Monday, February 1, 2010

Super Bowl Shuffle: Why Marketers Will Shift to 'Platforms

Brands That Continually Throw to Consumers Will Win Come Monday Morning and Beyond
The teams playing in this year's Super Bowl have already been decided, but the Super Bowl shuffle for advertisers began in earnest last month when marketing mainstays like FedEx, General Motors and Pepsi made news by announcing they were opting out of this year's ad extravaganza.

But for those looking to gauge the health of the ad industry, Super Bowl advertising is a bit of red herring. CBS is charging about $2.5 million for 30 seconds of commercial time -- and rightly so. Rarely do you get so many Americans watching one event and actually enjoying the advertising. It's a tremendous opportunity for most brand marketers and we'd be foolish to look at this year's Super Bowl as proof of either the rejuvenation of the 30-second spot or the rejection of it.

That doesn't mean some won't try. After all, last year Hulu saw a 50% increase in site traffic after running ads during the Super Bowl and Denny's traffic to its website soared nearly 1,700% as consumers sought information about its free breakfast promotion.

There certainly will be advertising winners (and losers) on Super Bowl Sunday but let's hope that the Monday morning quarterback chatter doesn't obscure the larger shift at hand for marketers this year. 2010 will be the year of the "platform" for advertisers.

Unlike a website, banner, Facebook application or 30-second spot, a platform is an always-on digital environment that allows brands to run specific or multiple programs. The goal is to meaningfully engage consumers on multiple levels. For some brands, that means creating an immersive experience with integrated commerce. For others, it means enabling consumers to connect with each other in valuable, unexpected ways.

But for marketers, the real winners this year will be the brands who have built these platforms to engage consumers well after this year's Super Bowl becomes a distant memory -- there are another 364 days to worry about after all. Here's a look at some of the more interesting platforms in play today:

Pepsi's Refresh Everything Community Action Platforms: Perhaps the biggest, and most noteworthy, push into this space comes from PepsiCo, which opted to sit out the Super Bowl to tout it's cause-marketing program Refresh Everything. The platform, which is inspired by crowdsourced ventures like Kickstarter, enables Pepsi to award grant money to consumers who suggest various ideas and iniatives for their communities. The effort is akin to other cause-marketing efforts like Procter & Gamble's Tide: Loads of Hope, where consumers purchase T-shirts, among other things, to fund Tide's effort to help families stricken by disaster with basic laundry services.

Crowdsourcing Platforms: While not exactly new, enough brands are finding success using crowdsourcing platforms to generate insight and drive deeper consumer participation that we will surely see more this year. Starbuck's is clearly the outsized success here with tens of thousands of ideas collected and a vibrant community. Dell's Idea Storm falls into this category, as does Lego's Mindstorm. The most recent entrant is Best Buy's Ideax, which shares similar elements of the category but goes somewhat further by allowing users to search/browse by ideas generated "Nearby." The community here is both virtual and local.
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