March Madness: What does it mean for marketers?

marchmadnessThe month of March brings many exciting things: warmer weather, St Patrick’s day, the first day of spring, and of course March Madness. For many of us, March Madness is the time of year when our officemates bet against each other, and all of our sitcoms are talking about brackets. But to marketers, March Madness means opportunity.

Over the last 75 years, the NCAA has turned a simple college basketball tournament into a household name. Today, March Madness is one of the most sought after sports broadcasts for marketers, pulling ahead of the NBA, and the MLB. Huge companies like Dove and Capital One are now harnessing March Madness themed campaigns to promote their own products. This incredible accomplishment has many people asking how did they do it?

Here are a few of the marketing 101 tactics that the NCAA has used to create success.

  1. Brand Yourself: The NCAA has effectively made non-fans care about basketball. In an
    attempt to reach a larger audience, they created a strong brand identity for the tournament. Using catchy alliterations like “March Madness” “Sweet Sixteen”, “Elite Eight”, and the “Final Four” brings life to the tournament. The success of the NCAA is obvious to big brands like this year’s leading sponsor, Capital One. They have launched a March Madness campaign using TV spots, online spots, print, digital and social media. The ads will feature Alec Baldwin and former NBA player Charles Barkley promoting the Capital One Venture card within a framework of the March Madness tournament. Capital One is using the hashtag #rallycry to get fans on Twitter talking about their favorite teams. capitalonemarchmadness
  2. Get Digital: It is no surprise that more and more consumers are engaging online. Last year, The NCAA saw 2.2 million unique visits to their website during the tournament. In addition, March Madness generated nearly 3 million tweets, and currently has a Facebook following of 410K. By incorporating digital media into their traditional marketing plan, the NCAA was able to generate a huge amount of online buzz. This online presence translated into a large amount of revenue. Last year alone, March Madness brought in $60 Million dollars in online advertising for
  3. Generate Passion: Although not everyone can incorporate a game into their marketing strategy, it is clear that adding a competition engages consumers on a whole new level. March Madness brackets attract bothdovemarchmadness hard-core basketball followers,and non-fans looking to add a little chance into their lives. This year, Dove launched their Dove Men+Care March Matchups. The campaign will mimic a March Madness Bracket, matching up things like Cable TV VS Buffalo Wild Wings. Each contender is a prize packet, with the final prize being a trip to the real March Madness Final Four. The Dove campaign combines and element of surprise and chance to have their consumers consistently engaged for an extended period of time.

We all know there is never a magic formula to a lucrative marketing campaign, however the NCAA is using a successful strategy that can be applied to any industry.

In keeping with the times we have decided to create our own Cyphers Agency bracket facing off different elements of the advertising industry. Stay tuned for updates!



A presidential race in the age of digital media

As election preps ramp up in the coming weeks and Americans everywhere head to the polls, candidates’ digital branding efforts are proving to have an extremely influential effect on this year’s presidential race. Obama’s 2008 campaign was the first to truly embrace the implementation of digital media in great campaign strategy. Fast-forward four years and you will see that the presidential candidates’ Twitter followers and Facebook likes are in the millions. The nominees are also popping up on almost every digital media platform from Facebook and Twitter to Instagram and Reddit. Today, it’s just as much the norm to follow candidates on Twitter or Instagram as it is to watch the debate series on television.

Can we tell if the amount of likes, followers and Tweets will secure a solid win for the White House? Absolutely not. But, what we can pinpoint is that with these new avenues and platforms, candidates are making a greater effort to brand themselves with digital media and to connect with potential voters through those mediums. Utilizing new media also allows the presidential hopefuls to connect with younger voters, giving them platforms they are already skilled at using and calling for them to lead Twitter chats, Instagram trends and participate in Reddit threads.

