An Ice-Cold Marketing Phenomenon with Lessons for Your Next Campaign

August 28th, 2014 by Bill

Rob Shiveley Ice Bucket ChallengeIt’s been the social media sensation of Summer 2014. It’s also a brilliant viral marketing campaign for consciousness raising.

I’m talking about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, of course, where a camera captures your reaction as a bucket of icy cold water is dumped on your head, and is then shared on your favorite social media channel with a challenge to friends or family to do the same—all as a way to increase awareness of ALS.

The Ice Bucket Challenge has been great for expanding knowledge of ALS and boosting charitable donations for the ALS Association (ALSA, www.alsa.org). But I’m not the only professional marketer who has wondered what we can learn from this social media and pop culture phenomenon: In her blog post, Melanie Taylor—a social media strategist at Ogilvy—discusses Five Learnings from the #ALSIceBucketChallenge.

The challenge has gone viral in a remarkably short amount of time—one of the first recorded versions was broadcast on June 30, 2014, on the Golf Channel, according to Wikipedia. In less than two months, the phenomena has circled to globe and earned the participation of celebrities and commoners alike, from Oprah Winfrey to Sarah Palin to the teachers at St. John’s Lutheran School in Lansing, Michigan.

Here at McBru, we even played host to one of our clients as he responded to his own ice bucket challenge.

Ogilvy’s Taylor makes a number of points about how the Ice Bucket Challenge is different from a commercial marketing or branding campaign, but also notes several take-aways that apply “to any brand trying to create a movement.” Several key points:

  • The specific cause matters. The Ice Bucket Challenge didn’t really take off until participants used a call to action, specifically putting the ALS awareness and donation appeal front-and-center of their videos. In fact, there has been intense push-back on social media when ice bucket participants have neglected to mention ALS or ask for donations during their videos.
  • Emotional connection matters. Taylor reminds us that “social media is about storytelling and sharing,” and with a narrative arc that blends a debilitating disease plus friends and celebrities doused in cold water, you have a combo that makes you care and eagerly anticipate your turn to be challenged. Because then you’re part of the story, too. “It’s challenging for brands to reproduce such an emotional experience, but to get this kind of traction, it is essential,” says Taylor.
  • Stunts need time to ramp up. On the one hand, the Ice Bucket Challenge managed to circle the earth in just six weeks. On the other hand, it took six weeks—which would be an eternity if you were a brand marketer and had promised a faster viral timeline to a client. “Most brands don’t employ that level of patience with a program. Instead, they invest in a huge push at launch; and if it doesn’t catch on immediately, it is often deemed a failure,” says Taylor. “True social movements, however, take some time.”
  • When you do the right thing, it resonates. Most of us know someone with ALS, and realize what a devastating disease it is. The Ice Bucket Challenge has taken off because giving money and calling attention to the need for research is, as Taylor notes, “simply the right thing to do. Let’s not forget about it when we move on to the next social media craze.”

Have you taken part in the Ice Bucket Challenge? How did it feel to become personally involved and help propel the cause forward? If you’re a marketer, what lessons have you learned from the campaign? Whether or not you have been doused, donated or are cheering for others, it’s an interesting case study in how to stir interest through a grassroots, organic effort that benefits a worthy cause. And don’t forget to donate to the ALSA!

All About Taylor Long

August 4th, 2014 by Jessica

taylor-longHere at McBru, we like to surround ourselves with peers who are wicked smart. Taylor Long is one of those who we consider ourselves lucky to work with everyday. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Taylor to learn more about her background and her responsibilities here at McBru.

Q: How long have you been with McBru?
Taylor: Since December 2013.

Q: What do you like about working here?
Taylor: I would say my favorite part is working with the people—both coworkers and clients!

Q: What do you find most rewarding about this environment?
Taylor: I take a lot of pride in making sure our Influencer Relations clients get the best coverage possible, especially around product launches. Nothing’s better than seeing a client’s name in print!

Q: What do you find most challenging about agency work?
Taylor: Managing conflicting priorities for clients and working under tight deadlines is a challenge.

