Kony leads the social media revolution

On Tuesday afternoon a 29-minute long video was uploaded to YouTube.  Fast forward three days and it has amassed 46 million views and been tweeted by Twitter heavyweights including Stephen Fry and Kim Kardashian. Pretty impressive for a video that doesn’t feature a cat playing peek-a-boo, a skateboarding dog or a child biting its sibling’s finger.

So why was it only yesterday that the world’s media started to pay attention?

Given that roughly 48 hours of video are uploaded every minute to the YouTube, it would have been easy for this particular video to have slipped into obscurity.  But this video, produced by campaign group Invisible Children, tells the story of Joseph Kony, a Ugandan guerrilla group leader who recruits young children throughout Central Africa for his Lord’s Resistance Army.  The LRA recruits the young and the vulnerable by forcing them to kill their parents leaving them dependant on the LRA.

The film, presented by Jason Russell, centres around Jacob – a boy from Uganda he met in Africa 10 years ago who first alerted him to Kony’s regime.  Since then Russell has campaigned to get US and worldwide government attention to address the problem, stop Kony and bring him to arrest under the International Criminal Court.  I won’t go into the details of Kony’s carnages, or Jacob’s terribly sad story. Instead, I urge you to watch the video yourself and make your own judgements: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc

Invisible Children want to ‘Make Kony Famous’ in 2012 – not to celebrate him, but to make the world aware of his crimes by encouraging people to watch the video and then share it with their friends via Twitter, Facebook and other social media.  It’s this element of the campaign that, from a marketing perspective, has really stood out for me. Working in the communication industry, we are all aware of the power of social media and viral in creating change, whether that’s the name of a type of bread in Sainsbury’s or Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign

As Russell points out in the film, 20 years ago it was just a handful of powerful people with huge amounts of money that influenced the media and the governments, who in turn influenced the people. But if 2011’s Arab Spring taught us anything, it’s that the power of the people and social media can change the status quo and decide what is written about in the press. Invisible Children has capitalised on this. Through its utilisation of social media and word of mouth, what began as a small group in California was able to make the world sit up and listen and now has hundreds of thousands of members.

Whilst ‘Kony’ has been trending worldwide on Twitter since Tuesday, ITN, The Huffington Post, Telegraph.co.uk, The Guardian and The Evening Standard only started running the story over the past 36 hours – more than 24 hours after the video was first posted online. This drives home the growing superiority of online and social media in producing news, generating buzz and content creation. The Guardian, in fairness, has captured this perfectly in its new Three Little Pigs ad

In an age where our trust in traditional media is at an all-time low (News International, I’m looking at you), the social media revolution can offer us the chance to help create, contribute and form news agendas much faster than traditional media ever can.  ‘Make Kony Famous’ is the perfect example of this and I encourage you all to watch and share the link and become part of this particular social media revolution.  




2012 is here, but are we prepared for it?

As we take our first few tentative steps into 2012 we thought we would cast our eyes forward and look at what the year has in store for UK marketers. The Olympics, the Diamond Jubilee, Euro 2012; it is set to be an action packed year. But with so many brands competing for the limelight, how can they make sure they stand out from the crowd? Which offline and online media trends can marketers exploit in order to get ahead? As is so often the case, the answer is right before our eyes – to be prepared for 2012 we must learn from 2011.

2011 witnessed social media continue to expand its influence over the marketing industry. Many brands moved their entire digital spend to Facebook and it seems this pattern is set to continue in 2012. In particular the posting and sharing of videos online is transforming the advertising and marketing industry. Saatchi & Saatchi’s spoof of the royal wedding for T-Mobile, which featured Prince William and Kate Middleton lookalikes, was named 2011’s ad of the year among viewers in the UK. It was viewed an estimated 24,485,000 times globally after being launched in April 2011. The advert brilliantly tapped into the excitement of a nation and is a good example of successful offline and online strategies working together in harmony; a pattern we are likely to see a lot more of in 2012 with more and more adverts going viral online.

We couldn’t look back at 2011 without mentioning the phenomenal success of the John Lewis Christmas ad; ‘The Long Wait’. The advert touched the hearts of a nation and is a great example of a brand utilizing personality. In order to stand out from an increasingly busy crowd, brands need to make sure they create relationships with consumers and foster loyalty – John Lewis achieved this brilliantly. As explained by actress and screenwriter Mae West; “Personality is the glitter that sends your little gleam across the footlights and the orchestra pit into that big black space where the audience is”. A charismatic personality is crucial to a brand’s success and this isn’t going to change in 2012. With the Olympics and Diamond Jubilee fast approaching; 2012 will foster a greater sense of national pride in Britain. 2011 has already witnessed brands keen to adopt a more patriotic stance and this is all part of the personality brands will try and display to their consumers.

Another theme that looks set to dominate the marketing industry is the squeeze on price. The worldwide economic recession shows no signs of abating and 2011 saw price based promotions gather pace. Brands therefore need to make themselves budget proof, whether this is by being seen as the best in their field or by creating a strong relationship with their consumers. Brands must encourage customer loyalty to ensure when shopping budgets are cut they do not lose out to the often cheaper supermarket own brands.

Moving away from online and offline content the technology sector is also expanding and impacting on the marketing industry. The rise of the ‘second screen’ seems unstoppable. 2011 saw more and more people consuming media through smartphones and tablets rather than through more traditional platforms and this presents an interesting challenge to brands and marketers. According to Nielsen’s 2011 mobile connected devices report, 70% of tablet users and 68% of smartphone users use their device while watching TV, usually in a social sense. This research is backed up by the testimony of BBC i-player creator Anthony Rose, who claimed television ad-breaks were becoming “tweet breaks”. A number of televisions shows now invite viewers to ‘tweet’ along while watching and this trend will be boosted by the rise of internet connected smart TVs. This is a new and rapidly growing marketplace, marketers need to be proactive and create compelling content that will engage consumers. Smartphones and tablets have revolutionised how we interact with content on-the-go and mobile devices will continue to play a significant role in 2012.

Finally, with the emergence of cloud technology and the continued rise of wireless internet our lives and homes are now more connected than ever. Almost any modern device can have an internet connection and as a result video can be displayed almost anywhere. Video is becoming the preeminent communication tool of our society. Research from Cisco’s Visual Networking Index shows that by 2015, 1 million minutes of video will cross the internet every second. Therefore it seems certain 2012 will witness brands continue to adopt video content as an important communication tool online.

Clearly there is no shortage of options for marketers in the current environment. Social media, mobile, viral videos and more traditional methods mean marketers have a variety of platforms with which to engage their consumers. However with so much choice, brands need to take extra care not to rush into marketing decisions. Campaigns need to be carefully planned to ensure they are communicating with the right consumers in the right way.

Have a great year everyone!

Ian Savage