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.

March Madness: inspiring cross-platform campaigns from the U.S.

The month of March ushers in the closing period of the Premiership and commencement of training for all cricketers of the country. However, across the Atlantic it means one thing: March Madness, the annual College basketball tournament which continues to garner huge interest, captivating a TV and, increasingly, a social media audience. This provides an opportunity for brands to get in on the action as official sponsors or otherwise. To put the scale of March Madness in perspective, the TV deal with the governing body the NCAA is currently $10.8 billion over 14 years (bear in mind that’s just 14 months’ worth of coverage!). Although all current activity is primarily for the U.S. market, I thought it would be interesting to run down some of the innovative campaigns over this period, as brands look to integrate their promotions across of forms of media.

Coca-Cola has introduced a multitude of platforms to encourage engagement via social media, including texts for prizes during live games, and is also the sponsor of the official social arena, which allows fans to share game content and discuss games with others, accessed via the Coke Zero website.

It has also used the opportunity to invest in the marketing of its energy drink Powerade, launching a commercial alongside a Facebook page which offers the chance to win tickets to the Final Game. In addition, they have also teamed up with convenience store chain 7Eleven to produce souvenir cups which hold a QR code providing a link to the Powerade website and a video of a selected memorable moment of the tournament, hosted by former players.

The Nissan-owned car firm Infinity has launched a campaign involving social marketing and philanthropy. Announced via a promoted tweet, it promises to donate money to the American Cancer Society for every correct tournament bracket pick made via its website. 

Other sponsors Dominos, Reeces and UPS find their Facebook pages now dominated by March Madness, with opportunities for prizes, encouraging engagement with the brands page during games.

Unilever launched Dove’s ‘Journey to comfort’ campaign featuring stories from former and current basketball players. The ad is accompanied by a Facebook page where people are encouraged to share their own stories, a dedictated website and also an app which allows you to send a personal message to Shaq (featured below), interacting with the brand and the personality.

As you can see, these ‘corporate champions’ have come up with some original ideas, enabling them to engage the consumer by idenfiying shared values and or interests despite there being no immediate connection to basketball itself. They provide inspiration for future campaigns focused on cross platform engagement.

Pinterest: Three golden rules

There’s no two ways about it. Amongst the plethora of social media sites trying to enter the mainstream, Pinterest is the latest one to break through and the one sparking the most (p)interest (erg) amongst bloggers and marketers alike. A platform where users can find, bookmark and share content across a range of topics, brands are now looking to figure out how they can (and should) be using it for their business.

There are a number of blogs out there which have already done their round-up of important tips, including Mashable (a general guide for users) and Social Media Examiner (specifically for businesses) – both good reads. In my view, the three most important things to remember are:

1)      Use it yourself

This is the number one most important thing about any social medium, let alone Pinterest. As with all new things, there are a lot of people out there questioning the value of Pinterest. To those I say: remember how we all used to feel about Twitter. While the odd person continues to complain that Twitter is just for telling everyone what you had for breakfast, rarely have these people ever actually used it. Similarly with Pinterest, to someone who has only read about it/ had a cursory glance it may appear as nothing more than an accumulation of slightly whimsical wedding ideas with the odd internet meme thrown in. Dig a little deeper and you will find a space where people curate their own content across range of interests – be it feminism, food, charities or political causes (the current Kony 2012 campaign is everywhere). And just like with Twitter and Facebook, the more you use it, the more you get out of it. Even early adopters of Twitter took a while to get into it. These things take time and if you invest a bit into them I promise you it will be worth it (a bit like the Wire, or Mad Men). More importantly, using it will help you see how other people use it, which leads me to my next point…

2)      Inspire, don’t sell

This has been said on every post anywhere about Pinterest but it is so important that I must say it again. On realising the wish-list quality of users’ boards it is tempting to immediately see Pinterest as an opportunity to show off your brand’s products. But to do this is to misunderstand how people are using it. We should all know by now (but perhaps some of us need reminding now and then…) that the key to all social is content. The easiest way to understand this is to think how you personally use Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest as a consumer. You look for people who are posting awesome things about topics of interest to you – let’s face it, the only reasons other than content that any of us follow or like a brand is (1) for free stuff or (2) because we work on them. Why would you follow a brand that only pins their products, unless you are already an avid fan? Look at Bergdof Goodman or West Elm for great examples of brands that could easily have gone down the shop route but instead opted for a variety of style inspiration boards. You can follow the whole lot or just pick specific trends/ styles that interest/ inspire you. Similarly Whole Foods Market is inspirational to any foodie without being overtly sales-y. At the end of the day, we don’t use Facebook or Twitter as a shop, why the temptation with Pinterest? Especially when one of their rules is to ‘avoid self-promotion’.

