In the average day, Internet users will write 2 million blog posts, upload 864,000 hours of video to YouTube, download over 35 million apps, and spend nearly 5 billion minutes on Facebook. As a marketer vying for consumer attention, your message has to compete with all of this, and more. Creating a promotional effort or campaign that's up to par often seems like a daunting task. How can we possibly supersede such a glut of content on anything and everything to garner attention for a single brand?
Some might say the answer lies in innovation. If you can ensure that you're the first company of your kind to employ a trendy new social media site, or use a platform in a way that's never been attempted before - the online equivalent of a Richard Branson publicity stunt - you stand to attract some eyeballs. Consumers and clients alike can't help but notice that kind of originality, and for that reason many a brand has employed a madcap approach. But is there more to their efforts than ingenuity alone? Does the risk outweigh the reward?
Scrolling for Attention
Image-based social media services like Pinterest and Instagram are inspiring marketers to consider how they too can paint a visual picture of their brands. Many have already tried their hand at pinboards, but two companies recently came up with even more unique ways to deliver graphic messages. When Smart Car Argentina wanted to launch a Twitter account, it combined the platform with some clever posts to create a digital flipbook that's visible when users scroll down the page (to see how it did it, watch this). Japanese clothing manufacturer Uniqlo took a similar approach with Pinterest by transforming its pinboard into one big animated display ad. As users scroll, posts combine to take on the look of a filmstrip.
Fun or frivolous? Because both of these efforts employ social media, and we can safely assume the brands intend to use the accounts in the future, their level of success is largely contingent on their practicality. Smart Car Argentina devised its effort to launch its Twitter feed, but subsequent tweets detract from the visual experience that led people to follow the brand in the first place. In other words, the automaker is stuck having to preserve the page as is in order to please the looky-loos. Because the Pinterest stunt was short-lived (it was, in essence, a takeover campaign), Uniqlo fairs considerably better. Consumers can still experience the promotion through videos on various blogs, and the Uniqlo Pinterest page can continue to operate smoothly - something the company must have had in mind from the start.
Social Platforms as Corporate Sites
Ad agencies are notorious for pushing the envelope with their own promotional campaigns. When better to experiment than when the only person holding you accountable is you? We saw this a couple of years ago when BooneOakley created an award-winning agency site comprised entirely of YouTube videos. It includes everything a good agency site should, from client work to executive profiles, and remains the agency's primary site to this day.
The most recent example of social media being used as the foundation for a corporate site comes from Tribal DDB Israel, which has become the first agency to build a site with Instagram. Users are asked to navigate images by using a series of designated hashtags, such as #tdilclients and #tdilcontact.
When your mandate is to market a digital agency, strategies like this have merit. Potential clients want to know that you can think creatively - even if they opt not to get quite so edgy with their own brands. In this sense BooneOakley and Tribal DDB Israel have both achieved success, but the latter's offering lacks the substance of its predecessor's. Instagram's static images are too confining for a company that deals in online interaction and engagement; they just don't do the agency's talent justice. As a supplement to a more traditional agency site the effort would have been fantastic, but it doesn't have the chops to stand alone. That said, both BooneOakley and Tribal did something very well, and that's to offer an alternate site for those unable (or unwilling) to follow the trend.
It's all well and good to be daring, as long as you recognize that not everyone (potential clients and customers not withstanding) shares your fondness for folly.
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Tessa Wegert is an interactive media strategist with Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy and services agencies, serving such brands as Bioré, Bratz, Food Network, illy, Hunter Douglas, Jergens, and Olympic Paints and Stains. An industry veteran, Tessa has worked in online media buying and planning, marketing, and online copywriting since 1999. She is an active freelance writer specializing in interactive marketing who has contributed to U.S. and Canadian publications, including "USA Weekend Magazine," "Marketing Magazine," "The Globe and Mail," and "The Montreal Gazette." She is frequently quoted as an industry expert and speaks regularly at industry conferences and events.
March 19, 2014