I can’t take credit for the idea behind this post. A fella I follow on Twitter named Matt Lindner tweeted this earlier in the week:
He’s spot on. I’ve been hearing the same thing from so many friends and colleagues over the last 6-9 months.
And it’s not surprising at all. Not given what we’ve been through the last year: COVID, working at home, racial injustice, the election, etc. I mean, 2020 was HEAVY.
But, also: In the comms/PR/social arena, our jobs kinda sucked last year, too, right? March-May felt like a crisis blur. After that, it felt like one thing after another (see above). And, we were on the front lines. Every. Day.
Managing frustrated or outright angry and belligerent online communities. Meeting with execs. Developing comms strategies for communicating with our audiences more frequently.
Add to that: Our colleagues were more on edge. People were stressed, understandably so. But, that stress added up. It had a cumulative effect. And, work got tougher. Our jobs became thankless in many ways. And, we never got to see our colleagues face-to-face.
And so, people started questioning what the heck they were really doing at work.
Am I even making a difference? (yes, it just didn’t seem like it some days)
Am I appreciated? (again, yes, but your boss was too stressed/busy to say anything)
Am I working for a company that truly cares and wants to make the world a better place? (this is a new one, but a question more are asking given 2020)
Enter said “Come to Jesus” moment.
I think in 2021 we’re going to see A LOT of movement in the PR/comms/social space. Many people are going to change jobs, if for no other reason than they want to see if the grass is greener on the other side. But, more than that, people are fed up. They may want to work for an employer with a bigger purpose. They may be sick of their boss. Or, they may just be tired of being worked to death (almost literally in some cases).
I also think we’re going to see more people make complete career 180s in 2021. Like big career changes. You don’t see this happen all that often. But, given we just survived the dumpster fire that was 2020, this is the year you’ll see it more.
I’m thinking of people like Bianca Jones, who spent the last 5+ years at Best Buy in PR/comms. She’s a blossoming star in the PR world. She seems destined for a VP role. But, just recently, she made a big change and accepted a role as Foundations and Corporate Relations Officer with the Northside Achievement Zone in Minneapolis.
Translation: Bianca wanted a chance to make a difference for her community.
Here are her words in a LinkedIn post where she announced this change last week:
“The past year has not been easy. But it helped light a fire in me that I haven’t seen before. I’m more confident, passionate and thoughtful. I also know that I have a voice and a skill set that can be used to create change.”
Bianca certainly won’t be the last person to make this kind of career change in 2021.
Expect to see more 180s in the months ahead.
2020, you kicked our collective asses.
But, you also made us pause. You made us think. And, you made us realize many of us are destined for different things.
I’m looking forward to seeing what those things are for a lot of you out there.
Go change the world, people.
It’s one of THE buzzwords in our marketing world. When done right, it works wonderfully well. Other times, well, let’s just say some campaigns aren’t exactly “integrated.”
One of those examples just occurred about a week ago with the beloved M&Ms brand.
M&Ms announced its new “integrated” digital campaign to the world via this news release.
To summarize, M&Ms is bringing back its limited edition “Messages” packaging with an integration with the audio streaming platform, Spotify. The twist: Each limited edition package has a short code consumers can scan to listen to a specially curated playlist based on the message on that package.
Actually sounds cool, right?
So cool that I thought I needed to experience this for myself. I took a quick visit to Target to find these special edition packages–and they were easy to find.
Now, say what you want about the creative–we’re not here today to talk about that. We are hear, however, to talk about the digital integration piece of this campaign. Notably–the code and Spotify playlists mentioned in the press release.
So, I bought my candies and I headed home to get my playlists! Just one problem–I didn’t know how to do that!
OK, they must have explained how to scan the code in the press release somewhere. So, I went back to look–nothing. OK, it must be on the M&M social channels somewhere. But, this was the post I found:
No mention of how to scan the code. And, in fact, no mention of Spotify or the playlists ANYWHERE on social at all. Curious.
After some quick Googling, I figured out how to scan the packages. Turns out, you need to use a little-used functionality in Spotify to scan the code–something only one student in my class at the University of St. Thomas knew about, as we discussed this case study Monday night (read: this isn’t just a 48-year-old problem!).
I scanned the three bags and only two worked. They did take me to playlists that included a variety of songs–from artists like Prince to Daryl Hall to Ariana Grande. All over the board.
But, one bag didn’t work. I tried several times. To no avail.
So, if I were to recap the “customer experience” of this digital integration, I would say: Easy to find the limited edition bags of M&Ms–tough to figure out how to scan the codes that get me to the Spotify playlists.
Not ideal–to say the least.
What’s more: Think back to the social component of this–not a word on the M&M social channels about the Spotify playlists. Now, maybe they’re running dark ads. That’s possible. But, if this was a big, digitally-integrated campaign, wouldn’t they put out at least one organic post on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with a mention of the playlists and how to access them?
Finally: let’s think about the behavior M&Ms and their partners at Spotify are after here with this integration. Obviously, Mars wants you to buy more M&Ms, luring you in with the prospect of curated music.
