Monday, November 8, 2010

How I plan to sell my client on using YouTube

This post was originally created as class assignment #7 for MSU's New Media Driver's License course, and posted to the course website on November 8, 2010.

I have a client that belongs on YouTube. To get them to take the plunge into online video, I need to make a compelling marketing case for investing their time, energy and (a small amount of) money to put their brand and their product line “in motion”. Here, I’ll outline the main points I plan to make to convince them to add online video to their marketing mix (in the form of answering the questions I anticipate they’ll ask).

The client:
A distributor of hand crafted wines (mostly from California), serving a defined region of the northeastern U.S. They sell their products to liquor retailers, restaurants and bars.

Note: At their request, I’ve left my client’s name and location out for the purposes of this discussion.

Their marketing challenges:
  • Liquor laws in the state where they operate are strict, limiting the marketing levers they can use to impact their business. They cannot sell direct to consumers. They cannot discount their products. They cannot use promotions on popular products to encourage trial of new or lesser-known labels.
  • Customers (bars, restaurants and liquor stores) are reluctant to stock or serve wines they are unfamiliar with, as well as wines with a higher per glass or per bottle cost to serve.
  • Currently, company sales representatives call on individual customers, opening bottles to pour samples (bottles which cannot be given to the customer for resale, but must be disposed of), which is an expensive tactic for building brand awareness and encouraging trial.
  • By law my client cannot sell direct to consumers. Currently, they must rely on the marketing efforts and recommendations of their retail customers (bars, restaurants and liquor sellers) to position and promote their products to wine drinkers. Most of their customers do little or no ongoing promotion of their brands.
  • Wine drinkers are reluctant to try unfamiliar labels without credible recommendations.
  • When purchasing a bottle of wine at retail, wine drinkers often rely on visual recollection of a wine’s label.
  • Most of the 36 wineries my client represents have websites. Only 3 feature video on their sites, but several brands were found in a YouTube search, indicating that there is content out there to make use of and build upon.

How can video help sell wine?
Marketing wine is all about storytelling. Wine enthusiasts are often as excited about the story behind a wine as they are about the taste of the wine itself. Telling a wine’s (or winemaker’s) story in a memorable way is a key step in elevating a specific wine on a wine lover’s must-try list. (It’s much the same challenge Valentina Trevino faced and met with her video art blog .

As the “middlemen” in the process, my clients’ challenge is to get the story of their wines out – both to retailers, to encourage them to stock/serve the wine, and to end consumers, to get them talking about – and asking for – the wine in stores and bars.

Here’s a great example of how a quick biographical video of a winemaker (a brand my client carries) helps position his brand and improve name recognition:

Scott Harvey Wines

Here’s another colorful example of how a brand my clients sell tells their wine’s story by connecting it with music:


Can my clients create great video content like this?
Yes!! After reviewing online video content in the wine category, I’m convinced that my clients can improve on much of what’s out there, while also leveraging some of the strong content some of their brands are currently creating (like the examples above).
My client company’s owners are creative, charismatic and passionate about the brands they sell. In addition to being able to produce in-house content about their wines, they also regularly visit the vineyards they represent, and conduct local tastings in their area, creating additional opportunities to capture video for use in marketing.

Initially, I would recommend that they create a template for producing simple yet compelling descriptive videos about each wine they sell. As an example, here’s how one of the brands they represent does this with virtually no creativity. With very little effort or expense, my clients can improve significantly on this approach:

Crane Brothers Brodacious

Once this initial step has been taken, I would recommend that my clients expand on that content by developing a video blog (to live on both YouTube and on their site) that captures their own personality, reviews and discusses the wines they carry, and provides additional lifestyle content (restaurant reviews, area events, etc.) relevant to the region.

Some inspiration for this: Gary Vaynerchuk:
Wine “superstar” Gary Vaynerchuk has proven that there is an audience of wine enthusiasts who will tune in for entertaining content. His video blog has grown from a very crude self-produced show to a multi-faceted business that extends well beyond reviewing wine. All because of he let his personality and passion shine through on video

Gary V

Once they have a plan for content, can they develop an online video strategy?
Again, YES!! Components of the strategy would include (but not be limited to):
  • Creating an on-site video blog and promoting the site to their region (reaching both their customers and end users/wine enthusiasts) via keywords, Google AdWords, etc.
  • Creating their own video channel on YouTube, and posting to Facebook and tweeting out each time a new video is added (they have a Facebook fan page, and efforts are currently underway to encourage their customers to follow them on Twitter)
  • Budget permitting, develop a Promoted Video campaign on YouTube. This would be an appropriate tool for them to use:
  • It’s as easy as Google AdWords to plan and place a buy.
  • It’s targetable – since their trading area is clearly defined as one portion of one state, this is essential
  • It’s affordable, since you only pay when your video is viewed
  • It has “legs” beyond the media buy, since viewers can comment, rate and share videos. This could prove highly beneficial for generating the “word of mouth” recommendations so critical to a wine’s success.
  • It’s measurable – YouTube offers analytics (YouTube Insight) similar to Google which can help shape future video content and distribution.

