FROM TC: From time to time, I like to look at business practices in other industries, to see what the arts can learn from them. Here are a couple of recent articles you may find of interest:


Commentary: 6 lessons from recent 'back-to-school' social media campaigns

Paul Miller, Monophotos - Tips for the Unready blog, 9/11/12

It's September. Leaves are changing color, kids, teens and young adults are back in their classrooms -- and retailers are adding up cash from back-to-school sales. It's too soon to know how successful the back-to-school season has been, but it's never too soon to learn from the social media campaigns that were launched. After all, marketers never really graduate -- we're always learning new techniques for appealing to consumers. Take a look at the stand-out digital campaigns of the season and apply the lessons to your own future digital marketing efforts:


1. Teen Vogue's Back-to-School Black Saturday on August 11, 2012. Shoppers claimed prizes and discounts at various retailers by presenting a mobile coupon code available only on Teen Vogue's "Insider App". [They] also held fashion shows in malls throughout the U.S., displaying styles available at participating stores. A month after the promotion ended, videos of the events are still circulating, potentially drawing consumers to retailers long after the promotion ended.

Lesson: You don't have to go it alone, social encourages sharing and collaboration. Partner with other non-competing organizations to help expand your audience.

2. American Eagle's "Live Your Life" campaign encouraged people to display their personal styles by submitting photos of themselves wearing their back-to-school AE jeans. Fans and followers voted on them and 15 finalists will appear on the brand's blog, Facebook, YouTube and TV campaign. Though the photo contest is now closed, the campaign lives on in the form of the #LiveYourLife tweets on the company's website.

Lesson: Appeal to your greatest asset -- your social superfans -- to sell your brand. They already love your products; encourage them to demonstrate their love through direct engagement with your brand.

3. Staples stretched its back-to-school season to offer new deals weekly through September 15, making sure to tweet links to its specials. It's also been using the #backtoschool hashtag and #StaplesforStudents, as part of its supply drive for students in need. Staples' handy "Parent's Last-Minutes Survival Guide for Back to School" infographic is also chalk full of valuable information and humor.

Lesson: Your campaign doesn't have to be intricate to be successful. Sometimes a little extra effort, a few fun visuals or charity aspect can encourage positive engagement.

4. Target is encouraging consumers to use its mobile application for back-to-school shopping. Target's checklist feature helps students keep track of what they've purchased. The app also offers product recommendations based on different living situations, as well as helpful resources and design inspirations. Consumers can share the lists via their mobile device or Facebook.

Lesson: Be a helpful, informative, convenient resource to consumers. Soft approaches like the mobile app depicted helps subtly push consumers towards making a purchase.

5. Sears is trying to take on bullying with "Team Up to Stop Bullying". The nationwide initiative aims to connect those affected by bullying to resources with "solutions and services" provided by a coalition of more than 55 organizations, such as It Gets Better Project. Sears is helping to spread word about the site and raise awareness of the issue via Twitter with the #BullyingHurts hashtag.

Lesson: Embarking on an unexpected route can help your brand stand out. Sears could have just promoted its fashions and goods. Its anti-bullying campaign is helpful and will draw audiences long after the back-to-school season has ended.

6. SpareFoot. Why would a storage company be interested in a back-to-school campaign? SpareFoot has launched Supply Memories, which invites social media users to reveal what keepsake they've "stored" since elementary school. For every memory shared through Facebook or Twitter, SpareFoot will donate a $3 school supply kit to one student.

Lesson: Think creatively to connect with popular topics that don't directly relate to your brand. Though SpareFoot isn't selling school supplies, it is raising its perceived social responsibility and value, which leaves a positive impression on consumers.

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Commentary: 3 ways you're wrong about what your customers want

Karen Freeman, Patrick Spenner and Anna Bird, BRW Magazine [Australia], 8/29/12

If you think your customers want a relationship with your brand it could be time to think again.

Most marketers think that the best way to hold onto customers is through "engagement" -- interacting as much as possible with them and building relationships. It turns out that that's rarely true. In a study involving more than 7000 consumers, we found that companies often have dangerously wrong ideas about how best to engage with customers. Consider these three myths.



Actually, they don't. Only 23% of the consumers in our study said they have a relationship with a brand. In the typical consumer's view of the world, relationships are reserved for friends, family and colleagues. That's why, when you ask the 77% of consumers who don't have relationships with brands to explain why, you get comments like "It's just a brand, not a member of my family."

How should you market differently? First, understand which of your consumers are in the 23% and which are in the 77%. Who wants a relationship and who doesn't? Then, apply different expectations to those two groups and market differently to them. Stop bombarding consumers who don't want a relationship with your attempts to build one through endless emails or complex loyalty programs. Those efforts will be low ROI. Chances are there are higher returns to be had elsewhere in your marketing mix.


No, they don't. Shared values build relationships. A shared value is a belief that both the brand and consumer have about a brand's higher purpose or broad philosophy. For example, Pedigree Dog Food's shared value is a belief that every dog deserves a loving home. Southwest Airlines' shared value revolves around the democratization of air travel. Of the consumers in our study who said they have a brand relationship, 64% cited shared values as the primary reason. That's far and away the largest driver. Meanwhile, only 13% cited frequent interactions with the brand as a reason for having a relationship.

How should you market differently? Many brands have a demonstrable higher purpose baked into their missions. These feel authentic to consumers, and so provide a credible basis for shared values and relationship-building. To build relationships, start by clearly communicating your brand's philosophy or higher purpose. CEB has done extensive work on shared values, showcasing how brands like Mini, Pedigree and Southwest use them to engage with customers. You might also check into Jim Stengel's examination of growth ideals and David Aaker's latest work on brand relevance.


Wrong. There's no correlation between interactions with a customer and the likelihood that he or she will be "sticky" (go through with an intended purchase, purchase again, and recommend). Yet, most marketers behave as if there is a continuous linear relationship between the number of interactions and share of wallet. That's why, as the Wall Street Journal recently reported, you see well-established retailers like Neiman-Marcus, Land's End and Toys R Us sending customers over 300 emails annually. In reality, that linear relationship flattens much more quickly than most marketers think; soon, helpful interactions become an overwhelming torrent. Without realizing it, many marketers are only adding to the information bombardment consumers feel as they shop a category, reducing stickiness rather than enhancing it. (For more on consumers' cognitive overload, see the sidebar "Too Much Information" in our recent HBR article.)

How should you market differently? Instead of relentlessly demanding more consumer attention, treat the attention you do win as precious. Then ask yourself a simple question of any new marketing efforts: is this campaign/email/microsite/print ad/etc. going to reduce the cognitive overload consumers feel as they shop my category? If the answer is "no" or "not sure," go back to the drawing board. When it comes to interacting with your customers, more isn't better.

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