RENEGADE THINKING from the Founder/CEO of Renegade AND the author of "The CMO’s Periodic Table: A Renegade’s Guide to Marketing."

Lost Opportunities to Engage During #Blizzard2016

01/29/16

This past weekend, New York City had one of its biggest snowstorms ever, and, as usual, this presented an opportunity for brands to engage in the social conversation. Not surprisingly, New Yorkers expressed a lot of joy, surprise and down right frustration across social channels. What was surprising is that as the snow and chatter piled up across Gotham, most brands stayed pretty much out of sight. We believe this was a lost opportunity. [Note all of the research for this article was done by our social analyst Andres Monsalve]

NETFLIX: #Netflix&Chill.

Across the social chatter, it was pretty obvious that #Netflix&Chill was going to be present and dominate a huge part of the conversation.

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Did Netflix use this opportunity for their benefit? Not so much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These were their tweets about #blizzard2016:

Could Netflix have taken advantage of this social happening in a more buzz-generating fashion? Most likely yes. For example, Netflix could have rolled out a group of special releases for the #Blizzard, encouraging their users to watch a few and of course, chill. Or bundle a bunch of bad weather related films into a binge-watching marathon.

ALCOHOL BRANDS

For many New Yorkers, spending two days in one’s tiny apartment can feel a bit like a jail term. Some people were worried about suffering cabin fever during this “extremely long” period of confinement. In order to bear with this suffering, many find a bit of alcohol a welcome companion. Note that NYC now has the 5th largest number of craft breweries in America. However, most alcohol brands did not engage in the conversation at all and ignored the opportunity to “come to the rescue.”

Brooklyn Brewery, at least, demonstrated how to use #blizzard2016, enlightening us with this innovative way to take advantage of the snow.

FOOD DELIVERIES

The real unsung heroes in this blizzard were the #FoodDelivery guys as thousands of New Yorkers stayed in and ordered out. As George Herbert Palmer said about the postal workers once, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” The men and women who deliver food ‘round the clock truly help make NYC the greatest city in the planet, and New Yorkers recognized this during #blizzard2016. More than 600 mentions were about tipping your delivery guy more than 20%. Unfortunately for their brands, neither @Seamless nor @Grubhub chose this as an opportunity to join this conversation and support the folks that make their service possible. Like empty seats on a plane, this was a lost opportunity.

THE WINNER

The big winner in joining the blizzard conversation was the @NationalZoo who shared a gleeful video of #TIANTIAN, the panda, rolling in the snow. #TIANTIAN garnered more than 13,000 mentions over the weekend and stole our hearts. What can we say? Guess we all have a soft spot for furry animals playing in the white stuff. Here is the video of #TianTian enjoying #Blizzard2016.

Responding to social conversations like the #2016Blizzard in real-time is tricky business, requiring a great deal of preparation and then, lightning fast wit. Clearly most brands rode out this particularly storm but perhaps others will plan ahead for the next big opportunity. We hope so.

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How 100-Year Old Brands Stay Relevant

12/28/15

share a pairLast Saturday I had the pleasure of witnessing Duke’s first bowl victory in 54 years.  By all measures it was a momentous occasion as two basketball powerhouses battled it out on a gridiron carved out of the baseball diamond that is Yankee Stadium!  Indiana University, whose founding dates back to 1820, has a long track record of success both on and off the field and its fans, turned out in red & white droves to cheer on their Hoosiers. Duke University, which traces its roots back to 1838 though it didn’t actually get its current brand name until 1924, also attracted several thousand delirious Blue Devils who were thrilled to learn about an obscure rule in college football — field goal attempts that rise above the goal posts can’t be reviewed after being called fair or foul.  It was upon this rule that Duke’s victory was sealed and history rewritten.