Q: How do you overcome those challenges?
Taylor: I make sure to meet with each team lead to confirm the deadline and priority for my projects. Then I use a checklist and calendar to order my tasks by deadline and importance. That way I don’t miss anything when work gets hectic!

Q: What are some of your favorite Portland hot spots?
Taylor: I’m going to throw in a shout out for my sister’s store, Crafty Wonderland! They support Portland’s maker community and always have fun handmade goods from local artists and crafters. [Here, Taylor pauses for a while….she has a long list of favorites and takes a little time to consult her Yelp bookmarks.] OK—for shopping, Betsy and Iya, Miss Meers, and Folly are at the top of the list. I’m super jealous of my coworker’s awesome Betsy and Iya rings.

Q: Favorite food cart?
Taylor: Taco Pedaler…mmmmm!

Q: Top brunch?
Taylor: Broder. Hands down.

Q: Favorite dinner spot?
Taylor: Ava Gene’s!

Q: What else do you really love about Portland?
Taylor: I really like the Hollywood theater, because it supports independent movies and comedians. The fact that it’s biking distance from my house is a bonus. I also love Portland Story Theater! It’s live storytelling for adults—kind of like The Moth. The stories you hear are real—sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and always amazing!

Q: You’re a U of O graduate. Tell me a little about your time there.
Taylor: I began as a business major and quickly realized that was not what I wanted to do. At the time, I was taking journalism classes as electives, and really liked them, so I decided to change my major to journalism. I graduated with a public relations major and minors in communications studies and art administration. My original thought was that I wanted to work in PR/marketing for nonprofits or the arts, so I pursued internships in both those fields. One that I especially loved was at the Hult Center.

Q: What was that like?
Taylor: The Hult Center is a performing arts venue in downtown Eugene. I helped with social media, public relations and email marketing.

Q: What made this internship stand out more than some of the others?
Taylor: It was my first communications internship and the first time that I got to experience what working in PR is like. I decided that it was something I enjoyed and wanted to keep pursuing; It’s what cemented my love of marketing and PR.

I want to make a plug for the U of O Career Center and Public Relations Society of America for giving me guidance on resume writing, job hunting and networking, which are all skills that can be more important than what you’re learning in class. Knowing how and where to network and how to present yourself in a cover letter, resumé, and on LinkedIn helped me get noticed in the crowded Portland job market after graduating.

Q: You started with nonprofit and arts internships; what led you to Tech B2B?
Taylor: The school of Journalism and Communication at U of O runs a program called the “Portland Senior Experience” out of their Portland office. As a student, you apply for the program, and in your final term they place you at an internship in Portland. I was placed at LaCie, a technology company that makes external hard drives. I never in a million years thought I would want to do tech PR, but I kept an open mind and interned there for 6 months and then moved to full time. I was given a lot of responsibility right off the bat, which made me feel valued. As an intern, I got to go to some great trade shows—such as CES—and I helped grow their social media program from little to nothing to running quarterly campaigns with advertising. I also got to develop my press release writing skills. And I took on the role of writing releases that were more B2C focused for cool products like designer hard drives and USB keys!

I was ready to make the next move career-wise, and then someone from McBru reached out via LinkedIn. It was a great fit, so I made the jump!

Q: How do you feel this move is supporting your professional development goals?
Taylor: At McBru, I’m honing my project management skills and diversifying my skill set. I’ve taken part in projects that are unlike anything I’ve worked on before. I’m also learning about client management and strategic thinking. In short, I see a lot of room for professional growth at this company. I’d like to be a manager some day because I love mentoring young professionals. That is a big part of the culture at McBru—everyone is supportive and willing to share his or her experiences and knowledge.

To learn more abut Taylor, and other McBruvians, keep an eye on our blog to see what comes next!

The Comeback of Email Newsletters

July 25th, 2014 by Bill

emailThere’s a communication technology out there that’s growing fast and opening doors for marketers and purveyors of news and information. It’s called email.

