Content Marketing The Sub Way

I love how creative companies are getting with their content marketing. This latest example by Subway is one I find particularly brilliant.

Subway has designed a new online contest where anyone can virtually build and run a virtual Subway store. Contestants will go through various challenges and be rewarded for completing these challenges and according to a PSFK article:

Five winners will receive an all-expense paid trip to the U.S. to meet founder Fred DeLuca and the global executive team, attend a special session of University of Subway, and get a VIP tour of the HQ.

What can content marketers learn from this?

1. Build it and allow them to come - The brilliance of this contest from a content marketing perspective is that the majority of the content is not coming from Subway but instead from contestants (users). Subway has ingeniously figured out how to create an entire campaign around user-generated content. In order to do something like this, brands need to spend time thinking about the platform that users will create the content on. 

2. Educate your audience - The really neat part about this contest is that it may actually educate the consumer on the process behind running a Subway restaurant or even just the process around running a franchise in general. Regardless of whether or not you're a Subway fan, if you have any interest in entrepreneurship ... this could potentially be something you engage with.

Make social easy.

Make social easy.

3. Make it inherently social - If the content is engaging enough, people would find value in sharing that with others ... so make it easy for them to do that. Subway has done a great job with this by using social sharing buttons and easy calls to action. Consider building a platform with social in mind as opposed to adding in a social layer after you've got the core of the platform built.

Subway's approach to content marketing: Engaging, educational and social.

Three traits worth emulating.

The New Impulse Purchase

Yes, they talk to each other. Easily.

Yes, they talk to each other. Easily.

You know that moment when you've spent a whole bunch of time in the supermarket, then you come up to the checkout and those chocolate bars look soooo tempting? They are on sale too! Sale = must buy.

You give in.

Why did you give in?

It was easy. It was right there! What's another 88 cents on to your $65 or higher grocery bill? You also gave it because it was science my friend. The science of decision fatigue.

Now let me paint you a slightly different, yet very similar picture.

You come home after a long day at work, a really long day. Perhaps you have dinner, perhaps you're too tired to even do that right now and you just want to crash on the couch for a few minutes, maybe even take a quick nap.

You turn on the TV ... you mindlessly watch. Then you come across a commercial that looks like a slightly modified version of this (same call to action though):

amex-tv-commercial-of-the-future

You've wanted an e-reader for a while, this deal looks great. You pick up your phone and you tweet: #BuyKindleFireHD

You give in.

Why did you give in?

It was easy! Your phone was right there!

Have American Express and Twitter just created a way for consumers to make new impulse purchases? I will certainly be keeping an eye on the future of this program to find out. If you're interested, Danny Sullivan from MarketingLand.com wrote a terrific post about his whole experience with this new service.

Happy shopping.

The TV of The Future

Earlier today, a co-worker of mine shows me this ... 

Yes, it's this small. 

Yes, it's this small. 

Micro-USB charging port and USB port.

Micro-USB charging port and USB port.

HDMI-out port.

HDMI-out port.

"Remote" and THE device. 

"Remote" and THE device. 

If you're into this kind of thing ... you may already know what this is and for you this post may simply be the musings of a kid in a candy store who's just discovered how good pretzel M&M's are. 

However ...

If you're NOT into this kind of thing ... let me explain what it is that I was holding in my hands earlier today. It can actually be summarized in the following simple two words:

"The ... Future."

More specifically this is an Android 4.1 Dual-Core Cortex A9 1GB DDR3 4GB ROM Mini PC with Wi-Fi and HDMI. 

You read that correctly my friend ... this is a computer.

Rather than me explain to you how it works, let's just say ... we found a screen that had an HDMI input, plugged it in ... made sure the device was powered (see image 2) and this is what ensued:

Now, you might be wondering how much does such a device (excluding the remote) cost? Well ... here: Device and remote. You do the math. Yes this site imports the goods from China but you will notice shipping to Canada is free so ... again ... you do the math. 

I did the math. It's a little over $70. In words that's: s-e-v-e-n-t-y d-o-l-l-a-r-s.

If you re-arrange the words seventy dollars it spells: DISRUPTION.

Well. You get the idea.