So why perchance am I sharing this scintillating bit of trivia in what is perhaps my last blog post of the year? Of course, there’s the reveling part but fortunately for you there’s more to it than that. As I mentioned both of these institutions are household names, have weathered the test of time and occasionally risen to the top of their competitive set–JUST LIKE KEDS. (Bet you didn’t see that one coming!)  Turning 100 in 2016, Keds is indeed a well-known brand that has played the fashion game effectively, getting hot at times without the usual melting away.  No doubt many have contributed to this success over the years, yet like new players on a college team, big gains often come with the new arrivals, a pattern I expect to see repeated with the arrival of Emily Culp, who was kind enough to spend time with me just before receiving The CMO Club’s Rising Star award.  This is part two of our winning interview (read part 1 here).  In it we cover the gamut from social listening to emerging channels like Snapchat, a marketer’s need for passion and the challenges of global initiatives.  I certainly got a big kick out of talking to Emily and I’m sure you will too.

Drew: I was at a customer service conference recently and one of the things that really struck me was how social listening and social customer service has advanced in the last couple of years to the point that not only are these people listening, obviously for the product issues but they’re also preemptively recommending changes to products based on things they hear. In some cases they even have a seat at the table for new product development because they’re so close to the customer. I’m just curious if social listening has played a part at all in your program or what role it does play?

It absolutely does. We listen to our consumers, engage them & make real-time changes to programs and products. We strongly believe our customers have the most important insights, hence we invite them to participate in Beta releases of new services and seed products early on to get feedback.

Because we have these amazing customers who love us and who are vocal when things go well and equally vocal when they don’t go well it is important to provide them with the level of engagement they desire with our brand. So this could take the form of providing feedback on advertising, testing to price elasticity, to literally just saying, “we’re between these two product names, which one do you like more?” And that way you create a loyalty, a genuine loyalty because you invite your customers into the process and you’re listening to them and asked upon their feedback.

Drew: It sounds like that could also be beginning of an influence service/advocacy program was well?

Yes, you’re right, there is nothing in exchange for it. Meaning, it’s just genuine love. I do this myself for three or four other brands that I’m ridiculously passionate about. I want to give feedback because I love to create products that I need or that would be slightly modified to my taste. In turn, if a company listens or engages me, then I will be a vocal advocate for them forever. I have told one story about Patagonia (100s of times) and their customer service simply because I love the brand and how they treated me.

Drew: You mentioned Snapchat. Every brand wants to figure out how to use it, but a lot have struggled. What’s working for you?

I fundamentally believe in Snapchat. So when I joined within the first 30 days, we officially launched our presence on the platform. For us right now, we are in the test and learn phase. Hence, I don’t think there is any secret sauce to share unfortunately, but we will learn quickly because it is where most of our 18 or 28-year-old woman are spending their time. Snapchat has became her favored platform along with Instagram and she has left Facebook for other uses, so that’s why it’s really, really important to me that we fully embrace this and drive forward with it but we’re still learning.

Drew: When you talked about your passion for other brands and how you get actively involved, how much does that impact how you attack your marketing and your approach to marketing at Keds?

I have loved Keds for decades. So when the opportunity arose to join the team it combined all the key elements that are important to me: a brand with rich heritage, a brand I personally love to wear, a brand that stands for female empowerment & a brand with an amazing senior leadership team. So a large aspect of my job is to tap into other people who feel that way about our brand and how do I give them a megaphone or at least an opportunity to share their feedback with us. Because somebody who’s worn Keds, even if they just switched from another product to ours or just rediscovered them, I love to hear from them. And my job as a marketer is to make sure that I do hear from them and I provide them platforms to share with us whether it’s on social, it’s in e-mail, you know, comment cards in store.

Drew: Lets talk about the challenge of global branding — the desire to be consistent on a global level yet still somehow localize as necessary has to be difficult.

It’s one of the most intriguing Rubik’s cubes you can work on. There is no question about it. As a marketer I think it’s very humbling and important to understand, you can have the perfect strategy, the perfect brand campaign, the perfect messaging and then you need to enter what I affectionately call the double helix matrix which is the global domain. And what I mean by that is all of these things that you’ve been very methodical and strategic about sometimes go out the window because I was not born and raised in X country and I didn’t understand the cultural nuance of a color, symbol or styling choice. So what may resonate visually or from a techy perspective in one market isn’t going to work than another but what’s amazing about this is your global partners who are in different regions teach you about what these things mean and help you think about the brand in a different way and help you think about how do you adapt to their market to have the same kind of same DNA and messaging but in a way that’s culturally relevant to them. So I actually really love it. For me a big reason is I am extremely curious, so global brands and messaging has always kept me on my toes.

