I always say, you should watch the spammers and the porn guys for the best ideas in undiscovered internet marketing strategy. While it’s not a particularly new idea for publishers and AdSense
whores affiliates to quickly throw up a “splog” page that is optimized for breaking and celebrity news (in part, that’s what got the Huffington Post acquired for $315M), it’s rare to see this tactic being used by a legit brand, and rarer still to see it part of a larger comprehensive branded content strategy.
Let’s consider how it might be utilized successfully by a fashion brand like Kenneth Cole. Yes, the same Kenneth Cole who most recently tried this tactic in a completely ham-fisted way on Twitter. Had he been properly instructed inside of a larger social media strategy that was matched to a content strategy, this whole ugly incident might have been avoided. And in fact, he could probably still have capitalized on the Cairo riots but not been lambasted for it.
It starts with basic brand strategy: who’s your audience, and what news/topical items do they care about most? Judging by the clean cut models on the Kenneth Cole site, I’m guessing their target demographic is neo-preppy, urban, white or Asian (weird that they have lots of Asian chick models but mostly white male models), M/F, conservative (except for the Log Cabin Republicans that might wear this shirt), and between the ages of 22-35 with high household income. (We’re talking about the main KC line, not Reaction which is targeted a bit more mass appeal.)
So let’s pretend that we did some market research on our audience and found that overwhelmingly they tend to follow world politics and business, since so many of them travel internationally and need to know what’s going on (and what to wear). Now we need to find a logical and authentic way to foster a content strategy that’s tied to breaking world political news. Notice I said “authentic” – the most overused term and underutilized tactic in social media. (Side rant: It’s just plain hard for marketers to be authentic cuz we’re way too impatient to get to a sales message, or because we’re being held to a stringent ROI formula by the boss which allows for almost no creative risk taking.)
But here’s the weird thing about appearances – if someone presents the same face often enough, it’s perceived as authentic and “real” by audiences, even if it’s a complete hoax. Witness Fake Steve Jobs and Stephen Colbert: people know these characters don’t really exist, but they’re fully formed and authentic characters in our minds nonetheless.
The Kenneth Cole brand persona is actually somewhat smug, self-centered and shallow. Witness this attempt to tie fashion to the political issue of privacy invasion. It’s just so random, and there’s nothing else on the site about privacy news stories or opinions. Just…hot models…on cameras…walking around…making out. Which makes me soooo incensed about my personal rights to privacy. I guess.
So: Kenneth Cole’s problem wasn’t really authenticity; it’s that he hadn’t been consistent – consistency is the new authenticity!
If he had built up a consistent content strategy of videos, blog posts and social media conversations that made light of ALL hot political topics in a semi-serious way (more naive than mean spirited, more Colbert than Drudge), and published at least 3-5 quick items in response to daily breaking news (heavily optimizing for keywords like proper names and country+topic), then you’d have a fully integrated approach and a chance to expose your “let them eat cake” brand message to a larger news-reading audience.
What you DON’T want it to end up looking like: http://twitter.com/#!/kennethcolepr
What you DO want it to end up looking like: http://www.lifelounge.com.au/technology/news/facebook-break_up-notifier.aspx
Sexy. Smart-ish and outsider-y. Informed but somewhat banal. Yay for Lifelounge, the grooviest hipster fashion/art/music/culture site ever. Perhaps a content partnership is called for?