Tag Archives: Social Media

My Place or Yours? How Brands Hook Up with Content Creators

When Drake unveiled his photoshopped album cover for Views in late April, it was not only a brilliant viral marketing ploy to encourage fan-created parodies, it was also intended as a heartfelt tribute to the city of Toronto. But the image of the ‘6 God’ sitting atop the CN Tower is also an unquestionable nod to the subculture of “rooftopping” that has recently emerged among daring young photographers in major cities around the world.

Frank & Oak, a brand that targets young urban creatives (are we calling them “yuccies” yet?), had the ingenuity to tap into this trend for their latest campaign. To promote its new Frank & Oak SC collection of premium utility gear, the Montreal clothier teamed up with Toronto photographerJamal Burger (@jayscale) for a killer content collaboration.

The brand & content creator pairing also yielded a web takeover on the Frank & Oak site, and several posts that reached the photographer’s 176k+ Instagram followers. As told by Frank & Oak co-founder and CEO Ethan Song in an interview with Marketing, “It’s the first time we’ve gone that deep into storytelling.”


With collaborations like this, brands are able to associate themselves with influencers that already hold a strong cachet with their target audiences. They are also able to align their brand values with lifestyle attributes and ideologies on a higher level, such as Burger’s quintessential Millennial mantra of incorporating “personality into what you’re doing on a daily basis.” The cherry on top, of course, is for brand messages to benefit from extended organic reach through influencer channels.

Regardless of whether it’s paid or earned, influencer marketing continues to gain mindshare – and share of budget – with savvy brands. According to a poll by Tomoson, influencer marketing was rated as the fastest-growing online customer acquisition channel, with 59% of marketers planning to increase their influencer marketing budgets over the next year.

However, it’s definitely no slam dunk. Without the right approach, influencer campaigns can come across as contrived and can damage both the credibility of brands and the influencers that partner with them. Here are 3 key lessons to keep in mind to maximize success with influencer marketing.

1. Authentic Fit

Finding a natural fit between brand and influencer is key, otherwise followers will see right through the collaboration. It’s not in the best interest of either side for content creators to be perceived as paid shills – just like any endorsement, it should be believable that the endorsee is genuinely excited about the featured product.


Fashion & beauty Instagram star Krystin Lee was a natural fit for TRESemmé to help promote its new Beauty-Full Volume collection, teaming up with the brand for a sponsored post about haircare tips on her blog. It’s an intuitive fit, both for the beauty products category and with TRESemmé’s accessibly-premium positioning.

2. Engaging Content

Online influencers are all internet-famous for their own unique reasons, and many of them have hustled to improve and showcase their talents while building a community of engaged followers. They are able to maintain and grow their respective communities by consistently posting the types of quality content that initially drew in their core audiences.

For this reason, it’s a big mistake for a brand to come in with its chequebook expecting to control the message on an influencer’s channel with an iron fist. Branded content, while respecting the brand’s guardrails and positioning, should be respectfully developed as a collaboration and directly from the voice of the content creator.


Chicago photographer Paul Octavious was able to tie a personal story into Capital One’s #walletstories campaign concept, which itself centres on individual stories as a spin on their “What’s In Your Wallet?” slogan. It’s storytelling that fits the brand message, but it’s still a story told through the influencer’s eyes and in his words.

3. Channel Relevance

Finding an authentic fit and the right concept for some engaging content is a great start, but the practice of actually hooking up with influencers can be a complicated challenge – especially if it’s a brand’s first time. Yikes!

Thankfully, the folks at Kissmetrics put together The Definitive Guide to Influencer Targeting, which is a helpful resource to start with. It defines the right influencers as having context, reach, and actionability to help drive a brand’s objectives. The guide also recommends giving the influencer an image before reaching out, as a specific genre or personality may work best for a specific brand.

It’s also important for marketers to choose a social media channel that aligns with their brand objectives. While Instagram might work best for some premium brands, perhaps a channel like Snapchat might be more effective for brands going for a fun, youthful approach.

That’s exactly how the Paramount Pictures approached their famous teaser stunt for “Zoolander 2”. Vine’s biggest star, Jerome Jarre, was conveniently on hand at Paris Fashion Week in 2015 for Ben Stiller (as Derek Zoolander) to “steal” his phone for a Blue Steel selfie.

Also worth noting is that some advertiser categories have proven to be more successful than others with influencer campaigns. A 2015 study from RhythmOne indicates that Alcoholic Beverages, Travel & Tourism, and CPG Food outperform the $11.20 in earned media value (from $1.00 invested) averaged across all industries.

