that out-of-home advertising works (here’s why). However, it is important to see the ways that the digital world enhances traditional ads and vice versa.

Think about it. New York City is the most photographed city in the world. Times Square explodes with colorful billboards and signage, both day and night. People flock to the displays, while taking pictures with their phones and sharing them on the web for the world to see. When advertisements are usually clever or visually appealing, viewers want to take pictures to share with their friends and followers.

Because of this, many companies are actually making their outdoor ads more social media-friendly and “share-worthy.” By being eye-catching, artistic or allowing for viewer participation, many advertisers are connecting traditional advertising with social media.

Here are three examples of advertisements that use social media “share-ability” to be more appealing or broaden their reach:

1. Delta Airlines x Tinder = The ‘Dating Wall’

Tinder and Delta Airlines teamed up to create the ultimate outdoor advertisement for social media use. The “Dating Wall,” located in Brooklyn, was comprised of images of popular travel destinations. The point? Audience members were meant to take selfies with one of the destinations as the backdrop and upload it to Tinder, creating a much more eye-catching “Tinder pic.” This campaign promoted both brands in a fun way that allowed viewer participation via social media.

2. Spotify’s ‘2018 Goals’

For its “2018 Goals” campaign that took place in 2017, Spotify used humor to appeal to its audience. The streaming company was able to use users’ listening habits to create a memorable series of hilarious and relatable outdoor ads. The campaign attracted both real-life and Internet attention, because they’re the perfect ad to share with a friend for a good laugh.

3. ‘David Bowie Subway Takeover’

social media-worthy outdoor advertisements

social media-worthy outdoor advertisements Bowie pic

Spotify is a champion of memorable ads. In 2018, the company set up a month-long art installation in an NYC subway station to celebrate the late David Bowie. The campaign featured both a photo-worthy portrait of the star and information about what he loved to do in NYC. Soon, photos of the art quickly popped up all over social media. This ad was especially appealing, because it made a normally mundane spot much more interesting.

The Importance of Using Social Media in B2B Advertising

While most marketers are aware of the value of social networks in B2C campaigns, they often overlook social media as a key component of B2B advertising efforts. Dispelling the myth that Facebook (and others) cannot be a utility for B2B advertisers starts with understanding the role social plays.

While most marketers are aware of the value of social networks in B2C campaigns, they often overlook social media as a key component of B2B advertising efforts. Dispelling the myth that Facebook (and others) cannot be a utility for B2B advertisers starts with understanding the role social plays. Facebook, Instagram Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn all have their place and purpose in B2B brand building; after all, business decision-makers have social lives and social accounts, too. While users may not immediately be in a business mindset when using Facebook or Instagram, tailored content that serves as an introduction can unobtrusively spark interest.

Of course, when designing a B2B social campaign, advertisers must take a few considerations into account. First, budgets and campaign goals will determine which, if not all, platforms get play. Second, the strategy and what the advertiser is trying to accomplish will determine the rest. Finally, advertisers must have KPIs that make sense; using cost-per-acquisition (CPA) or ROI to measure the performance of social initiatives in a B2B context is illogical. Instead, employ engagement, or reach measurements to gauge effectiveness.

Seeing Through the Personal to Identify and Engage B2B Decision Makers 

Like many people, business decision-makers have active social accounts in some form or another. And while we use those accounts in different ways, it’s likely that most social media users aren’t out there to actively seek out business solutions. However, adjusting that mindset to unobtrusively make an introduction is a beneficial approach.

Start by casting a wide net of curated content, which can be an inexpensive way to deliver reach. Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc., can all exceed the reach of most B2B media, but the reach behemoth is Facebook. To keep the cost-per-thousand impression (CPMs) low, stick with broader targeting and a broader message, capture those who engage and retarget them with more specific messages. How-tos and tips do well in this regard and can serve as a logical entry point. This content could be the advertiser’s own blog posts, videos, etc.; anything low-penetration and with a somewhat native feel that offers quick information that’s relevant to their business can pique their interest.

