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February 11th, 2016

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Back in 1985, the glam pop girl group, the Bangles, exhorted everyone to “walk like an Egyptian”. These days, the hair isn’t quite as high and musical tastes have changed, but folks are again taking their cues from our friends in the Middle East. Today, we’re not walking like Egyptians, we’re communicating like them – with our own version of hieroglyphics! Better known as emojis, this new, digital and visual method of communication is transforming the way people and businesses connect with one another. Introduced in the U.S. in the early 2000s, emojis are used to convey attitudes, emotions, and even complex ideas, using a wide range of customized icons, from a simple smiley face to salsa dancers, peace signs, dogs, pizza slices, and much more. Brands like Chevrolet, Dominoes, Bud Light, and Goldman Sachs have incorporated the emoji into their social media and broader marketing strategies in an effort to engage millennials and boost the virality of online content.

Why the sudden emergence of the emoji? And is it just a flash in the pan marketing gimmick destined for the dustbin? That first question is quite simple: 1) the average person today consumes an ungodly amount of information within a 24-hour cycle; 2) our brains are wired to understand images much more so than text; 3) we have short attention spans – hovering in at just around 8 seconds. According to a number of reports that have come out over the past few years, “…today, we receive five times as much information as we did 30 years ago…as of 2009, it was estimated we consume 34 gigabytes of information or 100,500 words, outside of work on an average day” (SproutSocial, 2015).

Exposure to this near-constant assault of information means the average person has little time to read and process longer messages, no matter how entertaining they may be. That’s why it should come as no surprise that today, 63% of social media is made up of images. And it’s not just youth/teens who’ve embraced this new form of communication (though, they do comprise a significant base). Audiences 40 + have caught on, appreciating the ease of delivering a concise message in just a few short characters.

So, the next time you’re brainstorming a marketing/advertising campaign, consider testing out messages with emojis, particularly if your audience is young and tech-savvy.

And, as for that last question about the emoji’s staying power? We think it’s here to stay. Communication platforms will continue to proliferate. Devices will evolve to capture and produce more data and information than ever before, meaning the reliance on visual tools to cut through the clutter and get to the heart of a brand’s message will become increasingly important.


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December 22nd, 2015

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These days, online is everything. If you’re a brand looking to make headway with your audience, chances are you’ve already established a digital presence, because, as we all well know, that’s where the masses are. Old, young, and everything in between, the people have spoken, and what they’ve told us is: we’re on our laptops, we’re using a smart phone, we’re browsing on tablets! How will you respond?

Have you set up a Facebook page? Twitter handle? Instagram account? Good job! You’re keeping up with the Joneses. But, these days, that’s simply not good enough. There’s a surfeit of messages out there, and the competition is fierce! You want to rise above the rest, right? Well, video is fast becoming the best way to engage and grow your base online.

And that’s where YouTube comes in.

YouTube, the video-sharing social platform that has brought us enduring cultural gems like Justin Bieber, What Does The Fox Say?, Obama Girl, and Grape Lady Falls!, is one of the single best vehicles to promote your brand. It can help showcase your services and products in a way that less-interactive and dynamic platforms simply can’t. But, you might ask, how does one go about producing videos worth watching – ones with virality?

Sure, nothing beats pure creative genius, but even the brightest stars need some direction. So, we’ve assembled the following list of tips to help you formulate a YouTube strategy that sticks. Good luck!

1. Make your content shareable. Create videos that people will want to send to friends family over email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Do this by:

• Making your video topical. What’s dominating the airways and news channels? Use these topics to inform your content. Perhaps you allude to the latest Star Wars movie or riff on the current presidential campaign. Think relevance.

• Embracing your passion. Are you operating in a niche market? Perhaps you’re peddling coins from the 1800s or vintage scuba gear. There’s almost always a group of like-minded zealots trawling the Internet, eager to engage in conversations around your service. Be enthusiastic!