Not that it can’t be done with some creativity, but influencer campaigns in Electronics, Telecommunications, and Baby Care don’t have a strong track record. It’s not surprising – just try to think about an influencer campaign for wireless plans without cringing.

If there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s that influencer campaigns will continue to gain prominence within the marketing mix. So whether it’s on YouTube or Snapchat and whether it’s being posted by brands or content creators (or both!), the love affair is growing stronger and stronger every day. Don’t you get that feeling?

What’s the best influencer campaign that comes to mind for you? Or, even better, what’s the worst brand + influencer hookup you’ve seen?


Ad Spotlight – Facebook Gets Friendly

Impersonal. Cold. Uncaring. Creepy.

These negative connotations of Facebook are quickly forgotten with one viewing of The Social Network‘s new brand anthem.

In concert with their in-house agency, The Factory, Facebook has rolled out their first wide-scale brand campaign since their widely-mocked (and highly pretentious) “Chairs” spot by “Birdman” director Alejandro Iñárritu and Wieden + Kennedy. With an improved approach, it appears that Facebook is learning from not only its plethora of consumer data, but from past missteps in advertising.

Three separate 60-second ads were produced, each weaving together a story with the common theme of friendship at the heart of it. As written by Tim Nudd of Adweek, “the writing is poetic and – maybe most critically – humble”. The characters appear authentic, with an air of hip quirkiness and diversity rarely seen from such a mainstream brand. The soft piano renditions of pop songs inspire nostalgia while complementing the optimistic, thankful tone of the visuals and script.

The executions for all three spots are stellar, so make sure to check out “Girl Friends” and “Friend Request” if you “liked” the video above. Of course, a common theme woven throughout the scripts is the Facebook-coined lexicon of “friend”, “likes”, and “shared”. The tone is so well finessed that this adds a deeper real-life meaning to the terms, rather than coming across as forced.

Which one of these brands do you want to be friends with? (hint - Justin Bieber isn't endorsing it).
Which one of these brands do you want to be friends with? (Hint – Justin Bieber isn’t endorsing it).


The campaign is tied together with this integrated message being communicated in a simple, approachable way with out-of-home advertising featuring realistic friends. While these don’t seem like much when removed of context, they support the overall campaign with scale to reach Facebook’s broad audience. These billboards and posters aren’t limited to just the “Friends” messaging though – Facebook’s internet.org initiative also enjoys the spotlight.

Transit poster for internet.org

While the message is somewhat different for the internet.org layer of this campaign, it combines with the other efforts to make Facebook seem like a genuine, human organization. Look no further than the individual stories Mr. Zuckerberg’s company is highlighting, like Lian and his record store in Jakarta. Lian’s story (among others) make a strong point that a more accessible Internet for all makes for a better world, and the microsite flows seamlessly (no matter what device it is viewed on).

Of course, Facebook benefits quite selfishly from a larger base of worldwide internet users as it expands their potential consumer market. And yes, those “friends” in their advertising are almost certainly paid actors and models. But in a competitive tech world, this campaign helps Facebook stay as a brand that people will gladly interact with.

Does Facebook’s new campaign get the “thumbs up”, or are you searching for a “dislike” button?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

The 5 Best Marketing Blogs on the Internet

The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.  The Great Lakes. The Jackson 5. The Marx Brothers.  The power of a great starting five is undeniable – which is why I am prescribing five marketing blogs for your reading pleasure.

Without further adieu (and in no particular order), here are the top 5 marketing blogs on the Internet:

Marketers T-Shirt


Mitch Joel – Six Pixels of Separation

Creds: President, Twist Image. Author, Six Pixels of Separation and Ctrl Alt Delete.

Style: A digital visionary and world-famous “media hacker”.

Frequency: Daily posts.

Handle: @mitchjoel

Seth Godin – Seth’s Blog

Creds: Founder, Squidoo.com. Author of 12 bestselling books, including TribesAll Marketers Are LiarsPurple CowPermission Marketing, and The Icarus Deception.

Style: Your favourite marketer’s favourite marketer, Godin’s writing is concise yet profoundly thought-provoking.

Frequency: Daily posts.

Handle: @ThisIsSethsBlog

Jay Baer – Convince and Convert

Creds: Founder of convinceandconvert.com, host of Social Pros podcast,  and author of Youtility. Named the #1 Content Marketing Blog in the World by Content Marketing Institute.

Style: Detailed posts with examples and suggested resources for best-in-class content marketing.

Frequency: Baer posts every business day with his new Jay Today vlog, and posts appear daily on Convince and Convert either by Jay or a team member.

Handle: @jaybaer

Scott Stratten – UnMarketing

Creds: President, UnMarketing. Author, UnMarketing, The Book of Business Awesome/UnAwesomeQR Codes Kill Kittens, and UnSelling.

