Marketing, Minneapolis, Music & More

Virtual Reality and Event Marketing

Last weekend, at a cancer charity event endearingly entitled “Will Drink For Boobs” I tried an Oculus Virtual Reality headset for the first time.

While standing in a group of friends drinking ice cold, inexpensive beer a Bacardi representative grabbed me and a friend by the arm and asked us to come check something out.  When we got to their small station subsisting of a few other ladies and two chairs, they sat me down and had me wear an Oculus headset.  The headset wasn’t clearly marked as it wasn’t attempting to market VR so much as Bacardi.  After putting on the headset, they have you verify you see certain things like which way you are looking and then they start the video.Oculus_Rift

Overall the video was roughly two minutes and shows you boating in to a coastal city on a yacht, with lots of people around you having fun enjoying the sun.  It then moves to a party situation where a DJ and a large crowd of folks is partying.  Bacardi and drinks are easily spotted.  The video ends by attempting to get you to sign up for a promotional trip that you can win.

I’ve actually tried finding it online but am struggling, which is either an integrated campaign issue or an SEO issue.  Bottom line–if you’re going to invest in ideas like that at an in person event, it should be easily found online after.

The virtual reality video in my opinion was pretty low quality.  It was very grainy.  There were some cool aspects of it–you can look around in 360 degrees which creates an immersive situation.  After watching, I was offered some headphones with the Bacardi Bat and declined as low quality merch is not my jam.

Event marketing like this is actually quite difficult–the main reason is that most folks who are there don’t *really* care about Bacardi in particular, they’re there for the event and to either have fun or support the cause.  I applaud brands attempting to get in front of consumers in a positive manner regardless, and if they are supporting the event then I think it’s well within their right to showcase some promotion.  What would be better would be aligning their efforts to the actual event and showcasing that support. The event was for breast cancer, it would be really easy to support that (outside of just $$$) by being more public about what your organization does to help the cause.

The best event marketing is naturally part of the event.  I think of triathlons or other physical rigor events where brands donate snacks or funds to help accomodate the needs for all the event goers.  Think Clif Bars and Powerade at Iron Man.  These brands win when they serve as advocates for the event more so than just showing up because lots of people are there.  It’s still very difficult to gauge actual ROI in this space, but it’s still powerful.

Redbull is probably my favorite company in terms of event marketing. They are masterful.  They’ve become the best in the business by actually creating events, including Crashed Ice here in St. Paul every year, Flugtag, and various other around the world.  A few years ago I attended the Flugtag here in Minneapolis and it was outrageous.  The momentum behind their brand is amazing.

This is the power of event marketing done well.

This is the power of event marketing done well.

I support companies who support things that are important to me and my family.  In the long term, the best companies stand for something and push that agenda– whether it’s people eating less processed foods, children exercising more often, ending homelessness, healthy living through athletics, becoming proficient at your profession, etc.  Their offerings normally fit in well with their causes, but if people are down with the cause they’ll support the offerings.

In retrospect, this post should have been bifurcated.  Virtual reality as a tactic for marketing is real and will continue to evolve, but at this point I don’t believe it’s where it needs to be in order to have a large impact on most companies’ efforts.  It’s light years beyond where Second Life was ten years ago (if you recall that was supposed to be the next big thing for larger brands back in the day) but as of now isn’t fully baked.  It’s good that brands are experimenting with the medium, that’s their job.

I’ll always favor in person events to make real, meaningful connections with people at events over broadcast media.  But there’s A LOT of responsibility there too.  Companies and their employees really need to understand why they’re doing what they are doing there and how to clearly communicate that–through both words and actions.

Summer time is coming, which is the prime time for events.  There will likely be a lot more interesting things to cover off on soon.

Garden Rebuild Underway

Yesterday was my day for toil in the sun while tearing down the existing garden and beginning the rebuild.  The project is roughly half done at this point with a lot more to do–I’m sore as my day job doesn’t lend itself to the physical rigor part of such activities.  Went through two full batteries on my new drill and gave my father’s cross cut saw a good work out.  Feels good!

GardenRedeaux

I should have taken pictures prior to tearing down the first aspects, but did not.  There were about 12 posts holding 1 inch mesh chicken wire around the box, roughly 3.5 feet high, which were tore out.  The wood in this garden is already pretty soft, which is concerning long term.

You see that new beams were added to the top of the existing box, they will be used for stability on new posts, which will be roughly 2 feet high in order to reach over.  We have a fence now which keeps other larger animals out, so the main concern are rabbits, which are plentiful!  Additionally there are now beams that connect the base to the outer fence area as a barrier for the wood chips we put down.  Stella and Jasper tore up the corner too much so it was time to make a change.