• Remembering that everything people share ultimately reflects on them. Users share humorous videos because it makes them look funny; they share political or literary links because it makes them look smart. Try to think about how you can tap into this phenomenon by appealing to the user’s identity or ego.

2. Be conversational. Communication in the 21st century is a two-way dialogue. Woe to the brand that talks at the consumer. Your message is DOA. What’s more, people prefer brands that sound and feel like a friend. Check your brand tone – do you come across as stiff, patronizing, overly formal? If so, make adjustments.

3. Be interactive. Some of the most successful brands on YouTube encourage followers to upload original content. Think GoPro (users send in videos of shark encounters, extreme alpine skiing, skydiving, etc.) and Jimmy Kimmel (parents prank kids by telling them they ate their Halloween candy). Know your audience, and figure out what makes them tick. Then, create calls to action that allow them to take an active role in the content creation process. It’ll boost engagement and help you build a content library that can be used across a variety of channels.

4. Don’t just promote your brand. Your videos shouldn’t be a series of ads or inward-looking messages. That’s predictable and boring. It’s the antithesis of a two-way dialogue. Instead, create content that your target audience will find helpful, useful, and entertaining. Check out Red Bull, and L’Oreal for some great examples of this.


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November 16th, 2015

Another atrocity shocks the world, this time in Paris. Again. Just under a year ago, the city was stunned when Islamist extremists stormed the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a French weekly satirical newspaper, and executed 11 people. Last Friday, the 13th of November, extremists once again targeted The City of Light in a coordinated attack that claimed the lives of 129 residents and tourists, many of them young people gathered at an American rock concert.

After the January incident, the phrase Je suis Charlie (“I am Charlie”) made the rounds on social media, with many on Facebook swapping their profile picture for a black and white Charlie sign in a powerful show of solidarity with the fallen journalists and the French people. Today, there is an online storm brewing, and not just in response to the terrorists’ latest heinous act. Instead, this uproar involves Facebook’s safety check-in function and the photo filter, which allows users to overlay their profile picture with the French flag. Who could possibly find this offensive? Even those who typically complain about social media being onerous or a time-waste have to admit that this was both useful and deeply moving.

As it turned out, the day before the Paris attacks, two suicide bombers killed 43 and injured 239 in an ISIS-backed maneuver in Beirut. But the people of Beirut haven’t seen the outpouring of support that Paris received almost immediately following reports of a bomb. There was no safety check-in function activated in Beirut. And, Facebook didn’t unfurl a digital Lebanese flag filter for users to upload.

While #PrayforParis was trending on Twitter and a global audience has professed its concern for the French people on myriad social channels, nary a word has been uttered for the Beirut community. They have been overlooked.

Or so they (and we) thought.

While it’s true that the support for the city has reached nowhere near the levels as those afforded its Western counterpart, the reality of this double standard has at least been raised in online debates. In fact, many users have noticed this disparity in coverage and have taken to social platforms to protest it. They’ve even called out Facebook, demanding to know why no safety check-ins were made available to people in Beirut. Facebook’s rather lame response? A post (naturally) from Vice President of Growth Alex Schultz: “There has to be a first time for trying something new, even in complex and sensitive times, and for us that was Paris. This activation will change our policy around Safety Check and when we activate it for other serious and tragic incidents in the future.”

There’s a good chance that something similar in scope and size will occur again in the near future. And that, in itself, is tragic. Let’s hope that when it happens all social channels — and governments — are equipped to offer equal support.

 


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September 28th, 2015

It’s a tale as old as time: corporate greed — and unchecked power — drives corrupt behavior, resulting in public outrage and expensive lawsuits. As that old folk song goes, “When will they ever learn? When will they e-e-e-ver learn?”

Apparently never, because last week brought the news that German automaker, Volkswagen used sophisticated software to cheat U.S. EPA emissions tests on an estimated 11 million of its diesel cars.

