J.P. Morgan and their Twitter #Fail

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It really hasn’t escaped anyone’s attention the past few weeks. J.P. Morgan decided to try to engage their online followers by having a Q&A session: “Ask us anything!” The campaign failed miserably, it was quickly cancelled, and the social media manager (if they have any) was probably fired. The question is: how could they not have foreseen this outcome? How could they even have tried to do it?

I think they just didn’t think it through. I think they didn’t take the time to actually dotting down simple stuff like who are following them on Twitter, who are likely to engage with them on Twitter, who their customers really are and above all, how the Q&A session would deliver value for their target segments.

To understand a brand, one usually starts off by defining the brand landscape of the brand. I’m sure that J.P. Morgan’s marketing team have done that at some point, but they most certainly did not use it. If they had identified their customers, both current as well as past and future, they would instantly have identified a large number of unhappy, directly hostile previous customers, very likely to want to pay back for all the pain that J.P. Morgan caused them (in their perception). Customers that might have had their houses seized by J.P. Morgan or their subsidiaries.

These facts are so easy to find by just doing a quick review of the brand that it is frustrating to see how such a #fail campaign even got out there to begin with. And if they didn’t know this, then the entire brand positioning of J.P. Morgan is just a made-up fuzzy ‘strategy’ without any real content at all. They need to understand their target customers. They need to understand their brand. They need to understand how they link together.

So, the campaign was pretty much doomed from the very beginning. Using even the most basic approaches to branding and marketing communications should have ‘warned’ them for this. Social media in general is not and has never been the ‘salvation’ for every single brand. It’s just a channel that is more or less suitable for different brands. What we need to understand is the brand we are trying to communicate to our customers. And by understanding the brand landscape, we will also understand who our target audience is. If we can do that, the communication becomes so much easier and suitable. Otherwise we will, well,  #fail.

It’s not just about WHERE you are, it’s also about WHEN you are there!

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As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, finding the right social media channels is not as easy as it might seem. It’s a haunting and demanding project that demands a lot of effort and testing to find the right channel. But even if you eventually have found the ones that you feel is right, you provide quality content, and ‘should’ get a good response in the channels, sometimes nothing happens. No one clicks on your links. No one looks at your expensive studio-shot product pictures.

The problem might not be where you are…

Many of the social media channels we know have some kind of sorting mechanism. Twitter sorts stuff by the time it’s posted. Facebook has an algorithm that determines which post gets the highest position based on the time stamp, number of likes, and so on. So what happens if you post a tweet at 3 am in the morning? Most likely nothing. It is the exact same effect as in a retail environment. If you don’t get on the shelf, it doesn’t matter how extremely good you are. You are not there, and thus can’t affect your audience.

There are of course some ways to get around this. Promoted tweets and posts on Facebook are increasing in popularity among advertisers. But there might be a much easier, and cheaper solution for the more cost-aware marketer:

…it could be something as simple as when you are posting your content.

Numerous studies have been conducted over the past few years and found a lot of interesting stuff:

  • A study from Raka showed that the best time to get click-throughs on Twitter are Mondays-Thursdays between 1-3 pm, while the best times to get click-throughs on Facebook was on Wednesdays at 3 pm (and mid-weeks in the afternoon in general)
  • Kissmetric found that if it is retweets you’re after, they Tweets should be posted at 5 pm and that Saturday is the best day for generating shares from Facebook posts.
  • And more and more studies on social media timing keep popping up.

Obviously, these studies are made based on tremendous amounts of data. The actual optimal time for your specific business might be completely different. Maybe you want to make ads for a night-open café, targeted towards people working night shifts? The best time to tweet for them might be at 4 am, who knows? Only testing can give you the answer to when the optimal time is for you. But they do give a great benchmark on where to start. And you should start to test. Now!

For further reading, check out:

× All the studies linked in the post. They are really interesting and in easily accessible formats!

× A Scientific Guide To Maximizing Your Impact On Twitter, Facebook, And Other Digital Media by Belle Beth Cooper at Fast Company. It has been circulating on Twitter for a couple of months by now. It’s because it’s so damn good. She’s basically putting everything together. Read it!

