The impact of social media on customer communication and modern day marketing

The 21st century has been characterized by various developments, shifts and changes worldwide. Many of these shifts and changes, especially within a marketing context, have been fuelled by the nowadays omnipresent Internet and all the platforms and tools found within.  Businesses need to adapt their ways of interaction with their customers and clients. Here fore, several authors offer several approaches on which path to take in order to maximize the potential offered by the World Wide Web.

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Does Social media marketing mean the end of traditional advertising?

The use of social media marketing is increasing rapidly among companies (King. et al., 2014). Much attention is paid to social media’s role in the marketing mix, not least in relation to traditional media (LaPointe, 2011). LaPointe (2011) states that it’s becoming more popular with marketing strategies that rely entirely on online tactics. At the same time, many marketers are still unsure of how to go about this ocean of platforms and opportunities called social media, as pointed out by DeMers (http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2014/08/11/the-top-10-benefits-of-social-media-marketing/) and Hanna et al. (2011). Let us therefore have a look at what research has to say about social- versus traditional media! Could it be that companies are too quick with planning the funeral of conventional advertising? 

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The Nature and Impact of Anti-Branding Hate Sites and How to Handle Anti-Branding on the Internet Part 2

Written by Renske Wolters

In part 1 of this article the nature and impact of anti-branding hate sites has been discussed. This part will focus on how managers should handle when under attack of such a hate site. Kucuk (2008) divides anti-branding hate sites in four different types that can be handled in different ways. The Experts, the Symbolic Haters, the Complainers, and the Opportunists

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The Nature and Impact of Anti-Branding Hate Sites and How to Handle Anti-Branding on the Internet Part 1

Written by Renske Wolters

Tourism, studying abroad, foreign trade, spread of technical knowhow… Globalization has brought so many great advantages. But WAIT! When you think about that, have you ever thought about the drawbacks? And what about the effects of those drawbacks? Let us have a look at a few examples of globalization drawbacks that Ger and Belk (1996) pointed out. It brings social inequality, class polarization, stress, materialism and threats to health and environment. There is an increasing awareness that global companies play an incredibly big role in this negative globalization points... 

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How social media are changing Television, with a focus on Twitter

January 5, 2015

Written by Alessio Stringari

Introduction

In the last few years internet and social media changed completely our daily lives. The way in which we relate with other persons has radically mutated since the introduction of social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Nowadays news travel at the speed of a tweet, everyone with its smartphone has become a reporter, with just a finger touch users can spread news about accidents, natural phenomenon, sport etc. These innovations not only are changing people’s lives but also the “old” mass media have to adapt themselves in order to “survive” in this new environment. According to Hermida & Thurman (2008) websites such as YouTube, MySpace and Wikipedia enable any user to upload videos, comments, photos and much more online, becoming what is defined as User Generated Content (UGC). At this point newspapers, broadcasters, radios have to make a decision: embrace this new technological and social development or risk to face shrinking figures in the number of customers.

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to analyse how social media and in particular social networks like Twitter are changing the principal mass media or rather the television. The approach of this essay is composed of a first part based on a literature review to examine the existing works concerning this phenomenon and in the second part the focus is on three different case studies that aim to explore deeply the potentiality of social media in the Television business.

Literature Review

As often happens with new technologies and internet related innovations also the terms social media and social networks are frequently misunderstood or used as a synonym. Although this implication is wrong because the two terms have different meanings that now we are going to define. Social media as claimed by Kaplan & Haenlein (2010) is a set of different internet applications established in the Web 2.0 environment that allows the creation and sharing of User Generated Content. Furthermore as stated by Mangold & Faulds (2009, p.358) “Social media encompasses a wide range of online, word-of-mouth forums including blogs, company-sponsored discussion boards and chat rooms, consumer-to-consumer e-mail, consumer product or service ratings websites and forums, Internet discussion boards and forums, moblogs (sites containing digital audio, images, movies, or photographs), and social networking websites, to name a few”. Therefore social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ are just a slice of a broader entity named Social Media.  The cases in the coming part are based on the social platform Twitter, therefore in this section we explain what this website is about and how does it work.

Twitter is a social network and microblogging website founded in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Evan Williams and Biz Stone. This particular social media “allows people to publish (tweet), reply to, and forward posts that cannot exceed 140-characters in length” (Smith, Fischer & Yongjian 2012, p.103).  Every user has a profile page, where is possible to find all the texts or “tweets” sent by this particular user. Although Twitter is not limited to publish something in your personal board, every tweet has the capability to reach potentially every person registered on Twitter (except the case of private profile, in that case only the followers can read the tweet).

One of the main characteristic of Twitter is the use of the so called “hashtag”, that means writing the word or argument that interest you and put at the beginning the # symbol. In this way you can show to your followers that you are talking about a specific topic and by clicking on the hashtag you are able to see all the tweets regarding this topic.

A research conducted from Jansen et al. (2009) shows that 19% of the tweets analysed mention either a company, organization or product brand. Furthermore 20% of these tweets are about expressing opinion, personal point of view, positive and negative feedback about brands, company or products. This figure shows how the word-of-mouth generated on Twitter and other similar social network can have a significant impact on the companies mentioned.

Over the centuries word-of-mouth (WOM) has been considered as a vis-à-vis conversation between customers, consumers about a product or a service experience (Sen & Lerman, 2007). Yet we now live in a high technological environment, where WEB 2.0 is at hand from morning to night; for WEB 2.0 we meant all the “computer network-based platforms upon which social media application/tools run or function.” (Weinberg & Pehlivan, 2011). Consequently we have to distinguish between the old-fashioned WOM and the brand new Electronic WOM, eWOM include any comment, both positive and negative, made by current, potential or past consumer about a specific company, product or service through the use of Internet and WEB 2.0 based applications (Hennig-Thurau et al., 2004).

Focusing on the television business, one of the daily choices of every viewer is about which television shows, news and broadcaster decide to pick. As suggested by Romaniuk (2007) one of the common assumption about WOM is that dissatisfied people share more their negative experiences compared to satisfied users, in order to prove it the author analysed  the effect of WOM in the selection of different tv shows. The results indicate that the reach of WOM was mostly low, but positive word of mouth was prevalent and likely to influence people compared to negative word of mouth. 

Nowadays in the modern environment, more and more power is gained by the “WOM 2.0”, and Twitter, due to the characteristics discussed before, can be selected as the ideal social media where people are able to share their opinions. As mentioned by Hanna et al. (2011), interactive technologies enabled the change from a passive WEB 1.0 model to an active and participant WEB 2.0, where consumers are both the initiators and receivers of information and contents. In the following section we are going to analyse how practically social media are changing television, using examples from TV shows, sitcoms, Breaking News and the social network Twitter.   

Case studies

I.         TV Shows

Taking a cue from the inspiring article of Hanna et al. (2011) we are going to examine how the Twitter community, without any organised campaign, can affect a TV show. In the mentioned academic research it has been analysed the effects of a social media campaign on the American music show Grammy Awards, which helped to achieve the best ratings in years. The show was nominated program of the week with more than 26 million viewers and an increase of 32% in the profitable segment of 18-34 year old.

Otherwise the example chosen for this paper is the Italian Music Festival of Sanremo, the most important music award in Italy, first broadcasted in 1951 which in the last years experienced shrinking number of viewers and low percentage of young audience.

The purpose of this case is to prove, or at least show, that eWOM can impact the viewing results of a TV show even without any organised campaign from the show producers.