But wait? Isn’t email suppose to be all but dead, a relic of the 1990s and dial-up modems? Turns out email newsletters and direct email marketing is undergoing a renaissance, as they have carved out a valuable niche for themselves amid the unending torrents of social media messages and Internet-based news channels.

Email marketing is making a comeback for a number of reasons, says David Carr in the New York Times.  “Newsletters are clicking because readers have grown tired of the endless stream of information on the Internet, and having something finite and recognizable show up in your inbox can impose order on all that chaos.”

With improvements to spam filtering, email now shows up in your inbox largely because you have asked for it – you’ve requested to be included in a mailing list or subscribed to a newsletter. With email, there’s usually some kind of implicit connection with the sender, making it valuable real estate and a good platform for marketers.

Tweet this: #EmailMarketing makes a comeback http://bit.ly/UyXbqJ Targeted newsletters, valuable content finds growing audience

According to Carr, MailChimp, a leading email marketing platform, sends over 400 million emails a day, and is adding more than 10,000 users daily. And a study of 940 global executives found that email newsletters trumped the Internet and mobile apps as a source of news.

Carr quotes Gideon Lichfield, global news editor at Quartz: “Email is dismissed as something old people use. But in the past few years, we have started to see email as a peer to publishing platforms like Twitter, Facebook and the web, one that has its own strengths and weaknesses that we are starting to figure out.”

Of course, the unspoken contract between email publishers and their audience is that publishers are providing valuable and interesting information to their readers, which requires a smart and dynamic content marketing program. But provide that content, and email will deliver readers.

Interested in exploring how email marketing and newsletters can grow your audience and deepen connections with readers? Give us a call.

Can You Beat the Algorithm? Take the Retweet Quiz and Find Out

July 14th, 2014 by Bill

retweetWhat’s it take to get retweeted on Twitter? Three computer scientists decided to find out. They created an algorithm that sorts through flows of social media data to determine which of paired tweets (i.e., “two tweets about the same link sent by the same person”) is more likely to be retweeted. The scientists wanted to find out if certain word patterns, phrase lengths, vocabulary choices and other content variables were predictive for which of two tweets on the same subject by the same writer would be retweeted more often.

After running through some 11,000 pairs of tweets, the algorithm got pretty good at predicting which tweet is more retweetable. Pretty good, but not outstanding. According to the New York Times, the algorithm “can guess which tweet gets retweeted about 67 percent of the time, beating humans, who on average get it right only 61 percent of the time.”
The Times developed a 25-question quiz Can You Tell What Makes a Good Tweet? to measure whether humans can beat big data analytics when it comes to guessing which tweets get retweeted. Take the quiz and see how you perform against the algorithm.

Tweet this: Can you beat an algorithm at picking top retweets? nyti.ms/1pXx7zK via @m_sendhil Take the quiz and find out

So, if an algorithm can predict retweeting patterns, can we use its insights to write better tweets (assuming that retweeted tweets were better, more engagingly written)? Well, not so much.

The study found that asking for what you want is a good strategy: People are very suggestible. Using the words “retweet” and “please” in tweets resulted in more retweets. Using unusual or novel words or phrases also seemed to be predictive of retweeting. However, once you start reusing attention-grabbing language, it quickly becomes less so: “Once an algorithm finds those things that draw attention and starts exploiting them, their value erodes. When few people do something, it catches the eye; when everyone does it, it is ho-hum.”

It seems that longer tweets are more likely to be retweeted than shorter tweets. Of course, given that this is Twitter, you can push length only so far. And don’t start maximizing tweet lengths with the expectation that you’ll automatically get retweeted more often. The upshot is that longer tweets have more content, and more content is more interesting than less content, so content-rich tweets will get retweeted more often. “So the lesson is not ‘make your tweets longer’ but ‘have more content,’ which is far harder to do.”

Turns out that there’s no secret formula for writing tweets that succeed in getting retweeted. Instead, write creatively about interesting content and you’ll get retweeted more often. That may seem apparent, but writing good tweets takes time, wit, and attention to detail to get right. If you want to win at the retweeting game, then you need to bring your A-game.