× The Timing of Contextual Relevance on Social Media by Matthew Peneycad on Social Media Today is a great article that criticize the generalization of all these quantitative studies. It provides some really interesting insights. It’s always good to get arguments from both sides.

× Auto Schedule on Hootsuite – a short blog post on how the ‘autoschedule’ function on Hootsuite works, which is based on the algorithms of studies such as those linked in this blog post.

× The Conversation Prism – great tool by Brian Solis for understanding the importance on listening and adapting – and to learn when, where and what to do! Maybe not relevant to a detailed level, but might help you get a better understanding on all the different parts one must understand to be successful online.

Wow, email marketing still works?!

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A couple of days ago I had the privilege to listen to a presentation from a couple of cool guys at an online business based here in Vancouver. Among a lot of other interesting stuff, they were talking about how they generate traffic to their website. I was pretty sure what they would say. Organic search…paid search…some Facebook ads…but wait a minute! 25 % of the visitors came through e-mail advertising?

25 % !?!?!??!?

I can honestly say that I was a bit shocked. I hate newsletters from online retailers and always unsubscribe if I for some reason would get any and couldn’t possibly imagine that email marketing was that important. Oh, how wrong I was. That’s what you get when you don’t keep up with data and start to assume how things work. The only option left for me was to put on my thinking hat and start browsing articles and conversations on email marketing and actually learning how it really works.

Take a look on the chart above for example, from our friends at eMarketer. During 2013, the average open rate of e-mails is a stunning 18.6 %, and the Click rate 4.5 %. That, my friends, is not a small number. Consider that you have 1000 people on your e-mail list. That means that ~186 people will get exposed to your message and brand. That is a lot, especially considering the cost of sending out an e-mail.

So, finally, I get why I keep getting so many marketing e-mails. A lot of people actually open them.

Of course, e-mail marketing is not looking the same as it did 10 years ago. As of all online marketing, dynamic information and relevant and compelling content have become the alpha and omega. And with all new technology, it is possible to be almost as ‘live’ and customized through an e-mail as through Twitter or Facebook.

The lesson here is that while many new channels will keep coming, we can’t forget about the old ones if they are still successful. E-mails can be massively effective to drive both traffic and conversions. Don’t assume that they have become irrelevant just because there’s so many other new channels out there. They complement each other.

For further readings on this topic check out:

× The 4 Pillars of Email Marketing by Daniel Bursein at MarketingSherpa is a great summary of what one should consider when managing e-mails as a marketing channel (blog)

× Email Marketing: User-generated content helps drive 16% clickthrough rate by David Kirkpatrick at MarketingSherpa is a really interesting case study on UGC and how you can connect UGC with business generated content to heavily increase the click rate (article)

× The 5 Hottest Trends in Email Marketing by Mike Veilleux at DMNews.com. Interesting analysis of the email marketing channel today.

 

Where, oh, where to be?

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The world of social media is truly fascinating. So many services come and go. We keep getting invites to new ‘revolutionary’ channels all the time, and we keep reading about those billion dollar price tags on businesses that may never ever be profitable. It’s not surprising that so many businesses have a hard time keeping up. I myself have over just the past 5 years come and gone, and returned to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Delicious, Snapchat, Spotify……. the list is long.

So how on earth can we know where to be? Well the answer, as always is: it depends. Let me share a couple of key aspects that pop up in my mind:

1. Where are most of your customers active?

This is the quantitative part. Where are the customers? The usual answer, if you are managing an average company is Facebook and Twitter, but this might differ so you will have to do some research on this. Just remember that many businesses take online content that are negative way too seriously and thus try to cover every part of the internet. This is not possible nor reasonable. If users on a forum for Harley Davidson-customers are writing negative stuff about Vera Wang, it just doesn’t make sense to try to meet this negativity, as 99 % of the potential customers are elsewhere and unlikely to ever read that. Find out where they are. It really isn’t not that difficult.

2. Where are the most influential creators active?

This is a key key aspect. Some people just have a little bit more influence on people than others. You have to find out where they are. For a local restaurant, this might be a local blog; for an airline, this might be Tripadvisor. Also, don’t forget that some channels are a little bit more likely to become viral and thus more important to at least monitor.  Few social media channels have more potential to get viral than a video on YouTube today. The lists are many, my favourite include the catchy ‘United Breaks Guitars‘. If you are a bigger business, this is definitely a channel not to forget.