This is a scandal of epic proportions that has rocked the U.S. and Europe and has threatened to destabilize the German economy. Even the company’s CEO has stepped down, though he claims no knowledge of any misdeeds. Could this possibly be true? It remains to be seen. Regardless, the fact remains that Volkswagen has done irreparable harm to its brand, one that, until now, has enjoyed a sterling reputation as economical and trustworthy. Forgive yourself for rubbernecking, for it is altogether warranted. In terms of reputation, this is a four-car pile up – carnage everywhere, with the Volkswagen image splattered in little, tiny pieces.

Decades of hard work—and advertising dollars— have gone into building the brand, transforming it into the economic stalwart that it has become. Famous for some of advertising’s most memorable campaigns featuring clean, hip, and quirky creative that touts an economical and efficient product, all of that has come crashing down.

Consumer trust has plummeted overnight, and it’s now up to a new CEO and crisis management team to do what they can to pick up the pieces of a broken brand. Will they succeed? We think so, but it will be a long, uphill battle, and Volkswagen may never again achieve the type of success that once made it a brand worth following.


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July 8th, 2015

Last Sunday, the chants of “USA! USA!” shook Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium. The world had just witnessed a dominant display of athleticism and technical wizardry courtesy of the U.S. women’s soccer team. And it made us swell with pride. From online social media communities to pubs to living rooms and more, Americans everywhere celebrated the squad’s first World Cup win since 1999. Not only did they defeat a worthy Japanese opponent, they sealed the victory within the first 16 minutes of the match, when midfielder, Carli Lloyd scored a hat trick, to make it 4-0. The U.S. went on to win 5-2, and Ms. Lloyd effectively cemented her status as the sports industry’s next darling. She’s all but guaranteed to join the ranks of female soccer stars Sydney Laroux, Abby Wambach, and Alex Morgan – all of whom have already inked lucrative marketing deals with the likes of Coca-Cola, GNC, AT&T, Bank of America, and others.

A relative unknown outside of the women’s soccer circuit, Lloyd’s star is now shining bright thanks to her Pelé-like performance that had the American public and international spectators in thrall. Within the short time it took her to slot through a thundering half-field punt, her Twitter followers surged by 50k+, and her official website crashed temporarily. Even superstars Kobe Bryant and Lionel Messi gave a tip of their hat on Twitter.

With Lloyd’s marketability now through the roof, marketing analysts are predicting a surge in sponsorship deals for the winsome 32-year-old who they say has all the attributes a company could hope for: integrity, tenacity, intelligence, and likeability (not to mention a clean police record, unlike teammate and U.S. women’s soccer goalie, Hope Solo, who was involved in a domestic assault dispute earlier in the year, which sullied her image).

Up to now, Lloyd’s corporate partnerships have been limited to just a few minor players, with the exception of Visa, which signed her the week before the World Cup finals match (talk about timing!). But, with her profile now higher than ever, experts say Lloyd’s representatives would do well to secure national endorsements before the media frenzy dies down. As for her long-term marketing potential – could she be another Mia Hamm or Serena Williams? It’s too early to tell, but if she plays her cards right and maintains momentum by logging more superstar performances like the one last Sunday, Lloyd will become more than just another high-profile athlete, she’ll become a brand.


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April 30th, 2015

March Madness is but a memory, and the Easter Bunny has delivered his final basket. So, who – or rather, what – will fill the marketing void? If you answered “Cinco de Mayo”, give yourself a hand. The holiday, which commemorates Mexico’s 1862 victory over France (and not Mexican Independence), has grown in popularity, and not just among Latinos. Brands like Avocados from Mexico, Honda, Taco Bell, Major League Baseball, Corona, and others are throwing mucho dinero behind Cinco de Mayo campaigns aimed at the general consumer — Americans of all creeds and backgrounds who love chips, guac, and beer.

What was once a niche, largely manufactured holiday has become a U.S. staple, observed by more than just college students. When this annual Mexican fiesta rolls around, merchants report a dramatic uptick in sales that can be directly attributed to this branded event. Professional baseball teams, amusements parks, and food and beverage companies experience a similar phenomena as consumers take to the outdoors for sporting events and barbecues that signal the official advent of summer.

