The “Instructional” Campaign

According to the calendar, Spring has officially sprung. And while we are still experiencing some chilly days, it’s undeniable most of us are ready to shed our winter gear for shorts and sandals. As with all season changes, clothing companies are eager to help you exchange your wardrobe.

Recently, clothing company Lands’ End launched their new “How to Spring” advertising campaign, showcasing, “How fun and fashionable it is to add bright colors, graphic prints and floral patterns with a few perfect pieces from the women’s spring collection”. It could be argued that every spring campaign that will launch this season will have a similar goal; however, Lands’ End decided to do something a little different this season by adding a sweepstake to its promotional and marketing strategy.

The sweepstakes works by first connecting with Facebook or entering your email. Once you’ve connected, you are asked to fill out your name, email, and zip code. Filling out this information unlocks the game. The rules are simple, select an outfit and click “spin”. If the outfit that the player selected matches the three tumblers, the player automatically wins a gift card with a balance of $25, $50, or $1,000. That’s it! Simple right? Not to mention, everyone is eligible to enter every day for the grand prize of $1,000 shopping spree. You can view the official rules of the sweepstakes here.

While we like to think that games, contests, and sweepstakes’ only motives are for fun and entertainment, they are actually a smart marketing move – encouraging consumption of the product by creating consumer involvement. This involvement builds fan base, engages the audience, and enables consumers to do your marketing for you. Not to mention, user generated content often provides quality, innovative, and creative ads for free.

In addition to promoting brand visibility, contest and sweepstakes are strategies that provide valuable quantifiable benefits for companies as well. They are cost effective, they help build search engine optimization (SEO), and increasingly important, they provide a rich source of consumer data for the company about existing and potential customers – emails, product preferences, location, etc.

With every click essentially producing some sort of user information, online contests are growing in use on websites and especially on social media. The most popular initiatives include: photo and video contests, tagging contest, hashtag giveaways, and website raffles.

Top Rank, an online marketing blog, named some of their picks of the best contest use on social media.
Facebook: When Frito-Lay began their campaign for searching for new potato chips flavors, the company bypassed focus groups and turned to Facebook to connect directly with the customers who would be eating them.
Pinterest: AMC Theaters have an entire Pinterest board, AMC Giveaways, where all users have to do is follow the board to stay up to date on the latest AMC contests. The basics are simple, when users see a prize they want, clicking on the image takes them to a landing page that collects their information.
Twitter: In a “retweet to win” twitter contest, Doritos tweeted a message that simply asked followers to retweet for a chance to win. The tweet was retweeted over 500 times in a day with winners snagging products that ranged from Doritos to widescreen tvs.
Instagram: As many clothing company are starting to do, Vera Bradely’s instagram contest asked users to post pictures of them and their favorite Vera Bradley bag using the hashtag #VBStyleShare. At the end of the contest, winners received a wrislet, followers of the hashtag could receive fashion inspiration, and staff could see how consumers were pairing their products.

The benefits contests can provide seem like an almost no-brainer for companies to increase brand awareness while also gaining consumer data, but as they start to trend they are also subject to overuse. To combat becoming another form of clutter, companies will have to make sure their contest are increasingly interactive, engaging, creative, or lucrative.

Have you ever participated in an online contest? Did you win? Did it make you feel more favorable towards the brand? Scrolling through your social media feeds have you seen brands using contests similar to the ones above? What are some of the best/most creative ones you have seen?

- Elizabeth Harrington, Caroline Robinson, Savannah Valade

The Medium and The Message

We already know that social media is a powerful tool in the realm of advertising and promoting a brand. Companies are able to buy advertisements that show up on our Facebook and Twitter feeds. Whether or not you find it obnoxious or love the introductions to new brands, the advertisements will probably only increase and spread to more social media sites. Personally, I typically find the ads annoying but every once and awhile, they lead me to a new site. Now, a less interrupting way to promote and communicate a brand is by creating accounts on these social media sites. Companies are able to build their brand identity and communicate with their target audience. As consumers, we can follow the brands on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. if we choose to do so. We can, in a sense, choose which brands communicate to us and which brands we form a relationship with.

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The importance of social media in communicating to a target audience cannot be overlooking. The medium, social media, through which the content or message is presented, plays an important role in the message the brand communicates. As theorist Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium is the message.” The frame in which the communication occurs has a great impact on the actual message. Brands such as Pepsi have used social media to communicate with brands in a modern way. Staying relevant to their target demographic allows Pepsi to continue building their brand. Brands using social media suggest that they are open to two-way communication and connecting with their target audience. The social media avenue they decide to take also impacts the message. With Twitter, businesses can “quickly share information with people interested in their products and services” using no more than 140 characters. Using Pinterest as a medium, businesses use photograph’s linked to other sites. These pins can represent the brand’s personality to its followers. Amongst his ideas, McLuhan points out the importance of technology and the medium of communication in how it affects our society.