CMO Benjamin Karsch on Revlon’s Lovely “Love is On” Campaign

12/9/15

Benjamin KarschAdmittedly, I’m a biased blogger.  I love big ideas.  And I am more than happy to celebrate big ideas even if my agency had no hand in creating them. Think of it as a form of largesse.  Or jealousy.  Either way, Revlon’s “Love is On” campaign meets all of my criteria for a big idea:

      1) It’s emotional.  What’s more emotional than love?

2) It’s relevant.  One can certainly find an inherent connection between being attractive and the pursuit of love.

3) It works on multiple channels. This is perhaps the strongest argument for the beauty of this campaign. Lots of campaign ideas work well in advertising. But few translate equally well into social media. (If you run into me at a cocktail party, be sure to ask me about two national ad campaigns that were disasters on social media!) And fewer still can naturally integrate a charitable component.

So, yes, I love the “Love is On” campaign and it was my great pleasure to catch up with Benjamin Karsch as a result of his winning the Content Marketing Award from The CMO Club and find out the lovely story behind the campaign.

Drew: I’m a big fan of your “Love is On” campaign.  Can you talk about the overall strategic thinking behind this initiative?

Revlon’s CEO Lorenzo Delpani believes that we must have an emotional connection with our consumers and that truly is the DNA of LOVE IS ON:  it grows right out of the name Revlon.

Literally, L-O-V-E – those letters can be found at the heart of the word REVLON.  And O-N, those letters are at the end of the word REVLON.  LOVE IS ON is a mission of inspiring LOVE, the most powerful, positive human emotion and most powerful motivator. From the moment she puts on her makeup, we want our customer to enter the world of LOVE, where emotion, positivity and affection fill her heart.

Drew note: Another admission. I made a music video in the 80’s (very under the radar with friends as actors) to Robert Palmer’s song Addicted to Love which required me to listen to the song over 100 times. The result is Pavlovian now –whenever I hear the song, even if performed by another signer, I remember one of the most fun, truly lovely summers of my life that included meeting my future wife. 

Drew: The “Love is On” microsite is filled with lots of “lovely” content.  Can you talk about some of the elements (horoscopes, dating advice, video series, sweepstakes) and how these are working for the brand?

We have a number of unique and innovative initiatives supporting LOVE IS ON, speaking to women no matter at what stage of love they are – looking for love, falling in love or staying in love. We partnered with Refinery 29 to create Love Horoscopes, leveraging the insight that this type of content is some of the most engaging on their site.   And to speak to women who are looking for love, we created a digital series in partnership with Cosmopolitan and Kristin Cavallari , where dating and beauty advice were provided and engaging stories were shared.   We also created a “Dream Wedding” with Brides magazine, asking consumers to help us plan a special wedding for a very deserving couple.  Most recently, we launched the viral video “Love Test,” which empowers women to leverage a simple daily beauty ritual to choose love and improve their love lives.

Drew: “Love is On” also includes a charitable component the Million Dollar Challenge.  Can you talk about the thinking behind having a charitable component and how that is working thus far?

We were looking for a different, more innovative and modern way of fundraising and felt the new philanthropic platform of an online fundraising challenge to be attractive for two reasons: it allows us to give more directly to charities, and thereby contributing more funds, and it also allows us to expand our charitable reach beyond people located in just NY or LA.  And we did just that: charities from all over the country got involved—in a major way—and it was really exciting watching them embrace the spirit of competition, right down to the last few minutes!  The women’s health charities raised $2.75 million, with Revlon donating an additional $1.425 million over the course of the challenge for a total distribution of $4.18 million.

Drew: And of course, “Love is On” has a social component featuring Instagram pictures of lovers. Can you talk about the role social media plays in your overall strategy and how it is working so far?  Any surprises?

