Interactive marketing is profitable, exciting and disruptive. It is also the wave of the future, making up almost 35 percent of the $200 billion businesses spend each year on advertising. Interactive marketing isn’t broadcasting information to potential customers. It is engaging with them, providing a creative, unique experience that they seek out.
I love interactive marketing and have personally run hundreds of interactive online marketing campaigns. Whether it be a video game, interactive Facebook app, photo contest, creative scavenger hunt, video contest, quiz, you name it, I have probably done it. I have done campaigns that have generated 500,000 new Facebook likes, over 10,000 email addresses, hundreds of thousands of YouTube videos and thousands of new website sign ups. I have also create campaigns that fell flat on their face.
In this post, I spill the beans on what you need to know about Interactive marketing.
What is interactive marketing?
Interactive marketing is really any type of marketing that requests an engagement from the businesses target demographic. Generally, this does not mean a product purchase, but instead, something creative.
What are the strategies and tools of interactive marketing campaigns?
Because the goal of interactive marketing is to foster multi-directional conversations in place of one way messages, broader strategies and more specific tools are critical to your interactive campaign.
Interactive marketing strategies and tools
Interactive marketing strategies typically make at least partial use of the Internet and involve at least a two-way information exchange. Here is a basic list of some interactive marketing strategies and tools that help you turn a one-way, passive experience into an active, two-way exchange:
- Using interactive marketing to get feedback. Sometimes consumers want to get some feedback based on their specific set of facts, so why not give them that opportunity? With an interactive assessment you can get critical information about your business clients and provide them with answers fast. If your business creates interactive marketing campaigns for clients, why not invite them to get assessed for your service? With your assessment answer the question, “How much would an interactive campaign help my business?” This whets their appetite for more and gives you a snapshot of their precise pain points. A follow up from an assessment is very customizable, making it more likely to lead to conversion.
- Creating calculators or tools. Similar to the assessment, a calculator gives your potential customer—who already knows how to use an actual calculator as well as various apps—to get results and answers to their queries. This is less detailed than an assessment, but can still show your business’s value by providing the user with an answer. This can show your business’s value by providing the user with an answer. How much life insurance is right for me? I can use a calculator to plug in my details and find out. And when I do, I give the company great follow up information. You can also allow them to share their results on social media.
- Contests, challenges, events and giveaways. We all love winning something. Even if the “prize” is inconsequential or limited to bragging rights, people love winning. Make sharing your content a contest and watch it take off, or host an interactive online event, rewarding people who “attend” and participate. These are also very easy to plan and execute, and cost next to nothing.
- Using interactive funnels to channel a user into a goal. That’s because they ask questions of the user from the start, and take them on a specific journey as a response. This is one of the strongest interactive tools for honing in on a customer’s needs and wants. For example, when I was working with a large jewelry company we created a Facebook app that funneled users into creating a wishlist and giving us this email address. This one was a big hit.
- Interactive infographics. Everyone loves infographics; they include the data and details of a longer report but don’t take much time to read. They are also visually appealing and you can create interactive, animated infographics (such as the one we created for BuyAutoParts.com below) by including portions that change or move depending on how the user participates. For example, you can show the timeline of some phenomenon that is linked to your business and offer the user the chance to click on specific time periods for a result. These are way more fun than regular infographics and again provide you with user information.
- Online quizzes that have a purpose. They’re fun, and they’re often funny and imminently shareable on social media. They’re also a wonderful lure to get people to your website or social media profile page. You can also use quizzes with more serious topics, helping users see their need for your product or service.
You will notice that each of these information sources are driven by customer choice, preferences and timing. Obviously this kind of marketing is almost totally customer-centric and customer-paced.
Advantages of interactive marketing
There are many advantages that you’ll can gain by taking the plunge into interactive marketing, if you know what you are doing.