How will this year’s Cinco de Mayo promotions play out? Brands are deploying a variety of tactics to capture the hearts and minds of the general consumer as well as the growing U.S. Latino base. Avocados from Mexico is hosting a live Twitter chat with Latina actress and activist Eva Longoria, while Taco Bell will unveil it’s “hottest” hot sauce yet and give away free biscuit tacos. But the biggest corporate sponsorships will come from beer and liquor producers, like Corona and Jose Cuervo, both of whom host dozens of festivals around the country and roll out Cinco-centered print, TV, social, and digital campaigns that dwarf virtually all others.

At Nostrum, Inc., we know we’re lucky: we work in a dynamic industry with exceptionally smart clients and partners. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our Southern California location, where authentic Mexican food is as ubiquitous as the palm-lined streets. So, when the Fifth finally arrives, we’ll be out there, enjoying a delicious dish of arroz con frijoles and on the lookout for Cinco-centered advertising that hits the mark.


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March 26th, 2015

If you’re like us, you’re probably a little obsessed with all things digital and social. If something’s making waves on YouTube or generating retweets around the world, you can guarantee it’s made the rounds here at Nostrum. So, when the nominees for the 7th Annual Shorty Awards were announced, we were downright giddy! (For those unfamiliar with the program, the Shortys recognize exceptional short-form content on social media.)

Our account managers, media team, and creative department spent hours – possibly too many – pouring over the submissions and marveling at the ingenious ideas executed to perfection. There was the Humane Society of Silicon Valley’s in-house marketing campaign, “Eddie the Terrible”, which took a hilarious approach to promoting its services. Rather than taking the predictable route of using pictures of adorable dogs and cats to tug on the heartstrings, the agency’s marketing and social media team instead highlighted their most problematic adoptee, Eddie – a very crusty dog with some very bad habits (yapping, scratching, peeing, just to name a few). Through the use of blogs, a satirical press release, and an aggressive media outreach campaign, the Humane Society not only raised its profile and achieved a record number of media impressions, it also found a permanent home for Eddie!

Another Nostrum nominee favorite was GoPro, who blew us away with its YouTube and Instagram submissions. Billing itself as the “inventor of the world’s most versatile camera and category creator in action, adventure and lifestyle photo and video capture”, the company does an outstanding job of producing creative content through the eyes of its social media followers and sponsored athletes. From adventures high atop snowy mountain peaks to terrifying encounters with a great white shark, the awe-inspiring photos and video tell an authentic tale of those among us determined to take the path less traveled. That GoPro social media content has been favorited, shared, and viewed hundreds of thousands of times speaks volumes about its marketing team’s commitment to customers and to the company’s mission.

For a complete list of the Shorty Awards nominees and winners, visit http://bit.ly/1HqXwhS. Be inspired!


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February 13th, 2015

Social Media. Either you’re on it, or you’re not (but be honest, you’re probably on it). It comes in multiple forms, too: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, et al. These online communities are more popular than ever, with features that promise greater freedom and flexibility. The opportunity to experience the world and connect with friends and family is just a touchscreen or a mouse click away, making it remarkably easy for brands to deliver their messages right into the hands of customers. But of course for every Yin there is a Yang. And as Coca-Cola experienced firsthand earlier this week, for every well-intentioned social media or digital campaign conceived, there’s an army of trolls ready to thwart forward progress.

Following a well-received Superbowl commercial in which a glass of Coke is accidentally spilled on a city power grid and subsequently “spreads” good vibes around the world, the company executed a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #MakeItHappy – an attempt to combat online negativity by turning mean tweets into cute, fanciful images.

Naturally, this brought out the trolls – in this case, Gawker, the gossip blog that covers media and celebrities – who proceeded to tweet out lines of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf using a Twitter bot @MeinCoke. You can guess what happened next: Coke’s automated system churned out passages from the book in the form of cute text art to its millions of followers.

