Monday, February 3, 2014

The #RTMBowl Post-Game Show: Real-Time Marketing Fumbled Last Night

Joe Duck:  Welcome the #RTMBowl Post-Game Show, where we analyze and review Super Bowl real-time marketing.

Troy Acheman: Yes, Joe, and it could be we've witnessed the last of the #RTMBowls. I mean, brands scored fewer points than the Denver Broncos last night!

Duck: Ouch! But you may be right, Troy. The first #RTMBowl was fought just last year, and most marketers didn't even know it. When Oreo threw that Hail Mary and scored, it caused a lot of other brands to think they could toss the long ball, too.

Acheman: Yes, and this year many #RTMBowl brands were sloppy, shooting bricks and dropping the ball. It has to cause brands to reconsider the wisdom of fielding a team for next years' Super Bowl.

Duck: Perhaps, Troy, but never count out the optimism of marketers. It's easy to forget we get an eagle-eye view from the booth, but on the field, marketers too easily lose perspective and get caught up in the game.

Acheman:  So true, Joe. It seemed when consumers showed little interest and engagement, brands quickly turned to tweeting each other. Newcastle tweeted GoDaddy, Butterfinger tweeted TurboTax, Tide tweeted Heinz, CarMax tweeted Bud, Toyota tweeted DiGiorno, Snickers tweeted JCPenney and on and on--there were so many brands tweeting brands that you had to wonder if they all shared the same agency!

Duck: Speaking of JCPenney, what did you think of their game strategy, Troy?

Acheman: I guess stumbling around like a drunk is one way of getting tweets, but it doesn't seem like a way of earning trust for the struggling retailer. Joe, what did you think when the brand revealed they were joking and tweeting with mittens on?

Duck: It seemed as if JCPenney was admitting it had nothing to say and was desperate for attention. The company claimed this was an effective way to create its own "narrative," but brands are supposed to do more than be talkable--they're supposed to change minds or consumer behaviors!  It may have earned the retailer a few critical and confused tweets (and several thousand new followers), but I can't see any fans heading to the store as a result of that social media miscue. So, Troy, did you see any brands putting points on the #RTMBowl board?

Acheman: Sure, some brands got a little attention. Buffalo Wild Wings telling folks they "Didn't have a button" to reset the awful Super Bowl game was funny and on brand. And DiGiorno Pizza earned 17,000 retweets by mining the same vein of humor, cracking that the game, like their pizza, was "done after twenty minutes."

Duck: Funny, Troy, but did those tweets sell any wings or pizza? Let's find out by going to Spam Oliver in the aisles of a grocery store. Spam?

Spam Oliver: I have with me two consumers purchasing frozen pizza. Sir, I see you're buying a DiGiorno pizza. Was it because of their tweet?

Consumer #1: DiGiorno has a Twitter account? I had no idea.

Oliver: And you, ma'am. You have a competitor's pizza. Did you see the DiGiorno tweet?

Consumer #2: Yes, I saw it. I even retweeted it. But just because a frozen pizza brand made a funny on Twitter doesn't mean I'll change my buying habits. I'm buying the brand I always buy. Maybe if DiGiorno spent a little less effort trying to be funny and a little more telling me why I should try their brand or giving me a promotion to do so, that may have an impact.

Oliver: And there you have it--the difference between engaging with a brand on Twitter and engaging with the brand where it matters--in store aisles. Now, back to you Troy and Joe.

Acheman: So, Joe, do brands score when they get #RTMBowl retweets?

Duck: I think the issue here is that well-known brands are settling for tactics that drive awareness. DiGiorno and BW3 already have high awareness among their target audience, so what they need to do is drive more trial and traffic. For a farm-league brand, awareness can be vital, but these brands are already in the big league and settling for minor-league impact. To me, the bigger story isn't the few brands that succeeded with minor 'viral' success but the many brands that simply were unable to convert on third down.

Acheman: You're right, Joe. An awful lot of brands were essentially ignored by consumers. For example, among marketers self-congratulating each other in the #RTMBowl Twitter stream, a lot of praise was directed toward Tide for its Vine posts, but the attention from consumers was almost non-existent. Tide's Vine about Heinz Ketchup earned fewer than 40 retweets on Twitter and got less than 60 shares to Twitter and Facebook. The brand's witty takeoff on the Pepsi halftime and Janet Jackson did better, but it still was only good for 220 retweets on Twitter and 300 shares off of Vine.

