I talked with a smart panel on The Beancast again, this time the theme was how much bunk is out there in marketing study land.
What do YOU do on your phone during TV ads? We tackled Facebook’s assertion that TV viewers turn to them during commercial breaks, the hurdles facing people-based marketing, overcoming voting blocs at Cannes, and the effectiveness of brand takeovers on Twitter (I say not effective at all). Also, why Canada at Cannes is like the 1988 Jamaican Olympic bobsled team in Cool Runnings, and Travis Kalanick is a narcissistic frat boy. (Not mentioned on the show but worth noting: Sarah Lacy at Pando has been calling out Uber‘s problematic culture with little notice since 2012).
After a MapMyRun jog last week, a Houlihan’s ad pop up promoting their Inspiralized Menu. I follow the trend toward healthier menus and food labeling transparency, so I tweeted about the ad from a marketing angle, not intending to promote the restaurant. The Houlihan’s social team picked up my post, took it as a compliment (which it really was), and mailed me a $25 gift card.
By 2016, 89% of brands expect to compete solely on customer experience (Gartner, 2014). This gift card is a great example of G.L.U.E. (Giving Little Unexpected Extras, as Stan Phelps calls it). I’ve been a fan of Stan’s marketing lagniappe concept for years. It refers to a little something extra thrown in for good measure.
It appears that Houlihan’s personally @ messages anyone who tweets about their brand with positive sentiment. Perhaps they utilize a more in-depth analysis resulting in only offering this reward to users with a certain amount of influence or likelihood to dine. Because any egghead can tweet about a brand; only certain tweets are really worth anything as far as advertising.
This begs the question: as marketers, should we invest time in harnessing social data and finding a formula for which users to reward, or just produce thousands of gift cards and offer them to anyone who tweets about our brand?
Even at the cost of the latter, what may seem like spaghetti on the wall is fine with me; marketing dollars are often squandered on mediums like TV, billboards, and display advertising that can’t be reliably measured. Some digital ad platforms have numerous deliverability issues and often abysmal conversion rates. Even on the more targeted and trackable side of cookies, drip campaigns, and big data-based social targeting, digital has become so personalized that nothing feels personal.
The Houlihan’s tactic of using social and snail mail is one-to-one marketing. What has become a throwback can stand out. Haven’t you noticed how popular TBT is? Digital is saturated, but is a great way to initially target. Identify customers there, then try reaching out via the postal service, or another method that will catch them a little off guard. Another promoted post might not cut it.
Better geo-targeting would be beneficial, however; only serve this ad to users who live near a Houlihan’s (the nearest location is 107 miles from me). Whether this acquisition pans out or not, I couldn’t help but feel more affinity toward the brand. And here I am writing about them. That is certainly worth their ~10 minutes of labor and $25 plus production and postage.
Houlihan’s Marketing – HQ, HouliFans, and PR
Houlihan’s has a successful history of using social media and WOM techniques to identify brand ambassadors and derive valuable information from them. SVP Marketing and Creative Director Jen Gulvik worked on the 2008 idea for HQ, an invite-only social network of engaged customers with insider news and one-on-one dialogue, resulting in a ready made focus group. It encouraged customer loyalty and resulted in revenue growth based on menu feedback.
Their marketing team continues to handle the brand with poise, recently diffusing a potential PR crisis on Facebook involving a veteran with a service dog being refused service in Algonquin, IL in May 2015. A mix of intuition and good data in digital plus differentiating lagniappes in the physical world will help keep their tables full.
Updated follow-up to Part 1 about cereal games: Over the years I have tweeted and posted multiple complaints about the garbage in food that’s advertised as healthy. Part 1 originally linked to a Kellogg’s Cereal landing page encouraging activity (no longer available). Homepages for Froot Loops and Apple Jacks had pop-up messages urging kids to get outside and move around. The Frosted Flakes website was a big proponent of outdoor activity and sports participation:
You see the same messaging on tons of food products. Hypocrisy rules grocery shelves. This hackneyed pro-exercise/health stance and the call-outs about vitamins and whole grain on boxes is ridiculous at best and criminal at worst considering the processed ingredients, added and artificial sweeteners, and chemical preservatives that these nutritionally devoid “foods” contain. That cereal nutrition facts have a second column for the addition of dairy milk to make it a “complete breakfast” is a problem.
