Digital Is Not A Niche

Digital is not a niche. As a role, as a strategy, as part of an organization. And, we need to stop thinking about it as such.

When I started my career early on, digital was more of a speciality. But with the shift in consumer behavior, those days of it living in a silo and hoping to be successful are long gone.

Think about it. The phone is the first thing consumers reach for in the morning, and it’s the last thing they put down at night. It’s the vehicle to reach your consumer, no matter the target.

But for all the talk about being digital first, we still have a long way to go. Brands need to stop treating it as a silo. We don’t need separate digital teams– we need digital teams embedded within the larger strategy. We need marketing leaders who are truly obsessed with consumer behavior online. And, are driving 360 marketing plans with digital top of mind.

Digital *is* the grounding force in a marketing strategy today. No, it doesn’t reflect all marketing, but everything else is now a specialty.

5 Strong Postseason Plays From MLB

The MLB postseason is in full swing with all the drama, home runs and big plays you would hope for. To capitalize on the momentum of the postseason, MLB has come out in full force with strong content and digital initiatives. From stellar graphics to unique media partnerships, it’s worth taking note of their work. Below are five strong plays from MLB so far in this postseason.

 

1- Sharp look & feel.

It makes sense to approach the postseason / playoffs as a mini campaign. It gives creative a refresh, makes the moment feel bigger and helps rally fans around the moment. It’s a big stage, so elevate it.

As part of their postseason coverage, MLB rolled out a visual identity that is both retro and modern. Not only is the look sharp, but they have varied the content while still keeping things consistent. The result is an engaging and fresh look that stops fans in their feed – and immediately screams MLB.

The key takeaway is to create a look and feel that is own-able, but have enough elements where each piece of content still feels unique.

 

2- Graphics that engage.

Part of social is bringing your fans into the conversation. You don’t have to beg for retweets or comments to get fans to engage. Instead, think about how you can leverage design and creative to prompt fans to take action. MLB has created “who ya got” graphics that are a great example of this.

The one you’ve been waiting for … Who ya got in #NLDS Game 4: @Nationals or @Cubs?

A post shared by MLB ⚾ (@mlb) on

Decision time. Who ya got: @redsox or @astrosbaseball? #ALDS Game 1 starts NOW on @mlbnetwork.

A post shared by MLB ⚾ (@mlb) on

 

3- Unique media partnership.

The MLB has partnered with Bleacher Report for a content series called #TallTales. It’s a fantastic content series debunking certain MLB myths and legends. While they have only done one this postseason, I expect more to roll out.

There are a two big reasons I like this. First, working with an external partner can help push creative thinking and bring new ideas to the table. Second, it helps bring in a new audience. One can assume that the partnership with Bleacher Report is to attract a younger audience to MLB – and it’s a smart partner, for sure.

 

4- Video, created for social.

The traditional rules of video are out the window. Instead, the focus is on optimizing for mobile and capturing attention quickly (you have less than three seconds). The exact delivery, of course, is up to interpretation and some a/b test.

MLB has done a good job of creating video with social in mind. They prove that video content does not have to be elaborate to stand out. The majority of their videos are short and rely on text overlay – not sound – to get the message across. A few examples below:

What’s the #postseason got in store for this Hollywood story?

A post shared by MLB ⚾ (@mlb) on

The @yankees laugh at “rebuilding” years. #WildCard

A post shared by MLB ⚾ (@mlb) on

 

5- Strong sponsorship play.

MLB has partnered with Gatorade for a postseason content series called “Path to the Splash”. The video content showcases each team’s path to get to this point. The content is interesting and has a natural tie to the sponsor. Wins all the way around.

 
This post scratches the surface of the good work being done in the postseason, from both the league and teams. What has stood out to you so far?

When Sports Are Bigger Than The Scores

We focus on the scores, wins and losses a lot in this industry. But when you step back, sports are bigger than sports. The game has the power to transcend entertainment into something much larger. This past weekend in the NFL was proof of that.

