BBH facilitated a Social Media Week event in LA, where the agency has recently opened an office focused on content creation. The subject of the event was “Exploring UX, content, and brand strategy” and was run in the style of a design studio. Brainstorm topics were presented to groups, the participants of which concepted on the topic, then presented their ideas to one other seeking critique.
We were asked to elaborate upon social media flings, a topic written about in a previous Labs post. This is what we shared:
Or you can check out a video of the 15 minute presentation:
(Skip to 1h13m mark)
In summary, the proposed opportunity of ‘social media flings’ is in all of those social environments where people connect online around a subject they’re interested in. The point is simply that a significant gap exists between having no non-paid contact with a brand and committing to a relationship with them in digital environment. Think blog comments, video responses, hashed twitter conversations, and so-forth—a collection of places where a brand can engage if they talk about something other than themselves.
The purpose of the breakout session was to determine how brands can credibly have such flings. The hour discussion led to some great debate. Below are some of the key points we found most interesting:
The majority of the group felt any brand could have a fling. It wasn’t a matter of how interesting the brand was, but how much the brand stood for beyond itself. In other words, old school brand equity work was the key to opportunity. Although lifestyle brands do this well, there’s nothing keeping Raid (the group’s proxy for the antithesis of a lifestyle brand) from having flings about a subject they could credibly talk about, such as environmental issue, hygiene, etc.
Alternatively, many participants felt that brands could “buy” credibility on a given subject. By taking a calculated approach to sponsorships, brands with no correlation to a subject matter could earn a voice within it through financial support. For example, Taco Bell and Major League Baseball have no logical relationship, but the brand can discuss baseball credibly thanks to its ongoing sponsorship and use of MLB talent and resources. This opens the door to flings, and could even help brands prioritize sponsorship opportunities.
Brands can have flings across a number of subjects, not just those with direct ties to the product offering. Starbucks was cited as a brand that could have flings in music, news, technology, environmental issues, community, or even politics. The tangential relationship to coffee and “third space” wasn’t seen as a barrier.
The biggest difficulty in having flings is making the connection to the product (although even loose association was considered enough by most participants). As a result, if a brand invests in becoming credible in a space (as say, Red Bull has with extreme sports), it actually opens the door for a challenger brand to step in and capitalize on the investment. This is a major opportunity for challenger brands (generally limited by finances). In the case of the Red Bull example, most participants felt Monster or another competitor, could have flings in and around extreme sports thanks to Red Bull’s commitment.
We’d welcome any further thinking around social media flings. Please let us know of brands taking advantage of this that you think are interesting, positive or negative.
We’d also like to thank Social Media Week for the opportunity, as well as all the wonderful participants that generously shared their thoughts.