|A timeless fashion icon will finally get the digital makeover she deserves. This summer, one of the most iconic figures in American history will debut a revamped social media presence targeting the next generation of Americans. Yes, it’s official: Barbie is the latest breakout Instagram star.
In June, toy maker Mattel rolled out a new Barbie “Fashionistas” line, which features 23 new dolls with eight skin tones, 22 hairstyles, and 23 hair colors. The campaign is an attempt to make Barbie more culturally diverse for the 21st century.
The company has already introduced a new wave of television ads, the medium where most of Barbie’s advertising budget has been spent in the past. Starting this June, Mattel is also updating the toy’s social marketing strategies to re-brand her for modern kids. A Barbie style-focused profile on Instagram has already collected more than 815,000 followers, who share photos of the doll doing yoga and wearing new outfits.
In just the last two years, the number of marketers who say that Facebook is either “critical” or “important” to their social marketing strategies has surged 83%. In addition, YouTube is the most common “fave” media outlet among young people between the ages of eight and 11, and so Mattel has hired YouTube “influencers” to promote the new Barbie line.
Social media experts define influencers as social media users with massive followings, especially among young people, and who often act as digital trend setters. They also monetize their social media presence by serving as brand partners for companies eager to connect with younger consumers, like Mattel hopes to do with Barbie.
“Using YouTube influencers to get girls to connect in the space of fashion and style was a great addition to how we’re talking to girls,” said Evelyn Mazzocco, Senior Vice President and Global Brand Manager for Barbie.
Mazzocco hopes the new Barbie campaign will “empower girls” to express themselves, and of course, sell more toys. In 2014, Barbie lost her spot as the #1 most popular toy for girls to a powerful newcomer in the industry — “Frozen” toys and dolls.
|When marketers advise businesses on how to spend their money, they look at statistics on effectiveness in order to tell businesses which marketing channels yield sales. However, one commonly used principle may be undermining the value of those statistics — and the decisions based off of them.
The principle itself is called last-click attribution, and it’s used to describe the belief that the final interaction a customer has with a brand before taking the desired action (becoming a client, buying a product, signing up for a list, etc.) is the most effective one.
In a recent article for industry site Internet Retailer, Robert Glazer uses the analogy of a soccer goal to describe last-click attribution. The principle would award credit only to the player who actually makes a goal in a soccer match, instead of the players who stole the ball from the other team, moved it downfield, and defended it from interception.
When marketing decisions are made based on the same type of reasoning, it can lead to some serious errors in the assessment of certain marketing channels. “Last-click attribution does not account for the entirety of the marketing budget that included brand building, email campaigns, and any number of other interactions with prospective customers,” Russell Ratshin explained in a Feb. 12 Forbes article.
The same problem presents itself when print marketing is thrown into the mix.
For example, a person might see an advertising banner or receive a direct mailer but search the company’s website online before making a purchase. Last-click attribution would give the credit for the resulting sale to search engine marketing, artificially inflating the importance of that method while discounting all the branding and marketing work done through other channels up to that point.
“Print advertising is an important part of company’s branding, but the direct results can be difficult to measure,” said Adam Sturm, president of Apple Visual Graphics. “We recommend that any print campaign have clear goals and an easy way to measure the results. For example, if you’re company is doing a direct mail campaign we would like to see a code on the mailer that the customer would use to get a discount upon checkout.”
In this strategy, marketers track not only the interactions that lead to sales, but instead map all the interactions each customer has had with a brand. As Ratshin explains, multi-channel methods use analyses to track sequences of many actions in order to establish a fuller idea of the relationship between a consumer and a business.
There are, of course, channels that are difficult to account for in this model. If someone sees a Nikon product placement in a film and then buys a Nikon online, the first part of that interaction will probably be missed. But the overall picture is still more nuanced than one that would be produced by a last-click analysis.
Marketers intimidated by the more in-depth process probably aren’t alone. But there’s no way around it if marketing data is to better reflect the way various channels actually impact outcomes. “If that sounds complex,” Ratshin sums up, “well, so is life.”
|Upon his return to television, comedian John Oliver wasted no time taking aim at pharmaceutical companies’ spending practices. Nine out of the 10 largest pharmaceutical companies spend more money on marketing than they do on research and development. Only Roche had higher investments in its research and development department than in marketing.