Duck: Oof, that was some hit to Tide. A brand that big is used to buying hundreds of thousands of impressions at a time. It's hardly worth the brand's time to post for a few hundred shares. And of course, while some folks claim that earned media is 'free,' it actually has a cost, doesn't it, Troy?

Acheman: You bet, Troy. Consumers produce Vine videos for nothing, but Tide worked with an agency, developed creative, sought reviews and approvals and staffed a team to see awful little engagement. That's a lot of effort and cost for a mammoth P&G brand to reach a few thousand eyes. I've seen better social media results for mom and pop shops!

Duck: And Tide was hardly alone. Arby's scored big a week earlier with a funny Grammy's tweet about Pharrell's hat, but its joke about "turnovers" during the Super Bowl garnered just 100 retweets. Radio Shack tried to extend their 80s-themed ads into social media, but few of their tweets about Cabbage Patch dolls or Star Wars lunchboxes earned more than three dozen retweets. Toyota tried the same strategy with their popular Muppet ads, but their posts generally got fewer than 50 retweets. Think about that--brands spent $4 million to get a single ad in front of 97 million people during the game, and they still couldn't leverage that into social media posts that that engaged more than a few dozen people apiece.

Acheman: You're right, Joe. No brand can economically drive any marketing success with that kind of low response rate. Even with "free" media, national brands can't win games by reaching a hundred people at a time with marketing.

Duck: That's true, which is why the big winners of the night were two brands that stayed home. Oreo, the brand credited with launching the real-time marketing craze, opted out with a tweet encouraging fans to enjoy the game.

Acheman: Classy move, Joe, but I preferred Progressive's trick play, which managed to make the other brands competing in the #RTMBowl look desperate for even trying.  The @ItsFlo account tweeted before kickoff, "What do car insurance and football have in common? Nothing. Talk to you after the game!"

Duck: Yep, while other brands tried to jump into consumer conversations or make themselves talkable, Progressive demonstrated more care for the consumer by what they didn't tweet. The brand let its intent speak louder than its content.

Acheman: And there you have it, marketing fans. This year's #RTMBowl was a bust--very few brands got a lot of tweets and shares with dubious impact; some brands fielded teams with little to show for it; and a few brands opted out in smart fashion. I predict more brands will follow the lead of Progressive and Oreo in the future.

Duck: Well, Troy, we will know soon enough--the Oscars are just a few weeks away, and I can already hear brands American Hustling to get some social media Gravity to appease the Wolfs of Wall Street.

Acheman: Heh heh. And with that, we bid you a good night. Tweet safely, everyone!


Unknown said...

Augie, what about the #esurancesave30 tweet? I understand they've gone from 9k to +250 followers. some -- how mwny -- will inevitably become new customers.

Unknown said...

Sorry, I meant 250K...

Augie Ray said...

First of all, this isn't a social program. It's a traditional paid media campaign, launched with a $2.5M post-Super Bowl ad where the entry mechanism, instead of being a physical entrance slip or a custom web site, happens to be Twitter. I think we need to stop considering as "social" (and by implication "earned" and "peer-to-peer") anything launched with $5M+ national TV campaign.

Secondly, there is nothing social about the engagement. No one is talking about or advocating for the brand--they're just entering a contest. Friends who see those tweets aren't learning about the brand or its benefits--they're learning about a $1.5 million sweepstakes. Esurance isn't earning those tweets--it's buying them. They aren't doing anything "talkable" or building relationships--Twitter is just a means of entry.

Third, social contests and sweeps have been largely discredited as a means of acquisition. Einstein Bagels made headlines for collecting a bunch of fans using a giveaway, and a year later they had the lowest growth in the sector. Farmers Insurance got a lot of PR for adding millions of "fans" with their Farmville social tie-in years back, but they got little business and a lot of spam accusations following the program. You know why you don't hear about either of these programs any more and why marketeter aren't repeating those strategies (well, other than Esurance)? Because they didn't work. There's a reason virtually all brands stopped running social sweepstakes years ago.