But, are the playlists all that unique? And, when am I supposed to listen to them?
Barilla had an interesting campaign recently where they asked customers to scan for a playlist you would then listen to as you boil your pasta. Makes sense, right? You have downtime in the kitchen. You like music. Voila playlist!
However, in this case, I’m left scratching my head a little. It’s not that I don’t think the playlists themselves were good, there just isn’t a natural tie to the product.
Clearly, not all digitally integrated campaigns are created equal. In this case, I think M&Ms could have done themselves a favor merely by putting themselves through the paces of being a customer and scanning the package themselves–maybe asking friends and family to do it. I think they would have figured out pretty quickly that it’s not an intuitive thing to a lot of people. And, that there might be a lot of questions about this campaign.
Gary V is a fascinating personality to me. For so many reasons. But mostly because of his position in the industry–he’s become one of THE lightning rods in our social media marketing world.
People either absolutely LOVE him and share his quotes and content. Or, they really, really, really hate him and all he represents (including his love the NY Jets!).
You will rarely meet a person who says “Gary V? I don’t know, he’s OK.” No, it’s “I LOVE GARY!” or “That guy’s a clown.”
So, why is that? Why is Gary V such a lovable or hateable personality? I’d like to examine that for a moment today.
First, let’s take a closer look at those who love him. Why the adulation? There are a few clear reasons:
1 – He’s inspirational
A big part of Gary’s persona online centers on inspiration. “You can do this.” “No one can stop you.” “Follow your dreams!” He espouses inspirational messages like these routinely on all his social networks–and people eat it up. Especially in 2020 and 2021, we’ve needed inspiration more than ever. And Gary V continues to dole it out regularly.
2 – He’s a dynamic speaker
Remember when we went to conferences to hear keynote speakers? Well, Gary V was one of THE keynote speakers. He’s irreverent. He’s dynamic. And, he swears a lot. And, people are drawn to him. I’ve seen Gary multiple times early in his social media career when I was helping with a conference called BlogWorld. And, it was the same back then–some people hated him. But, a lot of people LOVED him. And, back then at least, it had a lot to do with his stage presence.
3 – He’s a self-made guy (kinda)
Gary V has built an empire–literally. In 2015, his VaynerMedia agency was named one of AdAge’s A-List agencies and has more than 600 employees. That year it grossed $100 million in revenue. A pretty amazing feat. He also took over his father’s wine business in the late 1990s and was among the first to digitize the wine business with his Wine Library TV concept which helped him grow the business from $3 million a year to $60 million a year by 2003. So yeah, he had a little help early, but man he parlayed that into some serious financial success over the last 20 years.
Some pretty solid reasons why people love him, right? Now, why do people hate the guy? Let’s take a closer peek.
1 – He’s the champion of “the hustle”
I could have easily put this on the love list above because it is, in a way, why people love him, too. But, he’s drawn a lot of fire over the years for championing this “hustle culture” attitude. And after a year where we all spent more time reflecting, with family and decidedly “not hustling”, this message has not exactly aged well in the minds of some folks.
2 – The swearing
His dynamic speaking style is why so many people love him. But at the same time, that style is typically littered with “f-bombs” and other vulgarities that completely turn people off. Again, I’ve heard the guy speak numerous times. Back in the early 2010s, it was kinda his thing. But, as he became more successful, I wondered why he was still doing it. He doesn’t need to now. Personally, I tend to think the over-swearing thing is just dumb. He’s a very successful business person now–he just doesn’t need to do that anymore. I know this bothers a lot of people.
3 – People hate successful people
They just do. And, who’s more successful than Gary V in social media circles? Not too many. So, he’s an easy target for those craving success but just can’t get there. I really do think this is a bigger piece of the hate than many want to admit.
4 – Does he really know what he’s doing?
In social media circles, this is a legit question I think pops up a lot among people who have been career communicators and marketers. I mean, the guy was a wine guy. And yeah, he built Wine Library TV on social video. And yeah, he was an early adopter and got all those speaking roles on the social media speakers circuit. But, does that really mean he knows what he’s doing when it comes to brands and social media? See also: His VaynerMedia is the agency behind Planters recent Super Bowl social media approaches, which have drawn criticism over the last two years. And, more recently, he was a part of the Clubhouse kerfuffle with Kool-Aid man that drew the ire of the Clubhouse elite. So, the question persists: Yes, he’s built a super-successful agency, but does HE really know what he’s doing with brand social media? The jury may still be out, believe it or not.
So, love ’em or hate ’em? Where do you stand on Gary V?
So much has been written about Clubhouse already–I hesitated to even try to add another viewpoint. However, as I continue to think about Clubhouse from a brand perspective, and field questions from clients on the topic, I wanted to create an informed opinion not based on my personal preferences, but based on the data.
So, I thought today we’d look at 5 pieces of data and what they tell us about the ultra-hot social media app so far (and its future).
Data point #1: Clubhouse currently has 6 million registered users
For context, Instagram has 1.2 billion users. TikTok=almost 700 million. Reddit=430 million. Quora=300 million.
