The formula for selling viral toys, getting you to buy more

Formula:
Create a viral marketing campaign around certain toys using social media influencers.
Undersupply the market with the toy. The limited amount furthers the frenzy and increases the desirability since now only a select number of consumers can get them (exclusivity)….

Formula:

  1. Create a viral marketing campaign around certain toys using social media influencers.
  2. Undersupply the market with the toy. The limited amount furthers the frenzy and increases the desirability since now only a select number of consumers can get them (exclusivity).
  3. Launch PR campaign, supply media organizations with a few of the toys so they can them away as part of their holiday feel-good campaigns.
  4. Parents promise their kids the toy for Christmas, but can’t get it.
  5. Parents buy substitute toys for Christmas.
  6. After Christmas, toy manufacturer floods the market with the toy.
  7. Parents buy the toy when it becomes available, so now the parents have bought toys twice for the season: the substitute toys for Christmas day, and the desired toy in January or February.

And yet, what do I remember about my childhood holidays?

  • My grandfather building a gingerbread house with me.
  • Seeing and playing hide and seek with my cousins.
  • Putting together my family’s Christmas pyramid and being amazed by how the candles made it work.
  • Candlelight services.

https://www.nbcnews.com/widget/video-embed/1107596867748

Sources:

Crisis Communications: Stopping a misunderstood customer service experience from going viral

While giving the full explanation each time may not fully prevent customer service issues from going viral and it may make things worse if it frustrates the customer, it can prevent others who are overhearing the conversation from making up their own story and creating a viral crisis via social media.

A photo of empty seats on a Southwest Airlines airplane
“Southwest Airlines” by Kevin Dooley, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Recently, a friend gave me a copy of the Aircraft Owners and Pilot’s Association’s (AOPA) Flight Training magazine to read an article subtitled Who really suffers after an airline incident goes viral.

The article highlights a couple of recent airline customer service experiences, such as a man being dragged-off a United Airlines flight, and how could have been solved in more productive ways. It also argues that, had the whole story of some of these recent incidences been what the public saw, the court of public judgement may have judged the incidences differently.

The latter point is what interested me, as it emphasizes one of the most fundamental principles of crisis communication: If you don’t give people the whole story, they will make up the information they are missing.

And it gives us a way to potentially solve the issue. Customer service representatives need to make sure that EVERY time they discuss they issue, they give the full story and preferably in every sentence. 

In the case of two teenage girls not able to board a United flight because they were wearing leggings, the reason was that they were using “buddy passes” which have strict dress codes. While I wasn’t there and can only surmise what happened, I’m guessing the gate agent, who was probably in a rush, probably said something like “Sorry, you two are’t properly dressed to board this flight” when the Shannon Watts (the woman who complained about it on twitter) overheard. What’s missing from the above version? The full story about them being on buddy passes.

What would it look like to explain the full story in this situation?

Gate agent: You are traveling on a free buddy ticket and your outfit does not meet the dress code for using a free buddy ticket.

Ladies: What?

Gate agent: You are traveling on a free buddy ticket and your outfit does not meet the dress code for using a free buddy ticket. Do you have something else you can change into that meets the dress code for using a free buddy ticket?

Ladies: We didn’t know that. What’s the dress code?

Gate agent: Here is the dress code for using a free buddy ticket. Do you have something else you can change into that meets the dress code for using a free buddy ticket?

But this is hard, gets redundant and takes time in a stressful situation, so people start taking shortcuts.

Gate agent: You don’t meet the dress code, is there something else you can change into?

Reading the above, you can see how, if someone just heard this statement, they could start making-up the rest of the story.

While giving the full explanation each time may not fully prevent customer service issues from going viral and it may make things worse if it frustrates the customer (more trial of this is needed to understand and refine), it can prevent others who are overhearing the conversation from making up their own story and creating a viral crisis via social media.

And when you find yourself on the flip side and the person who overhears, PLEASE take a minute to find out the rest of the story before you pass judgement. I know, easier said than done, and I mess this up all the time, but the more we do this, the less issues we will all have.

