Great Visual Storytelling in the Automotive Industry

Great Visual Storytelling in the Automotive Industry

Marketing

At a time when people upload 1.8 billion images a day, visual storytelling is table stakes for most businesses to be relevant to consumers. But sharing one’s brand through images and video content is not always easy. Just as developing Web copy and blog content requires effective writing skills, visual storytelling demands close attention to how images create an emotional connection like no other communication medium.

Fortunately, businesses can learn from each other by example, and not necessarily from inside their own industries. For instance, it does not matter whether you sell bathroom fixtures or books: you can learn a lot from the automotive industry about visual storytelling. Automotive companies, ranging from dealers to aftermarket businesses, need to express themselves visually to succeed. (When was the last time you considered a new car purchase just by reading about the latest models?) Here are some automotive brands that are dialed in and know how to employ visual storytelling:

Humanizing a Brand

Subaru consistently uses video and imagery to inspire consumers to think of the human dimension of owning a car. For instance, to launch the 2017 Impreza model, Subaru rolled out video ads (offline and online) that tell the story of a little boy packing his bags and leaving home. Under the watchful eye of his parents, he packs the back of the family Subaru with his beloved personal possessions, including a sleeping bag and baseball bat. The end of the ad, though, reveals a heart-rending plot twist: the little boy is a young man leaving home in his Subaru. His parents are watching him through the lens of nostalgia. The ad tells a dramatic story of growing up and leaving home, with the Subaru playing a supporting role. As an old guy with a daughter graduating college, I think this ad particularly hits home. Here is a smart way to introduce a product — without saying a word about features and functionality. Subaru does it better than most and kudos to their marketing team and agency for brilliant work.

Connecting a Brand to a Lifestyle

On the other hand, NAPA Auto Parts builds its own brand by connecting its name to the excitement of automobile racing. NAPA does an exceptional job creating brand buzz through its sponsorship of drivers with popular racing bodies such as INDYCAR and NASCAR. And NAPA employs plenty of visual storytelling on its blog and social spaces to keep fans abreast of the performance of its sponsored drivers,  such as Alexander Rossi:

Of course, automobile racing lends itself to the excitement of video, and NAPA is happy to accommodate. For example, on its YouTube channel, NAPA shares video content that celebrates its drivers while building awareness for the brand value of “NAPA Know How.” The following video, for instance, effectively uses visual content plus narration to celebrate the way that Know How, skill, speed, and teamwork come together to create success with its professional drivers:

NAPA knows that sponsoring professional racers associates its brand with the distinct elements of automobile racing and uses visual storytelling to maximize the value of its sponsorships.

Providing Insight

J&P Cycles Parts & Service, the world’s largest aftermarket motorcycle parts and accessories provider, does an exceptional job using visual storytelling to provide practical “how to” knowledge.  For instance, on its YouTube channel, J&P Cycles shows visitors how to install bike accessories such as seats and brake pads. A recently posted video takes you into a cycle shop to show you how to upgrade a cycle for less than $2,000, and if you want to learn how to install mirrors on a Harley-Davidson, J&P Cycles will show you how:

Those are just some of the videos available on the J&P Cycles DIY Motorcycle Upgrades and How-To Videos Channel on YouTube.  You can also find more how-to videos on the J&P Cycles website, including tips on battery installation.

By providing how-to videos, J&P Cycles is really demonstrating customer empathy. J&P Cycles knows that the purchase of an aftermarket product is hardly the end of the experience. The real moment of truth arrives when a customer installs the product.

What You Can Learn

These examples of visual storytelling apply to any brand. For instance, businesses that provide any kind of professional service can emulate the J&P Cycles example by using video to share thought leadership. A good way to get started with visual storytelling is to first map out your paid, earned, and owned media strategy, and figure out where visual storytelling can play a role. Subaru clearly understands how to apply visual storytelling to evoke emotion for paid media. J&P Cycles has done a nice job of integrating video to enhance customer service as part of an owned media approach.

How do you apply visual storytelling? What lessons have you learned?

Mobile Advertising: Let Your Customer Be Your Guide

Mobile Advertising: Let Your Customer Be Your Guide

Mobile

Mobile is a shining star of performance marketing. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), for the first time, mobile ads account for the majority of digital ad spend. The IAB 2016 Internet Advertising Revenue report says that mobile ad revenues increased 77 percent to $36.6 billion in 2016, or 51 percent of total digital ad spend. Desktop search, the next biggest category, accounted for 24 percent of the total.

