Study Shows Millennials Like Branded Content & Support it By Sharing

It turns out that Millennials depend upon brand content more than we think – and some prefer it. Surprised? I was. In a Havas Worldwide study entitled: “The Hashtag Nation: Marketing to the Selfie Generation” they find that brands actually play a very key role in the content offered for young people to share – and they’re receptive to it. Focusing on those aged 16 & older in 29 markets, they found that 60% of the youth respondents agreed and used branded content in their social media activity frequently – agreeing that it is “an important part of the creative content online.”

What The Study Shows about Branded Content & its Acceptance by Youth

A Brand Momentum poll found tech brands to be the main brands youth connected with, including Samsung, Google, YouTube, PayPal and Facebook. Of the 10K participants, they find that half of the young people were more than happy to “welcome (the brands) into their lives” and saw them as “essential,” as compared to 25% in the 55 & older age range.   (Check out the following link for more on Sponsored Content.)

 A Real Sense of Partnership Between Young People & Brands

In another part of the study, however, it was found that 4 in 10 participants aged 16 to 34 said that brands don’t take them seriously enough – so there’s some room for improvement for us marketers. Despite this, 50% of young people say that pop culture (i.e.. Brand marketing) has helped to shape both their personalities and attitudes. Therefore, these young people acknowledge that these brands and their voices (i.e. content) are part of their everyday lives. “What’s particularly encouraging about this study is that the data point to a real sense of partnership between young people and brands,” said Andrew Benett, CEO of Havas.  With that in mind, we marketers should be aiming for brand attachment with the Millennial generation.

Millennials Make an Impact for Brands Across the Globe

So, contrary to what we might have thought, Millennials actually do have an openness – even a desire – to connect with the brands they love, openly and publicly via social media or otherwise.  Brands rely on youth in these markets consuming their content, and not only delivering monetarily, but also through their enthusiasm and brand advocacy – which they share on all social channels from Twitter to Instagram.

This is happening not just in the States, but also across the globe. Participants in this study were from: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, the UAE, the United Kingdom, the US and Viet Nam.  Seeing that these findings are so universal gives the study much credibility and more importantly, makes one realize that it is the global marketplace not just the local one which we can hope to attract via our branded content.  So for PR, branded content will remain a very important way of connecting with our audiences as we move into the future, especially with Millennials.

I would say that this bodes very well for marketing and content marketers, since we’re delivering this branded content more than ever.

(To read more detail on the study results, you can check out this article in The Street.)

Apple’s Stumble into Fall Demonstrates the Double-Edged Sword of Brand Attachment

Apple’s Fall season has been less-than-stellar from a social sentiment perspective, and social media channels have been lit up with everything from rants about U2 to competitor ad campaigns.  This is bad news for Apple, of course, but it’s also good news: if people didn’t care, they wouldn’t bother talking about it.  Apple’s rocky September has illustrated, very clearly, the double-edged sword that is brand attachment: when people are emotional about a brand, they’re going to react with the same amount of vigor whether they’re delighted or disappointed.

I’ve been doing some social listening with our social monitoring tool to see what folks have been saying about Apple this month.  We saw their Live Stream fail during their big product unveil in early September, leading to the #LiveStreamFail tweetfest, and giving rival Samsung a chance to newsjack the event with a pretty clever video.   Then we Apple consumers were all treated to a free U2 album that was loaded right into our iTunes catalogue, which ended up creating a noisy backlash that still has folks complaining about it on social media channels.

Now, the fact that Apple is facing this sort of consumer reaction in finding a way for the music industry to open a new revenue channel while at the same time giving users what they’ve theoretically been wanting since the Napster (read: free music) is another article.  Suffice it to say that Apple has endured a firestorm of customer criticism over that marketing tactic, proving the old marketing adage that people really don’t value free stuff – especially if they didn’t ask for that free stuff.

As of this week, Apple has another big issue with iOS 8 – namely, that the update it released for a New York minute to fix the bugginess that folks have been complaining about for the last week caused even more bugginess.

