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King Fish Media Event: The New Rules of Marketing

  
  
  
  
  

King Fish Media will be holding a complimentary marketing event on June 18th from 9-10am at the Cummings Center Conference Room (Suite 221-E) in Beverly, Mass.

The New Rules of Marketing: How to grow your business

The world of marketing has radically changed; we’ll explain how you can leverage changes in technology and consumer behavior to drive your sales.

Specifically you will learn:

  • The top 5 trends driving the future of marketing you need to know
  • How traditional marketing tactics like advertising and press releases are losing effectiveness in a world where prospects evaluate companies online
  • What is content marketing and why having a content strategy and plan is critical to marketing and sales success
  • The top 5 rules for successfully engaging customers and prospects on social media


Hosted by: Cam Brown, CEO and Founder, King Fish Media

Speakers:          

Gordon Plutsky, Chief Marketing Officer, King Fish Media
Michelle Looney, VP, Content Strategy, King Fish Media
Alexis DeVilling, Social Media Manager, King Fish Media

Date: June 18, 2014
Time: 9-10am
Continental Breakfast
100 Cummings Center, Beverly, MA 01915
Suite 221-E

To RSVP: adevilling@kingfishmedia.com

Map inside the Cummings Center - Click here

Direction to Cummings Center - Click here

Why Baseball Needs Storytelling for Long Term Success

  
  
  
  
  

Baseball is caught in an interesting paradox when it comes to the future.  In terms of revenue, it is thriving – a record $8 Billion in 2013 as new TV revenue from national and local partners kick off lucrative new contracts.  The league has also been a leading innovator in the digital realm – streaming video, social engagement and the recently enhanced At The Ballpark mobile app are all very smart extensions to serve the new media environment. The revised App is getting some attention and it follows MLBs approach of creating tools at a centralized level and allowing the teams to customized to their local fan bases.  The objective is to enhance the fan’s experience at the ballpark with content, ticket services, maps/guides, and concession information.  

Even though TV/Cable networks are filling the owners and players’ pockets with cash, the fact remains that viewership is trending down, especially for the World Series, and ballpark attendance is flat to down over the past several years.  Add to that the sport is slowing losing relevance with young people.  Fewer kids are playing little league and watching it on TV.  So, why are TV revenues trending way up?  

It likely has more to do with the state of TV business than baseball itself.  National networks such as ESPN, TBS and FOX and regional sports channels are paying handsomely to secure the rights to a sport fewer young people are watching.  In a streaming, on demand, multi-screen, DVR world, sports are the last bastion of programming that people watch in real time, maybe except for a handful of award shows.  Sports programming is a weapon to halt the march of cable and satellite cord cutters. More importantly, exclusive sports programming allows the networks to charge increasing affiliate fees to the cable providers.  For all the talk about content, there is nothing quite like live sports. It is true reality TV with a compelling narrative, changing themes and stars you care about.  Not some odd balls dropped on an Island with a TV crew or a bunch of upscale, surgically altered housewives playing out pre-scripted conflict.  

Here in Boston you can cobble together Aereo, Chromecast, AppleTV, an HD antenna, Netflix, Hulu, your library card and an NPR tote bag and still not be able see your beloved Red Sox.  Every game that is not free over the air on FOX TV (maybe 7 a year) is either on NESN (regional sports network) or ESPN or MLBTV (which blacks out local teams via an IP address for its streaming product).  To get these cable channels you have dance with the Comcast devil who pays a nice per subscriber fee to NESN and ESPN which in turn, they pass on to you with profit margin tacked on.  That profit helps them fund the Xfinity commercials they run on an infinite loop to beat you into submission.

Some day in the future, the cable bundle will fall apart just as it did for the music business, newspapers and magazines.  It’s inevitable, technology disruption only moves in one direction – forward.  When that happens baseball will be left with a game living in the past with an older and declining fan base.  The game is not in sync with the way people consumer media in a multi-screen, 140-character world.  Let’s face it – it has become slow and boring.

MLB can take a cue from the other sports to revitalize the game before its too late.

1. Keep the game moving, limit stops and commercial breaks – the NHL did that to great success. Be creative in getting revenue (product placement, sponsorship, logos on screen during action) that does not depend on old fashion interruptive TV commercials that no one wants to see.  Baseball needs to speed up (more below) and reduce the time needed to watch and attend a game.  Also, would it be so bad if weekend World Series games were shown earlier in the day so kids and those of us on the east coast can watch them.  These games have become endless slogs lasting past midnight.  

