Understanding borrowed interest in advertising

How did Michael Jordan meet Mars Blackmon (aka Spike Lee)? Borrowed interest. Did Nike or MJ have a hand in the movie “Do the right thing”- the breakthrough film for Spike Lee? Nope. Did their ad agency, Wieden + Kennedy create  the character for the movie- nope. They saw a cultural phenomena and tied the two together. That’s using borrowed interest successfully. Two things that seem to go together- but, wouldn’t happen without help.

The king of borrowed interest may be Weird Al Yankovic, who borrows the familiarity of famous songs and just re-writes the lyrics, turning Michael Jackson’s mega-hit “Beat it” into “Eat it.” Familiarity opens doors for your message to get through.

Almost any and every celebrity endorser for a product is borrowed interest. Do we pay more attention to Lincoln ads because Matthew McConaughey is in them. Is Lincoln really his brand- or was he bought? Bets are the big paycheck makes the difference.

Remember the annoying guy for Verizon- “Can you hear me now?” Why do you think he’s now pitching Sprint? Borrowed interest.

And while Google’s new Snippets feature places this definition on top:

Borrowed interest is the intentional association of an unrelated theme, event or image with a product, service or subject being presented, to attract attention otherwise not anticipated.

which it pulled from some previously unknown self-proclaimed guru Susan Finch, borrowed interest is a key tool for brands that aren’t that well known and looking for some connection to something bigger than them. Which brings us to our little fun experiment.

Youtube Vlogger Peter McKinnon has hit the photography/videography community like a lightening bolt, going from zero to a million and a half (and counting) subscribers in a little over a year. We enjoy his tutorials, even though almost every single one could be shorter by about a third. Do I need to know about his favorite coffee to make a better video, of course not- but, it’s his thing and he almost uses it as a prop- as in let’s meet over coffee- but, I digress.

Everyone wants to know what McKinnon’s secret is to growing a community so quickly. We even watched an annoying video explainer (with the writing hand) that got over 287,000 views, by a guy that only has a few over 20,000 subscribers.

He’s making money on the pre-roll ad, using shared interest. His analysis isn’t rocket science, but, it’s quickly become one of his most popular videos, and all that in 2 months.

So, we thought, what could we do to attract Peter McKinnon’s fan base to take a look at a video we made? How can we introduce our agency to people who may need help with advertising, marketing, building a better website- or are interested in creating a borrowed interest campaign of their own. And, how can we have fun?

We think the main reason we watch Peter is because, well, all those crazy noises he makes. Remember all those late night infomercials trying to sell you hits of some past generation? Well, we decided to make an infomercial to sell the fictional “Peter McKinnon SFX library” guaranteed to get your video channel to grow subscribers like a rocket- and to introduce his viewers to us. We’ve also bid a large contract that we’re hoping to win and collaborate with Pete on, but we have to win it first.

So, order yours before midnight tonight, the complete, completely fake, Peter McKinnon SFX library, yours for only four easy payments of $24.95, get it before these custom, exclusive, McKinnon SFX become as tired and old as the old standbys of breaking glass, doors slamming and sirens wailing- all served up with a heaping portion of good old borrowed interest.



"Power to the local dreamer"- create your own opportunity

The word “viral” is a term that gets used a lot these days. People want their content to “go viral”. But “going viral” and creating something that will make your target audience engage with your brand are two different things. If you watched the video above, you’ve heard all you need to know about how to grow your brand the right way; by caring passionately about your audience and giving them everything you have to offer, every time, and expecting nothing in return but their trust.

Twenty One Pilots is a duo from Columbus, Ohio. They have under 14,000 likes on their Facebook page. They also only have close to 3,500 followers* on Twitter. These numbers aren’t small, but they aren’t the huge numbers to really be considered “viral”. So how did they manage to get the attention of some of the hottest national record companies and sign a deal?

They did things right.