Beyond YouTube, are there other tools my clients should use?
No other video posting site comes close to YouTube in traffic, or features, or ease of use. Using a recent review of video sharing websites , I explored other sites and compared them with YouTube. I would recommend getting a YouTube-focused strategy up and running first, before exploring others.

That said, I’d probably make one exception: vimeo. Vimeo positions their site as “a respectful community of creative people who are passionate about sharing the videos they make.” Since wine enthusiasts may share other erudite pursuits (independent films, etc.), vimeo’s more upscale, less cluttered environment might be worth trying and evaluating. They also offer a number of free services, including some cool widgets to enhance the client’s website and blog, and the ability to organize groups of viewers with similar interests. For example, they currently offer 37 groups focused on wine; a group specific to my client’s region could be added. An example of wine-related content on vimeo can be found here.

I would also recommend that as they create their basic product video library (giving viewers a simple review of the wine and a good clear look at the label), those posts, along with still photos conveying the same info, be posted on Flickr.

I’m looking forward to working with this company in the days ahead to help them get their video marketing strategy online. They have great products with great stories, and a passionate audience with which to connect online. Video will allow them to use sight, sound and motion to connect with both their customers and their customers’ customers to raise awareness of their brands in a very crowded marketplace.

photo credits:  Palermo Wine Splash by ciccioetneo; Corks by Josep Ma Rosell

Monday, November 1, 2010

Rough, Tough Social Media Monitoring: Carhartt

This post was originally created as class assignment #1 for MSU's New Media Driver's License course, and posted to the course website on September 27, 2010.
This post was originally created as class assignment #6 for MSU's New Media Driver's License course, and posted to the course website on November 1, 2010.
The first step in creating a “listening strategy” FOR Carhartt is to listen TO Carhartt. The descriptions they share on their official website (which they go to lengths to brand as “official”) about their company, product line, distribution and target audience provide a quick sketch of the brand’s marketing footprint. That insight will help guide the creation of a social media strategy for them, and will provide a benchmark for determining how what others say about the brand compares with what the Company is saying.

Company: Carhartt is a Dearborn, Michigan-based clothing manufacturer. “For 120 years, Carhartt has created and manufactured premium work clothing known for exceptional durability, comfort, quality of construction, and fit that you can feel in the fabrics and see in the performance.”

Products: “Expanding the line from the traditional outerwear pieces, Carhartt now offers a complete product line for warm and cold weather alike that includes jeans and work pants, shirts, sweats, shorts, tee's and accessories. A variety of features such as premium fabrics, rugged construction, and comfortable fit are just some of the hallmarks of Carhartt workwear that fit our customer's needs in the toughest conditions.”

Distribution: Carhartt men’s, women’s and children’s clothing is sold primarily via a network of independent retailers and chains, as well as direct online and via a number of online retail partners.

Target: Carhartt summarizes their target market as follows: “As a choice brand of those who work and play outdoors, Carhartt is proud to serve a variety of workers in many industries including construction and manufacturing along with farmers, ranchers and outdoor enthusiasts.”

Carhartt’s current social media profile:
Carhartt participates in the social media conversation. Their website includes several new media features, including a number of blogs (currently 7, including product, and customer service, and topical), an online promotions (the October promotion, “Built to Outperform Sweepstakes” is assumed to be representative example of their ongoing activity), and they also engage via Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube.

Scope of Social Media Monitoring Strategy:
For the purposes of this analysis, we will assume that Carhartt has a current strategy and system for capturing and analyzing the conversation that happens on their own website and social media channels. Test monitoring indicates that Carhartt representatives promptly respond to questions, comments and complaints left on their site and communicated directly to the company through social media. The monitoring strategy outlined here will expand on that, helping Carhartt monitor what’s being said outside of their “official” channels.