2. The NFL has no trouble changing rules to keep the game modern, so baseball needs to alter some basics and not worry so much about tradition.  First, enforce the actual strike zone up to the chest – more strikes, less pitches.  Next, put up a 20 second clock like the NBA (theirs is 24 seconds) did in the 50’s to keep their game from dying.  A pitcher has 20 seconds to throw, if not he is charged with a ball.  And, the batter can’t leave the box once he steps in or he is called out.  Watching a batter step out and adjust his gloves or himself after every pitch is not 21st century entertainment.

3. Most importantly, focus on stars and stories.  The NFL and NBA are masters of creating larger than life personalities and themes and stories around these stars.  The story of the NBA playoffs is all about the Miami Heat and LeBron James – it is the narrative that drives the league.  Before that it was Kobe and the Lakers, or the Big 3 in Boston.  They understand that stars draw kids to merchandise sales, watching TV and going to the arena.  Football is the same- each season has it’s own unique story narrative to drive fan interaction.  Can Seattle repeat?  Can Brady win one more ring?  Is this Manning’s last year?  You will hear these themes over and over, nicely coordinated between the league and their media partners.  You don’t have to be sports fan to know all about LeBron or Peyton Manning.

What is the equivalent storytelling in baseball?  Stories about Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun’s performance enhancing drug problems? Derek Jeter’s last year? There is no compelling narrative unless you count the mix results of the new instant replay system.

Baseball is blessed with a wealth of young talented players and yet no one knows anything about them. Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates should be a huge star.  Same with Mike Trout, Felix Hernandez, Bryce Harper and a host of great players under 25.  Yet, they are anonymous to the general public.  The 2014 season started with no narrative other than the same old blather about tradition and it’s pastoral roots.  Baseball should be applauded for creating a great digital/mobile/social media channel.  Now it’s time to fix the content that comes through the slick pipes.  

Commish Bud Selig, 80

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Is Chivalry Dead? Not on Social Media. Not for Chobani.

  
  
  
  
  

(First ThinkTank post by our Social Media Manager, Alexis DeVilling)

I eat breakfast at work everyday.  Not the ideal scenario, but it’s better than skipping the most important meal of the day.  I typically rotate between a yogurt with fruit, a protein bar, or a bacon egg and cheese when I’m feeling froggy.  About a month ago, as I was getting ready for a long day in the office, I whipped out my favorite yogurt of choice, Chobani with blueberries on the bottom.  When I opened the lid, I couldn’t believe my eyes!

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It was a sign. The Greek yogurt Gods were smiling down on me! So I tweeted it, obviously.  What else was a Social Media Manager who is a 100% Greek, first-generation American supposed to do? I smiled back, and then ate the whole damn thing.  Almost. Has anyone else noticed you can never get to the yogurt in the bottom edges of the cup??  

A few weeks go by and I continue to eat my various breakfasts while stalking friends on Face…I mean reading up on social media trends. A flood of articles pops up about customer support on social media.  Angry consumers want to be heard, and they want to be heard right now! Large and small corporations alike cannot avoid the wrath of social backlash when something goes wrong. But what happens when things are going well? You’re more likely to tweet angrily at an airline about a delayed flight than you are about a smooth, on-time landing. Right?

The reason I bring up customer support and retention is because there are a lot of brands doing it RIGHT.  They’re being proactive and engaging with customers who are positive brand advocates. For example: my main breakfast squeeze Chobani.  I didn’t expect anything from my initial smiley yogurt tweet, but they did recognize my love for the brand via this better-late-than-never response:

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To my surprise, a friendly package came in the mail today from the Chobani team.  It was much more than I anticipated.  My tweet in print!  Along with a tres chic custom wooden spoon that gets every last bit of yogurt goodness in the cup. Why? Because for Chobani, #HowMatters.

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Package from chobani containing a pretty nifty spoon and my tweet that earned it!

Did it work? You betcha! In addition to becoming a digital advocate (I’ve now written an entire blog about the brand), I was inspired to purchase a four-pack (below) and an Almond Coco Loco Flip (delicious) to keep at work. Chobani clearly knows the #1 rule in sales: it is easier to get loyal customers to buy more than it is to acquire new customers. So, how does your brand reward loyalty?

