Viral Videos Take Effort

Many times in the ideation process or in the pre kick off stage of a project someone has the idea to “make it viral.” It is usually a two part discussion consisting of the suggestion to make a viral widget and the the question on how to do that?

Office Max’s Elf Yourself used to come up in everyone of these conversations but now the Old Spice Guy custom youtube video comes up. This post will explore not how to make something viral but the disconnect that exists between the desire to do great work but the unwillingness to take the risks and put in the effort that requires. We will explore some of the things that these two giants did to make the point of what it takes to do viral work.

How did OfficeMax know that Elf Yourself would go viral? That was a stroke of genius right? It wasn’t, it was a stroke of testing and failing.  OfficeMax actually launched 20 sites and must have concepted untold hundreds. How did they choose the 20?  Elf yourself is the result of failing 19 times. Are you willing to pay to build 20 sites with the hopes that one goes viral? If you take that risk and win you get to do interviews in trade pubs, if you take that risk and lose you spent your bonus on a website about dancing elves. Viral is a risk. Viral isn’t an accident.

The brilliance that made Old Spice Guy viral wasn’t the idea it was the execution. The ridiculous level of client agency trust has been well documented and I won’t re-hash past saying that if you need legal for every status update don’t expect to execute at this level. Old Spice Guy also didn’t conceive it as a way around a small budget. Teams of writers, social, strategists and over hundred videos sounds expensive to me. I would pay to the that scope of work document. Viral is expensive.

It also isn’t just a video, sure cats playing piano occasionally are viral for a couple of hours and get views. This isn’t the same value as an experience or interaction that creates a brand impression. Both Elf and Old Spice Guy were participatory. Viral is engaging.

It is easy for agencies to suggest these risks, but we have an obligation to clients to suggest them in a responsible way and provide realistic counsel. If you want to make a viral video and have $11k to spend we need to not do it. Big things take effort. The $11k video isn’t as big a risk but is almost guaranteed not to go viral. The flip side is clients can’t ask for and expect big and viral results when the insist the project is done in a small way.

What is Shopkick?

By now you know that Best Buy has rolled out Shopkick incentives nationwide. Depending on your point of view it is a big deal or just another shiny object temporarily distracting us from our actual job. Either way, you should know what Shopkick is and how the concept will effect consumer expectations.

Why do you put signs in the windows or overprint weekly circulars to stack near the entry way of your store?

Shopkick is the mobile version of this concept. Do you get that tingling feeling whenever someone walks into your store? Isn’t it magical that your advertising, branding, real estate, customer service, merchandising or secret sauce mix of all of them worked and a real life human being walks into YOUR store ready to buy something? What would you say to them if you could speak to them exactly at the moment they cross the threshold?

Shopkick can deliver a message to a persons mobile phone when they simply walk into your store. It is a passive version of other location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla.

So far content is mostly promotion of currently running specials or specific discounts. This concept of shoppers being alerted to a businesses best deals and that of their competitors is growing. The ability to target a specific series of both offline and online behaviors ahead of entering the store will take this to the next level.

An example of where this would lead is Best Buy delivering an incentive to everyone who searches for “plasma tv” and then walks into Wal Mart. Or someone who walked into Nordstrom and then, within a certain time frame, searched for a shoe brand could be delivered content directly from a manufacturer at the place and time a consumer is making the buying decision.

Consumers will continue to share increasing amounts of personal information as long as it pays of in a better experience.

Mobile Checkout Will Revolutionize Retail

Nordstrom is rolling out mobile checkout in its stores in July. The idea of store associates being able to assist with inventory questions and check you out on the spot is exciting.

Your point-of-sale just merged with exact location the purchase decision is made.

Over the next few years the expectation of what a retail store is will change. That means that stores won’t have a cash register or customers neatly queued waiting to check-out. The very idea of shopping and taking your items to the checkout counter will no longer exists. Sales people will go to the customer or the customer will simply check themselves out with their own smartphone.

Your best sales associates are likely going to be located at an IM center interacting with customers hundreds of miles away. They will handle the customer questions, selling and checkout through a mobile app.

Manufacturers will take more control over the in-store environment by supplying information directly to consumers as they are selecting products. Your competitors will be reaching out to your customers when they use LBS to check-in at your location.

How you communicate with your customer will have to change as radically as in the in-store environment.

