One Step Closer To Advertisement-Free Music

Pandora has updated its services once again, and this time, it’s to include fewer ads. The music-streaming service created a new ad format for select brands called Sponsored Listening. Available for all advertisers and Pandora’s 80 million listeners, the addition prompts people who use the streaming service to watch a short video or click on a media advertisement to unlock one hour of ad-free listening.

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Each of the video ads is at least 15 seconds, with some running up to two-and-a-half minutes long. Sponsored Listening is only available on mobile devices, which is how 80% of Pandora’s users listen to music.

These tuned-in listeners are helping make Pandora money in a big way. The new pilot advertisements boosted purchase intent by 30% and brand awareness by 12%. The Oakland, California company reported its second quarter earnings last week, bringing in $230.9 million in ad revenue, a 30% year-over-year jump.Pandora-2

 

This may be the new way of the land, as brands and advertisers continuously update formats based on the evolving media and audience expectations. Listeners may now actually enjoy radio ads with Pavlovian anticipation of the hour’s worth of ad-free music to come. Two minutes about deodorant? Fine, I’ll take it, for the sake of what it’s all about: the music.

Boston-Based Converse Refines Its Legend

When it comes to brand positioning, you could argue that the Converse All Star invented the new-school formula: iconic design, story-filled history, and an ultra-loyal following. With the 100th birthday of the Chuck Taylor All Star looming, Converse boldly announced an addition to its iconic family: the Chuck II.

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Announcements like this often cause PR agencies to hold their breath. Messing with success is one thing, but changing a successful icon is another beast – it challenges the traditional mold of what brand strategy looks like in terms of strategic consistency.

Converse, though, is doing just that and winning at it, with no small thanks to some very integrated PR and advertising. Up until now, Converse has been rather tight-lipped about its updated original, teasing the online world with a simple Roman numeral “II” as part of its upcoming “Ready for More” campaign.

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Now that the secret’s out, Converse has been quick to control the narrative. Recognizing the original Chuck’s success, the Chuck II is not a replacement, the brand is making clear, but rather introduces improvements borrowed from its parent company Nike. Determined to create something great, Converse took nearly four years to collaborate with consumers in order to make their favorite shoe even better.

Converse brand GM Geoff Cottrill said to Adweek, “I’d go so far as to say that the creative world is responsible for who we are today as a brand.” The statement underscores Converse’s understanding of its consumer base, a factor that clearly has informed its PR strategy. Converse’s delicate dance is well-planned, exciting customers ready for a fresh look, while paying homage to the style icon that started it all. By being proactive and strategic with messaging, Converse has introduced a tempting step up, rather than inciting backlash from purists.

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When Online Public Relations Goes Wrong

In a gutsy move, Amazon.com recently attempted to tackle the beast of Black Friday with its highly touted “Prime Day”. This step in Amazon’s attempt for online domination convinced consumers to sign up for Amazon Prime, the company’s online-subscription shopping service. Subscribers were granted access to one-day deals on July 15th covering everything from designer clothing to in-demand electronics. So was Amazon Prime Day Christmas in July?

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Well… apparently not. Despite a 93% increase in U.S. sales, only 42% of social media mentions were positive. And we’re not talking about one or two tweets, people. CNN reports that Prime Day generated about 200,000 social mentions. People took to social media to display their frustrations about how all of the good deals sold out within seconds and what remained left a lot to be desired. (I mean, who doesn’t love waking up at 3:00 am for 15% off a VCR rewinder and dishwasher detergent?)

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What started out as a great plan to build Amazon Prime’s subscription base turned into a public relations nightmare and campaign mockery as people compared Prime Day to the futile Lady Edith from Downtown Abbey. The hike in sales was offset by people’s disappointment; it is safe to say that the motivation to get up for Prime Day 2016 will be frighteningly low. While the failure of Prime Day won’t be encouraging Amazon to close the program’s doors any time soon (Prime reportedly has millions of subscribers already), it sounds like they need some PR professionals to clean up their social media mess and build up some better hype for next year. I know of a certain public relations firm in Boston that could do the job…

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The Politics of Social Media

In 2008, Barack Obama won what came to be known as the “Facebook Election,” partly due to his campaign’s innovative use of social media. His opponent, John McCain, opted to stay off Facebook, Twitter, and other social channels, which may come to mark the last time in U.S. History that a presidential candidate decides against using social media.