- Customer information. The online activities that are at the heart of interactive marketing provide an unprecedented opportunity for mining, analyzing and saving massive amounts of customer information. Online behavior reveals both personal preferences and demographic details, and this allows the savvy business to track and store this information for ongoing marketing use. The more detailed and specific the information, the more useful it is for marketing purposes; the better and more specific your information is, the more likely you are to be accurate in your creation of customer personae. The trick has always been to convince your users to provide the information—something they are far more likely and even eager to do when engaging in entertaining activities that they seek out. The end result is serious improvement in your ROI stats.
- Customer preference. Interactive marketing lets your customers lead the process of your brand evolution and product development. Customers using social networking sites and online forums provide the company that listens with great ideas and a sense of what customers are demanding.
- Interaction breeds a memorable experience. You don’t want your investment to be a waste, and if your marketing campaigns are forgotten as soon as they are seen, they are wasted. Interactive content is far more memorable because the simple act of participation ensures that your customers connect with the campaign and remember it. Interactive tools like online quizzes and customizable memes are particularly powerful in this regard, instilling a vested interest in users. Because interactive marketing content is based on the unique needs of your customers, the experience it provides is also unique. No matter how great your static content is, it is not going to provide a totally unique experience. But if your app or meme contest gathers data or your quiz focuses on the specific pain points of a customer, a unique experience is exactly what you get.
- Stay on the cutting edge. Lots of marketers do content marketing; more than 93%, actually. But interactive marketing is still fresh and hot. If you make use of interactive marketing strategies now, odds are excellent that you are way ahead of your competition.
- Especially today as generations of gamers grow up to be consumers, an interactive experience is king when it comes to engagement. Your audience gets bored just passively consuming, and your goal is to grab and keep attention. Apps, quizzes, meme generators and interactive white papers all allow your target audience to participate. This keeps them present, soaking up your message.
- Ease of use. For the marketer with the right tools, interactive marketing really doesn’t take more time or effort—and it probably costs less than its traditional counterpart. There are so many tools, online sources and other solutions you can use to create and manage interactive campaigns.
Check out how Jason Swenk, a consultant to agencies, makes it so easy to click an add, get go to a landing page, click to watch a video and capture your email.
Landing page 1
Landing page 2
Landing page 3
Pretty clean process right? I show you that so that you can understand how to create a good funnel. Nice work Jason!
Given how easy, cost effective and successful great interactive marketing is, there’s really no good reason to skip it.
Why Interactive Marketing is Not Always the Best
I need to be fair here and list a few reasons why you might not want to do interactive marketing.
- You need a creative idea that will yield return
- Certain campaigns are very hard to measure
- If you used that some money for pay per click, SEO, etc., you might get more sales
- The interactive marketing is often very visible, so if you flop, it is a really bad
- It is a lot of work and often very hard to get upper management on board
- They are always a little bit of a gamble, you never know 100% if it will be a winner. But that is what makes it so fun 🙂
Best practices in interactive campaigns
The smartest marketing campaigns of any kind anticipate how their target audience will perceive and react to content. It is simplest to make these kinds of predictions with rich, deep customer data. Taking your campaign to the next level by including interactive elements depends on your knowledge and mastery of interactive marketing best practices:
- Tell a great story and make what you are asking from the user incredibly clear. Most of the truly exceptional interactive marketing campaigns have at their heart an awesome story. Use multimedia tools and interactive tactics to “hook” your audience with the story; make them want to participate and help create the ongoing story. These steps mean that your brand will be cemented into the minds of consumers as part of their popular cultural narrative. If you want the user to do something, make it so clear that they cannot miss it.
- Use your brand guidelines for every aspect. From the creative to the copy to the general interactive nature, stay on point with your messaging.
- Immersive experience. Remember, customers are most likely to convert when they are deeply engaged in an immersive experience. Keep your messages exciting and engaging, and provide a multimedia experience that can immerse your audience. Be very deliberate with each point in the interaction. Every step in the interactive funnel counts.
- Multimedia approach. Use multiple types of media in an interactive campaign. Make sure much of it is visual, and of course focus on all of being engaging. Here is an example campaign called giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday was established in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y in New York City. It’s observed globally on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving by groups and individuals promoting acts of kindness. Now it is even being promoted by Facebook and offers all kinds of multimedia ways to engage.