With that in mind, sponsored organic posts are likely to be more effective than run-of-the-mill ads at delivering content that the desired audience cares about. For example, a cyber security company may provide content that speaks to the risk of cyber hacking, or about whether standard firewalls and antivirus software is enough to keep most companies out of risk. This content is pertinent, educational, easy to absorb and potentially solves a business problem.

Once established, relationships can be grown and nurtured in other ways. Engagement metrics can be used to hone-in-on individuals who expressed interest in the advertised product/service by clicking through the content to your website.

LinkedIn’s Expanding Role in B2B Advertising

Social media extends beyond the Facebooks and Twitters of the world. Sites like LinkedIn can be especially powerful in B2B social advertising. While sites like Facebook and Instagram are the right place to push low-penetration content that grabs attention, LinkedIn is better for in-depth content like whitepapers and thought leadership, as users are likely already in a business mindset and thus further down the funnel. Whitepaper downloads can be an effective way of acquiring new customers; if a consumer is imbibing content, then they are actively seeking information and/or solutions.

Of particular note, Bing Ads recently announced LinkedIn profile targeting for text ads, shopping campaigns and dynamic search ads, meaning LinkedIn data on company, job function and/or industry can now be leveraged in Bing Ads to enhance targeting. These audiences can even be layered on to less efficient search campaigns like competitor campaigns that serve as great conquesting tactics, but oftentimes are too inefficient for an evergreen strategy. Layering on enhanced audiences from LinkedIn can mitigate waste and improve campaign viability.

This data integration is unique to Bing, meaning the data can’t be accessed and used in Google to enhance the effectiveness of search campaigns there. While third-party providers can provide similar information, it’s not LinkedIn data specifically, which is self-reported and usually very accurate. With this integration, it’s likely that Bing’s market share with B2B advertisers will increase given this impressive new value proposition.

Considerations for a Social B2B Push

Considerations for a social B2B advertising push include the usual aspects associated with almost any type of digital campaign: budget, overall strategy, the business’ industry, and platform limitations. But beyond those, here are social B2B advertising considerations that should remain front and center:

  1. Know your target consumer. Use Facebook Audience Insights to understand who your customers are and what kind of media they consume, and if there are any topics or interests that would interest them. This includes knowing what kind of business problems they have for which your product can solve. Consider targeting via industry, job title, interest in particular trade publications or affiliation with organizations closely related to your solution.
  1. Understand the platforms. Learn how to leverage the various social platforms to achieve your marketing objective and how to measure the results (clicks, downloads, etc.). Leverage Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to introduce your product/service to net new customers. Leverage LinkedIn for more in-depth content like white papers and thought leadership.
  1. Go native. Understand how content promotion varies by platform. The key is engaging the audience as natively as possible. Use visual-focused content for Instagram; link to strong content for Pinterest; making everything easily digestible for Facebook.
  1. Build the relationship: Use engagement metrics to hone, refine and qualify audiences. Present the refined audiences with different content that helps push them further down the funnel and builds upon the recently-established relationship.

Busting the B2B Social Media Myth

While social media may not seem like the most natural method for engaging business decision makers on the surface, it’s short-sighted to believe that social channels cannot be effective for B2B advertising. The desired consumer exists on these platforms — after all, most of them use social media just like the rest of the world; the key is determining the best way to engage them based on their platform of choice.

Instagram, Facebook and Twitter can be effective platforms to introduce business decision makers to your brand through content that discusses information they’d likely find useful, in a format that feels native to the platform. From there, retargeting lists can be generated with users who engaged with the content to further build the relationship and move them down the purchase funnel.

The Psychology of Social Proof and Its Role in Marketing

In order to successfully master marketing in a crowded marketplace, you have to think like a customer. And in order to think like a customer, you have to tap into their psyche and understand what influences their perceptions and decision-making.

