Pumpkin Spice Latte: It’s not a craze, it’s a lifestyle.

1347109851224_4697955Ahhhhh Fall. The season of brisk walks, sweaters, Halloween and of course, the Pumpkin Spice craze.  This relatively simple blend of nutmeg, ginger and allspice has completely taken the food industry by a storm. This seasonal delight is one of the most influential food trends of the century, but has it gotten out on control? PSL is on our shelves, in our coffee and all over our social media.

I write this while drinking my extra hot #PSL and munching on my limited edition Pumpkin Spice M&Ms (exclusively at Target!). This morning I started my day with a lovely Pumpkin Spice Pop Tart with a side of Pumpkin Spice soy milk, and I will probably end my day at a local bar drinking a deliciously smooth Pumpkinhead. This is a little overboard, but you get the idea. This fall flavor has completely saturated the food market. However, just 10 years ago Pumpkin Spice didn’t even exist.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, and Starbucks says that they weren’t originally on board with the flavor. According to Peter Dukes, espresso brand manager “It wasn’t the natural winner, but there was something there.” Well, it is a good thing they decided to go with it as they have sold 200 million Pumpkin Spice Lattes in 10 years. It’s no wonder why brands like Stonewall Kitchen, Dunkin Donuts, and even McDonald’s have hopped on the #PSL bandwagon.

Not only has Pumpkin Spice taken over the food world, it has also infiltrated the social media world as well. Brands are capitalizing on the #PSL hashtag, using its incredible reach to promote their own products. I’ve gotta say it’s pretty brilliant considering there are dozens of tweets every few minutes.

In closing, I leave you with some thoughts on the #PSL.

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 4.03.33 PM

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 4.02.56 PM

Finally a Facebook Update Worth “Liking”

Facebook Contest Rules Update

facebook-changes-contest-rulesBy now, we are all used to Facebook’s continuously changing rules and regulations. Recently Facebook has finally made some changes that have some of us in the social media world rejoicing.

A few weeks ago, Facebook announced that they changed their guidelines for running contests through community or brand pages. Up until recently, brands were required to use a 3rd party application to accept votes or entries into contests. Now, brands can officially run those contests you’ve seen: “comment on this post and win a free pony” or “like this post and we’ll give you a car”.

What does this mean?

  1. Likes and comments can now be used as entries mechanisms for contests.
  2. Brands can run their own contests directly on their timelines without using 3rd party apps that many fans don’t like.
  3. Creating and running contests that are directly on the timeline are faster and easier then creating a tab every time. This means more contests and more engagement from fans.

What this doesn’t mean:

  1. 3rd party apps aren’t going to die. Large level contests and sweepstakes will still need the content tracking that right now only apps can provide.
  2. Anyone can run a contest on his or her page. These guidelines are only meant for brand or community pages. So don’t try and run a contest to get rid of that old couch no one will take!
  3. Require people to tag themselves in content as a means of a voting mechanism.
  4. Require people to share photos or content on their own pages or a friend’s page.

Frankly, we have been waiting forever for Facebook to make these changes! We can’t wait to utilize these new rules for our clients.

Help Us Spread the Word: Pack the Backpack School Supply Drive

Pack the Backpack School Supply Drive

backpackOne of the best things about social media is the power to do good. Individuals and organizations alike use social media marketing to raise awareness about issues, raise money to help support charities and create change in our communities. Today we’d like to use our social platforms to help spread the word about the good that one of our fabulous client partners is doing.

The Young School has partnered with ABC Channel 2 and the Preston Mitchem Jr. Foundation for the annual “Pack the Backpack School Supply Drive.” Over the past 10 years, the back to school supply drive has provided disadvantaged and underserved children in the Baltimore area with school supplies and backpacks. As educators, The Young School feels that it is important for all children to be prepared for school in order to work to the best of their ability. They recognize that this begins with the right academic tools. So The Young School has set up collection boxes in the lobby of all Young School locations.

Please join us in helping the campaign by donating a backpack filled with school supplies (our donation is pretty awesome but we’re sure you can do even better). Then help us promote this drive by spreading the word to neighbors, friends, and co-workers. Put your social media addiction to use and help spread the word. Share this post and let’s get everyone shopping for donations!

Taking A Bite Out Of Shark Week

Shark-WeekOkay, okay, we get it. It’s Shark Week. We’re reminded every time we turn on the TV, log into Facebook, or read the news online. Shark Week is EVERYWHERE. For whatever reason, Discovery’s weeklong program has become one of the biggest cult phenomenon of the 21st century. But why? Is it because the programming is that awesome? Or is it because people feel the need to be a part of pop culture?

