How to Build an Inconic Brand like the Hunger Games

The global mega hit of the year will certainly be The Hunger Games - the iconic, epic cult movie based on the superbly written trilogy by Suzanne Collins.  The movie is generating buzz  that most PR agencies would sell their souls for - you can’t turn on a device of any type (iPad, Smartphone, “stone age tablet”) without seeing an image of the star, Jennifer Lawrence staring back at you.

The imagery is everywhere and the brand is ever-present and looks like it will have a significant afterlife that will burn bright across the social web and news media for weeks, months and years to come - and with two more books to be turned into cinematic ROI, expect to hear more.

Marketers take note - build your brand like the Hunger Games with these five key marketing strategies.

1) Content strategy is the most critical element to building any type of online brand - whether its text, imagery, video, audio or a combination of all, the most critical element to building an iconic brand is great content. Everything else flows from the content.

The movie, “Hunger Games” is based on a well written best seller by the same name by Suzanne Collins - the core content is gripping, passionate and targeted for a younger demographic (although morphed to broad appeal now) that wants dynamic content that resonates with and fires up their passion. Mirror this strategy for your brand - great content resonates, builds brand awareness, drives conversions, interaction and engagement.

2) Build a great team - the Hunger Games features the emerging star, Jennifer Lawrence who made a name for herself  in “Winter Bones,” coupled with a stellar supporting cast including Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson and Woody Harrelson.

You can’t go to any venture capital conference or dive into Dave McClure’s (the go to “Angel Investor”  second to none)  Twitter stream without hearing the mantra, “invest in the team” - position your brand and build your business accordingly. Hire great people and don’t be stingy with the equity - we digress; but, a smaller piece of a big pie for all is much better than a large share of nothing. Great people want to be rewarded, appreciated and feel like they own a piece of the brand.

3) Like Ted Turner used to stay, “get up early work hard and advertise your ass off” - embrace this strategy as much as you can. Build a digital eco system around your brand. If you Google the Hunger Games you’ll find an ever growing list of over 1.6 billion pages/sites/brands competing for the keyword, “The Hunger Games.”

Let’s face it, the average company or brand isn’t going to be this successful. But, if you dig into these links you will find a mixture of URLs comprising movie listings, PR, videos, articles, social media signals (Twitter hash tags, Facebook Likes, etc.) Comprising a blended branding campaign that comprises traditional PR, advertising, heavy doses of social media marketing, solicitation of brand amplification across the social web, YouTube videos and more.  Ted had it right in the now “ancient days” when an iPad was just a dream in Steve Job’s mind…….

4) Integrate PR in your advertising mix - PR still works. It’s targeted (keyword and demographic) and it amplifies your brand in ways that no other medium, other than social media can come close to. This can be a do it yourself strategy that necessitates your writing PR that resonates with your audience and/or hiring a consultant, or better yet, a PR agency, as they have “reach” contacts and expertise that is hard to match with a DIY strategy. But, whether your approach is do it in-house or via an agency, make PR a core part of your marketing strategy.

5) Leverage social media marketing - “The Hunger Games” Facebook account has (trending up) 3.3 million “likes” on their account and over 500 million “talking about this” rankings as we throw up this blog post. This is stellar social media marketing and overshadows many Oscar marketing campaigns.

If you look at the HashTag trends for “#hungergames” on the marketing ROI is staggering - this hashtag is overshadowing just about any other hashtag across the social web and underscores the significant consumer buzz this movie (branding campaign) has built. This is such a popular hashtag other brands are hijacking the hashtag by incorporating it in Tweets that have nothing to do with the movie - underscoring brand awareness for the movie and related popularity.

Key takeaways for effective social media marketing - leverage social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest) with a content syndication strategy that amplifies your core messaging across the social web. Build conversation and engagement by pushing out and sharing your content with a feed stream that builds your story over time (rinse and repeat) - for better or worse, a successful social media marketing campaign necessitates repetition and amplification. Social consumers are at times a bit hard to reach and driven to distraction!

Comments Drive Marketing Stratey & Controversy

Every brand (big or small) should embrace comments as a core part of their overall marketing strategy. Two primary type of comment marketing strategy; writing great thought provoking content that motivates the visitor to leave a comment or “comment tagging” on high visibility blogs and web sites that drive backlinks and traffic.

Why your web site isn’t generating comments - how to revamp your marketing strategy:

  • Let’s face it visitors are for the most part hungry for information and insight and most are in a hurry - that’s “digital Darwinism” at its worst.
  • You may not be monitoring your inbound comments properly; a combination of process and technology
  • There is no active solicitation of comments (“add your thoughts below” “recommend your favorite applications”) - you’ll drive many more comments via solicitation.
  • You may not care about comments - some brands and businesses don’t have the staffing, technology in place and/or ability to respond to inbound comments. Some web sites have comments turned off for these reasons!
  • Social media is killing comments for smaller brands. The dialogue, interaction and content push is occurring off-site - the audience is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and many are not engaging and/or clicking back to a web site.
  • It is but you can’t distinguish the spam from the quality (see below) - your not alone, although this is scant consolation for many.