In order to successfully master marketing in a crowded marketplace, you have to think like a customer. And in order to think like a customer, you have to tap into their psyche and understand what influences their perceptions and decision-making. At the heart of this topic is social proof.

The Psychology Behind Social Proof

Have you ever spent any time around sheep? While they don’t smell great or look particularly cute, they’re fascinating animals, and their psyche and decision-making can teach us a lot.

Sheep have an incredibly strong instinct to follow other sheep – particularly the one right in front of them – regardless of where it’s going. There are many documented cases of one sheep walking off a cliff and dozens more following the same sheep toward inevitable disaster. On the flip side, there are plenty of situations where one sheep saves hundreds of lives by leading a flock to safety during a threatening blizzard.

In this sense, people are very much like sheep. Whether we do so intentionally or not, we tend to flock together and make decisions based on what others are doing. In the consumer marketplace, this idea of flocking together is closely connected with the social proof theory.

Popularized by psychologist Robert Cialdini, this theory says that people look to the actions of their peers to make decisions in situations where they’re uncertain of how to act.

Marketers who understand social proof can use it to their advantage by incorporating elements of this psychological phenomenon into their engagement and promotion strategies. It’s essentially the act of borrowing third-party influence to persuade potential customers towards your brand or products.

“As customers we buy products that make us feel good about ourselves, products that change us and make us better,” conversion expert Talia Wolf writes. “By using social proof in the form of testimonials, reviews and trust icons you’re helping customers make a decision, feel confident about their choice, and a part of something bigger.”

Leveraging Social Proof in Marketing

Social proof is a vast topic with thousands of intricacies and individual theories, but it’s helpful to boil things down to a few salient, overarching points. Sales and marketing consultant Lincoln Murphy believes there are three basic types of social proof:

  • Similar social proof. This is the most basic type of social proof. It’s the type of social proof that brands use when they integrate testimonials, reviews, and logos of other companies into their marketing materials. The goal is to show prospective customers that your products have the approval of their peers.
  • Aspirational social proof. This form of social proof is used to convince your target audience they want to be like someone else. In other words, you’re convincing people to aspire to be like your customers.
  • Endorsements. While most people think about endorsements in terms of celebrity advertisements, famous people are just part of it. Customers also rely on recommendations from authoritative third-party websites. For example, Top10.com ranks products in different categories as a way of helping customers identify their best options. This is a type of endorsement.

If you’re going to develop a social proof strategy for your marketing efforts, start with these elements. Specifically, you should try some of the following techniques:

1. Use Hard Numbers

There are plenty of ways you can go about inserting social proof into your marketing and engagement strategies, but in today’s climate, people respond best to facts and statistics. The more hard numbers you can use, the more persuasive your efforts will be.

2. Insert Visuals

The human brain is hardwired to like visuals. If you want to take your efforts to the next level, you should incorporate as much visual information into your marketing as possible. When it comes to your website, for example, including headshots of your customers next to their testimonials and reviews will pay dividends.

3. Tap Into Social Media

Social media is the perfect medium for maximizing social proof. If you can get your most satisfied customers to be organic advocates for your products – sharing, liking, promoting – you’ll see your results skyrocket. You can make it easy for your customers to share on social media by providing them with shareworthy content and chances to engage with your brand on their favorite platforms (Facebook and Instagram, in particular).

Are You Utilizing Social Proof?

Social proof isn’t something that you can control with 100 percent accuracy. There will always be some element of social proof that naturally arises in the marketplace. However, you have much more influence than you realize.

As you develop and hone your marketing strategy, be on the lookout for ways to leverage social proof and tap into the sense of collectivism that humans, like sheep, are naturally drawn to. Ultimately, this will strengthen your brand message and energize your marketing efforts.

Gen Z Influencers – Are Celebrity Endorsers Doomed to Extinction?

As Gen Z starts to dominate the consumer landscape, will celebrity endorsers lose their status? Quizzing my Gen Z college students about brands they’re loyal to and brand influencers, I find that they’re more focused on social media and peers than they are on advertising and celebrity endorsers.