During the 2012 edition (in the years prior to 2012 Twitter was barely known in Italy) more than 244.000 tweets were using the hashtag #sanremo, with an average of almost 50.000 per evening (source: tech.fanpage.it). As shown in the table below, the red lines representing the number of viewers (in thousands) have a similar trend as the blue line which stand for the number of tweets mentioning #sanremo. Even we can only assume there is a positive correlation between the number of tweet and the number of viewers, additionally we have to consider that #sanremo related words were in the Twitter trend topics during all the Festival days and that created even more eWOM.

  img “stringari_image” alt=”Sanremo data 2012"

img “stringari_image” alt=”Sanremo data 2012"

Source: techfanpage.it

 

II.         Breaking News

Compared to other Social Media like Facebook or YouTube, Twitter is considerably faster and straightaway. Many political leaders now communicate theirs ideas and statements first on Twitter, for instance Enrico Letta (Italian prime minister), on the 13th  of February 2014 posted on Twitter that he was going to resign as prime minister the following day. Twitter hence has become one of the main sources of information for news broadcaster all over the world; it is not possible for them to avoid it, they are “compelled” of using Twitter both in order to get news and share news.

Another major example of the capability of Twitter is during extraordinary events like earthquakes. Taking once more Italy as a model, during a recent earthquake that hit a region in the north east, Twitter was the first source of information, with users promptly tweeting using the hashtag #terremoto (earthquake in Italian). Even before the office of Geology released any press report about the epicentre and power of the seism, it was possible through the number and geolocalization of the tweets attest quite precisely where the earthquake hit most. Moreover Twitter was not just a social media, it has been used to help rescuing persons from remote zone where the landline communications were damaged.

   
  
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   img “stringari_image1” alt=”terremoto hashtag earthquake”

img “stringari_image1” alt=”terremoto hashtag earthquake”

Source: Focus.it

 

  III.         Sitcoms 

Previously we analysed how social media transformed TV Shows and Breaking News, but also TV series have been affected by this innovation. When any of the most famous sitcoms like “How I Met Your Mother” or “The Big Bang Theory” are aired, on Twitter the spectators immediately start to comment their favourite scenes using the dedicated hashtag and at the same time interact with other fans to share their personal opinions. But since not all the viewers of a sitcom are able to watch it live, the phenomenon of the “spoilers” grown considerably in importance, for spoiler it meant the fact of commenting in a place (for instance Twitter or Facebook) where other persons interested in the show could be “spoilered” by reading some comments that will break the surprise effect.

Can broadcasters do more other than invite people to comment using the dedicated hashtag? Yes, they do, an interesting sample is the exploiting of Twitter from the producer of “The Big Bang Theory”, whom created for each character of the sitcom a personal Twitter page (using the artistic name) that allows them to enhance eWOM even in the days that the TV series is not aired.

 

   
  
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   img “stringari_image2” alt=”Sheldon Cooper Twitter”

img “stringari_image2” alt=”Sheldon Cooper Twitter”

Source: Twitter.com

 

General Discussion and Conclusion

Even if the aim of this paper was very challenging, I found this topic particularly interesting to research and the analysis of a phenomenon like social network could be rewarding and demanding at the same time. The findings show that television is not fastened in the “World 1.0”, it is moving following the latest social trends, especially in order to not lose younger audiences.

As mentioned by Chorianopoulos & Lekakos (2008) Television is moving towards a concept of Social TV, where viewer are not passively watching contents but they are actively participating and interacting. This could be achieved thanks to the latest technologies, such as interactive televisions or more often via smartphone and social media applications.

Albeit Twitter is not the social network with the largest number of users, it is growing at exponential rate all over the world, and as shown in the previous cases is having a remarkable effect on the television galaxy, definitely changing it. 

References

Chorianopoulos, K. & Lekakos, G., 2008. Introduction to social TV: Enhancing the shared experience with interactive TV. INTL. JOURNAL OF HUMAN–COMPUTER INTERACTION, 24(2), pp. 113-120.

Focus.it, n.d. [Online]
Available at: http://www.focus.it/scienza/dove-si-e-sentito-il-terremoto-21062013_7844_C12.aspx
[Accessed 10 February 2014].

Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden, 2011. We're all connected: the power of the social media ecosystem. Business horizons, Volume 54, pp. 265-273.

Hennig-Thurau, Gwinner, Walsh & Gremler, 2004. Electronic word-of-mouth via consumer-opinion platforms: what motivates consumers to articulate themselves on the internet?. Journal of interactive marketing, 18(1), pp. 38-52.

Hermida, A. & Thurman, N., 2008. A Clash of Cultures. Journalism Practice , 2(3), pp. 343-356.

Jansen, Zhang, Sobel & Chowdury, 2009. Twitter power: tweets as electronic word of mouth. Journal of the American society for information science and technology , Issue 60, pp. 2169-2188.

Kaplan, A. M. & Haenlein, M., 2010. Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Business Horizon, Issue 53, pp. 59-68.

Mangold, G. & Faulds, D., 2009. Social Media: the new hybrid element of the promotion mix. Business Horizons, Issue 52, pp. 357-365.

Romaniuk, J., 2007. Word of mouth and the viewing of television programs. Journal of advertising research, pp. 462-471.

Sen, S. & Lerman, D., 2007. Why are you telling me this? An examination into negative consumer reviews on the web. Journal of interactive marketing, 21(4), pp. 76-94.

Smith, A., Fischer, E. & Yongjia, C., 2012. How does brand-related user-generated content differ across Youtube, Facebook and Twitter?. Journal of interactive marketing, Issue 26, pp. 102-113.

Techfanpage.it, n.d. [Online]
Available at: http://tech.fanpage.it/twitter-i-dati-finali-del-festival-di-sanremo/
[Accessed 10 February 2014].

Twitter, n.d. Twitter.com. [Online]
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[Accessed 10 February 2014].

Weinberg, B. & Pehlivan, E., 2011. Social spending: managing the social media mix. Business Horizons, Issue 54, pp. 275-282.

Heritage brands storytelling by viral marketing in social media Part 2

December 29, 2014

Written by Onsurang Siripiyavatana

Case and discussion

To illustrate how heritage brands develop viral storytelling in the era of social media where the power of sharing and the perception of brand value are in the hands of consumers. The examples of Thai Life Insurance and Volkswagen will be analyzed from heritage perspective as well as consumer orientation.

Branding in social media era is not only about creativity but also facilitating conversations around the brand. From the heritage perspective, roots down to brand promise and brand essence, heritage brands have track records and many stories to introduce to the audience. Heritage brands have demonstrated successful relation to consumers in the past through its core values and heritage essence hence, it should be able to modify and re-tell the story given the current marketing landscape and the way to stand out in the crowd is to make the brand’s story go viral. In order to go viral, a brand must choose the right story to tell and craft around it, brands must know their targeted audience, learn what the consumers are care about most and do more of that. The new version of the heritage stories provide relevant factor that is consistent to the brand’s core and hence consistent heritage brand image that yield trust, caring and authentic impression to the targeted audience. Thai Life Insurance (TLI) is a heritage brand that is still much relevant today, the key behind this is to take simple product and to promote it by relating the most relevant human emotion to the product. TLI exploited sensitive human emotions and develop extremely effective marketing tool, namely advertisement campaign. The emotional ads have made the brand memorable and placed securely on top of the mind of the consumers.  Take the “Silence of Love” advertisement campaign for example, without directly mentioning about the insurance product, the story of the commercial states: the kids are sometimes ashamed of their parents, but it is their parents who care for them no matter what. The overall tone of the ad is sad and touching which provoke all the positive emotions full of caring, love, family bonding and honesty are then translated into more down-to-earth message: if you care about them, insure them. The “Silence of Love” ad is not the first in the series of TLI emotional advertisement campaign, but it definitely creates a consistent message, and adds to consistent brand story and relevant brand image through the co-creation with the consumers who were impressed by the message delivered. The company made the ads public by broadcasting it through Thai television channels as well as in YouTube. The first channel of distribution is costly but it opens to wider audience and definitely worth it, amongst the crowd of television ads “Silence of Love” gains much attention from audience and creates a viral offline word of mouth impact. In parallel, the company makes the ads available in YouTube to create online viral with a potential to reach endless consumers since they are much more likely to view an advertisement if it is communicated to them from someone they know and not a company.