Let us know how you did on the quiz – and tell us if you have advice on writing tweets that get retweeted.

Love Is Love

June 25th, 2014 by Erica

There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.
-Mother Teresa

* * *

In early 2014, Team McBru was tapped to design a t-shirt to help Oregon United for Marriage raise awareness and support for marriage equality. With our strong local roots and commitment to our community—not to mention our shared values—it was a resounding “YES!” to take on this pro bono work. Our CEO, Kerry McClenahan, had already been quite involved in the cause, spearheading efforts to gather signatures from Portland area creative agency leaders in support of the freedom to marry, and by hosting a fundraising engagement at her home.

cakeThe team had a blast brainstorming unique, clever and inspiring approaches to the t-shirt design. Many great ideas poured out—from rainbow colored wedding cakes, to two Oregon state mascots holding hands (we all loved this one!). The creative process was fun and spirited. The whole agency voted on the 10 or so designs created; it was amazingly hard to choose. We could all see ourselves proudly wearing one or more around town. While the t-shirt contest did not come to fruition as Oregon United campaign had planned, it didn’t matter, because we, and many, many others were thrilled to celebrate the lifting of the same-sex marriage ban in Oregon in May.

Pro bono work is something a lot of businesses, particularly agencies, do. Giving back to the community is the right thing to do. We do it because we love to flex our creative and word-smithing muscles in new ways for meaningful, local causes. Doing it as a team strengthens the bonds between our employees, which is an extra rewarding bonus.

At McBru, we strive to support at least one pro bono or volunteer cause per quarter. In the past we’ve gotten dirty pulling ivy in the Tryon Creek watershed; we’ve cooked and served many dinners for the Transition Project shelters; we’ve help build houses with Habitat for Humanity; and we’ve provided social media and PR strategy brainstorming to the Children’s Cancer Association for their My Music Rx program. And of course, we love to support our friends at the Technology Association of Oregon and its STEM education-focused TAO Foundation.

beavers-love-is-love

Here at McBru, we celebrate all who walk through our doors, and all the doors through which we have the opportunity to walk. It’s our goal to use our talents and passion for tech B2B marketing to make each day a little—or a lot—better for those with whom we work, whether it’s a client or our community. Wouldn’t you all agree it’s a much better world when we seek to give more than we seek to get?

Six Myths of Social Sharing: Infographic

June 19th, 2014 by Bill

For a form of communication barely a decade old, social media has already spun up a remarkable number of myths. Many of these sprang from the channel’s early days, when marketers began to use social media to reach audiences through syndication and amplification of content and brand messages. At the time, few analytics-based best practices existed to guide marketers on the basics, such as what time of day—or day of the week—was best for engaging communities with social media content. Or, which age group is most likely to engage with brand content over social media.

This is how the myths began.

RadiumOne, an enterprise advertising platform, produced a study that focused on online and social media sharing behavior. RadiumOne operates the Po.st social sharing and URL-shortening platform—which generates a lot of data on what people share, how they share, and what kind of sharing is the most effective.

“RadiumOne’s sharing and link shortening platform, Po.st, sees millions of content shares and clicks on branded content each and every day,” writes Rebecca Watson on the RadiumOne blog. “By studying sharing data and trends, we know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to brands and publishers maximizing exposure and referral traffic. Our data team has dug into the sharing trends to dispel some common, but inaccurate, assumptions about how consumers share information on the Internet.”

Tweet this: 6 myths of social media sharing http://bit.ly/ThTV2T via @RadiumOne & @VentureBeat Facts may change how you market

RadiumOne’s findings are presented in a feature article and infographic at VentureBeat. Have a look and discover if your received wisdom about social media sharing is a myth!

Six Myths of Social Sharing Infographic by Po.st

Six Myths of Social Sharing Infographic by RadiumOne

Canada’s New Anti-Spam Law

June 12th, 2014 by Bill

Canadian flagCanada is set to enact a law to protect its citizens from spam and other electronic threats. Called the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), the law makes it illegal to send commercial email to a Canadian consumer without their consent. This has the potential to upend email marketing as we know it not just in Canada but for businesses elsewhere who market to Canadian customers via email.

