When it comes to advertising, it may seem there's nothing new under the sun, but 2013 saw several advertising techniques refined and others even hit the pinnacle of success.
Let’s take a look back at the eight tactics that were most effective over the past year.
1. The meme. Perhaps the single most important advertising product of the year, memes—ideas or behaviors that spread from person to person—work best when they’re natural and easily repeatable or reproducible. My favorite of the year is the CVS receipt. Ridiculously long cash register receipts (like 6 feet or more) from CVS stores inspired hilarious and creative examples uses. CVS garnered fantastic publicity from receipts that were used to circle cars, start bonfires and measure sofas. If you’re fortunate to have a product that becomes a meme, ride the wave. Support your customers’ creativity, and encourage them to share their pics.
2. Humor. Although advertisers have long used humor to attract attention, the apex may well have been achieved this year. The Super Bowl is always a good kickoff (pardon the pun) for the year’s blockbuster commercials, and 2013 saw Doritos-eating, tutu-wearing dads; an epic Oreo battle in a library setting, complete with the whispered argument over whether the cookie or the cream is better; and Taco Bell-devouring escapees from a retirement home. Epic, unexpected laughs were one of the hallmarks of ads seen this year.
3. Split and multivariate testing. Given the preponderance of online advertising, it has never been easier to run multiple versions of ads and track the success of each version. The analytical tools have gotten simultaneously more effective and easier to use; Google even offers free tools for split testing. If you’re not doing it, you should be.
4. Tele events and webinars. Online resources are increasingly valuable in terms of education and skill acquisition, and innovative sites have begun offering a staggering number and breadth of courses, workshops and training of all sorts … completely free. The trick here is that sites like creativeLIVE let users stream the live courses completely free, while replays and certification incur costs. Harvard and MIT even offer free coursework so consumers can access more training and education than ever before. The benefits—both for users and for the companies that offer the free materials—are enormous. Consumers can access top-notch information, and the companies make money through fee-based certification or by selling recordings of the live classes for use at a more convenient time.
5. Re-marketing. This tool is incredibly powerful. For instance, say you’re looking at a jacket on R.E.I.’s website. You leave the site, but your browser has a cookie that displays R.E.I. ads on subsequent sites that you visit. The psychological effect of frequency—seeing a name over and over—is well-established, and this re-marketing—keeping the purchase that you may be contemplating right in front of you—has been proven to result in higher sales. Think it’s a coincidence that the ads you see online are frequently for brands you know and love? Think again. It’s a carefully constructed campaign to get more of your business, and it works.
6. Viral videos. Commercials used to just appear on television and give TV viewers a chance to get a snack, but with the changing habits of media consumption, clever ads can turn viral if enough consumers watch and share them online. Companies like Dollar Shave Club have actually turned their original ads into entertainment. Who would have guessed that people would be encouraging their friends to watch commercials? Products like PooPourri elevate the ad to an art form.
7. Twitter. Flash back to the 2013 Super Bowl for a minute. The best example of how responsive Twitter can be for relevant and timely advertising occurred when the lights at the Superdome went out unexpectedly. Oreo had assembled a 15-person team just waiting to respond in real time to events as they occurred. In no time at all, they created an ad with the tagline “You can still dunk in the dark.” That ad was retweeted tens of thousands of times and made countless clever impressions. This quick-thinking example shows us the future of advertising.
8. Crowdfunding. Here's another trend that’s not going away anytime soon. The power of offering innovative products and sharing the costs among enthusiastic supporters is limitless. My fave example this year is The Peachy Printer—the very first $100 3D printer and scanner. The relatively modest Kickstarter goal of $50,000 CAD was blown away by the more than $650,000 CAD that was raised in this campaign. Consumers crave innovation, and getting in on the ground floor makes them feel like part of the team—they’re far more likely to be ardent supporters and evangelists for products they help get off the ground.
Looking back—in addition to being entertaining—also gives us a head start on 2014. Think fast, relevant and clever as you contemplate your advertising plans for the new year, and you may just get a jump on your competition.
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