How so? First, they teamed up with the right people to generate buzz. The most important connection was with Mark C. Eshleman at Reel Bear Media, a Columbus-based video production company. The team started off with a hit - the first video that they released on their Youtube page was a live live cover of Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts”, which gained thousands of views within days of being posted. The original song was at the top of the charts at the time, so the band was able to generate a huge amount of exposure with their timely video post. They were able to catch people’s attention at the right time, and more importantly they gained a large Youtube audience from the start.

While they had a fan base before, they now had a bigger audience - the internet.

Twenty One Pilots - Tyler Joseph and Josh Dunn

Twenty One Pilots - Tyler Joseph and Josh Dunn. Image from twentyonepilots.com

When it came time to promote their album Regional At Best, the group created a web series (which bears the same name) that lead up to a rock star performance of the first track from the CD - Guns for Hands, which gained thousands of views within a short period of time. The fans responded; when the band played their next big performance at The Newport in Columbus, Ohio a few months later, it’s no surprised that the show was completely sold out. This was the first time the venue had ever sold out with a local act. According to the above video, that night was the most important night in the history of the band up to that point. So how do you follow up a sold out stellar performance like this? With not one but four videos, of course. Record companies started to notice the band, and were able to track the number of views generated from the show. Almost every video gained over 30k views in a matter of a few months. It gave Twenty One Pilots more than enough leverage to be in the position to choose between a handful of record labels. They eventually chose Fueled by Ramen, which is the home to such bands as Paramore, Gym Class Heroes, and Panic! At The Disco. And how did they announce the news? With a video, of course.

While Twenty One Pilots is far from being a viral Youtube sensation like bands such as Ok Go, the band’s awareness of the benefits of online video content was a huge factor in their ability to gain exposure. Beyond Youtube, the band was successful in creating an engaging brand. Not just through the occasional tweet or Facebook status update - they let you into their world. They reward their fans’ loyalty with intimate videos and exclusive news. They create a ever-growing relationship with their fans. Every brand needs to do this in order to be successful - does your brand accomplish this? Maybe then you’ll be able to say “It wasn’t always like this.” before diving into a crowd of 2000 of your screaming fans.

*These numbers have been growing since this post was first written.

Marketing ideas your ad agency probably won’t give you

There has been a long running debate about how an agency should be compensated- with the old model based on media commissions failing both clients and agencies for the last 50 years. And in the age of Chief Marketing Officers rotating out every 27 months at huge salaries- and little demonstrable impact- one should wonder where the real values are in marketing. But the sad thing is- we’ve known all along where the value is:

Marketing value is in the ideas

It’s that simple. Big ideas, the lasting ones, bring value far beyond what the agency could charge. What was the value to “Just do it” to Nike? Or “The ultimate driving machine” to BMW? Did an agency get compensated for the value of the idea- doubtful. If you hired The Next Wave on an hourly basis- and we came up with the greatest tagline ever written for your business- like “The first place to look for every last thing” as we did for Mendelson’s Liquidation Outlet- and it took 10 hours at $100 an hour- were we compensated fairly? Unfortunately- yes and no.

Ping Logo largeBig ideas that won’t come from most ad agencies

Recently, we got a viral email in our inbox. You know the kind- forwarded to everyone and their mother. But this one was actually verified by Snopes.com and made the company look good to an awful lot of people.
It seems the golf club maker Ping, has been donating custom fitted golf clubs to severely disabled veterans.

Here is a video about how this program affects the vets:

While the first reaction is so they donated some golf clubs, you can see the dramatic impact this program has from the video.

It also strikes a deep emotional trigger in potential customers- be they veterans or those who consider themselves patriotic- this is the kind of emotional messaging that advertising has a hard time buying- but, through a donation program Ping is probably getting more free goodwill and brand allegiance than the cost of the clubs they donate.

