Recently, Dunkin' Donuts and Toyota have each found clever uses for Google Hangouts, an increasingly popular marketing tool among brands.
Dunkin' Donuts hosted its first live Google+ Hangout last week to choose a winner for a fan recipe contest inspired by Bravo's Top Chef, for whom it is a sponsor.
The brand asked fans to submit recipes containing at least one Dunkin' Donuts ingredient in them and then narrowed that down to six finalists. Users were then invited to log in to a Google+ Hangout, in which Dunkin' chefs prepared dishes in the test kitchen such as dessert nachos, Dunkin' Donuts hazelnut coffee pancakes with a coffee caramel sauce, and beer and coffee marinated brussels sprouts with Bacon (er, yum?!). Users could access the hangout on #DDTopChef Google+ page. Also on camera were the six finalists, who explained their inspiration for the dishes.
"One morning I had made a second pot of Dunkin's Hazelnut coffee and by mistake I poured it into the pancake batter," explained contestant Jesse D from San Francisco about the origin of her pancakes.
Dunkin' Misses Opportunity to Take Audience Engagement All the Way
Three contestents competed for twitter votes in two rounds, the first featuring sweet dishes and the second round, savory. At the end of round one, Twitter voters chose JannineF's dessert nachos, which incorporated panini-pressed glazed donuts, chocolate sauce and whipped cream, over the other two choices. In round two, twitter users gave the most votes to JesseR's beer and coffee marinated brussels sprouts with bacon, which prevailed over old fashioned donut fried chicken with Dunkin' redeye gravy and munchktizers, a version of appetizers using Dunkin' Munchkins.
With two finalists left, executive chef Stan simply chose the winner of the top two, which didn't sit right with some Twitter participants:
@dbecktweets Bravo (pun intended) @DunkinDonuts for the #SocialTV integration live #DDTopChef hashtag vote. BUT would've liked fan vote to decided winner
That tweet came from David Beck, who also happens to be head of social media at Univision. He was lobbying for friend JesseR, who created the brussels sprouts dish. But in the end, JannineF was crowned winner and got $1,000 for her efforts. Still JesseR, and the other contestants scored a $300 Dunkin' Donuts prize pack.
Hangout participants were shortly thereafter invited to watch the real "Bravo Top Chef," where chefs were challenged to create dishes incorporating Dunkin' Donuts ground coffee. Further commentary was provided on the Hangout by the Dunkin' Chefs.
The Hangout wasn't a huge success as far as participation metrics show. Although people who used the hashtag #DDTopChef were entered into a gift card drawing, only 308 people were listed as attending. The Hangout was publicized over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, as well as the Dunkin' Donuts blog.
However, Dunkin' claims it was pleased with the results. "Many fans were engaged throughout, from voting for their favorite dish, asking Chef Stan a question, or commenting on the actual Top Chef QuickFire on Bravo," says Scott Hudler, vice president of global consumer engagement for Dunkin' Brands. He says it was the perfect venue to announce the #DDTopChef recipe contest's results because of the capabilities of the platform to connect so many viewers at once to a live video chat.
Toyota Helps Car Buyers Crowdsource Decision-Making with Google+ Hangouts
Meanwhile, Toyota has been using Google Hangouts to help potential car buyers get interactive help from their friends on a car-buying decision. While online configurators are not unique to Toyota, the brand claims that this is the only one that is multi-user and social. In beta since May, the new collaborator tool was officially launched in late November.
Users who go to the collaborator website can invite up to 10 people to a Google Hangout, five of whom can help them choose paint colors and features for a 2014 Corolla. Then the driver can go for a simulated drive in the newly designed car, using Google Street View. The interior view of the car rotates horizontally based on the tracking of eye movements.
Lastly, the "Connect with an Expert" feature can bring a salesperson from a local Toyota dealership into a hangout. Once they finalize the design, it can be saved and shared via Google+, Facebook, and other social media outlets.
"Toyota understands that buying a car is a big decision and that most people do their research online by reading reviews and speaking with friends and family before making big, emotional purchases. And it's put itself right in the middle of that decision-making process," says Fiona Dunphy, social media strategist with Branded3, a UK-based search and digital agency.
She gives the tool high marks for offering the fun and novelty of driving simulator games, with the practical element of being able to get sales help. "It's not just a bit of fluffy fun they're offering here - they're making a concerted effort with Hangouts to drive sales," she notes.
Another plus for Google+ Hangouts, she notes, is that it may increase a company's standing in the Google rankings. "Google+ Hangouts is one of many ways that brands can provide valuable content and cut through the noise - and currently, Google+ is the only social platform that offers this kind of functionality... We also shouldn't forget that Google+ has been proven by the likes of Moz and SearchMetrics to positively impact search engine optimization (SEO)," she adds.
Other brands such as Cadbury's and even NASA have been using Google+ Hangouts to market themselves, taking over where the webinar left off. But Kevin Browne, consultant with SEO company Back Bay Local Marketing, believes companies have only begun to skim the surface of possibilities. "Google+ Hangouts have a huge potential for branding," he says, pointing to celebrities such as Rihanna - known to let fans address her via Hangout - as having already lead the way.
A company-sponsored football team, Browne suggests, could allow sports fans to hang out with them a half hour ahead of kickoff. "It's passionate and real, and gives brands a huge engagement ability, by connecting advertising with reality. The possibilities are endless."
Meet Your Favorite ClickZ Contributors
Many of ClickZ's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Jeremy Hull, Lisa Raehsler, Andrew Goodman, Bryan Eisenberg, Mathew Sweezey, Aaron Kahlow, Stephanie Miller, Simms Jenkins, Jeanne S. Jennings, Dave Hendricks and more!
Mary Lisbeth D'Amico is a freelance writer based in Jersey City who frequently covers digital marketing, social media, tech startups, and venture capital. She has contributed to a wide range of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Red Herring, and Real Deals. Find her on Twitter at @mldamico.
March 19, 2014