Style: An expert in social media, customer service, and influencer relations; Stratten approaches his writing with a brutally honest, uncensored tone.

Frequency: By far the least frequent blogger on this list, blog posts happen every few months, but his UnPodcast with Alison Kramer is published weekly.

Handle: @unmarketing

Danny Brown – Danny Brown Blog

Creds: Manager, Social Engagement and Insights at Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG). Author of The Parables of Business and co-author of Influence Marketing. Ranked by HubSpot as the #1 marketing blog in the world.

Style: Incredibly thorough posts with actionable lessons for marketers, especially for social media.

Frequency: Several posts per week.

Handle: @DannyBrown


Whether you plan to subscribe to RSS feeds for these marketing leaders or start by following them on Twitter, you can do far worse than learning from 5 of the very best marketing writers on this planet.

Who’s in your starting five of marketing bloggers? Leave your dream team lineup in the comments.

Content Rules Everything Around Me (C.R.E.A.M.)

With all due respect to Wu-Tang Clan (R.I.P. Ol’ Dirty), Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman make a compelling argument for the merit of strong content for effective marketing. Word is bond.

In their entry within The New Rules of Social Media book series, Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) that Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business, Handley and Chapman lay the ground rules for using these aforementioned online tools to find marketing success.

Although it was admittedly required reading for my section of the Foundations of Digital Communications Strategy and Social Media course at University of Toronto, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and feel that any marketer can learn a lot from it to become a better content creator. You can check out more testimonials at contentrulesbook.com, find it at your local bookstore, or wait for Amazon to send the drones if you’re really lazy.

Here are the top 5 lessons I took away from Content Rules:

1. Speak Human

Photo by jamesks / CC BY
Photo by jamesks / CC BY

The authors implore brands to develop a clear voice, as it often has more of an impact than the logos, style guides, and graphics that companies invest so much in developing. Instead of corporate “marketing speak”, content creators should write the way they talk by adopting a conversational, friendly tone that fits their brand.

Photo by PinkMoose / CCBY
Photo by PinkMoose / CC BY

2. Share or Solve, Don’t Shill

This oft-repeated mantra seems to be the cardinal rule of the Inbound Marketing philosophy, but many brands continue to overstep their boundaries and come off too “salesy”. It’s simple – create remarkable content by listening to and understanding your audience’s needs, and you’ll begin to be viewed as an expert. They might not buy from you immediately if you pitch a sale, but if you were perceived as helpful you’ll likely be sought out when they’re in a buying mindset.

3. Create Wings and Roots

Photo by minkymonkeymoo / CC BY
Photo by minkymonkeymoo / CC BY

Great content should be grounded in your brand’s voice and feel authentic, and it should also have characteristics that make it easy to spread. Ensure that your content is findable on search engines, accessible with responsive design, and shareable with social media – then it has a chance to live forever on the Internet.

Photo by Wild Guru Larry / CC BY
Photo by Wild Guru Larry / CC BY

4. Stoke the Campfire

The authors enlighten us not only how to build a real campfire (wilderness tips!) but also extend a believable metaphor on how to build and maintain a following online. Marketers should seek to add kindling (small, sharable content) along with sticks and logs (substantial pieces) – once the fire starts, the idea is that a community will gather around it.

5. Reimagine; Don’t Recycle

Photo by clurr / CC BY
Photo by clurr / CC BY

Much of the reason why marketers fear investing in content creation is because it seems like a daunting process – after all, there are a plethora of channels we seem expected to publish content on. Handley and Chapman suggest that it can be easier, as larger ideas can be broken down into smaller “chunks” of content to be shared. While I found the idea of Russell Sparkman’s “1-7-30-4-2-1” publishing schedule rather intimidating, it functions as a foolproof model to ensure regular content that essentially feeds itself.

Calling all #digitaledu folks – or other readers of Content Rules – was there anything specific that you took away from the book?

Works Cited:

Handley, Ann, and C.C. Chapman. Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) that Engage Customers and Ignite Your BusinessHoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2012. Print.

PodCamp Toronto: 4 Marketing Lessons

I’m coming straight outta’ PodCamp! Toronto’s pay-what-you-can “unconference” ran this past weekend, with opt-in sessions as diverse as an open data hackathon, a Singularity Q&A, and talks from the war rooms of everything from political campaigns to wearable tech launches.

Here are 4 lessons from #PCTO14 applicable to marketing:

1. Memes are an excellent way to connect with young audiences, but they need to feel real.

Rachel King (@lildarth) gave a spirited presentation about the merits (and potential virality) of a good meme. Tips included doing diligent research, staying clever & current, and being entertaining while avoiding a tone that feels too ‘corporate’. Why aren’t we seeing more memes used by brands targeting the young & hip crowd?

