Wednesday, March 26, 2014

this is a generic brand video

So, this film should give ad people a wry smile.

Particularly when viewed in the context of the whole 'humanisation' of brands lobby that won't seem to go away.

Though knowing that it is indeed a real ad for the company that sells the stock footage used, did leave me somewhat perplexed about what exactly is being communicated.

Maybe I'm over-thinking it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

come on feel the salience

Whether or not this nugget from Slade guitarist Dave Hill is actually true or not is besides the point.

The way he thought about it is correct.

In their 70's heyday Slade were on UK TV's 'Top of the Pops' every other week.

Each new release would gain a high week one chart entry due to sales coming from the group's large fan base. In fact, it was not unusual for the group to debut at number one or two.

In the early 70's this phenomenon was much more unusual than it is today.

As radio was the predominant distribution channel for hearing new music, songs could take several weeks to build momentum as they gradually got heard by the broader population.

What Slade understood was that in order to sell beyond the fanbase it was important to stand out and get noticed by the less committed music fans, who bought what was popular. 'Top of the Pops' was that opportunity.

In the early 70'S it was the one half hour in the week, on a Thursday night, when the entire nation tuned in to see what the top songs were.

Slade's Dave became known for his outrageous outfits and huge platform boots.

Indeed, Slade once had to cancel a tour after Dave broke a leg after falling off of his boots, such was the height. While a bit of an inconvenience, this tale merely added to the legend.

Anyway, in an old BBC documentary I stumbled on concerning these 'glam' years Dave recalls how he would road-test particular outfits by wearing them while walking round the local Woolworths in his home town of Walsall (a working class industrial town near Birmingham in the English West Midlands).

The outfits that drew the most extreme response from the local shoppers were the one's he wore on TV.


Getting noticed, standing out and being memorable.

Adding to Slade's set of associated brand elements that them super easy to recognise (and buy) - even for those with very little 'brand' knowledge - alongside Noddy's mirror top hat and shouty voice, the deliberate disfluency of mis-spelled song titles (Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me etc) and boot stomping accompaniment (even the ballads!).

(It's probably no accident that Slade's eventual decline began around 1976 when they returned to the UK following and long US tour having dropped the Black Country Glam boot-boys look for a more studious laid back Californian soft rocker vibe).

While Dave never wrote any of Slade's hits in their superstardom 73/74 era he is reported to have remarked to principal songwriters Noddy and Jim.

'You write 'em, I'll sell 'em'.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

love action for Peter Pawlett, baby.

With any rule or set of rules there can be exceptions or anomalies.

A social media manager recently presented conclusive proof to us that Facebook sells product.

Sales data over a four week period on a particular item had remained steady until the item was a featured post on the brands Facebook page, then et voila a 30% spike in sales occurred.

Conclusive proof, right?

Not really. We all know now that a brand's Facebook following is made up of mostly its heaviest and most 'loyal' buyers, albeit a tiny fraction of its total customer base.

In all likelihood the vast majority of these 'extra sales' were merely sales 'brought forward', that would have happened anyway. The measure and value of Facebook pages being their ability (or not) to spread a message and bring in new or lighter customers and increasing penetration.

Historically Facebook has never been very good at that, and by all accounts the algorithm changes (much reported by geeky types elsewhere, so no need for my ham-fisted interpretation) now mean a significant acceleration of its transformation from a social network into an ad network as organic reach becomes less and less likely for most brands.

However, one should always expect the unexpected.

While fans of a brand page are among its heaviest and most loyal buyers, what happens when that group generates momentum around the product of another brand, in a completely different category, where there is very little cross pollination of customers?

80's synth weirdos turned popsters, The Human League, woke up this week to find that their 1981 chart topper 'Don't You Want Me' has had a mysterious revival in interest and (at the time of writing) is sitting pretty at number 13 in the iTunes chart having not troubled said charts for 35 years or so.

The principal driver of the revival has been a collective campaign to 'bum rush the charts' (yep, it never gets old) by football supporters on Facebook, to push the song to number one.

Why is this so?

An interpretation of the song has been adopted and sung by the fans of (my beloved) Aberdeen Football Club throughout this season.

The latest highpoint of said season was the League (no pun intended) Cup triumph last weekend, when Aberdeen edged it on penalties in a semi-local derby against Inverness Thistle at Parkhead (renamed for the day as ParkRed, again a fan-driven modification in recognition of the fact that 90% of the 50k match tickets were held by Aberdeen supporters).

The phone video clip below will reveal all.

The latest in a long tradition of pop songs adapted with football lyrics, Dont You Want Me is replaced with the name of star Aberdeen attacking midfielder Peter Pawlett. Hence 'Peter Pawlett, Baby'.

(As another aside, one of my favourites of this nature is sung by Chelsea fans to visiting Liverpool fans. To the tune of the famous 'Do They Know it's Christmas' charity song, Chelsea's version goes 'Feed the Scousers...'. Also worth noting that Aberdeen have some form in this terrace meme department having invented the 'ten men went to mow' thing, later adopted - with somewhat less gusto - by Chelsea)

What examples like you see in the clip also clearly demonstrate is that social influence is less the 'hub-and-spoke' model as the common Gladwellian 'influentials' notion suggests - ie a small group of influencers directing the many - but much a more fluid and mutual influence, all happening at once. It's much more akin to what Mark Earls describes as the behaviour of the 'influenced' (and their perspective) counting for more than that of the 'influencer'.

For those in the crowd who may have not known what was going on they could quite easily get it because of what they see ordinary others around them doing, in the moment.

Then following that mutual influence there's a further action available, Buy the song.

So, yes, Facebook can sell.

Just not in the way we think (or perhaps would prefer).

And what we, as marketers, can learn and apply is probably something like this.

Understand that it is impossible to try to predict random events. Instead, it is essential to make peace with uncertainty, randomness and volatility (as Taleb would say).

This is, in effect, the essence of the 'real-time marketing' opportunity.

Not the one where every brand in the world huddles round the Oscars or such-like waiting for the thing to comment on.

The one that, when it comes along, the smart brand takes it.

Certainly for The Human League a chance to capitalise on some unexpected newsworthy-ness among a public (many of whom will never have heard of Phil Oakey and gang, and many who had forgotten) getting acquainted and reacquainted with the brand - it's all about those associated memory structures, after all.

And for Aberdeen FC a fan driven vehicle to further attract the 'light users' that are critical to brand growth.

40,000 supporters made the trek to Glasgow for the cup final, whereas the average attendance at home matches is closer to 10 or 12,000.

There's a huge market of lapsed or infrequent customers who can, and should be nudged to buying a little bit more.