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In the upcoming 2016 election, presidential candidates are focusing on social media more than ever before. Campaigns are even breaking ground on new platforms like Snapchat, LinkedIn, and Vine. Hillary Clinton, for example, is a front-runner in the democratic primary polls as well as in social media statistics. The Clinton Camp is extremely active online, and they have employed creative tactics to gain publicity and promote Hillary in a benevolent light.

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Recently, Humans of New York, a Facebook account followed by 14 million people posted a photo of a young, teary-eyed boy. The caption quoted the roughly nine-year-old boy expressing his fear of being disliked and rejected growing up as a homosexual. Within a couple hours, in an exemplary move to engage her social following on the basis of her campaign-relevant ideals, Hillary Clinton’s Facebook page had left a comment on the picture offering powerful words of encouragement for the boy:

“Prediction from a grown-up: Your future is going to be amazing. You will surprise yourself with what you’re capable of and the incredible things you go on to do. Find the people who love and believe in you – there will be lots of them. -H”

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Consider Donald Trump as another example. He has faced criticism for his unfiltered comments on Mexican immigrants and on John McCain’s military service. It is perplexing that Trump chooses to be so outspokenly opinionated when some of his unconventional views generate animosity. However, it is exactly this trait, the stark candidness of Donald Trump, which makes him dominant as a presidential candidate on social media.

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Trump is a powerhouse on Twitter, because he uses the website as it is intended; he tweets what he thinks exactly when he thinks it. Donald maximizes user engagement by avoiding glossy, carefully worded posts and instead tweeting jaw-dropping proclamations. Trump unapologetically broadcasts his passionate and controversial opinions, generating publicity with a style never before seen from a leading presidential candidate.

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Social media has transformed the way Americans can interact with politicians. Voters now have the opportunity to examine presidential candidates from more platforms than ever before. Hopefully, these new perspectives will help us decide whose leadership we truly believe in before it comes time to cast our vote.

NASA Continues to Explore Social Media with #PlutoFlyby

We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” – President John F. Kennedy, Rice University, 1962

In the 53 years since Kennedy’s legendary speech, NASA did indeed send men to the moon and completed various other missions, from Hubble to the ISS. However, public engagement with NASA has waxed and waned since the glory days of 60s space exploration, what with the agency’s Congressional budgeting debates, occasional but detrimental disappointments, and even questions of its fundamental merit and benefit to the nation.

NASA took a great leap in 2007, however, and forayed into another kind of dark unknown: social media. It joined Twitter that year as @NASA and Instagram somewhat later in 2013 with the same handle. The photos on all accounts are so stunning and the captions so detailed, that there is something for people with all levels of space enthusiasm, from scientist, to enthusiast, to photography fan.

Yesterday, July 14, 2015, at 7:49 AM, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft successfully executed a Flyby of Pluto. This is, by all accounts, a milestone for the U.S., NASA, humanity, and is certainly an “other thing” that President Kennedy mentioned: New Horizons flew more than 3 billion miles and 9 years with the mission of snapping photos of dwarf-planet Pluto.

NASA stepped up their social media involvement in accordance with the event, sharing various photos, stats, videos, and quotes: the spacecraft has its own Twitter account, @NASANewHorizons, and the event has its own trending hashtag, #PlutoFlyby. Instagram and NASA even partnered up to ensure that the first publicly-viewed photo from the Flyby was shared on NASA’s account an hour before it was released on the agency website.

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This mission, more than any other, exemplifies NASA as a public fascination once again—complete with a refreshing and conversational personality, far removed from any stuffy impression it gave off in the past.

Some highlights of @NASA’s #PlutoFlyby social media strategy:

With #PlutoFlyby, NASA took a monumental and highly technical event, and molded it into something interesting, entertaining, and enjoyable for the entire world. In a time when celebrities and tabloid obsessions draw the public into their phones, NASA took digital and managed to not only engage us, but make us look out and back up towards the stars, just as we did in 1962.

That’s what I’d call social media savvy.

Be sure to click here for an infographic on #PlutoFlyby, and here or here for more detailed summaries on what the mission means for us.

More images just arrived yesterday from New Horizons; stay tuned to all NASA accounts for updates.

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Comic-Con, And How to Tease the Public in the Name of Great (And Consumer-Generated) Hype

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This week, pop culture enthusiasts gathered at the San Diego Convention Center to experience an elaborate comic convention, showcasing the latest and greatest in the genre’s media. This year’s San Diego Comic-Con boasted nearly 130,000 attendees, all ready to witness the most anticipated trailer footage for Hollywood’s upcoming comic-inspired films and television shows. With attendee numbers this large, the fest can serve as a majorly beneficial marketing hotspot for the film and comic industries.

