If you’re active on social media these days, you know there’s no shortage of advertisements engineered to capture attention and win loyalty. In fact, every four to six times users “swipe up” to scroll through their Instagram feed, they will encounter an advertisement specifically tailored to their demographic.
Surprised? Don’t be… In his book The Attention Merchants, author Tim Wu talks about today’s incredible “information economy” where access to information is virtually unlimited. Our attention has become the ultimate commodity because, in nearly every moment of our waking lives, we are consumed with a barrage of efforts to harvest it.
Well, that explains why there’s a tremendous amount of “noise” in the social sphere! With this, even the smartest and most creative messages can easily get passed over in a scrolling binge. Quite frankly, that’s a lot for a brand to worry about, especially those smaller or startup brands who have limited advertising budgets.
So how does a brand manage to halt the oft-mindless social media thumb-scroll? We, from the agency side, actually spend a considerable amount of time brainstorming how to get consumers to stop and pay attention to a message. If we do our job correctly, these messages will garner clicks. It should also be noted that this can be done without a grand-scale social media budget!
Regardless of a client’s size, location, or payroll, one trick to maximize their digital presence is to leverage emerging technology. While other agencies are still trying to get someone in IT to schedule tweets, we’ve already rolled up our sleeves and explored those rising “emergent” technologies on the cusp of changing how we communicate. With that, the brands we work with are among the first to utilize emergent technologies to spread their message.
Emergent Technologies Give Small Brands Exponential Reach
Last summer, Facebook gave users the opportunity to upload 360° video to their profiles without the need for 3rd party apps, which did much to increase the world’s exposure to the emerging “Virtual Reality” technologies within the context of social media. St Giles Hotels, a Piranha client with 9 properties in six major cities worldwide, sought to expand its reach with a very limited budget. By combining VR and social media, the St Giles tagline “Be Central” incorporated an effective location-based campaign that utilizes the hashtag #StGiles360. The idea was to capitalize on the popularity of the cities where St Giles properties are located: London, New York, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Manila, and Sydney, and promote not only the hotel properties, but tourist attractions in the cities themselves, through 360° VR videos generated by St Giles guests. With a little help from Piranha’s content team and some handpicked influencers, St Giles was able to turn user-generated content from their hotel guests into an attention-grabbing campaign that not only allows users to see some the world’s most beautiful sights in immersive 360° VR video, but does so while bringing awareness to the brand. This proved to be a major win for St Giles, who earned over 8 million views on social channels and a PR reach of almost 250M. The innovative campaign caught the eye of Adweek, who also stated that advertising with Virtual Reality has become most popular among the travel and tourism industry.
Emergent technology is an incredible tool, but it will never on its own replace the sheer, unadulterated power of creativity. When the two are mastefully combined, there’s potential for a truly memorable and unique ad campaign. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is the uber-creative “Sheepview” project from the Faroe Islands Tourism Board.
What? You’ve never heard of the Faroe Islands?
You’re not alone. The Faroe Islands, located about halfway between Scotland and Iceland, weren’t even mapped by Google’s (seemingly) ubiquitous “Street View” feature because the terrain was too rough to travel. That is, until the Tourism Board found a creative alternative: strap solar-powered 360° cameras to the backs of free roaming sheep!
Though it sounds like a goofy stunt, the idea was stunningly creative. “Sheepview was charming, but it was at heart a marketing bid — and a successful one,” acknowledged Tourism official Levi Hanssen in an interview with the Washington Post. Let’s face it: who wouldn’t like to take 10 minutes away from work to view stunning 360° images taken by adorable sheep traversing a scenic mountainside? Not only did the campaign attract the attention of livestock photography aficionados (or, more likely, people who are easily distracted by videos featuring cute animals) it caught the eye of Google, who finally agreed to send their team to populate Street View maps for the Faroese region. Most importantly, the campaign also did what it set out to do: boost tourism to the once relatively-obscure travel destination. Hotel reservation rates, the key indicator of successful tourism in the country, jumped at least 10 percent after going live, according to Hanssen.
Tips for Navigating Your Journey into Emergent Technologies
Read the tech blogs often to keep up on trends and new tech. TechCrunch and Mashable are great places to start if you don’t already have a few in your feed. If something is buzzing in the news, that buzz will also help lift your campaign.
Keep up to date on your media channels. These developer giants are constantly updating their platforms, which often means the release of new features. If it’s new, it will stand out, even if users initially hate it.
Don’t do it alone. It will be much easier to find a partner in tech than try and do it all yourself. Small tech companies are always looking for collaborators to help their new products see the light of day. Find one to partner with as the tech side of your creativity
Move on this. Like the old adage says, “Strike while the iron is hot.” It’s important to pounce on new trends before they become common and easy-to-ignore. If your planning takes too long, it will be harder to push your your idea into the spotlight.
The Press love to write about new tech and use cases. We see this not only in the major news publications nationwide, but in the blogs we read every day (see tip 1 above). Use the trend to get more exposure in PR for your client and for yourself.
When the pace of change gets this fast, it’s almost impossible to predict what the next “big thing” will be for tech. With AR at our doorstep, and with all of the other rapidly-evolving technological advances churning every day, I can only imagine how many more opportunities will emerge in the near future. My advice to small brands trying to build audience is simple. Don’t play it safe; safe is out there in triplicate. Find an edge, be innovative, and your impressions will skyrocket.