Next steps:

1. Add posts  and chicken wire to perimeter.
2. Add edging to top of posts for securing wire.
3. Build door and add with hinges and latching.
4. Pick out a coat of paint.

I’ll post the final project when complete.  Have a good Sunday!

Birthday Marketing

Today NBA.com sent me an email saying happy birthday.  Out of all the sites I’ve given my information, NBA.com is probably one of the least engaging.  Unfortunately, their customer service was terrible when I called in to cancel service due to blackouts.  However, the fact that they sent me an email saying happy birthday actually impresses me.

There are tens of companies that have my personal information, but as of yet, they were the only ones to send an email.  It’s an automated thing, there’s no real human effort other than setting up the script.  But it’s a good chance to get in front of someone for an altruistic reason.  The fact that they went to the effort shows that someone is thinking about how to engage folks.

Companies like the NBA have so much going for them–a product that people are incredibly passionate about, some of the most popular athletes in the world representing their brand on a daily basis.  Aspired to by millions.  Historic.  It’s amazing to think about.  My big gripe with the NBA is not being able to watch Twolves games without buying cable.  HBO is now making their product available for $15 per month–they believe their content is good enough to warrant that, and if they keep producing stuff like Game of Thrones, I’d agree.

The NBA/NFL/NHL/MLB all have content that’s BETTER than HBO.  It’s live.  It’s near religion for some folks.  I think those companies are some of the biggest reasons why people haven’t gotten rid of cable entirely.  They really have the opportunity to build a subscription system that’s more powerful than the traditional networks now.  Hopefully they do.

Birthdays are actually a really good reason to reach out to your customers, mostly to say thanks for being a customer.  The NBA.com email gave me a 10% coupon for their store–I probably won’t use it, but I do appreciate it.

Emoji And A Movement From Written Communication

My iPad recently updated with a new keyboard which contains tens of emoji.  More and more, you see emoji used in place of text, much in the way that emoticons were used in place of text in the last few decades.  This seems like a logical next step, but it does open up questions about how current and future generations adapt.

Emoji is one phenomenon, pictures are another.  I speak with Teresa occasionally about what kids are doing for communication on social media.

“They don’t use Facebook.  They spend most of their time on Snapchat and Twitter.”

I find that fascinating as Twitter is my main social media outlet (outside this blog, which is basically a broadcast channel off purposefully off the beaten path) and I wouldn’t expect it to be that popular with younger folks, it’s mostly news to me.  My assumption is that they use it for interaction much more.

Snapchat interests me greatly however.  The movement from written communication to photos is a fundamental shift, and although traditional advertising has used it as a tactic to elicit attention, it has never been the predominant way of interpersonal communication for most folks.  We absolutely send photos, and have done so for many years, but for it to take over as the primary means will hold big implications for marketers.

Pictures alone do not provide context to outside parties.  To my knowledge, pictures cannot be analyzed in the same way that purchases, searches, emails and other activity can.  The ethical nature of analyzing such activities aside, if all people were to begin communicating through pictures and video, companies will try to pile on in ways that make sense.  You see it today, so many companies are creating content in Instagram and other mediums in the same vein.

I am a big Twolves fan, and if you watch their Twitter account, you can see that they are moving towards a younger audience.  Many of their posts are simply one word followed by emoji, or funny gifs meant to connote happenings in the game.  This is all contextual and shows that they are adapting to the new mediums–it’s a good thing.  It also creates a brand moxie that shows end customers how they view the world.  More brands need to show their personality in the same way.

All said, the movement toward fewer words in marketing is likely a necessary adaptation.  Though I personally enjoy writing and to a lesser extent reading, I’d highly advocate digging into your core audience’s communication types and building content that embraces it in a way that makes sense.

Spring Cleaning

We had zero plans this weekend, which was fantastic as last weekend was an “ass kicker” of momentous proportions.  So faced with hours of open time and no plans, we got busy cleaning out the house.  We dropped off a HUGE amount of excess clothing and other stuff at Goodwill Easter Seals (who I’ve done consulting for and love btw.)  If you’re looking for a good place and cause to rid your self of excess materials, consider GWES–they help people develop real skills and acquire long term work.  Also they make it very easy with drive up donation spots and their people are always kind.  In addition to that, Teresa was ruthless about cleaning out other areas and now we’re going to sell a lot of other things that have been laying around the house at our friends garage sale in two weeks.

Since we’d cleared out so many things, it made sense to get some cleaning too.  Yesterday we rented a carpet cleaner and went over our guest bedroom and downstairs carpets.  Everything is smelling much better.  Of course, Stella just had to spoil things by having an accident immediately after the cleaning this morning, but it was cleaned up and all is right again.