Ping doesn’t mention its free program on it’s site-  it does have a veterans and troop discount program in effect now- it’s on their site: http://www.ping.com/about/military.aspx but, it’s doubtful that they will run ads on National TV bragging about it- like the Pepsi Refresh program- they just do the right thing and probably reap a lot more benefit from it- see these google search results: Ping Golf clubs to Veterans

Walmart logo largeHow Walmart embraces RV owners

Everyone loves the idea that Mom and Dad bought an RV and are seeing the country. But Walmart sees this as an opportunity to reach out to one particular community and win them over. From the WalMart site:

Can I park my RV at a Walmart store? [Back to top]

While we do not offer electrical service or accommodations typically necessary for RV customers, Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among our best customers. Consequently, we do permit RV parking on our store lots as we are able. Permission to park is extended by individual store managers, based on availability of parking space and local laws. Please contact management in each store to ensure accommodations before parking your RV.

via Walmartstores.com: Most Frequently Asked Questions.

It was on page 2 of the search results from Google- since so many RV sites point this out. Of course, Walmart is counting on the RV’rs to stop in and restock, but the reality is that this idea gets them a lot of free publicity. Most ad agencies won’t make these suggestions because there is nothing in it for them- and many clients don’t think there is value in an agency talking about business process or policy as part of the marketing efforts. If you relegate your “Idea people” to only working on “advertising” you may be missing a whole lot of good ideas.

Do you have examples of ideas that add value to your brand that an agency can’t put on an invoice as a line item?

Share them below in comments- thanks.

Groupon or Advertising? Plus Google?

With Google about to spend $6 billion to buy Groupon it looks like validation of this business model. But, as a local business person, why would you choose to use Groupon in the first place- and will it be a good investment for you?

To understand how Groupon works- it’s a no upfront cost advertising tool. And while that sounds great, The stinger is you are going to get 25% of what you would normally make on a sale. That’s a VERY high cost of advertising. No one would jump into a deal and say spend 75% of your gross price on advertising- in fact, much over 10% and you better be selling things that have crazy markups like booze, diamonds or some professional service (I haven’t hear of a brothel using Groupon yet- but, that’s the kind of business that would do best with this marketing ploy).

The beauty of Groupon is it’s the ultimate sampling/awareness tool. The cost is the killer. Take the local Ben & Jerry’s franchise that offered $8 of ice cream for $4. I give Groupon $4, they give Ben & Jerry’s $2, and Ben & Jerry hope I don’t redeem the coupon (which is the only way they make money- unless they convert the Grouponee into a regular customer). There is also a transaction fee- which further cuts into their margins. So- since we already go to Ben & Jerry’s they just treated us to 1/2 price ice cream. We live nearby. They haven’t grown their market at all. It cost them $6 dollars to sell us $8 of ice cream- and this is a recipe for going out of business.

Now, if B&J had religiously collected emails, sms, and addresses from customers- and built a customer loyalty program- even using tools like Foursquare, they could have made us very happy with a Buy One Get One offer- and only spent 50% of their margins. Or rewarded all frequent customers with 20% off- and been ahead. No payment to Groupon, no mad rush- followed by a lull, and targeting a much more relevant demographic. Because unless you have a lot of locations- Groupon probably over delivers your market as well. While you and I live in an internet connected world, there are a lot of Americans who still by ice cream that don’t live and die by the browser. In fact, 1 in 12 can’t even get access to high speed internet in this country even if they want it.

Groupon doesn’t change one fundamental rule of business- it always costs more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Remember that.

So, when does Groupon make sense? If you have an innovative product that no one else has and you need people to sample it- this works well for professional services, hair, nails- where one fantastic job can convert a customer. It also works to introduce people to your new lasagna pizza (the “Pizzagna” - don’t say it fast) that no one else has.

Launching a brand new company- may also be a great way to minimize your initial customer acquisition time, but at a very low price. Remember, it’s always easier to drop prices than raise them- and your $4 deal on an $8 garbage burger may just end up being the most you can ever expect to charge again.