Shark Week is nothing new; in fact it has been running for 25 years, which makes it the longest running cable program of all time. However, it was not until recently that Shark Week began drawing in thousands of cult followers. Part of the reason it has become so wildly popular is Discovery’s incredible social media integration.

The Discovery Channel, and Shark Week really know how to create a successful integrated social media campaign.  You will notice that throughout all of the programming, Discovery refers to their twitter account. They post comments from fans, and encourage online engagement. If you are watching Shark Week you better be telling the world about it! This year’s campaign really hit the ground running on June 23 with the release of the Snuffy the Seal commercial on YouTube. This 17 second video was an instant hit, and went viral almost over night. The video now has more than 1.8 million views. The social media madness doesn’t stop there. The Discovery Channel continues to push the campaign by integrating hastags like #teamseal and #snuffytheseal into regular content. They are very good at cross promoting their campaigns with their own accounts. The @SharkWeek twitter will talk to the @Snuffytheseal twitter and the @DiscoveryUS twitter simultaneously. They have worked hard to completely own the Internet during one week out of the year.

Because of the overwhelming success of the campaign, brands are hopping on board (not off-board because that would be dangerous!) in hopes of tapping into the snuffy_dot_com_300x276success of Shark Week. Tide posted this Vine saying “ we get out blood stains too”, Doritos released this photo on their Facebook page saying “ This week, the snacker becomes the snack”, and Ben and Jerry’s tweeted this picture of a bucket of Phish Food with the caption “shark bait”. Under any other circumstance, these brands would probably never be a part of the same campaign. But during Shark Week, anything goes.

Although Discovery has found a way to be a leader in the social media marketing world, that’s not the only reason that Shark Week takes over our lives for a week. There are so many factors into what makes Shark Week cool, its hard to pin point one.  But either way, we’re all going to sit on our couch every night playing Shark Week drinking games and tweeting about it. Enjoy everyone!

Thanksgiving Thankfulness

This year, we at The Cyphers Agency have much to be thankful for. In our Thanksgiving Thankfulness video series, staff members took a few moments from their busy schedules to tell you what they are thankful for and to offer other tips and advice for the holiday season. Some are funny and others are serious, but in the spirit of the holiday, we are truly thankful to have the opportunity to work with such wonderful clients, to work with such talented colleagues and at an agency that allows us to be ourselves.

We will be spending the next two days enjoying our holiday and hope you will, too. We’ll be back to work on Monday, but not until after enjoying an extra helping of turkey and pumpkin pie! Happy Thanksgiving!

This year, we wrote our thanks on leaves that came together to create our Thanksgiving Tree. It also serves as our kitchen table centerpiece.


Social Media ROI: The Dollar Value of a Facebook Fan

The Dollar Value of a Facebook Fan

There’s a certain term in the social media lexicon that I really don’t like. It’s not the meaning or even the use that I have an issue with. It’s the way it’s used. Overused. Thrown around. Thrown in when one is coming up dry. This word works as a shield for many folks in our industry – “Hey, what I do has value to you. Here’s an acronym we can use when I am trying to convince you of this, and the important-sounding-ness of it will put both of us at ease.” That term is ROI.

Alas, when talking about any investment, the return on that very investment is obviously something worth talking about. In fact, it’s the whole point, isn’t it? But sometimes the term ROI gets thrown around when you aren’t really talking about that. ROI at its core is about financial return, not “buzz” or “sentiment” or “engagement.” Of course, I would argue that those things can and do have real impact on the bottom line – often, a greater impact than other approaches. But while it’s valuable to measure metrics like audience growth and community engagement, that’s not really ROI. When you say ROI, you should be talking about numbers – numbers of dollars.

The Dollar Value of a Facebook Fan

The good news is that as social media is becoming less of a trend and more of an expected component of a marketing plan, folks are studying the dollar value of marketing on social networks. For example, there’s a new report out: The Value Of A Facebook Fan. And as GigaOM puts it, “The key findings of the report are likely to come as music to the ears of advertisers that have been pursuing a Facebook-based social media strategy.” That’s because Syncapse, a social media measurement firm, found that each Facebook fan has a dollar value – $136.38 on average.

They came up with this number by surveying Facebook fans of 20 of the top brands on Facebook. Starbucks was one of them. At over 24 million Facebook fans, their Facebook community is worth $3.2 billion (at least according Syncapse’s conclusions). What does this really mean? Well, fans spend an extra $71.84 on average compared to those who are not fans. They are also 28 percent more likely than non-fans to continue using a specific brand, and 41 percent more likely to recommend a product they are a fan of to their friends. Now, that is some REAL return on investment.

