The King is Back. Which brand delivers the best LeBron homecoming ad? #LeBron

The King is back. LeBron James plays his first home game tonight for the Cleveland Cavaliers after 4 years (and two Championship Rings) with the Miami Heat. It’s been the biggest topic in basketball media for the past 3 months.

Of course, brands are leveraging the biggest story in basketball and the big boys have all thrown their hat in the ring,  creating epic emotive spots showcasing his return. It is amazing to see the power one athlete can have over the people of a city. Here’s a look at my three favourite LeBron spots:

Nike ‘Together’

Really love this spot. Feels like the Nike I grew up with talking to me & the inspiraitonal Jordan ads of old. It’s about unity, it’s about belief.  For the fans of the game, makes you feel connected to both LeBron and the people of the great city of Cleveland. I love the line ‘we owe them’. Nike plays where they belong, in the stadium. Big. Bold and a little cult-ish, which is what I like about it as Nike’s basketball ads of late have been about individuality and extroversion. A great ‘Just Do It’ ad that taps into the brands roots really well. Score: 8.5/10

Beats ‘Re-established’

This spot has grown on me. Positioning the brand for emerging athletes, centred on the gym & streets  it talks to performance whilst also going hard on integrating the new Wireless headphones into this narrative (good on them). It balances this with a softer ‘people’s narrative.  Music is killer and you feel the storyline.  Score: 7.5/10

Sprite ‘First Home Game’

The low budget one, but probably has the most original idea. This one’s for the teens out there and cleverly uses kids in the narrative to showcase the fans love of LeBron and his importance to the city. I like the fact that’s it’s about going back to the real roots, street basketball which is very much Sprite territory. Feels gritty and positions him as a man of the people. Sprite plays a strong role as his ‘thirst comes from the people’. A little cliche at times in terms of the storytelling but the idea of ‘my first home game’ being on the streets with the kids is strong.  Score: 7/10

Advertisements

Great Nike Free Run participation idea: #runviking

Image

Even though I work with the great folk at adidas, respect to the guys over at Nike for creating another compelling participation program. Am loving the simplicity of this Nike Free run program and how they’ve cleverly leverage to Nike + community to drive engagement. Well done Nike and agency. Thanks to Iris NYC for picking this one up for us.

Capitalizing on a trend that’s basically running selfies and the hashtag #fromwhereirun, Nike launched a contest to promote it’s Run Free line, encouraging users to submit the most awesome place they’d like to go on a running adventure, for free.  They picked 10 finalists, and then smartly leveraged the Nike+ community by allowing users to vote by donating their miles logged – with top contributors to the winning run able to join the run’s creator.  See the winning run here #RUNVIKING.

This contest was rooted in existing consumer behaviors – it did not ask users to do something different than they were already doing – which means people are MUCH more likely to participate.  It leveraged the existing community and social currency of Nike+ by using miles as the voting mechanism, and smartly, encouraged people to up their usage occasion of Nike+ products by giving top contributors a vested interest in the winning run.

Change the rules, not the game: the Power of #ParticipationBranding

In 2012, my co- Regional Strategy Director, APAC at  Iris Worldwide,  Paul Gage @gagey501 and I did a lot of thinking around what we see as the future of brand building within the digital & social revolutionImage. At Iris, we believe the best brands of tomorrow will be Participation brands. Below is a thought piece we recently wrote on the power of Participation branding and our take on the 5P’s marketers really need to think about:

If you work in brand consultancy or a brand strategy department right now, you might be a bit worried about your future.  There are a lot of marketers on both client and agency side talking about the death of branding, marketing and strategy.  Kevin Roberts from Saatchi’s has been particularly vocal with his talk at the Institute of Directors annual convention in the UK.    There have been other keynote speeches at Cannes and Spikes in 2012 that promoted the ‘don’t think, just do it’ approach.

The trouble is, this ‘put it out and see if it works’ approach is not far removed from the myopic thinking of ‘build it and they will come’ which led to the vast microsite graveyard.

Do branding and strategy people need to start polishing their CVs?   Well if you’re still hiding behind brand architectures created in workshop vacuums without real people and still believing there’s a single brand essence, promise and big idea that should flow through everything then maybe it’s time to start crawling for recommendations on LinkedIn.

We still need good brand strategy and big thinking.  We just need to change the rules, and that does mean less talk, more listening and more action and more re-action. We need to change the rules by which brands are imagined and behave.

The most loved and effective brands are an intrinsic part of culture – stimulating interest, involvement and advocacy without constant media support. They are authentically valuable experiences that people participate in, not just a string of marketed products and services that they consume in a passive way.