Bergdof Goodman creates trend-specific boards for inspiration

3)      Use it for insight

Given a large part of what I do in my job revolves around audience insight, one of the most interesting potential benefits to me comes from Lauren Drell’s suggestion that once you have built a base of followers you use this as a way to gain qualitative insight into your audience. On one level you can easily learn about how they are repinning/ liking your own content, to find out whether you’re seen as inspirational, funny or a bit of a joke.  On the next level, it’s also relatively straightforward to have a look at who or what your followers also follow, as well as at their own boards to see what interests they have outside of your specific category. In this way you can gain a deeper understanding of who your audience is, in a way that is perhaps more ‘natural’ than a survey or group. You can widen this out to not just your followers but any followers of a particular category or topic, as suggested by  Grant McCracken who sees this is a method of understanding how people map things in a way which is ‘more telling than language’.

Pinterest is no longer just a place to plan a wedding or share a recipe. In the States the numbers are growing fast and the UK is catching on too. With Facebook’s new pages encouraging brands to go more visual, this is the way people are sharing content. Other manifestations of this trend – such as the rise of infographics and people tweeting pictures instead of written updates – demonstrate that the majority of people prefer a visual communications style – this is also why Pinterest is so captivating. If you haven’t been on yet, give it a look. But beware, it’s addictive. So much so that I am finding it difficult to finish writing this blog as I will no longer have an excuse to sit on it all day.

Social Media Week Diary – Part 2

Last night Ella and I went to “Using Data from Social Media to Improve Performance”, an event excellently moderated by Cathy Ma (Head of Social Media, IPC Media).

Peter O’Neill (L3 Analytics), who spoke about the importance of measuring flow between social media and websites, organised the event because he couldn’t see why we would have a social media week with no talks about measurement. Here are a couple of titbits on what the other speakers had to say on social media analytics:

Joshua March – Co-founder/ CEO at Conversocial

Brands often ignore importance of customer service when managing their social media presence. Having a social media expert responding to customer complaints or requests is not enough. Well may they refer a customer to an email address or a phone number, but if a person has chosen to contact you via your Facebook page it is either because they don’t want to email you or because email already hasn’t worked. Put a customer service person (or team) in charge of monitoring your Facebook page or Twitter account, and have a target response time of under an hour.

Josh’s  presentation can be found on the Conversocial blog:

Simon Cast – Head of Products at PeerIndex

Simon Cast – who moved from rocket science to influencer algorithms – presented on how brands can use influencers to gain reach in an efficient way. It was questioned how accurate these algorithms can be (something I’ve previously blogged about). He sees a future where algorithms for these tools are made public (as with PageRank), and could be amended for purpose. If this eventuates this could be an exciting step to keep brands in control of who they see as influential by amending these algorithms themselves.

PeerIndex’s website is here:

Christian Howes – Consultant (recently seen on Big Brother)

Pretty proud of having been banned from major betting retailers, Christian Howes showed how social media analysis can help produce predictions for reality TV shows’ winners and losers. From him we can learn that it’s how you present data just as much as using your brain.

This last comment perhaps seems obvious but I think as analysts we can often forget that part of the puzzle. Cathy Ma hit the nail on the head when she described analysts as storytellers. We have so many data sources available but it is up to us to constantly ask what the data is actually telling us.

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 .

Nouveau Niche: The Rise of Invitation-Only Social Networks

Larger social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have done a lot to democratise the web; to give us the opportunity to rub shoulders with all sorts of people. But this comes at a price: the ‘tyranny of attention’ requires that we be prudent in how we spend our time and mental energy. In real life, we take care to pick and choose the social circles that we move in. So how do you ensure that you’re in good company in the online space?

Invitation-only social networks are built around this premise. Why jump into the endless and unpredictable ocean of large-scale social networks, when a vessel populated by like-minded individuals would offer much smoother sailing?