Fourth, I don't think there's anything at all "inevitable" that followers will become customers of an insurance company, at least in the sort of quantity to make things worthwhile. (How many people do you know became a customer of an insurance company because of a tweet? Yeah, me neither.) How many of those people followed because the official FAQ says following is required ( How many will unfollow? Worse yet, how many will report it as spam and block the account once the contest is complete? How many will see even see tweets from the brand among the hundreds of tweets from celebs and friends? If they do, how many will care? How many will be in the market for insurance? How many will complete an application? The funnel--if it even exists--is so narrow that if this garners them actual new 500 customers (for a $5M media campaign), your drinks are on me for a year!

Lastly, are you following the blowback on this? Many folks are tweeting negative and deragatory tweets about the brand. "Every tweet with #EsuranceSave30 is an entry to win? Then let me use this tweet to say: Esurance was founded by Nazi war criminals." "Because getting someone rich and famous to sleep with you and then poking a hole in the condom is too much work. #EsuranceSave30." Meanwhile, spammers have hopped all over the hashtag with fake accounts promising things like "Next 100 people who follow will receive 30 extra chances to win!"

This is EXACTLY the sort of "social" program I love because it gives me content for my blog and speaking engagements. I've mocked Farmer's sweepstakes for years, and now I'll have new fodder. A lot of headlines will trumpet the new "followers," but try to find any real impact to the business in the months ahead. Just as the Farmers and Einsteins' promotions became case studies no one talks about or repeats, this one will follow them into obscurity. You have my firm and confident prediction on this, so now we'll see what happens, won't we?

Unknown said...

Sorry to take so long to reply, Augie, bad cold last couple days. But, I must say, I lofted a spitball your way, or maybe it was a softball, and now you’ve pulled out the howitzers! Are you still smarting over my takedown of your post trumpeting Forrester’s fraudulent claim that marketers are deserting Facebook?
Anyway, let me say that in general I have little to disagree with in your reply to my softball. Sweepstakes/contests do indeed have a checkered history and your examples of abject failure are spot on. But there are successes, I’m sure, and I know of at least one: Some months after launching the New York Life Facebook page, we also launched a campaign offering the Company’s propriety financial version of The Game Of Life board game to one randomly chosen person each day (for a couple months) who “Liked” our page. Didn’t cost us $1.5 MM. In fact the guys who built this version of the game were keen to promote it and get it in as many hands of interested persons as possible, so they donated them to us. (We did have mailing costs and, yes, a few hours of employee time on Twitter tweets and Web site promotion.) But for what we intended, to build our fledgling growth from, at the start of the campaign, ~10,000 “Likes” to well over 250,000, the contest was an indisputable success. We shipped a handful of branded board games to 60 people but stirred interest in it, and the Company, among thousands of people. We built our Facebook fan base as hoped-for and, in that pre-EdgeRank time, successfully reached thousands more friends-of-friends. And we never lost those people: We never saw a single dip in “Likes” and in fact continued to build that base every day after the campaign ended. There was no “blowback” whatsoever to this campaign; quite the contrary, it was all sweetness and light. Really.
Why did this work? First, the campaign was legitimately, relevantly branded for New York Life. Second, we had a messaging strategy to remain relevant to all (well, most of) those who had responded, so we were not only able to keep those people but also reach some of their friends (and their friends). I believe we did an awful lot of smart things well after that campaign, but it was clearly an important, at that time crucial, success for us. (Thank you, team leader @greggweiss.)
So it’s just incorrect to say that Social Media sweepstakes/contests to build new fans/followers, or for other objectives for that matter, are doomed to failure, even if many (most?) seem to have been. Actually, contrary to your statement that marketers have given up on this strategy, contests/sweepstakes are going on everyday on FB and Twitter and many could probably be judged to be quite successful if we knew the goal(s) and expected/hoped-for results.

Unknown said...