As Gen Z starts to dominate the consumer landscape, will celebrity endorsers lose their status?

Quizzing my Gen Z college students about brands they’re loyal to and brand influencers, I find that they’re more focused on social media and peers than they are on advertising and celebrity endorsers. When asked to give examples of categories where they’re brand loyal, most of the female students turn to cosmetics, a category where the opinion leaders have traditionally been celebrities. Many female students reference little-known (at least to me) YouTube make-up artists, rather than celebrities. The beauty category may become the first to turn completely away from traditional celebrity endorsers. But what others will follow? This Gen Z trend will be a challenge for marketers to keep up with in a burgeoning consumer cohort.

“Influencers, such as Kylie Jenner and Huda Kattan have started successful beauty lines, built on their base of online followers. However, as social platforms become more crowded, some iGens are looking to more niche apps to express themselves, making it harder for brands to identify up-and-coming influencers.” Mintel, MARKETING TO THE iGENERATION US, MAY 2018

This new breed of beauty influencer is making an impact on Beautycon (think the Consumer Electronics for cosmetics). Moj Mahdara, Beautycon  CEO, notes “Nearly three-quarters of Beautycon’s target audience — Gen Z-ers and younger Millennials — say they are influenced more by ‘content creators’ than traditional celebrities, according to Beautycon’s research.” The New York Times, July 28, 2018

Cosmetics marketers are adapting.

“Our in-store marketing will feature authentic, real-girl product reviews, with the intent to teach the customer how she can use our products or why they’re trending, rather than to tell her what to buy.” Linda Chang, co-founder, Riley Rose Global Cosmetic Industry Feb. 1, 2018

“Although most beauty purchases are made in-store, more than 40% of Gen Z makes purchase decisions based on real-time social media feedback. A beauty brand’s packaging or product might catch their eye, but if someone’s influencers don’t like it? No sale.” Global Cosmetic Industry,June 1, 2018

What does this trend in the beauty industry mean for marketers in other categories? Are Michael Jordan and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson about to lose substantial portions of their incomes?

Tech already depends on bloggers and YouTubers to explain, review and endorse their products. And while Nike relies heavily on celebrity endorsers like LeBron James and Serena Williams, they brand also pays homage to everyday people with its Dream Crazy campaign, encouraging everyday people to share their crazy dream.

In your view, what other categories are beginning to adapt to this Gen Z trend?

Generational Marketing: Gen Z Goes to College

I’ve taught in colleges since 2005, and have shared my observations about Millennials in several Target Marketing blog posts. Recently, I realized that most of my current students aren’t Millennials, so my curiosity about psycho-demographics has me trying to observe the generational marketing characteristics of this new cohort of college students, arbitrarily defined as those born starting in 1997.

I’ve taught in colleges since 2005, and have shared my observations about Millennials in several Target Marketing blog posts. Recently, I realized that most of my current students aren’t Millennials, so my curiosity about psycho-demographics has me trying to observe the generational marketing characteristics of this new cohort of college students, arbitrarily defined as those born starting in 1997.

Of course, changes in generational attitudes don’t occur overnight, and so I didn’t walk into class one semester and say, “Wow, these kids are different!” The oldest Gen Zers were freshmen in 2015 and because the lines between the generations aren’t always distinct, I don’t have a large sample on which to base my generalizations. But here are some of my initial observations based on some recent classroom encounters.

Technology and Ageism

Unlike the students of five-plus years ago, the current group does not automatically assume that older people (myself included) are digital idiots. Perhaps that’s because their parents are more technologically savvy and their grandparents have social media accounts. Although most identified their grandparents as laggards when it came to smartphone adoption in a recent assignment on the Diffusion of Innovation Theory, they don’t automatically assume that older people are technologically clueless. (See my post from 2016 on “Millennial Microagression”).

