Content is the king of websites. It’s a point every company should understand. Most of the time, corporate websites are full of animations and cool software plug-ins, but they forget what consumers really want to see is content.
Coca-Cola is probably the first brand to move in this direction. Last year it declared the death of its corporate website. The new website is called “Coca-Cola Journey”, and it looks more like an online news channel than a website of a company that makes soft drinks.
This “Journey” started three years ago, when the company, realizing the media landscape was changing very quickly, launched “Coca-Cola Content 2020”. The aim was to understand how to leverage the opportunities of the new landscape by exploiting the power of dynamic storytelling.
According to Ashley Brown, Group Director of Digital Communications and Social Media for Coke, this change happened because they looked at their data and realized that what they thought was good content wasn’t necessarily considered good by their customers. They looked at customer feedback to shape the creativity of the business. The needs and the will of the buyers became priority in the new scenario. Coca-Cola understood that social media and online engagement was too important a tool to be neglected.
This new approach is the new way to engage with the customer. And mentioning the brand is not the top priority. They realized the main goal is to build relationship and trust, not promote their products; what they share on this platform is usable, fun and emotional content. It’s often said that “content is social at the core, digital by design, and emotional”.
Coke’s content talks about a variety of topics, from food to sports, from jobs to innovation. The articles are not written only by the company, but also from a group of bloggers who are part of “The Opener”, an exclusive, invite-only contributor network that brings the best food, travel culture, and innovation writing to the pages of Coca-Cola Journey. Every article can be shared through various social networks.
Everything published on Journey is data driven. The website attracts an average of 1.1 million visitors each month; they drive the future content of the platform. In some cases, a topic that is highly appreciated evolves into a dedicated channel. The amount of content to be published is also determined by data; the first year they published more than 1,200 pieces of content. Surprisingly enough, even if the focus is not on the product, articles about Coke do incredibly well.
Coca-Cola is one of the most well known brands in the world. Therefore, it was obvious that their corporate website, even in this new innovative form, was going to require a focus on different countries, their issues and their will. Today, there are seven local Journey websites: Australia, Deutschland, Japan, Morocco (in France and in Arab), New Zealand, Russia and Ukraine. More countries should be introduced soon.
Despite all this good news, there are a few people who are not convinced of this new scenario for corporate websites. Mark Higginson, Social Media Manager at the University of Brighton, reviewed a sample of 87 posts on Journey to understand the real social interaction with customers. His results were not positive: “the average number of shares from a post to Facebook was 238, to LinkedIn, 103 and to Twitter, 42. Each post averaged eight comments and two-thirds of posts received no comments at all.” Of course this number of shares seems very weak since we are talking about Coca-Cola, one of the most well known companies in the world.
There is no doubt that the direction of Coca-Cola has introduced a change to the role of the corporate website. Of course, a social media approach is not suitable for every kind of business, but everyone must understand that what is important is the customer and what kind of content they want to know.
And the promotion of the product must not dominate.
Get out a box of Kleenex, Budweiser has put another cute dog in their ad. After the overwhelming success of Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” spot during the 2014 Super Bowl, it’s no surprise they’ve once again harnessed the power of the puppy. But this time, it’s to send a very powerful and important message to consumers everywhere.
The ad was released in honor of Global Be(er) Responsible Day, which Budweiser created to talk to consumers about the dangers of drinking and driving. Their new ad features a golden lab waiting faithfully for his owner to come home after a night of drinking. Except his owner doesn’t return that night, causing the viewer’s heart to sink.
But fear not, he walks through the door the following morning after deciding to spend the night at a friend’s house instead of drinking and driving. Both dog and owner rejoice when he comes home safe and sound, ending with the copy: “Make a plan to make it home. Your friends are counting on you.”
This ad isn’t just a great example of corporate social responsibility, but it’s also a great tool to start a conversation with consumers. When Budweiser shared the link on their Twitter page, they invited consumers to the discussion about drinking and driving by including the Twitter hashtag #FriendsAreWaiting at the end of the commercial.
One look at this twitter feed and not only is it evident that people adored the conscientious ad, but that Budweiser is in fact accomplishing their goal of raising awareness about drinking and driving through their ad campaign. As of September 29, one week after the tweet was posted, it racked up 1,400 retweets and 940 favorites.
