Is Your Brand Activation Creating Word of Mouth?

Brand Activations Generate Word of Mouth

Companies spend millions on brand activations and Netflix’s recent CES activation was no different. The super weird booth from fake company Psychasec promoting their “sleeve” product, a spare body you can transfer your consciousness into seems to be designed to specifically create Word-of-Mouth. So did it? Let’s look at the numbers.

Online Social Media Discussions Generated

Using Brandwatch, (note: Converse Digital is provided with a complimentary account to use when writing posts related to social media listening) I searched for any post containing Netflix AND CES within 5 words of each other.

The result was a mere 947 posts over about a week and only 849 of those were on the daily social platforms: Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. This number, in and of itself, seems pretty low to me given that almost 200,000 people attended CES last year. Further, when you look at Twitter, which accounts for 750 of the posts and remove the RT’s from the mix, you’re left with a whopping 497 posts on Twitter, which kind of bills itself as the real-time platform.

But probably the most eye-popping number for me was the almost total lack of Instagram postings — only 29. This blows my mind because this booth was totally visual. Just check out some of the pics in this story about the booth.

Quality of Online Social Media Discussions

So, not only wasn’t there a lot of social media sharing going on…. but the sharing that did occur, seems devoid of a few key pieces of marketing copy.

Most troubling was the 34% of posts that featured or consisted only of the line “At CES, Netflix Shows Off… Lab-Grown Bodies?” and a link. The link took you to either an article in PC Magazine that talks about the Netflix booth at CES or it took you to a story on Entrepreneur, which was a direct lift of the PC Magazine story and “written” by the same author. The story contained an “originally published on PC Magazine” cut line, so that it was clear this wasn’t a new story but a reprint. Given that these shares simply lifted the headline copy, I can only assume these folks weren’t even at CES. They were using this story to populate their Twitter feeds for the day. And, none of these posts mention the show. Instead, you have to read the article where mid-way through you’ll finally read a paragraph about it with a link to the show’s homepage on Netflix.

In fact, going back to the original 947 posts, only 20.5% (195) included a reference to Altered Carbon or #AlteredCarbon, the name of the actual Netflix show being promoted at CES. And 23% (44) of those were simply promoting a paid content page from Mashable’s website. So while it’s great that these folks shared the name of the show, again, I’m doubting they were actually at CES. More content curators at work, me thinks.

If you look at the posts by day, almost all of the mentions were on Thursday, again mostly just folks sharing the PC Mag/Entrepreneur stories. The second highest day for posts was on Saturday, which again, is a bunch of folks sharing or RT’ing a Lifeboat Foundation post. And based on the 26 words and the single image in the post, experience tells me that most of those were automated or bots.

All of this to say, if the goal of the Brand Activation was to stimulate online chatter or Word-of-Mouth, was it really successful?

Is Word of Mouth Success About Quantity or Quality?

To be fair, I’m not privy to the campaign brief that Netflix or the agency who developed the CES brand activation worked from, so based on their defined KPI’s, the campaign may be a huge success.

However, when considering the costs of an activation at CES – design, fees and staffing, to be considered a success, the Brand Activation had to generate conversation on social media. I just don’t see any other reason for spending so much money just to get PR from media outlets that by in large aren’t entertainment focused.

As they say where I’m from, “If it walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, it’s probably a duck.” And folks, this effort sure walks and sounds a lot like a viral stunt.

As noted above, there really just wasn’t that much activity, but let’s give Netflix the benefit of the doubt. What if the goal wasn’t volume but quality of conversation?

As I preach often…

Was that a click or a conversion?

If one of our clients at Converse Digital forces us to chose between quantity and quality of online conversations — I’m recommending quality every time.

Strategically, we worry less about creating huge amounts of conversation… instead, we’re laser like focused on creating conversations that become customers, because at the end of the day, our clients want converted customers or social agents.

In a world where folks are constantly posting content that they feel others will find cool or will portray them as cool by virtue of association, wouldn’t you expect something so visually intriguing to drive just a tad more conversation online? And since the booth presented a trailer for anyone that took the entire booth tour, wouldn’t you also expect to find at least a few folks saying the booth got them interested in seeing the show? Or better yet, people posting to their friends and telling their friends to check out the show?

But that didn’t happen. Again, using the Brandwatch data, here is a word cloud of what folks did talk about.

How do you define success in word of mouth and brand activations

The conversation is all about the marketing. There is only fleeting references to the show. What’s missing is any meaningful levels of conversation amongst folks reporting they intend to watch the show or telling others (their friends) that they should watch the show.

How Do You Create Successful Word-of-Mouth Brand Activations?

First, use Social Reconnaissance to understand what your prospective customers are sharing today and more importantly… WHY they’re sharing it.

Second, think in terms of function over form. My friend Jay Baer talks about Talk Triggers, operational actions designed to create moments that customers want to share. Approach your Brand Activations the same way. View everything through the lens of, “will folks want to talk about this?” If you’re not 100% sure that your Brand Activations will create shareable moments, consider other design or experience options.

Third, test your hypothesis BEFORE you spend hundreds of thousands or millions to deploy your Brand Activations. Build mock-ups or scale models… or maybe even use VR to simulate some kind of virtual Brand Activation experience that will let you get real-world feedback before you go live.

Still feel like you need help building Brand Activations that generate word-of-mouth? Drop us a line below…

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About Tom Martin

Tom is 20+ year veteran of the marketing and advertising industry with a penchant for stiff drinks, good debates and digital gadgets that helps digitally challenged companies create innovative and effective digital marketing strategies. He is the founder of Converse Digital , author of The Invisible Sale and a contributing writer for Advertising Age. Tom guides clients through the digital marketing maze and helps companies teach their sales force how to Painlessly Prospect their way to more sales. Connect with him on Google+ or follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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