Lyft vs. Uber: Who’s winning?

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When it comes to a techy way to catch a cab, consumer options are continuing to grow.  In my own small North Charlotte, NC suburb, I continue to see giant pink mustaches attached to car fronts signaling that Lyft has entered and is growing in the market.  The big competition right now is between two San Francisco start-ups; Lyft and Uber.  So which one is better and who is winning?

Before diving into the competition, I just want to make sure everyone knows what I’m talking about.  Lyft and Uber are public transportation alternatives to cabs, railways and buses that are showing up in cities and suburbs around the globe.  In order to catch a ride or get picked up by one of these services, a user has to download the app to their mobile device, register their information and then they are enabled to use these services.  Uber is closest to a cab service and often sends a town car but passengers can also choose a cab or SUV.  Lyft is all about ride sharing.  If a Lyft driver has a car, is in your area and has a seat available, they’ll pick you up.  The business models are slightly different but most users have both apps on their phones depending on the type of service they are looking for at a particular moment. Who would’ve thought that emerging media would lead to the ability for us as consumers to just tap on an app using our phones and have someone come pick us up?

To compare services and see who is winning, let’s look at the biggest point of differentiation between the brands: service.

Service:  Both Lyft and Uber market their brands as ways to share rides in exchange for money.  Lyft focuses more on the “sharing” aspect, while Uber focuses more on the “ride” aspect.  Both brands have secured financial investment and made great strides to make their cost structures align better to beat each other.  What we may see as a point of differentiation between the competitors is the service model.  Founders of Lyft think that it’s going to be the community-building aspect of Lyft that brings cities together.  First of all, it’s fun riding around in and driving a car that has a pink mustache, especially when Lyft is new to an area and the majority of the public has no idea what the mustache means.  Secondly, Lyft drivers are encouraged to talk with and get to know their passengers.  This is just another way to continue building a community.  It leads to trust and ultimately creates a way for drivers to have a great time doing their jobs while passengers get where they need to go in a safe, low-cost and enjoyable way.  Uber, on the other hand, offers professional service and a more high-scale look to their vehicles and branding through the use of a neon “U” that drivers put on their dashboards.

After writing this article and finding out more about each of these brands, I’m more encouraged to give them both a try and then come back to this post to relay my experiences, however I get the feeling that both brands are at equal pace at the moment and time will only tell if one can differentiate enough to beat the other out.  Or, while they’re busy competing with each other, yet another service will appear and completely disrupt the market.

Have you had any experience with either? If so, which service do you prefer and why?

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Great Instagram photos can make for great ads

Great photos can make or break great ads and marketing materials.  Real or “organic” photos are always best because of the integrity of the photo in relation to what the brand stands for.  If you’re like me, you can always tell when someone has had to use a stock photo.  Why do the search results on stock websites always return such cheesy options?  But, I’ve had to go this route many times when doing creative for corporate ads because I can’t stand to re-use images from my last photo shoot in 2011.  The first thing that always goes whenever I need to reduce cost on a project is always the photography. 

So what are some ways that IMC professionals can still get organic photos but not have to pay a fortune?  INSTAGRAM. Taking photos using an Instagram account and then using them for mobile advertising creative shows genuine, “in the moment” photography that is aligned with a brand.  These photos can be used for digital advertising across several channels, but as of six months ago, they can also be used for Instagram ads. 

Instagram wants to make sure that users aren’t getting inundated with brand advertisements, so they have shared some details about how they will allow brands to share info with users.  First, all photo and video ads will be marked with a “sponsored” label at the top instead of a time stamp.  If the user decides that the advertisement is of no interest to them, they can hit the “…” button on the image and provide feedback to the brand and to Instagram about why they didn’t like the ad or they have the option to just hide it.  Instagram wants to stay true to who they are as a brand by continuing to build a community where users can be inspired, and also continue to be a profitable business by introducing non-evasive advertising options.

So, if a brand wants to start using Instagram photos to create advertisements, what are some tips and tricks to make the photo compelling?  I’d suggest taking some tips provided by Nitrogram from some of the most influential users of Instagram. 

1. Organize your goods

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2. Outward looking view

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3. Detail zoom

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4. Zoom out

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Have you created any intriguing shots for your brand to use via Instagram?

Media is emerging in the world’s largest slums

Slums aren’t something that the average American thinks about on a daily basis, and for me, I didn’t even realize exactly what slum habitats even were until I watched the popular Slumdog Millionaire in 2008.  This week, I had the pleasure of attending a discussion about the world’s biggest mega trends presented by Richard Sear, the VP of Visionary Innovation at market research company, Frost & Sullivan.  One of the huge changes that business-people need to keep in their outlook as they develop their long range strategies is the fact that slums exist all over the world and are continuing to grow and get richer.