- Each user should have his or her own unique experience with your interactive marketing campaign. There are lots of ways to personalize a campaign, especially when you use online tools like quizzes, social media games, video games, meme generators, and related tools.
4 great interactive marketing campaigns
Want to see how well these tools work? Check out these insanely successful interactive marketing campaigns that changed the game, and the take-aways we offer you from each.
Adidas_1 running shoe
When Adidas was ready to unveil their Adidas_1 running shoe, they had a problem. This shoe was really a unique product because it contained sensors that would “read” how the shoe and foot were performing together and mechanisms for adjusting the cushioning of the shoe step by step. A great idea, right—but how do you convey what it does in a picture?
If you’re Adidas, you don’t! You do something totally different and find a way to engage and hook customers before the shoes were even available for sale.
In order to get the customer data they needed to start their campaign, Adidas set up a unique website solely for selling 250 pairs of the Adidas_1 shoe before they were widely available. The shoes sold immediately to customers who agreed to tell Adidas about their experiences with the brand in exchange for the chance to buy early. This did several things.
First, they got great data on customers who love the Adidas brand. Second, they created an amazing wave of buzz when the shoes sold out in record time. Adidas learned that multimedia and online was the way to go with this campaign from the buyer data and got started.
They placed their biggest ads online. They created a special MSN Messenger marketing skin that was visible during chats; in fact, this skin brought an amazing half a million people to the Adidas site in the first week with its 21% click through rate. They contacted existing Adidas customers via email and directed them to another unique website that showed the technology that makes the shoe work. Online shoppers and social media users in particular (in other words, almost the entire group who you’d target to buy running shoes) got a blitz of information about the shoe—all before it was officially on the market.
What can you take away from this aggressive multimedia approach?
- You can use existing customers to give you all new data
- You can advertise aggressively with materials that are attractive to your audience
True Blood: Revelation
HBO wanted to launch their True Blood vampire series strong, so they turned to a truly creative, unique interactive approach. Their tactic: take the storyline, mythology and back history of the show itself and turn that into marketing gold. Here’s what they did.
They created vials of red liquid and mailed them along with messages in a “dead language” to bloggers who are horror and goth fans. These vials led them to a fake vampire website, BloodCopy.com, which revealed to visitors that an underground network of vampires who live among us all were considering “coming out” to the human public. At the same time a phony ad campaign for something called “TruBlood” along with a vampire-focused human rights campaign went online, on the air, and to the streets in major cities.
The most interesting part? None of that ever even mentioned the show.
Takeaways for the human marketer:
- Great storytelling matters! It can support an entire campaign.
- If you have a “niche” audience or customer base that loves your business, your product, or products like yours, use that! Come up with creative ways to entertain, interest and motivate them.
The Best Job in the World
A company you’ve probably never heard of—the Queensland Board of Tourism—launched one of the greatest interactive ad campaigns ever and got worldwide attention for their trouble. The board got the word out about how awesome it is to visit Queensland by creating a job: the Ambassador of Queensland Tourism.
It’s a real job, and they really advertised it all over the world on job pages and classified as well as via social media. The job was a contract position for six months feeding fish, cleaning the pool, checking the mail, and, of course, exploring the Great Barrier Reef. The pay was $150,000, and all applicants needed to do was send in a one-minute video of them in which they’d explain why the job should be theirs.
The result? More than seven million visitors, 40,000 applicants from 200 countries, and half a million voting participants. It was such a success that they did it again, this time with six different positions.
What are your take-aways here?
- Whatever area your business focuses on, interactive marketing can work for you.
- No brand is too small to benefit and maybe even take the world stage with a great interactive marketing campaign.
- Try something new.
