brand innovation / experience strategy
YouTube has become a major part of our popular culture, but the world’s largest video platform isn’t just a place for viral videos – it’s also a place for businesses to create real growth.
YouTube has worked with San Francisco ad agency Loomis Group over the years to create content that explains why using YouTube is beneficial to small-to-medium-sized businesses. The first series of videos were focused on the various features and services offered especially to these businesses, and were mostly informational in nature.
What was missing from this equation was the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of online video for these businesses – how do I get started and is it really going to work?
Hearing about how YouTube helped other companies face their challenges and transform their business became the strongest way to convince small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that they could benefit in the same way. The typical SMB owner has few resources to experiment in trying to figure out what will work for his company. What he or she will pay attention to, however, is what has or hasn’t worked for other businesses of a similar profile who have faced similar challenges.
These owners were often inspired to start their businesses because of other SMB success stories. So when it came to understanding how YouTube could help grow their business, these owners are inspired in a similar way. The best way to reach them was to focus on the real, authentic human stories that they could not only relate to, but learn from in an aspirational campaign that featured a diversity of voices and experiences.
UNDER THE RADAR
T-Mobile’s Sidekick was one of the first phones of its kind to make social sharing an essential element of the product experience. Smartphones now play a central role in people’s social experiences, and T-Mobile wanted to demonstrate that the Sidekick was the phone that could best satisfy this need to share with friends and family.
For 20-to-30-somethings, word of mouth is the most important factor when deciding where to go for a night out. We wanted to show how the Sidekick was strongly attuned to this social behavior with ‘Under the Radar,’ a Current TV segment created exclusively for T-Mobile.
Under the Radar gave anyone using Current’s social news web site the opportunity to share the most interesting events happening in their local city with a wider audience. The best contributions were selected to become the subject of hosted video segments that played on Current’s cable television network. User contributions were selected through a combination of online voting, shareable activity generated and curation from Current’s staff producers.
This campaign resulted in one of the highest levels of engagement on Current TV. A large part of Under the Radar’s success was being able to effectively be a part of behavior that people were already engaging in and integrate it into T-Mobile’s core brand messaging – that the Sidekick is a catalyst for social experiences.
While the low barrier to entry was also significant, what was ultimately more important to users was that these curated peer-to-peer recommendations were both trusted and useful in enhancing an important part of their lives.
Featured on: Current TV
How do we grow a business whose target consumers have wholeheartedly rejected it?
We turn the problem into an opportunity to redefine the business.
Electronic Arts has had difficulty building support for their digital distribution platform, Origin. Part of the problem has been defining what the product actually it is. On the surface level, Origin is a way to deliver PC games directly over the internet without the need for any physical media. Ultimately, however, EA sees Origin as part of a larger plan to create a cloud gaming platform that gives users the ability to continue their gaming experience no matter where they are and what device they’re using, and to share it with their friends.
This ambitious plan has been set back by major problems with the Origin product, including bugs, limited functionality and almost unanimous negative feelings among hardcore gamers (their initial target audience) towards the product. These gamers feel alienated because in most cases they did not choose to download Origin, but had to in order to download an EA game that they purchased. Many gamers are so suspicious about Origin that they consider it to be possible spyware, created by EA to scan their computers in an effort to find pirated games.
Backs up against the wall
As if a poor product launch and alienated target consumer base weren’t enough to deal with, EA faces another challenge in trying to build a critical mass of users for Origin, in that there is already a PC game distribution platform that already does all of the things Origin promises to do and more.
It’s called Steam, and unlike Origin, it is widely praised and supposed by hardcore PC gamers, with a loyal community base and 70 percent of the market share. Steam offers a wider selection of games and a powerful user experience that has put them at least two years ahead of any competitor, including Origin.
Playing on the wrong playing field
Given these severe disadvantages, it’s questionable whether EA is in the right league, or if they’re even playing the right game. EA has many things going for it – they publish many of the most popular games on any platform and remain a big player in the gaming world. However, by focusing on the hardcore gamer demographic with Origin, they’re missing out on where the video game industry has been shifting towards – social and casual gaming.
Social and casual games include everything from Facebook games such as Farmville to mobile games such as Angry Birds – essentially any games that don’t require a specific console or platform and can be played in small intervals of time. They are a big and fast-growing market – social games grew 116 percent last year to create $1.4 billion in revenue, while mobile games grew 160 percent to create $2.2 billion.
It is clear that social and casual games are where the bulk of the growth in the video game industry is going. EA is fully aware of this, which is why they have now invested heavily in the development of social games after a slow start. They’re making some inroads, with Sims Social has cracking the top 5 most popular social games in an industry that has so far been dominated by Zynga. In the mobile sector, EA already has a big presence as a publisher of popular games such as Madden and Bejeweled.
Refocusing the target
Given Steam’s dominance of the hardcore gamer market and EA’s interest becoming an even bigger player in the social and casual gamers market, it makes sense that the best strategy to make Origin a success is to retarget the product to include social and casual gamers who are 28 to 40 years old, slightly more female and better educated than the average gamer demographic.
Besides the fact that they’re a growing and desirable market, this demographic’s user behavior is a good fit for what Origin has to offer. The demographic prefers to fulfill their entertainment needs with easy-to-use distribution services such as Netflix or Hulu and often remain loyal to them. They are also willing to pay more for their media than the hardcore gamer group, where piracy is relatively common.