So yes, Clubhouse is hot. And yes, it’s growing at a pretty fast clip right now. But, it still only has a very small fraction of the users that any of the other major networks have at this point. Advice: Worth monitoring, but probably not worth participating in quite yet.
Data point #2: 39% of users are 25-34 years old
Not that surprising, based on what I’ve seen so far on Clubhouse. And, not necessarily a bad thing at all. Sub-data point worth pointing out: 58% of all users live in the U.S. right now, so if you’re targeting an international audience at all, they’re not there en masse just yet. But, Clubhouse overall, definitely trending younger.
Data point #3: The biggest Clubhouse influencers/personalities lean tech, investment, author and celebrity
Just look at the list above. That’s what you see right? Take a peek inside Clubhouse–you’ll see a similar landscape. It’s kinda dominated right now by these folks + media (looking for stories, sharing perspectives) and smaller start-up founder types. That’s what I see so far. So, great for those niches, but that’s excluding a LOT of people and potential customers from a brand perspective.
Data point #4: It also heavily leans entrepreneur and business
So far, it seems like every third room is talking about something related to entrepreneurship or business. Lots and lots of business talk–whether its around startups, investing or leadership issues. Again, great if you’re targeting business-types, but that excludes a lot of different categories and segments.
Data point #5: Searches for “clubhouse app” increased by 99x over the last 6 months
Clubhouse has this inertia right now. It’s popular among a very vocal and social crowd on the web (see above). And, as a result, EVERYONE is talking about it. And, because of that, lots of people are searching for it to learn more about it. People are curious. They always want to know “what’s next” with social media. Clubhouse might be it! That FOMO is very strong right now and it’s driving so much interest. But, will that interest translate into use and time spent on the app? We don’t know that yet.
So, there are 5 data points that give you a pretty good picture of what Clubhouse is all about–at least right now.
My big lingering question about Clubhouse from a brand perspective right now centers on time. As in, is your audience spending (or going to spend) its time on Clubhouse?
You see from the data above who’s on there now. Pretty niche. Not all that diverse.
But also: Does your customer or prospect have the extra time required to spend on Clubhouse?
Because, let’s face it, Clubhouse is a time-sucking app. Maybe even more so than TikTok.
And, from what we hear from most surveys and data sets, people don’t have a lot of that right now. Oh sure, we’re still at home more than we’d like to be, so yes, in theory we have more time. But, people are still spending an awful lot of time on Facebook, Insta, YouTube and TikTok. Will Clubhouse siphon off some of that time? We’ll see. But, I’m not so sure that’s the slam dunk some think it will be when it comes to audio.
In case you missed it, Zillow had a moment last weekend.
A “viral” moment, to be clear.
Because for about 24-48 hours, a lot more people were talking about Zillow. And, in a positive way (for the most part).
And, not only was it positive sentiment, it was striking a very real chord with A LOT of millennials and Gen Z (my educated guess).
So, certainly, given this wonderful gift, certainly Zillow took big advantage of this situation right? Well, I’ll let you decide.
They did the requisite retweeting, but strangely only retweeted or replied for five accounts.
They did post this gem, which generated a fun stream of responses.
Including–and you could totally see this coming–a number of responses from actual Remax agents asking people if they wanted help with listings. Talk about reinforcing the stereotype Cecily Strong was portraying!
Then, they also shared it on LinkedIn of all places.
OK, so that was a little weird. But, then they doubled-down on LinkedIn and the CEO shared the post.
Now, Zillow did react. And, in a timely fashion. However, as I reviewed all this, I can’t help but feel the reaction feels a little short. I mean, again, they did react. Quickly. But, this was a huge SNL skit. It struck a big chord. A lot of people were talking about it–across a lot of social channels. And, all they did was a few retweets and a couple LinkedIn posts?
It feels like they missed out on a larger opportunity:
Meet your new spokesperson: Dan Levy
Doesn’t he resonate with a younger, more millennial fan base? Wouldn’t he be a fun–and timely–spokesperson for the Zillow brand? Why couldn’t they approach him about making this official and working him into some future ad campaigns? Maybe they still will–who knows? But I immediately thought this would be fun for a brand that, to date, hasn’t seemed all that progressive.
Strike a chord–and strike, strike again
SNL hit on something with this skit. Yeah, it was funny. But, they hit on a behavior and activity that so many people are taking part in during this pandemic: Searching for “dream houses” on Zillow at a time when we can’t do anything else. Nailed it. I mean, we saw that in the comments on Twitter, didn’t we? So, why not embrace that trend and quickly generate creative that does the same thing? I’d be all over this if I worked in marketing at Zillow.
The SNL skit….continued?
Why couldn’t Zillow take the SNL skit and make an extended content series out of this? Have some fun with it? Again–it really struck a chord with people. Clearly, this is resonating. I know they probably don’t want Zillow and “sex” mentioned a lot in the same breath, but it’s out there. And, people took to it. Why not create a content series around this? I’m thinking about a series of still images that play off the bedroom scenes in the SNL skit with the fun phrases from the sketch. You’re telling me those wouldn’t generate a ton of engagement on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram?