Original Content

I went on a week-long vacation last month. My main goal was to get away, enjoy the outdoors, spend time with my boyfriend and generally “disconnect” from the real world. My days were spent outdoors attempting to be “one with nature” but, that idea of disconnecting didn’t happen as well as I’d hoped. While I did manage to keep my everyday life at bay (i.e. work, school, routine), I managed to somehow discover a new show on Netflix called “Orange is the New Black.” I spent evenings back at the hotel watching all 13 episodes of the first season.

I had heard about “Orange is the New Black” from a few friends and had read about it online. But I didn’t quite get what all the hype was about. And then I watched it. And now I am hooked.

But this post isn’t about the show. It’s about the bigger idea here. It’s about innovation.

Prior to watching the show, I had thought of Netflix simply as a streaming service that provided previously aired tv content and movies at my convenience. While that alone is a novel idea, it just didn’t draw me in much. I mean…Blockbuster was cool, but their lack of innovation led to their demise. And after the Netflix snafu a few years back, my perception of the company wasn’t exactly pristine.

Fast forward to my vacation, and I am now officially a Netflix subscriber. What took me so long, right? But really, “What took Netflix so long!?”

I subscribed to Netflix because now I have a show to look forward to. One that isn’t offered anywhere else. It has an amazing storyline and most importantly: it is original content. This isn’t the company’s first foray into original content; recently they also aired a U.S. version of House of Cards. And that target audience ate it up.

Why does this matter, you ask?

Well, Netflix just blew past its competitors (namely, Hulu) and has begun competing with the likes of HBO. This Forbes article sums it up pretty well. While Netflix will continue to provide various titles (albeit curated) for its subscribers, it now offers something for that other group (like me) who doesn’t necessarily see an added benefit to paying for shows that don’t interest them much. By focusing on innovation and making their way into original content, they have grown their consumer base and really proven that a company can cater to a variety of customer segments. They got me, didn’t they?

What are your thoughts on the Netflix strategy? Do you see any areas for improvement?

Digital Marketing 101

When I first started this blog, I was determined to make something of it. But I was unsure about where I wanted it to go. Thanks to my digital marketing class this past semester, I have had the chance to share my thoughts on topics relating to what I work on and what I am studying. As our last assignment this semester, we were asked to list the top five key points that would help a person who is not so well-versed in digital marketing. While there are many intricacies to digital marketing, the following five points provide a good big picture.

1. Know your audience. Knowing who your audience is and what they like helps guide the direction of your digital marketing plan or campaign. Ask yourself who is buying your? Why are they buying it? What websites do they frequent? The more insights you can get, the better picture you can paint of your consumer.

2. Have a strategy. Just like you would with traditional marketing, you need to have a strategy. You can just start using social media willy-nilly or advertising all over the internet. Know what the plan is and use it as the guiding force for your campaign or overall digital branding endeavor.

3. Set goals. Measure. Think about what you are looking to get out of your digital marketing strategy. Do you want to increase overall brand awareness or number of shares for a specific campaign? In marketing, we call these key performance indicators (KPIs). Having these in mind, you can measure your progress and identify areas for improvement, which can lead to better planning for future goals.

4. Make it relevant. This goes back to knowing your audience. Don’t talk about things that wouldn’t interest your audience. Also, don’t start a conversation or advertise about a topic if it doesn’t somehow tie back to your product or service.

5. Social media and digital marketing are not synonymous. This is where people get thrown off. Yes, social media is a part of digital marketing, but digital marketing is not just knowing how to use social media. Digital marketing includes online advertising  (i.e. Adwords and AdSense), website optimization, and email marketing among others. Use the array of tools available to you and don’t just think you’re covered with social media.

What are some key takeaways you recommend? Is there anything you have come across that works or doesn’t work for you?

The Human Touch

I recently, I read a Forbes article about Publix.  The article discussed the Publix business model and, to put it in layman’s terms, why it is such an awesome company. The key point the article makes is that Publix’s success can be attributed to it’s culture of putting “people-first”. By “people” I don’t just mean customers. They also have put their employees first, which makes them happy, and ultimately makes for happy customers.

You may recall from one of my earlier posts that I briefly mentioned missing Publix. Well, I meant it. So when I saw this article, I couldn’t help but share it with the world and let others know how much I love and miss Publix. One of the first places I shared it was as a status update on Facebook. This led me to the Publix Facebook page (because I wanted to see their latest posts) where I shared the link.  Almost immediately, Publix commented on the shared link. What I loved most about the comment is that it was personalized. It read: Thanks, Alejandra! We miss you. 🙂 Hope you can come back and visit soon. ~ Abby

From here.

From here.

They ACTUALLY read what I posted, and cared enough to comment on it. And just like that, I love Publix even more. How is that possible?