The language spoken in the ads was Thai, the company later provide English subtitle to enhance the understanding and hence emotional engagement of international audience.

   
  
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     <img src=”Siripiyavatana_image1.jpg” alt=”Silence of Love Thai Life Insurance Advertisement”>

<img src=”Siripiyavatana_image1.jpg” alt=”Silence of Love Thai Life Insurance Advertisement”>

Figure 1) Silence of Love-Thai life insurance commercial (Thailifechannel, 2011)

As a result “Silence of Love” becomes viral because TLI does it right by understanding the culture and know what the consumers want and how to approach it for example Thai audience have the characteristics of sympathetic, sensitive, like to chit chat, social media addict and easy going. The brand works hard to give people something they are willing to talk about, something they can relate to. The series of emotional ads is a catalyst and the tool that the brand use to consciously and continually bake word of mouth into its product. The company gives consumers a reason to talk about its product part of its culture, not just marketing.

Heritage brands on the other side of the world also work hard to understand consumer and find the relevant in brand storytelling. Rules, regulations and restrictions of international marketplace are different, let alone the consumer diversity. A successful marketing story of the brand from one country may not even gain recognition in another country for example Dove’s real beauty campaign was a viral success in the US but the same campaign fails to market in China (Chiu, C., Ip, C. and Silverman, A. 2012). That’s why social media marketers have to be creative and specific, matter to one person first, speak to that person. Volkswagen’s The Fun Theory is a good story of viral success in social media. Volkswagen launches a campaign through The Fun Theory website with the slogan “Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better”. The brand invited creative people to come up with their ways of making everyday activity more fun.  The Fun Theory campaign is brand’s storytelling tactic that relates to consumers in a given current marketplace and brand’s core messages of being innovative, offering enduring value and responsible (Volkswagen, 2012). One of The Fun Theory award is “The speed camera lottery” the idea behind this is to get more people to obey the speed limit by making it fun to do, this idea was made a reality in Stockholm, Sweden. The Speed Camera Lottery device would photograph all drivers passing beneath it. A portion of the subsequent fines levied against speeders would be pooled in a lottery, with a random winner periodically drawn from the group of speed-limit adherents. The result of this campaign is impressive, according to Volkswagen, average speed before the installation of the Speed Camera Lottery sign on a multilane street was 32 kilometers per hour. That figure dropped to 25 kilometers per hour during a three-day test, despite the device’s inability to issue financial penalties.  The short films documenting the projects went viral and it invokes positive brand association in relation to the audience. By making boring thing such as obeying the traffic rules fun and instead of getting punishment for disobeying the rule, people get rewards by obeying the rules. The idea not only reflects upon brand heritage and story but also score high in the relevant scale of contemporary marketplace. The consumers are engaged in the campaign from sending their ideas in for the competition and the trials is seen as a little excitement added to consumers’ everyday lives without provoking frustration to the pedestrian. The brand uses an excuse of promoting safety for positive brand associations and gain awareness. The Fun Theory is a storytelling strategy that embraces the heritage and stays relevant in the consumers’ minds in the current era of social media. The continual success of the campaign endures the heritage for tomorrow.

   
  
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   &lt;img src=”Siripiyavatana_image2.jpg” alt=”The Speed Camera Lottery The Fun Theory by Volkswagen”&gt;

<img src=”Siripiyavatana_image2.jpg” alt=”The Speed Camera Lottery The Fun Theory by Volkswagen”>

Figure 2) The Speed Camera Lottery- The Fun Theory by Volkswagen (Rolighetsteorin, 2010)


Conclusion

Heritage brands have developed the brand story over a period of time, the time required for the consumers to absorb and digest the story. However in an ever changing marketing landscape of social media era, the ability to adapt and fit in poses a challenge on heritage brands to stay relevant in consumers’ minds. They key to relate to consumers while maintaining brand’s heritage is to understand consumers and focusing effort to change how people feel before trying to change what they do. As illustrated by Thai life insurance case, telling simple emotional stories work well in relating the brand’s heritage to consumers. The brands deal with customer-centric orientation in an emergence of social media and act as facilitators. Storytelling facilitates conversation amongst customer community and it is brand’s job to give people a story that they are willing to talk about. By this method, consumers become co-creators of the brands as they influence the transmission of messages by getting involved in the viewing, commenting and sharing through social media or even directly helping to create a story, as illustrated by Volkswagen’s The Fun Theory where consumers get involved in the process from the beginning to submit their ideas, take part in trials and sharing the story.

More specifically, while keeping to the heritage, brands have to invite consumers into the branding process in order to stay relevant and this can be achieved by telling a consistent series of compelling story, stories that keep going viral. The businesses that succeed outrageously are not just founded on ideas that are shared in a split second; they are grounded in what matters to their customers throughout the long heritage. The track record and relationship between a brand and its consumers are parts of the heritage that they co-created and stay relevant until now. The key for an enduring heritage is to make giving people a reason to talk about your products and services part of brand’s culture, not just marketing.





















References

Aaker, D. A. (1996). Building Strong Brands. New York NY: The Free Press.

Aaker, D. A. (2004). Leveraging the corporate brand. California Management Review, 46(3), 6–18.

Barwise, P. & Meehan, S. (2010) The One Thing You Must Get Right When Building a Brand, Harvard Business Review, December 2010

Cambridge University Press (2011). Cambridge Business English Dictionary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Chiu, C., Ip, C and Silverman, A. (2012), “Understanding social media in China”, McKinsey Quarterly, 2, 78-81.

Fournier, S. & Avery, J. (2011) The uninvited brand, Business Horizons (2011) 54, 193—207

Hamm, J. (2013). Why Agencies and Brands Need to Embrace True Storytelling Branded content is not the same thing. Adweek Magazine, [online] Available at: < http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/why-agencies-and-brands-need-embrace-true-storytelling-152534> [Accessed 10 February 2014]

Jiwa, B. (2013). Fortune cookie principle. Perth: The Story of Telling Press

Liebrenz-Himes, M., Shamma, H., & Dyer R.F. (2007). Heritage Brands- Treasured Inheritance Or ‘Over the Hill’. Charm, 2007.

Merchant, A., Rose G.M. (2013). Effects of advertising-evoked vicarious nostalgia on brand heritage, Journal of Business Research, 66 (12), p.2619-2625

Moser, M. (2003). United We Brand. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Rolighetsteorin, (2010). The Speed Camera Lottery, The Fun Theory. [video online] Available at: < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iynzHWwJXaA#t=106> [Accessed 13 February 2014]

Seybold, P. B. (2001). The Customer Revolution. New York, NY: Crown Publishing Group.

Singh, S., & Sonnenburg, S. (2012) Brand Performances in Social Media, Journal of Interactive Marketing 26 (2012) 189–197

Thailifechannel, (2011). Silence of Love (Official English Subtitle), TVC Thai Life Insurance. [video online] Available at: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZMX6H6YY1M> [Accessed 13 February 2014]

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Winer, R. (2009) New Communications Approaches in Marketing: Issues and Research Directions, Journal of Interactive Marketing 23 (2009), p. 108–117

Woerndl, M., Papagiannidis, S., Bourlakis, M., & Li, F. (2008). Internet-induced marketing techniques: Critical factors in viral marketing campaigns. Int. Journal of Business Science and Applied Management, 3 (2), 34-45.