Ok, enough of these one sentence game-changing lines, let me actually tell you three ways in which this single device could bring about a new future for consumers:

  1. Your media everywhere - Android is Google and Google is pervasive. This device is so small that it can be carried anywhere and plugged into anything with an HDMI input. You literally have a movie player, gaming console and general entertainment center with you in your pocket. Yes, I realize I could have just describe a smartphone; however, this device is not meant to replace a smartphone, it is meant to complement it. 
  2. An app ecosystem - My co-worker also showed me how he could be working from his laptop, hop over to the Google play store, download an app and have the app load on to his "TV" (mini-computer) and then next time he plugs in his mini-computer ... it's there!
  3. A single entertainment source - Think about the generation that is growing up today, the pre-teens who derive a whole lot of their entertainment from YouTube. To them the cloud is intuitive. To them this device may make immediate sense, because really this device can be everywhere and can contain everything they need from an entertainment standpoint. Just imagine what will happen once YouTube original content hits the tipping point. 

i haven't even talked about the marketing/advertising implications around this but I am more interested in how Google will market this product. This is not a mainstream product yet, in fact I would argue is it at the fringes of the adoption-innovation curve. If Google decides to keep this price point low, this device fits almost perfectly into Clay Christensen's theory of disruptive innovation.

It will be so interesting to see how a device like this brings about new ways to actually view the content on this device. Will we see micro-projectors become mainstream? Will we see, big display TV's become much simpler with lower price points and simply just contain HDMI inputs as their functionality? 

I am so excited for what this future holds. Go #disruption. 

A Remote Landing Page

I love a good landing page. I've written about this before but forgive me, I really love a good landing page. Here's one I came across recently for a new book by the great folks over at 37signals.

REMOTE_-The-new-book-from-37signals.jpg

Let's break this bad boy down:

  1. Clear header: Tells you when, tells you what and gives you a bit of reference (REWORK is a great book by the way).
  2. Relevant image: The book cover. What else would make sense here? Nothing, this is a landing page for a new book.
  3. Compelling copy: A sweet a succinct summary.
  4. The call to action: When you come to this page you have two options. Leave or give these folks your email address. Humans are more likely to choose when there are fewer options. It's science.
  5. The white space: A lovely design touch to keep your eyes on the prize (points 1-4).

Brilliant by 37signals. Check it out for yourself.

p.s. It would be interesting if they decided to make a book trailer (all the rage these days) and A/B test that versus the image to see if they get more email sign ups.

The Microsoft Channel

Microsoft may have just put another piece in place to create the ultimate platform.

Transient

Microsoft is getting into original programming.

It's going to start with content aimed at the core Xbox audience; however, it will most likely evolve from there to other audiences and users of the Xbox.

Much like YouTube original programming, this announcement by Microsoft is a game-changer for the future of television. It also places Microsoft in an extremely powerful position as it will own a significant part of the content supply chain (the hardware, the software and the content creation itself). 

Here are some reasons why this move allows Microsoft to come closer to becoming the ultimate platform:

  1. Content created with the device in mind - The Xbox is interactive. A show could potentially become interactive ... how? Who knows. It is yet to be invented. The point is, the technology exists so it's just a matter of time until it actually happens.
  2. Advertising relevance will be made easy - Microsoft can offer advertisers something very, very enticing ... they know the kind of audience consuming a program ... and they have control over the interface through which that audience is consuming this program. This means ... if a show is talking about an app ... a download button could hypothetically appear on the screen, you could wave your hand, point to it and then it could start downloading directly to your Windows Phone. Not only will this change the way consumers interact with ads but it will also change the very notion of how ads are created. Value in advertising will become far more prevalent.
  3. The Xbox becomes an all-in-one device - No more cable, no more blu-ray player, no more multiple remotes. A TV ... and an Xbox. If Microsoft gets into TVs then they suddenly start selling living rooms. All the content you need: games, programs, the web ... all can be easily accessed through one device ... and due to the nature of the cloud, this device could theoretically move with you through your Windows Phone or even your Surface tablet.
The Microsoft Channel ... coming soon to a TV near you.

You need a hackathon

I love the concept of hackathons

Mostly because the focus is on shipping.

I have never personally had the pleasure of being involved with a hackathon, but that got me thinking ... why can't I host my own ... for myself?

Here are the ingredients you will need to create your own hackathon:

Make sure you have plenty of time to hack.

Make sure you have plenty of time to hack.