Financial Awareness

The cost of their education is always top-of-mind. It comes up frequently in classroom discussions about their consumption habits. Their formative years were marked by a time of economic uncertainty. In a recent marketing class at Rutgers, we were discussing how the economic environment affects marketing strategy and tactics. When I referenced the financial crisis of 2008, I realized that most of the students were in elementary or middle school during that time. Whether or not they experienced a parent’s job loss or home foreclosure firsthand, most understood that times were difficult and the financial future was not always assured.

Social Media-Cautious

In a recent assignment about retargeting, I asked them to cite examples of how their online activity led to seeing ads about things they posted or searched. Most referenced Google searches, and one student claimed that she was disadvantaged in coming up with examples because she has no social media accounts. Some have abandoned Facebook and, while they use Instagram, most keep their accounts private. By contrast, my experience with Millennials is that they were, and continue to be, much freer with their social media activity.

Look for more about Gen Z in upcoming posts.

5 Multichannel Video Marketing Tactics to Engage Holiday Shoppers

Utilizing a multi-pronged holiday video marketing approach enables marketers to take their seasonal performance to the next level by increasing visibility through social media platforms and search, while also boosting the brand’s and its products’ popularity among shoppers during the critical holiday season.

It’s the time of year again for marketers to kick their holiday marketing efforts into high gear. As consumer buying behaviors and media consumption continue to change, it’s crucial for marketers to understand that shoppers increasingly use a variety of channels to find inspiration and make purchases, and therefore marketers must align their messaging across channels to effectively engage customers at optimal touchpoints along their purchase journey. Once they grasp the basics of these channels, marketers can start to utilize more advanced strategies as part of a holistic approach during this critical time of the year.

Among the channels consumers seek out when considering purchases, social videos have become a staple of product research and consideration. Social media marketing puts products right where consumers spend their time, and consumers expect product videos from brands, with many shoppers searching for a product video before visiting a store. Marketers often use social video ads to capture demand throughout the year, but during the holidays, they should be more proactive. By leveraging a multi-channel approach with targeting precision to be more assertive, they can take greater control in driving demand and expanding their results.

Retail marketers should consider the following tactics for developing a multi-channel holiday marketing strategy centered on social video ads to better align marketing with the customer journey.

Utilize Video Across a Variety of Social Platforms

There are many places marketers can reach their target audience, so investing holiday budgets by leveraging video ads across multiple channels generates more opportunities to create impressions and engage with shoppers.

After establishing which social channels target audiences frequent most, marketers can better determine what type of content and video ads to plan and post to offer a seamless experience between preferred platforms and capitalize on different stages of the holiday shopping experience.

Fostering Interest on Pinterest

Pinterest remains a popular destination for consumers to visually interact with brands and discover new products. With many users flocking to the platform to create lists for the holiday season and aid in their gift purchasing decisions, it’s vital for marketers to get their products and brand on the platform immediately.

The ability to showcase branded videos on the platform received a boost just in time for the holidays with the rollout of wide-format promoted video ads, driving efficient costs-per-view and lifts in brand awareness. With 67 percent of Pinterest video viewers saying videos on Pinterest inspire them to take action, there’s ample opportunity for marketers to capture interest for their products heading into the holidays.

Pinterest users’ inspiration period can start up to three months prior to an actual purchase; therefore, it’s important for marketers to reach customers early with video ads to cultivate their interest and move users toward conversion. Marketers looking to land on shoppers’ holiday radars should utilize Pinterest as a visual catalog. For example, a toy retailer could leverage video ads on the platform to reveal the hottest toys of 2018 or a clothing retailer might showcase their winter apparel line as customers look for inspiration for their holiday party attire.

Once they’ve captured interest through Pinterest video ads, marketers need to consider engaging customers by retargeting and remarketing to push their customer even further than the purchase funnel.

Tap Into the Enduring Influence of YouTube

YouTube continues to be a driving influence when it comes to making purchases, especially around the holidays, with mobile watch time for product review videos on YouTube growing each year.