3. How much resources do my business have to monitor and engage in all these channels?

It’s just a fact. No one wants to pay for someone do to stuff that don’t add value to the business. Smaller businesses might want to penetrate some channels identified in step 1 and 2 above, and focus more on monitoring on other channels. Some bigger businesses might find that there can be value-creation by being present in many channels. Let’s just not forget that quality is almost always more successful than quantity.I’ve experienced this myself on my Twitter channel (which you btw should follow right away!). I don’t get new followers, RTs and favourites by posting often, and believe me, I’ve tried. I get them when I really write something good that is compelling to people.

4. Which channels that I am using are dying and which are emerging?

Finally, let me point out something lots of people forget. The internet is changing very rapidly. I’m sorry if you feel like your investment in a presence on MySpace was significant. The online world has changed and will keep changing. Who knows when the next Facebook will be invented? One way to keep track of this is by using some of the reeeeally good models developed to evaluate and improve the business’ online presence. My favourite one so far is Brian Solis’ The Conversation Prism which keeps getting updated, but there are plenty of more summaries out there.

Some other great posts for further reading:

× Choosing the right Social Media Channel for your Business – Custom Creative writes yet another great summary on this topic. (Blog)

× Data-Driven Social Media Strategy (Part 2): Choosing Channels – from EDUniverse is a short yet interesting post that talks a little more about the importance of a strategy (Blog)

× Social Media for Listening, Learning, Adapting – Rick Noel at eBiZ ROI explains the Conversation Prism in a way everyone can understand

Your customers have already gone mobile – where are you?!

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I remember back in the days when regular people were starting to get cell phones. Who would ever have thought we would one day be surfing the world-wide-web on them? As far as I remember the most advanced stuff on my dear old Nokia 3210 was the lovely and very addictive game ‘Snake’.  That was over 10 years ago, and the online landscape has completely changed. If you are reading this, I will assume that you are very likely to own a smartphone. Close your eyes and ask yourself: what have you done with it today? Can you even recall how many times you have checked it for texts, emails, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Maps and directions…? Probably not. The point I’m trying to make is that you use it more often than you can ever recall. You use it that often. Kinda weird, isn’t it?

Recent reports have shown that a whopping 71 % of all activity on Facebook are made on a mobile device. 71 percent! That’s a huuuuuuge number considering the superior reach Facebook has world-wide (see some stats here). Other reports show that mobile searches are projected to exceed desktop searches in 2015. Just type a simple search on Google for something like “mobile implications on marketing” and you will find report after report, blog after blog, with long lists of breathtaking stats on mobile usage and the implications for marketers.

The big question now is – why do mobile websites, mobile ads, mobile apps suck so bad? It the mobile channel have been emerging exponentially for such a long time now, how come so many marketers completely neglected this? I don’t know. Maybe some of them are just too old to realize what’s going on? But then again, that wouldn’t make sense, as the whole point of their job is to find opportunities in the market. Maybe it is because it is so rapidly changing and they are working in businesses with slow decision-making processes? Je ne sais pas!

My suggestion to everyone that wants to call themselves a marketer is to actually do your homework. Realize where your customers are! Understand how they behave! Observe, listen and learn – and don’t get comfortable and satisfied with where you are. The market will always change and you have to be on the train, or miss it!

I’ll come back to this topic soon. In the meantime, for further reading I recommend:

× 13 Stats to Convince Your Boss to Invest in Mobile in 2013 – awesome summary by Mike Abasov (Blog)

× Bad Mobile Creative Not Just a Missed Opptortunity, It Damages Brands – Greg Stering lists examples and explains the risks of bad mobile ads. A must read! (Blog)

× 50 Must-Know Mobile Commerce Facts – if you’re into e-Commerce and not ‘only’ advertising this presentation is great! By Mobify (Slideshare)

× The 2013 Social Rich Media Benchmark Report – suuuuch an interesting report. Read it. Adore it. Data analysis of over 2 billion Facebook interactions with Facebook ads. By Shopigniter (free registration required for full report)

× Digital Customer Experience Teams In The Post-PC Era – study on different approaches by i.e. RBC. Looks boring like all other Forrester reports, but it’s really interesting. By Samuel Stern (Summary available; subscription to Forrester.com required for full report)


Update 14 Nov:

If you are one of the lucky to have access to Forresters research database, check out this great report on strategies for the Mobile Mind Shift (report, teaser for free, full version require an account)

 

Yes, SEO is dead! But why?

