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How Does Citibike Perform as an Ad Unit?

At Percolate, we love cycling. We’re proud sponsors of the Bike to Work Challenge and have 25 team members participating as well. With a 67.3% participation rate, we’re currently the number two company in our division, and hoping to take home the gold.

We’re also fans of Citibike. Looking past some of their recent financial difficulties, the bike-sharing service has transformed the city and largely for the better. With nearly 8 million rides since it’s launch last May and 300+ locations across the Manhattan and Brooklyn, it’s made getting around New York a lot more fun and convenient. It’s truly remade the city.

Marketing runs through our veins and we can’t help talk turn that lens towards everything, including Citibike. Because when you think about it, the bike share program is an amazing branding opportunity. And so when Gabe wondered out loud what the effective CPM rate of Citibike was, I thought it’d be a great topic to explore. After all with the bright blue paint job and well known signage, the bike may strike some as a rolling advertisement (or perhaps “the perfect marketing campaign“.

So what is the CPM of Citibike? Well for starters, let’s make sure we all know what CPM stands for. (more…)


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Insights

Spotify’s New Ads Reveal Why Social Matters to Millenials

Spotify has recently rolled out a series of ads called #NowFeeling that shows how music (and thus Spotify) plays an integral part of our lives. Targeted at Millenials, each ad is a mini-narrative told through the first-person perspective of someone on their computer or phone as they use Facebook, Instagram, Skype, iMessage, and of course, Spotify, to talk to friends, connect with family, and clear things up with a crush. In many ways, it is an expansion of Google’s Search Stories from 2009.

I first caught one of the ads before a showing of Captain America: Winter Solider, and in reviewing all three, I’m struck by how well they’ve captured the way social networks are a core part of our off-line lives. Here they are below:

Ad #1: Say More With A Playlist

Goldie wakes up on a Sunday morning after a big night out and checks her phone to find a surprise message from a crush: a fun playlist featuring Icona Pop’s “All Night”. (more…)


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Insights

The Art and Science of Better Brand Storytelling

“People don’t always remember what you say or even what you do, but they always remember how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

In late 2008, a few weeks after Lehman Brothers filed the largest bankruptcy in US history, I quit my finance job, packed up a rental car — knotting a shoelace to keep the trunk closed — and drove to Boston to join a nine person startup. When I got there, my first assignment was to “learn and develop the brand voice” and create marketing reports.

Back then, nobody called this content marketing — we just noticed publishing free or low-cost research helped customers discover us. The more we told stories about important industry trends, the more leads we’d get for our inside sales team, and the easier it was to grow the company.

In the years since, I’ve spent my fair share of time turning ideas, experiences, and data into brand narratives. I even spent a year working on a startup that helped brands tell more effective video stories through talent-sourcing and audience analysis. And during this time I’ve learned two dead simple but important principles about storytelling that everyone in business should take to heart. (more…)


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Insights

Facebook’s f8: What Marketers Need To Know

This week Facebook hosted f8, its now annual developer conference, and announced a number of major updates, news, and new features to the Facebook platform. With a theme of “Build. Grow. Monetize.” the event was primarily aimed at app developers, software engineers, and product managers, there were a number of important takeaways for marketers, both in terms of Facebook itself but also the digital marketing more broadly.

Facebook knows that mobile ad revenue will eventually be the core of their business so f8 was all about the mobile platform.

(more…)


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Insights

How Technology Helps Fashion Labels Like Marc Jacobs Lead Social

New York Fashion Week is one of the most anticipated events on the fashion calendar, occurring twice a year in February and September. With events taking place all over New York City from Lincoln Center to Milk Studios, how does a fashion marketer create a digital campaign that will set their label apart?

Here are two examples of successful digital and social campaigns by some of the world’s hottest fashion brands from this year’s February event: (more…)


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Insights

Weibo, WeChat and the Future of Chinese Social Media

“China, not the U.S., is the most important country to watch as it relates to social and mobile.” -James Gross

With each passing day, our co-founder’s statement sounds less like an educated opinion and more like a hard fact. Simply consider the scale of the Chinese social + mobile market. The country has 618 million Internet users, and 500 million of them primarily access the web through mobile. The United States only has 319 million people in total.

But in order to understand China’s social + mobile landscape, you have to go beyond its massive scale. You have to understand what makes the Chinese market and the platforms that dominate it distinct from those in the United States.