As part of marketers’ holiday strategies, they should leverage YouTube TrueView followed by bumper ads to target prospective audiences and new customers. The best part is marketers only get charged when a user chooses to watch the full 30 second ad – a win, win!

Utilizing companion banners to drive click through rates (CTRs), bumper ads exist as a reminder to customers to purchase specific products. These products should be served via remarketing lists and similar audiences to maximize efficiency and reduce cost per impressions. Additionally, with Google’s mobile-first focus, these ads will serve in a format that is easily viewable for customers on-the-go.

Marketers should also consider running a brand lift study alongside these video ads to measure impact on metrics like brand awareness, ad recall and purchase intent. By doing so, marketers can tweak their strategy within the first week of results to better connect with audiences and more effectively drive results throughout the holiday season.

Leverage Facebook and Instagram for Merchandising, Not Just Branding

Aside from being among the most popular social networks, Instagram and Facebook both command a greater interaction frequency than YouTube. Undoubtedly, video ads on Facebook and Instagram serve the purpose of effectively stimulating a marketer’s target audience on highly actionable and engaged channels. On Facebook alone, views on branded or sponsored video content increased 258% in 2017, with the highest numbers generated around the holiday season as shoppers sought inspiration for gift ideas. Facebook Carousel ads are a favorite among retail marketers because they encourage consumers to interact with their ads and allow greater opportunity to showcase products through images and videos with the potential for several different calls-to-action.

Instagram also recently expanded its ad offerings to more marketers with its Collection ad units, enabling online retailers to add the Shopping Bag icon within their Stories for the holiday season. The images and videos used within the carousel display can link to the brand’s site or product pages to drive e-commerce purchases.

Targeting users that have shown an interest or interacted with holiday topics across Facebook properties should be a key consideration in marketers’ holiday strategies. Marketers can utilize dynamic product ad offerings as an effective way to get in front of new customers with specific product sets or SKUs; for example, targeting users interested in a holiday sweater, gift wrap or children’s toys, or leveraging parental or relationship targeting to hone in on those most likely to convert.

Complement Video Strategies With Highly Relevant Keywords

Driving the desired targeted traffic that converts requires a varied strategy designed for a marketer’s specific brand and product set. To capitalize on the demand social videos generate across channels, marketers should create highly-relevant holiday-specific keywords as consumers who watched a video and are searching for the brand or products by name are likely deeper within the sales funnel. Marketers should develop and expand coverage on relevant keywords that reinforce messaging from their videos to include search terms like “gift ideas,” “best,” “kids,” and “holiday deal,” along with brand and product-specific terms.

Likewise, leveraging remarketing lists for search ads with proper messaging helps ensure marketers can reach customers in their exact moment of need to foster engagement and move them through the purchase funnel with greater precision to drive better results.

Utilizing a video-centric, multi-pronged holiday marketing approach will better enable marketers to take their seasonal performance to the next level by increasing visibility through Pinterest, YouTube, social media platforms and search, while also boosting the brand’s and its products’ popularity among shoppers during the critical holiday season.

Brands Take Stands: How Nike Just Did It Better Than Ever

Nike just did it. Other brands are doing it. And overall, social media just got a bit more political, as brands take stands. The “2018 Edelman Earned Brand” study was just released that shows nearly 65% of consumers around the world now buy on belief, or buy from brands that have similar beliefs as they do, about morals, values, social issues and politics.

Nike just did it. Other brands are doing it. And overall, social media just got a bit more political, as brands take stands.

The “2018 Edelman Earned Brand” study (opens as a PDF) was just released that shows nearly 65% of consumers around the world now buy on belief, or buy from brands that have similar beliefs as they do, about morals, values, social issues and politics. These consumers state that they will choose, switch or boycott a brand accordingly. And important to note, the number of customers saying this is how they choose and align loyalty went up 13% from 2017. While this was a global study, the increase in just the U.S. was 12% points, year-over-year.