NATIVE ADVERTISING, THE NEXT BIG THING? Part 2

December 15, 2014

Written By Thomas Roos

Part 2: Native Advertising Discussed 

Part one of this paper discussed the rise of native advertising and how it is a result of paradigm shifts in consumer culture as a whole, as well as of developments within the online marketing field. This part will further elaborate on how native advertising is practiced and eventually discuss native advertising in terms of its success, and its limitations. To conclude with I raise the question that I could not answer in this paper, but should be of interest of anyone that has genuine interest in the field of internet marketing and branding. 

Empirical data analysis: Native advertising.

The consumer annoyance and scepticism towards advertisements, advertisers and capitalist practices in general as described in part 1 have forced online marketers in a new direction: native marketing. Native advertising, as explained in this infographic about native advertising by Wasserman (2012), is the creation of high-quality content by brands which is placed “…into the organic experience of a given platform.’’ Perhaps a simpler definition of the concept was given by Keers (2013), on the Content Marketing Association blog: “…instead of a simple, same-everywhere ad, it is targeted content, sitting alongside the publisher's content, but produced by brands themselves.”

The essence of native advertising is that it answers the consumers’ demand for valuable content from brands, whether they are the targeted audience or not. Holt (2002) argues that in the post-postmodern paradigm, consumers will judge brands and their ads on how they add value to people when they are not customers. Samuel Johnson once said: “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.’’, and this research provided reason to believe that the same mantra will define brand perception in the post-postmodern internet era. Native advertisements make a clear step into that direction, which is perhaps the reason why they work so well.

A second important strategic advantage of native advertising is that it offers value to both brands and publishers, as well as to different platforms. As Miller, the CEO of The Guardian Media Group (in this case: the platform) puts it: "There's an opportunity to work with advertisers on creating content that meets the editorial aspirations of ourselves and meets their need to get to consumers." {C}(Jackson, 2014){C}. What is being created is thus ‘branded content’ instead of simple advertisements.

{C}{C}{C}To illustrate this, an example is provided that came up during the empirical research online. The picture below shows a BuzzFeed article, and on the surface it seems like another entertaining BuzzFeed article (click on the image to view the full page). Who posted it? It was posted by Captain Morgan, and looking at the marked text in the description, its purpose is not just to entertain you{C} (Muniz & Schau, 2011){C}; it is there to educate consumers about the man behind the rum. On the side, we can find more ‘sponsored content’ from Captain Morgan. Evidently, the success of one such native ad is to create content that 1) enhances brand equity, 2) adds to the publisher’s / platform’s value, and most importantly; 3) is valuable for the audience that needs to be engaged.  

Figure : Native Advertising in practice; Captain Morgan offering valuable content on Buzzfeed.

   
  
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   Native Marketing explained

Native Marketing explained


Buzzfeed, Forbes, The Atlantic, Facebook, The New Yorker, etc; they all have developed a version of native advertising, called ‘sponsored content’, of which the above is an example. Buzzfeed runs completely on the gains from native advertising; not only do they encourage advertisers to settle in between the website contributors, (the regular visitors), but they also offer help to potential and existing advertisers to create content that is likely to be shared often by BuzzFeed users.


An overview of the main players in the native advertising field is provided in this map of native advertising platforms, and was taken from a 2013 article (Berry, 2013), and therefore not completely up to date. However, it accurately shows the division between different native advertising channels. Please note that more players joined this landscape since the map was made, however, the main players have remained more or less the same (Berry, 2013):

  • Sponsored Posts and Articles: Facebook and BuzzFeed (and newspapers)
  • Sponsored Video: YouTube and ShareThrough
  • Sponsored Images: Imgur and TripleLift
  • Sponsored Playlists: Pandora (mainly U.S) and Spotify (mainly Europe)
  • Sponsored Links: Disqus and Zemanta (many more have emerged)
  • Sponsored Listings: Uncrate and Yelp

Discussion.

In a study that was published on February 12th 2014, The Media Briefing (Taylor, 2014) investigated the traffic around these native ads and provided this study with interesting data collected from 689 BuzzFeed native ads posted by 51 companies.

The results (average ad shares per social platform) are astonishing:

  • 263 Facebook shares
  • 36 Tweets
  • 7 Google ‘plus one’s’
  • 44 Pins
  • 2 Linkedin shares

Additional outcomes of the study:

  • Native advertising on BuzzFeed is likely to result in 4241 total social media interactions.
  • Spotify’s native ad wins: 8530 Facebook shares, resulting in almost 50.000 Facebook interactions, including likes and comments.

According to The Media Briefing (2014), it can therefore be argued that BuzzFeed’s native advertising strategy is a tremendous success simply because advertisers love the idea that consumers will share an ad on their social network platforms. Why? It turns out that the earlier-mentioned Word of Mouth is of vital importance for gaining trustworthiness, and therefore is much more likely to lead to an increase in sales (see table 1 below). “That these services enable only the sharing of content on the Web is not important here. What is important is that they allow simultaneous sharing in reality.(Akar & Topcu, 2011, p.39).

A 2012 study conducted by The Nielsen Company (2013) indicated advertising in the form of word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family continued to be the strongest factor triggering action among 84% of 29.000 global respondents from 58 countries (table on the next page).

 

Table 1: Nielsen Global Survey of Trust in Advertising, Questionnaire 1-2013 (Nielsen, 2013)

   
  
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   Native Marketing explained

Native Marketing explained

 

A brief Critique and suggestions for research.

Some critique is being raised about native advertising as a new form of online advertising.  Listed below are the most commonly raised issues:

  • Many platforms may not have the capacity to handle the growing amount of native advertising, even though they say they can (Kantrowitz, 2013).
  • It is generally hard to tell whether native advertising is more successful than conventional banner methods, as they are used at different scales.
  • Joe McCambley, who helped creating the first banner ad, says that native advertising might destroy journalism, as “You are gambling with the contract you have with your readers,” and “How do I know who made the content I am looking at and what the value of the information is?” (Carr, 2013).
  • There are ethical questions being raised about the extent to which for instance The New Yorker is fooling their audience and breaching the contract of offering valuable and trustworthy content.

The scope of this paper leaves no room for discussion of the above, therefore it is suggested that further research should be done towards the limitations of native advertising, in terms of scalability as well as in terms of ethical issues.

 

Conclusion.

Web 2.0 has made a significant impact on the power relations between brands and their audience, and native advertising is one answer to this paradigm shift. Online advertisers now find themselves on thin ice, as the “…web-based power struggles between marketer and consumer brand authors challenge accepted branding truths and paradigms: where short-term brands can trump long-term icons, where marketing looks more like public relations, where brand building gives way to brand protection, and brand value is driven by risk, not returns. (Fournier & Avery, 2011, p.193). This paper confirms that advertisers will always be looking for better ways to reach their audiences, and that those who are most adaptive to change will always be upfront.

 

Bibliography

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Barwise, P. & Meehan, S., 2010. The One Thing You Must Get Right When Building a Brand. Harvard Business Review, December, pp.80-84.

Benway, J.P., 1998. Banner Blindness: The Irony of Attention Grabbing on the Word Wide Web. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 42nd Annua meeting, 1, pp.463-67.