By vetting those who come aboard, invitation-only social networks can offer a number of advantages that ‘free-for-all’ social networks cannot. Dribbble is one such example. In many ways, it bears a strong similarity to DeviantART, allowing users to upload demonstrations of their prowess in graphic design and illustration. However, unlike DeviantART, Dribbble’s user base is divided into three tiers: Spectators, Prospects and Players. Anyone is free to sign up as a Spectator; this grants the ability to passively explore the design portfolios hosted on the site. Prospects are those who have indicated that they wish to join. Players are the lucky few who have passed the drafting process, and have the right to upload designs and comment on other people’s hard work.

Dribbble combines high quality content with a seductively pretty UI

The crucial point is this: any member who invites a non-member to the community has to vouch for the quality of the non-member’s work. Done properly, this preserves the quality of the content on the site, as well as guaranteeing that only engaged and passionate people become part of the Dribbble community. A similar model can be found among a slew of other social sites, such as Pelime (a creative arts community), WIWT (a fashion community) and Teazel (a virtual hangout for surfing enthusiasts).

There exists a further species of invitation-only social networking site that has arisen. While the aforementioned networks thrive on shared interests and skills, networks such as Squ.are and Angel’s Circle have the unique selling proposition of simply being very hard to get into. Asking how to seek an invitation is an exercise in futility; if you have to ask, you’ll never know. If you’ve ever asked the price of something at an expensive restaurant, you’ll understand the thinking that underpins this philosophy. Nevertheless, they represent an interesting counterpoint to the staunchly egalitarian attitude of the larger networks.

Finally, I couldn’t wrap this article without giving an honourable mention to the most exclusive social network of all; where simply being human renders you ineligible for membership. I am, of course, referring to Dogbook, the social network for man’s best friend. Take a look – I hear it’s a right wag.

Under the Influence: Klout scores and their role in marketing

Many advertisers in the US have partnered with Klout to offer free perks to influencers

How influential are you on the web? Tools such as Klout and PeerIndex, which assign scores based on analysing your social media activity, cropped up a few years ago, but it is only recently that advertisers are beginning to notice. In the US, Chevrolet, amongst others, partnered up with Klout to offer free test drives to those with high scores.

At face value, this feels like an efficient way of targeting and influencing those consumers who are not only the most likely to be talking about brands, but the most likely to be listened to. One tweet from them about a brand will not only be seen by their thousands of followers, but there is a higher likelihood that the tweet will be retweeted or replied to.  This endorsement will have the added weight of not be coming from a faceless brand but a trusted voice. Further to that, the desire to get free perks will in theory encourage other people to strive to be influencers. They will make the effort to increase their score, by increasing their followers and improving their technique for getting retweets. They will themselves tweet about brands and their new followers will see (and hopefully engage) with them. A few free perks will in theory result in a huge number of impressions for a brand, all coming from trusted sources.

Unfortunately, at the moment the reality is (as Monty Munford, among others, has already pointed out), these tools are not always accurate. The algorithms differ between the tools: someone with a high score on Klout may do incredibly poorly on PeerIndex. True, they are constantly amending their algorithms, but there nevertheless seems to be large room for error, and worse, manipulation. People who want a high score know how to play the system: fake accounts spamming their followers can achieve higher scores than a real person giving less frequent, but genuine (and genuinely interesting) opinions. Even the topics of influence on Klout don’t always make much sense. Sample size of one: My personal Twitter has a tiny Klout (I keep my tweets private so my pride will survive), yet apparently I am highly influential when it comes to shopping. I have no idea how this has happened. Most of my tweets are about me making a fool of myself in airports or talking about Whoopi Goldberg yet somehow the algorithm decides that I am influential about shopping.

Even once the algorithms get sorted (or people learn how to read scores with the required pinch of salt), it all comes back to that much-quoted statistic that 90% of word of mouth is offline. It may come as a surprise to some, but not all influential people have a Twitter account (Whoopi only has hers as a way to avoid Twitfraud). Certainly, digital influence must play a large role in many brand campaigns, but Klout and PeerIndex are not tools that are relevant for all brands. Those whose core audience use social networks as an intrinsic part of their life should of course learn about these tools and how best to use them. Others, whose most influential exponents may be voicing their opinions outside of the online sphere, should not fall into the trap of assuming that unleashing a Klout campaign ticks off their desire to engage with influencers.  It is tempting to get over-excited by the prospect that there is a quantifiable way to measure influence on social media. When that measurement is still flawed, and not even relevant for many brands, we should not fall back on these measurements. We should instead continue to  use creativity and common sense to make sure these campaigns are working at their most effective.