The Blair Witch Project
No discussion of great interactive marketing campaigns would be complete without a mention of the grandfather (or grandmother?) of all online interactive marketing campaigns: The Blair Witch Project. Yes, before there was Facebook or even MySpace, the Blair Witch Project’s campaign allowed a movie made for around $22,000 to earn more than $250 million.
The strategy was not unlike what the True Blood people did: it was to create a “real” horror story background for the movie so that watchers would wonder if it might actually be real documentary footage. Various rumors planted online and several incidents where “lost footage” was found also fueled the fires. The ads for the movie were all basically low budget, and simply ran on the true story buzz.
Your take-aways here:
- Low budgets are sometimes all you need.
- As I said above: a great story can carry a campaign places you didn’t imagine.
Creating an interactive campaign for yourself
An interactive campaign, like any other major marketing endeavor, is a serious undertaking. This means that you need a plan. Here are the essential steps that every campaign must cover.
Create, assess, and set goals
To make any marketing campaign work, and especially one with multimedia and moving parts, you must retain your focus. What do you need and want to accomplish with this venture?
Take both a short-term approach and a more long-term approach. For example, determine what your short-term goals should be. More social media engagement? More organic web traffic? Decide what it is.
Next, consider your larger goal for the long-term. Try to be more specific than “more sales.” What percentage increase is your target? If you want to improve your marketing ROI, decide how much you want to improve. Set metrics that you can use.
Define and consider the specifics of your target audience
The best content in the world won’t help you if it’s designed for someone other than your target customer. Before you launch, clearly define who your audience is. List their habits, hobbies, whatever you know about them—and make sure you know a lot. If you spend hours creating a quiz that your customers aren’t interested in, you’ve wasted time and effort. A great way to find this information is to look at your Twitter demographic reports, YouTube demographic reports, Google Analytics demographic reports or your own internal customer data.
Once you launch the campaign, make sure you put each piece of advertising you create to the test. Look at it with fresh eyes and ask yourself, does the person who does these activities and cares about these things want to click on this? Are they interested? If you can’t answer with an enthusiastic “yes,” take that piece of the campaign back to the drawing board.
Choose which interactive tools you want to use
Review all of your options. Which ones will appeal most to your audience? Which convey the most about your brand and product? Focus on what you think will be the best fit, and if you’ve had great success with an interactive tool in the past, use it again. If your customers love contests, but are lukewarm about social media quizzes, make sure you provide them with more of what they like. I really like to use Woobox, it is so easy and cheap.
Create a broad outline and timeline
The outlining process serves several purposes. First, it gives you a concrete visual of the timing and interaction between each piece of the campaign. This is where you develop your strategies for each portion of the campaign, ensuring they all support the short-term and long-term goals. Once you have a broader timeline, add in specific topics and tools.
Here is a sample of what that might look like. Of course, this depends on the campaign.
- Creative concepts are delivered
- An idea is decided on
- Copy is created for landing pages and promotional materials
- Copy is sent to designer
- Designer delivers creative for Facebook landing pages (810px wide, 600px to 1,000px tall), website landing pages, etc.
- Application is coded out and/or tabs are made
- Facebook ads are created and target landing page
- All other social ads are created
- Banner is added to website
- Blog is written
- Press releases is distributed
- Bloggers are contacted
- Email newsletter goes out
- Social profiles are updated 2 times each week
- All entries are shared on social media and blog posts to encourage buzz
- Beta campaign is launched
- Campaign is tested
- All promotional materials go live
- Submission period starts
- Submission period ends
- Voting period starts
- Voting period ends
- Judging period starts
- Judging period ends
- Winner is selected
- Prizes are given
Coming up with an idea
When you’re generating your specific ideas for each piece of the campaign, make sure they dovetail well with your goals. You also need to align your new ideas with your ongoing interactive strategy to make sure you’re not conflicting yourself and ensure it is all truly interactive. Remember to keep the ideas as unique as you can, or at least take an unusual angle.
I like to pitch the client 5 ideas in a PowerPoint. I walk them through each idea and then let them decide.
Create your interactive content
Each piece of the campaign should undergo a planning stage. Don’t skip this. You have a broad outline and some detail already, but make sure each project is also planned.
