November 2nd, 2016

Musical.ly is one of the most popular and fastest growing music video applications out today. MTV Networks recently launched a campaign with Musical.ly tied to their flagship program, the yearly Video Music Awards. But is Musical.ly the right choice for marketers? Well, that depends on what you are trying to sell and more importantly who you are trying to sell it to.

Musical.ly was founded in 2014 and boasts over 100,000 million users, most of whom fall into the 13-20 year old demographic. However, this information may be inaccurate. The company may claim that important market; however it appears that they may hit audiences even younger.

The app allows users create short videos in which they can lip-sync and dance to popular songs and other audio sources, and then post the videos to an Instagram-style feed. Its featured feed includes major stars familiar young audiences as well as lesser known social media personalities and artists.

The problem in trying to market with this fast growing tool is that it does not collect demographic information from its users or “musers” as the company calls them. Federal law requires online services that target audiences under 13 to follow strict guidelines regarding the collection and sharing of personal information. Musical.ly avoids this by prohibiting users under the age of 13 in their terms of service. They follow the Facebook route of taking the users “word for it”.

The app does not collect or show the age of its users, but some of its top-ranked users appear from their videos and profile photos to be in grade school. The app had a feature that suggested what users to follow based on their location. In New York, that feature revealed a list composed largely of children. This is treading dangerous waters for marketers.

Another big concern with Musical.ly is the content being posted. Many parents have complained that the children and adults are posting offensive and in some cases X-rated material. A simple hashtag search reveals countless examples.

While Snapchat and Instagram hit young audiences, Musical.ly is hitting children. Combine this with the risk of irreparable damage to the brand through association with offensive material, it’s best to take a “wait and see” attitude toward Musical.ly.

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May 25th, 2016

Are the days of people broadcasting numerous aspects of their life numbered? Probably not. But in today’s world, people (especially young people} are adapting new ways of communicating electronically to fit their specific needs. And with the rise of social media messaging services, there’s an app to fit almost all of those needs. According to Pew 2015, half (49%} of smartphone owners ages 18 to 29 use messaging apps, while 41% use apps that automatically delete sent messages. What makes these services so appealing? Well, for starters, these apps are free, and when connected to Wi-Fi, they do not use up SMS or any other data. They also offer a more private kind of social interaction than traditional social media platforms -and we know kids these days like their privacy.

So what does this mean for traditional-social networking? Facebook, lnstagram and Twitter are upping their game and making additions and changes to improve the messaging experience. Even Snapchat rebuilt the chat section of its app to keep up with the competition. But users aren’t just chatting with friends on these apps, they’re also connecting with brands.

Case and point: Fast food chains. With Facebook’s new technology allowing companies to build artificially intelligent software to interact with customers through Messenger, Burger King customers can now order and pay for food directly from the Facebook Messenger app. We’ll take fries with that, please! And it’s not just Burger King. Taco Bell introduced its TacoBot last month -an ordering system available exclusively over Slack. Last summer Domino’s launched Twiner-enabled ordering, letting customers place an order simply by tweeting a pizza emoji at the company.

The takeaway: What were once simple services for exchanging messages, pictures, videos and GIFs have evolved into something much greater.

What will we use social media messaging for next?

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March 28th, 2016

Think Different. Sound familiar? It should. It was the revolutionary advertising campaign and slogan that proved the game changer for Apple in 1997 when company co-founder, Steve Jobs, was brought back as CEO to steer the corporate ship. Seeking to reinvigorate the beleaguered brand, this campaign was the turning point, officially signaling that the company was back and ready to shake up the computer industry – and the world – in a major way.

That mantra so perfectly encapsulated the Apple brand, with its focus on innovation, emphasis on beautiful design, and customer-centric attitude, that today it’s dissected in marketing and advertising classes the world over.

So what does this have to do with modern-day marketing? Well, everything. It offers a valuable lesson in what’s called mental models. Coined by Dr. Yoram Wind, marketing professor at The University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, mental models are constructs created in a person’s mind. They are “driven by the story we read.” Attitudes, feelings, and behaviors are all guided by mental models rather than reality. These models ultimately dictate an individual’s decisions and actions. That person can be you, an executive at your company, or even a customer. Mental models govern each and every one of us, and this carries enormous implications for businesses and the way they market their services.

The most successful brands are the ones that have challenged entrenched mental models. Take Starbucks, for instance. When it first entered the market, it could have sold itself as just another coffee company. Instead it altered the story. It became a destination, a haven of sorts. It chose to market itself as a cozy, den-like spot where customers could sit and stay awhile. This emphasis on community and intimacy helped catapult the company to an uberbrand that today has the attention and hearts of millions of consumers. Now, that’s challenging mental models.

Remember: the world is constantly changing, and consumer attitudes evolve. If you’re a brand seeking to win market share, you should be monitoring this. Figure out how you can challenge these attitudes so your product stands apart. That’s precisely what Apple did. Jobs understood that the company’s success hinged on its ability to deliver truly innovative – and unexpected – products to the marketplace. He also knew its marketing strategy needed to be remarkable. It had to extend beyond the simple product-focused marketing common at the time and, instead, tap into consumers’ emotions and sense of self. With this approach, Apple didn’t just sell computers, it sold a lifestyle.

Have you challenged the mental models of your industry? If so, how did it work? Tell us in the comments below!

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February 11th, 2016


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


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.

Posted at 5:26 PM in   |  Permalink

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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