For my birthday, Teresa purchased me a very nice Milwaukee drill and impact driver set.  I had an old Black and Decker drill the last five years, which got me buy but was really poor.  The battery would drain quickly and became pretty much useless.  I’m excited to get to work with the new drill.  The project?  I’m going to rebuild our garden, which looks pretty crumby at this point, with all new treated timbers and a nice water seal paint.  Next year we’d like to rebuild our deck as well, no shortage of projects for a good drill.

After that, it’s time to get to business work, the next two weeks are going to be packed with launch work.  Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Twitch and Interactive Direction

For the last two years, my primary entertainment source has been gaming.  I’m a casual.  I’ve got some friends that are more core.  I don’t know a lot of hardcore gamers.  Television, outside of sports, isn’t all that interesting to me in the traditional sense–however Teresa and I will binge on good series such as Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, etc.

An extremely interesting aspect of gaming is watching other people play games.  This has been a common aspect of gaming for a VERY long time.  One of the most celebrated games in history was StarCraft–which even in the mid 90’s had a viewer only mode to watch matches with friends.  Blizzard (now owned by Activision) developed that game as well as many other incredibly popular games such as WarCraft, Diablo and now Hearthstone.  I’ve played the latter a great deal as it’s an excellent casual offering.

Watching videogames is going to become a very big thing in the future.  It’s already big.  The site I watch the most is Twitch.tv, which is a spinoff of another site focused on general streaming.  Twitch has been around since 2011 and was recently purchased by Amazon in 2014 for a little under $1B.  Twitch gets 43M viewers per month or so and is currently cited as the fourth largest source of internet traffic in the US.
twitchlogoTo give a high level explanation, Twitch is a site where you can choose a “channel” where someone is streaming content to you.  The site is broken up by videogames, so you can pick from streamers playing a certain game based on your interest.  Most streamers are very good at their respective games, however there is a big blend of entertainment intertwined–many of the most popular streamers are not necessarily the highest ranked or best, they are fun to watch.  Streamers spend hours every day, often 10+, playing games and providing commentary.

You might ask why they do this?  Well there’s the enjoyment factor, certainly.  However there’s also money.  Streamers are given stipends for subscriptions, which is $5 per month.  They get half, Twitch gets half.  Additionally, streamers are given “tips” or “donations” from viewers, typically combined with a comment which is read on stream.  Donations can range from $1 to hundreds, in some instances more well endowed people have given thousands.  There is a huge appreciation for these streaming personalities and it is going to be a HUGE aspect of the future.

Streaming will revolutionize entertainment to an extent.  We will see popularized streaming creeping more and more into mainstream entertainment and it’s a very good thing due to crowd being able to interact successfully.

All that said, there are downsides to this medium too.  Streamers often burn out.  A big reason is that the crowd “Twitch Chat” is often rude and loves to troll people.  A constant grind of being on stream and being barraged with insults and negative commentary is one aspect of streaming you do not see as often with mainstream broadcasting.

With the large numbers of  viewers and a young, male core audience, Twitch is already seeing advertisers.  Recently, I noticed an Old Spice campaign where they created a game for a Twitch stream chat to direct someone through a woods which was intentionally built out with comedic interactions.  I don’t know how the actual game went, it was a three day game, but the IDEA is exceptional.  Old Spice has been impressing me with their ingenuity and willingness to take risks in advertising to capture share.

Keep an eye on this medium in the future, it’s going to be big.

old-spice-nature-_adventure-hed-2015

Blog Slowed-But Just Tempo Rarily

No posts last weekend due to Tempo birthing class.  The class talked about the process of labor, everything that happens and it was actually really good.  It did take 7 hours.  We also took a trip up North for my father in law’s 70th birthday!  That was a lot of fun.  However due to that the time for reflection was extremely low.

This weekend is the exact opposite.  Lots of time.  However we have to clear out closets and start spring cleaning, in addition to a few outdoor projects.  It’s still busy, but more lackadaisical and fun too.  There’s been a lot of cool stuff happening lately from a Marketing perspective, so I’ll probably touch on some of that tomorrow.

Have a great Saturday.

Sex Appeal, Youth Culture and Relevance

I woke up this morning considering YC and sex appeal.  And that I need to buy the new Mountain Goats record (which I did, it’s fantastic, per usual.)

The recent ballyhooed kiss from Madonna of Drake prompted my thoughts on it.  I’m not much for famous folks, to be honest.  The idea of human beings being put on a pedestal and regarded with idolatry without merit is a deterrent.  There are many well deserving people whose praise is warranted, but often times it’s based on lesser reasons.  To be clear, there isn’t anything wrong with being famous and I’m not lamenting the idea — society needs leaders.  But it often seems that society as a whole is focused on figures for reasons such as sex appeal and less on their actual works, often for entertainment reasons.