Social media – across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – has played an integral role in engaging our consumers with the LOVE IS ON messaging. We asked consumers to “Show us how you love #loveison” and the surprise has been the overwhelming response. Consumers have engaged with us in droves – we have received over 5MM submissions using the hashtag from consumers around the world. We have been able to push that content back out on our social platforms, as well as onto our billboard in Times Square.

Drew: “Love is On” is also the name of new fragrance. Was that always the plan to have a fragrance with the same name as your marketing campaign?Also I understand that you are targeting travel retail with this product — did that necessitate a new approach to either your marketing or your content?

Yes, naming our first fragrance in over 10 years after our brand mission, LOVE IS ON, was always the plan. You see, LOVE IS ON is not just a marketing campaign – it’s a mission, a movement and it’s in everything we do.  Therefore, it only made sense for us the name to continue the message in our latest fragrance.  Formulated to inspire love and intimacy, LOVE IS ON is the fragrance that is loved by women, and irresistible to men.  And we are excited to offer LOVE IS ON eau de toilette in not only travel retail but across all of our usual channels.

Drilling into Content Marketing with Hu-Friedy CMO Patrick Bernardi

11/29/15

PBHeadShot (1)Hu-Friedy is a mouthful of a brand name which may or may not have been on the mind of Hugo Friedman when he founded his dental instrument company back in 1908. More than a century later, Hu-Friedy is a global leader in its category and yet, quite remarkably still completes 80% of the manufacturing process by hand.  According to their website, “they meticulously mold, treat, and sharpen instruments to perfection, which is why we call them artisans.”  And while their dedication to craftsmanship may be old school, their marketing is anything but.

Led by CMO Patrick Bernardi, Hu-Friedy has been on the cutting edge for some time now especially in the area of content marketing.  That’s why I was so pleased Patrick could join one of my panels at Incite’s Content Marketing Summit AND that The CMO Club recognized him with their Content Engagement Award.  Our interview below is definitely something you can sink your teeth into, helping to flesh out these bite-sized nuggets of content marketing wisdom:

  • Take a campaign approach;
  • Empathize with your target;
  • Measure more than leads & sales generated;
  • Get your employees involved;
  • Keep it simple, smiley!

Drew: What was your overall content strategy in 2015? What role does it play in your marketing mix?  

Hu-Friedy casts a wide net in terms of the functional areas of dentistry we play in, so to support our broad portfolio, we have instituted a content calendar format that we like to call the “Thud Factor.” Our approach here is that during each quarter we focus on a specific area of our business, anchor it with a significant piece of content and execute a series of integrated campaign elements to drive maximum impact.

Hu-Friedy is a world leader in dental products and instrument manufacturing, and while our brand has a tremendous amount of affinity, the fact that we sell through distribution presents certain challenges in terms of developing direct relationships with our customers. We have fantastic distribution partners, and they support us extremely well, but it really is our job to drive demand for our products. So, we have been working on getting closer to our customers over the last few years by improving our web site experience, our social media platforms, and this year we really focused on delivering utility by creating and distributing value-add content. And in terms of the marketing mix, content plays a vital role, as it is a critical part of our overall inbound marketing strategy.

Drew: What motivated you to launch the #ShowUsYourPurple campaign? Has it been successful?

Hu-Friedy has many different product lines and customer segments, but a group that has always been near and dear to our hearts are Dental Hygienists. Think about the experience you have with your own dental hygienist when you go to the dentist. Can you describe that person’s personality? What is so interesting is that these folks are all kind of described the same way. Friendly, gentle, smart, caring, fun, passionate…the list goes on. At Hu-Friedy we feel that the Dental Hygienist is really the heart of the dental practice and should be celebrated for all they do. So, that is why we created the #ShowUsYourPurple campaign – to express our gratitude and to deliver a rallying cry for this special group to celebrate one another. And it has been very successful, as we’ve had more social sharing and engagement tied back to this campaign than anything else we have done this year.

Drew: How do you measure the success of your content efforts? 