This demographic also don’t see themselves as gamers, and they view games as simply another form of entertainment. What they don’t have available right now is a one-stop shop for all of their gaming needs, and this is an opportunity that Origin is well-poised to take. But first, they must see themselves not as a competitor to Steam, but as a competitor to the likes of iTunes or Amazon and other digital distribution services.
Come out and play on your own digital playground
An effective strategy to make Origin a success is dependent on repositioning the product from one focused on hardcore gamers to one that appeals to a wider spectrum of gamers, including social and casual gamers. Origin can be a destination hub where one can play and discover a variety of games while sharing and interacting with a like-minded community.
Turning relationships into rivalries
Our campaign focuses on the gamer who’s particularly interested in the social aspect of gaming while maintaining a casual sensibility. Since these gaming experiences can happen on any device and at any time, they can easily turn into ‘rivalries’ with friends, family or even strangers. We used some of these situations as a way to speak to a casual social audience, which is detailed in the following video and communications plan.
ALMANAC BEER COMPANY
Among millennials, there has been a growing public interest in the DIY business. In fact, some see the act of turning your passion into a small business to be the defining trope of this generation, at a time when careers are anything but guaranteed and expectations have become focused on experiences rather than transactions.
The story of Almanac Beer is one such example that shows how the New American Dream can become a reality.
Featured on: Huffington Post
YERBA BUENA CENTER FOR THE ARTS
In 2011, I developed an online video content and outreach strategy for Yerba Center for the Arts, a major contemporary art and performance center in San Francisco. At the time, YBCA’s video content spanned a wide array of approaches, formats and production values, creating a lack of cohesiveness and confusion about what YBCA was saying about its diverse art, film and music programs.
The challenge was to find a way to make YBCA’s video content consistent with the organization’s values of being contemporary, authentic and community-oriented – with a dash of irreverence thrown in. YBCA also saw itself as more than just an arts center, but as a place for community sharing and fun that was in touch with other forms of culture that its audience was passionate about.
The first insight was that YBCA should then act as more than an arts center, but as a creator and curator of culture at-large. Being seen as an arbiter of culture helps build the YBCA brand as one that is highly engaged with and knowledgeable about the kind of work their audience cares about. Whether it is art or another form of culture and entertainment, YBCA is first and foremost about thought-provoking and fun ideas – not art for art’s sake.
In understanding how their target audience viewed YBCA, I understood that they often didn’t differentiate arts experiences as separate from other forms of culture. This means that YBCA should not position itself as a competitor to other arts institutions, but as in competition with other venues for culture and entertainment.
Based off these insights, the video content should then reflect these values and positioning. The content should be smart, engaging and be able to live beyond life as a promotional vehicle for upcoming programs, which furthers YBCA’s authoritative, authentic voice on culture.
Instead of promoting a particular event or exhibition, tell a story of how the work was produced, or what influenced it. The stories should be unique and personalized, using a simple, clean approach that matches both YBCA’s mission and visual aesthetic. Create consistent formats to maintain engagement, high production values to compete with the best online videos, and offer an intimate perspective that satiates their audience’s voyeuristic interest in how things get made.
Due to this strategic shift and the quality work that was produced from it, YBCA has been nominated for multiple national museum awards. They have also increased their brand recognition both in the San Francisco Bay Area and nationally, and have seen online conversations about their brand increase significantly.
The goal of this campaign was to create a promotional vehicle for the launch of Current’s online ‘Current Green’ channel for both television and online that was interactive, relevant and engaging for Current’s online community.
The insight for this campaign was that despite all of the attention surrounding all things ‘green,’ a lot of people still did not know exactly what environmentally-friendly behavior means. Many people were also often embarrassed either that they did not know this information or even who they should ask to find out.
The focus of this campaign was then to give our audience the opportunity to ask those burning ‘eco-questions’ they’ve always wanted to have answered. We asked our audience to submit everyday environmental questions through comments or webcam. These questions would then be answered by notable green bloggers whose participation would drive traffic to and lend support for Current’s green channel. These informational promos were then not only seen by Current’s viewers but on popular sites such as the Huffington Post, Treehugger and Grist.org, all of which helped build critical mass for the launch of ‘Current Green.’
Featured on: Current TV
Kiva is an online platform where anyone can give loans to help small businesses around the world. They were chosen to compete against four other entrepreneurship nonprofits to win $1 million as part of Sam’s Club’s ‘Giving Made Simple’ Contest – with this video as the main source of information for Sam’s Club members to base their voting decisions.
In trying to understand the best way to create a message that would appeal to Sam’s Club members, I developed a profile of who these shoppers were and what was important to them. In developing this profile, I used demographic and psychographic research compiled from Sam’s Club, as well as in-person conversations and online questionnaires with members.
I found that most people I talked to considered themselves working class and were small business owners. They considered the hard work of starting and operating a business part of a ‘culture of sacrifice,’ which is inspired by the importance of supporting their family.
I learned from these conversations with Sam’s Club members that the most compelling reason to support a nonprofit would be whether they could relate to the people who were helped by their services, either firsthand or through someone that they knew.
It was also clear that authenticity was the way to communicate to this audience why Kiva would be the best recipient of $1 million. What this campaign video needed was to tell a story where the subject shared many of the same values and struggles that Sam’s Club members identified with and that success could not have happened without the services Kiva provides.
Working with the organization, we were able to identify a woman who started a therapeutic massage service as a way to help alleviate her son’s medical condition but soon became the way that she could support her family. The result was a simple video that met all of these goals and resulted in a $1 million win for the client.
Featured on: Mashable