In a recent post, I wrote: We will remember 2010 as the year when social media became a mainstream affair. Of course, Facebook, Twitter and the like are not new to the marketplace, but it is in 2010 their influence reached something of a tipping point. Indeed, social media became a widespread, ubiquitous phenomenon that the world of enterprise could no longer ignore. Suddenly, everyone seemed to be talking about new ways to manage and communicate in the age of “social”.
In fact, social media is transforming marketing on numerous fronts. Here, we will focus on three of the most important ways that social media changes the world of marketing and branding. First, the “online buzz” effect, the awareness generated on social sites, is often more important today the traditional advertising effect. Second, effective use of the social sites is allowing companies to reach a far greater number of potential customers. And third, because end users are continuously using the social sites to communicate about companies and brands, social media is forcing companies to rethink the way they communicate.
Today, creating online buzz can be more effective than using traditional advertising. Consider some recent developments in one of the most interesting marketing cases of our time, the ongoing battle between Nike and Adidas. If there is any doubt that social media has become an important component of the marketing strategies of large mainstream companies, one need look no further than the 2010 football World Cup. When the two sports giants renewed their rivalry to become the number one football brand, much of the jockeying for position was happening in the virtual world.
Adidas chose to become an official sponsor of the World Cup tournament, while Nike was not. Instead, Nike focused much of its pre-tournament marketing efforts around a three minute video spot, “Write the Future”. In the video, Nike stars from various countries, including Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast), Wayne Rooney (England), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Frank Ribery (France), try to imagine and write victorious endings to the Cup. Viewers see how the World Cup might end, in success or failure, all in the mind of each of the stars.
Rather than use traditional channels, Nike chose to launch this video online. On May 22, they became the first company to do a banner block advertising blitz, using Facebook and YouTube. By June 15, the video has been viewed more than 15 million times on YouTube. According to the Financial Times (June 11, 2010 p. 17 “Football battle between Nike and Adidas intensifies off pitch”), it had been watched more than 29 million times on all web platforms.
In addition, the company that asks us to “just do it” did not stop there. They asked us to participate, to write our own future.
In an effort to create bonds with its user community, Nike invited viewers to provide their own video moments, allowing users to insert them directly into the “Write the Future” campaign. How do the users and fans of Nike imagine the ending to their month-long tournament? How can they write their own future? This device has proven particularly effective, not only for the user content it generates, but also for viral transmission of the videos, as friends share them widely using the social media sites.
Adidas has also jumped into the social media arena in a major way. They have responded with a video, based on the famous bar scene from Star Wars, featuring a host of celebrities, including David Beckham, Franz Beckenbauer and Snoop Dogg. In its first week, the video was viewed over 2.6 million times.
One lesson of this story is that mainstream companies in traditional industries are rethinking their media spending as they discover the power of internet marketing. Both Nike and Adidas seem to have discovered the potential of social media for connecting with a user community, and for using that community to generating content, and to help spread it virally.