The successful brands of today and tomorrow are Participation Brands.

These brands put participation at the heart of the brand experience – not as an add-on.  They create a gravitational pull enabling them to outsell without having to necessarily outspend their competition.

Being a participation brand means you still have to have a strategic purpose – it’s not a free for all of random initiatives.  However, this purpose is not something that sits on a PowerPoint slide.  It’s a dynamic, evolving and collaborative system embedded into the operational DNA of the organization.  It’s an approach that’s designed to involve customers, stakeholders, fans and beyond through immersive and interactive initiatives that allow people to join in, connect, converse and co-create.

Essentially, a brand is only as good as the sum of their audience’s positive interactions, so value comes from creating an ecology of interconnected experiences that drive advocacy.  But this ecology is designed from a strategic intent that allow the brand to be a part of the fabric of an ever-evolving culture of passions, relationships and conversations, not a fixed entity demanding a pre-determined consumer response.

A word of caution though.  Participation branding isn’t just doing ‘more digital and social’.  Genuine participation brands think content, context, experience and conversations.  This means planning for all interactions and possible participation moments.  Of course technology leaps through multiple screens and surfaces brings multiple opportunities for participation.  We should also develop initiatives for human interactions at events and experiences, call centres or in retail environments.  Technology is an enabler that allows for greater participation in all of these interactions that the brand can have with people and create a cohesive ecology.

Participation branding doesn’t mean trying to get everyone to get deeply involved at all times.  That’s unrealistic.   But people have different motivations that can lead to different tactics. Being useful, driving belonging, enhancing one’s status, rewarding and recognizing my contribution – these are all different motivations for participation and sharing of ideas.

So how do you create a participation brand? Where do you start?  We all know the famous 4P’s of marketing, well, we think there are now 5 principles governing successful participation brands, they just happen to start with ‘P’ as well!

Purpose & Passion.  Believing in something and being willing to make it happen as the way to drive profit and perception.  It’s essential to align with people’s passion points. Being interesting in what people are interested in and making sure your brand has a meaningful role.

Prototype.  Trialing new business models, new initiatives, and not being afraid to bring people into those prototypes and learning on the fly.  This means living at the speed of culture, not the speed of research.  Being in a constant state of beta mode.

Play.  People change their behaviours when they actively get involved and do something.  The principles of play and gaming allow people to see goals and get rewarded.  Marketers need to stop thinking about their brands as static systems, but rather ask themselves ‘What game are we asking people to play with us’ ?  Participation brands let each and every person leave a bit of their DNA on an idea. They leave space for a person to ‘mark’ the experience as their own so they can pass it on as their branded involvement, not the company’s.

Presence & Propagation.  We can’t just be engaging people when it’s convenient for us.  We need 365 days of presence not 360 degree bursts of activity.   In this digital age people actively filter to find what interests them.  So we need appropriate propagation of our initiatives – through advocates, adorers and ambassadors, but also realizing that there is still a necessary role for paid media too.  However, media should be targeted, relevant and encourage participation.

Pivot.  (With thanks to the Lean Start Up).  Great participation brands know that to stay relevant they need to constantly PIVOT and react to what’s happening in culture. Planning for content you don’t create and setting up structures to be able to evolve and adapt your product and campaign ideas depending on how your community interact with them.

Participation brands are not afraid to move on.  Some things run out of steam.  Don’t flog an idea beyond its shelf life.  But equally, remember that marketers and agencies get bored a long time before ‘real people’ do.  You need good reporting, KPIs, benchmarks, measurement and evaluation.

So who’s doing it well?  Of course the titans and icons of Nike, Apple, Google and Red Bull all have participation baked in: Nike’s Fuelband, every Apple product, Chrome’s initiatives with Jay Zee or with Lego and Red Bull with their music  and action sport initiatives.

But what about in APAC and in Australia in particular?

The work we’re doing with Johnnie Walker’s sponsorship of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1TM team  – the ‘Step Inside’ platform is an example of creating content, experiences and conversation around different contextual environments with different levels of participation.    Branded content videos offer people a low-effort way of seeing what’s happening inside the circuit with Lewis and Jenson.  This is linked to promotions in duty free, bars, clubs and grocery outlets.  Branded events activated through social media allow a deeper level of participation and the opportunities to get really close to the glamour and the action of F1TM with face-to-face conversations with the drivers or the opportunity to drive an F1TM car.