We measure success in a number of ways. First, as we are trying develop stronger and more direct relationships with our customers, data collection is very important. It has been gratifying to see how many new emails we have been able to collect this year based on engagement actions like ebook digital asset downloads and email newsletter registrations. The other success metric we look at is new members added to our online dental hygiene community, Friends of Hu-Friedy – www.friendsofhu-friedy.com

We have over 40,000 dental hygienists as members and our content marketing efforts are designed to deliver information to this group so that they can perform at their best clinically, in addition to how they can take care of their overall health to ensure career longevity.

Drew: So many brands have started cranking out content. How do you make sure your content really stands out from the pack? Is there such a thing as too much content?

Not sure if there is such a thing as too much content, but for sure there is such a thing as poor content. Any maybe that is really the issue, because I am a firm believer in quality over quantity as it relates to content. I say that because I know from personal experience that the second a brand “jumps the shark” by delivering content that is not relevant or valuable, then I will be more judicious in my engagement going forward. There is nothing worse than being hooked by a subject line like “the top ten things a marketer should never do,” and the come to realize the content is of limited value. So, at Hu-Friedy we ask a lot of questions to customers which informs our content creation. We also do our homework on industry trends. For example, general practice dentists are doing more and more specialty procedures themselves instead of referring those cases out. To address that trend, we developed an eBook designed specifically to deliver education on this topic.

Drew: On the topic of championing your employees, let’s talk about your Apprenticeship Program – Hu-Friedy University. This idea of taking training back to a fundamental level and creating ‘apprentices’ out of your best employees is a huge internal investment on the part of the company. What have been some of the outcomes of this project so far? With such a long-sided vision of success, how do you project that this will prepare your newest team members for future challenges?

One thing that maybe we should have realized, but didn’t, is the amount of pride this program generated internally – especially when the story got picked-up the Wall Street Journal and leading dental publications. Externally, it has played an important role in our employee recruitment efforts. But more than anything, it is an example of a brand really walking-the-walk to ensure that its’s value proposition continues well into the future. Long term, the art of instrument making is being passed to the next generation, who will then ensure that the craftsmanship of our instruments, and the high-quality reputation that our artisans have made legendary, will continue on for years to come.

Drew: Where does content rank in your marketing priorities and why?

It ranks as a very top priority. The bottom line is this – relationships are the vehicle for brand advocacy and that vehicle requires fuel in the form of value-add content, loyalty experiences and simple ways to engage with our brand.

Drew: Looking ahead to 2016, what is the single biggest challenge that you’d like to overcome? 

Simplifying customer experiences. I am inspired here by the point of view of Margaret Malloy, who is the Global CMO for Siegel+Gale. She has stated that winning brands consistently deliver clear, useful and beautiful experiences for their customers. At the heart of this lies the concept of simplicity. An ambitious goal for sure, but one that is no longer optional for brands who want great relationships with their customers.

Happy Employees = Happy Customers

11/23/15

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Sometimes a single blog post can’t span the breadth of what I’ve learned from a particular CMO.  This is definitely the case with Steven Handmaker, CMO at Assurance, winner of The CMO Club Leadership Award who also joined me for the opening panel at Incite’s Content Marketing Summit.  While the interview below focuses on his approach to leadership, it doesn’t cover what I subsequently learned about his approach to content and the highly effective marketing campaign he helped initiate for Assurance.  So allow me to address that first.

Knowing how hard it is to differentiate insurance companies and the products they sell, Assurance decided to focus attention on its “quirky culture” thus putting employees front and center. With its campaign, “Happy Employees = Happy Customers,” Assurance not only found a source of highly distinctive content but also they tapped into a wellspring of goodwill both internally and externally.  Assurance does many professionally-focused things to engendered this goodwill (i.e. training seminars & a “university” ) along with many just plain fun things like an employee Olympics, a casino night and sending digital high fives to top performers. These activities have catapulted Assurance to be among the top 5 places to work in Chicago and just as importantly, helped Assurance outperform many of its rivals.  And frankly, that’s what I call leadership.

Drew: How would you describe / or how have others described your leadership style? 