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The Real History of Social Media: Why it Matters

  
  
  
  
  

Today's social juggernauts are reshaping how people interact with one another. So what are the implications for tomorrow? Let's take a glance back to better understand.  

It may be difficult to recall now, but the social media revolution, like most great ideas, sprang from humble beginnings. Long before it was the creator of vast fortunes and media empires, it began as a simple idea: Technology and the internet could be used to bring people together. Over time, this idea has manifested in myriad ways -- image-sharing platforms, micro-blogging, time-sensitive texts and images, etc. -- and now social networks bring together billions of people across the globe.

The origin stories of dorm room hacks and corporate side-project experiments have been shrugged off and today these companies are not just tech-industry juggernauts. They are reshaping how people fundamentally interact with one another.

Inauspicious beginnings
As made famous in the movie "The Social Network," Facebook started as a college yearbook-style directory to, delicately put, compare the attractiveness of students. Similarly, YouTube's founders had a vague notion of creating a video-based version of the once popular "Hot or Not" web site. When that failed to get funding (shocker) a platform reboot as a video-sharing network became the new strategy when one of the principals realized there was no way to find a copy of the infamous Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" at the Super Bowl. Seeing a theme here?

Twitter wasn't much grander in scheme, although this platform at least had roots in solving legitimate business problems. The founders were working at a podcasting company that was in need of a reinvention, so they came up with a messaging service to quickly communicate with a small group of people. The word Twitter was plucked serendipitously from the dictionary that means, "a short burst of inconsequential information," and boom: A whole new form of mass communication (micro-blogging) was soon to be the go-to platform for immediate, real-time news and information.

Right place, right time, right technology    
As it usually happens with these things, the timing for the social sites that ended up coming out on top was nearly perfect. Roughly 10-15 years into the world wide web era there was finally a generation of teens and 20-somethings that had grown up online. This generation had embraced new and novel patterns for consuming information and interacting with one another in ways even the most tech-savvy Boomers and Gen-Xers where reluctant to. In short, the younger demographics were ready and able to understand, accept, and adopt social media platforms in an unprecedented way. Additionally, for those who think you can't teach an old dog new tricks, at present the fastest growing demographic of social media adopters is the 55+ age group. And just like that the domination of the American consumer through social media is nearly complete.

This mainstream social media adoption didn't simply happen because the technology had improved. These new platforms tapped into a previously unmet need for self-expression, personal/professional networking, and a healthy dose of narcissism and voyeurism. This is all an extension of the "quantified self" phenomenon --the use of technology to help measure exactly how lives change and influence their surroundings over time. In short, personal connections and interactions are central to our lives and social media is the newest and seemingly most efficient way to enhance this aspect of ourselves.

Social media finally found an environment and a whole generation of users ready to accept it. Like any revolution, the diverse manifestations have influenced things in ways that may not have been apparent from the outset.


For better or for worse
Since social media is by nature a self-publishing and user-generated content platform, it has had a massive effect on the mainstream media and the way news and information is disseminated. Breaking stories that used to wait for verification or publication dates can now go public immediately -- in 140 characters or less. Not to mention that without social media many digital-publications -- like Mashable, Buzzfeed or Upworthy -- wouldn't exist. Both new age content producers and the old-media guard are now dependent on social media and social networks to spread content via sharing and other methods of viral pickup to drive readership.

Of course, adapting to the speed of Twitter and real time newsgathering hasn't been the smoothest of processes. There have been some growing pains and more than a few very public snafus and suspended Twitter accounts. But regardless, these new mediums are now integrated into the media and public mindset. Consider how these new behaviors even affect mainstream politics: Due to the fact that if we experience journalism and news differently, we will experience politics and political discourse differently. For better or worse, political debates are now shaped by the sound bites that resonate on Twitter or other social media driven outlets. Just look at the lasting impression of Mitt Romney after the 2012 election which will always be boiled down to the "Binders full of Women" or the "47 percent" remarks. In short, social media giveth, and social media taketh away. It took away the career of former Congressman Anthony Weiner. He learned the classic lesson of the social era -- hitting send often leaves a permanent digital imprint.