Social media is such a large component of marketing these days, and it’s nice to see that some companies are using it correctly. Many companies use automatic replies or autobots, as I call them, to respond to their online followers. They forget that social media is a way of directly communicating with customers. Using robots can really fray relationships you may be trying to build or maintain.  One company recently made headlines for its insensitive automatic responses to its twitter followers. By automating its tweets, the company validated exactly what it has been trying to negate: the perception that it is “too big” and doesn’t care about its customers. Even without automated responses, companies tend to fall into the trap of assigning one person to reply with generic messages rather than with ones that will make the customer feel unique or cared for.

In today’s digital world of dog eat dog, it’s important for companies to keep strong ties to their customers and potential customers. What easier and cheaper way to do this than through social media?

Simple is Better

When I like something, I tend to stick to it for a while. Sometimes it’s a color, sometimes it’s a song, and sometimes it’s a brand.

I recently read an article about the demise of HMV. After 92 years in the music business, the brick and mortar store went out of business. It kept assuming that its customers would stay loyal forever because they had always bought CDs. Instead, online music streaming came into the picture. HMV failed to keep an open dialogue with its customers to learn what they really wanted/needed. One thing that stuck out to me in the article was about the big marketing mistake companies fall trap to: “they stick to tried and tested marketing methods and add a digital marketing strategy as an extra.” Like it or not, digital marketing is not just an “add-on” these days. It is marketing plain and simple. And in the case of HMV, it was the difference between staying relevant and crashing and burning.

Found here

However, going digital does not guarantee success. So many brands today assume that digital marketing is the key to success. It isn’t. The key to success is about understanding your customers and their needs, and then applying marketing strategies that address their needs and provide them with useful information. In today’s world, that means including digital as part of the bigger picture, not just an add-on. But it means including it correctly – not just pushing out irrelevant messages that annoy people.

I get tons and tons of daily emails from retailers who are trying to push me into buying their clothes. Sometimes there’s a discount. Sometimes there’s some kind of perk like free shipping.  But none of these really matter to me. I mostly get annoyed that I am getting so many emails. Very rarely do any of these emails catch my eye. Instead, almost 100% of the time, these emails get deleted. The same goes for brands I follow on Facebook. Some of them post every few minutes and don’t actually provide me anything useful. Sure, they include an image with their post, but I don’t feel like they are making an impact on my shopping habits. It’s annoying to get bombarded with so many messages all the time. I often end up “unliking” a brand when they start to get annoying.

Companies should really learn to talk to their customers and provide them with information that is useful and makes their shopping experience easy. If this were an in-person scenario, you wouldn’t want to be that annoying friend who doesn’t understand personal space. Or that used-car salesman who is desperate to get you to buy a car. As this appropriately titled Harvard Business Review article puts it: To Keep Your Customers, Keep it Simple. Companies need to really figure out what is driving their customers to search certain keywords. They need to become stewards for information so that consumers can stay informed about products so that when they are ready to purchase something they will remember what they learned and very likely purchase a product from that company. Its okay to send emails alerting customers about sales or offering perks, but just keep it simple.

What are some companies you like that you feel keep it simple?

The Royal Announcement

When the birth of Prince George Alexander Louis was finally announced, the world breathed a collective sigh and moved on with life while companies jumped at the opportunity to somehow tie their brand to the announcement. This brand association strategy is known as newsjacking. You may be familiar with Oreo’s clever newsjacking during this year’s Super Bowl blackout. But companies practice newsjacking more often than you think. For some companies, the process is deeply ingrained as part of the public relations strategy in addition to the marketing strategy. It’s a great way to be associated with a hot topic and can go very well if done right. But sometimes companies also miss the mark. They are late to the conversation so their efforts go unnoticed or seem desperate. Sometimes companies try to newsjack a subject that is irrelevant to its brand. Case in point: Epicurious and the Boston Marathon or Kenneth Cole and the Darfur crisis.

However, companies for the most part do a good job at it. Take for example, the Royal Baby newsjacking by Pampers.

Pampers sells baby products. So it made perfect sense for them to do something. And what they did was spectacular. They appealed to parents and future parents by saying that all babies are little princes or princesses. Who doesn’t want their child to be compared with the likes of the Royal Baby? And just like that, the company’s tweet and video were shared and viewed by over 200,000 people.

You may be thinking, gee only 200,000 views? I’ve seen other videos hit over one million views! Well, while it is important to think about hits, it’s just as important to think about who you are targeting and make sure that you get to them. Hence the newsjacking. People who were following the Royal Baby news likely also have young children or know someone with young children. So it was a perfect strategy on the part of Pampers. They are a relevant brand, their messaging was good, and they did it in a timely fashion.