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How To Make Your Brand Stand Out By Not Standing Out (With Case Studies)

In September 2018, MarketEd.Live invited me to speak at their conference to share my knowledge of marketing strategies. I spoke about “advertainment,” and how, as a brand, working with people from the very target demographic you are trying to reach out to can get you in front. In this article, I’ll expand on some of my talking points from the event, so that you can avoid making the same mistakes that most brands make.


I started the panel talking about Fanbytes, showing snippets from Forbes and The Evening Standard where we’ve been featured, because my content team had told me that social proof gives you credibility and makes people take you seriously. You’d think that I would consider that to be my crowning achievement, but there was something else that had given me more satisfaction than that: graduating uni two months prior to my MarketEd.Live talk. I was thrilled that the audience responded to that with applause and cheer. Because, I believe that in this world of entrepreneurship, especially young entrepreneurship, it is often you hear about this idea of the dropout entrepreneur. Like, “He dropped out and started a business! Oh my God!”, and then everybody thinks that in order to actually start a successful business, you have to drop out, when in reality, it’s more a matter of you can be a dropout and still achieve success, rather than you need to drop out to achieve success, as if education is an obstacle in your career and not a set of knowledge and skills that can make you look at your business from a different perspective. For me, the dropout entrepreneur is just an archaic notion.


Brands basically stand in one of two camps: 1. They create content which is fairly amateurish because they don't have the creative capabilities or the understanding of a younger audience. 2. They create re-purposed content. So basically, someone taking something from Facebook ads or TV and just trying to shove it into Snapchat and just assuming, "Hey, this would actually work.” On the second front is this idea of distribution. If you’re not familiar with the ad distribution on Snapchat or even on Instagram Stories, basically what happens is that ads randomly show up between people's stories. Even the other day someone from our own Fanbytes team was watching a makeup influencer and about to watch another one, when suddenly, a picture of Jeremy Clarkson's face just showed up, definitely disrupting their consumption experience. More than 60 percent of Snapchat users skip the ads on the platform, which is clearly a sign that brands, more than enriching the consumer experience, are actually providing to be a distraction.


There needs to be an emphasis put on this idea that young people resonate with content creation done by young people, which then gets distributed through other young people. This is called The Sandwich Ad Format. How that works is, basically, an influencer introduces an ad, which is programmatically inserted. The influencer reintroduces the ad, followed by a swipe up leading to the campaign destination. AdWeek had an article featured about this very idea of ads created by an 18-year-old, distributed by an 18-year-old, and then seen by an 18-year old. At Fanbytes, we’ve been fortunate that in our 2+ years of existence, hundreds of brands, including some of the world's biggest ones, have recognised that our young staff are well equiped to reach that younger audience.


You’re about to watch your favourite show either on the telly or on YouTube or something. You’ve got your cup of tea or hot chocolate, ready to go, ready to press play, when suddenly, a random ad just shows up. This is an experience that we can all relate to. And you end up looking like a living meme of a defeated person. Just so stressed and thinking about why the hell you are there. After all, 30 seconds last a lot of time, doesn’t it? For us, we've kind of always thought about this idea of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. We’ve basically plagiarised it and turned it into our own Fanbytes Hierarchy of Results. Reach is at the top of the pyramid, followed by engagement, and what we call advertainment, at the bottom. For us, this is what the whole company has been predicated on, and how I think modern marketers now should be really thinking about how to you engage with this younger audience. So on primary level, you can think about things like reach. That’s things like the impressions and all that good stuff. But what we found is, basically, it essentially comes down to the person who has got the biggest budget. When you are competing with some big global brand, and they have a hundred times the budget, you can pretty much guess who is going to win in the game of how many impressions you can get. And then you think on a secondary level about this idea of engagement, which translates to likes, comments, shares. But to some degree, that is a subset of reach. The more people that you reach, the more people that should then comment and share. But then, we really think about this big idea of advertainment. And this is the idea of advertising infused with entertainment, which touches on one single thing—and the one single thing is the emotion—because in our thinking is this idea of when you tap into emotion, you are then able to create loyal customers, but more importantly, you stop playing the game of the race to the bottom. If you're able to really hone in on this idea of advertainment, you stop competing with the other bigger brands who are just purely aiming for reaching as many eyeballs as possible.