Besides improving discourse, social media can improve sales
Online retailers are another industry that has successfully embraced social as a way to market on a more personal level -- and to increase sales. Massive retailers -- such as Lands End and Sephora -- have created storefronts on Pinterest and are seeing significant web traffic and sales coming through these channels. Arby's uses Twitter to provide real-time discounts to followers for immediate use in an attempt to drive traffic to its restaurants. Similarly, personalities like Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber (brands unto themselves) wouldn't have seen such fame or driven record sales without this direct line to fans.

As brands have started to move marketing dollars -- from traditional one-way advertising to interactive, conversation-based content marketing distributed over social channels -- social media has grown in importance. Marketers were fast to seize on this direct and measurable link to consumers and the ability to bypass the major media gatekeepers and paymasters.

A positive development is that brands now view customers as a community rather than targets -- a subtle but important change in the marketing mindset. Many forward thinking companies are creating social hubs on their sites to have a destination for curated social content that supports their content strategy through brand storytelling, original content, and public relations.

While this can be a double-edged sword as companies no longer own and control their brands completely, the good clearly outweighs the bad. Companies have no choice but to alter their strategies to get the most out of their social media engagement.


Social media meets customer service, meets responsive advertising
Since everyone is always connected, we all have a digital (potentially viral) megaphone in our hands at all times. This means that customer service blunders are no longer quiet affairs. Rather, they are splashed across Facebook or Twitter requiring companies to establish teams to monitor and respond in real-time. Massive companies such as Jet Blue, PayPal, and Nike have used social media to great effect not only to correct support issues, but to publicly display how much they care about their customers.

On topic with real-time responses, the newest trend of in-the-moment social media marketing has been dubbed "hijacking." Oreo first made this idea famous with its timely tweet about the Super Bowl blackout a couple years ago. Driven by the linking of Twitter -- and other social media outlets to live TV -- advertisers will need to think through the second-screen effect as a core tactic in the future. Consumers now watch TV -- sports, award shows, even Hulu or other online video providers -- with device in hand. The lesson here is that creativity and responsiveness will win the social media battle by captivating the hearts and minds of engaged consumers.

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Social media acceptance
Consumers don't pay for social platforms because they are the product that's being sold. The ongoing challenge that companies, brands, and marketers are faced with is how to develop an intimate relationship with consumer's wallets. As for consumers, making peace with being the product is happening -- somewhat.

Of course the industry will continue to change as technology does and it is very hard to predict exactly who will be the winner or loser in 5 or 10 years. Given the pace of development in the tech industry, it is hard to imagine Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn still being king of the hill, though they could be building or inspiring new businesses that will stand the test of time. However, one thing is for certain, the primal needs that spurred the incredible growth of these networks are not going to change. Nor, is the desire for marketers to build close relationships with customers. The need to share, connect, inspire, and entertain is what makes us human and is the real life force behind these newfound empires.

This article by King Fish Media CMO Gordon Plutsky originally appeared on iMediaConnection.com

Gen X Picks Up Where Boomers Left Off

  
  
  
  
  

 

2014 is a big milestone in American demographic history: The last of the Boomers will turn 50.  I’m proud to join Michelle Obama, Rob Lowe, Laura Linney, Sandra Bullock and Johnny Depp as we hit AARP eligibility.  I’m not putting myself in the celebrity category, although most of us 1964’ers do share a youthful appearance and attitude.  (Speaking of AARP, when the application came a few weeks ago, I laughed and tossed it into the recycling bin.  I get the part about the discounts, but it feels like it’s for old people, and that’s just not us.  We’re a group that still self identifies as young.)  

There’s another milestone that’s getting less press, but will have similar implications for marketers and brands: In 2015, the first of Generation X starts turning 50 (with the youngest turning 35).  Like the younger boomers who came before them, they will also bring a youthful attitude to the silver birthday club.  If it was not already clear to marketers, it’s time that content, campaigns and  allother messages are tailored to younger boomers…and older Gen X’ers.

Nearly 10 years ago, investors poured $32M into a site and portal called eons.com. It was supposed to be a place for people over 50 to come and connect and tap into various channels of content.  Frankly, it sounded like a bad idea to me at the time, and unsurprisingly, it failed and no longer exists.  It used age as the way to pull people in and make them feel like they belonged in a 50+ foot walled garden.  They missed because people self-select content and community based on their passions, interests and desires.  Age alone is not a community-organizing principal–no matter what demographic you’re targeting. You must identify and speak to their common interests.