The IAB also says that the $36.6 billion spent on mobile ads included $17.2 billion for mobile search and $18.1 billion for mobile display.

I’m not surprised by the growth in mobile ad revenue. The ad spend reflects changing consumer behavior and the power of major publishers such as Google. The number of mobile searches on Google surpassed desktop searches two years ago. And Google has been changing its algorithms to force brands to respect the power of mobile. For instance, Google’s 2015 “mobilegeddon” algorithm rewarded mobile-friendly web pages with higher rankings for searches done on Google.

And yet, as important as mobile has become, mobile is still a contextual experience. To me, the real excitement and long-lasting value for advertisers comes from creating meaningful online advertising that appeals to omnichannel consumers.

Omnichannel consumers interact with brands through a variety of devices and channels, including social media, your website, display ads on other sites, and search results – on mobile phones, desktops, tablets, in games, on television, and through voice-activated assistants, to cite just a few of the proliferating channels and devices that shape the consumer-brand experience.

You get a better picture of how complex the advertising landscape really is when you dig into the IAB report and sift through the variety of ad formats that account for digital spend. (The report’s appendix alone, which details the pricing models and ad formats, is instructive.)

It’s important that businesses understand the nuances of advertising through different channels and devices. For instance, Tim Colucci at KeywordFirst has been blogging lately about the distinct challenges and opportunities of video advertising. (Here is an example.) At the same time, I believe it’s more important to coordinate mobile in context of the understanding your consumers’ journeys from awareness to purchase to loyalty. Yes, mobile advertising is probably going to be important to just about any brand, but how and when you spend on mobile advertising may differ dramatically by channel (e.g., Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram) and device depending factors such as what stage a customer is in the buying decision and the time of day they’re interacting with your brand.

So let’s celebrate and appreciate the rise of mobile ad spending. But even more importantly, let’s keep our focus on the broader consumer journey and invest into experiences that create and retain customer relationships throughout the journey, one impression, channel, and device at a time.

Image source: Startup Stock Photos

Tips for Promoting Higher Education on Instagram

Tips for Promoting Higher Education on Instagram

Marketing

Some recently published statistics demonstrate the rising influence of Instagram. For instance:

These statistics are surely music to the ears of higher education institutions looking to reach their target markets.  Most colleges have Instagram accounts, which help them gain an organic following with visual content. In addition, Instagram offers a paid ad format to target people based on a number of factors, such as whether someone has shown previous interest in a school through a website visit. With Instagram advertising, institutes of higher learning can also target an audience based on interests, behaviors, age, gender, and education level as well as a variety of other socio-economic factors.  Let’s take a closer look at Instagram advertising.

Available Formats

There are currently four available ad formats:

  • Photo ads (Single photos available in square or landscape format).
  • Video ads (Up to 60 seconds in length).
  • Carousel ads (users can swipe to view additional photos or videos).
  • Stories ads (complement your feed content with ads on Instagram Stories).

Canvas ads (A full-screen ad experience) are currently available in Facebook and should be offered in Instagram in the future.

Instagram continues to revise its targeting options. We recommend ongoing testing of audience performance as a best practice.

Advertising Tips

While it is important that the ads/videos used on Instagram remain generally consistent with the design and feel of other marketing campaigns to maintain brand identity, keep in mind that Instagram is a social platform. So tailor your ads to align with the more laid back lifestyle feel of Instagram. Be sure to include a logo. And use images that are interesting and visually appealing, as many users view Instagram as an inspirational platform.

Instagram can be an effective outlet for showcasing the best features of your institution to potential students.  Well-conceived imagery can help students easily visualize what it would be like to attend your place of learning. Here are some tips for getting the most out of Instagram ads:

  • Promote your faculty by using images along with a personal quote or an endorsement from a current student. If a quote is pulled from a relevant article, it can be linked through the post itself or via the Instagram bio.
  • Feature campus sponsored-activities throughout the year – for example, images from move-in day, picnics, concerts, prominent speakers.
  • Highlight your campus community by including promotions about clubs, intramural sports, Greek life, and so forth.
  • Reach out to sports enthusiasts with ads promoting your various collegiate teams and information about upcoming games or highlights from key wins.
  • Consider testing a story ad that follows a day in the life of a current student to profile the student experience.
  • Put the beauty of your campus on full display through a video or series of images. Highlight those features that would be most appealing to potential students – high-tech classrooms; well-appointed dorms; favorite gathering areas such as the student union and campus quad; or a sports arena that’s filled with students supporting school teams.