In terms of leadership style, I’m always aiming for inspirational.  I work hard to have those I lead understand our ultimate vision and allow them the freedom and flexibility to use their talents to help us get there.  Beyond inspiration, I’m a big believer in consistently showing appreciation.

Drew: Do you have any role models that you’ve admired over the years and if so, what did you pick up from him/her?  

Personally, I worship at the altar of Bruce Springsteen. I mean, he is the ultimate Boss.I never miss a concert. Seen him in multiple cities, seen him in multiple continents — I am one of those. I could write a book (and may one day) on why he’s a great leadership role model for business. But for the purpose of this interview, let’s just say he’s a master storyteller, first and foremost, with legendary desire to connect with his audience.  Something to which all marketers should aspire.

Drew: Can you talk about some of the actions you took as a leader in the last couple of years that were particularly challenging?

I work for an insurance brokerage whose primary business is B2B.  When it comes to marketing technology, our industry is woefully behind the times.  I’ve installed a state-of-the-art Eloqua automation system and have established an engaged audience of prospects and clients, rich with data.  The challenging part is partnering with our sales people who are already tops in our industry, and convincing them to incorporate this new technology in to their process for even greater results.  I’d say this work in continually ongoing.

Drew: How important is your peer to peer network to your on-going success?  What are the biggest benefits of having a peer network?

Peer-to-peer for me has been invaluable.  I’ve learned (stolen) so much from marketing leaders, particularly in other industries, which I’ve been able to take back and apply in my own environment.  As I’ve said, nearly every industry is further along than insurance brokers – so it’s not too difficult to identify some amazing things we should have probably been doing 4 years ago.

Drew: What’s the best advice you’ve been given to guide personal / career success? 

Anybody can follow a job description, do exactly what is asked, and produce positive results.  If you really want to get noticed, if you really want to get ahead in your career, you need to ask yourself what else could you be doing that isn’t in your job description.  What else should you just do to help those around you and the company succeed.  Do that, and success will follow.  If you apply this ideology to your personal life as well, you can expect the same results.

Drew: Looking ahead to 2016, what is the single biggest challenge that you’d like to overcome?

My own marketing team is growing and I’ve got some amazing talent I’d love to spend more time working closely with and nurturing. However, time management is something that ebbs and flows for me.  Lately I’ve been ebbing and I’ve got to get my flow back!

Wilson Scores with Content Marketing

11/22/15

Content marketing is one of those things that is easy to talk about yet extremely hard to get right.  It’s not enough to have a clear strategy although that is essential. It’s not enough to tell compelling stories across a wide range of platforms.  Even with paid media driving views and influencers adding their audiences, there is no guarantee that your content program will take off right from the start.

These realities were front and center at Incite’s Content Marketing Summit in Chicago a couple of weeks ago.  While there, I had the pleasure of kicking the first day off with some historical perspective on the use of content as a marketing tool (i.e. 1900: Michelin Guide; 1955 Guinness Book of World Records) and moderating three panels, including the opening keynote with Charlie Breit (SurePayroll), Steven Handmaker (Assurance), Jeff Pundyk (The Economist) and Amy Weisenbach (Wilson).  I’ve already posted my interview with Charlie and the others are forthcoming, including my refreshingly honest conversation with Amy that follows.

Amy_Wilson_headshotAs VP of Marketing at Wilson Sporting Goods, Amy is the force behind Wilson’s first ever cross-brand campaign that includes lots of branded and user generated content.  And though the campaign has exceeded expectations, generating strong engagement rates and significant brand lift, Amy is the first to admit that they are on a steep learning curve. For example, it turned out that it was much harder to get consumers to submit videos than photos. They also learned that when working with influential video creators, it’s probably better to let them go off and create their own content rather than offering them a particular story line. All I know as a tennis fan is that it sure doesn’t hurt when you can get the likes of Serena Williams and Roger Federer to help tell your brand’s story.  Read on.

Drew: How important is content marketing in your overall marketing mix? 