Referring to these customers as “Belief-Driven” buyers, Edelman’s research points out that they are the majority of buyers in all marketers and across all age groups surveyed in this recent global survey. And surprisingly, the biggest increase in belief-driven purchasing choices is among the 55 years and older group. Just FYI, the increase in Millennials was 9%, in GenX, 14% and Baby Boomers, 55%.

Yet when Nike took a recent stand by featuring Colin Kaepernick in a new ad, social media lit up with videos and photos of consumers burning their expensive Nike shoes, and posts about how Nike “Just Blew It.” For a minute, Nike’s stock value dropped. Note: for a minute. Days after the fury and flurry died down in the media waves, the stock value soared 4% to an all-time high, and online sales the weekend the ad hit shot up 31%. Hard to believe when following all of the hate posts on Facebook and Twitter.

So what does all of this mean?

Psychologically, here are some insights about human behavior:

  • When someone pushes our buttons and make us angry, we react. Sometimes we erupt and kick the wall and tell the world what just happened to us in impassioned conversations online and offline. And then, in a few hours, we calm down and sometimes we start to see both sides of an issue and relax our position. But most importantly, we forget about it and focus on the next situation that pushes a button deep inside us. Think about it. Are you still boycotting a brand that made you upset 10 years ago? And do you even remember why it did?
  • Popularity and familiarity trump us all. Donald Trump always said any headline is a good headline, as people forget the bad deeds but they don’t forget your name. His name “awareness” certainly seems to have helped build his brand in many ways. And it’s true for how we vote and purchase. We go with what is familiar to us, even if we have some concerns. You hear it all of the time, “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.”
  • Consumers view brands as not just manufacturers of goods and providers of services, but as “movements.” Tom’s Shoes started this new genre of commerce with his movement to give away a pair of shoes for every shoe purchased. This promise enables him to sell shoes that cost $9 to manufacture for around $70 or more, and built his revenue to more than $20 million in just three years.

Consumers care about products and they care about your movement and they want you to take a stand and tell them about it. According to Edelman’s report, 60% of the 8,000 consumers worldwide responding to this survey believe that brands should make it easier for consumers to see what their values and positions are when they are about to make a position, even at the point of sale. Whole Foods grocers is a good example of this. Throughout their stores, they have information about recycling, how to reduce your carbon imprint; they have environmentally friendly bags, products, and engage customers in educational events that build their whole healthy self and preserve their world at the same time. It’s a movement, not just a store.

The time is coming for brands to take a stand. Social issues and political issues have become mainstream among all generations. Consumers are taking a stand about gun control, government issues and social issues; and so, too, are their kids. Look at the data above from Edelman’s 2018 brand report. You’re damned if you do (for a day or two per Nike’s stock value changes), and you’re damned if you don’t. And you’re likely damned a lot longer if you don’t take a stand, as the data shows us consumers will purchase from those that have their same values. So if you don’t’ have values and communicate those values, you end up on the neutral line and today, that just won’t cut it.

Determine the values that best reflect your brand. Are they socially, environmentally or politically oriented? What are the values your brand aligns with, what is your stand? How will you communicate your stand and, most importantly, how will you engage your customer and partner communities with these values?

In real estate? How are you supporting homeless programs in your community?

Women’s clothing retail shop? How are you empowering underprivileged women to rise above?

You get it. Now go get on it!

Take Our 2019 Budgets Survey, Win Up to $300!

How to spend your budget is one of the most important questions every marketer has to answer. Whether it’s a department budget, social media budget, AdWords budget or any other, how you allocate those resources is the difference between failure and success. Help us figure out where marketers are putting their money for 2019, and you’ll have the chance to enter to win one of three gifts card for $300, $100 and $100, respectively.

TL/DR: If you just want to know how to get the money, click here and take our survey to enter to win!

We’re working on the latest Target Marketing research, and I need your help to make it a success.

How to spend your budget is one of the most important questions every marketer has to answer. Whether it’s a department budget, social media budget, AdWords budget or any other, how you allocate those resources is the difference between failure and success.