Almost immediately, the company’s Twitter campaign was suspended, with Coke issuing the following statement: “The #MakeItHappy message is simple: The Internet is what we make it, and we hoped to inspire people to make it a more positive place. It’s unfortunate that Gawker is trying to turn this campaign into something that it isn’t. Building a bot that attempts to spread hate through #MakeItHappy is a perfect example of the pervasive online negativity Coca-Cola wanted to address with this campaign.”

It was indeed unfortunate, but it was also a valuable lesson for Coke and other brands considering automated Twitter campaigns: assign a team to host the campaign in real-time, and monitor interactions because the likelihood that your campaign will be trolled, Rickrolled, hacked, hijacked is high. Even non-automated campaigns run the same risk, for where there is social media, there are pranksters at the ready, waiting to instigate and cause embarrassment on a massive scale. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.


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January 29th, 2015

It’s a tale of two campaigns – two distinct advertising efforts launched the week before Super Bowl XLIX. Two companies, two campaigns, one thing in common: puppies. And that is where the similarities end because, the two vastly different outcomes that resulted from Uber’s PuppyBowl promotion and GoDaddy’s Super Bowl Puppy Mill TV spot highlight the need for businesses to seriously consider their messages, their audience, and their environment before paying good money for an ad campaign.

First the good: today, Uber, the app-based ridesharing network announced (http://blog.uber.com/puppybowl) its partnership with television network Animal Planet to deliver on-demand, adoptable puppies to businesses in the following cities: Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Seattle, and Washington D.C. It’s a promotion for Animal Planet’s wildly popular annual Puppy Bowl, where the hardest hits are also the cutest!

Between 11am and 3pm today, you can use your Uber app to request a 15-minute, $30 playtime with the adorable puppies. All proceeds will be donated to city shelters.

Consider us sold.

This brilliant idea not only helps shine some positive light on the beleaguered taxi company (which has taken a beating in the press) but it also helps raise awareness for animal shelter adoptions, a growing movement in the U.S. In short, Uber’s feel-good Puppy Bowl promotion is relevant, engaging, and sincere.

Now for the not-so-good: GoDaddy, the irreverent domain registry, has a history of pushing boundaries with its ads (http://bit.ly/1zCnH5W). It’s a brand with a clearly defined identity and voice; and when it runs campaigns, they invariably generate attention. But when the company unveiled its latest spot (http://bit.ly/1y5zLXy) earlier this week, it wasn’t prepared for the negative reception from consumers and animal welfare groups who decried the ads as being pro-puppy mills. The spot features a puppy that finds its way back home only to be sold on a GoDaddy site.

While the company was smart to issue an apology and remove the ad (an alternate one will run during the Super Bowl), the damage was already done. What the company considered a tongue-in-cheek piece was instead perceived as cruel.

Perhaps most puzzling was that a company exec would even think to greenlight such a project, especially in this day and age when support and awareness for animal causes has risen so dramatically. And while brands should indeed remain true to their identity and protect them vigorously, they need to take care that they don’t overstep boundaries in the pursuit of envelope-pushing work that grabs attention. The lines might blur, but good taste does not.


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January 17th, 2015

It’s been hard to contain our excitement this week, what with the exciting news that we were recently named a finalist in the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Knight Cities Challenge! More than 7,000 proposals from across the U.S. were submitted for this national call for ideas to help make cities more vibrant places to live. And Nostrum’s ‘Living Walls’ entry was among the 126 finalists to advance.

We now have the opportunity to compete for a share of the five million dollar civic grant money, which will be used to help encourage collaborations and spur creativity right here in Long Beach.

‘Living Walls’ is a series of themed structures placed throughout the city, combining educational and entertainment elements that we hope will help foster civic engagement. Think nature walls, arts walls, fitness walls, and more – the possibilities are endless! And with fun, educational features that attract both young and old alike ‘Living Walls’, will serve as a platform for the exchange of innovative ideas.

Final applications are due February 1st, and winners will be announced in Spring 2015. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re up for the challenge. Go Long Beach!


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