This week I was excited to meet an agency 100% focused on using digital and social media to follow the money, not to follow trends. We spent a morning with George and Matt of Brooklyn Brothers, a global agency that blends PR, social, digital, experiential and brand advertising, as part of our annual brandgym partner retreat. They took us through a series of case studies to illustrate an approach they call 'Blockbuster branding', including a highly-awarded campaign for Inspired by Iceland that I talk about below.
I've expressed serious concerns about brands' use of social media over recent years, as regular readers will know from my rants. My main issue has not been with social media per se, but rather the tendency of companies to follow trends rather than follow the money, when using it. Many social media experts sell the need to 'engage audiences', 'create conversation' and 'build buzz', but often fail to show how these benefit the bottom line.
In contrast, the Iceland tourism campaign is firmly rooted in hardcore business reality. The first 'chapter' of the campaign in 2010 started after the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökulll volcano. This led to negative stories about Iceland and a projected £180m shortfall in revenue. Iceland needed to act fast to address this image issue. They lacked the budget to use mainstream TV and this led to a social and digital focused campaign, but one firmly focused on driving visitor numbers. 22.5 Million stories were spread worldwide bringing an extra £165m to the Icelandic economy with a ROI of 61:1.
A lot of social media content still seems to be 'sponsored entertainment' with little link back to the brand. The Inspired by Iceland campaign was rooted in a band truth that the country had the highest level of positive recommendation at over 80%. This led to the idea of tapping into this goodwill by encouraging people to tell their positive stories to the world, using a variety of social media tools across Facebook, Twitter and Vimeo.
But the Iceland campaign avoided the mistake of focusing on existing users. Yes, the idea was to capture positive stories from visitors, but with the objective of using these stories to reach a broader audience and drive penetration.
3. Fresh consistency
Subsequent chapters had consistency with the same brand idea, Inspired by Iceland, and distinctive tone-of-voice: warm, welcoming, with a humorous wink of the eye. Freshness has come from each chapter focusing on a specific business issue. A second chapter encouraged people to visit Iceland out of the peak summer season; the country's infrastructure was struggling to cope with the increased numbers of summer visitors. And a third chapter was aimed at inspiring visitors to go to discover less well known areas of the country.
4. Build brand fame with distinctiveness
By being highly distinctive, the Inspired by Iceland campaign built 'brand fame' beyond what would be expected for the relatively limited investment . For example, the first chapter was kick-started with a world-first where the entire country was stopped for an hour – ‘Iceland Hour’ – to allow time for people in the country to share their stories.
The subsequent chapter to drive regional visits made fun of the fact that Guðmundur is a very common name in Iceland. A distinctive band property called 'Ask Guðmundur' was created: the world's first 'human search engine'! Each of seven regions had a local specialist called Guðmundur who would answer questions sent in on social media. Over 1000 questions from more than 50 countries were received throughout the campaign. Importantly, Brooklyn Brothers 'curate and amplify' content like this to get impact beyond this relatively small group of active participants. They 'ignite' a campaign by reviewing the content created, selecting the best and then amplifying it by giving more exposure.
5. 'Distribution first'
Another issue I've raised is brand team creating content and then crossing their fingers in the hope that they win 'the viral lottery' with millions of view. And even when teams get lucky and their film does get shared and viewed, the audience tends to be un-planned and may not reach the right people.
Brooklyn Brothers address this issue with an approach called 'Distribution first'. Through a network of contacts with social and digital media platforms they plan in from the start how the content will be distributed. They make the bold guarantee that the earned media generated will have a value at least three times the money invested. In this way, there a much better shot of generating the right reach for for the brand.
6. Invest in production
A final and important point is the need to invest in high quality production. If you have the ambition of winning what Brooklyn Brother call 'share of culture', not just share of market, then your content needs to be good enough to compete with the best of what is on YouTube, Facebook and other social media, from brands but also TV shows, sports teams and music groups. In the case of Inspired by Iceland, around 40% of the budget went on production, a bigger % of the total budget than might be expected for a traditional communication campaign.
In conclusion, Inspired by Iceland shows how you can harness the potential of social and digital media to boost brand and business performance. The key is to root campaigns on a business issue and brand truth, and build brand fame with distinctive, smartly distributed content.