(more…)


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Insights

New Possibilities for Real-Time Marketing

As a brand, all communications falls somewhere on the spectrum of unplanned to planned and reactive to proactive. Rebecca Lieb from Altimeter has broken this down into a framework of four quadrants that we’ve used to guide our thinking on this topic, shown below.

quadrant

On the top right, you have traditional media - planned, proactive content, or what brands have been doing for years across channels. Due to lead times and production costs, brands were exclusively focused on campaign-based communications.

When social arrived, brands started focusing on customer complaints on Facebook and Twitter. In other words - unplanned, reactive communications, found on the bottom left. SMMS apps were created to address the explosion of CRM and customer service inquiries that occur on social each day and have been focused on that goal ever since. (more…)


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Insights

The Next Phase of Marketing Technology is All About Content

I was doing research on Google Trends and noticed something interesting. The phrase “social media marketing” grew tremendously from 2009 to 2011 and has since leveled off, without future growth in sight. Meanwhile, the phrase “content marketing” has really picked up in the last year and is on a significant upwards trajectory. I realized that these simple graphs told a larger story about today’s marketing landscape.

Social Media Marketing vs Content Marketing Google Trends

Where We Started

About five years ago, social media hit an inflection point. Facebook introduced the “Like” button and a few months later surpassed MySpace to become the number one social network in the United States. Ashton Kutcher battled with CNN to reach 1 million Twitter followers and Oprah sent out her first tweet in all caps.

Forward-thinking brands saw the potential to reach their audiences with more engaging and responsive messages. New technologies, services, and job descriptions emerged to handle this new trend. And thus social media marketing took off. It took a while, but eventually even the most skeptical and stodgy brands got on board.

Where We Stand

Now, as we dive well into 2014, we live in a world saturated with social media.

This year’s Academy Awards is a great example: some 11.1 million Facebook users contributed to more than 25.4 million interactions (updates, comments, likes) and of course, Ellen’s record breaking Oscar selfie which has been retweeted a stunning 3.4 million times, beating the “Four more years” photo posted on Barack Obama’s Twitter account (no social media slouch himself) which had previously held the record with 781k retweets.

Brands have entire teams devoted to “Social” and a suite of software products to help them manage dozens of accounts on various platforms. 77% of the Fortune 500 have Twitter accounts, another 70% are on Facebook and the numbers continue to grow.

But this flurry of activity has given way to new challenges. The easy work of monitoring and publishing have become solved problems. Simply “being on” various social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr and more is not enough. Simple slogans like “joining the conversation” become meaningless unless you have something of value to contribute.

The question on every marketer’s mind is now: “What do we say?”

Where We Go

Creating great content at scale is the new challenge of every marketing team, ours included. Just as social media marketing sparked a series of tools, processes, and job titles, the new age of content marketing requires new forms of marketing infrastructure. Ultimately, it boils down to one fundamental task: creating compelling narratives around your brand.

What stories will you tell?


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Insights

How A Mobile App For Honesty Can Make You A Better Marketer

Over the summer of 2013, David Byttow, a former Google software developer, started building a mobile app to solve a problem he had. Byttow noticed he and the engineers he worked with were bad at giving each other feedback, and he wanted a way they could comment honestly on each other’s work without professional or personal backlash for saying something negative. Byttow wanted a way to tell the truth, without revealing who said it.

Eight months later, the most talked about content at SXSW 2014 wasn’t a flashy new tech launch, sharing economy roll-out or big-budget event activation: it was a SXSW feed from Byttow and co-founder Chrys Bader‘s two month old app, Secret, that aggregated and shared honest, anonymous feedback about the conference. The feed, coming on the back of Secret’s $10 million fundraising announcement, caused the app to jump more than 500 spots in the Apple app store rankings over the weekend, making Secret one of the fifty most downloaded social media apps, ahead of Foursquare and Facebook’s new Paper.

By itself, Secret is a noteworthy example of product design and community-building in an identity-conscious, mobile feature-unbundling world. But Secret isn’t alone. Its largest competitor Whisper also just raised venture funding, another addition to a Snapchat-led ecosystem of apps that help users create, share and consume content that’s genuine, unedited and in the moment. In fact, I see Secret, Whisper and Snapchat as part of a larger content and cultural trend centered around a key brand pillar: honesty.