The key to successfully engaging with a target audience is to help them envision themselves being a part of your school, whether it’s sitting in a classroom, walking across the quad, cheering in the stands at a sporting event, or being a part of a fraternity or sorority. And, don’t forget to include a call to action button in your ads such as “Learn More,” or “Contact Us” to ease the communication process.  A picture is worth a thousand words — so incorporate Instagram and create a visual marketing punch. Contact KeywordFirst for more insight into using Instagram to reach your audience.

 

Putting Google Experiments to the Test

Putting Google Experiments to the Test

Analytics

I always found AdWords Campaign Experiments (ACE) to be a slightly cumbersome way to test different variables with online advertising campaigns. Reporting, particularly at the keyword level, took some effort, and the setup of the test itself could be time-consuming. So, when Google announced it was going to replace ACE with “campaign drafts and experiments,” I was rather giddy. Now that I’ve had some time to work with campaign drafts and experiments (aka Google experiments) option, I urge you to try it.

With experiments, Google allows advertisers to create a draft campaign (a replica) of a real campaign they are running. By doing so, the advertiser can make adjustments to advertising campaigns in a number of ways, such as changing keyword bids, ad group setup, ad copy, ad scheduling, and geo-targeting.

And how can an advertiser run the 50/50 split properly? Well, Google now asks advertisers how much traffic (budget) they want to spend on the new experiment campaign and how much they want to spend on the control (current) campaign. And with Google experiments, if an advertiser wants to run a test with 90 percent of traffic being piped through the control and 10 percent through the test, they can do so. Having the option to test traffic in this manner gives advertisers the capability to test even if they might be wary to spend more on a true 50/50 test.

Unfortunately (there’s always an unfortunately, amirite?) there are limits to what an advertiser can test, but those limits are not nearly the same as with ACE. For instance:

  • Some reporting isn’t available such as ad scheduling, auction insights, display placement reports.
  • The Dimensions tab is not available. Dimensions reports on search terms, by-day results, paid versus organic, and other deep-dive report.
  • Some automated bid strategies (e.g., “target search page location,” “target outranking share,” and “target return on ad spend) and ad customizers (e.g., “target campaign,” “target ad group”) are not available, either.

But, how many advertisers are looking to test these settings? Not many (other than me, that is). Rather, most advertisers will be using experiments for testing many of the basic questions, such as:

  • What messaging performs best in my ad copy?
  • Do increased keyword bids improve conversion rates?
  • What landing page leads to higher conversion rates?

For those with more advanced tests in mind, advertisers are able to dive deep into each campaign and try testing a number of variables, such as:

  • Excluding a search partner (e.g., another engine powered by Google, such as Ask.com) from the test campaign and keeping a search partner in the control campaign.
  • Targeting a city/state differently in the test campaign then in the control campaign.
  • Bidding differently on gender, age, device, or income.
  • Testing a different ad schedule.

The best new feature of the experiments is easier reporting. Instead of pulling segments, subtracting test totals from the overall totals, or having to run a crazy formula to confirm all of the test keywords were pulled correctly, Google breaks out campaign experiment results simply as “Experiment” and “Original” in the experiments tab. The totals are easy to see and couldn’t be easier to pull. Even better, these numbers are reported on in Analytics! The Analytics feature wasn’t possible through ACE.

After an advertiser does the tedious work of building out an account’s keywords, ad copy, and extensions, experiments allows the advertiser to test, and testing is the fun part of the job. Experiments allows us to get actionable data that can lead to better decision-making, not just for display or paid search, but in some cases across multiple tactics. Those results may give senior marketers another view of their marketing campaign effectiveness and rethink their approaches.

Does Your Brand Have a Newsjacking Strategy?

Does Your Brand Have a Newsjacking Strategy?

Marketing

Newsjacking has become an increasingly popular but risky marketing and PR tactic. The term “newsjacking,” made popular by David Meerman Scott, refers to marketers capitalizing on news and topical issues to build awareness for their brands. Many companies have done so (in real time or near real time) to create an impact for their brand, a notable example being  Nike’s 2017 Equality ad that promotes equality both on and off the field of play.

It’s tempting for businesses to attempt newsjacking when they see the kind of visibility that can come from deploying the tactic. But brands need to proceed with caution. Businesses have incurred backlash when newsjacking sensitive topics such as celebrity deaths, and newsjacking can come across as too opportunistic.

