Don't leave your brand's relevancy up to chance; make sure you have a social opportunity budget.
No, I'm not talking about a difficult boss or an annoying coworker. This S.O.B. has the potential to be your best friend in your next fiscal year.
Every brand needs a social opportunity budget. This budget is separate from your annual campaign and initiative planning and creative development. It is also not a "secret stash" that you keep on hand for an emergency (though those are a good idea, too.) This is a budget that everyone on your brand team should know about and all of your agencies should understand - and be looking for a way to spend it with zeal.
We all know we are operating in an always-on, real-time, highly democratic marketing environment. The idea behind a social opportunity budget is that you purposefully put aside money to uniquely capitalize on news and culture in a way that only your brand might do it. To be clear, most brands have a budget for community management and posting to the variety of social platforms. But, this budget is separate from that as well. The S.O.B. should be reserved for "little big ideas" that would never have been predicted or planned for as part of the annual process.
Oreo's response to the Super Bowl power outage is a good example of being real time and responsive, but from a consumer engagement perspective the post doesn't last all that long. And it's not "ownable" or sustainable. (We talk about it in marketing circles far longer than our desired audiences or consumers.) We can activate our brand equities in more impactful, enduring ways if we are clear on who we are and how we should behave.
Step 1: Create a Budget
So how do you create a budget when you don't know what you're going to do or when you're going to do it? Only you know the nuance of managing and protecting budgets within your organization, but I believe you should have an annual spend committed on a quarterly basis. You can create basic assumptions around the spending activity in advance to help you gauge how much you need to set aside. Using history and agency support, plan for multiple video productions and seeding efforts, turnkey promotions, and some live events. It doesn't mean you have to employ those tactics, it's just a guide for estimating.
Step 2: Activate the Budget
Now that you have the budget, how do you activate it? First, you need to insure that the brand team and agencies are clearly aligned on the brand's equity and the associated content themes are also interesting to your target audience. Secondarily, you need to align on a process for quickly escalating, evaluating, and activating cultural opportunities - for many companies this requires clear legal and/or regulatory guidance as well.
Step 3: Commit the People
The third step is to assign one (or more) people to perform constant culture coverage to seek and find social opportunities. This should be done above and beyond the social listening that you should already be doing. The community manager role is one way to concentrate the brand activity and cultural resonance demand. This person can escalate opportunities to the planning and creative teams that arise from news, upcoming events, group comments, and conversation. While there are many ways to staff the need, the entire team should always be looking out for those unique, winnable cultural moments.
Step 4: Explore
The fourth step is up to you depending on your agency structure. The simplest way is to have the agency (or agencies) leading your digital/social efforts develop a brief and kick off a rapid-fire creative exploration; you could also choose to create a competition among the agencies to ideate against the brief and select the best idea from any of them. And with great ideas secured and using the budget you've already secured, you'll be ready to exercise your social opportunity.
Simply, my advice is this - don't leave your brand's relevancy up to chance. Commit the budget, the people, and the process to identify and activate real-time cultural topics in a way that makes your brand truly interesting, different, and memorable. Embrace the S.O.B.
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Marc leads strategy for POSSIBLE, a global agency that creates meaningful and measurable interactive marketing. The network is comprised of 1,500 employees across 26 offices.
Marc works right here in Cincinnati, the largest office within the global network where he oversees a team of strategists that set brand direction and drive digital innovation through consumer insights, thought leadership, and performance marketing (search, analytics, and measurement). In the last few years, Marc led strategic planning for some of the agency's largest and most innovative clients including Procter & Gamble, ConAgra, Smuckers, and Red Bull. Marc has been praised for his strategic leadership on P&G's Prilosec OTC Official Sponsor of You Campaign that championed real people, by awarding micro-sponsorships to connect the brand to all kinds of fans. The campaign was so successful that it was selected to Ad Age's Book of Tens for cause marketing in 2010.
Before joining POSSIBLE, Marc lived an entrepreneurial life in technology, in launch of the flip camcorder; and in fast-moving consumer-packaged goods where he drove sales and marketing for Cape Cod, Nathan's, and Mrs. Fields while working with retailers including Walmart, Walgreens, Target, and COSTCO.
Marc brings his strategic discipline, creative inspiration, and entrepreneurial spirit to every endeavor as he seeks to "find the new" for POSSIBLE and its clients.
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