“Friendship, camaraderie and enjoying great times are at the heart of Budweiser’s most popular campaigns, and this video maintains that tradition but with an unexpected twist,” Brian Perkins, VP of marketing for Budwesier at Anheuser-Busch, told AdAge. “Budweiser is known for connecting with beer drinkers in memorable ways, and our efforts to promote responsible drinking through this video are no exception.”
The spot was released online prior to it being played on what is often considered the most popular media format: television. David Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR, emphasizes the importance of companies telling their stories and sharing their ideas online.
He notes that while television advertising was once the dominating way to communicate with audiences, things like Facebook, blogs, and Twitter allow companies to talk directly with consumer. He believes that “strong social networking ties lead to stronger personal relationships,” because of this one-on-one connection over something both the company and the consumer care deeply about (Scott 2013, p. 259)
Scott goes on to explain “what also fails (online) is an egocentric display of your products and services,” and Budweiser was smart enough to do the opposite by crafting a socially conscious message that aligns with their product (Scott 2013, p. 46). What’s critical to being successful online is creating information that people will want to share, and Budweiser did precisely that: To the tune of over 15 million online views of the ad..
As people continue to share the video through social media, Budweiser hopes that next time you pick up a beer at the supermarket, you’ll think of that cute puppy waiting for his friend and want to support such a responsible and insightful company.
What do you think about Budweiser’s new ad? How much of a role does the puppy play in the ad? Would it have been as effective as another pet? And is social media the most appropriate place for this type of corporate responsibility message?
The month of September, 2014 has been quite problematic for the NFL and their sponsors. In a short span of two weeks, the internet has been covered by news about Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his fiancée out cold in the elevator and Adrian Peterson “disciplining” his son on the bare skin with tree branches. Ray McDonald, Greg Hardy, and Jonathan Dwyer were also subsequently reported by the media to have their own domestic abuse/violence cases.
Unlike the old days when news would take days to reach the nation, the proliferation of social media has enabled news to go viral within minutes. So far, the majority of public conversations have been focusing on the actual offenders, NFL policies, and domestic violence issues in general. However, as a few brands got involved and earned themselves a decent amount of public media attention, an interesting question has emerged: What should brands do about this NFL domestic abuse turmoil?
CoverGirl is an official NFL sponsor that got involved with this issue in an unfortunate manner. CoverGirl has a national NFL-themed “Get Your Game Face On” campaign, featuring models with makeup colors that coordinate with different NFL team colors.
After a few players’ domestic violence cases were reported, a group of activists then used the CoverGirl campaign photos and photo-shopped the models with the look of a domestic violence victim (See comparison photos below). These altered photos quickly grew into a social media campaign of #CoverGirlcott that calls on CoverGirl to terminate its sponsorship with the NFL so the NFL will be pressured to take a definite stance on combatting domestic violence among their football players.
The brand’s official response to the boycott campaign, however, is not satisfying to theactivists’ standards. Under much public pressure, CoverGirl issued a statement saying that the brand believes “domestic violence is completely unacceptable” and it “encourages the NFL to take swift action on their path forward to address the issue of domestic violence”. However, there has been no further announcement or action from CoverGirl and the brand remains the NFL’s national sponsor.
This decision might not be as problematic if CoverGirl had not tried to position itself as a pro-women brand. Consumers might still remember CoverGirl’s #GirlCan: Women Empowerment campaign launched during the 2014 Winter Sochi Olympics. In that campaign, CoverGirl took the role of a women-empowerment ambassador and a women-rights advocate. In sync with last year’s pro-women movement, the winter campaign won CoverGirl good publicity from media and support from consumers.
Now, because of the #CoverGirlcott campaign and the company’s unsatisfying response to the situation, CoverGirl is in a big dilemma. Although there are practical financial concerns regarding withdrawing the contract with the NFL, the negative buzz on social media about CoverGirl has made the company’s effort in women empowerment look insincere and inauthentic.
A company’s success lies in the consistent, authentic, and trustworthy image that they build and maintain in the mind of their target audience. CoverGirl’s image is probably somewhat hypocritical to the public now when it chose to remain a sponsor even after being called on to take other action.