It’s time to create a marketing plan for a group of consumers 45-55 who share a common bond, history and are at the peak of their earning and spending power.  They’re starting to flex their muscle as is evidenced by relatively older actresses (read: not 20-years-old) appearing regularly in fashion and makeup commercials.  And savvy marketers are eager to cater to them. For instance, OurTime, the new site for singles over 50 is picking up steam.  And the site Better after 50 speaks to women (and some men) looking for their second act while showing them how to get the most out of this phase of life.  It is not about slowing down, but rather speeding up and making the most out of every minute.

Here are some industries that need to respond:

Financial Services and Planning: This group is likely to live another 30-40 years, which has significant implications on retirement planning. We need to account for a possible second career and stretching the money a long way.  Messaging should be directed this group that is different than those in their 60s.  Planners need to have frank conversations about needing to fund a long retirement.

Sports and Fitness:  Better sports science and medical advances have us competing harder and longer than ever.  There are millions of masters athletes in the US who are being ignored by the big sporting goods manufactures and retailers.  From running and biking to Crossfit and team sports, Americans over 50 are still competing hard.  I’m signed up for two Spartan Races this year and hope to do them for many years to come.

Fashion and Apparel: Again, how about products and campaigns aimed this segment.  There has to be a middle ground between youthful fashion which makes us look silly, to clothes made for old men and women.  I don’t want to look like Pauly or the Situation on the Jersey Shore, nor do I want to dress like I am heading to the clubhouse for cards at Del Boca Vista.


Food and Beverage: In 15-20 years we are likely to be the healthiest group of senior citizens ever.  We have the benefit of a web’s worth of knowledge of all the advances in research and nutritional sciences.  Many begin cutting back on meat and animal products as research has shown that a plant-based diet is extremely beneficial after 50.  Companies who focus on organics, plant-protein and healthy living should target this group with information, recipes and social campaigns to engage and educate.  They will find a willing audience.

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This post by King Fish CMO Gordon Plutsky originally appeared in MediaPost's Boomer's Blog

Content Strategy is the New SEO

  
  
  
  
  

Two very good articles on emerging SEO strategy recently ran on iMedia Connection by Nathan Joynt (@nathanjoynt).  Check them out here and here.  The bottom line is that context and content are the key to search and inbound success. Today, it is less about keyword density and other tricks and more about creating high quality content that can’t be found anywhere else. Cheap, shallow content full of repeating keywords will not get it done.  While some of the details are a little technical, it’s important to understand how content strategy and the consumer decision process/journey effects search ranking. 

A smart content strategy can take advantage of long tail search terms and semantic/natural language search.  Creating useful content that builds trust and affinity by attracting your target customer is always the right strategy.  And the content needs to be engaging enough that people want to share it with other like-minded customers.

Here is an excerpt from one of the articles and sums it up well.

“If you take a step back and look at the picture Google is painting here, one thing is clear: The value of an SEO strategy set on tactics involving direct manipulation of search results is becoming less effective. At the rate Google is churning out updates, a year from now these practices may be completely ineffective and obsolete. This is exactly what Google wants. They want inbound marketers and business owners to shift their primary focus away from Google and manipulative link and content schemes and concentrate this energy on each business' target market and to create the best products, services, and content possible.

These websites will eventually rise to the top of Google organic search results while poorer quality websites and brands will become less competitive. The primary reason is because people naturally will link to and share socially useful content and products they truly love. The average web user is not going to link to, buy from, and/or promote a brand they don't trust or don't use.

This shows Google's commitment to the semantic web and their desire to truly understand content and conversations in the same way people understand one another, communicate with one another, and share things online naturally.”

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5 Companies Using Content to Become Thought Leaders

  
  
  
  
  

Companies are ramping up their thought leadership efforts to rise to the top of consumer awareness. Here are some of the most successful content marketing brands out there today.

As recently as five or six years ago, it was still common practice for companies -- especially those in the professional services sector -- to keep their expertise locked behind closed doors. And who could blame them? After all, knowledge is their bread and butter; it's not something they just put out into the world for prospects and -- gasp -- competition to read freely. Lately, however, companies have begun significantly ramping up their content marketing and thought leadership efforts.