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I was planning on writing a blog post about Google’s new algorithm update, the ‘Hummingbird’, a huge update that is refining the way Google index and rank internet content. But while I was doing my research, I realized I could write about a much more interesting topic. The death of SEO.  Oh my. Did I say something wrong? I know, it’s almost like swearing in a church, but I’ll say it again: SEO is dead.

Why? What is he talking about? Does Philip believe that Hummingbird killed SEO?

For those of you that didn’t know, about 6 weeks ago, Google introduced an updated algorithm used to analyse and index content on the World Wide Web, called ‘Hummingbird’. Instead of focusing on keywords like “shoes”, “hike” and “waterproof”, and ranking pages containing those words high, it’s considering the meaning of several sentences, meaning of entire paragraphs and pages. It’s not that they haven’t done this before as a lot of ‘experts’ out there on the internet seems to believe…, but it has been highly refined. The point is to reward websites with good high quality content. Thus, the use of ‘traditional’ SEO practices such as keyword analysis etc. gets less weight in the page evaluation! ‘OMG’, you might think! This completely changes everything. Will Hummingbird eventually turn out to be the hangman of SEO?

No. It has been dead for a long time, probably several years. Let me explain why which a simple example:

Which websites do pop up if you search for “healthy chocolate bars”? Probably a few of the biggest brands, some articles about which chocolate brands are the healthiest or tastiest, perhaps some recipes and perhaps a local store that sells chocolate bars. Did they appear because they are using some kind of “Search Engine Optimization methodology”? No. They popped up because of the content. The content. THE CONTENT.

Sure. You can try to optimize a website for Google’s bots. But the problem is that they have become so sophisticated that they try to mathematically act like a human mind rather than just a data collecting machine. So what a webmaster or e-marketer should do is not Search Engine Optimize. They should User Optimize. High quality websites are websites that are logically built up, that don’t have a lot of ‘dead links’, which have information and brands that are relevant for the users and so on. These are the websites that appear high on Google (and hopefully other search engines too).

What I’m trying to say is that while SEO probably was really important back in the days, the main focus has to be put on creating content that is compelling and interesting for the users. That is what SEO is about today. Not about creating a website that ‘should’ rank high on Google. A good website WILL rank high on Google. It’s a fact. So let’s stop being so overly obsessed with SEO and put the focus on the user. Good Google rankings will follow.

Some links for further reading:

× Google Hummingbird Explained and its Impact on SEO
× SEO is dead. Now what? SEO is not dead and never will be
× SEO not dead, just evolving
× Forbes’ Joshua Steimle: What Does Google’s Hummingbird Update Mean For Your SEO Efforts? Nothing

When a great online presence might just confuse customers

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As some of you have read in one of my previous posts, I really like the ads of the American fast-food chain Chipotle. Witty, fun, well-made and with a message that affects me personally. Their messages are that they are eco-friendly, use locally produced ingredients and that they simply help make the world a little bit better. Tough stuff to transmit in an ad. But they really succeed in getting the message through:

In my personal opinion, I think the guys at Chipotle’s advertising agency are geniuses. In just a couple of minutes, they manage to convince the receiver (in this case me) that they are the saviours of the world. And oh my God – they’ve hit almost 8 million views on a silly commercial! It’s just great. It has to be the greatest restaurant in the world! I have to go there.

And I did. Their ads actually made me visit their newly opened restaurant in Vancouver. That’s not something that (consciously) happens a lot when it comes to me.

When I got there, I expected pictures of all the local farmers on the wall, posters with calls for a more sustainable food industry or at least some fluffy cute pigs like those on that YouTube video. But what did I meet?

Almost nothing about their ethics. Chipotle had nothing to associate to their amazing videos, their really cool website or their awesome Scarecrow game. It was just like any other Mexican grill. They only thing they had was a tiny, tiny sign with a message like ‘for a better world’. I was so surprised, and so disappointed. Not of the food (which was alright) but of the lack of consistency with their online marketing. I couldn’t emotionally connect with what I had learned about the brand through their awesome online marketing. I felt a little bit fooled, it just looked like a more fancy Taco Bell.

