IKEA Småland: No Instructions Needed

ikea-smalandI am not a big fan of shopping at IKEA, but on a recent trip there with the family I discovered something (a fabulous touch point) that has completely shifted my feeling on the store. Tucked back in a corner near the entrance is a place they call Småland, a children’s play area. This touch point is even better than the meatballs they sell at the food court.

IKEA 1

So what is Småland and how does it work. It is a play area where we were able to drop off our son while we shopped. Instead of him having to tag along with Mom and Dad, he got to play in ball pits, on sliding boards, tunnels, climbing obstacles and even watch a movie. That is right; he got to have a blast in Småland while we shop for the furniture and home goods we needed. No more having to chase him through the kitchen models or drag him along as he gets bored and restless. We could concentrate on our shopping and he gets to run around in an area where it is allowed. There are some rules, age restrictions and requirements like the children must be potty trained, but the best part… it is free of charge.

IKEA 3

Småland is a great example of a company looking outside of its normal operations and creating a touch point for the brand that is unexpected. A touch point that creates a positive perception for the brand, I know it did for me. With this one simple idea, IKEA as completely shifted my perception of the brand and changed my feeling about having to go shop there. Their furniture may still come with some of the least helpful instructions, but their stores provide an enjoyable shopping environment having Småland available for the kids.

Author: Gary Balakoff

Applebee’s Instagram: Power to the Foodies

#FantographerUser generated and influencer content is a great resources for advertising and Applebee’s is taking this strategy to the next level with their Instagram account. Starting in July and lasting for 12 months, they are turning over the account to their diners. User must go to a microsite to give permissions and ok the privacy policy stuff, after that anything posted with #Applebees or #Fantographer (the campaigns title) will get posted on their Instagram. Applebee’s even brands your post with a nice boarder to tie it into the campaign.

I like this idea for multiple reasons… It is easy for users, Instagram’s popularity, simple to manage and explain… but the real reason I like it is that is utilizes user generated content for the campaign. User generated content is becoming more popular in advertising but it is still a relatively untapped resource for companies and brands. Why do I like user or influencer generated content so much?

  • It shows you care about your customers and what they have to say
  • You are engaging with your consumers/audience
  • It creates authenticity and honesty in your advertising
  • Work of mouth: More likely to share content because they created it
  • An emotional connection, people get excited to see their posts used
  • Creates a level of transparency for the company
  • People love to talk about themselves and share pics
  • It is free or relatively low cost content

iPhoneI could probably go on, but I think you get the idea. User generated content can be a great tool for advertising. Sure there can be some negatives to using this type of content, issues like having to monitor very closely to avoid negative or inappropriate content, what if no one shares content for the campaign, technical issues, etc. However those companies that look past these issues and take a chance on their audience can create a campaign that has a bigger impact than several traditional campaigns put together.

So if you don’t mind taking a chance and have faith in your consumers, reach out to them and see what they can do. Who knows they just might surprise you and help create one of your most powerful advertising campaigns?

Author: Gary Balakoff

Google Maps, Twitter and a Hashtag equal Engagement and Promotion

scavenger-hunt

I have a passion for social media and the role it can play in marketing. I believe it can be a powerful and successful marketing tool, especially when it compliments traditional techniques. That is not to say that some social media campaigns can’t stand alone. One social media campaign that recently caught my eye was for the Firefly Music Festival held in Dover, Delaware a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the festival (looked like an amazing line up), but I did catch their twist on the Twitter scavenger hunt for free tickets. If you are not familiar with how a Twitter scavenger hunt works, it is pretty simple, in order to give away free promotional items, you hide said items out in public somewhere. Then you leave clues on where to find the promotional item on your Twitter feed. The first person to follow the clues and find the prize wins.

