We’re almost halfway through the year, and just beginning to enter what’s sometimes called the “summer lull”: that sleepy period during July and August where people go away on holiday and everything’s a bit quiet.
Most ‘digital marketing ideas’ or ‘digital marketing strategy’ pieces tend to be written and published at the beginning of the year, when everything’s new and fresh and marketers are full of enthusiasm. Come June, the shine might be wearing off a bit, your strategy losing steam or not seeming as innovative and full of possibilities as it did in January.
But with six months still to go, you need to find a way to keep the momentum going for the second half of the year. What can you do?
In this article I’ll look at six ideas on the cutting edge of digital marketing that can help to reinvigorate your brand. Some of them are quite simple, while others require a bit more implementation and planning; but all of them are sure to liven up your strategy and give your brand a competitive advantage going into the autumn.
1. Create an email newsletter
Email newsletters have seen something of a renaissance over the past few years. Brands of all kinds, from publishers to retailers, have identified the benefits of an email newsletter: it’s personal, but also social and easy to share; it sits neatly in the intersection of content and email marketing; and it has the added bonus of helping you to collect consumers’ contact information.
In my article ‘The revival of email newsletters and the rise of mobile-first email’, I mused on how the email newsletter revival may be fueled in part by the increasing adaptability of email templates to mobile devices, with 92% of email marketers using either a responsive or mobile-aware design in their broadcast and segmented emails. (Source: The 2016 State of Email Design)
Consumers increasingly access their emails on the go, and email newsletters are in prime position to take advantage of this tendency and give consumers something interesting to read as they retrieve their emails on a mobile device.
For more reasons why you should consider launching an email newsletter as well as tips on how to go about it, read ‘The revival of email newsletters and the rise of mobile-first email’.
2. Get on board with augmented reality
Formerly the “awkward cousin” to the much more flashy VR, augmented reality (AR) has come into its own over the past year, giving brands a number of opportunities to experiment with incorporating it into their marketing.
Augmented reality seems to be the next big trend in social media, first pioneered by Snapchat with its fun and interactive Lenses, then adopted by Facebook and Instagram with Facebook’s Camera Effects platform and Instagram’s face filters. Meanwhile, a new breed of AR apps is making its way onto mobile, opening up avenues for brands to create augmented reality experiences inside a user’s smartphone and be present in their surroundings in a whole new way.
So how can brands incorporate AR into their wider marketing strategy?
Snapchat and Instagram
Snapchat’s wacky Lenses, which allow the user to transform their face into different shapes and concepts, aren’t for every company. But if you think that your brand’s next campaign could benefit from a fun promotional animation on Snapchat, consider investing in Sponsored Lenses. For example, for the 2016 Super Bowl, Gatorade created a memorable Snapchat Lens which poured a bucket of Gatorade over the user’s head. The campaign was viewed more than 100 million times in 24 hours, and was still going strong even after the Super Bowl ended.
Instagram recently introduced its own version of Snapchat’s Sponsored Lenses with “face filters”, augmented reality overlays which interact with the user’s face in a similar way. While Instagram has yet to introduce branded options for face filters, it’s likely only a matter of time. This addition could potentially open up Instagram’s 700-million-strong user base in a new way; so if Snapchat marketing doesn’t appeal to you, keep an eye on Instagram.
Tereza Litsa muses more on the possibilities of AR for Instagram and the marketing opportunities it could bring in her recent article, ‘What augmented reality means for the future of Instagram’.
Or, check out our beginner’s guide to Snapchat for marketers.
Facebook Frame Studio and AR Studio
Facebook is pushing into AR in a big way. In the space of two months, it launched a new suite of AR features for both of its social media properties: Facebook (announced at the F8 developer conference in April of this year) and Instagram (which launched in May).
Instagram’s AR hews quite closely to the Lenses pioneered by Snapchat, but Facebook’s AR has the potential to be much more revolutionary. The Camera Effects Platform, which is the name of Facebook’s augmented reality platform, has two main tools: Frame Studio, which allows any Facebook profile or Page owner to design “frames” for use in profile pictures or in the Facebook camera; and AR Studio, an invite-only tool which can create animated frames, masks, and interactive effects.
While Facebook hasn’t made a big push towards brand sponsorship or monetization of these tools yet, they already have a lot of potential for creative messaging. For more details, check out Al Roberts’ analysis, ‘What Facebook’s big bet on AR means for brands’.
Augmented reality apps
At Apple’s 2017 Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple unveiled a new ‘AR Kit’ for creating augmented reality apps, which it calls the “largest AR platform in the world”. Google also has its own AR computing platform, Project Tango, which is designed to work with smartphones and tablets, and which has underpinned a number of collaborations with brands including BMW and Jeep.
So why should brands invest in an AR app, and what opportunities do they present for marketing? For a more detailed examination, read ‘What are augmented reality apps, and how can they be used for marketing?’
