@ OnMedia: Branding And Social Networks: Marketers Lack Understanding Of Social Media Branding

Seems like marketers are still behind the curve in understanding online video and social networks. In the middle of a panel discussion at the AlwaysOn Media NYC conference, Jean-Philippe Maheu, chief digital officer for WPP’s Ogilvy N.A., said that when he visits clients he always asks the marketing department how many access YouTube — the response rate is never more than 30 percent: “How can you understand the online world when you don’t experience it the way your customers do?” Moderator Bill Cleary asked the panelists how they explain the value proposition of new media when the level of disconnect remains so high.

It’s the consumer, not the content: Marketers reflexively approach digital the way they are used to dealing with TV or print. David Carlick, managing director, VantagePoint Venture Partners: “Marketers see a site and want to attach their brand to the content,” They need to realize that their focus is off. When it comes to online, especially social media, you’re sponsoring the consumer, not the content – you have to go to where the people are and attach yourself to what they want to do. So if the consumer wants to watch videos of people getting drunk and taking their clothes off, that might be where your brand should be. “I don’t think the consumer feels guilty, sitting there saying ‘I hope no one’s watching what I’m doing – oh, there’s McDonald’s – why are they advertising on this site? What a bunch of sleazebags.’ That’s not what happens.”

Niches within niches: Ben Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, said that when it comes to finding a place for a brand when it comes to digital, “the future lies in vertical niches, where people connect around specific like-minded things. You can get into people who love animals and you can drill down further to a deep-vested interest, such as in a particular kind of dog. At that point, that’s when you’re valuable from an eyeball standpoint. When the advertiser is there for the same reason.”

How granular will it get?: Bajarin’s comments led Cleary to ask: Will there be a site for civil war re-enacters of Yugoslavian background? The panelists said that there just might be one. Even if there isn’t, some forward-thinking parts of the marketing world are wisely starting to act that way. Tom Bedecarre, CEO, AKQA, pointed to Nike, which he noted is deeply into cross-channel: “They’re constantly exploring different facets of social media and even creating their own content around their products, whether it’s a mobile application or a video mashup. Nike has realized that you have to put out a lot and leave it up to the community to decide whether and how they want to engage. That’s the measure of success — not whether we over-delivered on our GRPs.” Maheu said he still feels that the power of story-telling is infinite. The selling tactic for Real Beauty campaign showed Unilever executives’ daughters talking about their body images and that helped influence the social media aspects of the advertising as well.

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