Right now, the biggest slums can be found in Caracas, Venezuela; Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Dharavi in Mumbia, India.  As the growing lower middle class increases, so does their buying power.  The UN forecasts that the number of slum dwellers is going to double in the next 25 years making them the world’s fastest growing habitat.  Keeping these facts from The Places We Live in mind, Sear threw out an interesting fact to us that caught my attention.  He said that slum dwellers have anywhere from one to three smart phones on hand at all times.  Why?  I guess that as slums build vertically, cell towers can drop their service and they fear the feeling of not being “connected.”  Crazy right?  I have an iPhone and know that it wasn’t cheap, even with a two-year contract.

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According to the 2011 Census and an article in The Financial Express, around 68 million people live in slums in India alone.  Most of the living structures are electrified, at least 90.5%.  With the need to stay and connected and the ability to do so, it’s no wonder that we’re seeing a rise in the use of emerging media in slums.  At least 72.7% of households have phones with 63.5% of them being mobile phones, and 10.4% have computers.  He’s an example of how companies are taking advantage of the use of emerging media in an area where connectivity and average income are both on the rise:

McDonald’s isn’t building storefronts in the slums.  Instead, they are building outside the slums and delivering by cart into areas where customers can come pay for and pick up their meals.  Meals are made to order and are being placed by apps on smart phones.  The order goes right to the storefront and is delivered at a specified time at a pick-up area.  These pick-up areas are safe havens for customers and help create a sense of community.  In addition to the food that McDonald’s is selling, they’re also handing out clean drinking water and educational materials for children. McDonald’s is using technology and emerging media to communicate with, sell to and educate those who are living in slums.

Do you think that McDonald’s is taking advantage of this population or has found an innovative way to provide food, beverage, education and community through use of emerging media?

Brands are getting consumers to tell their stories through short films

One of the top trends for brand marketers this year is going to be the use of YouTube and other syndicated apps like Vine to creatively communicate with consumer audiences. In fact, I would bet that we see more creativity from brands this year than any year previous as many are turning their marketing efforts to short-form or micro-videos as a way to advertise, interact and engage with their customers.

Short videos, especially videos produced and shared on Vine, are low-cost, low-production, six second films. The perks for short videos are that brands developing content don’t need to drop a lot of cash to invest in creation like they would with a TV ad, they can easily market and target using trending hashtags to make the content easier to explore and the viewers on the other end don’t need to commit more than six seconds to hearing a message or viewing the video.

Has anyone ever used Airbnb to book accomodations in a city? Well, if you haven’t, you might want to check out what the brand has to offer versus booking a night at a chain hotel or resort. Airbnb has been making unique travel experiences possible for consumers since 2008 using a model where the customer can choose their location, price point and duration for their stay around the world. The best part is that you can book your stay from an app on your phone. It’s also a great way for those who have extra space in their hour or their b&b to capture income.

Airbnb wanted to illustrate their mission through a short film so they partnered with Twitter and Mullen to develop a unique story line and request user generated content to produce a really interesting collaboration. By the way, Vine was purchased by Twitter in 2013 so the project became even more interesting as a way to show how the tools and networks work together. The short film is called “Hollywood & Vines” and was directed by Twitter and shot on Vine. The story is about a journey of a little piece of paper. To get users to film content on their behalf, they tweeted out directions on how to use Vine and shoot six second videos on then created a conversation with over 100 Vine users to develop segments for the overall 4:30 minute film.

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You have to watch this.

 

It’s inspirational and motivated me to waste an hour and a half on Airbnb’s site searching for a unique place to stay on vacation this year. Does it have the same effect on you? Do you think that this film embraces the company’s mission about creating a story of travel, adventure and finding your place in the world?

Brands go viral in time for Mother’s Day

This week, American Greetings (Who? Oh right, that paper card company that we haven’t heard of for a long time) released a digital video ad on YouTube. It was so good that it went viral. The video featured 24 people who applied for a real job posting for a Director of Operations, also now fondly called “The World’s Toughest Job.” Interviews were conducted via video conference calls and it becomes even more interesting while watching as the interviewer states some outrageous job requirements, like no vacations, working 135 to unlimited hours per week, $0 salary and so on. In the end, the video reveals that the job is the job of all of our mothers. As you view it and feel the emotion, the American Greetings logo flashes up on the screen.

So what made this ad that got 2.7 million paid placements from the job listing and 13.7 million views on YouTube as of today successful? It had all of the right elements; it effectively promotes the reason to celebrate Mother’s Day; it’s timely as right now is the right time to be thinking about buying cards to send for Mother’s Day; it’s emotional and funny; and it was scalable making it easy to share. Of course, like many good viral ad campaigns, there has already been spoof developed dedicated to dads courtesy of Bud Light. I’ll let you view and make your own judgment of the spoof on whether this paints dads in a good or goofy spotlight.