Content is critical to how we build passion for the Wilson brand among our core consumers: avid youth athletes.  Young people are consuming an extraordinary amount of digital content each day, and if we want to be relevant and top of mind with them we have to be in the mix of what they’re consuming.  We have a ton of great stories to tell and interesting assets we can leverage — from our pro athletes and league affiliations to intriguing product development stories from our  Wilson Labs, the innovation hub at Wilson.  We’re luckily in a category that’s important to our consumers’ identities and are among the kind of content they want to consume.  In terms of our marketing mix, most of it is what I’d call “content” – some is more heavily branded and from the Wilson brand voice, but we’re increasingly developing content that feels more organic and soliciting content from our athletes and consumers themselves.

Drew: What role or roles does it play and are there types of content that you are you finding particularly effective?

We’re continually learning the best ways to package our stories and engage our audience.  We’re experimenting with everything from Wilson Advisory Staff Member takeovers on Snapchat to documentary storytelling to blog-like content to soliciting UGC.  We’re definitely in test and learn mode, but early findings suggest the obvious which is that more visual stories get higher engagement.

Drew: Tell me about #MyWilson.  What was the strategy behind this program?

We created the My Wilson campaign to create a conversation amongst youth athletes – across a wide range of sports — about the role their equipment plays in their lives and in the pursuit of their personal ambitions in the sport they love to play.   It’s a 360-degree marketing effort, with a heavy emphasis on social and digital media. At the heart of the campaign is a video, called Nothing Without It, that features amateur athletes alongside some of the world’s best professional athletes recounting the ups and downs of their journeys.  The video features pros like Serena Williams and Dustin Pedroia as well as amateur youth athletes side-by-side.  We also invited youth athletes to add themselves to the video by sharing a clip tagged #MyWilson. To incentivize participation, we pledged to donate sports equipment for every clip shared up to $250,000.

Drew: How did you bring this program to life?  How did people find out about it?

We launched the My Wilson campaign amidst one of the biggest weeks of the year across all of our sports: during the US Open, the kickoff of the NFL season, the AVP Championshipsweekend and the MLB pennant were just underway.  We kicked it off by engaging all 10,000 members of our Wilson Advisory Staff made up of pro athletes and coaches from around the world.  They posted personal stories about what their Wilson equipment means to them and encouraged youth athletes to add their own stories to the conversation.  We also supported the campaign with paid media, including TV and digital video as well as some home page takeovers on key youth sports sites like MaxPreps.com and Stack.com.

Drew: How has it worked out?

The campaign has performed really well to date.  We’re seeing very high video completion rates and many of our social posts related to the campaign have garnered some of the highest engagement rates of anything we’ve ever posted.  It’s been incredibly rewarding to see and hear the stories our youth athletes have to tell and how Wilson plays a part in their journeys. The most exciting results have come from a brand lift study we conducted where we’re seeing double-digit lifts in key brand health metrics like “for me” and “is a brand I talk about.”

Drew: Was it tricky implementing a program like this over a wide range of sports – did you have to make adjustments as you moved sport to sport?

Each of our sports has its own culture and a slightly different tone of voice; that uniqueness is critical to engaging authentically with youth in each specific sport.  So as you can imagine, it was challenging to get all of our individual sport marketing teams to coordinate on approach, content and timing. Believe it or not, I think this was the first time we used a common look for our social skins and avatars. In the end it was worth the extra time and effort because it helped us take a huge step forward in presenting ourselves to consumers as one brand.

Drew: What are some of the major lessons learned when it comes to driving (user generated) content programs like #MyWilson?

Our baseball team has a long-running social photo contest called “Wilson Wednesday” where consumers submit photos of their glove for a chance to win a prize.  We learned through that promotion that it takes a while to get consumers over the hump to submit photos and even there we’ve had limited success with getting consumers to submit videos.  Given that, we decided to lean on a content partner, Whistle Sports, to help solicit user generated content for the My Wilson campaign.  Whistle Sports’ community readily garners and shares UGC content and so when they asked for videos on our behalf, UGC content began flowing in.  As we suspected, we saw a limited number of consumers willing to create and submit content directly through our channels.  Photos a little more, but very few videos.  Moving forward we will be looking for ways to build a stronger two-way conversation with our audience so they are primed when we’re ready to turn on a UGC-based initiative.

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