Tag Archives: Twitter

Innovative Marketing Ideas for 2015

Marketing Ideas


Do Something Different: 3 Marketing Ideas for 2015

As you and your team enter 2015 with a new marketing push, don’t be afraid to think a bit outside the box. While tried and true directions may feel safe, the world is changing faster than ever, and those who aren’t ready to ride the latest trends may soon get swept under by them.

Instead, consider exploring a new direction to make a big splash in the new year. Here are three innovative, disruptive, and forward thinking campaigns to inspire your productive brainstorming sessions.


1. 3D Print Your Products… Or Your Consumers

You probably know that 3D printing is one of the hottest trends in the tech space, so it was only a matter of time before the marketing departments sunk their teeth into the new possibilities.

British retailor John Lewis has started printing miniature sofa models for consumers to interact with. Besides pretending they’re towering giants, shoppers can place the mini-furniture on a smart table that brings a digital model on-screen, where users can customize a couch with chosen fabrics and designs.

Meanwhile, UNIQLO is printing its shoppers, enabling consumers to 3D print selfies of themselves wearing the brand’s threads, and all for a good, selfless cause.


2. Crowdsource Inspiration Like Coca-Cola China

Technology has made it infinitely easier to share ideas, content, and polished products—which is exactly why more and more marketers are turning to crowdsourcing for user-generated content.

Consider Coca-Cola China’s recent campaign on crowdsourcing platform eYeka, asking users to describe the ineffable taste of Coke with a video.

“If you had to explain to an alien who has never tried it before,” the brief asks, “which particular element of the Coke taste experience would you talk about, and what creative expression would you show him to get him to crave a sip of that Coke taste?”

Sounds like a fun exercise and a brilliant marketing campaign! Not only does crowdsourcing engage consumers on a creative, emotional level, it also allows the best concepts to rise to the top.


3. Finally Monetize Your Social Media Following

Social media marketing has been on the rise for years, but the question in the back of every marketer’s mind has always been, “what’s the real return on investment?” Was it really worth all those tireless hours to earn a few thousand followers? It sure was.

Twitter recently released a new buy button that lets users make purchases directly from tweets, and soon plan to let brands use a new offer button showcasing Groupon-style savings deals. While social media promotions may be getting easier, we still don’t recommend inundating your followers with ads—that’s a sure-fire way to get your brand blocked.

Get a little adventurous in 2015—a little walk on the wild side can really pay off.


How Social Media Advertising is Changing Everything

In 2013’s Super Bowl XLVII, a surreal blackout put the nation’s most fanatically watched game on hold for what seemed to be an eternal half hour. In the midst of the chaos, Oreo posted the below tweet. It earned half a billion impressions and was named by Adweek as one of the top 5 ads of the night. Most astoundingly, it was the only one placed for free.

During the 2014 Academy Awards, host Ellen DeGeneres jumped into the star-studded audience and took the below selfie. As she predicted, it broke Twitter (disrupting service for an interminable 20 minutes) and gained the most retweets in history. In reality, the move was a not-so-subtle publicity stunt for Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3.

What do these social media “ads” have in common? And what can they tell us about the future?

Timely, Fun, & Friendly

First, both were triggered by massive events. Social media travels at light-speed, with trends, topics, and memes flitting in and out of existence in mere instants. Brands who can jump on hot news get rewarded.
Second, both were fun, playful, and unexpected—fortuitous moments you couldn’t wait to share with your friends.

Finally, both come off as rather non-promotional—they don’t hit you over the head with a “buy me!” message. They play it cool and friendly, allowing the sales message to seep in subconsciously.

Monetizing Social Media

Today, Facebook—with its mind-boggling 1.3 billion monthly users—is the preferred platform for B2C advertisers, with smart algorithms that weave targeted ads into ordinary storylines and updated from loved ones.

Twitter is close behind and poised to release 15 new types of ads in the coming weeks. These new features, many designed for Twitter’s mobile app, are eliminating barriers between social networks and commerce. One tap can put an interested user directly on a call with a sales rep. Eventually, users will likely be able to make purchases directly from the platform.

