The 2015 Marketing Buzz-Meter Kicks into Gear

We’re only a few weeks into 2015, and already the marketing buzz-meter is operating at full force.

amplificationThe latest marketing buzz phrases are always interesting because, while they surely relate to trends and tactics that are taking on greater importance, they can also be short-hand references that “everyone” uses but “no one” really understands.

Consider one popular buzz-phrase example from 2014:  “Big Data.”

I don’t think I’ve heard the same definition of what “big data” is from any two people.  Yet it’s a term that was bandied about throughout the entire year.

No doubt, “big data” will continue to be a popular buzz phrase in 2015 as well.  But you can be sure it’ll be joined by a number of others.  As Natasha Smith, editor of Direct Marketing News magazine reports, get ready to hear many of mentions of these buzz terms as well this year:

Dark Social:

This references online content, information or traffic that’s hard to measure because it occurs in messaging apps, chat and e-mail communications.  Purportedly first coined by Atlantic magazine, it’s a term whose very name conjures up all sorts of mysterious and vaguely sinister connotations about behaviors that are at work below the surface – thereby making it an irresistible phrase for some people to use.

Viewability:

This term is becoming increasingly popular due to people’s concerns that much of what makes up “viewed” online content turns out to be hardly that.  For instance, there’s a difference between a simple video impression (merely an open) and a “viewable” one (opened and staying open for at least a few seconds).

More than likely, over the coming year the Interactive Advertising Bureau and other “great experts” will be debating over what actually constitutes a “viewable” impression.  All the while, you can be sure that marketers will be referencing the term with abandon.

Attention Metrics:

Dovetailing “viewability” is the idea that traditional online marketing metrics such as unique visitors, clickthroughs, and page views are too shallow in that they don’t really measure the true consumption of content.

Enter the buzz term “attention metrics.”  No doubt, marketers will be all over this one in 2015 as they focus more on the time and attention people are spending with content, not merely the fact that some form of engagement happened.

The Internet of Things:

This term started appearing on the radar screen in 2014 but is really coming into its own now.  It even has its own Wikipedia page entry.  While the commercialization of data-collecting devices such as wearable sensors and sensors embedded in appliances and other electronics is an undeniably significant development, this term has to be one of the most pretentious-sounding phrases ever coined.

… Which makes it an irresistible entry in the buzz-meter lexicon, of course.

Conscious Capitalism:

Rounding out the 2015 list – at least for now – is a buzz phrase that captures the essence of what every socially aware marketer wishes his or her company to be.  “Conscious capitalism” refers to companies and brands that are purportedly socially responsible and “in sync” with the needs of the community and the world.

This is considered important because so much survey research shows that people respond positively to companies that “do well by doing good.”

what's all the buzz aboutExpect many people to embrace this approach – and the accompanying buzz phrase – because it sounds so perfect.

[Never mind that things often come crashing down to earth if and when consumers are asked to pay more for the “socially responsible” products and services, or to make unpleasant or unexpected adjustments to their routine in the event.]

Do you have any other examples of marketing buzz terms that you think are poised for stardom (or notoriety) in 2015?  Please share your thoughts with other readers here.

Virgin Mobile’s “Sparah” campaign: Art imitates life … or vice versa?

In recent days, American television viewers have begun to see ads about a “faux” celebrity couple — Spencer Falls and Sarah Carroll – dubbed “Sparah.” What’s up with this?

It turns out that Virgin Mobile dreamed up these entirely fictitious characters as a way to raise interest and generate “buzz” about its Android-powered phones that feature monthly “pay as you go” plans that include unlimited web, data, messaging and e-mail.

The idea is to pique the curiosity of viewers who will then interact with other consumers and go online to view a variety of videos about this “celebrity couple.”

Now, before reading this blog post any further, I’d suggest you take a moment and view the intro ad here.

The “celebrity couple” is being “given” a house in Hollywood Hills, a stylist and an agent/publicist. As their “fame” grows, the “couple” is being asked to “participate” in activities “typical” of A-list celebrities, including photo shoots, store openings and appearances at special events.

As part of their “contract” with Virgin Mobile, the “couple” will be chronicling their “activities” across a variety of social media channels, including Facebook. Twitter and FourSquare.

And of course, the consumer public is being urged to “keep up with Sparah” by following all of the “important activities” of this “celebrity couple.”

Judging from the comments being left by viewers of the “Sparah” videos on YouTube, Virgin Mobile’s campaign is having the desired effect so far. Not only is the campaign generating significant buzz, it’s near-universally positive in tone.

There’s little doubt that Virgin Mobile has come up with a clever and successful way to generate awareness and interest in its phone plans as it competes with other service providers in the market. But what’s also interesting is that Virgin Mobile is shining a light on the hyperbole and “blue smoke and mirrors” that inform so much of social media and celebrity marketing today.

The line between what’s genuine versus what’s “manufactured” in pop culture – whether news or biography or gossip – is a very fine one. That’s always been the case, of course: the successes of a Lillie Langtry or Sarah Bernhardt a century ago would not have been so impressive without it.

But in today’s world, the explosion of interactive communications creates a hothouse-like environment in which the buzz can be born and spread faster than ever. (That’s why it’s often called “going viral.”)

It’s not hard to speculate that Virgin Mobile is conducting this campaign with “tongue planted firmly in cheek.” Still, the marketing pros at the company realize that while people may laugh at the irony of the campaign, at the same time Virgin Mobile is benefiting in a major way from the very things they’re spoofing. And that’s a master stroke.

Art imitating life? Life imitating art? It’s a pointed joke for sure … but on whom?