Advertising Week: Joining The Social Conversation With Memes

Memes are more than a lo-res picture with words—they are community level conversations. In an Advertising Week session called “Memeology 101: The New Language of Cultural Ideas,” Reddit’s head of brand strategy Joe Federer explained why memes work, how brands should utilize them for effective marketing . . . and when they shouldn’t.

Like genes, Federer explained, memes replicate themselves with small personal changes. The format stays the same, but someone adds their own twist and repeats the process.

To varying degrees brands have tried to incorporate memes into their marketing campaigns, Wendy’s twitter stands out as a highlight while there have been many more attempts from brands that didn’t quite work.

To uses memes as a marketing strategy, brands must first understand why they work. The movie Office Space is a “meme machine”—something that generates memes about the work environment. Still, people may not sit down and watch the entire movie just to get a quote you want to share. When you take a screenshot, however, you take the same idea and deliver it into a bite-sized conversation.

“The meme machine is as important as the meme itself,” said Federer.

Brands that want to use memes as part of a marketing strategy risk being perceived as an older person trying to look cool. In fact, there is an entire group on Reddit devoted to this idea called r/fellowkids, named after a scene in the show 30 Rock in which Steve Buscemi tried to pass as a kid in a high school.

Don’t let this intimidate you, however. Federer said that failure is part of the process. He told the audience about a campaign he worked on with water purifying company, Brita, that used self-depreciating humor to reach Redditor users. The brand went so far as to recreate the “How do you do, fellow kids?” meme with a 55-year-old member of their team.

In the case of Brita, the campaign was successful because it stayed true to the format and message of the original joke.

“When you jump on a meme, don’t dismantle it to serve your needs,” warned Maria Vorovich, fellow panelist and strategy director at Grey. She added that you can have a brilliant meme living side by side with cinematic marketing like matching luggage. Vorovich also stressed the importance of being agile in the social space. The meme space is constantly in flux, so jumping on a meme too late won’t have the desired effect.

“Make sure you have a place in the conversation,” she said. And, if you don’t, that’s okay. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge that it’s not right for you or a client’s brand.
At the request of an audience member, Federer and Vorovich offered three pieces of advice on how to successfully use memes in marketing.

The answers were:
1. You don’t have to create from scratch. Go ahead and hijack an existing meme.
2. You can learn from commonality looking at meme story history. Understand what the meme is saying and how it got there.
3. Surprise people with something they don’t expect. If it feels familiar, take a different approach.

Sony Partnership Lets Viewers Shop Directly From Smart TVs

Sony smart TV viewers can now use their remote control, mobile device or voice commands to interact and purchase directly from the television.

Sony has partnered with Connekt to add t-commerce to its smart TVs and Blu-ray disc players. Viewers can shop products from “hundreds” of brands and retailers that include Macy’s, Best Buy and Fanatics, directly from the ShopTV app located in their smart TV’s app store. In the future, this partnership will expand to allow purchasing directly from a show broadcast and enable voice commands.

Unlike traditional commercials or banner ads, t-commerce (shopping through a smart TV) allows brands to reach audiences while they are already engaged.

According to Nielsen, a third of homes in the US own at least one internet-enabled TV. Homes with connected-TV devices skew younger (more than half are under the age of 45), more affluent and are more likely to have children. Adding T-Commerce to a smart TV would grant advertisers access to millions of homes without having to pick up a second device.

A recently published report by Connekt states that over 75 percent of consumers would buy products directly from their TV if given the opportunity. Of those, over 70 percent were interested in using their voice to purchase products through the television.

Since the launch of its ShopTV app, Connekt has partnered with LG, Sony, Hisense, Verizon and Roku, with plans to compile its own consumer data research. The brand partnered with Verance earlier this year to develop enhanced ads.

Other tech brands are investing in the idea of shopping directly from a TV screen. Samsung, for example, has been testing the t-commerce waters since October with its Checkout shopping portal. In Portugal, smart TV viewers can order sushi, pizza and wine through their screens, thanks to a partnership with local cloud-based platform yubuy.

Advertising Week: Storytelling In A Culture Shaped By Consumers

“Storytelling” has seemingly always been a buzzword in the marketing industry, but what does that entail? During Advertising Week, five top marketers explained how they tackle storytelling without sacrificing authenticity.

During a session called “Wired Brand Storytelling,” Viacom Velocity CMO Dario Spina mentioned a study recently commissioned by his company called the Study of Cultural Proximity. The findings, that brands and consumers are acting more alike, was relevant in that storytelling shapes our culture.