Youth Culture is somewhat fixated on sex appeal.  There are probably a bevy of psychological reasons for this.  Our evolution for mating and reproduction in our earlier aspects of life is probably the biggest.  If you read people of an older set, many will point out that ageism is a very real thing.  As people age, their relevance diminishes in the eyes of society.  This is obviously a HUGE issue and a terrible thing.  The people with more experience have seen the problems of the past, how they were dealt with and what came after.  Their experience alone merits attention, yet most of our media focus is on YC.

When Madonna kisses Drake and it’s a internet headline, it’s not real news.  If you remember the 80’s, Madonna did some extremely sensational things throughout her career.  This is common.  The issue is that it’s no longer a discussion of sexual explicitness; it’s a question of age.  If your read the comments (PROTIP:  don’t) you’ll see that most people like to point out her age before other things.  The discussion has shifted, it’s now a race against time for Madonna.  Her relevance has come into question with YC.  And you can’t beat the clock.  Madonna IS talented though, there’s no doubt about that to me.   She’s a marketing virtuoso (or the people behind her are) and has had a truly incredible run as a global pop star.  Full disclosure, I do not care for most of her music.

The ability for people to remain relevant despite age is increasingly difficult today.  News and information travel much faster, so it’s much easier to be supplanted as the next big thing.  I wonder if modern artists will be able to have as sustainable careers and maintain fan bases over the long term in the way earlier performers have.  I certainly still follow my favorite artists but with the demise of the album and the way music being consumed changing, it’s hard to say.

It seems as though sex appeal is ever more important in YC–it’s always been important, but the ongoing relevance of manufacturing music is increasing it’s importance.  Consider the 90’s pop stars hand picked for boy bands, or female performers such as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and so on.  It’s continuing today with groups like One Direction while supplemented by crowd sourcing talent curation in mass media with shows like American Idol and The Voice.  This isn’t a diatribe on this subject as negative, just a quick look at what’s happening and being embraced.  Sure, it’s not my cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.  It just is.

Spring Time Projects

It feels like spring at this point, and the projects around the house are building up.  With Tempo coming, we are trying to optimize space in the house and be as prepared as we can be before arrival.  Today I’ll be building a shoe organization shelving unit.

We have a garden, probably about 150 square feet, enclosed in the backyard.  It is square to the cedar fence we put in two years ago with about three feet of grass between.  Stella and Jasper TEAR through this area like it’s a NASCAR turn.  They break down the soil extremely quickly and it’s already looking like a mud pit.  When that happens they both get muddy paws and it’s a hot mess around the house.  So today I’m getting wood chips and covering the entirety of that 90 degree angle around the garden.

The garden is really nice in terms of production, we get a lot of veggies and fruits from it every year.  But it has seen better days in terms of dexterity.  This summer I’m going to replace all the wooden timbers and fencing so that it looks a bit more polished.  Also going to paint the revised wood along with the flower beds we put in last year the same color for some consistency.

Plenty of work to get done today.  It’s actually a lot of fun.  :-)

Approaching Launches

It’s that time.  Launch of the biggest innovation of the year is happening in one month.  The time prior to launch is often fraught with anxiety for some–I’ve never really had that anxiousness.  Most of the time I have a very good idea if the launch will be successful or not.

It sounds overly simplistic, but if an offering “makes sense” to me and I’d shell out the cash for it, it’s normally a very good indicator of market viability.  There are instances where things in the market you’re blind to will cause you to be over or underwhelmed by a launch due to things outside your periphery, but in my experience it’s not often should you be doing your due diligence with customers and the people in the business closest to them.

Some things to keep in mind in approaching launches:

1.  Set expectations HIGH – when everyone is on the same page with high expectations, good things follow.  This often means getting alignment from leadership on prioritization of a launch.  This can take longer than you’d expect.

2.  Get your metrics in place before launch – you’ll need to track progress against those high expectations directly out of the gate to merchandise what’s going well (or what needs to be addressed) to leaders and others involved.  If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

3.  YOU own your launch –  it’s up to you to make the launch successful, no one else.  This is not a situation where you “hand off” the launch baton to another function.  Despite the fact that others are also responsible to do their part, you own the project.

4.  Make success echo – point out all the big wins often and early.  There are instances where some folks don’t want to jump in on an early innovation until it’s “proven” with other customers or stakeholders.  If they don’t see the early wins, they may not get on board, which will slow momentum.  There are tipping points for launches where they become widespread successes, there are also times when launches simply never get off the ground.  Use whatever tools at your disposal to make successes seen and heard.

5.  Have fun!  These are the best times in business, building something new that helps the organization to grow.  Work hard and good things will happen.

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