Hotel chain Radisson, in contrast, appears to have done the right thing, at least in the opinion of women rights advocates. After Adrian Peterson was charged with his child abuse case, Radisson suspended its sponsorship deal with the Minnesota Vikings to show how serious and committed the brand is to this particular matter. It can be argued that Raddisson has a smaller stake in the NFL compared to CoverGirl since the company is not a league sponsor. However, critics only find Radisson’s decision to be another piece of support to urge CoverGirl to terminate its sponsorship with the NFL.
Realistically speaking, CoverGirl shouldn’t rush into ending its contract with the NFL given the NFL is a multi-billion entertainment business and most people are still going to watch football games regardless of the scandals. However, as a brand with a unique position to maintain, CoverGirl could have definitely done more than a mere public statement. They could have taken down the photos on their website temporarily. Or, they could have donated to women protection nonprofits to win some hearts back. They might not be able to mute criticisms completely, but taking actual actions will certainly give the brand more redeeming value than a public statement.
There’s a local business in town asking their fellow neighbors to share the sexiest, most mouth-watering pictures that they can conjure up on a moments notice. Who is this local collector of erotic imagery? Applebee’s, of course. That’s right, Applebee’s has just recently rolled out a new campaign that encourages customers to snap sexy, food porn worthy photos of the meals that they receive at their favorite neighborhood restaurant and then post them to their Twitter account accompanied by the “Fantographer” hashtag. Applebee’s is then taking this stockpile of delectable fan food photos and using them to fill their company Instagram feed for an entire year. It’s a strategy that has already produced a fair amount of buzz within the Twittersphere and seems to be a step in the right direction for a company that desperately needs to improve its brand to consumer relationship. The most interesting part of this increasingly popular approach is that brands like Applebee’s are realizing the potential of using channels like Twitter in such a way that allows them to say quite a lot without actually saying very much at all.
In an age where a simple 140-character post can pose the risk of making or breaking a brand’s reputation, maybe staying relatively quiet and letting the consumers have a chance to do the talking isn’t such a bad idea. As David Scott put it in The New Rules of Marketing & PR, “we should rethink our notions about who can best spread our ideas and tell our stories” when considering the potential reach that social networking sites provide.
The Applebee’s campaign, which has been running for nearly two and a half months and has already increased their Instagram following by 32%, is based off of an insight centered around the idea that their customers are often much more interested in content that they create than content that’s created by the actual Applebee’s marketing department. Rather than viewing this revelation as negative, Applebee’s saw it as an opportunity to improve their social media presence by playing off of a popular social media trend that consists of people sharing photos of their meals to social media for their followers to then view and salivate over. Through this approach, Applebee’s has been able to gain a new perspective on how their daily customer views the company and has also helped to add a more human element to their social media presence.
This new campaign is a prime example of how brands are effectively using social media as a channel in which to engage in a mutually beneficial relationship with some of their most loyal customers. Other brands, like Miller Lite and DoubleTree Hotels, have also taken advantage of social media and the creativity of their customers to create genuine content that serves as a more accurate reflection of how the public views each brand.
Much like Applebee’s, Miller Lite recently reached out to its Twitter followers asking that they send in photos of them enjoying a Miller Lite with friends during the summer months for a chance to be included in a TV spot that ran back in August for their “ShowUsYourMiller” campaign. DoubleTree also took advantage of the availability and ease of consumer-generated content by reaching out to its customers and encouraging past users of their hotel service to share videos, pictures, and travel tips from previous vacations on each of DoubleTree’s social networking platforms. Rather than use their own voice to express to potential users the many of advantages of traveling with DoubleTree, the company decided that it was best to let their past customers do some of the talking. They shared a stockpile of unbiased content that helped to show potential future customers the many things that they could see and do in the DoubleTree locations.
It has become clear that the adoption of user-generated content is a growing trend among brands looking to stay relevant in an age driven by social media. To further increase the brand to consumer relationship, companies must test new avenues in which to engage with their audience. Although it is a great way to better humanize a brand, companies still need to stay alert and closely monitor the content that is being shared via their social media pages. Brands that have the intention of using user-generated content to fuel long-lasting campaigns, like that of Applebee’s, run a greater risk of accidently allowing a negative consumer response to slip through the filter, and therefore need to realize that, it’s critical to respond quickly to negative web posts that may ruin a brand’s reputation situations.
