About Ella Majava

A recent UCL grad and a researcher at Source: WM. A bit obsessed with consumer trends, social media and coffee.

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The Centre of the Internet: How advertisers are tapping into our digital narcissism

Millennials, the most narcissistic generation ever, are keen to share branded content about themselves.

In the early days of Facebook, I once fell for a fake app that promised to reveal who the most common visitor to view my profile had been. I was very thrilled that someone had managed to hack into Facebook’s databases and would finally let me know who had been checking my profile out – only to be disappointed by landing on a page with my own face on it. The joke was on me. And worse still, the app was probably right – out of all my possible online stalkers, I am definitely the worst.

I’m not alone, as my generation, the Millennials, is supposed to be the most narcissistic ever – the authors of The Narcissism Epidemic found that there’s an accelerating upswing in narcissism among young people, and that no generation preceding us has been as self-obsessed as we are. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the Internet – we not only stare at and update our own profiles but we measure our own online influence via Klout, untag all the photos in which we don’t look great, Google our own names – a habit so common that a budding ad creative decided to take advantage of it by buying ad space for search words that were Creative Directors’ names. We get told we’re not the centre of the universe, but  our grandmothers forgot to tell us that the Internet doesn’t revolve around us either.

Marketers have discovered that we’re quite likely to share something if we’re in it ourselves. Intel’s digital Museum of Me campaign was a hit, as it allowed Facebook users to create a virtual museum for their profiles to commemorate the last four or five years of the the lives, showing popular photos, comments, events and friends that had been important in those years. Similarly, the Virgin First Times campaign created collages you could share with your friends to reminisce on the early days of your friendship: you could see the first time you and a friend were tagged in the same photo, as well as the first time you were at an event together. Most recently, Kit Kat has hired artists to make sketches of Facebook users’ profile pictures as part of their Break Time Friday campaign.  In addition to being creative, all of these campaigns got a of lot shares due to the narcissism factor – they created content about a topic we never cease to be interested in, ourselves.

Kit Kat's, Virgin's and Intel's social media campaigns all tapped into the narcissism of the digital generation.

 In addition to brands, budding artists have found inventive ways to tap into the youth’s digital self-obsession. A Brooklyn-based band, Riot in Paris, are creating buzz in the blogsphere by making and recording songs about Twitter users who have asked to be tracked by the brand through using the hashtag RiotTrackMe. The lucky few get their own songs created and recorded by the band. Here’s a song for one social media user, Ali P, talking about how hard Ali finds it to drive in high heels, and wishing her the best for her chem exam:

Social Media Week Diary – Part 1

The Social Media Week kicked off in twelve cities yesterday, with tons of fascinating talks and workshops taking place everywhere from Shanghai to London. While we won’t have time to attend every event (there is work to be done, too!), we’ll be posting interesting nuggets from the events we’ve managed to go to throughout the week. I started the week by attending a social media case study evening, where four speakers took turns to get on the stage to showcase the social media campaigns they are most proud of.

The cases presented highlighted that we should be getting creative in the ways in which we use data generated by social media, as it can help us understand not only what people think about a brand but what they think about a whole category, it can inspire us to come up with ideas for campaigns, and we could even use the data from social media to track how advertising campaigns are doing in the future.

The idea for craft beer brand BrewDog's Royal Virility Performance beer was inspired by social media conversations.

The various campaigns for the quickly-growing craft beer brand BrewDog, presented by Manifest’s Alex Myers, showed how you can get brilliant ideas from social media conversations that are already taking place. For instance, while listening to conversations about beer, Alex and his team noticed that many beer lovers were ridiculing the cheesy limited-edition beers launched by various brewers in the run-up to the Royal Wedding. Tapping into that, Manifest created a different kind of beer for the occasion, the Royal Virility Performance beer -a beer to commemorate the royal wedding night, enhanced with Viagra. Another idea that derived from listening to online conversations – not just on the brand, but conversations taking place in general – was the #BrewPedia campaign they created on the day of the Wikipedia Blackout. Alex and his team noticed that when lacking accesses to the omniscient wiki, people were asking each other tons of factual questions online.They decided to launch the BrewPedia hashtag campaign, offering answers to any questions that BrewDog drinking social media users might have – these ranged from when Chuck Norris was born to where kebabs originate from.

