In many ways, brand marketers and content creators are learning how to creatively challenge themselves to maintain the engagement levels and interest in their audience (and on a whole other level). With another month of social distancing under our belts, I am here to recognize the creative ways that brands have adapted their digital content and marketing strategies, and even the structure of their organization, in response to everything that has changed as a result of the pandemic. And here are the five greatest outcomes that I saw in May.
1. We Saw Ryan Reynolds Become a Marketing Superhero
How many of you knew that Wade Wilson (from Deadpool) is also an owner of the wireless shopping platform, Mint Mobile? Well, that is, Ryan Reynolds, of course. And while Reynolds remains a hero in the world of comics, he is also becoming a hero in the world of marketing. Today, I am here to recognize not his super human strength, but his super authentic video campaign and marketing insights that he adapted for Mint Mobile. Watch the video here.
Over the past couple of months, we saw video production budgets slashed or put aside for the days that studios are re-opened. Instead, other forms of digital content are increasingly being experimented with- including unfiltered, perhaps “lower quality” content. In many surprising ways, this type of unfiltered, “low quality” content is actually connecting a brand with its audience in a more authentic and engaging manner. On May 4th, Mint Mobile, courtesy of Reynolds, released an unfiltered and, in my opinion, much more engaging ad for the company in place of an “epic” and advanced commercial that was never finished due to Covid-19.
The ad features Reynolds opening up about, admittedly, replacing the “magic of film” with the “magic of slides” to get his message across. Scrambling through his “own” personal computer to talk the audience through what reminded me of a college PowerPoint presentation in his own home, I found myself feeling like I truly was connecting and engaging with Reynolds in real life. I immediately felt more engaged and much more interested in his “lower quality” format of a commercial than an advanced infomercial overwhelmed with fast information and facts.
The message really made myself, as a marketer, hold onto the idea that imperfect content is real content that, in many cases, is much more relatable. This idea was also very relevant to Reynolds, who admitted that although he has had worked with $150 million movie budgets, he feels the most creatively fulfilled when working on lower budgeted movies (The Drum). So, what’s the bottom line, you ask? Lowering and transitioning our marketing and production budgets may actually help us create more meaningful content that connect us with our audience in more realistic and engaging way- even if we don’t have direct access to a celebrity and his or her natural following.
2. We Saw Twitter Allow Work From Home Forever
With another month in quarantine down, many of us mastered maintaining, if not surpassing, our productivity levels in the comfort of our own homes. Yes, even if we still need to spend some extra time making sure our mics aren’t muted and screens are being properly shared. Although a vast majority of office workers will be returning to their traditional office spaces at some point down the line, many companies are recognizing and celebrating the positive effects that remote work can have on the company and is adopting a more autonomous and flexible structure for their organization moving forward. Although this may be more related to the HR department, we are celebrating and awarding Twitter for making a bold move that will (hopefully) inspire other companies to progress their traditional model when appropriate.
Take Twitter an an example. On May 12th, CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, announced that Twitter employees will have the option of working from home forever, so long as the nature of the employee’s position allows him or her to do so. Although the company has prided itself in supporting the decentralized, work from home model prior to the essential impacts that Covid-19 would have on a company’s structure, the past few months, according to the platform, served as a catalyst in making this bold move. In an email to TechCrunch.com, Twitter recognized that their employees are not only capable of productively working from “anywhere,” but are also capable of adapting and pivoting themselves during a pandemic (TechCrunch).
In many ways, social distancing is teaching us many things about ourselves. I like to think of these past few months as an experiment. An experiment that, when we come out of it, will teach us a lot about ourselves and the way that we prefer to structure and live our professional and personal lives. Before Covid-19 forced all employees to work from home, those who work for companies with loose restrictions on remote work always found themselves having that one, popular debate amongst their colleagues: Are you more productive working in the office or from home? And I’m sure the basis of your argument has either changed or become more meaningful over the past few months, since, frankly, we have been forced to work from home. As someone who found it a little more difficult to maintain normal a productivity level at home, this
“experiment” has taught me that, when properly adapted, I am actually more productive at home. Would you be willing to see passed those technical video conference difficulties to continue working from home?
3. We Were Invited By M&M To Create Content For Their New TV Commercial
This month, M&M introduced us to a new way we can help the brand create its own content (AdAge). By allowing fans to color and submit a page of an M&M coloring book, the industry giant gave fans the opportunity to use their own skills, imagination and perspectives to create real, authentic content that just may be featured in their next TV commercial. Right now, more than ever, brands are faced with the challenge of connecting with and maintaining contact and engagement with its audience. The minds and attention of target-markets have shifted into more serious matters and the priorities, and decisions and buying habits of consumers are changing as a result.