That’s why our latest research is the most important to date: The 2019 Marketing Budgets Survey.

Our goal is to collect data on marketing budgets that will turn into a series of actionable budgeting reports on three key areas: Content Marketing, Google AdWords and Social Media, as well as some baseline budgets research. With your help, these reports will reveal how your peers are spending their budgets on these areas, and give you a solid baseline to build your own budget.

The survey is only a few pages, and should take about 15 minutes of your time. And if you do help us, you’ll have the chance to enter to win one of three gifts card for $300, $100 and $100 respectively.

Click here to take the survey, and you could win one of $500 in prizes! 

Thank you for your support in all of our research. I can’t wait to share the results with you in the next issue of Target Marketing and through this series of essential reports.

SEO Best Practices: Hashtags or Keywords?

With the popularity and increasing influence of social media, marketers are rushing to select or create just the right hashtags to add to their social media posts. Hashtags, although useful, are not the same as the venerable search keywords and should not be confused with each other or, so to speak, concatenated in the best SEO marketing strategy.

With the popularity and increasing influence of social media, marketers are rushing to select or create just the right hashtags to add to their social media posts. Hashtags, although useful, are not the same as the venerable search keywords and should not be confused with each other or, so to speak, concatenated in SEO best practices marketing strategy.

Each has its own place. It is my own contrarian view that the marketer has more control over the interpretation of a keyword than a hashtag. The immediacy of the hashtag creates areas of unexpected ambiguity. In this article, my recommendation is that marketers should take care in how they select and use hashtags in SEO best practices.

When to Use a Hashtag

Hashtags should be treated as ephemeral in the same vein as marketing slogans. Because they are short and often require context for clarification of their meaning, they do not have staying power.

You might say: “What about #metoo or #neveragain?” Both have huge current social significance and have garnered tremendous support for the movements they represent. Many thousands have tagged social media posts or searched social media sites for posts tagged with #metoo or #neveragain. These hashtags have been very useful in providing a vehicle for social engagement. These are examples of hashtags used exceptionally well.

However, in 10 years, will people remember what these were and what they represented? It is hoped that they represent more than just a moment in time. These are powerful examples, and few marketing programs have been able to develop hashtags that have the kind of market power that these represent. Most are barely memorable even in the moment.

Keywords, when used in site content, represent blocks of language that are more universal and not as temporal. Keywords are seldom freighted with the social baggage created by their use in social media. They are easily clarified and amplified; therefore, it is my contention that in site content and meta data keywords are preferential. This does not suggest totally avoiding hashtags in site content, but use them in conjunction with keywords to carry the main meaning.

The Law of Unforeseen Consequences

Because the social media platforms were not all launched at the same time, most individuals and organizations do not have consistent nomenclature across all platforms. This can create some startling results when hashtags enter the mix.

I am an avid sports fan, and have refereed multiple high school and collegiate events over the years. Currently, my fan fixation is the University of North Carolina’s baseball team (basketball season is over, so). The team is known as the “Diamond Heels,” a nice play on baseball’s diamond and the Tarheels. Fans can follow games and get up-to-date information on Twitter @DiamondHeels. There are also official Facebook and Instagram accounts.

One day, I popped into Instagram and did a quick search for #diamondheels. Lo and behold, there were many baseball images tagged @diamondheels, but they were intermixed with some that were not suitable for office viewing. This is the law of unforeseen consequences at work.

Social media is consumer-generated media where everyday individuals create the message. I doubt the baseball team wants its brand side-by-side with some of these images, but fans placed it there by their use of the seemingly innocuous hashtag #diamondheels. That’s because hashtags are not restricted in their use and unforeseen and unseemly juxtapositions will occur.

To prevent such occurrences, marketers must aggressively research and promote the hashtags they want to see used. In selecting hashtags, marketers need to consider just how and where they might encounter the law of unforeseen consequences and try to limit its impact.