Most Interesting Man

2. Social contests can produce tremendous results – and more than just ego metrics.

A client + agency team presentation with Jessica Myers (@JessMyers) and Meredith Howard (@meredithhoward) showcased some of the best practices from their experiences creating major social contests for American Express Canada. Marketers should ensure contests tie strongly to their brand essence as well as their audience’s prizing preferences, and the entire team should be looped in with regular meetings to ensure deadlines are met and approvals happen quickly. Timelines of 2-4 weeks to enter a contest tend to see the highest entries before drop-off, and paid media to support contests is becoming a reality in Facebook’s new “pay to play” world.

3. The retail environment is colliding into the middle.

With companies such as Makerbot, Kickstarter, and Shipware democratizing the traditional value chain of doing business, it is becoming easier for organizations of any size to achieve vertical integration (with the help of third party services). Shopify Director of Operations Satish Kanwar (@skanwar) gave a fantastic update on the current state of retail, sharing his views that eCommerce and bricks & mortar retail are colliding to simply become “commerce”. Concepts such as pop-up shops, spaces (instead of places), and showrooming will grow increasingly prevalent, and brands should explore these as viable options to stay ahead of the curve.

4. It takes persuasion of many discrete segments to win a majority.

The digital team for Canadian Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s latest campaign lifted the veil and shared some insightful lessons from the political trenches. Adele McAlear (@AdeleMcAlear) and Tara Hunt (@missrogue) clearly showed how Mr. Trudeau appealed to the issues that resonated with many “supernodes” of Canadians. These segments were broken out by region, cultural group, and interests. Yet another lesson to marketers that trying to appeal to the masses is folly – clearly defined segmentation strategies win battles, even in politics.

Super Bowl Ads – The Best and The Worst

As most of us witnessed, the Seattle Seahawks dominated the Denver Broncos on Sunday in a 43-8 rout. We also were subject to seemingly endless commentary (pre-game, in-game, post-game… even post-halftime show!) – and of course enough advertising to dwarf the GDP of a small country.

Without further ado, here are the winners & losers:

Rookie of the Year – GoldieBlox

A start-up company designing building toys for future (female) engineers ended up crashing the big game party, courtesy of a contest by Intuit. Although they had to sub out the Rube Goldberg “Princess Machine” spot due to copyright beef with the Beastie Boys, this perfectly demonstrates what makes them unique.

Most Valuable Player – Budweiser

People seemed to unanimously love the heartwarming tale of puppy, horses, and attractive people – this ad scored the highest on USA Today’s Super Bowl Ad Meter.

It would be redundant posting the video – you’ve undoubtedly had it pop up to the top of your Facebook News Feed for the last week.

Most Awkward Celebrity Endorsement – Michael Phelps et al (Subway)

For some reason Subway felt that their new Fritos Chicken Enchilada absolutely warranted the most expensive TV slot they could buy, and slapped together an ad at the last minute. This is just uncomfortable, and everything but entertaining for the millions of fans.

Best Real-Time Marketing – Volkswagen

After earning well-deserved laughs with the “Wings” spot, Volkswagen released a well-timed tweet when Denver was down big while also playfully interacting with brands such as Red Bull and Priceline.com.

Defensive Player of the Year – JC Penney

When JC Penney tweeted this garbled nonsense, many (including yours truly) thought it was another case of a drunk community manager. However, this was just a ploy to gain some attention during the big game, with the brand posting a quick apology/explanation here. Unfortunately it garnered far fewer retweets than the original tweet, but at least their reputation remains intact for most.

Worst Hashtag – Butterfinger

After dropping Bart Simpson as their longstanding figurehead, many of us thought it was time for Butterfinger to find a new, more mature voice. Sadly, 2014 marked a disaster as they awkwardly proposed a ménage à trois with Taco Bell that went unreciprocated by the edgy brand on Twitter. Their hashtag (#CupTherapy) became primarily a platform for fans to complain about their blatant copying of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

All-American Champion – Chrysler

Sorry Coke (again), but Chrysler got Bob Dylan to ask “Is there anything more American than America?” ‘Nuff said.

Best Canadian Ad – Budweiser Canada

After Oreo stole the show last year with real time marketing during the blackout, Budweiser Canada introduces the concept of a Red Zeppelin activated by hockey goals. Perfect timing to get fans excited before the men’s hockey team arrives in Sochi.

Next stop for big game advertising – Sochi!

What did you think about the ads and social media plays during Super Bowl XLVIII?