But brands are also turning to Pinterest, Instagram, and even lesser known platforms like Snapchat to gain exposure—though the social network that turned down a $3 billion buyout from Facebook has yet figure out how to monetize ads.

The Shape of Ads to Come

The bottom line? We fully anticipate seeing the rising tide of social media advertising race toward its inevitable pinnacle.

But will these ads resemble their 20th century counterparts? Not at all. This represents a fundamental shift in the way brands and consumers connect. Rather than static pitch and purchase, ads of the future will launch responsive, interactive dialogue.

Nor is this change limited to business-to-consumer (B2C) interactions—B2B brands have been expanding beyond LinkedIn, with 85% using Twitter and 81% using Facebook to distribute content, according to a recent CMI report. While B2C companies tend to entertain, B2B brands inform, offering valuable insights over social media and establishing authority in the process.

Social media pushes both types of companies to speak with their prospective customers, rather than at them. Brands will continue to get more skilled at conversation as sell, and the world will be better for it.

Author: Paul Wry

Successful Social Media Crisis Management

Every social media manager should remember that he or she plays a role in customer service. Sometimes, however, it seems like this is forgotten, resulting in a social media gaffe, embarrassment, and on occasion, a full-blown meltdown (I’m looking at you, Amy’s Baking Company). It’s always easy to criticize and point out what a company did wrong. We do it so often that we usually overlook corporate role models: companies that have handled social media snafus with skill and dignity. Here are three of their stories and what you can learn from them.

Burger King

The award for fastest resolution may very well go to Burger King over a photo posted to the Internet earlier this year of an employee standing on top of two open containers of lettuce. Though not Burger King’s fault, it immediately reflected poorly on the judgment of its employee, the quality of its ingredients, and likely diminished interest in further patronage by Burger King customers.

But almost as quickly as the Internet got a hold of this incriminating image, Burger King responded. Through tracking the online trail of the post, users of the site where it was first posted were able to locate the store with the offender and publicize the act to local media outlets as well as to Burger King. Three days later, Burger King fired the offending employee as well as two others and issued a public apology assuring customers that this sort of behavior was not tolerated and that food safety was a top priority.


It happens a couple of times a year. Social media managers aren’t managing only their business accounts––they’re also managing their personal accounts. And sometimes they mess up. (This social media manager may have posted some of his personal VanScavenger Hunt pictures under the corporate account.)

KitchenAid ran into that problem when an insensitive comment about President Barack Obama’s grandmother that was clearly supposed to be on a personal account was tweeted on the company’s account. This immediately alarmed Cynthia Soledad, KitchenAid’s senior director. Immediately, she sent out apologies via Twitter. Having an upper manager issue the apology and take action, not by skirting the subject but by addressing it head-on, was the perfect strategy against the possible catastrophe.


Sometimes, a well-meant tweet can be misconstrued. Starbucks learned this in 2012, when it fired out a tweet apologizing to its Argentinean customers for running low on supplies and having to temporarily use Argentinean-made, non-branded cups and sleeves. Rather than being taken as a courteous update for customers, it was instead interpreted as an insult, the implication being that Starbucks was apologizing for using what it perceived to be inferior local products until its own arrived to replace them.

Starbucks reacted swiftly and appropriately with its response, issuing an apology with full transparency and legitimate remorse. Fighting back would have made the company seem like it had something to hide. Admitting it made a mistake, whatever the intent of the original tweet, humbled the brand and allowed it to save face.

So how can you learn from these brands and not become the inspiration for another article on what not to do? Listen to what your customers are saying. Both in person and online, have the proper tools in place to detect anything that may be damaging to the reputation of your business. Next, have a crisis plan, complete with a chain of command, worst-case scenarios, and multiple solutions to the possible issue. If a crisis surfaces, follow the plan, taking appropriate action to get to the source of the problem, while also addressing all those who may have been affected. Make sure to solve the problem, not fight, using a lighthearted tone that is also sincere and apologetic. Finally, review the entire incident and evaluate what could be done differently should anything like that ever happen again. This way, you’ll end up a social media champion instead of a target for critics and customers alike.

Author: Zack Smith

The VanScavenger Hunt III Experience

Vanguard Direct’s culture is defined by the location of our headquarters in midtown Manhattan. We can see the Empire State Building from our windows and can often be found craving fresh bagels.