But by far the most visual backlash on social channels has come with what’s being dubbed #bendgate, stemming from reports that the new iPhone 6 bends from normal use (like being stowed in pockets).

Apple has yet to comment on #bendgate, leaving the conversation at this point to the peanut gallery – and Apple competitors. BlackBerry’s CEO John Chen made a backhanded joke at Apple’s expense while unveiling their new smartphone, saying “I challenge you to bend the Passport.”  LG went a step further, posting this to Twitter:

Even KitKat got in on the act:

One bright note in Apple’s month: it did just win “Coolest Brand in Britain” for the 3rd year in a row.  And that, right there, says it all: when you’ve fostered the sort of brand attachment that Apple has, and most especially when your brand is the cool kid, you can expect that your missteps will be trumpeted and lampooned creatively across social media channels by folks who expected better and/or hoped for worse.  Social media is a dialogue discipline, after all.  In the case of #bendgate, Apple has thus far chosen to let that conversation go on without its participation (though it’d be interesting to know how many of the imagery poking fun at Apple was made on a Mac) .

Whether the “silence is golden” tactic will work with #bendgate has yet to be seen… but we’ll keep listening.

Brand Storytelling: 3 Tips to Working through Writer’s Block to a Great Story

The reason storytelling works in PR and marketing is that it allows us to paint a picture, draw our customer-readers in, and take them on a journey into discovering what our brand is all about. It does this through feelings, sentiments and ideas which the particular story conjures up, and after relating it in a positive way, aligning those feelings and ideas with the company’s marketing goals and brand messaging.

So, how do we create these stories? Do you find yourself sometimes in a storytelling rut? If, like me, you have experienced this form of writer’s block, there are a few storytelling basics, from a general writer’s perspective that you can always go back to and incorporate.

1) Identify your target audience in order to establish a viewpoint

If you don’t know who you’re trying to engage, it’s a lot harder to tell the right story.

2) Use Basic Storytelling Structure

Your story needs 3 things:

1. Plot
2. A Hero or heroine
3. A Satisfying ending

Once you have established these key elements, you can start to enhance your story with descriptive copy and visually rich content.  As a general rule, the more you can make use of graphics and multimedia, the more your reader will remain engaged. Context, structure, meaning and inspiration are other features that readers – whether they know it or not – look for in a story.

No matter what the story, make sure that its attitudes, feelings and ideals of the characters in the story are in alignment with your company’s overall brand.

3) Listen to Seth Godin

Any marketer who’s sold as many books as Seth Godin is worth a listen.  Here’s what he says great stories are made of:

  1. They resonate with the audience: they are relevant and relatable.
  2. They are authentic: they are consistent and true to us.
  3. They make a promise to engage us: we can expect to be inspired, entertained, educated or merely distracted.
  4. They are sensuous: they appeal to all our senses.  We can almost smell, hear and/or feel what the characters are doing or where the story is taking us.

So, what are some examples of those who are doing this right?  Here are some examples from:

Cadbury: Dairy Milk with Ritz or Lu ‘Moments of Joy’ campaign
IKEA: 2015 Catalogue launch: “the bookbook”
Coca-Cola: Global Sustainability ‘2nd Lives’ campaign

Think of a campaign you have implemented in the past that relied heavily on storytelling. If willing to share, please do so in the Comments.  Read here, to see why storytelling is more important than ever for your content strategy.

Facebook Flies into Twitter Territory with “Timely Stories” – Get Your Newsjacking Hat on

Facebook announced yesterday that they’re tweaking the Newsfeed to prioritize “trending” posts that match current events.  What this means is that when you’re watching the big game on TV, your Facebook feed will now work more like Twitter: the content around that game will be prioritized over, say, the terrible picture of you in the plaid tuxedo jacket that you dug out of the archives for #TBT.

What this means for brands is that Facebook newsjacking should be more effective now than it was before, which gives marketers an opportunity to counter the organic reach limit that Facebook slapped on us in March.