It will be interesting to monitor the Applebee’s new campaign over the next year to see if it manages to continue to increase their followers on their social networking sites and help to improve their brand to consumer relationship.
Do you think that using social media to encourage the production of user-generated content is an effective approach for brands looking to engage with an increasingly skeptical consumer base?
This last Thursday marked the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Everyone wanted to show their patriotism, and so people turned to one of the most popular communication avenues: Social Media. Facebook and Twitter feeds were filled with posts from friends with images of the twin towers, American flags, and personal stories in an effort to commemorate the lives that were lost.
But what happens when a company tries to be a part of that conversation?
Countless brands headed to Twitter in an effort to join consumers across the country in showing their patriotism and support. Or at least… that was their intention. While some brands managed to demonstrate pride in their country, the majority of these “good intentioned” tweets came off as opportunistic – as if the anniversary of 9/11 was their chance to make an impression on consumers and boost their brand’s revenue.
The tweets that were well-received by consumers were from brands that left their logo and personal selling out of the message, such as a simple tweet from WalMart of the New York skyline with the caption “Always Remember.” Unfortunately, some brands went beyond the simple, humble message and tied their product into the 9/11 tragedy or even offered discounts in honor of the anniversary. For instance, CVS pharmacy posted a #neverforget tweet with an image of the New York skyline, which would have likely been much more acceptable had they not stuck their CVS logo on the bottom right hand corner. And then some companies were just straight up insensitive. For example, a southern tie company called Tied to the South asked users to retweet their 9/11 image for every death that occurred during the 9/11 attacks.
Why such a negative response from consumers? After all, in today’s market brands are a living, breathing entity with their own unique personality, shouldn’t they get a say? Apparently, according to influential Internet blogger Sean Bonner, the answer is no: “Brands are not people. Brands do not have emotions or memories or condolences or heartbreak. People have those things, and when a brand tries to jump into that conversation, it’s marketing” (AdWeek 2014).
One part of the problem may be with the fact that these messages do not always come off as genuine. Brands that connect best with their consumers are those that are authentic and transparent with their messaging. Forcing your brand to align with the anniversary of 9/11, like Build-a-Bear workshop did when they posted a photo of a bear in army fatigues, may not seem like the most honest of gestures. Thus leading consumers to the conclusion that these brands are simply taking advantage of a national tragedy to promote their own company.
Consumer engagement is a hot topic for marketers across the country. With the rise of social media, it is easier than ever before to interact one on one with the consumer. According to The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Scott, the days of one-way interruption are over, and web marketing is about delivering useful content at “just the precise moment a buyer needs it.” However, based off the vocal backlash against the companies whose tweets ultimately failed, it’s apparent that not all marketers understand the appropriate way to utilize these communication channels.
In today’s marketplace, it is imperative that marketers are responsible and respectful with their messaging. If brands were simply trying to show their respect, the best thing they could have done would be to take a step back, and let consumers reflect and heal together without the promise of 20% off Bikram Yoga classes.
What do you think? Is there a way for brands to talk about current events, national tragedies in particular? Or is it best for them, and their brand, to stay out of the conversation?
First of all, the application is totally free, which is a good stimulus to download it without extra thought. Second, it’s very coherent with a current need of visitors from planning (it shows opening hours, current exhibitions, directions, and allows to buy a ticket) to exploration of the museum (it serves as an audio guide and a map). In the “More” section one can add the favorite music to the audio guide, make a photo with MoMa brand frame, download podcasts, watch MoMa videos on youtube, and much more. It’s also possible to share your experience with friends or to send a feedback to museum’s staff. What is important, the application contributes to the solution of the crucial problem: “How to make people return?” as it sends notifications about upcoming events and new exhibitions and outlines the advantages of membership (which is possible to purchase directly from the app!).The MoMa’s application thought out like a real tool to move the audience from “a one-time looker to a long-term fan” (Scott, p. 235) and is a truly remarkable example for the whole museum sector.