While there are still companies that haven't adopted content marketing tactics, those that have are able to rise to the top of consumer and prospect awareness by using once-proprietary knowledge to establish themselves as thought leaders in their field. They don't give away the house, but they share enough valuable insights to pique audiences' interest and prove they're worth their salt. This really isn't much different than what car companies have been doing for decades: throwing customers the keys, letting them drive around the block to get a taste of what life would be like, and then swooping in for the sale.

Whether B2B or consumer, companies with expensive offerings or complex sales cycles are at a disadvantage if they're not giving prospects a test drive before asking them to commit. Content not only gives them a glimpse into how you would approach their problem, but it can also speed up the sales cycle and keep you top of mind, among other things.

It is commonly accepted that one of the major goals of content marketing can be to establish your company or brand as a "thought leader" in your chosen area of expertise. This helps establish the affinity, authenticity, and trust marketers desire for their brands' relationship with customers, but your audience won't react with your content if it isn't compelling. Content needs to be fluid and sharable across every conceivable platform and channel. And the conversation with customers should be interactive, acknowledging that they may become your best advocates, and a source of thought leadership in their own rite.

Here's a look at how five very different companies -- in both the B2B and B2C arenas -- are using content to appeal to customers and prospects.

Vanguard (financial services)
The financial services company created this blog so it could talk about what is happening in the industry, the economy, and to provide a platform to interact directly with investors. This is a well-designed and engaging showcase of its internal thought leaders. The articles are clearly labeled and segmented by customers' key areas of interest, i.e., "college," "taxes," "retirement," and so forth, which makes the content easily digestible for users.

Vanguard additionally solicits comments from clients and leverages those as user-generated content to add more content to the site and hear what is on the minds of customers. The content is smartly distributed via Twitter and other social networks to amplify the reach.

Whole Foods (grocery retail)
Whole Foods calls itself "America's healthiest grocery store" and has created an entire content platform to back up that claim. Whole Foods has established itself as more than a place to get food; it is officially an important part of customers' lifestyles and a part of their image. It has done this, in part, by introducing an entire educational platform where it offers custom content on topics such as sustainability, animal welfare, and GMOs in food. This positioning is in sync with its packaging (shopping bags, for example), in-store signage, and other communications. It also has a popular blog where the CEO contributes posts.

What is especially notable is its aggressive use of all social media platforms as an engagement and distribution tool for its content and its deep understanding of the visual web that permeates its digital assets via beautiful photography, graphics, and design.

Ford Social (automotive)
The automaker is already a leader in social media, and it aggregates its efforts across its many brands with a fun and interactive site. Recently, Ford has launched a comprehensive effort to get customers to think about it as more than just a carmaker. It produces thought leadership content around sustainability, safety, and innovation. Customers are also encouraged to interact by posting their own stories and ideas. To date, more than 1,000 people have submitted stories and it shows no signs of slowing down.
 
The example above is an excellent use of the power and emotional connection that can be delivered with storytelling by tapping into the way our brains are wired to learn and delivering a favorable impression of the brand through various mediums.

Cisco "The Internet of Everything" (tech)
The tech giant has created an effort around "The Internet of Everything" to "bring together people, process, data, and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before." Cisco's "The Internet of Everything" is an impressive initiative to claim a thought leadership position for Cisco in the area of innovation and how the concept of interconnectivity drives economic growth and freedom. The campaign includes a CEO and leaders blog, videos, white papers, slide shares, interactive research, and a strong Twitter campaign with dedicated hashtags. "The Internet of Everything" is a great example of using the individual strength of each media channel to tell a cohesive and compelling story.

SAP The Business of Innovation (tech)
SAP is a business software powerhouse that wants to show how your business can leverage the latest innovative technologies to solve problems. The site is a prime outlet for SAP to associate itself with innovation and products that provide real business solutions. As with many of the examples noted above, the content provided by SAP is about leading and helping, not selling. SAP is thinking of its brand as a media outlet producing content that is relevant to its target audience in a way that is not yelling, "Buy this!" Rather, it establishes the company as a bright mind that can help your business solve problems. It also provides a great showcase for its internal leaders to positions themselves as experts in their field.