Berry, E., 2013. The hottest companies in native advertising. [Online] Triplelift Available at: http://www.imediaconnection.com/images/content/07032013Berry-NativeAdvertisingLandscape-01-lg.png [Accessed 14 February 2014].

Burke, M., Hornof, A., Nilsen, E. & Gorman, N., 2005. High-Cost Banner Blindness: Ads Increase Perceived Workload, Hinder Visual Search, And Are Forgotten. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, 12(4), pp.423-45.

Buscher, G., Dumais, S.T. & Cutrell, E., 2010. The Good, The Bad, and The Random: an Eye-Tracking Study of Ad Quality in Web Search. Proceedings of the 33rd International ACM SIGIR Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval, pp.42-49.

Carr, D., 2013. Storytelling Ads may be Journalisms New Peril. [Online] Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/16/business/media/storytelling-ads-may-be-journalisms-new-peril.html?ref=mediaequation&_r=4& [Accessed 10 February 2014].

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Deighton, J. & Kornfeld, L., 2009. Interactivity's Unanticipated Consequences for Marketers and Marketing. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 23, pp.4-10.

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Fournier, S. & Avery, J., 2011. The Uninvited Brand. Business Horizons, 54(3), pp.193-207.

Holt, D.B., 2002. Why do Brands cause Trouble? Journal of Consumer Research, 29(1), pp.70-90.

Jackson, J., 2014. Guardian CEO: 'This is about following how people consume media in a digital world.'. [Online] Available at: http://www.themediabriefing.com/article/guardian-ceo-andrew-miller-open-advertising-known-membership [Accessed 9 February 2014].

Kantrowitz, A., 2013. Can Native Advertising Scale? These Networks Say It Can. [Online] Available at: http://adage.com/article/digital/native-advertising-scale-networks/243854/ [Accessed 14 February 2014].

Keers, P., 2013. Why Content Marketing Should be going Native. [Online] Available at: http://www.the-cma.com/news/why-content-marketing-should-be-going-native [Accessed 11 February 2014].

Levine, R., Locke, C., Searles, D. & Weinberger, D., 2001. The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual. New York: Perseus Book Group.

Mick, D.G. & Buhl, C., 1992. A meaning-based Model of Advertising Experiences. Journal of Consumer Research, 19, pp.317-38.

Muniz, A.M. & Schau, H.J., 2011. How to inspire Value-Laden Collaborative Consumer Generated Content. Business Horizons, 54, pp.209-17.

Nielsen, 2013. Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages Report 2013. [Online] The Nielsen Company Available at: http://se.nielsen.com/site/documents/NielsenGlobalTrustinAdvertisingReportSeptember2013.pdf [Accessed 13 February 2014].

Palant, W., 2014. Adblock Plus. [Online] Available at: https://adblockplus.org/en/chrome [Accessed 14 February 2014].

Ritson, M. & Elliot, R., 1999. The Social Uses of Advertising: An Ethnographic Study of Adolescent Advertising Audiences. Journal of Consumer Research, 26, pp.260-77.

Rubleski, T., 2008. Mind Capture: How You Can Stand Out in the Age of Advertising Deficit Disorder. New York: Morgan James Publishing.

Salmon, F., 2013. The Disruptive Potential of Native Advertising. [Online] Available at: http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2013/04/09/the-disruptive-potential-of-native-advertising/ [Accessed 12 February 2014].

Smith, P., 2013. The Media Briefing: Is it Time to Move on from Intrusive, Annoying Online Advertising? [Online] Available at: http://www.themediabriefing.com/article/is-it-time-to-move-on-from-intrusive-annoying-online-advertising [Accessed 14 February 2014].

Taylor, H., 2014. The Media Briefing: BuzzFeed's native advertising: really making ads you want to share? [Online] Available at: http://www.themediabriefing.com/article/buzzfeed-native-ad-social-sharing [Accessed 13 February 2014].

Varadarajan, R. & Yadav, M.S., 2009. Marketing Strategy in an Internet-Enabled Environment:A Retrospective on the First Ten Years of JIM and a Prospective on the Next Ten Years. Journal of Interactive Marketing , 23, pp.11-22.

Vargo, S.L. & Lusch, R.F., 2004. Evolving to a New Dominant Logic for Marketing. Journal of Marketing, 68(1), pp.1-17.

Wasserman, T., 2012. Mashable: This Infographic Explains What Native Advertising Is.. [Online] Available at: http://mashable.com/2012/12/13/infographic-native-advertising/ [Accessed 10 February 2014].

Wind, Y., 2008. A Plan to Invent the Marketing We Need Today. MITSloan Management Review, 49(4), pp.20-28.

Winer, R.S., 2009. New Communications Approaches in Marketing: Issues and. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 23, pp.108-17.

Xiang, Z. & Gretzel, U., 2010. Role of social media in online travel information search. Tourism Management, 31, pp.179-88.

NATIVE ADVERTISING, THE NEXT BIG THING? Part 1

December 11, 2014

Written By Thomas Roos

Part 1: How Web 2.0 gave consumers endless power

An introduction to native advertising.

Native advertising is a new phenomenon within the online advertising field and by some people is referred to as the new disruptive online advertising strategy (Salmon, 2013). Native advertising has received wide-spread attention within the online marketing field, especially among content marketers, but seem to be poorly understood by too many stakeholders. (The average monthly Google searches of the term ‘native advertising’ has gone from 800 January 2013 to 4000 in 2014.) Native advertising includes ads that ‘blend in’ with the content that surrounds them, but are actually branded and paid for. Evidently, the success of one such native ad is to create content that 1) enhances brand equity, 2) adds to the publisher’s / platform’s value, and most importantly; 3) is valuable for the audience that needs to be engaged.

The nature of this paper and the reason for writing.

This article will merely reflect upon my interpretations of the information that was collected and processed, and it is written to provide deeper understanding of native advertising. But most importantly; it tries to identify native advertising’s place in the existing marketing paradigm and to relate it to current movements within consumer culture.

After reflecting back upon the recent paradigm shifts in society and in internet marketing that are relevant to the rise of native advertising practices, I will display the findings from a literature search, highlighting authors that made future predictions in regards to the development of (internet) marketing and advertising. In the second part, the empirical data resulting from an explorative study using netnographic methods and secondary data sources will be analysed and discussed. After illustrating the essence of native advertising and how native advertising has developed to what it is now, I will provide the reader with an argument that explains the success of native advertising for brands. The paper will conclude with a discussion of native advertising and how its success might be predicting the future form of advertising in Web 3.0

 

Consumer resistance to online advertising.

Online advertisements are everywhere. It seems that there is no way to escape them, even though we were fairly quick to adapt our cognitive efforts to the overwhelming amount of stimuli; nowadays 90% of the banners is selected out by our brain and does not even reach our conscious mind (Benway, 1998) (Burke et al., 2005) (Buscher et al., 2010).

Digital advertisements have become more and more intrusive, some colourful, some beautifully simple; but they all annoy us to a certain degree. Certainly, advertisers and marketing agents have become better and better at drawing the online wanderer’s attention along the way, using a variety of methods (Winer, 2009, p.110).

’The early part of the 21st century has witnessed an explosion in new media utilized by marketing managers to reach their customers’’ (Winer, 2009, p.119). Not solely through visual attractions, no, a fine-tuned mix of audio-visual materials is often used to facilitate a desperate call for attention. Think of the time you were listening to your favourite playlist on Spotify, rudely being interrupted by an audio advertisement in your native language, along with a screen-size billboard popping up on your screen. Think of the times you were distracted by extravagant banners on the side of the news article you were trying to read. Think of that, and you’re thinking of the post-modern internet era, an era of ‘advertising deficit disorder’ (Rubleski, 2008).