Always include your branding components in interactive content just as you would other marketing materials. Use company colors, logos and the voice your customers will find familiar. Attribute sources when you use them, and always check facts. And before anything gets published, edit, edit, edit.
If you launch an interactive campaign and there is a major error, you can say goodbye to that client.
Executing your campaign
It really looks like this.
- Create goal
- Generate idea
- Confirm idea
- Create strategic plan and dates
- Run campaign
- Campaign clean up
- Post campaign report
Running your campaign right
As your campaign is in progress, keep these basic maintenance steps in mind. Even the most organized and creative campaign can fail if you don’t run it correctly.
Conduct social media audits. Make sure that all social media for your campaign features the right images and that the brand message is consistent. Everything needs to be updated to promote the campaign.
Each platform should include an interactive campaign link (i like to create a banner on the main site as well). And most important, each move you make on any social media platform should be easily shareable and include all relevant share buttons. Everything needs to be connect and have a very easy user experience, otherwise you will lose that entry.
Advertising and promotion
Advertising your interactive marketing campaign is a complex process, but here are the basics.
Your digital PR strategies should include interactive tools like interactive images, inforgraphics and memes. Make sure your tools all feature simple yet attractive, custom images. Never miss the chance to get free advertising by using free placement sites like Instructables and Medium.
You will need social media ads to get your campaign booming. Your social media ads should be specific in terms of their target audience and your goal for each ad. Select which social media platforms to used based on these metrics. Consider using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, StumbleUpon, Reddit and Pinterest (below), at a minimum. These channels working together cover hundreds of millions of people in different demographic groups.
If you do radio, TV or billboards, it is always a great idea to incorporate that advertising into your promotional strategy as well.
Analyze performance for your channels separately and together
It is a good idea to deliver individual reports from each social network, a Google Analytics report (make sure to create a custom channel and tag your URLs) and a report on KPIs and goals. Each interactive campaign report is has to be custom, so its a good idea to use PowerPoint or Word.
Rules and regulations
Interactive campaigns have to comply to any relevant laws, rules and regulations. But some interactive tools in particular trip up many businesses in this department. Tools like contests, promotions, sweepstakes, quizzes and others carry certain rules with them that you need to know. Get your legal team involved to create your rules.
Intellectual property issues
You worked hard to build up your brand! Don’t let someone poach or dilute it. Watch for copyright and trademark infringements out there, especially when you’re running an interactive campaign. Content that’s wildly shareable needs special protection. Make sure you have someone monitoring social media use of your interactive tools.
Most of the large social media platforms also set rules for this kind of problem and prohibit copyright and trademark infringing activities. When you see an infringing use of your work, report it immediately.
The flip side of this is that you absolutely must be sure that none of your interactive tools are themselves violative. For example, make sure you aren’t spoofing someone else’s brand. And when you use images, either create them yourself or be certain that you can use them for economic gain. When proper attribution is required, make sure you follow the rules that are laid down for the media.
Finally, when you conduct an interactive marketing campaign, especially one that uses contests, promotions and user-generated content generators or contests, know the law. You need to set rules for each contest or other tools that specifically prohibits copyright and trademark impersonation and infringement. For example, you don’t want a piece of user-generated content using the image of a celebrity illegally with your brand on it! And make sure your own rules for your campaign explain whatever intellectual property rights your users retain and give up; if you expect to use winning submissions, for example, make it clear that by participating your users give up their right to make an IP claim against you.
Both federal and state law in most places prohibits false advertising and deceptive or unfair practices. This means you need to research and confirm any facts and information you provide, whether it’s in the contest rules you post or your interactive infographic.
Complying with the terms and conditions of social media platforms and the FTC
Make sure your promotions and other interactive marketing tools comply with the terms and conditions of whichever social media platforms you use. Many of these platforms have created rules that apply specifically to marketing and other commercial activity, and this includes contests and giveaways.