Whatever result the polls produce on November 6th, this election year proves the importance of digital branding and the effectiveness of social media platforms in the overall campaign strategy. All of these efforts play into the mindset that if you see more of the candidate in his everyday life, you are more willing to trust, accept and connect with him, his values and his principles.  It’s a subtle way securing your vote that requires monumental effort. To run several digital media accounts under one campaign requires monumental coordination, round-the-clock supervision, humor and a bit of wit. It requires many highly skilled individuals who are talented at manipulating the internet and a lot of coffee.  Both parties employ an army of digital media specialists to ensure that all official digital media accounts are monitored and maintain sync with the overall campaign strategy, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Much like the presidential race campaigns, we view social media strategy as one part of an overarching marketing campaign. We don’t create a Facebook page or Twitter account for a client just because it’s the cool thing to do; there must be a reason for us to create a presence on that platform. And just as the presidential candidates have a team of strategists monitoring conversations, engagement and are prepared to handle any communication crisis that might arise (ie #eastwooding), so do we. With a team of educated and well-versed social media professionals, we offer the same talent and innovation invested in your social media strategy and overall marketing campaign as a presidential staff. While we can’t guarantee you a seat in the White House, we can guarantee to provide the same dedication, commitment, creative development and implementation through the use of digital media.  My name is Ali Derr and I approve this message.


Twitter’s Brand Crisis

The big talk right now is all about Twitter’s first promotional spot, which plays on the recent East Coast earthquake. It starts with one of Twitter’s software engineers sitting at a table with a cup of coffee. He gets a tweet that is presumably that the earthquake just happened and picks his coffee up off the table as everything starts to shake, continuing to read his book unfazed. The two main criticisms most people have brought up are a) that the goofball approach underplays how revolutionary Twitter is and b) that regardless, it’s just not a very engaging spot. I’d agree on both counts. Concerning the latter criticism, it got a slight chuckle from me, but wouldn’t make me run out and try Twitter if I hadn’t used it before. However, what I want to talk about is the the criticism of bad brand representation.

In reality, the spot isn’t really that off of Twitter’s brand image. They started with a goofy, techy-nerd image that appealed to their early adopter crowd and haven’t fully shed that yet. For example, if you try and tweet something that is more than 140 characters for the Twitter website, it will flash a message telling you to “be more clever”. The default background is still blue fluffy clouds. The problem is, Twitter has gotten popular enough that they might have outgrown this image.

Twitter has grown way past the little “see what you’re friends are up to” tool that it started as. 87% of people in the US are aware of Twitter. During Hurricane Irene, national news networks were instructing viewers on which hashtags to use when tweeting about the hurricane so the update could be tracked in real time. Twitter has helped spark revolts and revolutions. Whole countries have tried banning it because of the effect it can have. Twitter has changed communication in a real way. They need to decide how they want to be seen by the world. Is Twitter ok with keeping the fun, geeky brand image that this earthquake ad perpetuates? Or are they ready to grow up and embrace the fact that can and are changing communication as we know it?

Big Results for Smaller Brands

In the past, you could have over 90% ACV nationwide (for non-food folks, that’s grocery store penetration), and your product may sell $40 million nationwide, but that still doesn’t allow for anything approaching an adequate budget for traditional media on a national level. But there’s another way to approach it today, and we’ve seen the light bulb go on for several smaller CPG brand managers recently: “Maybe I can’t afford a ton of mass media, but a well-integrated social media campaign will really leverage my budget.”

Of course, every brand is different; some products by nature are better poised to spark a passionate following than others. But for many brands, fueled by solid strategy and creative, there is suddenly the real potential to stimulate trial, generate buzz, deliver effective promotions – and yes, over time, make a real impact on sales.

Consider the possibilities. There’s the online PR angle – pitching foodie or mommy bloggers or meet-up groups. There’s promotion – contests, coupons, and free samples sent as rewards. There can be easy integration with labeling, POS tools and other existing programs. And if you really strike a nerve, you can enjoy genuine viral success.

Who would have thought you could impact a national brand on a modest budget? Just a few years ago it may have been near impossible, but today it can be a realistic goal.