Breakfast health poser brands like Kellogg’s, General Mills, and Post tout nutrients and a healthy start to the day. Aside from government regulation (see FTC response to the Kellogg’s immunity claim), what would it take on a consumer level to make such brands replace their GMO ingredients, partially hydrogenated oils (see Cocoa Krispies ingredients), and modified corn starch with natural ingredients? You can find organic cereal brands like Lydia’s Organics, Farm to Table, Go Raw, etc. who do this, make better products, and still profit. Just not as much. And unfortunately that’s the deciding factor. But despite media exposés, documentaries and books galore about our food problems, the grocery landscape is wrought with more confusing, misleading messaging than ever.
Eat whatever you want. I’m not here on a granola crusade. Actually, I’m more interested in the larger question of selective consumer awareness and empowerment.
Society has spent decades scapegoating, punishing, and regulating the tobacco industry for its seductive marketing of addictive, cancer-causing products. How have agribusiness and food conglomerates escaped anywhere near the widespread, research-backed, trenchant criticism for the role they play in our nation’s health problems? In 2012, more than one-third of U.S. children and adolescents were overweight or obese (CDC). I barely scratched the surface talking about unhealthy cereal that is marketed as healthy. The convoluted mess that is FDA labeling regulation for terms like natural, organic, free range, etc. creates a false advertising field day.
There’s nothing automatically wrong with selling most unhealthy products as long as the consumer is fairly informed. Tobacco, alcohol, fast food, soda pop, hot dogs at baseball games, sugary bubblegum, you name it – we deserve the right to choose to indulge. But food brands and marketers need to take more responsibility when it comes to product positioning. The misinformation about what’s actually healthy is more expensive than consumers understand.
To wrap up: Part 1: Good: a return to simplicity and creativity – kids cutting out cardboard shapes (see the Lucky Charms game).
Part 2: Bad: food brands that position themselves with health and physical activity but contain nefarious foodstuff (not food) ingredients while making claims about good nutrition.
What will force change? Maybe consumer awareness is already improving. Social helps. See Bettina Siegel’s petition on change.org which helped to remove pink slime (LFTB from Beef Products Inc.) from school lunches across the country.
Expand your customer base to form lifelong brand loyalists, increasing average selling price and frequency by decreasing price sensitivity while garnering evangelists to promote your brand through word of mouth. That’s the goal of marketing.
I started playing My Coke Rewards in December 2007. I usually enter codes for 2 liter bottles of pop (worth 3 points) or 12 pack cans (9 points). After almost five years, I have about 1,050 points. I don’t cheat or buy codes online. (Yes, there is a black market for Coke Rewards codes. Much like property swapping during the McDonald’s Monopoly game.)
I’ve amassed my points organically. I keep playing because I’m a consumer who has been gamed, because I expect a great prize when I reach a high point level, and because Coke accomplished their goal: I am more engaged in the brand and spend more time on their site. Continue reading Gamification: I Ain’t Mad At Cha, Coke→
About a year ago, I discovered a Kroger brand cereal called Shining Stars. This cereal is to the breakfast aisle as Hello Dolly is to WordPress plugins. (The hope of a generation, if you will.) The mascots of the Lucky Charms-esque cherry vanilla flavored oat cereal are three teenage girls in a band called the Shining Stars. They are dressed pretty conservatively compared to Miley Cyrus. I think they write their own songs.
Singer Star Sparkle is wearing a high plaid turtleneck and braces. The African American drummer, Cherry Berry, has afro pigtails. Awkward but cute guitarist Nilla Crunch has red hair and glasses (she is the emo one).
I was so impressed by the positive, inspirational messages this branding sends to little girls that I had to continue buying Shining Stars and write this blog post commending the cereal. Unlike Bratz, these musical girls are actual role models for kids. The Shining Stars are confident and independent, talented enough that they don’t need to objectify themselves and show a lot of skin. If Star Sparkle can get a record contract in that getup, there is hope for meritocracy yet.
The free prize inside the box is Shining Stars temporary tattoos: