Posted: October 14, 2011 | 16:17 ET by Nick Parish
People move pretty fast. Marketers should stop and look around once in a while, or they could miss them.
Hello and welcome to the first in a series of monthly Contagious columns here at GlobeLink. In each installment we’ll be exploring some of the ideas influencing modern marketing, and how they've been expressed by leading creative companies.
Since Contagious launched in 2004 in London, it’s been a showcase for the most important ideas in contemporary marketing around the globe. We publish an award-winning quarterly briefing book, provide brands with ongoing intelligence, curate events and run an innovation consultancy, drawing on the worlds of design, technology and the arts to bring perspective to communications. We've been referred to as an early-warning system for brands, and use our network of employees and allies around the world to filter the latest developments making it easier for information-saturated executives' to keep one step ahead.
Marketing at the speed of talk
To kick this series off, we’d like to take a look at the complex area of real-time marketing – the brands embracing it, and those headed in completely the opposite direction. As we know, digital media has lead to an increased number of consumers living their lives in plain sight and real time; communicating, sharing and discussing with friends through immense social platforms designed as lifestyle hubs for the Wired generation. Twitter finally shook off its reputation as a sandwich-info sharing mechanism earlier this year during the Arab Spring, and later, as the London riots and Hurricane Irene unfolded, and consumers turned to on the ground real-time, citizen-generated reports over cumbersome broadcast media. However, while a potent demonstration of the power of the medium, this sudden thudding seriousness creates further complications for tentative brands attempting light-hearted engagement through Twitter.
A well-executed example of real-time marketing came earlier this year in Brazil. Sore throat lozenge Mucoangin took a page from a direct marketing playbook, contacting Twitter users who mentioned specific throat ailment-related terms in their Tweets, pointing them to a microsite to find treatment tips and more. In ad-friendly Brazil, the effort was very successful, earning four million impressions in the first week of launch. But you can easily imagine how every potentially-FMCG-related social media utterance can bring down a plague of marketing offers and irksome intrusions.
So, as much of the world of marketing moves one way, it’s interesting to look the other. What does the opposite of real-time marketing look like? Well, perhaps it’s brands creating a shelter for their customers, helping insulate them from the always-on culture and give them the luxury of time to think, relax and gather their thoughts. If downtime is becoming a more and more scarce commodity, it’s getting more and more valuable for brands to provide it.
Looking at startups like Instapaper, which sucks articles from websites from their original packaging and allows you to dig into them later, in a neutral, ad-free formatting, there’s something to be said for a sort of branded utility that creates a cone of silence around the customer. Like if Mr. Clean was able to get rid of annoying pop-up windows on your browser. This isn’t as farfetched as it seems.
Fostering quality time
Swedish telecoms brand Telia took a refreshing stance on information overload and always-on culture last month when it launched a series of internet-free zones at vacation spots. Cities like Falkenberg, Hanninge and more were web-free during July and August, part of a plan to spare constantly connected users the intrusions technology brings. The effort also includes an application that automatically switches off the web on laptops and computers at home for specified periods, similar to Freedom, a piece of software that allows you to disable network connections to your Mac. Telia offers brand benevolence of a sort: tacitly accepting that we're beleaguered by the very service they offer and that holidays are the time to switch off.
Owning the idea is to be in a powerful position. It's a counterintuitive, human gesture, and one that's sure to be a refreshing change from the usual aggressive rational benefit and price-based advertising of competitors and foster goodwill among some consumers. It's a risky ploy on the other hand however. Simply implementing a no-internet zone into cities is sure to infuriate those that do want web access, and the backlash from some consumers may counteract the goodwill fostered among others.
In the U.S., the Marriott Renaissance Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is doing its part to help people regain quality time with a new gadget-free package entitled Zen and the Art of Detox. The package description reads: 'Your laptop, cell phone, and all other digital devices must be surrendered upon check-in, and will be held for you until your departure. Prior to your arrival, the television, phone, and ihome dock station will be removed from your guest room and replaced by literary classics.' The deluxe room, detox, and optional kayak lesson costs between $199 and $399 a night.
Keeping with the travel theme, we were impressed with how Toronto Tourism was able to capture the bustle of the city and point to hotspots without a majorly complicated interface or much personal investment for a traveler. Visitors to the Toronto is Trending site encounter a tilt-shifted view of the city's key locations, with speech bubbles featuring the latest tweets featuring the #torontotrending hashtag. Clicking through, a top down map shows check-ins, the more a place has, the bigger the icon, alongside deals for hotels and theatres, for example, from the tourist authority.
Toronto Is Trending represents the best of real-time branded utility. Cities are constantly evolving, with trendy venues, hotels and restaurants going out of fashion in months and new spots emerging just as quickly. Tourists find it impossible to keep up with static print guides that are instantly out of date, making it the ideal platform to use for real-time updates.
We’re hoping to give Toronto Is Trending a whirl when we come up to visit later this month. We’ll let you know how it goes next time.
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