According to Oliver, most of the marketing targets physicians, with companies spending $3 billion marketing to customers and $24 billion marketing to doctors and other medical professionals. Some companies have even been paying physicians to prescribe their products for problems they have not been approved to treat. In 2010, AstraZeneca agreed to pay $520 million as settlement amid allegations that they had been paying doctors to prescribe the schizophrenia medication Seroquel for unapproved uses. AstraZeneca was also accused of misleading consumers by hiding unfavorable research and emphasizing favorable results.
Some of the ways that pharmaceutical companies market their products to physicians is by buying them lunch, offering them well-paid speaking opportunities, and having their peers discuss the products with them. Doctors that are asked to discuss products are given materials and information by the manufacturer, then pass that information on to other doctors. Others are asked to speak at conferences about the product and its benefits.
Last fall, the Open Payments database was launched in an attempt to grant patients access to information about how much pharmaceutical companies were spending on marketing, research, consulting, and other hospital services. Unfortunately, many doctors disputed results, and so were not counted. The website containing the Open Payments database is also poorly maintained and plagued by glitches.
Oliver went on to finish his set with a parody commercial, discussing the side effects of receiving money from pharmaceutical companies, including “chronic overprescription, unusually heavy cash flow, dependency on free samples,” and “inflammation of confidence.” If Oliver’s past discussions of issues such as net neutrality and civil forfeiture laws are any indication, it won’t be long before viewers start asking their doctors for some answers.
|Native advertising has been a staple on the internet for some time, but now advertisers can even look to print to distribute branded information that blends in with editorial content.
On Nov. 19, the New York Times unveiled an eight-page section of native ads for Shell titled “Cities Energized: The Urban Transition,” which illustrates the link between smart urban design and energy efficiency. The section appears online in the paper’s digital edition, as well.
The “advertorial” comes wrapped around the paper’s home-delivered copies (or around the business section for newsstand copies). The top sheet of the section is opaque vellum, so users can flip back and forth between the infographic on the cover and one underneath it on newsprint to see figures on urbanization throughout the world.
The print ads also feature “augmented reality” pages: readers can use the Blippar app to watch a video when they hold their smartphones over the page.
The goal of this particular campaign was to establish Shell as an expert on energy, with as few mentions of the company as possible.
The placement of Shell’s native advertising sparked debate among readers and analysts at Digiday, where the site noted that although native ads have “largely been an online phenomenon,” they’ve been slow to come to print. The Times, they say, have been sensitive to criticism of native advertising as “trying to truck the reader into thinking it’s editorial content.”
But Meredith Levien, executive vice president of advertising at the New York Times , defended the spread, saying that until now, previous native ad ideas never came to fruition because they weren’t worth the amount of space they would take up.
Levien told Digiday, “We wanted to do branded content at the highest level possible to capture the reader’s attention in a manner that’s befitting the Times.”
The ad was created by the New York Times ‘ in-house native ad production team T Brand Studio, in conjunction with Shell’s media agency MediaCom. The Shell native ad took about three months to complete.
“This type of campaign has a ton of upswing and we’ll see more and more like it,” comments Scott Trueblood, President of BrandVision Marketing, a full-service marketing agency. “There’s always going to be the concern of appearing too editorial and upsetting readers when they realize that they have been reading ad content. Shell was wise to minimize their company mentions in the piece and to just let the content do the selling for them. That subtle approach to a sales pitch is far more embraced by a reader who is caught up in the content of an article.”
Although a total price for the advertisement was not listed by either company, the New York Times‘s charge for content creation is estimated at a minimum of $200,000 alone.
The Shell ad arrives at a time when print advertising is on the decline for some publishers. Time Inc. announced earlier this month that the company had lowered its yearly revenue forecast due to a weaker-than-expected print ad sales from a $3.3 billion to $3.37 billion projection in August to a $3.27 billion to $3.3 billion projection now.