3. Create 360 degree content
360 degree video and photography is still relatively uncommon in brand marketing, which means it can be a great way to stand out if you do it right.
The cost and difficulty of producing 360 degree content has reduced significantly over the past year or so, and now most smartphones come with a built-in ability to create 360 degree images. It is now also possible to embed 360 degree imagery into Facebook posts, as well as into WordPress sites, websites or mobile apps without too much technical know-how.
360 degree content can be particularly effective for brands in the travel and design industries, as a way of immersing the viewer in the place or concept that they’re selling; but they can be used creatively in all sorts of ways.
For more on how to get started with 360 degree content, and examples of brands using 360 degree content effectively, don’t miss this guide on our sister site Search Engine Watch, ‘How to get started with 360-degree content for VR’.
4. Gamify your content marketing
Mary Meeker’s recently-released Internet Trends Report 2017 contained a hefty 70-page section examining the explosion of popular gaming and what it means for various industries. Contained within this was a list of various skills typically associated with gaming, such as levelling up, creative storytelling and puzzle-solving, and how these have impacted on the development of numerous technologies that we now take for granted.
Marketers can also take advantage of these skills to ‘gamify’ their marketing campaigns, by incorporating features such as progress tracking, competitive and social elements, and puzzle challenges into their content marketing.
A number of brands have already launched gamified content marketing campaigns to considerable success. For example, M&Ms USA created an ‘eye-spy’ puzzle challenge on Facebook to boost sales of its pretzel-flavored confectionery. The post contained an image in which users were challenged to find ‘pretzel guy’ amidst a sea of colorful M&Ms, a simple but absorbing and highly shareable game. The post racked up more than 26,000 likes, 11,000 comments and 6,000 shares.
Oh no! I’ve lost pretzel guy! Can you help me spot him? – Orange
Posted by M&M'S USA on Wednesday, 20 February 2013
In another example of successful gamified social media content marketing, Heineken’s created its ‘Crack the US Open’ campaign on Instagram, a mosaic-slash-treasure hunt which challenged users to follow clues in the captions of each image, reach the final photograph, and leave a comment to win tickets to the US Open.
For an in-depth exploration of the opportunities that gaming presents for marketers, and tips on how to gamify your marketing campaigns, read our article ‘Is gaming the next marketing frontier?’
5. Invest in live video
2017 is said to be the year of video, with brands of all kinds turning to video content to capture their audience’s attention and leave a visual impression with their marketing campaigns. And of the various types of video, live video has attracted the most attention by far.
A 2016 study by FreeWheel Media indicates that long-form and live video deliver higher rates of ad completion, while data by Research and Markets estimates that the video streaming market will grow to $70.05 billion in 2021, up from $30.29 billion in 2016.
How can brands get on board with live video? There is a wide array of live video platforms available to try, itself a telling sign about the booming popularity of live streaming. Facebook Live is probably the best-known, but YouTube also supports live video, as do Instagram Stories, Tumblr, and Twitter-owned Periscope, an early live streaming platform.
Brands can use live video for anything from streaming events, to interviews, to broadcasting a campaign launch or stunt to a wider audience. Some tips for getting the most out of live video include:
- Notify your audience ahead of time, so they know to tune in
- Make sure you have a strong connection before going live
- Write a catchy description or post for your video
- Make sure you interact with consumers as they tune in to the video, which could include taking questions in the stream, or replying to comments on a separate social media channel.
For more detail on how to get started using live video to market your brand, check out ‘How brands can integrate live video into their marketing strategy‘.
6. Experiment with chatbots
Chatbot technology has come a long way in the past couple of years, and chatbots have gone from being a slightly gimmicky novelty to being a valid means of acquiring and engaging with customers. In April 2016, Facebook went all-in on the chatbot trend by opening up Messenger as a platform for chatbots, partnering with brands like 1-800-FLOWERS and CNN to create bots that would simplify and liven up the user experience.
Then at its 2017 F8 conference, it doubled down by announcing the launch of a bot discovery tab to help users discover interesting chatbots, as well as an extension allowing bots to be used in group chats.
So why should brands give chatbots a try? In her articles on how to bring chatbots into your marketing strategy and how chatbots can refine the customer acquisition process, Marcela de Vivo lists the following benefits:
- Chatbots are available 24/7 – a particular advantage for customer service
- Chatbots inside mobile apps are present where consumers generally spend most of their time: their smartphones
- They can give personalized responses and attention to consumers
- They act as brand advocates and sales representatives, allowing people to access information about your brand at any time
- They remove barriers to entry for your brand, streamlining the process of making a purchase
- They can enhance the user experience via engagement, and collect valuable consumer insights through their interactions.
For more examples of brands who have made chatbots a success, check out ‘How six retailers are using chatbots to boost customer engagement (and why you should too)’.