Is vitriol killing comments:

If you look at big brand web sites like Huffington Post, CNN or Gawker you will find a lot of self-serving pontificating that is not true engagement. Many “comment taggers” are looking for personal or professional publicity - the day’s of “value added comments” are falling by the wayside.

Take your pick, “left wing” (a la Keith Olbermann) or “right wing” Andrew Breitbart; comments on these sites are in many cases either so caustic they don’t really ad value or just an endless amplification of the editorial perspective of the authors or media companies behind the “talking heads.”

But, in the end, these bigger media brands are all about generating traffic, selling ads and engagement is being pushed to the social web or so filtered via editors, the comments are meaningless to many; or, just an after thought.

How to Drive Comments:

Ask for them. This may sound trite; but, like any marketing strategy, you must have some structure in your marketing processes to make them work.

Be awesome, controversial (think about the “Kony 2012” video dust-up that’s fired up media critiques throughout the world, while scoring some points for the filmmakers.

Be controversial, ask questions - be engaging: pique the visitor’s interest in taking action with a comment.

Don’t drive comments - this is good advice for many small businesses!  If your weighing comments versus creating a social media marketing presence via Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter, you may be much better off ignoring comments. And, for better or worse, the conversation for many brands in this new Web 2.0 era is moving to social; either to a specific platform or via social media account integration with a brand’s actual web site. Marketing strategy is always shifting and morphing.

Make your life easier (the words all marketers and execs want to hear) - embrace Open Source, use WordPress for your web site platform and download and use Akismet’s plug-in - they are the market leaders in comment technology for good reason.

Build a brand - for better or worse, comments are driven by old fashioned brand awareness, whether your the mythical Donald Draper or a Mashable geek, comments are all driven by effective brand building.

That’s our take - got a comment dive in below - love to hear from you. No words harmed in this post and the marketing strategy is implicit in the content!

Building Relationship Capital

Barriers to entry are rising quickly for social media marketing. Facebook’s meteoric growth in Q1 2011 is staggering, with over 1 Trillion display ads served in this time period. This growth is mirrored, although not at Facebook’s  breakneck pace, via other top social media portals including LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.

As we’ve discussed before in previous posts, it’s no longer possible to simply create a good social media profile and expect to generate stellar results. There is simply too much noise in the marketplace.  Your brand’s challenge is really about building what we call relationship capital.

First, what is “relationship capital?”  It’s the collective and individual value of the network of all people, partners, suppliers, customers and others that are connected with your brand.  

Three Steps to Building Relationship Capital:

1) Creating quality content that engages people in your target market and motivates them to change their behavior and/or share your brand messaging with others. The social web has rapidly become a decision index for many, replacing more traditional research.

  • Individuals and companies look to the Internet and social web to see what is being said positively and negatively about brands they want to engage with.
  • Think of your content as the front door to your engagement with people and other brands.
  • Don’t forget about adjusting your content strategy when necessary. If your Blog isn’t driving sign ups and your Twitter and Facebook accounts are growing then your content strategy may need a significant adjustment.

2) Measure your growth via the social web and the quality of your online brand. What we mean by “measure your growth” is doing more than analyzing the number of Followers via Twitter, Fans via Facebook, visits via Google Analytics and related baseline measurements.

  • Your looking to take a snapshot of front end social engagement that drives relationship capital; i.e. how many times a piece of content has been shared, ReTweets via Twitter, Likes via Facebook, Shares via LinkedIn or incorporated/referenced via a “Best Answer.”
  • The quality of your online brand can be measured in a number of ways above and beyond baseline metrics. It overlaps with social measurement and should also include a deeper dive into customer interaction with your brand.

3) Be ethical and qualitative to build high quality relationship capital. People online like to engage with brands (companies, individuals and groups) that they like and trust. They are looking for insight, motivation and something inspirational.

  • You can be as creative as you want to be online, in some cases, the more the better. But, don’t overstep the boundaries of good taste. Spamming LinkedIn contacts (we get them every day) and throwing out nasty slang via Twitter are not going to build an ethical or qualitative brand.
  • Relationship building via the social web is no different to a certain extent than offline. People track your content much more than you realize  and every blog post, video, Tweet and Facebook “Like” activity is building a profile for your brand - engagement or lack thereof indicates the quality of your brand’s online persona.

To summarize; create great content that is engaging, take a deep measurement of your social media activities and be ethical and down to earth in all communications. The end result will be a strong pillar of relationship capital. Which in turn will drive opportunities and revenue.

Social Media Marketing Prerequisites

Don’t even think about a social media marketing campaign unless your Web Site is working flawlessly, Search Engine Optimization components are addressed and Content Development and Curation strategy is in place.

1) Your web site must have these features and functions working to ensure your engagement with the social community will drive meaningful ROI:

  • Site Navigation must be flawless – visitors must be able to navigate through your web site easily.
  • Multiple call to action and response elements must be in place: Newsletter Sign Up, Contact Us Page,  Phone Numbers are prominently displayed and Blog subscription direct and via RSS Feed are functioning.
  • Images should be optimized to ensure load times (time it takes a page to load) are at their best.
  • Domain Name should be registered out 3-5 five years at a minimum to drive SEO results and brand valuation.
  • Sociables (links to social platforms) are prominently placed at top and bottom of all pages and “likes” and ReTweet buttons are set up and working.