The legislation touches on all aspects of digital communication, including social media, cellphones and email, by which means a Canadian citizen can receive a Commercial Electronic Message (CEM). As defined by the law, a CEM is any electronic message that “encourages participation in a commercial activity.”

After the law takes effect on July 1, 2014, businesses are required to have “express consent” of a Canadian consumer before sending that person a CEM. In other words, consumers would need to explicitly opt-in to receive promotional emails. In addition, businesses also must maintain complete postal addresses for everyone who has given their express consent to be marketed to.

The CASL also places strict boundaries around how to gain a consumer’s “express consent.” An email asking a recipient to opt-in to a commercial email list is itself considered a CEM, and will be illegal under the law. The maximum fines for breaking the law are C$1 million for individuals and C$10 million for corporations per breach.

At least in Canada, gone are the days of buying email address lists and blasting thousands of recipients with unsolicited emails. If you conduct email marketing campaigns and send emails to customers in Canada, you need to read up on the law and figure out what you will do to comply. Though the law takes effect in July, there is a three-year transition period during which time you can continue to send CEMs to existing customers and gain their express consent to continue receiving your commercial emails.

Tweet this: http://bit.ly/1v5NXQc Canada’s new anti-spam law – Does it impact your e-marketing strategy?

For complete information, go to the Government of Canada’s CASL site. For a quick overview of how the law impacts email marketers, see this article and infographic from our friends at CakeMail.

Would you like to see the U.S. adapt similar anti-spam legislation? Let us know!

What’s Next for Branded Content?

June 3rd, 2014 by Kerry

contentAs proof of the dictum that everything old is new again, the advertorial rises once again as native advertising—branded content that’s designed to look and read like editorial content. But just how effective is native advertising for Tech B2B audiences?

Digiday recently published a couple articles that attempt to answer that question and point to where branded content is headed next.

According to Lucia Moses in her article Hype watch: Does native advertising really perform as well as editorial?, many ad executives claim that, in terms of response rates, “there’s little difference between journalism produced by a brand and by a news outlet.” But Moses points out that there’s not much independent research to back up the claim.

In fact, in a study by Chartbeat (which McBru reported on earlier this spring), readers are able to identify sponsored content, and the more clearly content is identified as native, the lower the response rate: “Chartbeat studied the click-through rates of clearly identified native ads and found them to be between one-tenth and one-third of the surrounding editorial content. When visitors do click on sponsored posts, they were twice as likely to leave sponsored content than editorial content without scrolling down the page.”

So does that mean that native advertising is ineffective? Not at all—but for branded content to perform as well as regular editorial content, it has to be of the same quality. And that means that advertisers need access to writers and designers who can produce content that’s smart and appealing.

Building audiences is something that marketers know a lot about, but for most marketers, creating content is secondary to other activities. For branded content program to be effective, the content can’t be an after-thought.

Why is branded content and native advertising resurgent? Digiday spoke with John Shankman, founder of Hashtag Labs, about Where Brand Content Goes Next. According to Shankman, brands are on their way to becoming their own distribution channels. “A brand like Coca-Cola with 82.9 million Facebook fans has as much distribution power as the networks used to have. The gatekeeper has been taken away, and now production is where the value’s at.”

Shankman sees a rosy future for media companies and agencies that can work with brands to create branded content. But once again, the effectiveness of these brand-advertising programs depends on content quality: “People are going to want to consume content from a certain point of view,” says Shankman. “We need to prove that these branded productions can be as high quality as editorial.”

The take-away from these Digiday articles? If your business is considering native advertising using branded content, make sure that your strategy involves expert content creation from the very beginning. Your audience is smart—deliver content that’s interesting, intelligent or just plain fun, and you’ll succeed in making the brand connections (and CTRs) that can help drive business.

Big Data Analysis meets the Liberal Arts: Will Lit Crit Ever Be the Same?

