The ROI of Augmented Reality

As I play around with one of the latest new social media tools,, it got me thinking about the various ways to add value to the terrestrial world via the digital world; i.e., augmented reality (AR).

Pinwheel allows you to “find and leave notes around the world.” In other words, as you’re gazing at a monument, a store, or an amazing view, you can see meaning it has for others, what interesting insights they have about the spot or leave your own comment about the space. Ahh, the power of geo-location!

The service expands on location-based social media such as FourSquare by expanding the relevant places and things on which to attach notes. Here’s a nice review of the service.

How could you as a marketer think of using these tools for your business?

Here’s a quick list for handy reference:

  1. Contextual Offers – Probably the most logical and the cash cow that location-based services like Foursquare are hoping to cash in on. Serve up that coupon while the consumer is standing in front of the store or gazing at the box on the shelf!
  2. Relationship and Advocacy  – If your goal is to build brand relationships you can use AR to send customized messages to customers and/or fans. My favorite example is still the personalized billboard messages that Mini Cooper would send a few years ago to their customers as they motored by on the highway. Now who wouldn’t drive all their friends by that billboard several times just to show off? 
  3. Instant Training and Action Prompts - Never underestimate the power of confusion for eroding your marketing's ROI. AR can be used to provide instant training or answer typical questions as a consumer hesitates ever so briefly at the right place at the right time. This presentation has a few good examples. 
  4. Brand Interaction – From AR scavenger hunts to virtual flash mobs to virtual test drives, there are some amazing things going on out there to capture that precious few seconds of focused attention from consumers. 

As with every other marketing tool from social media to traditional advertising, the question comes down to ROI. How should your firm measure the impact of AR for growing brand, revenue and relationships? 

At Mythology, we work with our clients to first go very deep on understanding their own unique value proposition. Then, we look at those key differentiation points and ask, how could a sticky, engaging tool such as AR be exploited to blow out the understanding and remembrance of those differentiations? 

It's easy to get distracted with all the whiz-bang marketing tools out there, but when your marketing strategy stays focused on this formula, the likelihood of wasting your time and money is diminished: 

Stickiness (Simplicity x Unexpectedness) x Brand Differentiation Message Alignment x Relevant Call to Action = Return on Investment 


Are Blogs Dead? The Relationship Between Blogging and Social Media 

I recently glanced at this USA Today article outlining how organizations have shifted away from blogging and towards social media. The article reports “the percentage of companies that maintain blogs fell to 37% in 2011 from 50% in 2010, based on its survey of 500 fast-growing companies listed by Inc. magazine. Only 23% of Fortune 500 companies maintained a blog in 2011, flat from a year ago after rising for several years.”

Why? "Blogging requires more investment. You need content regularly. And you need to think about the risk of blogging, accepting comments, liability issues, defamation," says Nora Ganim Barnes, a professor at the university who wrote the report.

So, are blogs dead? That’s a little like asking if television is dead because of the rise of the Internet. It’s not that a form of communication is dead; it’s that it is constantly evolving and we need to understand its relationship to other tools in our marketing toolkit. 

Blogging and Social Media: Yes/And, Not Either/Or

I’ve personally done a lot less blogging since the rise of Twitter and Facebook. It’s just simpler and faster to develop a brief post than a longer blog post. However, less blogging is not necessarily a good thing. I’m lazier with social media. I tend to retweet and post others’ work vs. showcasing my own original ideas. After all, anyone can “curate” interesting links and retweet them, but that in no way shows off your own expertise and insights.

A blog showcases, at its best, your organization's personality, thought leadership and unique perspectives. It can include any number of content types, such as written copy, pictures or videos. Good content becomes a magnet on your web site to pull in (hopefully) qualified viewers. After all, all those social media retweeters have to retweet something. It might as well be your expert insight.

The USA Today article went on to outline some of the reasons organizations have tossed in the blogging towel. I have a few ideas to share that are highlighted in our Meaningful Social Media workshop (we’d love to have you join us!). Here are the things we discuss: 


Time Investment

The article states: “Companies often underestimate the amount of work a blog requires, says Pete Steege, director of marketing communications and Web strategy for Rimage, a digital storage device maker. "They think it's like a newsletter or an ad." That is absolutely true. A blog is a commitment to publish, and to publish requires editing, writing, approval and other processes that many organizations under-plan and under-resource.

However, that can be overcome through the use of a little education and some simple planning tools such as these we’ve shared in the Meaningful Social Media workshop. In addition, through new, speedier micro-blogging tools like Tumblr, your blog publishing can become more streamlined with briefer, punchier posts vs. long, extended form blogs (like this one, for example).


Milton Gray Draper, director of investor relations at Core-Mark Holding, says they don’t blog because “it’s worried about running into trouble with federal regulators about proper disclosure.” That is an appropriate concern, but it’s not an excuse for abandoning your blog. Highly regulated (and often sued) organizations like banking and insurance companies need to streamline their compliance and review process for the Internet-speed economy, not ditch the medium altogether.