What better way to celebrate our location than by exploring it? On September 12, VGD continued one of its traditional celebrations with the third annual VanScavenger Hunt. For the hunt, Vanguardians are given several clues pointing them to various locations around NYC. The first team to decode the cryptic clues and return to our 519 Eighth Avenue office is declared the winner and receives prizes and, more important, bragging rights until the next hunt.

This VGD tradition was started by Mark Dion, a Creative Director in our creative services department. Mark can also be found planning Halloween parties, apple-bobbing contests, and other VGD shenanigans. This year, in cahoots with VGD’s social media committee, Mark gave the VanScavenger Hunt III a new a twist: each team had to tweet a group photo at each location in order to win the game. Each team was required to have a team tweeter, and a few sessions were held to teach all tweeters to be successful.

So on September 12, thirteen teams of Vanguardians set out in a race. It started with each player holding a fifth of a puzzle that, when solved, created a QR code leading to five out of six clues for the hunt, with one clue remaining a mystery. Unbeknownst to the teams, the theme of this hunt was “The Smallest of NYC,” so hunters were sent to the smallest street, museum, park, piece of property, and freestanding building in the city.

The smallest freestanding building is a tiny locksmith’s shop with 10,000 keys embedded into its facade and was the location for the last mystery clue. In addition to the puzzle pieces, each team had to carry a locked box on their travels. At the locksmith, they were met by the keymasters, Vanguard Direct CEO Bob O’Connell and Director of Marketing Paul Wry. Each team then had to fish out a key from a box of twelve other keys in order to be directed to Ralph Bunche Park (near the United Nations headquarters), where they found our COO, Ralph Fucci. Ralph then directed the teams to the last location in front of U Thant Island, the smallest island visible from the east side of Manhattan.

Back at VGD headquarters, the Game Geeks were sitting in the “control room“ monitoring the game live on Twitter using the hunt hash tag #vgdhunt. They were able to communicate with each “team tweeter” and congratulate the winners as they walked through the door. After about three hours of hunting, all Vanguardians returned to home base. The hunt was fun, and Twitter was embraced––a successful day on all fronts.

To see the whole story unfold, check out #vgdhunt on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. If you want a bonus, check out the top three teams in the infographics below!


Author: Natacha Arora

Let’s Get Visual!

I’m going to tell you the worst-kept secret that you already know. Nobody likes to read anything anymore. Well, not anything that is just a wall of text. We’re all guilty of scanning a document instead of reading every word or sharing an article after just reading the headline. Nobody is proud of it, but with the sheer bulk of content that is produced everyday, we have to get through all of it somehow.

All of the most digestible information we encounter now has enormous visual pieces coupled with it. Think of every infographic you read, every photo with a caption, and video you can play while multitasking. You learn much more from these visually captivating pieces than from walls of text similar to this post (but I’m breaking up this content with pictures, so bear with me).

Social media provides a great platform for watching how people consume information. We started off with blogs that were hundreds––if not thousands––of words long. We then moved to Facebook, cutting people’s word count by at least half, and then to Twitter, keeping our count to 140 characters or less. Now, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and Tumblr are allowing for content sans words, replaced by images, audio, and visual communication.

But just because we are truncating what we write, does that make it more effective? It sure seems that way. Here are some stats:

  • 44% of social media users are more likely to engage with brands if they post pictures (as opposed to other types of media)
  • Facebook photos get at least 7x more likes than links do
  • Pinterest, a completely visual social media channel, has grown by 6000% in the last 8 months
  • Images are the most clicked-on content on Twitter
  • Recruiters spend more time looking at a user’s LinkedIn profile picture than anything else
  • More than 6 billion hours of YouTube videos are being watched per month
  • Flipboard, a visual news app, was the #1 application when the iPad launched
  • Images are processed 60,000x faster than text by the human brain

So are you prepared? Content is still king, and visual content requires originality and thought. Make sure everything you post has something engaging to look at.  Visuals will cut through regular marketing speak, and original visuals can even stand out from other media of the same ilk. So charge your smartphone and grab your camera––you have some work to do!