With a report saying the average retailer mobile spending is going from $50k in 2010 to $343k this year, you had better believe in-store mobile is for real.

Clean Email List Matters to Search Visibility

Google may never rid its search engine results pages from spam, but in an effort to reduce spam there they will likely reduce spam in our inbox. Google’s latest update weights manual spam reporting much more heavily than in the past. Hal Licino writes about the Panda / Farmer update on Search Engine Journal.

Most interesting point is how spam report from ISPs could easily be factored in and makes me wonder how much gmail spam reports already are?

So clean up your act all you legit retails that refuse to unsubscribe people…..yep, looking at you Babies R Us.


Content Matters for Retail QR codes

QR codes in retail are the next big thing, right? Clearly they are growing; it is less clear whether they will stick around or fade away. I half way feel like they are the betamax to the vhs of image recognition.

In the short term that is irrelevant since you are likely being asked about them already. So let’s focus on how to make the most of them. Recently on 11th screen, a great resource for all kinds of QR code examples, a QR code on the inside of a shoe was discussed.  The Fluevogs QR code experience truly enhances the purchase process and even the ownership.  I imagine they dream of someone saying “hey, nice shoes!” and the conversation ending up with the shoe in someone’s hands getting scanned and delivering content.
So this triggered the point of this post.

How do you handle content visibility for QR code content?

It is clearly great content or you wouldn’t have bothered.  Should it be available only through the QR code?  Linking QR code to your mobile video experience is fine but not targeted to the exact experience you want to deliver. Having QR code accessible through other channels means some of your best customers will scan the code in store and get repeat content. That is detrimental to the POP experience. It isn’t delight it is disappointment of expecting something new or inside but not discovering that type of content.
This leads to say the best QR code experience is exclusive.  This also frees you to think about the content in this way; it can speak directly to where the code is placed. You don’t have to worry about the context of it being on your Facebook page, in-store and on mobile simultaneously.

This means creating additional content that isn’t driving people to the store.  If we think about this in context of the purchase funnel, the value lied in widening the bottom of the funnel.  You have other programs that widen and drive people into the top of the funnel. A great QR code experience in store makes all those programs more effective.

QR codes are born to deliver dedicated content in a specific context. Success hinges on the content the QR code delivers.

Successful PR Programs Provide Access to Passion

After discussing how to go about providing unexpected delight to brand ambassadors, and those who share common passions as your brand, we must discuss how to choose what that unexpected, delightful experience actually will be. The first step is to understand what kind of things actually motivate your target.

This is mostly likely not an ipad2 or even cash. The delightful gesture has to show them that you understand their passion, whether that passion is directly for your brand or a shared interest. The danger is that the understanding of the passion has to be authentic. If your gesture is off the mark it alienates because your brand seems to be pandering.

After you have confirmed that you truly understand the passion and by the way you can’t do this yourself. It has to be an outside voice. Even if the passion is your brand you may not understand people’s passion for it. Your brand isn’t what you want it to be it is what your target thinks it is.

So, after you have confirmed that you truly understand the passion you can design experiences that bring delight. The best way to guarantee your brand get’s full credit is to provide something that cannot be obtained anywhere else. Any brand can offer $10k but what does that say about your brand?

If we are to refer to the Caribbean seafood restaurant from the previous post it might be letting Caribbean artists display their art in your waiting area or design your menu. We aren’t talking about an open contest here, just simply finding someone and giving them unsolicited access to your brand.

Take stock of what access your brand has to offer. Start with the people that work at your brand, where you spend your advertising dollars and what groups you sponsor. It is possible that you might have such incredible access to something that it will inform the criteria you use to select the random person to receive the gesture. If your access is a week in the test kitchen you might chose someone who checked-in at your restaurant and is also posting about how tough their second year of culinary school is.

Be genuine, true passion not poser passion, inside access.

Random Acts of Kindess from Brands

Trend Watching’s monthly briefing for March covered random acts of kindness from brands . They discuss how the combination of sharing social information online and the desire for brands to make a human connection is leading them to develop programs meant to surprise and delight customers out of the blue.

They are careful to point out they are not talking about gifts in exchange for an act of social sharing but unexpected and unsolicited gestures that show they care.

Random inaccurately describes these programs.

People are being selected to be recipients of these gestures based on a set of criteria. They might be mentioning the brand in a certain way or merely be connected to a brand online. I would also suspect consumers with higher influencer scores are more likely to be pursued in addition to whatever other criteria is used.