Many of these leaders are active on Twitter, where they engage customers and prospects in conversation about innovation and business solutions. Many thought leaders, such as Michael Brenner http://blogs.sap.com/innovation/author/michaelbrenner, use these platforms to brand themselves as thought leaders in the industry, which only furthers the goals of the company at large.

Lessons
So what can we learn from all the companies doing content marketing and engagement right?

Lesson 1: Establish an engaging content hub and venue for your thought leaders to publish regular content while maintaining a tone and voice consistent with your brand personality and your customer's personas.

Lesson 2:  Design matters for today's visual web interface. User experience is a critical component as is presenting content in many forms. The days of long blocks of text are over. Use pictures, video, infographics, and multiple entry points to make your content more shareable and interactive.

Lesson 3: Broadcast your content. It does you no good if no one reads it. Make aggressive use of relevant social networks to engage customers and leverage PR for earned media opportunities and paid media to drive prospects to your content hub.

Lesson 4:  Leverage user-generated content. Consumers want to be part of the conversation and have their voices heard. Give them a forum to make comments or post their own stories. Engage on social media by following those who follow you on Twitter, respond to comments on Facebook, and share pins on Pinterest. Remember: Brands are shared online, so you much ensure you are part of the conversation.

Lesson 5:  Build trust. According to the recently released "Trust in Advertising" study from Nielsen, branded content websites are the second most trusted source of information after recommendations from friends and family -- a 9 percent increase in a year and up from fourth place in 2007. Today's consumers trust quality original content from brands more than almost any source.

There are many different paths to being a thought leader for your industry and your customers. The time is right to make sure you have the right strategy for your brand before your competitors take the mantle as the go-to industry resource.

This article by King Fish CMO Gordon Plutsky originally appeared on iMedia Connection on Jan 9, 2014.







Cam Brown talks about Target on Fox Boston News

  
  
  
  
  

This morning, King Fish President Cam Brown was a guest on the FOX Boston local news to talk about Target’s recent troubles with the credit/debit card security breach and a small amount of gift cards that were not activated correctly. This type of issue can get out of hand quickly in the social era as customers have access to numerous channels to vent frustration or register support.  Target did many things correctly from a communications standpoint and will likely survive the incident in the long term.  Companies need to face that first onslaught of social media backlash with transparency and clear communications to help rebuild trust. 

Offering a 10% discount and other positive gestures were well received by customers based on the social media listening analyses we conducted. Having nutrured strong loyalists over the years served Target well during this situation as they posted positive and supportive comments on Facebook and Twitter to counteract some of the anger from customers who had been effected.

Cam’s interview below

Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

 



Apple’s Christmas Ad: Why Storytelling Works

  
  
  
  
  
I spend a lot of time talking about storytelling and why it is a superior form of marketing to the traditional sales focused ads. You know the kind, ads from car companies and retailers telling you to buy often and buy now.  Storytelling goes hand in hand with content marketing as an approach to change perception, build trust and drive customers to action.  It does this by creating an emotional connection with the customer.

Storytelling works because it is how we are hard wired to learn – our earliest memories are of hearing stories, fables and myths from parents and teachers.  Storytelling is effective because when we hear the story we instinctually put ourselves into the narrative.  How we would react?  How is this like my experiences? Is this something I aspire to?  

All of these elements are present in this holiday ad from Apple.  There has been some online debate over its effectiveness and the usual groans from Apple haters, no doubt tweeting it on their giant Samsung phone.  My point is to illustrate the power of a narrative with a beginning, middle and twist at the end.  The key to the impact of this story is that everyone can see themselves in the ad from their point of view – the grandmother, the parents, the older sister and of course the seemingly sullen teen.  If smartphones and the web existed in 1980, I would have been that kid, my head down lost in my world.  Of course he surprises us at the end, evoking emotion from everyone.  The choice of music is perfect, as it stirs something in just about everyone. Another strength is that it is on brand for Apple.  Their brand promise is about enhancing people’s lives through technology - mission accomplished.

Final ThinkTank post of 2013, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  See you in 2014.

5 Major Digital Marketing Trends for 2014

  
  
  
  
  

This article by Gordon Plutsky orginally appeared on imediaconnection.com

Click here to read more marketing predictions for 2014

Marketing, by its very nature, is in a constant state of change. As much as we try to control the unknown and plan ahead, the fact is that marketing is inherently a reactive practice. Being in front of the right audiences on the right channels with the right message is completely dependent on the current trends in consumer behavior, technology and even cultural movements. These variables keep the job interesting to say the least, and while nothing is certain in this world, I want to discuss five major trends that marketers should keep their eyes on over the next year.