But just because newsjacking is risky, it doesn’t mean you should ignore this tactic. Newsjacking can deliver tremendous value if you do it right. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you consider newsjacking:

Know What Topics Your Brand Is Comfortable Covering

We all have a different understanding of what can be controversial. Brands have suffered when they try to appeal to an audience whose sensibilities and values don’t correlate with a brand’s perception of current events. It is important to discuss with your team exactly what topics should be covered and what areas you would like to shy away from. This necessity became increasingly important with the 2016 Presidential election. Certain brands openly discussed their political stance. Others tapped into the news generated by the election without explicitly taking a side. A great example of the latter: Bisquick with its “Make America Pancakes Again.” The brand capitalized on a campaign slogan without suggesting any specific political ties.

Of course, politics is a divisive topic and can really strike at a consumer’s emotions. It is imperative to measure the risks and rewards of commenting directly on political issues. The safer bet is to appeal towards pop culture and the current zeitgeist, which can be easily cultivated by monitoring Google Trends and trending hashtags on social media. Finding topics that appeal to your brand values and your audience’s values can help you to tailor your messaging and reap the benefits.

Have a Purpose and a Story

If you are going to newsjack, do so with a purpose with a definable goal, such as increasing brand lift. And make sure you develop a compellingly creative story to tell. If you are unable to come up with something creative or you are unable to provide strong content for the news, it is best to sit out the story.

Audi’s May 2015 “Birth” ad is an example of newsjacking with a purpose and a story. The company’s ad played into the birth of the Royal baby, but also promoted its own new baby, the Audi RS3, which was birthed from a larger Audi model. The company advertised the new RS3 with a strong marketing campaign that was relevant to current events.

Plan Content When Possible

It is not uncommon for newsjacking to be created on the spot, but you can also plan ahead with events, such as major award shows and sporting events whose dates are known months in advance. Coca-Cola capitalized on the popularity of the 2016 Summer Olympics with a campaign that celebrated individual athletes with advertising and social media posts such as this one:

When creating your social media calendar, think of what events are coming up and consider the power of visual storytelling to tap into the appeal of those events.

Do Your Research

Although it is good to be the first to jump on a news story, make sure you have your facts straight before posting content related to breaking news, and make sure your ad reflects cultural truth. Especially when newsjacking a story in real time, carefully vet your research on a topic to ensure that you are not providing inaccurate details to your audience. And research the credibility of the story you want to tell. A brand’s credibility can easily be affected by sharing content (whether an ad or a tweet) that is inaccurate, false, or out of step with the cultural zeitgeist.

A recent example of being out of step can be found in the now infamous Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner. The ad was an attempt to reach the millennial audience by appealing to the culture of activism and goals of unity, but missed the mark according to many critics by diminishing the importance of all the work that activists are doing. Perhaps had Pepsi done more research ahead of the ad, the company would have uncovered how serious, personal, and passionate protests are as a social statement. The company might have then avoided creating an ad that associated a can of Pepsi with social change agendas and thus came across as trivializing social protest as a form of self-expression.

Avoid Anything Related to Death or Disaster

It is best to steer clear of negative events when newsjacking even if a company is attempting to express sympathy. Companies that use disasters or fatalities to boost their brand appearance create an unfortunate association with their brand. Additionally, commenting on topics like celebrity deaths can be equally as problematic. Just to be clear: if your brand is donating to a cause or shedding light on an issue without attempting to promote sales, you are probably not creating a newsjack (but you should be very careful about the tone of your message anyway). But when newsjacking, be cognizant of what you are implying with your post.

Newsjacking can be a positive tool and promote your brand while allowing you to comment on cultural issues. To begin working newsjacking into your own marketing calendar, start to look ahead at what major events will be occurring. For instance, with the NBA and NHL playoffs in full swing and with the Major League Baseball season under way, a sport-related newsjack may be highly relevant to your audience. Or consider an entertainment event such as the Tony Awards in June. A keen eye for events and a willingness to follow the tips outlined in this post will help you get started with newsjacking. Contact KeywordFirst. We can help you.

Lead image source:

Wendy’s and a Chicken Nugget Super Fan Remind Brands of Twitter’s Power

Wendy’s and a Chicken Nugget Super Fan Remind Brands of Twitter’s Power

Social media

Twitter has certainly taken its lumps for not monetizing its own business effectively — but the platform remains a great tool for brands to share their voice and interact with consumers, as Wendy’s has demonstrated.