In terms of social media, McLuhan’s theory applies. The brand communication that occurs because of social media is unlike communication that occurs through any other medium. However, it is important to clarify that the message displayed for the world to see on social media sites is vitally important. We have seen and heard our fair share of social media mistakes that require a full cleanup crew.

In our technologically savvy and social media buzzing society, I think we can agree with McLuhan that media alters our environment. Using social media is another step in brand communication.

-Laura Tippett and Katelyn Alston

How Kotex Got Almost 700,000 Impressions with their Pinterest Campaign

In the past few years, Pinterest has been the protagonist of a real-life international explosion, a phenomenon with incredible numbers constantly growing worldwide. The steady growth of their users, combined with the social media’s careful attention to what is now clearly a new platform of communication, has led many brands to explore and take advantage of this viral sensation. Kotex, a famous feminine hygiene brand owned by Kimberly-Clark, partnered with the lesser-known (at least until now) Israeli social media agency Smoyz, for the first Pinterest-based campaign that finds expression in the initiative “Women’s Inspiration Day.” The creative talents of Smoyz searched and analyzed thousands of boards of women who eagerly use the social media site, until they finally selected 50, the muses who would then become the medium itself for the campaign.

Once the “muses” were selected, they analyzed all of their boards on the website trying to find out what inspires them, after which the brand created individually personalized gift packages with the products they wanted decorating them with different styles that would capture each one’s attention. The 50 users selected to receive the packages did not have to do anything but re-pin Kotex’s original invite. How did this tactical advertising strategy go? Well, the numbers speak for themselves: 50 sent packages, 2284 interactions and almost 695 thousand impressions.

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This marketing experiment was a huge success, a buzz that then involved several other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, not to mention the amount of traffic generated to the brand’s websites. Both Kotex and Smoyz did a great job at carefully taking advantage of Pinterest’s peculiarities, such as females’ natural predilection for this specific social media, which holds about 68% of female users. Their careful demographic analysis combined with the use of the website for the production of gifts that were “tailored” around the user was refreshing and original.

For quite some time now, Kotex has been conducting strong content advertising strategies, starting from their very own official site, which is home to a fairly populated online community. In fact the brand has already hosted several successful initiatives such as the campaign “Stand Up for What’s Real.” The campaign is primarily targeted at young women between the ages of 14 and 24 and it is aimed at helping women to talk about a subject that is usually viewed as taboo. Overall, this campaign certainly opens an interesting new chapter when it comes to online marketing by once again demonstrating how the dynamics of communication, thanks to the new media, are increasingly moving towards a more “tailor-made” approach.

 

- Sasha De Vecchi

Slimful or Sinful?

It is no secret that women in America are under extreme pressure to be slim. Products like Slim-Fast, QuickTrim, and Hydroxycut are just a few examples of what women are buying to live up to this cultural expectation. I’ve seen these items and have simply written them off as another weight loss scheme. Nothing about them really struck me as odd, or even unhealthy. However, the other day I heard a commercial that made my jaw hit the floor. That commercial was for Slimful. Take a look for yourself.

I honestly thought it was a parody commercial that was making fun of how idiotic some products are, but, oh, how wrong I was! I immediately began researching this product to see if it was really as ridiculous as it sounded. The commercial ends with the statement “eating less is a beautiful thing,” and this is exactly what the product promises and promotes. The idea is simple: eat a Slimful chew, drink a glass of water, and you won’t be hungry for hours.

skinnyThere is no mention of combining the product with an exercise program or a healthy diet. The website does say that the idea is to eat less, not to stop eating at all. However, it is no secret that many girls and women struggle daily with eating disorders. What message is a commercial like this sending to those struggling with anorexia or bulimia? It sounds an awful lot like encouragement to me. The commercial blatantly says it is not only okay to eat less but that actually it is a beautiful thing to eat less.  Looking at this advertising campaign from a health communication perspective, it becomes increasingly hard to ignore how dangerous a commercial and product like this could be. In advertising, the meaning of the message is often defined by the audience receiving it. Ignoring the impression this commercial could make on someone struggling with an eating disorder is heinous. The campaign helps to perpetuate the idea that thinness, and therefore frailty is beautiful in women, not strength. The commercial also further extends the idea that eating less, rather than doing more is the way to achieve a desired weight or look.