2012’s most successful campaigns like ‘Share a Coke’,  ‘The Perfect Lager Project’ for Arvo beer, ‘BYO Cup Day’ for 7 Eleven and ‘Mobile’ Medic’ for the Australian Defence Force – all had participation baked into the DNA of the idea. All with amazing results.

So, no we don’t think we’re living through the death of marketing, but rather 2013, will be an amazingly exciting time for brands.  But brand consultants, strategists and planners need to throw away their wheels, onions and pyramids.    It’s time for us to leave our ivory towers and get involved with the real world.  It’s time for strategy to participate.

How to use YouTubers to launch a product: Nike+ Fuelband meets Casey

Nike are all over it when it comes to using the right people to help launch their products. The launch of Nike + Fuelband  is another perfect example. They paid prominent YouTuber Casey Neistat (h’es got over 12,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel)  to make a video about his experience with the Nike + Fuel band under the launch theme of #makeitcount. It’s a great piece of content that’s racked up almost 500,000 views in a few days. Great example of using the right influencers to help create content for you and spread the message. Notice the very subtle branding.

The 7P’s of youth marketing

When I went to uni I learnt about the 7P’s of marketing; Product, price, place, promotion, people, process & physical evidence.  The last few years, marketing to youth has changed.  Today, it’s less about marketing ‘to’ youth, and more about marketing ‘with’ youth. Our role as marketers is to initiate and manage the conversations happening in and around brands. It’s about creating behaviour through engagement and influence.

I’ve put together my 7P’s which I believe are important things for youth marketers to consider when developing their brand and communications strategies:

PROVOCATION

Youth today expect brands to have a strong provocative point of view on culture. Marketing in the middle is to be avoided at all costs, as youth detest brands that are vanilla. The old adage of ‘stand for nothing, fall for everything’ is definitely relevant.  Brands like Axe, Burger King, the new Levi’s campaign, Diesel are all brands which have a strong cultural position. You’re either with them or against them and that’s why the create heat and energy.

PARTICIPATION

Clearly, we are well into the age of participation. Every youth marketer needs to think about how they design social experiences which involve youth, treating them as partners in production, rather than a destination point for messages. Whether it’s a ‘Digital Fling’ (a quick fleeting experience or a entertaining content) with the Passive Massive or deeper engagement with Ambassadors, you need to work out how you can involve youth in the brand narrative and add value to their interaction. Designing ideas for participation is all about tapping into the power of social connection.

PLAY

I believe the broader construct of ‘play’ is already heavily influencing brand behaviour. Look at the exponential growth of gaming platforms and now social games. Brands need to think of the interactions they have with youth in terms of a GAME. They need to encourage and create game play at all levels. It’s far more about your brands game, than your brands story. Nike Grid is a great example of this play fuelling discovery.

PORTABILITY

The mobile and tablet are the focus screens for youth. If mobile marketing isn’t part of your comms strategy, you’re missing the beat. Every communication experience you create has to be portable. Whether it be creating content that builds and spreads via mobile or useful utilities which help your daily, life, the portability of an idea is as important as the scale of it.

PURPOSE

Your brands purpose is far more important than your positioning. Youth swarm towards brands or product that help them connect with each other as well as help give their lifestyles greater purpose. Think about your brands fight or crusade, not just how it’s different functionally. Converse’s purpose is all about engaging people who live creatively and rebelliously and everything they do in terms of music culture, urban engagement supports this purpose.

PROPAGATION

If it’s not worth sharing, it’s not worth doing. Brands have to develop propagation strategies and think about designing ideas  which have inherent social interfaces. They need to think about which tribes and fan cultures can be identified to help propagate the idea as well as which platforms are best suited to carry the idea. Remember young people’s social status is defined by what and how often they ‘share’.

MEDIA POSITIVE

Youth brands have to be media positive, not media neutral. Instead of thinking about filling media channels, think about how you can create media yourself, turning products themselves into the marketing. Apple is the king of doing this. Linking back to propagation, think about how you can turn youth into your main media channel to share your message.

PERSONAL

It sounds obvious, but being personal and intimate within the social context is critical. Brands that help you better tell your own brand story win. The Intel ‘Museum of Me’ exhibition is a perfect example of a Facebook engagement idea which taps into people’s need to see their personal story brought to life in pictures, and then share that with the world.

Nike 6.0 ‘The Pool’ unleashing BMX culture

Loving this initative from Nike 6.0 to turn an old pool in East London into a massive indoor BMX expression park. They ran a comp with 40 of the world’s best riders and now the ‘The Pool’ is open to the public until June 12.  Awesome experiential event based idea. Well done Nike 6.0