Doing a little searching- here are some recommendations from another site:

* Do the math and make sure the discount you’re offering won’t damage you financially. Don’t be bullied into offering a steeper discount than you’re comfortable with.

* Are prepared to serve a large influx of new customers; you may even need to hire more staff temporarily. If quality and/or service might suffer with more business, think twice.

* Come up with incentives for those new customers to come back at full price, or offer a more modest discount.

* Understand that many companies use companies like Groupon simply to acquire new customers and are willing to break even or even lose a little money on their offerings.

via Should Your Company Use Groupon to Increase Sales? | BNET.

There are many people who think Google has lost their mind offering $6 billion for Groupon- this writer included. Yes, they gain 3,100 sales people- which Google is desperately in need of, but, almost anyone can build the Groupon model into their business with minimal effort. This type of deal brokering has been done by others - here’s a link to 50 Groupon like sites.

There are a lot of out of work radio, TV and newspaper account executives that Google could hire and train for a lot less than $6 billion. As it is, Google is already the leader in directing customers to business online- but, does an absolutely horrible job of teaching people how to use it’s tools effectively. Sometimes technology still doesn’t beat personal, face-to-face sales. Every city should have a Google office- just like Apple has rolled out their Apple stores- where Google can show off it’s technology, train people to use it properly- and build real relationships based on trust. Somehow, with Groupon’s huge windfall- along with their high costs, I can’t see this model staying viable for more than a flash in a pan.

If you need to devise better ways to reach new customers, look into CRM, talk to a company like The Next Wave (us) on how to market in the digital world, but, be very careful before committing to Groupon.

Becoming an expert just got easier

An esteemed college president once told me- you want credibility, write a book about what you know.

And, I’ve been doing that, online in the form of a blog, sharing our company ideas and ideals freely with everyone. It’s why you’re here- because Google sent you to solve your problem. Some of you become customers, some of you hire me to speak at your conference, and we hope we engage your brain and mine your inner marketing mojo with our posts.

But, it’s still not as powerful as saying “I wrote the book on that.”

With the iPad and the Kindle and the slew of imitators we’re about to see filling every nook and cranny (sorry Barnes and Noble) publishing has forever changed. No longer do we have to have an agent, sell the book to a publisher, go through the process and give birth to a book a few years later- only to see it on the discount table a year later. No, we can become a publisher by taking our manuscript, converting it to a digital book format, buying an ISBN number and having an EIN number (so the Fed can get their cut) and deploying it to the various digital bookstores online.

And while it’s awful hard to sign a digital edition on your book tour, the reality is- you wrote the book to provide valuable info - and be compensated for your knowledge, not to become a rock star signing books. However, it’s now expected that authors- at least of business books and guru books - that you also become a public speaker. It’s not as easy as it looks- you can actually hire speaking coaches who will teach you how to present like a pro, getting your audience to laugh and cry at the right times. You’ll learn how to use props, audience participation, slide decks and your body language to knock them dead- all because you penned “the book” on what ever your audience is interested in.

Just be warned- the speaking circuit can get old especially if you only have one book in you. Make sure you LOVE your subject, or be prepared to do a sequel.

The real marketing challenge these days is how to get enough people interested in your book and willing to pay hard earned cash for it. Some successful gurus have given away their books to build credibility- or at least the short version of it. Others work social media like crazy to build their credibility. Some will exchange speaker fees for book sales- I’ll speak, as long as you buy 500 copies of my book.

Twitter is a particularly great tool for authors to build relationships with their readers, as is Facebook. Build a fan/follow base through either of those social networks and you have an easy way to announce your next book- after the first one knocks them dead. Speaking of Twitter and marketing your first book- by making advance copies available to thought leaders in your field who already have a huge following- you may find a quick way to get a good start on marketing your first book.

Look for a book from The Next Wave before too long- “How to be an expert easily in a digital world and sell more stuff” (or something like that).

In the meantime, go forth and publish.