Advertisements like this are just one of the many factors that play a large role in the creation of the cultural expectations women are held to. The rise of social media sites such as Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr, have accelerated the spread of these unrealistic expectations to a new level. Media still sets the tone for cultural stereotypes, but social networking sites have the power to expand and develop them unlike any tool in the past. Individuals are able to chime in with their opinions and like-minded groups begin to form.

What troubles me the most about this advertising campaign is the life it could potentially take on in the Pro-Anorexia (Pro-Ana), and Pro-Bulimia (Pro-Mia) social media communities. This article from the Huffington Post begins to explain the debate currently happening on Twitter and in these online communities. The hashtags “#proana” and “#promia” are used on Twitter to indicate support and encouragement for those with eating disorders. These hashtags raise concerns because often the users are not trying to help each other beat the disease but rather they exchange advice on how to become a more “successful” anorexic or bulimic. As the article explains, this is truly a complicated issue. Some people are callingpinterest warning for a ban on this type of communication and support. Tumblr and Pinterest, which are largely centered around visual content, have already begun to take steps to slow down the spread of Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia content. However, censoring Twitter content quickly brings up arguments over the first amendment which will slow down any ban decisions in progress.

Additionally, as this article from the New York Daily News discusses, some people argue that these communities can actually provide support for girls trying to recover. This argument grew out of a study published in Health Communication. The study interviewed bloggers that write for Pro-Ana websites. The bloggers explained that the online communities provide a place where they can be understood. Eating disorders are a stigmatized illness that can often lead to feelings of isolation. If these online communities can provide emotional support for those suffering from an eating disorder that is unavailable elsewhere, how can destroying them be justified?

The Slimful commercial was released only a month ago and hasn’t received much attention yet. Only time will tell if the results will be as detrimental as one may imagine. There is no simple answer to the questions I’ve raised in this post. I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg. It seems that more vicious circles are being created as social media continues to evolve, and this could be just the beginning.

- Alexandra Huss

Pinterest: Electronic Hoarding or Free Advertising?

New social media tools are popping up everywhere lately, and businesses are definitely taking notice. Pinterest is one of these rising tools that businesses are learning to use as a method to build and expand their brand. Pinterest is currently the third most popular social networking site in the U.S. in terms of traffic and it is retaining and engaging users as much as 2-3 times more efficiently than Twitter was at a similar time in its history.

This site began as a place for users to collect images and pin them onto various different boards such as ones relating to fashion, home decorating, recipes, and even wedding planning; however, it has grown into much more than just a place to share images. Some could argue that Pinterest is just “electronic hoarding” but Pinterest’s actual mission is to “connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting and to reveal a common link between two people.” Pinterest can help create said links between people and businesses, while also helping to define their “personality” at the same time, thus making it an ideal tool for connection. However, the endless possibilities of this new communication tool have businesses eager to see the opportunities that may come from this gargantuan sharing outlet.

One of the aspects of Pinterest that entices businesses so much is that it isn’t all about pinning someone’s personal pictures onto their boards. Pinners are not only posting their own personal pictures, but they are also constantly posting images of their favorite products or goods. Because the image directly links the user to the site it originated from, this acts as a platform for free and easy advertising. Businesses can ultimately thrive because of the added traffic to their site. For example, there are some businesses in Wilmington such as Edge of Urge and Fedora Boutique that have been able to successfully adapt their communication style to promote their brand because the general interests of their businesses fits into the interests of Pinterest users.

On the other hand you have businesses like the British Airline BMI, that can’t use Pinterest in the typical way other businesses can, so they are forced to come up with more creative ways to use it to their advantage. For example, they have designed a lottery contest for users to win trips to a travel destination of their choice; all they have to do is re-pin a picture from BMI’s website of the destination they wish to visit. This way BMI does not intrude its products on a potential customer, who may not be choosing to play the role of “buyer/consumer” when they are logged in to their Pinterest account. This method gives the user complete responsibility in their involvement with the product and they also have nothing to lose in participating in the lottery. This tactic not only creates more traffic to BMI’s site, but it also entices the user to become more familiar with BMI’s brand.

At the end of the day, Pinterest is still the third most popular social networking site in the U.S and many businesses are using it to their advantage. And why wouldn’t they? With the right strategy, it is a win-win for both businesses and consumers.

- Lucy Rojo, Sierra Scellato, Shauna Seaver, Nicole Betterbid, Rachel Betterbid

Celebrity Branding Through Social Media

Nowadays, there is a wide variety of ways to advertise and promote one’s image as well as many products through personal branding. Celebrities are among the first to take advantage of the new social media phenomenon to further promote themselves and products they have endorsed.  Social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. have been in a state of constant growth, as they cater to both the average consumer as well as celebrities. Interconnectivity has played a crucial role in keeping celebrities globally connected to a wider public in order to further promote themselves and gain a higher level of exposure.