Comic-Con is a great example of successful execution of consumer-generated marketing, providing unique experiences for enthusiasts of niche interests; in other words, fostering the relationship between consumers and brands.

For example, Hollywood releases “teaser” trailers for upcoming films to the Comic-Con audiences. Once released, participants of Comic-Con instigate word-of-mouth ‘hype’ that grows substantially between the time of these teasers’ release to when the films’ full trailers debut. It’s a Hollywood level lazy-man marketing scheme – give a little bit to the public to bite onto, let them create the hype enough to stir up press attention, and you’ve already got a great basis for establishing relationships with your potential theater audiences.

Another added bonus? Most video content, including exclusive teasers, are not only shown, but are released to the public during Comic-Con. This creates a phenomenon, of sorts, massive sharing in a matter of seconds through social media.
Check out some of the trailers released at this year’s Comic-Con below. And feel free to join the sharing phenomenon with a Tweet about your favorite trailer!

 

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How to Be a Winning Brand: Sports Edition

We’ve all had them before: those emotional moments, good or bad, brought on by some of our favorite sports moments. You may have been watching the Super Bowl with your family on TV, or been on Twitter obsessively to keep updated on who was winning the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, or maybe you were privileged to witness history when the U.S. Women’s National soccer team won the Women’s World Cup with a final score of 5-2 against Japan, just last Monday.

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Whatever spurred your emotional interest: a personal connection to the sport, the players, the sponsors, or the overall event was somehow cultivated. One can healthily assume that our game – the game of marketing, that is – had something to do with that connectedness. Sports marketing has grown tremendously over the past few years and PWC predicts global sports revenue will grow to $145.3 billion between the years 2010 and 2015.

The opportunity for sporting events’ reach is reflected in the Wall Street Journal’s calling-out of Snapchat’s Women’s World Cup social media shortcoming. The Journal reported on the photo sharing application’s missed opportunity. Unlike it’s done in the past, Snapchat did not garner sponsors (read: advertisers) for its Women’s World Cup “story”, which is a contributory compilation of videos and/or photos from its users, funneled into one channel that creates a visual “story” of what’s happening at that specific event or place. The article critiques the infrastructural capacity of Snapchat, and questions its capabilities’ appeal to advertisers.

And that’s just a missed opportunity. There are clearly advertisers and brands capitalizing on the connection consumers have to their sports. And as media grows more social, more mobile, and more interactive, that connection is not growing any weaker, anytime soon.

Lesson? Brands need to strengthen their marketing game, because ultimately the winners are the ones who not only know the sport, they know how to tap into the emotions behind it.

Move Over, YouTube

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Facebook recently made an announcement that is bound to shake the content marketing world: the social media giant plans to host videos directly on their site. At first glance, this may seem like a small functional detail, but the effects it carries could drastically influence content creation going forward.

As of today, most video content is hosted on YouTube. Content creators and publishers use it as a platform and hosting space for everything from ads to makeup tutorials. For the last couple of years, Facebook and YouTube have worked together synergistically to spread viral content. This made absolute sense in a less mature social media landscape: a growing social network got excellent, free content and an established video hosting site received views, and therefore, revenue.

However, this relationship is currently on the rocks. Facebook announced that it would now allow users to publish video content directly. In return, the site is looking to reclaim the revenue that YouTube has been collecting on their behalf. By offering 55% of their ad revenue to content creators (the same as YouTube), Facebook is making a major move into the realm of video content. This change comes at no surprise given that by 2017, it’s anticipated that nearly 70% of Internet traffic will be from video.

For content creators, this means yet another unique channel for video publishing. More importantly, this also means another set of decisions to consider before publishing content. Rather than being able to leverage YouTube and Facebook simultaneously, marketers will increasingly need to consider the demographics of each site to maximize engagement. While only the largest publishers may be affected short-term, this move by Facebook signals how much, and to what borders-defying extent, social media may evolve in the coming years.