 

 

Don’t allow photography in your store? It might be costing you sales

“I’m sorry ma’am, we don’t allow photos,” called a clerk to me while I was visiting a local artist shop in Chicago. I smiled and put my camera phone away. This isn’t the first time that I’ve been stopped from taking photographs in stores and it won’t be the last. It happens most often to me with shops with unique, local artisan items, and I can understand why. They don’t want people taking photos so they can copy their ideas. But what they don’t realize is, they might be saving themselves from copycats, but they are also losing sales.

What the clerk above didn’t realize in the above example is that I was trying to make a sale for him; I was taking a photo because the sculpture would have fit perfectly in my friend’s home and I was sending him a photograph to see if he would like me to pick it up for him. In fact, most of the time I take a photograph in a store, it’s to ask someone else if they’d like me to purchase the item for them.

Two reasons people take photos in stores:

Taking photos allows them to buy things for others

It used to be that people would call friends or family when they saw something that the other might like and then the friend or family member would make the trip to see it. The younger generations found a way to skip the trip (unless it’s necessary), by taking photographs and offering to purchase and transport items for them.

Taking photos helps them to share your products

The other way the younger generations are using photographs is to show their friends and family cool new projects and/or let their friends know about cool promotions. Check out this Facebook post by one of my friends below. Do you think Starbucks is upset that she took and posted this photo?

Starbucks sandwich sign free drink

So, if you have a “no photos” policy, I’m not saying you have to get rid of it. But weigh that decision carefully. Is it worth missed sales to protect your items? What is the likelihood of copycats?

Think about how viral content is shared to ensure your message stays intact


Kellogg Community College math professor, Marcus Anderson, created the YouTube video “Bad Email Reply – What not to say to your professor…” above and it recently went viral. I personally saw it on my Facebook newsfeed and on my Feedly.

The problem is, only PART of his message went viral. The video was shared, but not his comments below it explaining that the email was a fake example and that he hadn’t violated student privacy by sharing it. This lead to a lot of people becoming very upset at him.  On his YouTube page for the video, he explains:

“Most importantly, that email was not a word-for-word copy of a student’s email. This is a mash up of many poor emails, some common email mistakes and some of my own embellishment compiled into one email. Let me repeat: I would never post an email of a student to the Internet nor would I suggest anyone else ever doing that. Therefore, cartmanrulez99 is not real person.”

Again, because this information was in the comments section and not in the actual video, when the video is embedded (like it is above) and shared, the complete message is lost. For example, here is the description from Laughing Squid for the video:

Marcus Anderson, a math professor at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Michigan, recently created a video where he critiques an email sent to him from one of his students. The student, whose email address starts off with “cartmanrulez99″, writes to the professor as if he is a best friend for life, drops a winky face, uses shortcuts when spelling out words (u, lol, and thx), requests handouts for each of the four classes missed, and then goes ahead and asks for the actual class book.”

What can we learn from this

The big takeaway for all of us is to really think about how our messages could be shared and take any steps necessary to make sure that the message we want to communicate stays intact. In this case, the message that it wasn’t a real student should have been included in the video.

This also serves as a great reminder to check the source of the information you receive. Until I clicked-through to the YouTube and read his comments, I also was under the impression that it was a real student email.

Social media isn’t free advertising

I regularly run into small business owners that want to do social media because it’s free advertising. In some ways, the statement that social media is free advertising is free is true, but, in reality, it isn’t.

 

Effectively using social media for your business requires strategy

Effectively using social media for your business requires careful planning and strategy. Often, people create a Facebook page or a Twitter account for their business without putting much thought into it. Although you may gain some “likes” or “followers” that way, it’s not the most effective way to build your brand and sell your product or service on there. In order for your social media strategy to turn into a brand-building/selling advertising tool for you, you’ve got to create an effective strategy behind it

 

There are a  lot of great books and online articles on how to do this, the top one I recommend is The New Rules of Marketing & PR

 

Time=Money

I’ve yet to see an effective social media strategy that doesn’t require careful planning and writing/designing posts and monitoring and responding/interacting in a timely manner. It is a conversation, after all, and how would you feel if you walked up to a customer service counter and had to wait there a week for a response?