I must say that I'm not privy in any way to the esurance strategy in re this TV commercial/Twitter contest, but I do know a little about the company. They were the first insurance company that was built from the ground-up to be truly multichannel: Web, phone, TV, Social, mobile, offline (think outdoor ads, think rock concerts). I advocated within New York Life for several years to buy and use them as a model/means for dealing with the self-directed customer and Internet agent disintermediation. Alas, that was just one of my many failures at New York Life! However, I’m proud to note that Allstate was smart enough to buy them (and their parent company eFinancial) to institute the three-pronged strategy I evangelized at New York Life: Branded/Maybe branded, but doesn’t have to be/Non-branded, just want the cheapest price).
Again, I know nothing of what precisely esurance is trying to accomplish here, but I’m guessing, given their history, their corporate DNA, they do indeed have a strategy. What it exactly is, and whether it will work, we’ll just have to wait to see. I certainly wouldn’t want to hastily declare disaster here, which you are doing on your blog and all over Twitter the past few days (also, I imagine, like myself, without any real insight into a possible strategy). Building a fan base on Twitter from 9,000 to 260,000 or so in a few days, if you know what you want to do and can do with that base, is not trivial, even at this late date in the game. I would guess that a company whose tagline is “built to save you money on car insurance,” resonates well in a campaign that says, hey, we saved a bundle, $1.5 million on a Super Bowl commercial, and now we want to give it to you. Kind of spot-on messaging, I think, an opportunity to, over time, build sales with cost-conscious, or cash-strapped, consumers (think not only but especially Millennials). Similar messaging seems to have worked well for Geico, after all…
So, no, I can’t know how many of esurance’s new followers will become customers, but my bet is that many will. Why? Because I think, first, based on past history, their marketers are pretty smart, and mostly because, second, it trivializes Social Media’s real value to even bring ROI into the discussion. Social Media is but one absolutely necessary item in a Digital Portfolio, which also minimally includes a Web site, maybe dedicated micro-sites, mobile (phone and tablet), lead generation, direct sales, etc. (Oh, and it would be nice if that portfolio also included savvy employees/reps and even non-digital properties such as TV, outdoor, etc.) With a true Paid, Owned, Earned strategy you can then position yourself to calculate ROI; then you can see what if any “real impact to the business” your concerted, coordinated efforts are having. But, again, it’s trivializing to expect it from a TV commercial and a few days of a Twitter campaign.
So, Augie, you can safely go on ridiculing (justly) Farmers and Einstein Bagels, and, indeed, maybe, in time, esurance, too, but I think you’re totally missing the bigger point here: Some marketers actually have a true Digital Portfolio and a real strategy behind it. Does esurance have that? I’d prefer at this early stage not to caustically and casually dismiss that possibility.
Or maybe I’m just hopeful....

Augie Ray said...

Thanks for the comment, Ken. No, I don't take any offense to your thoughtful comments. If I pulled out the Howitzers, it's because Esurance is such a visible (and now lauded) example of crappy social media marketing. I've been writing, analyzing, consulting and speaking for years, and people STILL get excited about dumb metrics from a dumb campaign with dumb outcomes. It gets me frustrated and makes me ashamed of my profession (and those emotions will bring a thorough and impassioned response from me.)

I love your example of the Game of Life, and I think this is something on which we can agree. My gripe is that big dollar awards don't draw people interested in something important--they draw anyone--but the closer you can tie the reward to your actual product or brand promise, the more impactful the program. I am not against small sweeps or contests that tie closely to the brand promise but against idiotic "Win $1.5 million" programs that have no chance of attracting prospects or building the top of the funnel. I appreciate you offering the example (and forcing me to talk in less broad strokes.)

As for if they have a strategy, I don't see it. And I don't mean that I am not privy to it, I mean as a person who has lived and breathed social, understands Twitter, and has interviewed hundreds of professionals in the space, I do not see how this program can possibly do anything but earn Esurance headlines. (If only headlines paid the bills.)

Twitter followers aren't leads--far from them. Esurance has already lost 1/5 of the followers they earned. As for the rest, do you think people are INTERESTED in Esurance's tweets? Are they even SEEING them? How many brands have amassed millions of fans and failed anyway? (Blackberry has 3.9M followers--they must really be racking up the growth and profits, right?)

This program gets me angry, because we should be celebrating the way brands build real relationships, not crowing when one buys a bunch of useless fans with an idiotic sweepstakes. It does make my blood boil--we've been in the social era for five or six years now, and it is long past time to celebrate the meaningless.