ARF Re:Think 2010

The Marriott Marquis at Times Square, New York was the setting for the annual ARF Re:Think2010 convention. Not completely recovered from the overwhelming and flashing stimuli outside (including the Naked Cowboy), I was mastered by a feeling of vertigo upon my entrance and first elevator ride. I immediately understood why this used to be called the “suicide hotel” and even more so why Marriott put artistic fences to protect people from themselves. Imagine an incident like this hits social media today and you are the marketing manager of Marriott who needs to manage the conversation!

Anyway, check-in and buckle-up for my main take-aways:
Traffic trends
comScore confirmed what we already knew: Facebook, YouTube and Twitter rule in social media. While Yahoo! is hanging in there, MSN seems to be losing heavily. And the future is for mobile. It will soon become more important for social networking than fixed access. According to Cisco, video will account for more than 60% of all mobile traffic in the near future. Ouch! That’s going to be painful for bandwidth.
Smartphone apps are also better conveyors of brand messages than any other push channel. Think about Carling’s pint app as the UK’s nr 1 iPhone application. I am sure it is going to be the subject of future research and case studies in Journal of Advertising Research and at ARF conventions.
Forget the click – you have to earn it!
Clicking is still used by many as the main effectiveness kpi for online ad campaigns – but that is the wrong approach, I could not agree with comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni. Very few internet users actually click on an ad (according to comScore it is between 0,08 and 0,20% across campaigns and dropping– seems even high to me), but they may more easily engage in site visitation and/or brand search.

Indeed if you manage the conversation you will “earn your media” and can always blend it with traditional online media if you like, Nielsen confirms. Many practitioners are after success in earned media for obvious reasons. It is cheap, fast and holds a long term latency effect in that it spurs organic search. But that is easier said than done and unfortunately there is also a risk spurned media or sustained negativity when you screw up as a brand. The performance of your brand in earned media is a function of brand readiness, agility, advocacy and latency. Nielsen nicely combines this in a blended media score to assess a complete view of ad effectiveness – no thanks Nielsen you “earned” this one ;-).

If you want to earn it and your brand is ready for it, Nielsen advises to offer free product trials and coupons. Yes, you read it right – coupons are back in vogue, but this time mobile, location based and linked into loyalty programs. I would say: add some more engagement and provide utility in general (which is more than coupons only) and then brand it. According to Meteor Solutions and Hill Holiday’s research, “earned media” can power the success of your campaign. It is an important driver for traffic but being on Facebook or Twitter is not enough. The effectiveness of your campaign is a function of what users do with your content rather than what you do with it. Social media are in fact more “social” than they are a medium. So if you want to succeed in social, be social – facilitate and join that conversation!
What does this mean for market research?
From the client side Coca Cola’s VP Marketing Strategy & Insights Stan Sthanunathan pointed a.o. to the fact that we need a different mindset and more innovative approaches. We have been doing too much “rear view” research. Bring it on!
Diane Hessan from Communispace took the researcher perspective with 8 rules for next-generation market research. The most thought provoking ones to me were:

  • Go beyond the ad-hoc-ness of research : with the internet you do not need to say goodbye to consumers you can keep on going.
  • Cutting edge technology or nice surveys combined with a poor research design, remains poor research.
  • Never underestimate the power of n=1 : sometimes the insight is in just that one comment.
  • Engagement trumps the sample size: who is in the sample is more important than how many.

The people from IBM and Converseon added a nice example from their end on how we need to mine and monitor the online conversation. Social media netnography based on text mining is for sure a trend for market researchers to follow. But, qualitative researchers do not panic: human analyses are absolutely essential!

Emotional branding
The view and findings on earned media and more connected forms of research, tie in nicely with Marc Gobe’s vision of how social media transform brands. If you want to successfully manage your brand today you need:

  1. Real time insights for leadership – stop listening (we have been doing so for the last 30 years) but become part of the conversation
  2. Build an eco-system for dialogue
  3. Leverage the power of communities – and yes, you will lose control
  4. Content is the new social currency – it is viral
  5. Leverage the criticism into an opportunity

Oh, and as an aside: “your message has to be tweetable”.

The question still remains though: what makes your online campaign stand out?
Nigel Hollis from Millward Brown provided a nice and crisp analysis of it. First of all, technically none of the ads go really viral – as the pass through ratio is too low.
Nevertheless if there is variation, there are 4 important drivers:

  • Awareness (correlation with nr views rv=0,4) – the brand as such offers the promise that the add will be viewed
  • Buzz (rv=0,38) – the pass along potential of the add
  • Celebrity (rv=0,31) – using celebs works also online
  • Distinctiveness (rv=0,46) – people need to be convinced that it is worth watching

Ads with LEGS also overachieve in terms of viral viewing: Laugh out loud, Edgy, Gripping and Sexy.
In conclusion: have your ABCD right and let creativity rule! One of those ads that has it all together is the following: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owGykVbfgUE. Admit it you males, you did not like it in the beginning, felt kind of threatened but had a laugh at the end.

Yes, we are homo sapiens (“wise man”) but are much more emotional than we think we are! And that is maybe what I have missed the most as a theme at the conference – emotions for advertising and marketing.
Hope to be back next year with some research of our own!
If you want to check the tweet stream search for #rethink10 – there are quiet some interesting quotes and links.

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