Of course, you can’t just create a Facebook page and watch the Benjamins roll in. Syncapse is careful to point out that all comes down to how active the fans are. The top brands Syncapse studied are all excellent examples of pages that drive meaningful activity. They also use Facebook to foster customer satisfaction and loyalty – a key component to marketing ROI online and off. Still, the facts remain that there is real, measurable value to social media marketing. When you have that, there’s no need to put an acronym on a pedestal – the numbers speak for themselves.

Email 2.0: You’ve Still Got Mail

Email Marketing

Email MarketingWith all the excitement over the latest online marketing techniques, email seems to have lost its appeal. Perhaps you’ve seen open- and click-through rates dropping and you’ve moved on to greener pastures, like search engine marketing and social media. Certainly we are all jaded by the incessant, often indecent, random appeals that flood our inboxes. But email is not quite ready to go the way of the broadcast fax. Email is still very effective for an engaged audience that expects and wants to communicate with your brand.

The problem is that most marketers are still just indiscriminately blasting out email to large groups – which today is barely one level above a Viagra offer. If you take even a modest step up from the discount email systems, there is a powerful world of tracking, segmentation and a/b testing available to you. It requires a bit more strategy and campaign management, but when you realize the money you are leaving on the mousepad right now, you’ll be plenty motivated. Here are just a few examples that have proven to produce double-digit increased click-through rates:

Capture shopping cart abandons – Send offers within 24 hours, consider additional incentives.

Welcome series – Craft a progression of emails when people join your list.

Personalize – Not just a name, but based on their profile, browsing activity, recent purchases.

Transactional emails – Cross-sell when you confirm shipment or send a Thank You.

Triggered mail – Engage soon after a visit to your site or a recent purchase (online or in store).

Let me leave you with one simple tip that can double your overall open rate: Simply re-send the exact same email offer to all your “unopens” several days later with a new subject line. Moral? It’s not that they don’t care, they’re busy – and inundated. As always in marketing, we need to cleverly cut through the clutter. With email, it just means a bit of technology added to the strategy and the creative.

Social Good for a Social Media Generation

These days, it seems like everyone is “going digital” and leveraging social media to communicate their message. But, as we’ve mentioned before, it goes way beyond just Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. We’ve noticed that Web 2.0 is emerging as a way for newer generations to change the world without even leaving home. People are already making friends and doing things online based on their interests – its a natural next step to use social networks to connect to causes you care about.

Being A Part of the Online Experience.

Non-profits and corporations alike are embracing the web to get their message to millions of people. These groups can have enormous success by taking their causes online. While non-profits traditionally promote one fundraising event at a time, social media allows charitable organizations to become part of the online experience, enabling more frequent interactions with their audience. And if organizations make it is easy to get involved, people are more than willing to contribute.

It could be on a Facebook page where you can “like” an initiative you’re passionate about. In the case of Pedigree’s “Become a Fan, Help A Dog” campaign, fans can actually make a difference with just one click. Or you could use Twitter hashtags like #AmericaWants to share information with like-minded people and get your cause noticed. You can donate online, and not always just with your money – you can find volunteer opportunities through search engines, message boards and online communities like Jumo. It’s never been easier for people to support a cause.

So what?

Companies are seeing big results from engaging in social good. For example, Pepsi took their Super Bowl advertising budget and turned it into a social good phenomenon. Their Pepsi Refresh program has engaged thousands of regular people by giving them the opportunity to win grants for their grassroots projects. Even more so, Pepsi set aside an additional $1.2 million for projects dedicated to helping the Gulf after oil spill crisis occurred. Since January, more people have voted for Pepsi Refresh causes than voted in the last presidential election. Amazing, huh? And the best part? Pepsi hasn’t suffered from taking their Super Bowl ad money and setting it aside for good – they’ve received a tremendous amount of publicity for encouraging others.

What We’re Doing.

Here at The Cyphers Agency, we’re engaging in some social good of our own by support a local Annapolis grassroots effort, Carol for a Cause. The mission of this community project is simply promoting goodwill, and so we leverage social media and word of mouth tools to engage with people and spread our client’s message. Right now, we’re building some meaningful relationships with bloggers who care about the same things we care about and become ambassadors on our behalf. We’re also running an awesome contest where Carol for a Cause fans can show what “doing good” means to them. The winner will get money towards their favorite charity.

We’re happy to be taking part in social good. We’ve seen some incredible things happen through the web, and we’re glad that we can help businesses use such a powerful and multifaceted tool to make a difference. Have you seen anything like this online? We’d love it if you shared it with us by leaving a comment below.

We’re With Stupid…

Okay, well not literally, but we have been captivated and intrigued by Diesel’s recent Be Stupid campaign. You’ve just got to check out the website.