A simple, but effective way to deal with these annoying banners and ads, is simply to install so-called ad-blocking plug-ins such as Adblock, that claims to have been downloaded over 200 million times (Palant, 2014). When companies started blocking Adblock users with software called Adblockblock, activists invented Adblockblockblock to avoid that (Smith, 2013), indicating an endless cat and mouse play.

Literature study: Are we witnessing the maturation of Web 2.0?

Even though the past decade has shown us numerous examples of brands that successfully drew the attention of their target audience, it seems like the ‘traditional ways’ of online marketing (Winer, 2009, p.110) are getting out of fashion. More specialized online marketing such as interactive methods have emerged in the past years, indicating a possible maturation of the online marketing paradigm as we know it (Wind, 2008) (Varadarajan & Yadav, 2009, p.20)

This maturation of internet marketing goes along with shift in society as a whole. The paradigm shifts that have taken place in consumer culture naturally have their effect on marketing. In the current postmodern consumer culture, brands are used primarily for identity building projects. A growing body of literature from a more consumer culture perspective deals with how advertisements are perceived by consumers nowadays. Slightly older, but still very relevant contributions to this body of literature were made by Mick and Buhl (1992) and by Ritson and Elliot (1999). The former argue that ads function considerably as carriers of social meanings and are actively being used for identity building and creation. The latter argue that ‘’advertising can form the basis of for a wide variety of social interactions’’ (p.273). Firat and Venkatesh (1995) argue, - in their rather elaborative description of the postmodern condition of consumer society-, that “...it is not to brands that consumers will be loyal, but to images and symbols...’’ (p.251). Deighton and Kornfeld (2009, p.9) therefore argue that of their five possible strategies for interaction with online consumers, the one that facilitates people’s identity projects and that contributes to a collective sense-making will be the most successful.

{C}{C}{C}{C}In Why do brands cause trouble? (2002), Holt predicted a paradigm shift from postmodernism to what he calls ‘post-postmodernism’. He provides evidence for the impact that contemporary anti-branding movements will have on marketing as whole, and based upon the exploratory research that was conducted, this paper suggests that these predictions are to a large extend applicable to the online marketing paradigm as well. The recent changes in consumer attitude towards brands show that branding has become a fine art and is now subject to growing consumer scepticism of brands, producers and capitalist systems in general (Holt, 2002) (Barwise & Meehan, 2010). The well-awake and self-educated brand critics that we used to call consumers are now questioning the authenticity of each branded article, advertisement, blog or other content they come across. Advertising online is subject to a changing power balance between producer and consumer, and brands will be valued as long as they allow interaction from both sides and can be used to create meaning (Vargo & Lusch, 2004). As Christodoulides (2009) argued already 4 years ago: “Post-internet branding is about facilitating conversations around the brand” (p.142).

The empowerment of the consumer is enhanced in the numerous user-generated content (UGC) platforms: “…whether the news is good or bad, they will tell everyone.” (Levine et al., 2001). Recent examples of consumer empowerment include single Youtube videos posted by one single individual, resulting in substantial losses (or gains) in brand equity when going viral, and proving why Word Of Mouth (WOM) is one of the strongest means through which a brand can gain exposure. Later on WOM will be discussed further. 

Consumers have turned to UGC to inform themselves and others about brands and products, rather than listening to companies (Xiang & Gretzel, 2010, p.180). Now the companies seem to have their answer: settle in between the audience through native advertising.

Part 2 of this paper will take the above into consideration when discussing empirical examples of native advertising as an answer to this changing power balance, as well as its successes and limitations. It will offer visual aid while explaining the essence of native advertising.

 

 

10 notable changes to market on the Internet

October 6, 2014

Written by  Alexander Landers 

The beginning of this month, February 2014, marked a point in Internet history: it has been 10 years ago since Mark Zuckerberg founded social media network Facebook and it is that network that has become the popular social media network over time. The rise and the enormous use of social media is just one good example of how Internet has changed over the last years and is still changing as we speak.

 

Read more ---

 

People’s “online habits and buying process [have] changed, in large part reshaped by the Internet itself” (Duffy 2014). For example, it is not only the people who use today’s biggest social media network for socialising purposes – Facebook has become an often-used tool for marketers as well. In my experience, the Internet has changed from a mostly informative platform for professionals and consumers to a platform where people can literally share anything and react on that published material online.

As the Internet is still changing, marketers change their online tactics as well. In this E-paper, I will try to identify 10 notable changes in marketing on the Internet, in order to help marketers doing their job better.

1. Use of Online Communities

Online communities are social networks on the Internet where people confer with each other “to pursue common goals and/or interests. This interaction often crosses political and geographical boundaries” (Patruno 2013). For example, the brand of the mobile phone that I recently bought, Oppo, uses its online community to help customers (help themselves) with their problems and the software developers to gain customer insights from them. You have to be a member of the online community before you can actually get involved on topics you are interested in.

Marketers should take advantage of Seraj’s main theoretical contribution on online communities where “the need for the concurrent existence of content quality, playful interactivity helps with building social ties and a self-governed community culture with its citizens playing certain roles” (Seraj 2012, p. 220).

 

2. Focus on two sorts of consumers

The second important notable change to marketing on the Internet is that a marketer nowadays should focus on two sorts of consumers: both the consumers with a utilitarian orientation and the ones with a more hedonic orientation as Scarpi (2012) states in his article. Utilitarian orientated consumers are far more goal oriented when they surf on the Internet to find products, whereas the consumers who are more hedonically orientated and are shopping online for fun; they want to enjoy the shopping experience more. This means that for an E-tailer’s website fun sells off, because then the hedonically orientated consumers return to the website to buy other products several times. However, this sort of consumer spends less on average than the utilitarian orientated consumers. So although a marketer of online products is “more inclined to a utilitarian orientation, they could consider adding features to induce consumers to be more hedonic on the Web site” (Scarpi 2012, p.65). 

3. Managing eWOM
Electroninic Word of Mouth (eWOM) has gotten more effective on the internet, as social the usage of social media usage increased in the last years. It still is very difficult for a marketer to manage eWom, but the authors Sandes & Urdan (2012) have tried to verify in their article if eWom affects consumer behaviour and if companies can manage eWom by actively responding to comments posted by consumers. Sandes & Urdan’s study showed that exposure to comment (both negative and positive) impacts brand image, just as word-of-mouth marketing does in real life. Although online negative-feedback management reduces the impact on brand image but did not change the impact on purchase intention. Therefore, the marketer should engage in the discussion online. 

4. Use of social networks

The fourth notable change to market on the Internet is the changes in use of social networks. For example, the biggest social network of all, Facebook, has changed that consumers can now decide themselves which of their friends get to see their posts. New tactics should help the marketer with the use of social media. Kietzmann and others presented a framework in their article seven building blocks that firms should use for social media:  identity, conversations, sharing, presence, relationships, reputation and groups (Kietzmann, Hermkens, McCarthy & Silvestreet 2011, p. 248). By using these building blocks marketers can be more consistent in their use of social networks and attract as many potential clients as possible.

5. Virtual worlds

Virtual worlds are simulated environments that are computer based. Examples of virtual worlds are Second Life and Habbo. “Second life was designed with the expectation being on the residents to establish their own community rules for appropriate behaviour. On the other hand some virtual worlds such as Habbo enforce clear rules for behaviour, as seen in their terms of condition” (Haskins 2008). That is why it is not so easy for a marketer to get involved in virtual worlds, although research of Eisenbeiss and others states that socializing, creativity and escape emerge as individual drivers for people who are participating in a virtual world (Eisenbeiss, Blechschmidt, Backhaus & Freund 2012, p. 16). So now at least marketers know what the most important drivers are of these people to get involved in those world. There is not enough research done yet to state how marketers should exactly get involved in virtual worlds. 