Speaking of newsjacking, if you didn’t see this clever video from Samsung (who might have had better results on Facebook with it had it launched with the new algorithm changes), here was their response to Apple’s #AppleLive stream failure: their stream crashed during the launch of their iPhone6 and Apple Watch.

Brand Attachment vs. Brand Loyalty: What is the Difference & Why Does It Matter? Let’s Talk Ice Cream.

Some brands have a way of just calling out to you…

What is Brand Attachment?

You’ve probably heard of the terms brand engagement, brand development, and brand loyalty. But have you heard of brand attachment? And, how does brand attachment differ from brand loyalty?

In a breakout session by JoAnn Sciarinno at Content Marketing World last week, brand attachment was defined as “the emotional connection between humans and brands.” Thus, just as people can be attached to a person, they can also — by and for a host of reasons — become attached to a brand. For example, if you are an ice cream lover, you are probably attached to a particular brand, like Häagen-Daz or Dreyers. For me, it’s Ben & Jerry’s. I like their unique flavors with creative names (C’mon, Chunky Monkey? Cherries Garcia? Everything But The…who else could think these up?), and I love that they use milk from cows that are fed organically with no rBGH’s.

So, whereas brand loyalty may be somewhat superficial, brand attachment goes much deeper.

My reasons for being attached to Ben & Jerry’s, above, exemplify the 3 elements JoAnn Sciarrino described as going into the forming of a brand attachment. They are:

  1. Affection: (They got me with their names.)
  2. Connection: (with their sustainable practices)
  3. Passion: (for my favorite flavors)

When these three emotions are in play, it is highly likely that there is attachment. It may be an indirect influence on the brand, but it is a strong influence. More than brand loyalty, brand attachment almost becomes a part of you.

How Does Marketing Foster Brand Attachment?

Whatever it is that attracts you to a brand to begin with most likely has to do with the way PR and advertising have served up the content about that brand. In this exposure to PR campaigns and ads, you are then brought into what Sciarrino calls the “virtuous circle of brand attachment.” There are three specific phases for the brand, which follow along this path. From each of these, it leads to the other:

Advertising & Marketing to – -> Brand Attachment to – -> Financial Performance

Thus, if I am so attached to Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream it then follows that by my buying it repeatedly, their financial performance improves (even if by a small amount). Multiply that by millions of customers, and your bottom line is happily shored up by engaged, repeat customers.  Apple is another great example here: we’re so attached to them that we’re willing to buy new chargers despite how annoying and expensive it is to do it.

 What are the advantages of Brand Attachment over Brand Loyalty?

The good thing for brands and companies is that people with strong brand attachments influence other people around them. So, in this sense, there are brand advocates that develop from their strong brand attachments. These fans or followers of the brand are not only becoming fans or followers to stay, they are also bringing their friends along, increasing the customer base for the company. They are true brand evangelists, going beyond brand loyalty. It has been proven that:

Highly attached consumers are more motivated to devote their own resources…defending the brand, degrading alternative brands and devoting more time to the brand through brand communities and brand promotion using social media.

When we in PR use paid, earned and owned media it is with the goal of getting prospects and current customers to feel this brand attachment and, essentially, gravitate long-term towards a brand, at an emotional level. When we can publicize for them – say, via re-tweeting a tweet – we extend the reach of their original impression, the impression created by the “brand-attached” party. Thus, once brand attachment is attained, it almost makes our jobs that much easier, right? Sharing these brand messages can be so effective, because they far and away exceed promotional messages in resonance with the customers (because of their authentic customer voice).

Bottom line: Find out what your customers’ passions, connections and affections are. Target your PR with that in mind, and see how they follow by becoming attached to your brand – not just showing loyalty, but true attachment. Hopefully, there will be a way we can measure this in the future, by mining and scoring or rating this attachment data via the impressions garnered and corresponding reactions from our customers. This will help prove brand attachment is one way that all companies should strive for the optimum in brand reach: keeping their customers routinely coming back!