The basketball phenomenon Jeremy Lin has definitely excited fans and reinvigorated a sport suffering under a growing cloud of overly-entitled players and lackluster stars. Lin's performance, both on the court and off, have received accolades and he has quickly become a fan-favorite.
When he was out for knee surgery, these fans were clearly concerned and, simply, missed his presence (not to mention the fact that his team's playoff chances are slim at best). Lin decided, then, to host an online chat on Facebook immediately after his surgery.
During which, he threw up.
In another era, the people who manage the Lin Brand (as well as the Knicks and NBA brands) would have been extraordinarily concerned about a live chat with a big star, because, well…what if something goes wrong? Probably better to tape the interview, edit it down, punch it up, and glide over any mistakes. The role of the brand manager, is, after all, to manage a brand. That means to take the raw materials provided and turn them into a perfected image. It definitely does not mean simply set up a microphone, camera, or keyboard and let whatever happens, happen.
But we are in a totally new world of brands right now and the technology of media is increasingly allowing for a more unfiltered view of brands and far more direct access to the people behind the brands. And, the best companies are embracing this direct access not only to engage with consumers but also to deliver a much-needed bit of excitement to brands. Opening up the channels of communication live means introducing some element of risk, which - managed correctly - can generate lots of buzz, opportunity, and engagement.
Risk Management: The Bizzaro World Version
Risk management is a core part of doing business. It is one of the things that people who went to business school studied (I'm not one of those people, BTW). Usually, risk management really meant risk removal, or at least risk lessening.
Risk was something to be accepted, but it was also something to be concerned with. A good risk management professional was judged by how well she was at removing risk.
I would like to recommend that we flip that model. We need to have people who will actively inject risk into a situation. We need people who will understand that people thrive on spontaneity and reward brands that do the unexpected.
Consider the Old Spice campaign from last year. In addition to creating a great character and a wonderful set of ads, the agency W+K decided (or, possibly, talked the brand into) to have their spokesman go live on Twitter, responding to people's questions and requests.
This was really the moment that this campaign turned from being a cool idea to a cultural force. By taking the underlying idea and concept of the campaign and putting it out live, the brand went directly into their consumers' lives. They went from designing great things in a studio to existing in the real world with all its craziness, chaos, and fun. Which is exactly where a brand should be; especially a personal care brand like Old Spice.
How to Get Risky
There is a five-step plan for bringing spontaneity into your next campaign. If you follow these steps, you will start to move into live, digital media in new and exciting ways.
Step 1: Create a Complete Plan
Don't start with risk. You should have a solid plan and a strategy that you have fully designed and is built to generate value for you. You need to start from a solid place.
Step 2: Design Some Disruptions
From that solid plan, think of ways to shake it up. This is not exactly spontaneity: this is a plan to introduce a new surprise in the middle of the campaign. It could be something as simple as a huge coupon, offered only for 20 minutes.
Step 3: Go Live
There is absolutely no substitute for taking your campaign out into the world of streaming video or live chat. Find a way to integrate this directly into your campaign.
Step 4: Engage With Everyone
The joy of risk and spontaneity is that it's built to spread. When people start saying "You gotta see what Brand X is doing," have people ready to respond. It is in these responses where the real value lies.
Step 5: Have an Apology Ready
Accept the fact that it is possible that something really bad might happen. Assuming that you are a good person and a good brand, people will forgive you as long as your intentions are good. But it is definitely possible that the spontaneous thing that will happen will be horrible. That can't be a reason not to do it. But it is a part of the reality.
Digital media continues to transform the way that we market and advertise and engage with consumers. The opportunity to be spontaneous is a good one because it is absolutely unique - you can't have a live chat in a magazine.
Hopefully, you (and your client) will be successful not only at generating new attention and value, but also keeping your lunch down.
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Gary Stein is SVP, strategy and planning in iCrossing's San Francisco office. He has been working in marketing for more than a decade. Gary lives in San Francisco with his family. Follow him on Twitter: @garyst3in. The opinions expressed in Gary's columns are his alone.
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