6. Internet affects generations and genders differently

Research has not only been done about how the Internet affects generations differently, but also on how it affects genders differently. The research done by Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden has results which suggest “that normative (parents, peers, and the Internet) influences affect Generation Y more than Generation X. Conversely, as this study found, informative influences of parents, traditional media, and in particular, the Internet affect Generation X. Furthermore, the findings show that the Internet is an important normative socialization agent influencing men, while it acts as an informative socialization agent for women” (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden 2011, p. 179).These are very interesting results for marketers on the Internet, if they want to better approach their target group.

7. Offline versus online TV-advertising

Marketers can still spend a lot of money on advertising on TV. Because more and more television is watched online nowadays, it is interesting to know what the differences are in adverting for marketing for both kinds of television. Cho & Cheon already found out through their study “why people avoid internet advertising”, namely because people avoid advertisements because of the perceived ad clutter (Cho & Cheon 2014, p. 90). This is also what Logan confirms in his article about the online TV watching group: the group watching online TV was less tolerant of advertising than the offline TV group (Logan 2013, p. 271). The same article describes that viewers of Online TV do not regard advertising as a means to subsidize the cost of online content. Rather, young adults appear to regard advertising as an intruder in the OTV environment (Logan 2013, p. 271). This calls for new ways of advertising for online TV, if you ask me. 

8. Old media can help use of Internet

Another notable change on the Internet is that marketers tend to think that it is either/or when it comes to marketing through old media and marketing via the Internet. This is not correct, as Pfeiffer & Zinnbauer explain in their article. They argue that old media can enhance new media “To build brand strength, or to actively convey a brand's positioning relative to competitors toward a broad audience, however, classic advertising remains a necessity” (Pfeiffer & Zinnbauer 2010, p. 47). But potential synergies between two or more media channels have to also be taken into account when marketers come to their final media mix decision: that is why old media can enhance new media.

9. Power of social media ecosystem

The change in power of social media on the Internet is also something marketers should take into account. It can make or break the marketing of a company. That is why Hanna and others state in their article that both social and traditional media should be seen as part of an ecosystem. “All elements work together toward a common objective: whether to launch and promote a new product or service; to communicate a new company initiative; or to simply further engage customers in a rich, meaningful, and interactive dialogue”  (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden 2011, p. 273).

10. Measuring ROI of social media marketing

The last notable change to market on the Internet is that measuring of Return On Investment (ROI) of social media marketing has become easier for companies. Hoffmann and Fodor explain in their article that the social Web has become highly measurable. It has been made “relatively simple for a manager to measure the number of product reviews, blog posts and comments, retweets and appearances in the social network timelines of the company’s brands” (Hoffmann & Fodor 2010, p. 49). None the less, the authors don’t forget to mention that there are still are some situations in which it is difficult to trace behaviour online (for example offline word of mouth and offline purchases).

Conclusion

In this E-Paper, I have discussed 10 notable changes to market on the Internet for marketers. The sum of it all is that I do not think that marketers underestimate changes on the Internet, but it is all about how they adapt changes of the Internet over the last 10 years. I have tried to pick out the most notable changes on the Internet to me, but I can see the limitation of my research, because there are far more changes that have happened over the last decade. I hope the changes I have mentioned, will give food for thought for marketers that want to market on the internet. Just imagine: how will the Internet will look like in 10 years from now?
 

Reference list

Bullas 2014
Bullas, J., Why Facebook Users are Valuable to Marketers, Available Online: http://www.jeffbullas.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/facebookmktg.jpg [Last accessed on 11 February 2014].

Cho & Cheon 2004

Cho C-H. & Cheon H., Why do people avoid advertising on the internet?, Journal of Advertising, inter2004, Vol. 33 Issue 4, pp. 89 - 97.

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Strong Brand Presence and a Political Consumer-Social Media Implications

September 15, 2014

 

Written by Rabail Junaid

 

Introduction:

Internet technology has revolutionized the world, it has revolutionized the way we think, behave and express ourselves. Today is the day of cyber-culture- where information is created, re-created, misinterpreted, misrepresented and even marred on several platforms such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and other strong social media platforms. Social media in this cyber-culture attracts more than 100 million visitors, creating trillions of connections media each day, disseminating phenomenal amount of information at incredible rate (Akar,& Topcu, 2011). Although tempted to see the wide implications of social media, the focus is on consumers, their behaviours and political attitudes towards the brand.

 

Today on an average, a consumer devotes 32% of his or her media consumption to online channels in 2010 as compared to 26% in 2008 (Fournier & Avery 2011). However to consumers, social media and social networks are by no means a medium for marketing or sales, but rather only conversations, connections and networking. Social media is a place where nobody is a ´consumer´ or ´audience´, but a participant in ´conversation´ (Fournier & Avery 2011). This is an interesting paradox which directs us to the notion of a ´Political Consumer´

 

Political Consumption is relatively a new phenomenon in consumption where the constant flow of information combined with mass media has let the consumers to form their own opinions and political ideologies individually  Larsen 1998; cited in Micheletti & Isenhour 2010). Foucult describes it as a source of liberation from traditional source of information recieval. With the help of Knowledge (as a source for liberating truths) and Power (as a force of ideological domination) (Foucault 1980; cited in Thompson and Tambyah 1999) in this cyber culture, individuals are free to create their own political ideologies which they think are powerful enough to challenge strong brands. This way, the societies are fragmented to form a world where there is no one truth, but rather a self-created personalized truth for each individual (Foucult 1980; cited in Firat and Venkatesh 1995). This self-creation and expression of individualized truths forms a political consumer: who believes he/she has the power to change strong brands through his ideas and expressions. A political consumer is empowered to express his/her viewpoint, which liberates him/her from a stereotypical non-political and traditional and one-way expression used by brands over offline media. Over the period of time, we have observed several forms of consumer politics on strong brands like boycotts against Nike, criticism of unfair trade on Starbucks, obesity accusations on McDonalds, health hazards on Marlboro and so on. However, a political consumer must not be only seen as trouble maker: brands like Dove, P&G and Apple are success stories of leveraging consumer politics on social media.

   
  
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Strong Brand Presence and Consumer Politics on Social Media:

 

The common features of social media are that it is multidirectional, it is participatory and it is user generated (Akar,& Topcu, 2011). In social media where the presence of brands is strong, there is a constant creation and re-creation of brands in terms of ideologies and brand perceptions and brand equity. Consumers are turned from bystanders to hunters to participants (Hanna et al, 2011). Social media has transformed consumers into marketers and advertisers and they are empowered to create negative and positive impressions on the company with knowledge and power. Several examples of strong brand presence could be seen on social media; Dove is an ideal example. Dove´s real beauty campaign is attempt to empower the real consumers and present them as beautiful regardless of age, ethnicity, size and skin type. The campaign has received massive social media response.

 

Strong social brand presence can be traditional brands or open brands (Fournier & Avery 2011). Depending upon the strategic objectives of a brand, a company may decide upon having one or multiple touch points on social media like Facebook communities, Twitter accounts, YouTube Videos, Blogs, Pins, Photos and the like. However, the richness of social media does not exhaustive here. Social media makes brands open-audience indulge themselves into a plethora of information though User Generated Content (UGC) (Soares et al, 2012). UGC can be in form of facebook statuses, tweets, photos, blog posts, product reviews, pro-brand or anti-brand campaigns, websites and so on. (Aljukhadar & Senecal 2011) describe an audience category of social thrivers- a group that is most active and interactive on social media through UGC and using it as a source to freely express their political ideology towards brands. This content has a multiplier effects due to excess social connectivity.  