Amid the NFL battle with President Trump, there were two brand pushes that stood out. First, the NFL decided to push out its Super Bowl commercial about unity again. The lines in the spot are so powerful:

“Inside these lines, we don’t have to come from the same place to help each other reach the same destination. Inside these lines, we may have our differences, but recognize there’s more that unites us.

Second, the Miami Dolphins pushed out this beautiful and simple piece:

These decisions and moves for brands, teams and leagues aren’t always easy. The line for brands is blurring. Today, many consumers expect brands to embrace a position and set of values. But of course, it’s a slippery slope.

When thinking about taking a stance on anything beyond the game, it’s important to remember the following things:

 

Define your brand values.

For any brand to take a stance, they must know their brand values first. What as an organization do you stand for? Before a brand, team or league takes any position, ensure the values are defined.

 

Look internally first.

Writing down brand values on a piece of paper doesn’t mean the organization is actually living by them. It’s important to take a hard look in the mirror before taking a public stance on anything. Is the brand walking the walk? Brands must practice what they preach. Period.

 

Be consistent.

Values aren’t something a person is wishy washy on. If you believe in something, you stand by it. The same is true for a brand that wants to take a stance. If you plan to take a position, you have to stick to it. If you try and play every crowd consumers will see right through it and you will alienate everyone.

 

Less is often more.

There’s something about simplicity that is powerful. When working through messaging, remember less is often more. Don’t get cute. Don’t overdo it. Keep it simple. The Dolphins post is a perfect example of that.

 

Know the pulse.

The world changes and views evolve. This doesn’t mean that we completely abandon are values, but it does mean we need to have a pulse on what’s going on in the world. There’s nothing worse than a tone deaf brand. Awareness of the current climate is key. It will go a long way to ensure you shape a message the pushes things forward instead of backfire.

This weekend was a small example of the impact sports plays in the world. It’s more than entertainment. It has the ability to inspire, move and mobilize people. Consumers look for brands to take a stance– but only if it’s authentic. When tapping into something more than the scores, remember that it’s important to actually know and live by your brand values.

Breathe, Pause, Think

If you work in social and digital, this a reminder of how important it is to put your brand hat on. To take a deep breath, pause and think. It’s not only okay, it’s needed.

Social media can turn into the wild, wild west for a brand if not careful. A place where gimmicks are awarded and eyeballs viewed as successful. It’s a place where brands can lose their soul if the right thought is not given.

One of the challenges this industry faces is the pressure to be on, all the time. This pressure means we are constantly doing and not thinking. We push and pray without understanding why. In essence, social media becomes a playground for tactics. And then, everything turns into a sea of sameness.

But this pressure, it’s created by us. And we need to shake it off. Consumers are not asking us to post and push all the time. The world will continue if you stop and take a couple days for strategic planning. Consumers won’t lose their brand affinity if you don’t tweet for one day.

Here’s the thing. Social media is about the now, but it’s also about the brand. And brands don’t come to life without a vision, purpose and unique point-of-view. It’s critical to spend time thinking about what social media means for the brand at a higher level. The greater danger is not in pausing to plan. It’s in never planning and losing sight of you brand.

Good work isn’t easy. In fact, it’s tedious. And thinking about a brand strategy and how digital and social plays a role is no doubt an undertaking. But it’s the work that matters in making sure social plays the right role in an org.

So here’s my advice. Give yourself permission to step away from the tactics. Immerse yourself in the brand strategy. Identify focus. Create a plan. Then, once you’ve done that, focus on the tactics and execute well.

College Football & Video, Video, Video

One thing was clear if you scrolled through Twitter during the first weekend of college football. Video is now the crown jewel of content. Yes, it was everywhere.

There are a lot of reasons why teams and brands are investing more in video. The average user spends over 16 minutes watching online video ads every month. And, social video generates 1200% more shares than text and images combine (Brightcove). When done right, video has the ability to captivate an audience more than any other medium right now.