Christian Gladwell from Human Digital told us he was using social media in a very different but equally ingenious way, and introduced the idea of creating an ad tracker using social media data. While I can’t imagine this working for every campaign – say, those targeting the over 65s- the idea seems to have future potential, especially considering that social media ad tracking could cost much less than traditional ad trackers done via surveys. More detail is going to be published soon in the Harvard Business Review, and it’ll be interesting to see whether or not social media ad tracking will catch on in the coming years.

Another insight from the cases presented was that bloggers are feeling increasingly bombarded by brands. The examples by Jam’s Mel Kirk and 1000head’s Molly Flatt showed ways to approach bloggers who are feeling increasingly protective and sceptical. Mel Kirk offered an example of reaching the very top tech bloggers though Samsung ‘extreme unboxing’ campaign. This campaign tapped into the unboxing craze (tech geeks unboxing and reviewing the latest gadgets in front of a camera as soon as they get home from the shop), and offered bloggers an extreme experience they’d enjoy – giving the bloggers a chance to ‘unbox’ a Samsung phone in an extreme situation such as a rally car, a rollercoaster or whilst skydiving – with the experience being filmed from a camera attached to their helmets. However, Kirk highlighted that having built relationships with the bloggers over time was crucial – her team meets up with bloggers over a pint to discuss ideas before even presenting them to clients to know that the ideas are something that bloggers actually find relevant and interesting.

Molly Flatt from 1000heads showed us how Nokia teamed up with fashion bloggers to get into the conversations of a completely new type of audience – not the geeky tech freaks who were already discussing Nokia but the arty, mostly female crowd consisting of bloggers, fashionistas and photographers. The problem with reaching out to fashion bloggers – as is with mummy bloggers – is that they are targeted by every possible brand, all trying jump on the bandwagon and get some of trust and admiration that the bloggers inspire among their followers. Because of this, Molly’s team decided the most influential fashion bloggers were a no go, and decided to reach out to bloggers still on their way up. Teaming up with Elle, they set up a fashion journalism challenge, the winner of which would get to report for Elle from the New York Fashion Week. Through the campaign, Nokia actually became a part of their rise to the top and helped them gain followers – and hopefully turned these budding fashionistas into loyal Nokia fans who won’t forget that the brand helped them get where they are.

We’ll be posting daily round ups, raves and rants throughout the week, so do check back tomorrow for more insight into the big themes of the Social Media Week .

Don’t Take Our Word For It, Call And Ask Our Customers

852 customers of the Finnish insurance company If have volunteered to be phoned up by potential customers.

A Scandinavian insurance company has taken customer testimonials to the next level: in an attempt to get would-be insurance buyers to trust that the company deals with claims  quickly and fairly, the Finnish insurance company If has recruited 852 existing customers to be its ambassadors. They have volunteered to be contacted by potential customers to have a chat about how the process of making a claim was, and how happy they’ve been with the service.

The company used full-page ads in leading newspapers to direct potential customers to a dedicated microsite where they can find the phone numbers of the volunteers. The customers can be contacted between 9am and 8pm – at other times, their contact details can’t be accessed.  The website also features home-made web cam videos of customers recounting stories of the accidents and injuries that happened to them, and what If did to help fix the problems as soon as possible.

A great example of a brand ‘getting real’ and putting customers at the heart of their campaign.

2012 – The Year of Brands as Publishers, Second Screen Advertising, and Flawsomeness

At the end of the year, a lot of advertising and media professionals start to think about the year ahead and make their educated guesses about what the next big things will be. I’ve searched far and wide for all the predictions I could find, and picked out some that are interesting and important to anyone working in advertising.

Mashable predicts that 2012 will be the year of interactive ‘second screen’ campaigns. A huge number of consumers are already using their mobiles and tablets while watching TV, and startups like Into Now and Shazam are busy creating platforms for engaging with the second screen audience. Pepsi, Gap and Starbucks have been some of the quickest advertisers to jump on board. They also predict that we will see a proliferation in cars being connected to the Internet, resulting in a rise in streaming music in the car instead of listening to the radio and “an Internet-powered overhaul” to radio advertising.

One of Trendwatching’s 12 trends for 2012, ‘Flawsome’ (self-admittedly their “worst-named trend ever”), captures the idea that “to consumers, brands that behave more humanly, including exposing their flaws, will be awesome”. Signs of this trend include Domino’s use of a billboard advertising space in Times Square: they used the high-profile billboard to publish customer feedback given via Twitter – both the good and the bad. They also predict that in 2012, trading in will be the new buying as consumers hope to make an extra buck by reselling or trading their past purchases.