There is some pretty strong stuff going on there. The website and campaign message are both unique and well-built, especially for Diesel’s existing (or intended) audience base. The creative is bold and in your face. And there is also a sweet contest and the chance to check out the clothes that represent the campaign.

Despite all the awesome stuff they have going on, we found their overall social media integration a bit odd (and you should know by now that we’re pretty passionate about integration). Diesel gives web site visitors the opportunity to check out their social networks, but their presence on these seems a bit out of tune with their message and campaign. Their Twitter page is geared toward music, not toward their Be Stupid campaign or general brand message. Their YouTube page, although featuring their Be Stupid video, hosts mostly music, too. Even their Facebook page carries a seemingly different air than their website message. We do, however, applaud their effort to allow consumers the chance to share the creative process via social networks.

And this is as good a time as any to continue praising integration, but this time, we’re taking it to the next step. Don’t just use the tools so you can claim to have a fully integrated campaign. Tailor them each specifically to your message, making each fit together like a piece of a puzzle, or else their existence will serve no purpose.

But overall, we applaud Diesel’s big idea. It is cutting edge, different, and definitely grabbed our attention. We just wish they could have carried it over to their social networks in a more efficient way. What do you think?

Oh, 2009, You Were Good To Us…

Well, 2009, we bid you adieu. This past year has been many things for us as an agency. We’ve survived a recession, gained some new clients, and celebrated our 20th anniversary as a force in the industry. We’ve also continued to think outside of the box, living and breathing creativity.

Now that this hectic year is over, we’re taking a moment of reflection, thinking about the things we learned (or re-learned) in 2009 and applying them to our future in 2010, which we welcome with open arms. So now that 2010 is officially here, we wanted to countdown 5 of the most essential lessons that our clients learned this year. (OK, so maybe we learned a couple things too)

5. Interaction and Participation: Actually Do It.

Both interaction and participation are important for social media to really work. It doesn’t help just to sign up for a Facebook account. Yeah, that may mean that you are technically using on social media, but it doesn’t mean you are using it the right way. To gain all the benefits of social media, you’ve got to be ready to participate, plug in, and converse with others. That is just the way it is. You’ve got to give to get.

Comcast is a great example. They have taken the time to embrace social media, allowing it to help their company connect with its consumers

4. Tools & Strategy that Work.

Lately, we have noticed a lot of social media obsession. Basically, we have experienced a lot of this: “I want a Facebook!” or “Can you create a Twitter page for me?” We call it Facebook-itis and Twitter-itis, and it is a serious, serious affliction.

You know that saying “there is a time and place for everything”? Well, this rings true here. Yes, Twitter and Facebook are powerful tools and can work, but they aren’t always the right option for our clients. We have developed our ability to assess clients individually, giving them the social media tools that match their specific strengths and that they need to achieve their goals. Sometimes this will include Facebook and Twitter, sometimes it won’t. Either way, we have learned to remain focused on tailoring social media strategy that is specific to each of our clients.

3. Campaign Integration

In 2009, we learned a lot about integration. Social media tools are great, but rarely stand on their own. We knew this was important, but after taking a look at some pretty integrated campaigns (like this one), we came to appreciate integration in that it must go across all platforms, whether that be between social media tools or fully integrated strategies, from creative to marketing to social media. In 2010, we are sure to see more campaign integration, which makes us happy.

2. Relationships = End All, Be All

Social media is about listening to people. Conversation monitoring and participation is at the center of this emerging industry, and we have really learned to listen this year. We now have a tool that allows us to gather discussions from all social media based on the keywords and parameters that we set. That means our clients can gather and sort through larger amounts of relevant conversations, and use them to expand their footprint and find their target audiences.

Take the Comcast example (again). You have a problem with them? Router not working? Tweeting about it will help get your problem solved. They may even tweet step-by-step directions at you. We call that strategic tweeting; fielding and solving consumer complaints has gotten the Comcast brand name pretty far in the minds of consumers on Twitter.

1. Social Media is Legit: It’s the Real Deal, Folks!

We wouldn’t say it’s something we learned, because we knew it all along. But we are thrilled that some of the largest companies are embracing and verifying it; social media is more than a trend and a hot topic. It has officially arrived as a moveable force in the advertising industry. New technologies, like Google Wave, have been created to take advantage of social media. Big time companies like Starbucks or Wachovia are embracing it as part of their marketing strategy. Even the government has acknowledged its influence. Take Obama’s Twitter page or his recent public address on YouTube as an example of this. The FTC also took a part by creating laws and consequences for misuse, which talked about here.

So overall, we feel great. We love what we do and are excited for a very social 2010. Happy New Year!