These programs feel random because the gestures are distributed incompletely. If everyone who says they drank a certain brand of soda received an unsolicited reward we would call that spam. The unexpected and incompleteness of these programs are how they preserve the delight.

Since we know we can retain the random, delightful feel of these programs despite the use of criteria to deliver the gestures, we can make better use of the targeting to make these interactions more brand relevant.

Word of Mouth prophet Spike Jones talks about how identifying people that are passionate about your brand is more important than identifying influential people in this video. Targeting only influential people often comes across as pandering. Increasing the conversation about your brand through passionate brand ambassadors will always have a more genuine feel.

So what if your brand doesn’t have an adequate supply of passionate ambassadors? What if you are trying to shift your brand in a new direction and you don’t feel the current brand ambassadors are appropriate?

This is when you focus on the passion not the brand.

You have to focus on the passions that you want your brand to be associated with and extend gestures to the folks that have those passions. This means a Caribbean seafood chain in the US might extend gestures to people that are talking about and preserving Caribbean art and culture in the US.  Your brand will get credit for supporting these people and activities. If you identify artists and community leaders that are actively participating in preserving and creating this culture, your brand will become know for contributing to this community. We won’t get into walking the walk here, that is a given.

Keep it genuine, keep it transparent, and accept the feedback.

How and what gestures are extended matters deeply to these programs being successful. The next post will discuss one of the ways to make these gestures sharable and the program a success; Giving Access.

Content is Currency of Social Web

Recently on ReadWriteWeb, Mike Vosters wrote a post discussing his opinion that the social web is focused on the production rather than the consumption of content. I don’t believe there is a content surplus on the social web today.

Supply and Demand Graphic We know that any online community is made up of several types of users, consistently the smallest group is the one creating the content and participating at the highest level.

Social network sites have the content creation section front and center because most people stop by to check on their network but not actually update themselves.

This graphic spells trouble for any market but we not anywhere near approaching anything close to this. Demand for social web content is tied to the same action as creating it.  Every time a user checks-in he or she views pictures, scrolls through tips and reads comments from their friends.  Every time someone updates their status the are view the content left by their network.

This unique characteristic of the social web makes it hard to apply grocery store economics to it. If every time the milk delivery truck dropped of a jug of milk it bought a loaf of bread, a candy bar and two boxes of cereal we wouldn’t being talking about the glut of milk.

Cognitive Surplus for Brands

Clay Shirky, an adjunct professor at New York University, recently spoke on Cognitive Surplus at Ted@Cannes.  This video shows him discussing how we are using our trillion hours of surplus time to do brilliant things from Ushahidi to LOLcats.  He also discusses the power of both economic and social motivation in capturing this excess time.

Shirky is concerned on how we recognize, motivate and reward those using their cognitive surplus for civic good.  I think there are implications for brands as well.

Motivating Use of Cognitive Surplus

The relationship people have with a brand clearly differs from the daycare/parent relationship in Shirky’s example. However, the brands that win in motivating use of cognitive surplus will do so by understanding the social contract they have with their fans.

It is worth noting that surplus does not carry the connotation of being less valuable as it often does.  Is your cognitive surplus valuable to you? (maybe not, if you participate in LOLcats)

The question of what motivates consumers to purchase, or even like, a brand may not be the only question we should ask.  Maybe we should be asking what motivates a consumer to expend their cognitive surplus on interacting with a brand.

Motivating action only covers half of gaining value from surplus energy, you also need to understand what specific surplus needs to be tapped into.

Segmenting and Valuing Cognitive Surplus

That trillion hours contains millions of different segments with different value to different organizations.  As brands segment their target audience, they should be as interested in what surplus skills exist in a segment as they are with what media that segment consumes.

Segmenting allows specific excess brain power to be valued differently based on whose brain it is and what action we want it to take.  As Howard Gardner recognized different intelligences, we need to identify and define different cognitive surpluses so we can understand how they relate to our brands.

What should a brand do differently to tap into a cognitive surplus of lawn mowing than it would to tap into a group of 29-45 year old homeowners living in the suburbs?  The MiracleGrow’s and Snapper’s of the world will have to start asking that question.

As we build interactive and social communication programs, the knowledge that we are not competing for generic free time becomes increasingly important.  We are competing for a share of a specialized function.