 

The notion that consumers are empowered to show their political ideology in case of brands is a big challenge for strong brands. The power of consumer collectives invites unintended and unseen consequences that challenge long established brand equity (Stuart & Jones, 2004). Due to the multiplier effect of social media contents, size of the brand has become a liability (Fournier & Avery 2011): the strong/bigger the brand, the harder. Brands realize that this is the age of bottom-up marketing where consumers are intelligent, organized, proactive and hold a political ideology and even a small mishap and the brand has to face the music (Hanna et al, 2011).  

 

Consumer Politics and the Case of McDonalds:

 

On social media, although most of the marketing is for free, it is also uncontrollable and multidirectional (Atkinson, 2013). Unlike traditional marketing, social media marketing is not about talking to someone. Rather, it is about talking with someone (Atkinson, 2013). McDonalds is very interesting example of strong social media presence. With the golden arches most recognizable symbol in the World, the success of the brand is unarguable. McDonalds have always been related to a fun filled, casual, fast and economical dining place with amazing service and quality, until consumer politics on social media took over. Social media has put the brand into unanticipated controversies that severely damaged the brand equity. McDonalds has been into serious accusations and lawsuits for spreading obesity epidemic and health problems among kids and elders. How has the brand perception suddenly changed while the food and quality was still consistent? The answer is a political consumer. While the brand moved from traditional, one-way communication to an open, non-traditional two-way communication, the consumer hijacked the brand and re-branded it with what he/she felt like (Winer, 2009). The viral content portraying McDonalds as unhealthy, immoral and mean brand spread to an extent of being uncontrollable. The Academy award nominee documentary named Supersize Me is a great story of the power to political consumer; the video has been viewed, shared, followed, re-made and written about million times.

 

Recently, the brand´s social media failure of "tweetjacking" is been called as one of the worst in year 2012. In order to make a stronger brand image, the company purchased a Promoted Tweet campaign, with the hashtag, #MeetTheFarmers. This was an attempt to create connection between quality or food and individual farmers. The campaign seemed to be doing very well until it decided to change the specific hashtag with a more generic #McDStories tag without specifying the context of its use. This allowed consumers to hijack the brand and spread negativity by quoting their own stories related to health, obesity, and other problems.

   
  
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McDonald´s immediate response was to pull off the social media campaign altogether without any explanation further incited the audience By the time the disaster made the news, brand sentiment raged out of control.

 

McDonald´s could-be Strategies towards Consumer Politics on Social Media:

On social media, brands take different approaches; three of them are described by Fournier & Avery (2011). Depending upon brand´s strategy, one or more of these three strategies can be adopted: The path of least resistance, Playing its game and Leveraging Web 2.0.

By indulging in social media blunder, McDonalds actually took part in path of least resistance. The brand actually bowed to consumer pressures over social media and gave away the control to consumers. By not describing what #McDStories was intended for, it initially invited tweetjacking and after seeing the consequences, pulled off the social media campaign altogether. However, the brand should have adopted the strategy of leveraging web 2.0 by letting the consumers participate in #MeetTheFarmers stories. This hashtag was more specific and clear in terms of context of use. Playing its game is a strategy where strong brands participate on social forums where there is an on-going positive discussion about the brand, category or any related context.

 

Moreover, Hanna et al (2011) discuss three different strategies that could be useful in on-going developments of the brand on social media:

 

Improvise:

“Improvisation is not about doing one right thing (output view), but about continuously doing things right (process view)” (Vera and Crossan 2004; cited in Hanna et al 2011)

 

The process of improvisation is therefore more important than its outputs and it is the best tactic to deal with consumer politics on social media. Very often brand fail to improvise of current strategies and make clarifications. Rather, they prefer pulling the content off the social media. McDonalds did the same in hopes that it will neutralize the consumer sentiments. Instead, the consumers were more offended because it took away the charm of participation and two-way communication. The audience were turned from co-creators to bystanders.

 

Mange Tension:

 

Managing brand performances is about managing tension. (Singh, S. & Sonnenburg, S. 2012)

 

Managing tension does not mean managing outraged consumers and their political standings. It is about constantly providing the brand a chance to be talked about with support of a storyline, a brand ideology. Strong brands like McDonalds must have a constant tension management that can incite the audience, make them participate while controlling the brand at the same time. The idea of meet the farmers seemed to be working very well; the brand was successful in pulling the strings until the hashtag was changed to McDStories. The brand gave away too much power to consumers.

 

Understand the Audience:

 

The core purpose of social media should be to gain consumer insights (Barwise, B. & Meehan, S. (2010)

 

For strong brands like McDonalds, it is imperative to take into consideration what is consumers’ political ideology about the brand: what they think about and want from the brand. Social media platform is an ideal and cheaper way to do that. In social media where most of the brands are open, the consumers are participants, co-creators and disseminators of brand. The tension occurs when their political ideology and brand ideology differ. McDonalds seemed to take the consumer sentiments too lightly; while still being top and growing brand worldwide, it underestimated the social media in ruining the whole brand equity.

 

Conclusion

Despite of all the consequences for strong brands like McDonalds, social media and political consumer are here to stay. Therefore it is imperative that brands learn from mistakes, improvise for future, adapt to new dynamics and fine-tune their short and long term strategies to fit into the new environment. 

 

References:

 

Akar,E & Topcu, B (2011). An Examination of the Factors Influencing Consumers’ Attitudes Toward Social Media Marketing. Journal of internet commerce, Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 15 January 2014]

 

Aljukhadar, M. & Senecal, S. (2011). Segmenting the Online Consumer Market. Marketing Intelligence & Planning. Vol 29. No. 4. Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 16 January 2014]

 

Atkinson, W. (2013). Adding Social Media Marketing to the Mix. Distributor Focus. Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 15 January 2014]

 

Barwise, B. & Meehan, S. (2010). The One Thing You Must Get Right When Building a Brand. Harvard Business Review. Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 18 January 2014]

 

Firat, A.F., Venkatesh, A., (1995). Liberatory Postmodernism and its Reenchantment of Consumption, Journal of Consumer Research, vol 22, Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 15 November 2013]

 

Fournier, S &  Avery, J (2011). The uninvited brand. Business Horizons. Vol 54. Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 15 January 2014]

 

Hanna, R. Rohm, A & Crittenden, V. L. (2011). We’re all connected: The power of the social media ecosystem. Business Horizons. Vol 54. Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 15 January 2014]

 

Micheletti, M., Isenhour, C., (2010) Political Consumption, in Understanding Consumption - a Nordic Perspective, Karin Ekström (ed.), Chapter 6, p 133-150

 

Soares, A.M., Pinho, J.C., a & Nobre a H., (2012). From Social to Marketing Interactions: The Role of Social Networks. Journal of Transnational Management. Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 18 January 2014]

 

Stuart, H. & Jones, C. (2004). Corporate Branding in Marketspace. Corporate Reputation Review. Vol 7. No.1. Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 15 January 2014]

 

Singh, S. & Sonnenburg, S. (2012). Brand Performances in Social Media. Journal of Interactive Marketing. Vol 26. Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 15 January 2014]

 

Thompson, C.J., & Tambyuh, S.K., (1999). Trying to Be Cosmopolitan. Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 26, Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 25 September 2013]

 

Winer, R. S., (2009). New Communications Approaches in Marketing: Issues and Research Directions. Journal of Interactive Marketing. Vol 23. Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 17 January 2014]