Content, content, content


Content marketing certainly isn't a new concept. By now most companies know they need to create content to engage customers and prospects. Now that everyone is executing on this tactic, the question for 2014 is how to do it effectively. Just writing up some keyword rich blog posts and articles don't cut it anymore. You have to say something meaningful and insightful to your customer while hopefully entertaining them at the same time.

Brands must have a unique and relevant message that is different than what everyone else is saying. Simply curating or repackaging from other competitors and media outlets is not enough. On top of being compelling your content needs to do two things. One, create an emotional connection with your brand, and two, drive customers to an action. This could manifest into something as small as a tweet or Facebook post and eventually lead directly to revenue. Content on your site or social channels that does not move people to action or create a bond is, at best, an inefficient use of valuable brand real estate. By understanding the motivations of your customers and utilizing storytelling techniques while getting away from the transactional relationship will help create that emotional bond. 



Mobile first


We don't need the research to tell us that just about everyone from eight to eighty will soon have a smartphone and/or a tablet in their hands. The era for consuming content primarily on a desktop is quickly coming to a close. Half of all social interaction, email opens, and YouTube views now happen on a mobile platform. What this means for brands and marketers is that all of your communication -- email, web assets, and social content -- must be created with a mobile-first perspective. 

Of course, websites are still very important as the main brand hub or as an e-commerce/conversion tool. But mobile is quickly becoming the first line of engagement at the big end of the sales funnel. Responsive design is no longer a luxury, but rather a basic requirement, and it's important to tailor each piece of content to the device or channel where it will most likely be viewed by the consumer. Mobile technology has already, and most likely will replace radios/stereos, TVs/movie theaters, GPS hardware/software, credit and debit cards, game consoles, newspapers, magazines, cameras, photo editing software, music creation equipment, watches, landline phones, calculators, cash registers and surely more that I'm forgetting. If your company hasn't realized the importance of this technology it's time to catch up.


Streaming, cord cutting and real time marketing


As traditional media -- CDs, newspapers, TV networks, magazines, etc. -- further declines, it's becoming clear that these tangible, analog manifestations of content are no longer needed in a world where everything is streaming and on demand. It is rewiring the way consumers think and process information. We are getting used to having everything customized and delivered instantly, when and where we want it. It's now all about us, the ubiquitous consumer WiFi and 4G communications has revolutionized content delivery and consumption. This new world has to be top of mind when planning customer communications. 

Brands can also take advantage of real-time engagement platforms like never before -- especially with Twitter. Ironically, live tweeting has turned the once solitary act of watching television into a community-based and shared activity. Smart marketers will take advantage of customer's desires to be heard during shows they love. ABC's Shark Tank, for example, has become a hit in part due to the participatory nature of Twitter. Several brands have begun promoting tweets during the show, engaging and influencing the captive audience.

Data is everything


The other overused term from 2013 is big data, however, with the entire world of marketing and media during digital, it is a critical piece of the future of marketing and understanding consumer behavior. Your analytics teams should have a seat at the table for every decision and planning session your business has in 2014. The key is not merely measuring what happened, but trying to predict future outcomes. Anyone can look at a stack of sales reports and tell you what happened. The real talent understands why and how it will play out in the future. Your analytics has to go from passive to active.

The rise of the digital CMO 


In our new tech-heavy industry having a digitally savvy CMO becomes the most important person in the executive suite after the CEO/COO. Everything that touches customers is now digitally enabled, from supply chain logistics to customer service. The first waves of CMOs were drawn from the ranks of people who came from the world of branding, advertising, or creative teams. Those skills still apply, but brands can't sell or spin digital success that is now determined by the end user. The CMO of the future has to be an expert in digital channels, customer service, marketing automation platforms, content marketing/storytelling, and analytics -- no one trick ponies. And, they have to really understand technology, from web development platforms to the cloud and even data management systems. It all falls under the purview of today's CMO.

There you have it, 2014 promises to be another exciting year for marketers with many possibilities and unknowns. And the most important thing to remember is it's all about the customer, they are in charge.


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