  • Ideas - collected and stored over time, you can pick a particular idea and focus the hackathon entirely on that or perhaps try tackle a few ideas. 
  • Food - don't hold out, this is your fuel. Collect your favourite snackies and get ready to devour them all. When your resources are depleted, your brain seeks sugar. It's science my friend. 
  • Time - pick a day ... or night. Commit to it. Plan it in advance so that you can mentally prepare for it.
  • Place - you need to be in a space where you can really focus. For many hackers, this is their workplace, for others it is a room in their house, for you it may be elsewhere. It needs to be a place where you can spend a significant amount of time without people looking at your awkwardly or trying to get you to leave because you haven't bought anything in six hours. 
  • Tools - Computer, pen, paper, raw materials, lego ... depends on what you're project is.

Although you could go at it alone, you don't have to. Maybe you have been beating around and idea with a friend and you just want to be able to get together and really focus on it. Maybe you and your significant other have been talking about a project to make your home more fun to live in. It's perfectly ok (even encouraged) to have a team to hack with.

The way I see it, there are two very simple goals in a hackathon:

  1. Have fun - or else you won't do it again. You can make sure you have fun by focusing on the idea that gets you the most inspired. 
  2. Ship something - even if it's something far, far less that what you expected, make sure you ship something that you didn't have before. 

You need a hackathon. 

Plan one and make it happen.

I don't need a menu

This is my standard Sunday brunch item:

Breakfast Pizza from Timeless Cafe.

Breakfast Pizza from Timeless Cafe.

For the past four or five Sundays, my wife and I have been going to this wonderful cafe for brunch. It has become a lovely little routine we follow. This past Sunday, I went alone because my wife is away making the world a better place.

When I arrived, I was greeted by a new waitress and when she presented me with a menu ... I simply said, "I don't need a menu ... " Then I proceeded to give her my usual order.

Call me a regular, a loyal customer, a fan, the mayor on Foursquare ... any label you wish really, but you get the idea. I know this place and I love this place. Now let's take me and this specific restaurant out of the equation and look at the concept of someone who walks into a restaurant/cafe/bar and does not ask for a menu.

Here are some facts about this person:

  1. He or she has built this act into part of routine that he or she wakes up and looks forward to that day.
  2. To this person, the place (restaurant/cafe/bar) is more than an establishment, it's a place of rest. A place of peace. A place where you know exactly what you're going to get and you know you will like it, so it allows you to mentally relax and think of some other things. Entering this place is similar to the feeling of coming home after a long trip away.
  3. If asked, this person can talk someone's ear off about this place and can easily convince a group of people to go there.
  4. This person's love for this place will be exponentially enhanced if the employees of this establishment get to know this person on a first-name basis.
  5. If this person ever brings someone with him or her to this place, that new person should be treated with the same if not even greater admiration because this new person has entered a guarded sanctuary and must fall equally in love with it.

Knowing these facts, what can a restaurant/cafe/bar do to keep this relationship strong or attempt to make it even stronger? Here are some ideas, feel free to add your own in the comments:

  1. Get to know the person, ask them for a story, know something that you can ask them about each time you see them.
  2. Make sure that everyone on your staff knows who this person is and what they usually order. This should be easy because they probably come in at the same time on the same day.
  3. Treat them occasionally, give them something for free.
  4. Ask them to try something new that you think they may like. Take their feedback seriously.
  5. Ask them about how you could improve one thing you're doing.
  6. If they bring a friend (or more than one), definitely offer something on the house. You must impress the friends.

Relationship building is everything in the service industry (well, in every industry really), if you run a service business that offers a menu and you have a customer that doesn't ask for one ... it basically means this customer is offering you his or her hand in marriage ...

Take it.

Personification

I have always been drawn to brands that act human

Whether it be through design, writing or any other element, acting human is a very easy way for brands to connect with consumers; however, it is sometimes not easy for an inanimate object to act human.

For a while, I've wanted a new pair of headphones. The other day, I decided to start researching some potential options. After some time, I stumbled upon a brand called Urbanears. I was immediately drawn to their simplicity and was able to connect with them on a level that was very different to other headphone brands.

I ended up purchasing a pair of Urbanears and upon opening up the box, I realized why I was so drawn to this brand ...

This is the first page. The brochure is speaking to me.

This is the first page. The brochure is speaking to me.

A family of headphones sitting down to dinner.

A family of headphones sitting down to dinner.

A couple of headphones playing cards.

A couple of headphones playing cards.

Thank you for buying me, Shum.

Thank you for buying me, Shum.

You're welcome Urbanears.

Humans connect most easily with other humans.

How can you make your brand more human?