Creativity. It’s a major piece of the marketing puzzle, especially during the fast-approaching holiday season. The National Retail Association estimates that American shoppers will spend just under $750 on average this season, and 51.8% of that spending will happen online. It’s no surprise then that my Vertical Marketing Network colleagues and I felt compelled to brainstorm new ways to foster creativity in our Internet-reliant and social media-laden world. Now is the time to tweak programs before the holiday boom. There are literally thousands of social media networks vying for consumer attention, and according to Nielsen, blogs and social media reach more than 80% of active Internet users (of which there are 245 million). Scores of brands are setting inspiring examples for ways that businesses and marketers can creatively engage holiday consumers. Their tools of choice: photo-sharing apps and websites such as Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. Forget – for a second – about Facebook and Twitter; these are tools you should already have mastered and be utilizing. Look, instead, to brands like Chobani Yogurt, General Electric, Red Bull and Starbucks, all of which are engaging consumers visually. In addition to frequently posting product snapshots, Chobani Yogurt has used its Instagram feed to highlight the company’s charitable efforts in Africa, and earlier this year, the official Olympic sponsor hosted a contest asking Instagram followers to tag photos #chobanitime for a chance to win goods. General Electric, meanwhile, has used Instagram for educational engagement, taking followers inside research labs and plants. While my Vertical Marketing Network coworkers and I all but expect brands such as Red Bull and Starbucks to be on top of the social media game, other brands using New School social media – i.e., Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr – surprised us. From storied brands such as Better Homes and Gardens, Betty Crocker and Land’s End to educational institutions, news organizations such as ABC Nightly News and sites from all corners of the web, smart brands are giving online consumers something to “gawk” about.
Maybe I’m just blogging out loud, but it seems like creativity is in the eye of the beholder. With so many tools at our disposal, holiday marketers would be remiss to leave their “cameras” at home.
Earlier this year, the book “Imagine” made several cases for ways to foster creativity in the workplace – including businesses such as 3M giving employees paid “free time” to get inspired. But since the book’s author was exposed for committing acts of plagiarism, some of its concepts feel upended. As witnessed by a recent article in LA Times Magazine, Creativity as a Concept is in a bit of a rut. But as recently as last month Ad Age reported on social media savvy brands scoring points for creativity and engagement on Twitter. With more than 500 million users as of April 2012, Twitter has positioned itself favorably alongside Facebook. The bottom-line for brands: it pays to play. One thing to consider is ways Old School (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) and New School social media can be used by marketers to engage consumers in ideation and storyboarding sessions. Pinterest, especially, seems apt for this, since individual boards can be built around particular brands and campaigns. Images need not be solely brand- or holiday-specific; it seems like Pinterest is best used when brands cast a wide net. Likewise, Instagram and Tumblr feeds need not be too niche.
Variety, like creativity, is the spice of life, and is always in season.
Has a certain brand’s use of social media inspired your creative juices to flow?