There is this idea that the younger audience, i.e. Gen Z or the millennial audience, are some of the most culturally connected people ever. So they are people who can make s**t like Salt Bae or the Idiot Sandwich or Trump cat drawing go viral. They can make a guy who uses a knife to chop up a piece of beef go viral. But for so long, what tends to happen is, brands solely act in their silos and try and connect with an audience without really understanding the need to actually talk in a language and tap into the culture that they're communicating in. One example of this is a company called YouGov, which is an online market research company. They are place where especially young people especially can go and take surveys, for instance, and then get those in the form of consumer insight. For example, huge surveys like, “What do the 18-to-25-year-old females think about Brexit?” They turn those into actionable insights which can then be used for things like policy changes etc. YouGov came to us saying, “Hey, we have a perception problem. People don't think we're cool enough.” And part of me was like, “No shit, Sherlock”, you don’t usually associate coolness with surveys. But they came to us and I said, "Okay, let’s think about how we can actually make you relevant to a younger generation.” And so, as we were scratching our heads, one of the guys in the team came up with this really interesting idea of using Lil Wayne. More people have heard about Lil Wayne than about YouGov. He had a song that came out 11 years ago called “A Milli” in which he is basically talking about how rich he is and how you're not, how many cars he has and how you don't. It’s a song that, in a nutshell, says, “I’m rich! I’m rich! I’m rich! I’m rich!” But someone then came up with this interesting idea of, “Well, if YouGov is a way where you can take surveys and get paid, is it possible to position YouGov as a way whereby if you take enough surveys, you may become as rich as Lil Wayne?” A completely crazy idea. But the reason why this could potentially work was that it was tapping into a culture and was tapping into a song in a moment which really resonated with this younger audience. That song “A Milli” was number one for several months and literally defined a certain period of a millennial’s life. So rather than YouGov just coming and shouting about, “Hey, we’re YouGov! Use us!” this whole idea now of, “We’re going to take this cultural moment, we're going to take this cultural artist, this cultural song which really defines certain people's lives, and then we're going to insert ourselves into that,” worked like a charm. We did that by using a three-step format with messages posted as Snaps. We started with pre-roll, and then we got a 10-second ad made, and then post roll, the influencer then urged the audience to go and check it out. That was pretty much it. Let's use Lil Wayne, let's figure out some way in which we can tie the brand into that, and let's see if that would then resonate. And then what happened was, people were either writing that it was the first ad they didn’t skip or that they found it funny or that using Lil Wayne was a pleasant surprise. Some even called YouGov 'the real Gs'. And this was a brand who was struggling with brand perception, but these comments just show how it’s enough for an ad to speak to them. It's this whole idea of tapping into culture, tapping into something which defines the younger generation, rather than trying to shove ads into their face, in which you just speak about yourself. You can really create that emotional engagement with them, which then gets them to take action.


This is something which is somewhat similar to this idea of tapping into culture. But it's how you can tell stories in a culture or an environment where people are already receptive to it? And this is quite different to general marketing because general marketing—again—is predicated on this idea of just throwing ourselves into different pools and then hopefully someone notices us. But obsessing over context is: is there a way where we can either manufacture an environment where everyone who come into that environment are thinking about our type of brand, or can we find these little pools where people are already thinking about that? And one example of that is an app called Debut, which is a graduate recruitment app, offering graduate schemes, internships, and allowing companies to headhunt students. For anyone who is thinking about targeting students, this is a very interesting example to which you can use this idea of obsessing over context. Debut use a bunch of things like Facebook ads, Instagram ads, etc and that was kind of working okay, but the thing was, they were constantly just shoving themselves into people's conversations without actually having some awareness of the context. When they then started using us, we kept thinking that surely there must be a way to think about context and create conversations. So we thought, “What if got a graduate to promote a graduate job app on their graduation day?” This is the height of context because you have people watching her on her graduation day, who also might be graduating and may have the exact same fears and concerns about how to find a job. What we did was, we ran this little campaign, having an influencer on her graduation day, then actually doing a post with Debut. Something that was also used for this campaign was the Fresh Prince of Bel Air creative because, again, that resonated with the audience for it, but also, the Fresh Prince of Bel Air creative is the point in the intro where his mom is telling him to basically go and get a job. So you can see how it all fits in. As for the results of the campaign: 10.7% click-through rate, which means that, of every 100 people who saw this, 10 of them checked out Debut. And the reason why only this worked was because they obsessed over context. They didn’t shove themselves into a random conversation; they went to insert themselves in a conversation that was already happening and by doing so created a new conversation. None of this—tapping into culture and obsess over context—requires you to have a huge budget. None of these brands are really that huge. It boils down to the whole idea of how to outsmart the people with the bigger budgets. How do you get more out of your marketing?


One of my fundamental beliefs is that social media isn’t anything new. It’s simply a web of personalised TV broadcasts. And so, as a consequence, your role as brands is to basically help people make the best broadcast ever. Your role is not to shout about your brand, but actually to help people make the best content ever. And then, in them doing that, as a consequence, they would then start to promote you as well. One example of that is a brand called Deezer, which is a music streaming brand. And one of the big things is—let's be honest, in the world of music streaming, Deezer aren’t exactly the first or the second. Apple Music and Spotify occupy the first two places. So the thing they were really trying to do was to understand how to become part of a young person's day. “How do we actually get young people to think about us, rather than trying to compete either on price or on quality or on the typical functional things as Apple Music and Spotify?” So then they decided to use the power of AR—augmented reality. And one of the things which really kind of distinguishes Deezer from all their competitors is this thing that they have good flow; it’s meant to be this feature which personalised music according to how you feel and what you're currently doing. And they wanted to make a big deal out of it. In thinking about this idea of helping people make the best broadcast ever, they created a boombox—an AR boombox. The whole point was, it danced according to the music in the background. And so, “If we just give this to people, maybe they can put their own music in the background, and that would help them create their best broadcast on their Snapchat channels or on the Instagram channels.”That was pretty much it. This was created by a 16-year-old kid on Snapchat, and then one of the cool things was, people on Snapchat just started using them super organically. People started creating their own videos. People started creating their own shows. People started messing around with it, but in messing around with it, they started promoting Deezer as well. It goes back to this idea of helping people make the best broadcast ever. Thousands of videos were created. But because they were just kind of creating the best broadcast they possibly could, they didn't mind actually promoting Deezer. Within 24 hours, with people sharing it with their friends etc, these ended up getting over a million views on the lens, over 46,000 scans, and over 11,000 shares. In just 24 hours. It was such a hit, that a journalist whose daughter was actually using this, reached out to Deezer, wanting to do a whole story about it. They ended up getting a media and campaign magazine, and it all just stemmed from these people being empowered to create the best broadcast ever.

To summarize, every single thing that I've said here has been predicated on this idea of rather than disrupting what people are interested in, why not be what people are interested in? You don’t need to make people interested in you, because if you’re tapping into their own interests and in the right context, the interest in your brand will come organically.

Timothy Armoo


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