I’m excited to see if American Greetings will see a spike in sales this Mother’s (and Fathers, thanks to Bud Light) Season.

I’m getting followed…by ads

I was sitting in a meeting one day discussing with our marketing team about how we wanted to launch a new product.  This was in late 2011 and we were happy that the budget was stronger than previous years which would allow for some additional advertising.  While print was in the mix, I remember the agency also talking about something called 24/7 ads.  I quickly searched Google to find out what this ad type was and was surprised to find out that you could actually have an ad “follow” a potential interested customer on the web.  Since then, I have personally noticed that mostly every time that I shop online, I find online ads popping up on other websites to remind me that I was interested in a product.  Rivet & Sway, the Warby Parker-like online prescription glasses retailer, has been following me around on Facebook for two weeks straight!

While every good marketer knows that you have to engage with a customer where they are and at the right time, making print, direct mail and radio advertising still relevant, there has also been a huge increase in online advertising over the past few years.  As we learned in our IMC 619 class this week, online advertising comes to life a variety of ways and there are several techniques that can be used to align with the tactics of a campaign.  The ad types include banner, pop-up, pop-under, video, pre-roll, flash layovers and widgets.  This list is huge and spend in the online category is only expected to continue growing as traditional advertising consumptions moves to online.  In fact, according to ZenithOptimedia, online ad spending is expected to expand 15% in 2014 and digital media ads will exceed the combined total of spending in print, including newspapers and magazines, in 2015.

Among this growth, the eMarketer report, The State of Digital Display 2014: An Industry Readying Itself for Brand Advertisers, preps us to expect to see the following online advertising trends this year:

  • Continued shift from standard display to more dynamic and engaging ads.

  • Programmatic direct will come out on top as a primary way to combine richer ads with consumer data, meaning that brands will be smarter about buying space so that their placements are coming to life to a more captive audience.

  • Location-based data and TV data are going to get more attention as brands try to better reach customers across devices and improve their experiences when viewing and receiving advertising content.

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This image shows what to expect for digital ad growth in the US through 2017.

There is an expectation that online media spending will continue to rise and trend reports are showing that brands will be further analyzing where their customers are spending their time online and across devices.  I’m proud to say that I’m a marketer that is staying informed of these trends and how to apply them to my brand marketing plans, yet I’m also a bit worried as a consumer that I’m going to get overwhelmed by my favorite brands attempting to engage with me at every moment possible across the devices I use!

 

A brand with personality

This week in IMC 619, we learned about creating a digital brand identity using emerging media.  The essence, personality and tone of a brand should be very apparent and consistent across a corporate website, e-commerce page and social media outlets. 

Think about yourself for a moment.  Is the way that you act, dress and interact consistent with your personality?  Would your friends or co-workers describe you the way that you describe yourself?  If the answer is yes, you’ve been able to maintain and convey a consistent personal brand.  You communicate your brand in outlets such as work, school, Facebook, or even on your blog. It’s an extension of who you are and how you want outsiders to perceive you.

Take this analogy and apply it to what you do as a marketer.  It’s important to build and maintain a consistent and strong brand identity across media channels.  Whether launching a new product or running a campaign, brands with established tones of voice make content interesting, approachable and expected to customers.  Some good examples of brands that do this well from Courtney Seiter on Marketing Land are Tiffany & Co. with an elegant and classic voice on social media, Adidas Running with a healthy and inspirational voice, Taco Bell with a weird and witty voice, and Target with a personable and relatable voice. 

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Once you determine the right tone of voice, consistency in how that voice is used is key.  A website, social media campaign, and print ads should make a brand seem recognizable.  Also, the higher the quality of writing that is relevant to the target audience, the more trust customers will have and the message will resonate better.  Also, just a reminder that consistent isn’t the same as constant.  Flooding your audience with too much information will discourage them to follow, hear and engage.

The last word of advice is of course, to remember that customers are human but so are the people behind the message creation.  Be real!

Blogs are where it all began

Did you ever consider that sending out that tiny little Tweet in under 140 characters would be considered to be your personal blog?  Or what about the collection of photos that you post for your following of friends and family on Instagram?

“Old school” blogging began as a way for writers to keep personal journals about their life experiences and thoughts in the early 1990s.  Fast forward to 2014 and not only people are writing about their personal interests, but companies are using blogs as a way to showcase their products and services as well as become thought leaders in their industries.  The way that a person or company chooses to share this information can take several shapes.  From micro-blogging opinions on Twitter to quick snapshots from the company picnic, the world is finding a way to share knowledge, both visually and verbally.  A quick word of advice to those who wish to engage and converse in more to one channel: keep it consistent.  Integrated and timely communications will keep followers interested and help you build a personal brand.

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Thanks to Steph Calvert, for the illustration, The Evolution of a Blogger.