The promotional gurus for the Firefly Music Festival took the traditional Twitter scavenger hunt and added a nice twist. They paired it with Google Maps and a custom hashtag (#Firefly2013) for the festival. Then, instead of tweeting out the clues to the hidden tickets, they had followers tweet out the hashtag. How did one find out where the tickets were then? A special Google Map web page was set up (see it here) and the location would be shown on the map. However the map started zoomed all the way out, the more tweets they got with the hashtag, the closer they brought the map, until it was close enough to see where the tickets were hidden.

firefly_3  firefly_1  firefly_2

While past scavengers hunts I have seen get you Twitter followers, this version added a few results that I find quite beneficial.

  1. Awareness and Promotion:  For one, contestants had to visit a special web page (here); this web page is full of marketing and promotions for the concert and links to additional information. Secondly, users were tweeting out the hashtag so everyone in their networks was seeing it. Hundreds of people tweeting to hundreds of followers… do the math, that is a lot of people reading about Firefly Music Fest or at least seeing the hashtag.
  2. Trending Topic: By having the participants tweet #Firefly2013 over and over, there is the potential to get the hashtag trending. It might be really tough to get it trending nationally, but could very easily start trending regionally. Regardless if it trends or not, the event hashtag is getting posted hundreds of times throughout the day.
  3. Audience Engagement: With past Twitter scavenger hunts, the goal is to get a lot of additional followers and then send out a lot of posts to Twitter. With Firefly’s set up, you are getting your followers to do the posting, the organizers only needed to control the Google Map. The contest is tapping into user generated content and getting the users to push out the tweets for you.

I am always in favor of adding social media to your marketing mix. It can open up opportunities to be more creativity. Social media contests are on every format, and whether you are looking to get followers, shares, likes or to gather emails with yours, why not add an element that makes it stand out and creates additional return.

Author: Gary Balakoff

Not your average billboard

mcdonalds_chalk_billboard   orphea-billboard

I think billboards are such an underutilized and underappreciated medium. Too often people ignore their value or overlook the creative opportunities they can provide.  For lack of a better term, billboards have been type cast and many feel are only good for advertising your companies contact information.

This is why I think they offer an opportunity to stand out and get noticed and why I love seeing outside the box billboard concepts.  I recently came across two examples on AdFreak (here and here) that I think do a great job of standing out and go beyond the boring billboard stereotype.

1.      McDonalds Chalkboard Menu Billboard
Chalkboard menus can be creative in their own right, but taking that concept and putting it on a billboard scale is impressive. I like this concept for a few reasons. First, it’s creativeness, taking a chalk menu and putting it somewhere it doesn’t really belong. Who thinks to do hand drawn chalk boards at that size. Second, the commitment to the concept, they could have just done a drawing and when it faded, take it down or then draw a new one. No, they changed it out two times a day to keep it fresh and make a statement. This leads to my third point, it ties so nicely into their new fresh menu items. When I think of chalkboard menus it makes me think of small local sandwich shops. Also using chalk gives it a real rustic and homemade feel, not some mass produced piece, which is what McDonalds seems to be going for with its new items.

 

2.      Orphea Bug Spray
I like this one because it takes a billboard and makes it what I am going to call indirectly interactive (a mouthful I know). As an observer there is an interactive quality to it.  I understand that an individual cannot directly do anything with the billboard, but the real life changes that take place because of the bugs sticking can be immediately observed.  As a passerby you can clearly see the changes taking place and have an immediate reaction to those changes.  Another thing that I really like about this billboard is how clearly it demonstrates the purpose of the product.  The bug spray claims to kill bugs and its billboard illustrates the bug spray killing bugs.

The next time you are running a campaign; don’t underestimate using a billboard for your advertising. If you can come up with an outside the box idea like one of these, it just might help you stand out.

