Who Are the Influentials?

25 02 2007

A word of mouth campaign is the most most basic and effective way to spread information. People believe their friends’ suggestions about products or services, particularly when the advice is based on personal experience. But even if the advice comes from someone outside our social circle, there is still something seductive about information passed on without ulterior motives. 

The same is true about the spread of ideas. When people talk about something they heard about or read somewhere, their interest in the idea is communicated along with the idea itself. That package makes the idea much stickier – and much more likely to be passed along to other groups of friends. 

The key, then, to spreading any brand or concept lies in finding ways for people to talk about it to their friends.  But not everyone is equally likely to spread the news. Some people – the influentials – are far more likely to form strong opinions and pass them along to anyone who will listen. Those people, according to Louise Rijk, co-founder and Vice-President of Marketing and Sales at Advanced Media Productions, are the 10% who influence the choices of the other 90%.

“They are sitting at the top of the WOMM pyramid and possess usually three main characteristics: larger social networks than the average person, persuasive power and the drive to disseminate product or service information within their expertise,” she wrote. 

Of those three characteristics, the third may be the most important. Today’s influentials are people who are likely to comment on a blog or forward something they like to their e-mail list. They do not have to be persuasive; they simply need to want to push ideas forward. Anyone looking to spread ideas needs to identify the influentials in their field. But that shouldn’t be too hard. Influentials don’t tend to be the types who work behind the scenes.

The important thing is to keep an eye out for them and then supply with sticky ideas they’ll want to spread.


Writing Persuasive Copy

3 02 2007

Brian Clark, who writes one of my favorite blogs, Copyblogger, offers his Five Immutable Laws of Persuasive Blogging. Since blogs are marketing vehicles, these laws make them more effective.

It might be a stretch to call them “immutable,” but each law would certainly help push the message along. I want to take a deeper look at #2 (Law of Headlines and Hooks) and #5 (Law of the Story).

#2) It’s hard to understate the importance of headlines in communicating a message.  According to advertising guru David Oglivy, “On average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy.  It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 per cent of your money.”

With so much riding on headlines, it may be tempting to load ’em up with as much information as possible. But according to Return Path Solutions, a short headline is far, far more likely to be clicked-through than a long one. In fact, the Return Path research shows that “click-through rates for subject lines with 49 or fewer characters were 75 percent higher than for those with 50 or more.”   

Forty-nine characters is enough to communicate a clear message. The key point here is to keep the headline crisp and clear. It reads better and it even says more than a headline with extra words.  

#5)  There it is again. Stories get through when other types of messages get stopped at the door. Brian Clark says it’s because “they allow you to present a problem, the solution, and the results, all while the connotation of the story allows readers to sell themselves on what you have to offer.”  

Stories also illustrate Malcolm Gladwell main thesis in the The Tipping Point. Gladwell set out three ways epidemics spread: the Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context. Stories have a bit of all three, letting you create the context that’s right for your message, make it deeper and more interesting (and therefore more sticky), and reach the types of people who like to pass along good stories.  

Guerrilla Marketing in Post-9-11 America

2 02 2007

How does a low-budget guerrilla marketing campaign for the Cartoon Network shut down a major US city?  By letting people believe a terrorist attack is underway in Boston as police go on full-scale alert and start shutting down highways and bridges.  

That’s what happened last week in Boston when a stunt campaign involving metal boxes showing a character from “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” were mistaken for improvised explosive devices.

Apparently, the boxes – which resemble old Lite-Brite monitors – had wires and coils, and that’s enough to spread fear these days. After a 14-hour panic, police arrested two people for hanging the boxes in strategic spots across the city. Too bad the show wasn’t more popular with people over 20 or someone might have recognized the image of the cartoon character clearly displayed on front of the boxes. 

Mark Adamoyurka, the Boston resident who first reported the boxes to police, told the Boston Herald that he was simply being careful. “I was pretty sure it wasn’t a bomb. I thought it was a kind of an overreaction from the police, but I guess these days it’s better to be safe than sorry,” Adamoyurka said. “It looked like art, very bright and not threatening. Didn’t occur to me it would be a big deal.”

The event – or at least the effect it had on the city of Boston – drew major press coverage across the US and even on news channels abroad. That’s pretty impressive for a low-cost effort aimed at increasing media exposure for the show. The two “suspects” in the case were reportedly paid $300 each by Interference Inc. – a company that specializes in stunt marketing – to hang 40 boxes in hip and trendy areas around the city.  

The problem was that the marketing team allowed the situation to get way out of hand. The organizers should have come forward as soon as the police panic began. Better yet, they should have informed the police about the campaign before launching it so that people reporting “suspicious boxes” could be put at ease. Instead, one of the guys claims the executive running the show told him to remain quiet about the stunt even as the terror theory was gaining steam as more boxes were being discovered.  When the executive finally moved, he called the Cartoon network, not police, keeping the panic going even longer.

In the end, the Turner Broadcast Network, which owns the Cartoon Network, accepted full responsibility for the incident and promised to compensate the city for all the costs that accrued sending bomb squads to numerous locations. The city is reportedly seeking about $750,000 from the company.

So much for low-cost strategies. But then again, the price is a bargain for the immense amount of publicity the stunt managed to attract. But don’t try to sell the show in Boston. The mayor is already trying to get it banned.