When it comes to many things such as self-branding and the use of social media, one must elaborate a thought-out, cohesive strategy in order to achieve optimum results. First of all, it is important to keep in mind that not all celebrities wish to accomplish the same thing through their social media outlets.  There are many reasons for a celebrity to join a social media site, from simply connecting with fans to promoting a product or event.  Also, each social media medium serves a different purpose and targets a more specific audience. In a recent trend, celebrities have been representing themselves by “opening up” and increasing their level of self-disclosure through many forms of social media. This could be due to the fact that it is believed that social media can be used to build trust with fans as well as build and develop a more personal connection with them by allowing them to see the “real” superstar.  For example, it is difficult to feel a personal connection to President Obama.  By following Obama on Twitter or Facebook, one might feel that this personal relationship has greatly improved.  Not only is this beneficial for the average American, but it could indirectly help Obama.  For example, someone that does not currently have a stance on politics could follow Obama on Twitter, like what they see, and vote for him in the next election.  This is just one example that portrays that social media outlets are a powerful, mass communication tool.  That being said, it is important for one to remain very conscience about what they say.  It does not take much for a tweet by a celebrity or political figure to create a huge controversy, whether or not they intended it to.  We sometimes forget that celebrities are human beings that make mistakes, and one of these mistakes could be by putting too much personal information on the internet.  Voicing an opinion can easily offend many other people.  The celebrity could in theory remove the tweet, but that does not mean it will be deleted from the Internet.  With the millions of followers many celebrities have and the fact that celebrities tend to keep social media outlets as public as possible, almost anyone could snap a screenshot of the tweet immediately and continue to circulate it through the web.

While there are disadvantages for celebrities putting their lives on the World Wide Web, outlets such as social media can also be used as a free type of advertising or promotion.  Almost all main-stream celebrities have utilized multiple forms of social media from blogs to Twitter.  Britney Spears, Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber are all examples of celebrities that have endorsed various products and used social media (more specifically, Twitter) to promote them. This has shown to be an effective marketing technique at little or no cost to them.

Not every celebrity endorses a certain product, but they do essentially brand themselves when they decide post on social media sites.  Whether they mean to or not, the content they post reflects their personality and in turn, allows followers to characterize them.  Mastering how to effectively brand one’s self on these sites has in essence became a modern day art.  In today’s day and age, a social media suicide could destruct the celebrity’s image as a whole.

- Sasha De Vecchi, Lindsay Gallagher, Jay Reilly, Cary Welborn

Challenge: Build Your #brand In 140 Characters

Social media is a growing evolutionary electronic forum around the world.  Some argue that Twitter and other social media sites are becoming the journalism of the 21st century. There are numerous social media outlets which allow their users to instantly connect with thousands of online communities and share a limitless amount of information.  From celebrity Tweets to Facebook events, wall posts to Pinterest pins, people are staying connected in a variety of forms on the Internet.  Twitter, founded in 2006, has become one of the leading social media outlets allowing users to stay up to date with current events. From international businesses to famous celebrities, Twitter allows its users to feel connected to whomever they choose to follow.  Celebrities like @Kim_Kardashian, @Heidi_Klum, @Ryan_Seacrest, and @Snooki all use Twitter to enhance their #brand and attract followers.

The use of social media sites is becoming one of the most dependable and fastest ways to sell and promote products. In just a few clicks marketers can have access to any target audience they desire. Twitter is an efficient way to connect people to ideas and enhance their #brand awareness. It also allows marketers to engage their audience in a manner where the consumers actually want to receive information. Twitter can also be used as a research method to learn what their target audiences are tweeting about and incorporate those ideas into their marketing strategies. Twitter can be used to build and enhance a personal #brand by making connections with their target audience and answering their questions and comments directly.

With each tweet, celebrities are promoting and advertising themselves in 140 characters or less. Some celebrities control their own accounts while others are maintained by their PR agent. Using Twitter for publicity increases their popularity while establishing their #brand.  It also allows celebrities to establish more of a personal connection to their fans. Sometimes celebrities will re-tweet and reply to comments, questions or concerns that their fans send.  This gives them an understanding of what their fans like and dislike about their #brand. Twitter provides these celebrities an opportunity to prove that they are just like everyone else.

@Kelsey_Bendig, @Brian_Burch, @Andrea_Blanton, @Brooke_Keller