But, the key is that video content has to be strong. To get people to actually stop and watch within their feeds take something special. Below are a few things to keep in mind:

 

1- The opening matters.

The first three seconds of any video are critical to pulling people in. You don’t get the luxury of getting to the heart of the matter 10 seconds. Fans will already be long gone if you haven’t pulled them in. Make sure your first few frames capture attention, hearts and mind or all the labor of love will be fruitless.

 

2- Evoke emotion.

What draws people into content is emotion, of all kinds. When people watch and share videos, it’s because something about the video resonated with them. This article in FastCo said it best:

Popular brands had multifaceted personalities. They could make you laugh, or cheer, or lean forward and take notes. They’d stopped hammering away at a share of mind, and were expanding to achieve a share of emotion.

When you think about video content, ask what type of emotion you want to evoke. Focus on delivering a piece that achieves that share of emotion.

 

3- Storytelling comes in all lengths.

Six-second ads are all the rage these days. Of course there is value in catering to short attention spans, but it’s more about eliciting AND sustaining emotion that matters. Don’t be afraid to produce a longer video if the quality is there. The key is to test different lengths, mix it up and make sure the content is as compelling as can be.

 

4- Quality over quantity.

Investing in video is a commitment. It takes time and resources, so they key is to focus on quality over quantity. I would take strong photography and graphics offer lackluster video any day because a mediocre video isn’t going to get any traction. Don’t feel the pressure to have every piece of content be video. Instead, make sure your content strategy includes a strong mix of video, photos and graphics.

 

5- Think about the platform.

Different video formats, from live to vertical, work better on different platforms. As your approach content planning, think about how to diversity the type of content and a/b test on what works best.

Now, let’s get to the fun stuff. Below are some standout video creations from the first weekend of college football. This list spans from brand storytelling to shorter clicks and live video. Hopefully you’ll find some inspiration in it:

 

Michigan

This video is rooted in the history, the brand and the emotion of Michigan. It’s beautifully produced and a great example of a longer video that works. Turn up the video on this one because the script is especially strong.

 

Clemson- First-Hand POV

Every year Clemson delivers on elevating their content. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, they offer a completely fresh take on creative. This video puts fans in a player’s shoes, offering a first-hand perspective the work it takes to get to game day.

 

Iowa

It doesn’t take an Iowa fan to appreciate the emotion that’s brought to life in this video. Like the Michigan video, this isn’t a hype reel. It’s a video rooted in the Hawkeye’s brand, history and nostalgia and it will give you goosebumps.

Another thing worth noting is that Iowa leveraged former players to help share the video. A smart distribution play:

 

Auburn

Auburn’s video have taking on a unique style this season. The perspective and editing alone is enough to capture attention.
The first video is great example of tapping into something other than a highlight reel. It’s not a long emotional story. It doesn’t show big hits. In fact, it doesn’t show any on-the-field footage at all. This video works because of the unique approach to production. The editing and video style what make it stand out—and the engagement numbers show it.

The second video is a great example of how you can make something as simple as sights and sounds compelling. Again, it goes back to the perspective and editing in this video.

 

South Carolina

The Gamecocks had several video highlights. From a snackable video that offers a firsthand perspective to a more emotional hype video, the Gamecocks show us what it means to produce a variety of video content that is quality.

 

 

 

Oregon

This video is completely different than anything else covered. It’s illustrative, fun and has a bit of an Oregon vintage feel. Not everything has to be overly emotional or hard hitting – don’t be afraid to focus on something that’s different and fun.

 

Oklahoma

The Sooners produced a live pre-game show that was over three hours long. They did a fantastic job of mixing in studio coverage with sights and sounds from game day. Fans from all across the country were able to get amazing access and information, for free, all from their phone. This is the future of programming and something all teams and leagues should be thinking about:

 
 
What videos stood out to you the first weekend of college football? Share your thoughts below.