Author: Zack Smith

RIP Google Reader, Bring On Social News

If you use the Internet to curate all of your news, then chances are you’ve used an RSS Feed backed by Google Reader. In that case, you are then well aware that Google is nixing Reader during its yearly spring-cleaning purge. Often, apps that bring in no revenue or have long since been abandoned are what get the axe, not a popular application used by millions. The public outcry was instantaneous, all with one unified question: Why are you doing this to me?

For those who are still a little confused about what Google Reader is and the importance it had for many industries, it was the service offered by Google that aggregated specified content into a single web feed. This allowed users to scan articles and find pieces of relevant content quickly and efficiently. In March, Google announced the end of the service by July, with no replacement service to offer as of yet, or so it seems.

The last couple of years, social search and crowdsourcing have become more and more common in our everyday lives. Every blog and news provider has social channels––most likely multiple channels––it posts to. With Google’s constant attempts to breach the social scene, this shouldn’t be a surprising announcement. What is a surprise, however, is how many people are opposed to the idea of using social media as their sole news driver, even though it caters to personal preferences, niche markets, and like-minded attitudes. Sites like Twitter have every potential to operate like a newsfeed, with the added bonus of real-time debates and sharing abilities. But for some reason, our customary agents of change from the tech industry are shouting that they like things the way they are.

Which is ridiculous. Especially because everyone should have seen this coming. The Pew Research Center found that over 93 million of Facebook’s 133 million active users use the social network to read the news their friends and family share, while another 31 million of these users get their news from dedicated news providers. That was in 2011. That same report showed that, of all the users of Twitter––still climbing the ranks to become one of the popular kids in the social circle––36% used their friends as news sources, but 45% used accounts from established news sources pushing their own content.

I must reiterate. That was two years ago. Since then, Google has been pushing for Google+ to be better integrated into the everyday person’s social sphere, mostly to little success. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see Reader pop up under a new guise in Google+, with the hopes of persuading people to use Google+ as their new RSS Feed/news aggregator. If you’re still in doubt, take a look at the last update Google Reader got in 2011. It was integration with Google+. Also two years ago.

This is not a shot in the dark, and it is almost certainly a very calculated move on the part of Google. Removing Google Reader is one move on the chessboard. Whatever Google plans on doing to remedy the current disappointment it dealt its loyal followers, you can be sure an answer will come before Google Reader cuts out for good.

Author: Zack Smith

Tighten Up Internet Security

Over the past month, there has been a strange phenomenon. Companies, both large and small, started revealing that they had fallen victim to hackers who had compromised social media channels, websites, and online security. Everyone from Evernote to Microsoft had a story to tell. So the question is, are companies forgetting the importance of Internet security?

The surge started on social media, specifically Twitter. As most people with a Twitter account noticed, the beginning of February brought with it a fresh, new phishing attack. Through direct messages and the ploy of a possible questionable picture (“Did you see this pic of you? lol”), plenty of passwords and information were captured from both experienced social media professionals and the casual user.

Then another surge occurred, this time involving hacking into corporate Twitter accounts, such as those belonging to Burger King and Jeep. Whether due to poor passwords or expert hacking from accused group @DFNTSC, it was a PR mess for both companies. Naturally, as is the way with the Internet, parodies arose, with MTV and BET leading the charge and pretending to hack into each other’s accounts in a similar style to the legitimate hacks. Maybe they hoped to get a larger following (Burger King gained 30,000 followers in the hour following its hacking incident), but it was a rather obvious PR move regardless.

On a more serious level, companies like Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and Evernote have all recently reported security compromises. Some, like Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, claimed that no data was stolen, but all reported symptoms that suggest the attacks originated in malware from China. Twitter and Evernote, on the other hand, feared their own hacks so much that they had users set new passwords to make sure nobody fell prey to the attack.

The bottom line is, it seems that both companies and individuals might need a reminder that Internet security is not to be taken lightly. With the spotlight shining brightly on big data, companies with private information cannot afford to be hacked. So spend the money on better passwords, stronger firewalls, and a well-trained IT team, because this will not be the last wave of hackers. Consider this your warning.

Author: Zack Smith