Wendy’s is part of a feel-good story that has gone viral: on April 5, a 16-year-old named Carter Wilkerson tweeted Wendy’s asking how many retweets it would take to win free nuggets for a year, and within minutes Wendy’s responded “18 Million.” To give you some perspective: Twitter has about 313 million active users — so that 18 million is roughly 5 percent of the Twitter population. Carter took to heart Wendy’s reply and challenged the Twitterverse to retweet his plea for a year’s worth of Wendy’s chicken nuggets (“HELP ME PLEASE. A MAN NEEDS HIS NUGGS”). And then the fun began, as people and brands responded to his tweet. As of April 13, Carter has received 2.7 million retweets (and counting).

Since I’m a bit of a data nerd, I was curious about how much it would cost Wendy’s to give away free nuggets for a year to Carter if he achieves the feat of getting 18 million retweets. Since prices are variable due to locations, I’ll give a range of $5-$8 for the 10-piece nuggets. Multiply that amount by 365 days, and Wendy’s will be shelling out between $1,825-$2,920 for this little gamble. For a company whose revenues were $1.453 billion in 2016, a few thousand dollars is a miniscule amount given the visibility Wendy’s is receiving.

Carter is on track to break the previous retweet record of 3.3 million for the famous Ellen DeGeneres Oscar selfie of 2014. Of course, Ellen DeGeneres has many more followers than Carter Wilkerson — 66.8 million followers compared to Carter’s 45,200 followers (as of April 13), a number boosted by his newfound fame. And Ellen DeGeneres had a lot of re-tweeting help from her A-list celebrities. So what Carter Wilkerson is accomplishing is astounding.

How has Carter been able to garner 2.7 million tweets? Just do a search for “Wendy’s 18 Million,” and you can find the answer through the dozens of news media articles written about him and Wendy’s. This kind of viral attention is social media on its best day. What I think is interesting is that other brands are now creating publicity for Carter, and, by extension, Wendy’s, including Hollister Co. & Amazon, both of which have tweeted about Carter’s dream of free nuggets.

Time will tell whether Carter reaches his goal of 18 million, but it’s clear that he and Wendy’s have reminded brands and people that Twitter can be a PR powerhouse. How are you integrating Twitter into your branding and media strategy?

Responding to Customer Reviews: Four Tips for Apple

Responding to Customer Reviews: Four Tips for Apple

Social media

Apple recently permitted its developers to respond directly to customer reviews on the App Store. This update is welcomed by App Store users as previously some negative reviews went unanswered by developers at Apple. Moreover, Apple is catching up to Google, which has permitted developers to respond to user reviews since 2013. This significant news from one of the world’s most valuable brands underscores the importance of businesses responding to user reviews. Based on our experience working with businesses to improve their brands on social, I offer these four tips for Apple and its developers:

  1. Respond to all feedback

Although this suggestion may seem obvious, in some circumstances feedback gets missed whether it be positive or negative. It is important to thank consumers who have provided positive feedback and also offer support or solutions to those customers who are unhappy. Do respond to positive feedback — failing to respond to happy customers might come across as ungrateful. And, of course, reply to negative feedback. Ignoring criticisms obviously look arrogant and insensitive.

  1. Reply in a timely manner

Your response rate time is crucial especially on social media. Facebook even designates certain pages as very responsive, which gives consumers the understanding that they are being heard. Creating a responsive dialogue with your consumer base allows insights for both parties that can elevate your brand. Even if you don’t have a complete answer to a problem right away, at least respond with a “We are looking into this issue and will follow up with you more completely.”

  1. Provide honest feedback

Many times, consumers provide suggestions or requests that are not feasible in your current structure. It is best to explain your position in an honest manner rather than promising too much or leaving a request unanswered. Through honest feedback you are able to build credibility.

  1. Keep your responses concise

Sometimes it’s difficult for employees to respond concisely because employees usually possess a lot of context and detail about an issue that might seem helpful to know. But providing too much detail can be harmful because you might alienate a customer who lacks your technical expertise. If a comment truly does require a complex explanation, first respond briefly and offer to communicate with the customer offline. If you do so, your social spaces will be perceived as very user friendly.

User reviews are significant to a brand’s perception — so ensuring that they are handled in a thoughtful manner is vital. Thus, Apple’s introduction of customer review responses is an important feature to the company and should encourage other brands to be more responsive. The above tips should help any business manage review etiquette. Contact us to discuss how we can help you.

Image source: Ryan McGuire