Instead of routing a blog post through endless rounds of attorney review, policies and guidelines can be set up beforehand to guide content producers. These policies need to leave room for the organization’s personality to come through lest they become limited to tweeting insanely boring “approved factoids.” For the most part, there is no federal law against being interesting, but many organizations use compliance as an excuse to put their customers asleep.

Customer Focus

From the article,T.J. Crawford, a Bank of America spokesman, says the bank dropped their blog “because its social-media strategy is focused on Facebook and Twitter. ‘We want to be where our customers are,’ he says.” Yet that is an erroneous “either/or” statement. Yes, of course, Facebook and Twitter are where customers are, but the point of a blog is that when the consumer is ready to engage a little deeper in your content, your blog is THE primary showcase that YOU control. It’s a next step in the consumer development funnel. To limit your engagement on social media platforms is to relegate your conversation to superficial levels.

To be sure, Facebook is providing marketers with more flexibility on their pages so more content and content types can be presented without having to leave the Facebook page. While that is of course a self-serving goal of Facebook to keep users on their network, you have to think through whether it makes sense for your goals to limit your engagement on the still relatively rigid controlled environment vs. nurturing the customer over to your web site. Again, it’s not either/or, it’s “and.”

Lack of Content

Finally, a blog post represents a rich source of social media material. Re-purposing content is one of the most underutilized tactics in marketing today. Every company builds content in the form of PowerPoint slide presentations, reports, marketing plans, newsletter articles. Yet few realize that each of these sources are rich in “tweetable” material. We like to suggest that each blog post can produce between 5 to 10 tweets (and we’ll demonstrate that with this blog post).

Organizations often get tunnel vision when it comes to content. They think that only a handful of assigned team members should be responsible for content ideas and creation. Yet the most effective content marketers (and therefore social media marketers) are those organizations who have learned to put the spotlight on their customers and partners for content ideas, and who tap a broader set of internal team members for ideas and contributions to the publishing stream.

Your blog is still your best platform for representing your brand’s personality and unique value proposition through the use of compelling, unique content. As it draws clicks, it enhances your search engine ranking credibility. It’s a powerful interest-generating step in the consumer funnel towards purchase. 


Translating: How the “Elite” of Charleston, WV, are Getting a February Tan

I’m fascinated with the idea of “Translating” – a marketing concept developed by Steve Stoute, the founder of Translation, a brand imaging consulting firm. Stoute’s firm specializes in forging connections between established corporate brands and the community of musicians, rappers, actors, and sports figures generally referred to as “urban.”  

Stoute says of his work, “What I do is contemporize a brand." But, he emphasizes, "I don't take the brand away from what it stands for. I don't change who they are in order to appeal to the next generation."

Stoute is the hip-but-safe go-to guy for large companies like Hewlett-Packard, Target, Samsung, and many more. I have to admit that just one short month ago, I had never heard of the guy. Never.

And then I started searching to understand why I was so uncomfortable with the idea of “diversity” marketing. It’s a genre I have been cast in, for reasons including the fact that I am one of few African Americans in my state working in the marketing industry and because I possess a passion for thinking about who has been forgotten in any given campaign.

I’ve always felt that “diversity” tactics seemed to simply swap out white faces for black ones or strive to target messages along racial lines. I wanted to develop an inclusive and holistic approach to “diversity.”  That’s when I came across Stoute’s book, The Tanning of America, and - eureka!  - there it was.

“Tanning” is the term Stoute uses to describe the blending of class, race, and culture in America, with a significance given to the reality that by 2020 America will no longer be majority white. Stoute’s basic point is that the demographic and social changes facing America are leading it to become more multi-hued and tolerant. This was the information I was looking for. At least information-in-progress; “tanning” and its tactics of translation are still evolving, in both Stoute’s theory and in mine.

I was first faced with the need for translation when working with our former client, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). It took the Boy Scouts’ project to really start challenging my thinking as we began to understand the desperate need to Translate BSA values (the “Scout Law”) to a new generation. How to be cool, yet maintain BSA core values? With the right Translation, BSA could usher in a new generation of Scouts as they seek to revitalize their 200 year-old organization and re-brand it to a “tanned” American generation.

The Boy Scouts know all about the demographic shifts in America. Many companies know this, too, and are also trying to simultaneously update their brands to reach new audiences while maintaining their core values.

It’s not an easy thing to do; in fact, I know this from experience, as I am experimenting with translation right now in my community life.

I am co-chair of the West Virginia Symphony League Fashion Show, a fifty-year tradition in Charleston, WV. Since its inception, this event has always pulled its models from a veritable “who’s who” list of prominent women in the community. Although I didn’t necessarily fit that mold, I did start modeling professionally at a very young age, and, because of my experience, I was always asked to be in the show.