Equality and the Internet

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Friday June 26, 2015 will go down in history as the day the Supreme Court ruled in a split decision that same-sex marriages would be legal nationwide. Millions took to the Internet to express their support of the decision, with #lovewins trending on Twitter shortly after the ruling was made public. Many well-known brands joined in on the celebration with the own creative responses. Check out some of our favorites below:

  • Ben and Jerry’s: In honor of nationwide marriage equality, popular ice cream brand renamed its Chocolate Cookie Dough ice cream flavor to “I Dough, I Dough” for Summer 2015. Additionally, proceeds from sales of this flavor will go to the Human Rights Campaign, which is a leading nonprofit organization advocating for LGBTQ rights. Ice cream and a good cause – what’s not to love? [Source]
  • MasterCard: Popular credit card company took to their Twitter to tell the story of a same-sex couple that won tickets to go see brand spokeswoman Gwen Stefani in concert. Pretty adorable, especially alongside their caption, “True love: Priceless”.
  • Uber: In a more understated way to show support, Uber added rainbow tails to the virtual cars on its mobile app. The rainbow flag has long been a symbol of LGBTQ rights, and is a low-key way for Uber to applaud the Supreme Courts’ decision and show their support. [Source]
  • YouTube: Shortly after the decision was announced, YouTube revealed their ProudToLove spot as a celebration of the video-sharing site’s long message of tolerance and equality. The video, which has received over five million views in less than one week, mixes both personal clips of individuals coming out on YouTube with political news footage. Pro-tip: have a box of tissues handy when clicking through to the video.

Inspired? Check out even more examples of the love shown on the web. Shout out to SCOTUS for making us extra-proud to be Americans this July fourth weekend!

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Image Sources: Uber, White House

CerconeBrownCompany Leads Force on Garnet Hill Shop in The Hamptons

Located on the picturesque Main Street of downtown Bridgehampton, New York, long-time catalog retailer Garnet Hill has officially opened its first brick and mortar store. The new space is a mixture of timeless Garnet Hill pieces and exclusive items from local New England artisans, ready to be shared with the Hamptonites and other vacationers in the flesh.

Design firm Aesthetic Movement transformed the space into a clean and inviting retail experience for customers. From the white peg-board walls to the simple wooden dowel hanging fixtures, the space is designed to truly showcase the product. The space takes on the aesthetics of a gallery, maintaining the attainable pricing Garnet Hill has offered for years. The store carries vintage books and glassware, bedding, apparel and home collections.

Despite primarily working with Garnet Hill’s public relations team, CerconeBrown assisted in everything from staffing the store to set up to event management. CBC traveled to Garnet Hill’s headquarters in Franconia, NH several times over the past three months, meeting with all departments of their company, ensuring a streamlined transition to brick and mortar.

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Photo by Matt Kisiday

Perhaps the most fun of all was organizing the Bridgehampton store’s inaugural weekend with a press shopping event and cocktail party, opening up the space to an intimate group of editors from several top-tier magazines. CerconeBrown transported editors from New York City to The Hamptons for an overnight stay, enabling city-dwelling editors from outlets such as Family Circle, InStyle, Town & Country, Refinery29 and more to experience the product first hand, many for the first time. Several editors had just returned from CBC Summer House, where the brand activation experience allowed them to live with the product for the entire session, getting to know the signature bedding and amazing pool towels especially well.

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Kristina Rodulfo of InStyle Magazine with Garnet Hill’s Signature Towel | Photo via @cerconebrown Instagram

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Editors shopping at the opening cocktail reception | Photo by Matt Kisiday

CerconeBrown’s ability to connect with such a wide variety of print outlets will allow for exposure on more than one platform, something Garnet Hill hopes to achieve while the store is open. Editors were also given the opportunity to meet and mingle with Garnet Hill executives, including its President, Claire Spofford.

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Garnet Hill President Claire Spofford, Home Shopping Network CEO Mindy Grossman, and other GH Executives | Photo by Matt Kisiday

When the store opened its doors on Saturday evening, a long-time Hamptons staple, Hamptons Cottages and Gardens Magazine held a major presence. Editors and friends of the magazine were able to mingle with Garnet Hill while enjoying the store’s charming backyard garden environment. The magazine has provided locals with a revered sense of fashion and style for decades and has become a trusted publication in any true Hamptons home. CBC was able to place two large, two-page spread advertisements in this month’s issue. Employees of the store already noted that several local residents have phoned the store, asking for the bed featured in the ad – now.

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Photo by Matt Kisiday

Garnet Hill is incredibly excited and hopeful for the summer ahead. With several more press and community engagement events planned, Garnet Hill is making its debut into the retail world in a big way, and CBC is honored to help them do it.