“What we found is that in generations past, culture was a top-down driven process. Big companies, news organizations, sports entities were spewing content down to the masses and it was hard for us regular people to take part in the conversation. Now we see with the advent of the internet and social media that us regular folks actually have a hand in shaping culture.”

One of the speakers not only helps shape pop culture but is a prominent member of it.

Stephanie McMahon is the chief brand officer of WWE but as the daughter of Vince McMahon, her path to marketing started out different than most. From modeling merchandise as a child to answering the phones, McMahon worked her way up through the company to the creative writing team, where she was unexpectedly promoted after just two weeks. Today, she works behind the scenes but also in front, playing a villain during matches.

McMahon explained that WWE is driven by stories and character engagement.

Your audience or consumer will tell you what they want, you just have to listen. McMahon explained the example of #GiveDivasAChance. In 2015, female wrestlers—called Divas—were treated as secondary characters compared to male WWE superstars. The hashtag called for better storylines, more athleticism and generally more prominently featured. WWE responded by rebranding Divas to Women’s Division and calling the athletes Superstars alongside the men.

Trade Desk, an ad-tech company, recently used social engagement to begin a conversation around digital advertising. The company took out a full-page print ad in the New York Times saying, “Possibly the worst ad we’ll ever run.” The ad was designed to be provocative not only to marketers but to consumers. It worked.

“It had a lot of digital and social traction,” said Susan Vobejda, CMO for The Trade Desk, adding that print will always be a part of consumers’ lives. “There were people defending print. It was a very interesting moment.”

Overall, the message of this session was to listen to your audience and be ready to communicate—and when you’re not being a part of social conversations, start one. The beautiful thing about storytelling is that there’s no one way to do it effectively. Whether it’s through content marketing or starting a little controversy, storytelling has and continues to be a cornerstone of today’s marketing strategy.

Getty Images CMO Gene Foca: ‘It’s About The Consistency Of The Entire Customer Journey’

Marketing campaigns come and go, but the fundamentals of building a brand remain the same, says Gene Foca, CMO of Getty Images. Foca’s career spans over 20 years, providing marketing expertise to brands like TIME and Amazon. Although aside from the new array of digital channels, he told AList, not much has changed.

Please explain your job in the context of Getty Images.

I oversee the entire marketing and communications function for Getty Images globally. The goal is to be the senior expert and adviser on developing marketing strategy and tactics in a way that will represent the brand, the people who support the brand and our content creators with integrity. I also drive performance with a real return on investment. We’re very focused on ROI for our marketing dollar.

How has the nature of your work changed in the last five years?

I don’t think it has changed significantly in the last five years and here’s what I mean by that. I grew up in a discipline of performance marketing. If you go back to the 70s and 80s, there were companies in the marketing world like American Express and HBO that did direct marketing and performance better than everyone else. There was always a focus on using marketing to get a customer, retain a customer and measure lifetime value. When branding, it was always done in the context of the entire customer journey as opposed to branding for the sake of branding.

I think what has changed more dramatically over the past five years that more and more of the business world has come to look at marketing with a critical eye. They want more ROI. They want more of the focus in the marketing world to be driving performance, new customers and the retention of current customers. Building a brand is entirely about the consistency of the entire customer journey over a long period of time and making sure the components of marketing fit with that vision of what the customer journey should be without exception.

I think that if there is something that has continued to evolve, it is a clear understanding that building a brand is not about the success of a single marketing campaign. It’s about the consistency of the entire customer journey.

What is the marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?

The questions of 30 years ago were actually the same as the questions of today. Understanding the marketing mix and the attribution those dollars to sales and revenue is still the dominant overarching topic for most CMOs.

Also, the business model dictates the marketing plan, not the other way around. Whether a company owns its distribution channels or not really helps define what a typical marketing mix should be. Those questions have always been present.

How important is personalization to your work?

Personalization, depending on how you define it, is very important to our marketing channel on a number of levels. In paid search and paid social, you don’t have endless real estate to be able to target, provoke a reaction and get someone to actually do something. You’re always trying to personalize and appeal to a target audience or segment of your customer base with a message that will resonate with them by virtue of data information.

It always goes back to the same thing—understanding your value proposition as an organization but then looking across your set of benefits and toolkit, then understanding what’s important to different segments of customer base and making sure that you emphasize and appeal to those things so you fill their needs. It always starts from the customer and you work backward from there.

At Advertising Week? Gene Foca will be participating in AList’s panel, THE REBOUND: Recovering From Failure on October 2, at 10:20 am.