So, what exactly is the connecting force that can maintain a brand’s bond with its audience? Meaningful and unique content. One takeaway of this award, the significance of unfiltered, authentic content, is similar to that of Reynold’s Mint Mobile commercial. BUT, by also tapping into interactive forms of content that require physical touch, M&M is recognizing us- as creators of real, authentic content at home. This campaign also engaged the audience in a way that created an experience, giving fans something to do that relieves stress or occupies a child while stuck at home. And even if your art doesn’t up in the commercial, at least it gave you something different to do, right? When the days blend into each other and your audience is set in the same, daily routine, offering content that helps engage and differentiate their day with a new
experience makes all the difference. Use your content to inspire others to try something new. Create at-home experiences that also leverage what your brand has to offer.
4. We Saw Social Media Platforms & Brands Leverage Their Reach to Recognize Real Students
Mid-May was the time that college is, in my opinion, was the most fun. Partaking in end of the semester activities as the weather warms up with your group of friends and, in my case, prepping for graduation in just a few short weeks. And for those high schoolers, they too were prepped for their proms and graduation that would close this chapter of their life. All of these milestones are significant ones, and this month, we saw many creative and alternative ways of celebrating in the safest way possible. And families, friends and schools are not the only ones going the extra mile to give students the recognition and celebration that they deserve. This month, we saw an extensive amount of social media platforms, brands and celebrities help honor the class of 2020. And to that we toast!
This month, Facebook and Instagram planned a star-studded graduation event. In efforts of personalizing this digital “experience,” Facebook began taking submissions of pictures and videos of real students to feature in the event. Courtesy of Freeform, the class of 2020 had the opportunity to submit their names to the channel, which would honor their accomplishments by airing these names during special graduation-themed programming. Next month, YouTube will also give special shoutouts to submitted names of graduates during their star-studded graduation event, which will include speeches from President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. Other figures, such as the CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, and Lady Gaga are also set to “attend” the digital event. Brands, such as, Dorito’s, Hennessy, Chipotle and Teen Vogue have also found ways to help celebrate graduations or host virtual proms with things like podcasts, live Zoom meetings with celebrity appearances, and special announcements about education-related initiatives (AdAge).
Although these campaigns may not level-up to the real experience, it is great to see that brands are leveraging their reach, audience and network to benefit real people and give students and schools the recognition and awareness that they deserve. Plus, even if it is only for a couple of short seconds, it’s pretty awesome to have figures, such as Oprah Winfrey and President Barack Obama, hear and celebrate your name if aired.
5. Our Thoughts on Adopting a Dog in Quarantine Were Endorsed by Pedigree
Despite an overall economic decline, some industries and categories of products have had their moments to shine and no, I am not talking about hair color products (at least this time around). Instead, let’s talk dog adoptions, fostering and sales. Right now certainly feels like the right time to adopt or foster a dog to help dissipate feelings of loneliness while stuck inside alone or to spend more time training and getting to know the dog while working from home. And according to ASPCA data, there was a near 70% increase in fostered animals across New York and Los Angeles compared to the same time frame in 2019 (The Daily Beast).
In May, Pedigree decided to act on this trend in rising adoptions and fostering by introducing individuals to a safer alternative to the adoption process through Zoom, called “Dogs on Zoom” (MarketingDive). On May 11th, Pedigree hosted its first digital dog adoption in Nashville alongside the Nashville Humane Association. By creating an installment to the Pedigree website that allows the user to “meet your own dog” and have your adoption questions answered live with joinable Zoom meeting times, the brand is certainly positioning itself in a moving and strategic way. The relationship and bond that we have with our pets is like no other, and Pedigree’s relationship-based approach to marketing for this initiative is a smart one. If you’re beginning a new life with a new dog with Pedigree, you’ll be more likely to use the brand to supply the rest of it, right? And just like that, we become more loyal to the brand who granted us this experience-although (likely) not as loyal as our new dog will be to us.
Of course, there are some drawbacks to the initiative, such as not being able to spend some time holding, petting and getting to know the dog face-to-face. With this important stage of the adoption process being limited or postponed, it will be interesting to see how easily customers will be able to make a decision and be moved down the funnel without this step in the standard adoption process. The mission for this initiative is a great one that is connecting families with the importance of adoption, and that is exactly what I am awarding this month.