Transformers: More Than Just Advertising As Usual
Is it possible
Norm Johnston, Mindshare
that sneakers are at the forefront of Internet marketing? Judging by Nike’s recent online success trainers may be to the Internet what soap and laundry detergent were to the early days of TV. For Nike has boldly embraced the full spectrum of opportunities enabled by the ever-growing Cloud, that ubiquitous, always-on digital repository of content and applications.
Brands like Nike are transforming their advertising by mashing-up content and code in new innovative ways previously not feasible or practical in an analogue, short-tail world. In fact, this transformed advertising is often so helpful or so entertaining it doesn’t even feel like advertising, which makes consumers want to search, share, and spend more time with it. In short, Nike and other brands are transforming their advertising from passive, intrusive messages to interactive, rewarding experiences.
Take Nike ID, which enables consumers to snap a photo of any colour and pattern and have a pair of bespoke sneakers delivered to them. My kids had a field day capturing images with their mobile phone and creating their own personalized Nike trainers. My boys spent quality time engaged with the brand and never once considered it intrusive, interruptive, or indeed advertising.
Nike is also smart enough to partner with other brands to source content and functionality outside of their core competency in order to create these new mashed-up experiences. For example, Nike has combined forces with Apple to create Nike+, an online experience that enables consumers to sync their trainers with their iPod to monitor their exercise performance and share their progress with a wider Nike + community. To date thousands of runners have signed up to and regularly use Nike+ to compete with, compare, and coach themselves and their friends.
Yes, Nike still runs 30” TV spots and good old display banners. However, these branded signposts are increasingly leading consumers to online Nike hubs where consumers can find useful online utilities and brand experiences rather than another dreaded micro-site. Furthermore, these branded experiences and applications are often integrated into and distributed as Nike advertising, thus bringing the brand and some real utility immediately to the consumer.
Nike is not the only transformer in the industry. Pepsi has had remarkable success with their Quaker Oats Heart Healthy initiative in India. Similar to Nike, Quaker Oats found a key consumer need and leveraged the Cloud to blend professional and consumer-generated content and applications into a highly compelling online destination, which now has over 300,000 consumers actively checking on and improving their health not to mention over 25,000 Facebook fans. Mindshare worked with Quaker Oats to develop and promote Goodmorningheart.com, a one-stop destination for health diagnostics, healthy cooking recipes, nutritionists’ advice, calorie counters, and fitness tips brought to you in variety of ways including online video, crowd-sourced content, and sophisticated applications. Similar to Nike, Quaker Oats also partnered in this case with Apollo Hospitals to leverage professional and credible content for the program. We also helped Quaker Oats deploy these useful health utilities throughout the Internet via paid and earned media, while still using the Good Morning Heart site as central brand hub for all of the featured assets.
Quaker Oats has gone from passive 30” TV spots simply promoting the product to useful online applications beneficially featuring the product. Couch potatoes in India now have a rich source of fitness and healthy eating help while Quaker Oats sells more of its products, which are weaved throughout every diet and recipe. Quaker Oats even has a mobile application bringing all of this utility right to your phone.
In fact, mobile in particular brings enormous opportunities for brands to create useful applications. For example, Benjamin Moore’s iPhone application enables you to simply snap a photo of any colour to get the matching paint colour code for you to purchase. Toilet paper is even getting into the act. Charmin sponsored Sit or Squat, a mobile application that enables you to find local toilets based on your location. Via this mobile utility, Charmin gives you directions to the toilet, a photo, as well as consumer reviews and ratings to guide your choice.
Transformers are also expanding beyond just utilities and applications into entertainment, which has previously been constrained by limited distribution channels and fixed viewing schedules. Companies like Unilever are developing branded content and plugging it into the Cloud where it is viewable to everyone, playable anytime, and accessible on any IP-enabled device.
Unilever’s In the Motherhood
remains one of the industry’s best known examples. Mindshare worked with the Suave brand team to produce short, online episodes featuring humorous stories of moms and their kids. The key to the program’s success was that these filmed stories were real-life tales submitted by real moms, voted on by a community, and later professionally filmed in Hollywood. The Cloud enabled Unilever to mash-up consumer-generated content with community management technology into a ground-breaking online video series. In the not so distant future IP-enabled TV will enable consumers to not only choose between today’s prime time programs but also new branded content like In the Motherhood from the likes of Unilever and other transformers. Now some financially-challenged clients may be intimidated by the scale, ambition, and possible budgets of some of these initiatives. Marketers should be reassured that not every transformer idea needs to be big and expensive. We worked with Unilever’s Axe brand in Japan to help them launch and promote their rather erotic Axe Wake-up service mobile application. Axe’s challenge was to get young guys to use the product on an everyday basis rather than just as a “special occasion” cologne. Meanwhile, Axe’s research found that over 80% of young Japanese guys used their mobile phone as an alarm clock. The Axe Wake-up service is a simple, small, and brilliant means to provide the target audience with a useful utility – an alarm clock – that also provided tremendous entertainment. And of course it reminded each individual to use the Axe product on a daily basis. The results were outstanding with over 20,000 participants downloading and using the mobile application to-date. We live in a time of exciting new possibilities. The Cloud enables today’s marketers to experiment with new forms of content unimaginable in the constrained channels and formats of yesteryear. Music, video, functionality, applications, and even brands are being mashed-up to create valuable and innovative experiences for consumers. It’s definitely more than just advertising as usual.
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