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customer experience
Shaun Smith
  • By Shaun Smith
  • Oct 13 2016

Infectious Communication

Smith+Co chats all things 'comms' with Sticky Marketing
  • Infectious Communication

Adj - When customers do the marketing for you.

“customers are clearly being influenced by personal stories over ‘traditional' comms” Shaun Smith

Traditional, above-the-line marketing, TV advertisements, paid web ads, and print etc, is facing an unforgiving and evolving market as consumers have more platforms to screen stuff out or dismiss it as ‘just marketing hype’.

With a rise in tv-recording software and web upgrades to ad-free platforms, traditional advertising is becoming an obsolete pastime for lots of consumers.

Infectious communication is different. It’s the holy grail of the marketing world, customers actively sharing information about your brand in a way that creates positive awareness.

In an age when holiday brochures are albeit being replaced by curators like “Trip Advisor,” customers are clearly being influenced by personal stories over ‘traditional comms’. Infectious communication happens when you facilitate the means to help your customers engage with, and share these stories.

“The Lego Movie” is a great example of a brand telling a story that’s irresistible for consumers to engage with as well as champion. The brand saw a $500 million lift in revenues for a 98-minute advertisement. Of course, it’s a very funny film, but essentially, it’s a 98-minute ad that people paid to watch. Coupled with this, twenty-seven million people watched the trailer on YouTube …

That’s what we mean by infectious communication.

Ok, but how?

You’ve got to be intentional.

There are two crucial components to infectious communication - Timing and Tone. You’ve got to get the Timing absolutely right, and you’ve got to get the Tone spot-on. The Lego movie was a great example of getting the tone right- funny and engaging with a very a subtle sales message. Timing however, is more difficult to get right.

An example of this two-pronged intentionality took place at the 2013 Super Bowl, the most watched event of the year in the US, where organizations compete with huge budgets for advertisements during the breaks. Oreo Cookies had a team of fifteen people at the event managing their social media.

Their efforts paid off because during the 2013 Super Bowl, all of the lights went out.

Within seconds, the Oreo team tweeted this piece of advice to their followers: “You can still dunk in the dark.” The message was instantly shared and soon went viral. It has since become a benchmark for social media commentators across the globe.

So, it’s Timing, and Tone, but you’ve got to be intentional about both. You’ve also got to be really clear about the kind of audience you’re trying to attract, or reach; the kind of message that’s likely to appeal to them; and it’s got to be on-brand.

The trouble starts when ‘brand police’ over-emphasise control of a message and protection of the brand at the expense of spontaneity and timeliness. A client of ours is constantly frustrated in their efforts to engage with customers via social media because of the need to get every tweet approved by head office. By the time they do, the moment has passed and the resultant message seems out of date and contrived.

This is not the only problem though. What else do we need to avoid?

Often, when organizations try and manipulate something, it goes wrong simply because consumers are clever people. They know what you’re looking for, and of course, they can be very perverse, just for the fun of it and do just the opposite of what you want.

A case in point was Durex, the condom brand. They launched a new line of condoms, called “S.O.S. condoms” and they went out to social media, and said, “Which cities do you think we should distribute S.O.S. condoms to first? It’s a competition, and there’s a prize, but we’d like to know your views on which cities should get them first?” They were thinking, perhaps, it would be the more romantic cities … Paris, or Rome. In fact, consumers nominated a place that few of us have ever heard of, called “Batman,” a Kurdish and orthodox Muslim city in Turkey. Of course, once the genie is out of the bottle in cyberspace … you can’t put it back .. this message was out there, and they had to deal with the after-effects.

Infectious communication should be about creating great content that people talk about and willingly share. Of course, this could be a great TV advert, cinema commercial, press advert, outdoor poster or social media video; great content transcends channels. But whatever channels are used, the tone and timing are key and the story has to be the one that your customer wants to engage with, not necessarily the one you want to tell.

To watch Shaun’s interview, click here.

To get On Purpose, click here.