Oct 31, 2010

Up, Up and Away with an Innovative Push & Social Media Campaign

I think the lines between traditional Push, and Pull marketing are blurring, and especially as social media becomes more relevant to spreading the word about your service brand. My friend Roger Smith was kind enough to tell me about an interesting one involving the Northern California company Airship Ventures (owners and operators of one of only two blimps in the world), its marketing partner Farmers Insurance, and the online gaming site FarmVille. It’s a great example of how one company is leveraging traditional marketing investment in new ways to reach prospects it never would have through traditional means.

Farmers Insurance Group of companies, the nation's third-largest insurer of both private Personal Lines passenger automobile and homeowners insurance, also provides a wide range of other insurance and financial services products. Farmers operates primarily in 41 states through the efforts of approximately 20,000 exclusive and independent agents. responsible for serving more than 15 million customers. Bottom line – it is a big company, with plenty of resources for traditional marketing campaigns. Yet it has made a significant investment in using Social Media in a new and unique way.

Farmers is leveraging its investment in traditional push marketing via an unusual implementation of a floating bill board and a very new marketing vehicle, the Facebook Business page, to reach hundreds of thousands of new customers with content on its company, its offerings, and its brand promise. Here’s how it works:

Farmers invested a sum of money to advertise for a limited time on the sides of the Eureka, one of the world’s two functioning airships. In making this investment, the company is following the same marketing imperative to promote its brand for 80 years.

“This is the ultimate billboard for Farmers, showcasing our brand for miles,” commented Kevin Kelso, Chief Marketing Officer of Farmers Insurance Group Inc. “Whether it’s flying over sporting events or community-based fundraisers, the Farmers Airship is a larger-than-life reminder of Farmers’ commitment to the communities we serve.”

The Eureka, operated out of Moffet Field by Airship Ventures, has been seen frequently in the last 6 months in the skies above San Franicscos Bay, Los Angeles, and San Diego. It publishes a regular flight schedule, sells seats on its website, and even has charter opportunities available.

So Farmers creates a business page on Facebook and introduces a sweepstakes encouraging visitors to promote Farmers to their friends and enter a drawing for a ride on the blimp. Filling out a sweepstakes entry on the site and clicking on the LIKE button not only provides a lead for a local Farmers agent but also allows Facebook to put Farmers content on your personal Facebook page (they call it your Wall), which triggers a news feed to visitors’ FRIENDS lists. That’s right: if you complete the entry and click LIKE, all of your Facebook friends are notified that you "like" Farmers insurance and have entered the airship sweepstakes.

When I submitted my entry last week, I learned that over 37,000 entries had already been submitted. Seems like a lot, right? But consider that if each person submitting an entry has 10 friends, the contest has already helped the company reach 370,000 people with its product message. But wait, there’s more !

How do you get people to go to the Farmers Facebook page in the first place? Well, you can offer an incentive, you can publicize the incentive using traditional PR techniques, or you can tie in the campaign with ANOTHER online property with LOTS of traffic.

For example, there’s, Farmville from the online social gaming company Zynga. The Farmville game, played online with networks of online friends, is free to users, has a VAST following. Ever played it? If you are looking for reasons to give it a try, check out this posting. Apparently, it simulates lots of the competing forces that affect a typical farm, including bad weather. HOWEVER, if you click on the blimp, and “LIKE” Farmers Insurance, you receive protection from bad weather for a period of time (or could until Oct 27th, when this feature expired). A great many people felt this was reason enough to provide their contact information to Farmers and share the company’s information with their friends.

The point is that Farmers has made a significant investment in introducing its company and brand to a large and growing demographic (Facebook users, the “farmers” of Farmville) in what seems a powerful validation of the power of social media marketing.

To use social media to promote your brand, you don’t have to rent advertising space on the blimp—though that would certainly be cool! There are less costly vehicles: Do you have a blog? Have you created a Facebook page for your business? Consider adding these “online properties” to your marketing mix because they will enhance your ability to attract new customers.

Oct 5, 2010

Get Out of Your Own Way

The other day, I saw The Social Network. Much has been written about the movie and its underlying events. But, as usual, the movie got me thinking about my own less rarefied circumstances.

In the movie, the character played by Jesse Eisenberg pursues a vision of a website for holders of "Harvard.edu" email addresses. Repeatedly, he seems surprised by the ideas others have for expanding on his idea. In my opinion, his vision of success was fairly humble. But It was enough to goad him into action and keep him working.

In the small business space, I see many people with great ideas who could move forward with reasonable success and safety but hesitate because they cannot see the end of the road. They let themselves be stymied because they have no clear idea of what should be their tenth steps—even though they have taken only a first step. I wish I could say to them, “Sometimes you don’t know what turns your business idea will take, so don’t worry about it—just keep moving forward.” People passionate about an idea should pursue it. And they should expect surprises around the bend. That’s what happened to Brian Backus.

Brian is the founder of a hot new start-up called Kidlandia. That’s right – as in "Kid’s Land". As a hobby and a labor of love, he started creating personalized maps of “fantasy lands” named after kids of friends and friends of friends. He had no idea how to scale the idea, and it seemed like a dead end, as a business. But now, with the help of some of his technology-savvy customers, www.kidlandia.com is on the Internet, he has automated the map production, and he is well on his way to founding a successful company. (I just created a map for my grandkids and I had as much fun creating it online, as they will have when they receive it).

One of my friends confessed to me the other day, “I censor myself sometimes. I keep myself from running with an idea, most of the time from fear that it won’t be successful.” Well, we all do that from time to time. But sometimes we learn lots from ideas that don’t work out….wisdom we bring to the next idea.

My thought for the day: don’t over analyze your idea. Unless you are gifted with precognition, you can’t know what will happen. Give your idea a chance to grow. Give yourself a chance to grow into your idea. Get out of your own way. Don’t let your drive to create the “best of the best” business keep you from exploring ideas that remain vague. You just might discover a treasure map.