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube prohibit the posting or uploading of any content that infringes upon the rights of any third party. This includes publicity rights, privacy rights and intellectual property rights and protections. Unauthorized and unsolicited marketing—also known as spamming—is something else these platforms closely regulate. Twitter, for example, has its own process for identifying and stopping spammers, and openly states that it will evolve its practices as spammers change methods.
Your best bet is to read the rules for each platform and follow them. If your campaign does violate terms and conditions of a platform you are using (or if it asks users to violate them), your expensive ads aren’t all that you’re risking. Finally, the FTC has a range of new rules on social media contests and blogging. Make sure you read them.
Create conditions and terms of your own
Your conditions and terms should be comprehensive, so work with an expert to determine all of the possible outcomes of the campaign if you need to. Your terms and rules should show any third party (like police or civil authorities) that you are doing everything you can to control how people are interacting with the campaign, social media platforms as part of the campaign, and your website. Finally, include a disclaimer in your materials that says expressly that you and your business are not responsible for the content that third parties publish.
User-generated content in focus
If you’re running an interactive marketing campaign odds are excellent that you want participants to create content. Maybe you’ve created a photo captioning contest, or a sweepstakes where users post their photos for votes. Either way, you need to set ground rules for user-generated content.
User-generated content is a powerful tool. Customers who generate content for you are more devoted to your brand, and even users who don’t create see user-generated content from their peers as credible and meaningful. However, this kind of content also carries a number of risks, including liability for copyright infringement, deceptive advertising, libel, trademark infringement, violation of a privacy/publicity right, and other violations.
Fortunately you do have an anti-liability arsenal. Your first weapon in this arsenal is creating terms and conditions for your campaign that prohibit any potentially damaging activities and limit your business’s liability. These should include a disclaimer that says you and your company are not creating the user-generated content, and a statement that user-generated content does not reflect the business’s views.
Your second tactic is careful, ongoing monitoring. Remove any possibly violative content, or request through the platform that it be removed. Make sure your public response to this kind of material shows that you do not support it. This extra step of going through the platform also creates a record that shows you are doing everything possible to prevent violations.
If your monitor sees content that raises any legal issues, act immediately and address all of the problem issues. Consider using an Internet monitoring and screening service that will use keyword searches to see how people are using your name and brand. This can not only prevent bad content from spreading, but also demonstrate that you’ve taken appropriate steps to prevent the problem.
Perhaps most labor-intensive (yet also most effective) is reviewing submitted content before it is disseminated. This way you can prevent bad submissions from being seen at all.
Finally, protect your business, your campaign and yourself from claims of intellectual property infringement for user-generated content. You are potentially at risk for claims from the users themselves, but also from third parties whose material gets used by your participants.
You must obtain consent from users for your use of their content without compensation for the user. You can make a short release part of the registration process so that only users who sign (or check) a release agreement that permits you to use their content can participate. To prevent the third-party issue, either prohibit your participants from using any third party content, or limiting them to public domain content.
Advertising and children
Realize that minors use social media (and things like meme generators and quizzes) and plan accordingly. It is illegal under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 6501-6506, to collect, disclose, maintain and use the personal information of children under 13 years of age. This applies to use whether you’re specifically targeting children or not.
If you have personal knowledge that you’re handling this kind of data you must comply with the relevant regulations. If your promotions do specifically target children, know the guidelines set forth by the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (“CARU”). This is a self-regulatory body that is funded by marketers that reviews this kind of advertising.
Records from your social media use
If you engage in marketing on social media, retain all of your records that are connected to this activity. Should you ever be accused or subpoenaed you will need to produce these records. And sometimes just having this hard proof about your campaign heads off legal challenges at the pass.
Summing Up Interactive Marketing
There is a lot to be said on this topic. One thing I have learned, is that the keys to a good campaign are a good idea, a good interactive online funnel and distribution.If you can get these three core components right, and avoid an missteps, you might just win in the world of interactive marketing. Have a question? Ask below or tweet to me here @johnelincoln or @ignitev