SocialMediaExplorer writes about the importance of content as the role of brands becomes closer to that of publishers; no longer can brands get away with uninteresting or purely self-promotional website content or social media updates. For instance, a Facebook page for a brand targeted at stay-at-home mothers shouldn’t be managed by a middle-aged male marketing manager with no idea about the types of topics that that their audience wants to read about. Late 2011 already saw many brands investing in editorial talent that can capture their target audiences, for instance Topman hiring editorial staff from Dazed & Confused to launch its new multimedia magazine for fashion-conscious men.  They also predict that 2012 will see marketers increasingly using influence ranking tools such as PeerIndex and Klout to seek out the individuals that are the most influential about their category and brand in social media.

Many of the trends identified by JWT Intelligence have to do with how consumers and companies are dealing with the prolonged recession. They think brands will start creating more affordable alternatives for consumers, such as Heinz’s smaller 99cent ketchup in the US. On the other hand, consumers are starting to live a little and splurge once in a while despite financial worries and a low confidence in the economy. They also believe that as the content and experiences we are exposed to have become more personalized and narrow, a desire for experiences that are random and unexpected will emerge.

The Medium Is the Message: Three Creative, Unusual Media Spaces

In the past few weeks, I’ve come across a few creative and rather unusual media spaces used by advertisers to get their message through when people are exactly in the right mindset to receive it. The first one is from Sweden, where Ikea placed sofas in real-estate ads, catching would-be home buyers’ attention when they’re looking for or dreaming about their future houses.

This brilliant ‘bumpvertising’ campaign for Medecins Sans Frontiers uses pregnant women’s bellies as media space to highlight the work MSF does to make sure women in developing countries can give birth safely.

In the US, CollegeInvest, Colorado’s non-profit education savings plan,has bought advertising space in school report cards, communicating their message to parents at a moment when they are very likely to be thinking about their children’s academic futures.

Social Shopping: New ways in which our social networks will influence our purchase decisions

Image: honestlynow.com

These days, we’re never alone. Our social networks are constantly with us, just one tempting click away – the click that distracts us in meetings, entertains us in public transport, and has ruined many a date. The increasing presence of and access to our social networks is influencing how we buy and sell, and in this post I’ll be focusing on two fascinating developments in how we shop – asking for instant opinions while in store, and selling to our social networks online.

We’ve always searched for opinions on decisions. Before, we asked friends or sales assistants – ignoring the feeling we had that they were probably either telling us what we wanted to hear (in the case of friends) or simply telling us to buy (sales assistants). Then, we started reading online reviews – what were meant to be honest opinions from strangers. These too are now taken with a pinch of salt as companies hire writers to create praising reviews for them for a few dollars apiece – necessitating the creation of a fake review detector earlier this year.

There are signs that the next stage of asking opinions about purchases could lie in apps that enable people to pose questions to their friends, network and strangers immediately, while still in store. Opinionaided allows people to ask questions ranging from ‘Which shoes to buy?’ to ‘Should I dump my boyfriend?’ The answers will be immediate – and brutally honest. Honestly Now is a similar social game, but aimed at women aged 30 to 50, and focuses on personal decisions and tricky situations. Players can choose to keep questions private with friends, or share queries anonymously with all users. With both apps, key to getting users to trust the opinions is allowing them to rate others’ answers; those with stellar ratings get pro status – making it harder for companies to keep recommending buying their own products.

The access we have to our social networks could also change the way we sell things. One of the first companies to offer any Facebook user who considers themselves a trendsetter the chance to curate their own boutiques online is Shopcade. Shopcade users will be able pick items from different brands based on their sense of style, and make money when their friends buy through them. Some forward-thinking brands are turning directly to social selling through social media. For instance, a newly launched jewellery brand Chloe + Isabel only sells their high-fashion accessories online through organically-growing networks of women – sold by a fashionable and tech-savvy version of Avon ladies. The company designs, produces, and markets fashion jewellery for interested sellers, who then create their own virtual boutiques selling the brand’s jewellery on a 30% commission. A sign of strong faith in the future of the business model is shown by the fact that the company has so far received over $10 million in venture capital.

It’ll be interesting to watch these new behaviours emerge, and how brands will tap into them. The desire for instant and honest feedback on purchase decisions won’t necessarily need to exclude brands – for instance, fashion brands could offer instant opinions from personal stylists, or team up with respected fashion bloggers to do this. Whether any big brands will experiment with social selling 2.0 will be interesting to see – the next stage of brand ambassadors could well be brand salesmen.