The problem here isn’t that the online marketing strategy is bad. Not at all. They made me go there, they made me try it out. That’s great. But since the marketing platform in the restaurant couldn’t connect with the ads that had formed my opinion on the brand Chipotle, I just got confused.

In order to gain the most of these (probably huge investments) – a business has to understand that it’s not only about one single channel. A great online presence is not enough if the actual service provided can’t live up to the expectations the ads creates. Instead of just focusing on their online presence as an own channel and the retail space as its own, Chipotle should leverage the huge impact of it’s online position and implement elements within their restaurants to make the customer feel more connected. That is what creates strong brands. And when you have such an awesome online presence, why not make the most out if it?

Why most mobile websites ‘suck’

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The growth of mobile versions of websites has been tremendous over the past few years. Few big companies targeting consumers have missed this trend. And the idea of having a mobile version of a business’ website is definitely not bad. In fact, there are numerous reasons for having a specific version for mobile users, for example more than 1.2 billion people access the internet through a mobile device today, a number which will probably increase dramatically in the near future with smartphones becoming more affordable and available.

Many of us have tried to use websites that aren’t customized for mobile usage. Usually it’s an exhausting task. Links are difficult to click on, buttons don’t work, etcetera etcetera.

But what is even more irritating is a mobile site that doesn’t work properly.

For some reason, web developers insist on making the mobile versions of their sites all too basic. They try to minimize the content as they think that the mobile users don’t ‘need’ all the information available on the regular website. I have numerous times desperately tried to access the regular website, just because the mobile version is so damn useless!

United Airline's mobile website

United Airline’s mobile website, screenshot Sep. 23, 2013

Consider this: I’m on the train to the airport. I just realized that my baggage might be a little bit too heavy and that you can pay a cheaper charge for overweight if you do it before you get to the airport (which is a common procedure for airlines).  But I’m unsure if the baggage allowance was 23 kg or 32 kg. I decide to check the airline’s website on my phone and surf to united.com.

And voilà! A mobile website. Yay!

The only problem is that the information is not there. It’s not there. So I have to press the damn “Full Site” link and try to scroll around in the regular website where the information actually exist.

What I don’t get is why businesses and web developers think that mobile internet users are stupid and need everything to be so extremely simplified. Of course it’s important to make the website easier to navigate, but there has to be some content as well. It’s not difficult. Why, oh why don’t they do it, even though studies show that users of smartphones generally have experience and knowledge of how to use their phones – and thus should be able to navigate through more information than what is provided today. Keep navigation simple, but add more content!

Maybe I’m not getting it. Maybe my analysis it just crap and people actually value the emptiness of these kinds of simplified mobile sites. But I doubt it. I think customers want information. So give them that and stop treating us mobile internet users as idiots! Otherwise you could just as well skip the entire mobile site!

How AdBlock Plus is changing the rules of online marketing

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Do you use AdBlock Plus? You’re not alone. AdBlock is a rather powerful tool that blocks pretty much all advertising out there. It’s free, easy to install and might increase your online experience dramatically. Consider the following example:

Aftonbladet is the largest newspaper in Sweden and their website is one of the most frequently visited websites in Scandinavia.  It features a lot of interesting material like news bulletins, reportages, videos and so on – and almost all content is free to use for the customer as almost the entire website is financed by advertising. A lot of advertising.

Aftonbladet.se newspaper with ads

Aftonbladet.se newspaper without ad filtering Sep. 17, 2013

Even though the site is free I get a little bit irritated when I visit a website that looks like this. Almost 50 % of the view of the front page consists of advertisement. I don’t hate ads, I actually enjoy good and witty ads, and sometimes they really do have great and relevant offers for me. However, to present a website with this much content that I don’t value whatsoever annoys me. It makes the website feel cluttered and it makes the brand feel a little bit greedy.