 

Effectively planning, designing, writing, monitoring and interacting on social media takes more time than most people think and that’s where you find the “cost” of social media. Places like Facebook and Twitter may be free marketing and advertising tools, but time=money and, to utilize these tools right, you’re going to spend a lot of time working on them.

 

My advice

My advice to be effective but not have social media eat up all your time is to start with one platform, research and develop an effective strategy, and implement it.  After that is running well and you have a good feel for the amount of time it takes to maintain and continually improve it, move on to one or two more platforms.

Marketing music via the Internet, an ongoing evolution

My friend and I spent our Friday evening this past week at a Straight No Chaser concert in Houston, TX.  Their performance opened with a video of how to enjoy the concert. During that video, they made a point, at least twice, to encourage people to take photos and videos of the performance and post them online (tagging, hashtagging, etc. them of course).  Then, during the performance, they took photos of the crowd and asked us to go on their Facebook page and tag ourselves They explained that they had a limited marketing budget and social media was an effective way to get their message out.

Considering that the popularity of Straight No Chaser began when one of their members posted a video of them on YouTube and it went viral (see video above), it’s not shocking that this group has embraced social media and the online world as they have, but it is quite unusual.  Over the years, I’ve watched with great interest as the music world struggles to find the perfect balance with the online world. As it stands now, most musicians seem to tolerate online videos and photos of their concerts and some will even ask you to tweet your experience using a hashtag. But Straight No Chaser has taken it a step further by asking fans to actively post videos of their performances online.

Do I think it’s a good idea? Yes. People go to the concerts for the experience and to hear the music live. No video is going to overcome that thirst for the experience.  But is it good for all musicians? I’d say yes, but would love to hear your thoughts.

On another note, I chose NOT to take photos and videos during the concert because I wanted to just sit back and enjoy the experience. For more on my thoughts about this, read: Put down the camera and enjoy the moment.

Thanks, John Kerfoot, for showing us how to laugh at ourselves

This post is dedicated to someone I’ve never met, but want to thank.

For those of you “non-Michiganders,” you might not be familiar with John Kerfoot, but he’s very popular in Michigan. He owns Tri-Foot productions and is an instructor at Wayne State University, but we all know him because he’s the guy that publishes the Not So Pure Michigan videos.

The Back Story

A couple years back, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation decided they needed to do something to increase tourism. So, they produced an advertising/branding campaign titled Pure Michigan. The campaign, including television ads, are very well received and seem to do a lot of good for tourism for the State of Michigan. But, to those of us in Michigan, the ads are a stretch because we see the good AND the bad.

Enter John Kerfoot

The videographer very quickly began creating spoofs of the ads (which, most advertisers will tell you, is the ultimate compliment) and they went viral. Not only that, but his videos (which, a warning, contain a lot of swearing) are primarily responsible, in my opinion, for inspiring a whole new, sarcastic meaning to the phrase “Pure Michigan.” Examples:

  • If you see something that is completely unattractive, like a garbage dump, it’s not uncommon in Michigan for someone to point to it and say “See that? Pure Michigan.”
  • During a presentation on Broken Windows that I gave at a military base, I asked a high-ranking  officer what he thought of a picture I’d taken of a horrible billboard ad in Michigan. He smiled and sarcastically said, “Pure Michigan.”

Recently, via Facebook, he announced that he’s retiring the series. Even though I now live in Texas, I’m deeply saddened by the news. I still love watching his videos and happily share them with my friends in Texas who want to see the “other” side of Michigan. He’s taught us “Michiganders” to laugh at ourselves and he’s provided a great example of advertising spoofing done well.

So, John, I just want to say, thanks for the laughs. I’m going to miss your Pure Michigan series, but look forward to your future work.

And now, my favorite Pure Michigan videos (again, a warning, they do contain profanity and could potentially be offensive to some):