From Sochi to the Oscars to SXSW, honesty and authenticity is consistently winning people’s attention — not to mention share of voice among marketers. At Sochi, P&G’s honest, heart-felt “Thank You Mom (Pick Them Back Up)” and “Tough Love” attracted as much positive content attention (over 20 million YouTube views and more than 650,000 social shares) as satirical coverage of “Sochi fails.” And Ellen’s record-setting, Twitter-breaking Oscar selfie might have been a planned product placement, but it wasn’t rehearsed, and hit Twitter with no edits or photo filters. It just happened, it was authentic, and the world loved it.  Even retailer Radio Shack was recently able to revitalize its embattled brand during Super Bowl XLVIII with a delightful, content-driven campaign that admitted the truth most consumers already knew: it’s an analog 80’s brand struggling to transition to a digital era.

Outside of event-based content, authenticity matters a lot for marketers too. New data from Chartbeat finds that a typical online article holds two thirds of people’s attention for at least 15 seconds. With native sponsored stories, average content engagement drops to one third. Moreover, 71% of web visitors scroll vertically on pages with published news stories or blog posts. With native ads that number drops to 24%. I’m not presenting these stats to say native ads are dishonest or they don’t work, but the data makes one case pretty clear: people bounce from native ads when the content they click through to isn’t what they expected (or wanted). Make your content more authentic and appropriate to the platform you’re publishing to — like some of the best native advertisers are doing — and this performance gap between published and paid content closes meaningfully.

At the end of the day, people want to be heard, they gravitate to authentic, connected experiences, and they know branded content when they see it. As marketers, we need to craft content that respects these principles, rather than chase ephemeral brand boosts from click-bait, staged stunts or misleading ad units. So now I’ve let you in on one of marketing’s closely held secrets: honesty still works in advertising.


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Insights

Empathizing With Your Audience In The Age Of Social And Mobile

At Social Media Week NYC Laura Simpson and Nadia Tuma, the global and deputy directors, respectively, of McCann Truth Central, gave a presentation on privacy and sharing in social media. They spoke at length about the varying attitudes people of different generations possess regarding the ownership and use of their online data.

At the end of their presentation, they unveiled a pyramid graph entitled “the hierarchy of compensation.” Organizations scale the pyramid by using an individual’s data to provide benefits that are increasingly intrinsic in nature. In other words, companies move from merely providing transactional benefits to enabling self-actualization by using the personal data they collect to actually make the lives of their customers better (as opposed to just making their purchases less expensive).

Empathize_highlight (1)

As I listened to Laura and Nadia speak – I sat on the panel that followed their presentation – I couldn’t help but think of Percolate Design Director Dom Goodrum’s post on the role market research plays in product design. He wrote:

One of our big goals for the year ahead will be to ensure that the distribution of our findings works harder for the company. If our research is empowering us with empathy around our customer’s lives, then we’ve got to make sure that empathy is served on a never-ending conveyor belt so everyone across the company can easily pick learnings up all day long.

Empathy is the key to ascending the hierarchy of compensation Laura and Nadia created. Whether a B2B or B2C organization, if you aspire to provide not merely cost-saving solutions but life-altering ones, deeply understanding the challenges and concerns of your customers is critical.

Great marketing, like any form of storytelling, needs to make an emotional impact. But in order to do so, you have to understand your audience. You have to empathize with them. In the third, social and mobile-driven phase of marketing technology, we can do so in ways never previously imagined. The data we now have access to, both in terms of its scale and its specificity, is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. It’s dramatically changing the ways in which marketers can make their content compelling.

When discussing our audiences, we can talk in terms of billions, not just millions. At the same time, we can target small groups of individuals with highly tailored messages. And we can do them both on the very same platform. The more information an individual provides, the better we can ensure we’re telling stories and providing solutions he or she will be impacted by. We can ensure we’re talking to the right people on the right platform and in the right ways.

I mentioned that Laura and Nadia’s presentation was actually about generational attitudes regarding privacy, sharing and the corporate use of data. How do marketers ensure that the content they create – content that appears in feeds along with photos and messages from friends and loved ones – will be well received? Empathize with them. Produce content that genuinely speaks to the reality of their situation, and distribute that content at the appropriate time through the appropriate channels. If you do so, branded content won’t feel invasive. It will be welcomed.


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