Author: Gary Balakoff

Top 3 Reasons I Love Marketing

Since I started this blog to share my thoughts on marketing, advertising and branding, I thought, what better to write about in my first post, than my top 3 reasons I have a passion for marketing.  I can remember the exact moment I got the marketing bug and knew this was the industry that I wanted to work in. It has everything to do with the 1980s Pepsi Challenge taste test promotion.  Yes this Pepsi Challenge:

 

I was a sophomore in college and sitting in the first day of my Introduction to Marketing class.  The professor was discussing what we would be learning for the semester and describing some of the activities and projects we would be doing.  Then he plays a video (on VHS) highlighting some of the biggest marketing campaigns of all time.  One of those campaigns was the Pepsi Challenge and after the video is over he informs us that we will be holding our very own Pepsi Challenge later in the semester as a case study.  He staged a Pepsi Challenge style taste test to see whether or not we could tell the difference between various colas.  The experiment was looking to prove if it was the marketing behind the colas that made us prefer one over the other or the actual taste.  Well regardless of the lesson we were supposed to learn, that was it, I was hooked, and I should probably call up that professor and thank him.

It wasn’t long after that I declared my major in Marketing and began signing up for every marketing class that I could.  So what is it about marketing that makes it so exciting?  I could probably list a dozen reasons why I have such a passion for marketing, but when it comes down to it, there are 3 main areas that really attract me to this industry.

  1. Entertaining/Emotional: I put these two together as one because as I thought about them, they seemed linked to each other.  Marketing can create such an emotional and entertaining experience that I think is one of the most important aspects to this industry.  You can have all the numbers, facts and information you want, but it is the emotional reaction you create for someone, what they remember. Being able to take an idea, build a marketing piece from it and have someone react to it or be entertained by it is such a gratifying moment. It is what makes all the hard work, the trial and error to get it just right all worth it. It is what draws me to an ad or commercial.  When I can watch TV and have that one ad, out of all the ads, grab my attention and make me react to it, it reminds me of why I love this industry.  Think about some of your favorite commercials, ads or marketing pieces and more times than not, there is an emotional value or entertainment value behind why you like it.  Obviously I want someone to remember what I am selling, but if I can create that entertaining moment for them, I know I’ve got them, I know I nailed it.
  2. Creativity: Something I really enjoy with this industry is being able to get creative. Coming up with ideas and shaping them into a campaign; thinking to myself, “that idea is out there… now how do I make it work?” I enjoy the creative process of brainstorming and considering every idea, taking parts of this thought and mixing it with parts of another. Not knowing where my inspiration will come from or what will make the final product start taking shape.  Creativity makes this industry exciting and keeps it from getting boring or monotonous.  It is your creativity that helps you to stand out and your work to get notices. Something I have learned over the years is to not be afraid, that not every idea will be a good one, but if I keep learning and keep pushing myself creatively, they will start to work more and more.
  3. Team work/Brainstorming: I briefly mentioned this in my previous point, but for me, it deserves its own mention.  When I start to develop a campaign or a promotion I usually have a ton of ideas floating around in my head. I just start jotting down anything that comes to mind, all on one piece of paper. After a while I will start to eliminate ideas and bounce them off my co-workers trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.  This has been the set up for several of my jobs, where teamwork was encouraged and everyone could share ideas. I’ve always liked this process of brainstorming and getting others input. Sometimes it just takes a small jolt from something another person says to get your idea to take shape. I have always felt that in marketing, constructive criticism is necessary. You can’t worry about the criticism or being told an idea will not work. Sometimes it takes that criticism to grow and be successful. Working with a team and brainstorming keeps marketing exciting for me and creates a sense of camaraderie.

I could easily go on with this list, but for me these three really stand out and make my job in marketing so enjoyable.  Looking back at my decision to pursue a degree in marketing, it was definitely the right choice.  This is the industry for me and while it may not be for everyone, I thoroughly enjoy it. It brings me satisfaction and gives me a drive for successful.

Are you involved in a marketing position? What do you like or maybe dislike about marketing? What about marketing keeps you going every day?

Author: Gary Balakoff