This year is special. I’m not a model. The leadership of the show has decided that it’s time to change. They want to reach out to a broader sector of the community in direct and indirect ways, while staying true to their fifty year-old roots.

They asked for my help.  I understand the integrity and core values of the event. I also understand its vision and purpose. It has been a part of my life for twenty years and it’s not rocket science. Like Stoute says, first get “cool” and then you can succeed at making as many people as possible the show’s glamour and opportunity, in ways both direct and indirect. At its essence, what the Symphony Fashion Show needs is a translator to bridge the old and the new.

The show is March 14, 2012, and new sponsorships are coming in every day. We opened the door to new models by holding an open model call. We launched into social media and are utilizing a host of other tactics to re-brand the fashion show for a wider segment of the community.  

Check out the video.

Fashion from Ben Robinson on Vimeo.

Tanning?  Yes. We have black, white, and Asian models, in addition to a diversity of sizes, ages, and socio-economic backgrounds.

One thing Stoute’s book does is remind me how influential hip hop is, and will continue to be, in America. He makes this argument throughout the book, describing hip-hop’s rise and gradual commercialization, starting with the grassroots success of the first Sugar Hill record “Rappers Delight” and the legendary 1986 concert where the German executives of Adidas first heard Run-DMC’s “My Adidas” rap song.

That being said, I’m still working out the details for the show to feature its first ever DJ, International Core DJ Charlie Blac to be the 2012 WV Symphony Fashion Show’s maestro.

We’ll see how it goes.                                   

With a little luck and little open-minded support, even the elite of Charleston, WV, might be able to get a tan in the middle of February. 


Establishing Credibility to Earn Leadership

“A loyal constituency is won when the people, consciously or unconsciously, judge the leader to be capable of solving their problems and meeting their needs, when the leader is seen as symbolizing their norms, and when their image of the leader (whether or not it corresponds to reality) is congruent with their inner environment of myth and legend.” (Kouzes, Posner, pg. 3, 2011)

In a time when Social Media 2.0 is growing and the need for brand advocates is becoming more of a necessity in order to achieve “brand success,” it should be understood that being a leader in your field is not a right, but an earned privilege.

These days, consumers and potential clients are not limiting themselves to a company that can offer them products or services. Rather, they are looking to deal with businesses that come across as genuine and relatable.  In Credibility: How Leaders Gain it and Lose it, Why People Demand It, authors James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner note that  people are energized by values and visions that give their lives meaning and purpose.  These can be experienced in a single contact or conversation. 

I think of my grandmother, Mable Landis, and her loyalty to Sears, which dates back some 30 years now.  She always relates it to the fact that they show they care because “they always have the best sales going on and their employees are always so friendly no matter how you act towards them!”  She spreads the word as if it is the gospel because she lives by one simple rule: “Be nice no matter what and God will handle the rest.”

This is an example of a brand advocate.  She shops at Sears before looking anywhere else. She has no bad words to say about the company, and will defend the brand as if it were part of her bloodline.  It is this kind of earned credibility that drives one of the most powerful forms of marketing there is: word of mouth.

There are three qualities Kouzes and Posner say that you can find in every leader: Integrity, Competence and Leadership. 

For a brand leader, integrity does not stop at just being trustworthy; you must also display strength of character and conviction.  This may mean owning mistakes made due to a fault in your system during the return process and fixing them, or acknowledging that you did not offer the best products or services to a disgruntled customer and offering solutions to make it right. 

Those brand leaders that have been labeled “wise” – like Apple, for example - not only know themselves but have great competence in understanding their competition and surrounding environment. Typically, these “wise” companies are well aligned – both internally and externally. The employees know the company well, trust its decision-making and direction, and, therefore, have the credibility of believing what they say when speaking about the company’s product or services to others.  Brand leaders tend to inspire their followers, promote action, develop advocates, and provide direction to an improved lifestyle.

Achieving this status is simple.


Be consistent in all you do, believe in what you say, and know what you are saying is right for the one listening.  Get people to believe in you, and watch how effortlessly they will work with you to help grow your brand. 


Wishing You the Most Meaningful Myths 

We deal in storytelling and meaning every day here at Mythology. We have a deep belief that what we do each day should have significance beyond ourselves and add value to our shared experience in this crazy, mixed up world. 

That's why this time of year is so special. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or all three, it's a time to reflect on meaning and faith. Our team at Mythology, like the rest of our society, shares many common beliefs, and diverge on a few others. But we focus on the unifying beliefs of our team and our world so that we can make a difference. 

C.S. Lewis talks of "myth become fact." The stories we share, the stories we believe, lead to the good that changes our world. Myth becomes fact every day, if we let it. Beliefs matter. 

And since businesses and "work" are where we invest the majority of our days, shouldn't we make the most meaning there? 

We wish you the most amazing holiday season ever. And we look forward to working with you to build belief in all those things that matter. 

Have a belief-building holiday season and a truly mythical 2012! 


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