“The multi-media approach with the use of the app is also an instant winner for print users,” states Trueblood. “It creates layers of touch-points for the consumer and a great way to absorb information across platforms.”
|The conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which has raged for the past several months, has confused many observers around the world due to the lack of reliable information. As Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the area, it has fallen to a small number of Ukrainians and foreign citizens living in the region to fill in the gaps with their own coverage. One such source, a website called Lugansk News Today, has even managed to outrank one of Russia’s major news sites in Google searches for his hometown. And the website’s one-man staff accomplished this simply through effective SEO.Because of the popularity of the Russian language throughout many areas in Eastern Europe, including East Ukraine and Crimea, an overwhelming number of bloggers who reside in these countries post in Russian. Official Ukrainian print sources, such as newspapers and magazines, also write in Russian. For this reason, it isn’t surprising that Google searches in the Ukraine are geared towards russophones: according to Google Analytics, less than 30% of the search engine queries were in the area’s native tongue, even in the country’s most heavily Ukrainian-speaking region. In the Donetsk region, the most populated province, it was as low as 1.6%.
While some might see this as disheartening, one anonymous Ukrainian blogger has found a way to use it to his advantage: after his Twitter account, which documented a number of conflicts in the eastern city of Lugansk, amassed 13,000 followers, he began a news website to further document the region’s problems. However, instead of writing in Russian or Ukrainian, the blogger chose to write in an even more international language: English. His intention was to knock the Russian government’s English-language news service, Russia Today, off of the first page of Google’s search results.
So far, his efforts have been reasonably successful: he posts articles on Lugansk News Today, as well as the website’s Facebook and Twitter pages, and says that all of the sources are placed on the first page of results. By ensuring that his results regularly make it into the top five spaces, modern web-surfing habits ensure that he has a virtual monopoly on news about Lugansk (alternately Luhansk). Though he calls his success modest, the blogger says that Lugansk News Today represents his personal battle against Russian propaganda and big industry.
However, given that the website is run by a single writer, his SEO success is far from humble: thousands of individuals and companies around the world try consistently to achieve similar results, often hiring SEO marketing agencies to make the goal possible.
“This incident demonstrates that, with enough effort, you can achieve visibility on the web no matter what. This gives hope to the small businesses and independent marketers out there because if this guy can go against a massive, controlling government, then they can certainly compete against an industry competitor,” says Derek Bryan, Content Marketing Manager at Quez Media.
Lugansk News Today and its Twitter and Facebook pages typically cover the actions of pro-Russian terrorists in the city, who have reportedly kidnapped and tortured a number of the blogger’s friends, who are Ukrainian revolutionaries. On June 13, the blogger himself was forced to flee Lugansk after learning that two activists, including one of his close friends, had been kidnapped by men with Kalashnikov rifles. He has since started another news site, Ukraine Right Now, which aims to cover similar topics across the whole country, but says he is unsure if he has the resources or time to run the project.
|Which print, digital and mobile marketing techniques are still relevant in today’s fast-paced, ever-changing marketing world? Marketing professionals spend most of their time trying to find an answer to that question. But the Incite Summit, a conference held in Manhattan last week, encouraged attendees to think about marketing relevance in new ways.“The question you have to wake up every day and ask yourself is ‘Am I still relevant?’” marketing executive Ash EiDifrawi told the assembled group, emphasizing the importance of ongoing performance review. One day, he said, a marketer might come up with a brilliant idea only to find out the next “that 100 people have your idea and you are irrelevant.”
That’s a scary idea, he said, but it’s the only way to compete in a rapidly changing industry.
Focus on Problems and Solutions
Another speaker, Alex Kaminsky of YP.com (formerly the Yellow Pages), agreed.
“There are a number of tools, most of them sound really great, most of them are really interesting, most of them are trendy, most of them feel sexy and give you some social credit that you know what is going on,” Kaminsky said. However, he continued, “The bottom line is unless you know what problem you are going to solve, you are going to spend your entire day yielding and vetting possibilities, and you are going to turn around and you are going to realize you haven’t done anything.”
The Message, Not the Medium
Kaminsky, who joined YP in 2013, said that the company’s previous blunders illustrate the pitfalls of an assumption that transitioning from print to digital formats automatically updates a brand.
“Don’t think of the platform,” Kaminsky advised. “Think of how the consumer uses the platform; think of how the consumer interfaces with the platform.”
In other words, the principles of good marketing cut across print and digital platforms.
“Print marketing is the best way to leave a visible and tangible impression with your market. Target your audience according to interest,” says Adam Sturm, President of Apple Visual Graphics. “A fully branded pop-up shop may be the best way to leave a lasting impact. We routinely print and install wide-format prints for walls, windows, and floors to fully immerse a customer in the brand.”