The Rising Cost of Entertainment

Source: This Is Money/HBOS

The squeeze on family budgets was brought into sharp focus by the publication of entertainment inflation figures for the entertainment and leisure pursuits of ordinary Britons. Some of the figures, particularly the cost of attending live sport are astonishing. When coupled with the rising price of fuel these bring the cost of a family day out up to frightening levels and out of the reach of many.

So what might this mean for brands? Well first of all giving your loyalists some kind of helping hand to have fun these days feels like a great opportunity. In the social sphere entertainment based rewards have got to be a great way to activate your community and to build size and scale.

Secondly it also stikes us that in a world rich with second screens and gaming consoles, creating shared family fun experiences to brighten up time at home is a big opportunity. ‘Gameification’ sounds like made up marketing babble and as such may be an offputting concept. However in a world where the price of fun is rising so rapidly, connecting with people through play looks like an attractive prospect.

With increasing numbers of people watching TV with Zeebox in their hands expect to see branded fun built into many major broadcast campaigns over the next twelve months.

Coachella 2012: taking sponsorship to the next level

 

Music festival Coachella has recently wrapped up the second of its two long weekends. Taking advantage of the relatively warm climates of the Californian desert, the famous event jumpstarts the summer festival season. This year’s event has seen sponsors step up with innovative marketing ideas, whilst Coachella (itself a brand) has also provided a brilliant example of maximizing social media presence.

Boasting an eclectic line up of artists over the two weekends – none of which are overtly commercial and many of which have gained popularity by the release of free music – bombarding festival goers with brand messaging and products with a lack of relevance to the surroundings could have backfired. It appears that this year’s sponsors were aware of this and delivered innovative solutions for their brands, enhancing consumers’ festival experience.

Heineken launched its cold storage room, allowing Coachella attendees to store up to two cases of Heineken in their own personal coolers accessed via the owners’ thumbprints. Helping to avoid frequent queuing throughout the day and, worst of all, warm beers (the bane of a festival goer’s life!). Meanwhile several fashion brands, such as Lacoste and Guess, hosted after parties near the festival site, with an array of entertainment options, including performances from some artists featured at Coachella, to support the launch of new products.

As mobile phones have become an increasingly popular replacement to a lighter in the air, illuminating the arena at the request of the artist, sponsoring a festival has become a logical choice for phone companies – particularly in light of research that suggests 66% of concert goers nowadays take pictures via their smartphones and about 32% send Facebook updates or tweets from a show. T-Mobile took advantage of this, bringing their ‘Neon Carnival’ to Coachella. This included carnival games and thrill rides such as bumper cars, an enormous Ferris wheel and a giant slide. Again, the reason for this event was the launch of a new product (new beats by Dre sound technology for the HTC one mobile phone) – however, it was placed in the context of a funfair, allowing those attending to receive a memorable, positive brand experience.

In a bid for cultural relevance (topic discussed in my previous blog post) Hyundai presented their Re:Generation music documentary, placing artists from different genres together in creative collaboration. Hyundai’s Advertising Director David Matathia hopes this approach is a “more effective model that appeals to that audience more than pushing ad messages at them”. It would appear these brands have headed the warning of Scott Lucas, executive director of Interbrand Cincinnati, who advised “the experience needs to be carefully planned to ensure not just execution but relevancy”.

 As for Coachella itself, the now infamous Tupac hologram generated a huge buzz across all social media platforms during the first weekend, as mentions of the hologram exceeded 2.3 million tweets during one evening alone. The festival’s embracement of viral output (the whole weekend was streamed live) and notable online presence helped it amplify the buzz. Through developing a YouTube channel, and Tumblr, Twitter and Pinterest accounts, the festival had a presence across 9 social media platforms. As a brand itself, Coachella has laid the blueprint for those in the consumer market to follow when thinking of creating consumer engagement, product content and generating buzz. The only difficult part is coming up with the creative idea to get people talking.

Divided generations: what can generational theory teach us about advertising to the young and old?

Youth Flowers is a 69 year old Baby Boomer DJ. Living it young like the new old should.

Most of us in advertising belong either to Generation Y (born between mid-seventies and mid-nineties, characterised by a sense of presumed self-importance) or Generation X (born between mid-seventies and sixties, those are the ones drinking to avoid going home), and we’re generally aware of our own generations’ needs and habits. However, as Baby Boomers (born before mid-sixties) approach retirement and Generation Z (born later than mid-nineties) start having disposable incomes of their own, it’s worth looking at what these groups are really like, as their views and lifestyles aren’t like ours – or how we’d expect them to be.

Baby Boomers

For the first time, the under 16s are outnumbered by pensioners, as the Baby Boom Generation are reaching retirement. These Baby Boomers are, despite their old age, maintaining their place as the dominant economic force in consumer UK, as argued by ‘two brains’ Willets in his book The Pinch. They hold more than 80 per cent of the nation’s £6.7trn in wealth, they have been the main beneficiaries of the property boom, and have comparatively decent pensions.

Despite youth culture dominating society, the old are the ones who can afford to live like youngsters, with young people paying for expensive mortgages, university fees, and their parents’ pensions. Our language is infused with terms that capture the enduring youth of older generations – kidulthood, menoporsche, grandboomer, middleyouth – and our technology uptake is now driven by older gadget lovers. In addition, Baby Boomers increasingly opt for partial retirement, slowing the transition from work to full time gardening. When retired, their main priorities are their hobbies, holiday homes, and their financial future – often achieved through “skiing” (an abbreviation for spending the kids’ inheritance). In recent years, we’ve increasingly seen the entertainment industry and popular culture responding to their needs, with the Dome full of bands from the Baby Boomers’ youth, and films like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel getting mass audiences in cinemas

A constantly connected generation

Though outnumbered by Baby Boomers, there is a new generation – Generation Z – that is starting to experience the joys of disposable income for the first time. However, unlike Boomers, they appear to have a very conservative set of hopes for the future. A ‘Generations apart’ series for Radio 4 recently conducted interviews with older members of Generation Z and found that the main hopes of those interviewed were for decent work, stable housing, and a contented family life.

This generation has grown up during mass unemployment, economic uncertainty and fear of terrorism, and many argue that this experience has conditioned this generation into rejecting the radicalism of previous generations and focusing instead on working hard to get the basic things in life. As a result, they are becoming servants to convention – less liberal, less experimental and not creating rebellious niche sub-cultures that their parents used to belong to.  We might see advertising targeted at the youth moving to focus more on values such as safety, security, stability, and ‘normality’.

The way this messaging is delivered will undoubtedly change as well. Generation Z have grown with a multi-screen, digitally connected world being the norm. This will impact how advertisers try to reach this new group, with joined up digital messaging increasingly becoming commonplace.

In addition, towns are divided up by age (into old, middle-aged and young areas) more than ever before. For instance, town centres now have no bingo halls, but an abundance of wine bars. Consequently, outdoor advertising could soon be more effective at targeting youth (as well as other age groups).

Even though the generation is less radical, it will have some high expectations, having grown up during the democratisation of luxury; to them, a posh hand bag is a statement that should be afforded by anyone, not just the rich. They’ve also spent much of their youth receiving content and entertainment for free, adding to their heightened and hard-to-meet expectations.

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:

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.

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.