May 23rd, 2014 by Bill

shakespeare-lg

As a tech B2B writer here at McBru, I write a good deal about Big Data, the enormous information flows derived from sensors, social media feeds, and device-to-device communications. For example, in an average airplane there are more than 50,000 sensors constantly monitoring everything from electrical flows to air quality. These sensors create between 5 to 6 petabytes of data per flight (a petabyte is a million gigabytes), and sifting through this information to detect patterns and anomalies is the job of big data analytics, a major new frontier for technical research.

But not so many years ago, while in university, I studied French and English literature and read hundreds of novels, scores of poems, and piles and piles of learned treatises on my way toward a graduate degree. We didn’t have the concept of big data back then, but I can see now that I was acting as my own big data analytics solution as I powered through all those pages in search of “actionable intelligence.”

So I shouldn’t be surprised that cutting-edge literary theory has embraced big data analytics to render new insights into the old-school study of literature. I have chanced across a number of articles recently that describe how the established literary canon has yielded new secrets after being processed through the algorithms of big data analysis.

  • In “Shakespeare’s Data,” in May’s hardcover edition of Wired magazine, Clive Thompson describes how two PhD students at the Stanford Literary Lab fed the content of 2,958 19th century novels through a series of big data analytics tools. One interesting pattern to emerge was that, as the century progressed, words describing action and body parts became more prevalent. The researchers concluded that increasing urbanization during the 19th century brought people closer together physically and people’s bodies and actions were increasingly difficult to ignore. Seemingly, after the industrial revolution, no one was far from the maddening crowd.
  • In The Data-Mining’s The Thing: Shakespeare Takes Center Stage In The Digital Age from Fast Company, Neil Ungerleider writes that the “same techniques used by businesses to analyze web content and by marketers to target audiences […] have big ramifications for Shakespeare–and have helped settle long-standing academic arguments.” Officials at the Folger Shakespeare Library fed portions of the Bard’s plays through rhetorical analysis tools and data-mining technics to discover distinct linguistic similarities between the tragedy Othello and Shakespeare’s comedy plays. In particular, the comedy Twelfth Night recycles a number of linguistic conventions and themes found in Othello.
  • Shakespeare, Herman Melville and today’s hip-hop artists were on the mind of data scientist Matt Daniels. He wanted to determine how the vocabulary of hip-hop artists stacked up against these two giants of literature. Using a research methodology called token analysis, Daniels compared 35,000-word data sets from the writings of Shakespeare, Melville, and 85 hip-hop performers (he used the first 5,000 words of seven of Shakespeare’s plays, the first 35,000 words of Moby Dick, and 35,000 words from the lyrics of published songs by the 85 performers in question). The biggest vocabulary? Somewhat surprisingly, the rapper Aesop Rock came out on top with 7,392 unique words used within his data set. Melville was certainly near the head of the class, with 6,022 unique words, while that slouch Shakespeare was closer to the middle of the pack with the use of 5,170 unique words in his data set.

Big data analysis will probably never dislodge more traditional literary theory from the classroom, but it can help tease out unexpected patterns and linguistic relationships and offer insights into language and themes that are invisible to more conventional critiques. And it’s kind of cool to realize that every book in your library is in fact, for better or worse, a big data flow.

SlideShare Currently Holds the Conversion Title

May 13th, 2014 by Sam

According to Chad Pollitt of Social Media Today, SlideShare is best by far at converting B2B customers.

Pollitt compiled data over an 18-month period from Social Media Today’s own social media efforts to get audiences to take an action and convert—meaning clicking to “Learn More,” or downloading a white paper, or entering their contact info, etc.

We found the results so interesting, that we decided to take Chad’s data (and his boxing metaphor!) and make an infographic to share.

Social media conversions infographic

According to Social Media Today, one channel clearly stands out as the conversion champ in B2B social media.

The moral of the story?

If you want to punch above your weight, put clickable links in SlideShare decks. That’s where your odds are best at landing a solid hit.

Thanks for the great article and the great insights, Chad. Keep ‘em coming!