It was probably Aftonbladet.se that first made me look for a way to resolve this irritation, and eventually I found Adblock Plus that managed to hide pretty much all ads. Everywhere. Look how nice and tidy Aftonbladet looks after I reactivate my AdBlock Plus add-on (which is discreetly visible at the bottom-left corner as a miniature red ‘stop-sign’):

Aftonbladet.se newspaper without ad filtering Sep. 17, 2013

Aftonbladet.se newspaper with ad filtering Sep. 17, 2013

Adblock Plus allows the user not only to hide regular banner ads, but it also removes all YouTube ads (!), ads from a lot of online TV and video material (such as Sweden’s TV3 Play and TV4 Play! It’s awesome for the user. But of course, there is a downside to this.

A lot of websites out there makes most, if not all, their money on ads. So what would happen if everyone started using these ad filters? Well, eventually, the companies would either have to find alternative sources of revenue or just close down. One web entrepreneur that measured the number of visitors using ad filters on his website found out that as much as 50 % of his visitors blocked the ad banners on the website! Even though that might be an extreme example, another business that has specialized in measuring the impact of ad filters are ClarityRay found that on average around 10 % were opting out of ads. And that was in May 2012! My guess is that it has probably doubled since then!

The implications of this is that tasks such as SEO (Search Engine Optimization) will become much more important for businesses aiming for an online presence. If a business doesn’t appear in the ‘regular’ search results on Google they won’t be seen at all – as opposite to know when you can buy the top position on any Google search. For smaller businesses, that will mean that almost all efforts have to be put on social media to try to create word-of-mouse in order to be ‘seen’ and ‘heard’ and to hopefully achieve a good PageRank and thus becoming one of the top search results. But also big companies will have to think differently about how they advertise themselves. While they are more likely to appear at the top of the top results, online marketing activities will inevitably have to make a turn to becoming more sophisticated and user-targeted. Web surfers must want to get offers from businesses.

For the websites making their money on ads, they need to find alternative sources of revenue. One way could be to ‘sell’ articles to businesses even though that might decrease the integrity of a website. A more likely development would probably be to offer freemium versions of the websites where most people use the free service while some choose to pay extra to get access to some extra features. Of course this is just speculations, but the question is more relevant than ever.

The internet is changing rapidly. Every day. And personally, I’m pretty convinced that ad filters definitely are one of the key changes of online marketing that we have to adapt to as marketers in the near future. It’s weird that so few are even talking about it (a search on eMarketer.com generated a disappointing null hits!) – let’s not miss this train, guys!

YouTube videos and traditional TV commercials working hand-in-hand

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I really love commercials that have some essence in them, other than just “price-product”-information. You know, that kind of commercials that are almost like a story and evoke genuine feelings inside! Today in one of my classes I was presented a commercial just like that, from the lovely food chain Chipotle, with the title “The Scarecrow”.

What struck me when we were watching the video (except that it was extremely creepy) was the enormous amounts of views it had achieved in just 5 days – 4.7 million views! That is a lot. A lot. 4.7 million people have actively watched the commercial. Consider that you as a marketer want 4.7 million people to actively watch your commercial, which is over 3 minutes long and translate that to how much it would cost to pay for commercial space on TV. I don’t have any numbers available right now but how many can it be? 50-70%? That means that you’d have to pay for around 8 million possible views for three minutes. I doubt it would be economically defensible. YouTube, on the other hand, is completely free. Unsurprisingly, Chipotle chose to create a second version for TV spots running about 30-60 seconds.

The main difference here is obvious. Most people can’t choose to skip the TV commercials and therefore there are great possibilities to expose the brand to a lot of customers. On the other side of the spectrum we have the online commercials which need active participation of the customer in terms of choosing to watch it. And it’s free to distribute. (Or at least significantly less expensive).

In today’s media landscape, customers want more information than ever. At the same time more information is available for the customer than ever before thanks to the internet. But they need a little ‘help’ to start searching and finding that information. A great way of doing this is by creating high-quality online material which is cheaper to distribute and create shortened, more basic video clips for TV commercials (and other channels as well when appropriate). It facilitates the possibility to give the customer a consistent picture of the brand as well as facilitating customer interaction both when it comes directly to the business (e.g. through the comments on the video on YouTube) and other customers (e.g. sharing the video with friends on Facebook).

Of course this increases the demands on the content itself, being easy to get some kind of emotional connection. And it is that I would like to compliment Chipotle for. They have definitely caught my attention (especially at 1:32) and I can’t wait to see their next commercial.