2) These Baseline Search Engine Attributes must be in place:

  • All Pages and Images have unique Title Tags, Descriptions and Keywords - the latter have minimal impact for Google but good to include.
  • Quality backlinks have been developed for the site over a 90-120 day period or campaign.
  • An XML Google Site Map has been setup properly and you have connected your web site with your Google Analytics Account.
  • Location has been created via a Google Business Listing.
  • A Keyword strategy has been developed for your web site content

3) Your content development and curation strategy is set. We tell our clients building a successful social media marketing campaign is really about creating and sharing quality content; i.e. Images, Text, Videos, Comments, FAQ, Blog posts, Newsletter, Tweets, Newsfeeds, Answers across the social web. Then, driving engagement and interaction with your followers across the social web.

  • Blog (as below) is set preferably via WordPress, optimized for search engines with plugins, individual page titles, images optimized, with Categories in place, is linked to from the Home/Index page and is updated 3-5 times per week.
  • You have content development and curation strategy in place to broadcast and share across the social web; i.e.schedule in place, content is rotated for maximum exposure, in-bound flow of news sources created (Google Alerts, RSS Feeds, Newsletter Subscriptions).
  • Your team understands the importance of cross promoting content across the social web – for example a Blog post should be referenced via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and second tier sites like Posterous.
  • Flickr Pro account has been created, images are uploaded and optimized properly and shared across the social web.
  • YouTube Account has been created, optimized and cross referenced via all social identities and platforms.

These three marketing prerequisites, Web Site, SEO Setup and Content are all critical components to your overall marketing strategy and must be in-place prior to starting a social media marketing campaign. Or, you’ll waste time and resources building and engaging with social consumers/followers!!  The devil is absolutely in the details - we’d love to get your comments or thoughts below!!

How to Cost Effectively Launch an Ecommerce Startup

Image Credit: Mediasation

Ecommerce has become a way of life for many brands. But, launching an ecommerce startup requires a blend of art, science and technology. Our take on some absolute steps for launching a successful Ecommerce Startup.

  1. Build your web site on WordPress! Advantages are built in CMS, wealth of developer support, 10K & growing plugins that extend functionality, great for SEO and its a robust stable platform that is being improved everyday via developers all over the world.
  2. Analyze and understand your target market and demographics. Where do your customers “live” on the social web and how do they interact with each other? Once you answer this question develop a social media marketing campaign that will reach, engage with and motivate customers to buy from you and recommend your products to friends via social web.
  3. Create a Blog on your site and blog at least 3-5 times a week - make sure you invite comments from readers/visitors and interact with them. Your blog should have content topics that integrate with your Keyword strategy mapped out in SEO best practices below. Leverage your blog by connecting it to your LinkedIn profile and share blog posts via Twitter and Facebook.
  4. Ensure you have sociables (links to social media profiles) on your site for

    Image Credit: Netlogical

    Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and give people the ability to Tweet out and “like” your site via plugins. These promote and foster interaction with your community and should be two-way connections.

  5. Do some competitive analysis (there are always competitors) and identify 3-5 top tier competitors and follow their digital footprint. Also, set up Google Alerts that are keyword targeted (“my brand”) for your company, products, brand and competitors.
  6. Test  PPC advertising via Facebook and Google’s Display Ad Network (not Adwords initially) - both of these offer pretty good targeting. For Google’s Display Network, either hire an agency or consultant to set this up for you, unless your very knowledgeable about your target market and online advertising. Test, test and retest - split variable testing is a great idea - test your message, offers, landing page, days of week, etc.
  7. Make sure you have Google Analytics installed on your site and closely watch entry/exit pages, time on site, bounce rates, where visitors are coming from, etc.
  8. Build a coupon offer right on your Facebook fan page that is integrated with a “Like” component - driving deals and perceived value of your brand.
  9. Built landing pages that are second to none - this is an art and a science and can determine the success or failure of your ecommerce site.
  10. Deploy a Viral Marketing Campaign

    Image Credit: Parallel Interactive Media

    - offer member’s of your community rewards for referring friends to your site for deals. You can leverage these via Twitter and Facebook.

  11. Video usage driven by bandwidth and smartphones is ramping up very fast. Create a YouTube channel with lots of 1-2 min optimized videos. Leverage the channel by throwing up a YouTube contest for your visitors. Use TubeMogul to accelerate syndication and digital reach of your videos.
  12. Make sure SEO best practices is in place for your site. Meaning, good content strategy that incorporates a list of top twenty targeted keywords, UI/Menus are easy to navigate (this touches on user experience and SEO), using the right WordPress plugin like All In One SEO (plus, the developer is a retired Marine), good Privacy doc, connected with Google account, Google Places is done, have developed (legitimately) good quality backlinks and Google XML Sitemap is installed/working.

There’s more to a successful ecommerce startup than what’s been conveyed in this blog post. But, we’ve covered most of the basics for you. If you have questions or thoughts please ping us back via comments below.