Who and what to monitor:
Carhartt can mine a tremendous amount of actionable information by tuning in to the social media conversation. The following categories are recommended for inclusion in their ongoing monitoring strategy:
Consumer reactions to products, including
  • Core target: Feedback on Carhartt’s own product performance claims (durability, warmth, etc) from users in their defined target (construction workers, farmers, outdoor enthusiasts, etc.) will help Carhartt gauge whether they’re putting the right stuff in the market, and whether it’s performing as promised. Test monitoring confirms that this audience is not shy about providing feedback
  • The “Anti-Target”: Perhaps the most entertaining aspect of monitoring Carhartt in social media is listening to Carhartt wearers the company is NOT expressly targeting: This group wears Carhartt for an “urban cache” they associate with the brand. Test monitoring indicates that this target is young, urban, and draws trend inspiration from street sports such as skateboarding, snowboarding, BMX bike racing, etc., as well as hip-hop and rap music. Even if Carhartt chooses never to court this buyer directly in the U.S., these consumers reflect the critical youth voice in fashion and culture, and can greatly expand overall market awareness of the Carhartt brand (or, if they chose to, could brand Carhartt as a loser).
  • International – a quick look at their own link to Carhartt Europe and comments monitored both here and abroad indicate that outside of the U.S., this “Anti-Target” is a primary target.
  • Consumer and Influencer reactions to advertising and promotions – Carhartt recently launched a new tv campaign and cross-media promotion, which generated significant response from both consumers and the media. Interpreting this feedback will help them determine whether and how to modify the campaign going forward.
  • Price/discounting/promotional information – which promotional levers are getting people’s attention (since Carhartt retailers appear to have significant latitude in how they price and promote, it would seem that the company could learn a lot by listening to retailers are going to market). For example, in test monitoring, a promotion through Cabela’s for a t-shirt selling for under $5 generated significant conversation.
  • Competitive information – At the very least, Carhartt should be monitoring what’s being said about core competitors like Dickies, Columbia, and Patagonia. Test monitoring indicated that consumers are choosing between these brands, and looking for recommendations from others.
  • Sentiment: In each of the above categories, a mechanism must be in place for evaluating whether mentions are positive, negative, or neutral; all impact brand awareness and resonance. Some monitoring tools allow the user to evaluate and manually assign sentiment, while others provide an automated assessment. Carhartt should be cautioned that automated assessments of sentiment are not perfect (it’s difficult for a computer to determine whether someone is happy or angry).

Keywords to monitor:
Primary keywords to track would include:
  • Carhartt
  • Work clothes, work clothing
  • Competivie brand names, including Dickies (Williamson Dickie), Patagonia, Columbia
  • Urban fashion brands (as determined by an expert), such as Stussy
  • Keywords specific to promotions, such as “Built to Outperform”
  • At least initially, also consider tracking “Carhart” to compensate for possible misspellings

Tools for Monitoring
Since this strategy calls on Carhartt to monitor numerous categories of information, a comprehensive tool or set of tools with broad functionality is called for, specifically:
  • Multiple social media platforms: Simply monitoring tweets will not provide adequate; blogposts, news mentions, and shopping sites must be monitored as well. And since Carhartt has evolved into a “lifestyle” brand (for both their primary and “anti” targets), sentiments shared on Facebook pages are also relevant to understanding and monitoring brand image and trends.
  • Team monitoring capability – the strategy must include a plan to divide listening responsibilities (and corresponding analysis and response duties) among experts within the company, and the monitoring tools must have this capability. If feasible, individuals currently responsible for monitoring Carhartt’s own channels should expand their monitoring to include the external conversation.Since Carhartt is currently monitoring and responding to comments on their own sites.
  • Reporting and Analytics – the effort is only worthwhile if actionable information is not only captured, but aggregated and analyzed. Ultimately, whichever monitoring tool or tools Carhartt chooses must be able feed into a comprehensive dashboard that all users can access (even though it is recommended that one administrator have oversight, working with each “listener” to summarize information.

I’m reluctant to recommend specific tools based on the information available to “free test drive” users like me. But among the monitoring tools offered for consideration, I would recommend that Carhartt explore HootSuite Pro (a paid upgrade):
  • It monitors the major social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Fan Pages, LinkedIn, PingFM, WordPress, MySpace, Foursquare)
  • It can accommodate multiple users
  • It provides advanced reporting and analytics (even the ability to be combined with Google Analytics).

Incorporating Google Alerts into the listening mix would round out the strategy, providing additional monitoring of blog and news mentions.

(Carhartt may also wish to investigate having a more customizable monitoring system. A good place to start the search might be a social media monitoring resource wiki like this one.

Initial Findings from Test Monitoring:
The tool I used to conduct test monitoring was SocialMention, a free monitor that combined much, but not all, of the functionality recommended in the strategy. (It lacks some features like the ability to conduct and save multiple searches simultaneously, although it does provide for exportable CSV data).

A real-time monitoring of the keyword Carhartt on SocialMention illustrates just how much social media monitoring could reveal about Carhartt’s brand image:
  • Carhartt is being talked about, and overall sentiment is neutral-to-positive
  • Carhartt’s new TV campaign is being talked about (and in general, the reaction is positive)
  • Facebook mentions confirm that Carhartt is a go-to brand when the weather turns cold
  • Consumers are debating between Carhartt and Patagonia for cold-weather dressing – a competitive brand to watch
  • Examples of the “Anti-target” from Twitter and YouTube illustrate that a younger, edgier audience sees the brand as cool on its own, and by association with other lifestyle brands: Twitter: “Drooling over this setup…The Kona Bicycle Co, Jake the Snake, bike rack, Carhartt threads, and Smith optics”

Most amusing thing heard on Facebook, from Alaska news source the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman:
“Today a reporter from an Italian fashion magazine called to ask me for the name of Sarah Palin’s fashion consultant. I wish I’d thought to tell him ‘that’s Carhartt, with two Ts’.”

photo credits:  Label by mrdrei.andrei; Overalls by rasenicks