Equinox kicked off the new year with a campaign called ‘We Don’t Speak January’ which banned new members from joining on January 1st. It’s majorly backfiring on them on social media.
As someone who has spent most of my marketing career focused on fitness and wellness brands, I’m sharing my takeaways for why this misses the mark.
1. Be bold, but stick to your purpose.
This campaign immediately reminded me of REI’s Cannes-winning campaign, #OptOutside, when they closed their doors on Black Friday and encouraged customers and staff to spend the day outside. This makes sense for an outdoor brand like REI.
Equinox’s move had this same shock value, but banning new members doesn’t align with their brand purpose or mission.
According to their website, this is what Equinox stands for:
“In everything we do, we create the possibility for people to maximize the potential within themselves.”
This campaign did the exact opposite and isn’t true to who they are.
2. Never pull a stunt at your audience’s expense.
#WeDontSpeakJanuary aims to inspire, but instead, it alienates.
But Equinox isn’t the only one. I’ve seen other fitness centers try to shame customers into working out by poking fun at their past failures. Pity never works.
We’re all hard enough on ourselves as it is. No one wants a corporation making us feel worse about our goals.
I can’t believe I have to say this, but a little empathy here would’ve helped them avoid this mistake.
3. Perception is reality. Timing is everything.
At first glance, the sentiment behind the campaign manifesto seems uplifting.
But pairing this with a ban on new joins is what sticks with their audience. It’s what they will remember and criticize Equinox for, despite their intent.
This campaign may have been better received if it was launched before January to inspire people to make a change now, without needing a reset for the new year. But instead of making people feel welcome, they feel excluded.
4. What was the goal?
If the goal was lead generation, this campaign falls flat.
Even though REI closed their doors on Black Friday, they saw a boost in sales. I don’t think this Equinox will receive this same support for their ban.
But if I had to point out a positive, this may work well for retention. Existing members may feel assured knowing they’ve incorporated fitness as part of their year-round lifestyle.
I understand what they were trying to do, but Equinox could’ve made simple tweaks to this campaign to meet their audience where they are instead of shutting them out.
READ MORE: In Defense of Peloton’s Awkward Holiday Commercial
Listen: Peloton’s Pop Culture Brilliance w/ Christina Garnett and Adam Pierno
In the lovable Apple TV series, Ted Lasso, the title character played by Jason Sudeikis has a one-word message to help his players get in the game: Believe.
It turns out that this simple, yet powerful lesson from the locker room can also apply to your marketing.
The Two Types of Marketing
Marketing is a broad term, but there are actually two subsets of marketing: direct-response marketing, and brand marketing.
You may find that you identify with a specific type of marketing a bit more based on your interests and skillsets. For instance, I consider myself more of a brand marketer vs. a direct-response marketer.
So what’s the difference?
Brand marketing is about getting your customer to believe in your product or service. Its goal is brand awareness. Brand marketing generally comprises initiatives like organic social media, PR, reputation management, traditional advertising, community engagement, and any storytelling effort. Brand marketers set out to inspire your audience to think positively of your brand. This encourages conversion but doesn’t directly produce it.
That’s where direct-response marketing comes in.
Direct-response marketing is considered ‘action marketing’ because its tactics facilitate a purchase. Its goal is conversion. Online advertising, email, SMS, and paid social are all examples of direct-response marketing because your customer can take action and convert in the moment. They’re just a few clicks away from a purchase.
To put it simply, direct marketing helps people buy, whereas brand marketing helps people choose.
How Do We Choose?
What makes you choose a brand over its competitors? It may come down to straightforward qualifiers like better quality, price, or availability.
But your brand’s reputation, values, and personality also play a role. And it’s brand marketers who manage your brand’s reputation, communicate your values, and display your personality through the tactics I previously mentioned.
Even if your brand is the highest quality, readily available, and priced within your customer’s budget, they probably won’t choose you if they have negative perceptions of it. Your investment in direct-response marketing touchpoints will be more effective if your customer has a positive association of your brand. Your digital advertising will be met with a stronger willingness to convert, thanks to brand marketing.
The Brand Marketing Conundrum
When it comes to these two types of marketing, brand marketing presents a certain challenge in contrast to direct-response marketing. Brand marketing is difficult to measure, whereas direct-response marketing is more black and white. This is because you can easily trace a conversion back to the direct-response tactic that produced it thanks to something called last-click attribution.
According to HubSpot, last-click attribution “is when you give all of the credit for a conversion to the last touchpoint in the buyer’s journey — it assumes the final touchpoint is what ultimately influenced the lead’s decision to convert.”
The problem here is that last-click attribution discredits brand marketing efforts. Your customer probably wouldn’t convert if not for the countless brand marketing touchpoints that preceded the conversion. Not to mention, brand marketing is typically a long game. It often requires weeks, months, or years of fostering goodwill so that your audience will gladly choose your company when they’re ready to buy. But as far as measuring what generated revenue, the last click gets the point.
What This Means for Brand Marketers
Last-click attribution puts brand marketers in a difficult position because it’s hard to prove their value. How can social media managers, brand managers, PR professionals, creative strategists, copywriters, and community managers quantify their efforts without easily tying them to revenue?
This is also how social media as a strategy, and also a profession, gets diminished. Sometimes people are unable to see the value in that meme you posted, the TikTok trend you participated in, or the tweets you wrote. But every piece of content helps create relationships, build trust, and inspire customers to choose you over the competition.
One of the best opportunities for brand marketers to demonstrate their value is to measure brand sentiment.
What is brand sentiment? It’s the attitude and feelings people have about your brand. Brand sentiment can be positive or negative, and it’s known as an indicator of your brand’s overall health.
There are several social listening tools and brand health analyses that can help you determine your brand sentiment. For example, that one social media post may not have necessarily created a direct path to conversion, but its story sparked a ton of positive engagement.
Brand marketers work tirelessly to ensure people perceive your brand in a positive light. They convey your company’s culture and motivate a prospective customer to choose you whenever they end up in buying mode. They also cultivate community and nurture customers into brand loyalists who believe in your brand and inspire others to do the same.
Companies that only operate with the bottom line in mind are in it for the wrong reasons. If you serve your customers, strive to do the right thing, and exemplify a strong brand purpose, you’ll meet your goals. With the help of brand marketers and direct response marketers working together, revenue will follow.
Being a talk show host on cable television isn’t as easy as it used to be. The ’90s gave us Ricki Lake, Jenny Jones, and our queen, Oprah. In 2022, Maury is still conducting DNA tests, and Ellen DeGeneres just wrapped up her final season.
With so many cord-cutters and people spending more time scrolling TikTok than watching TV, today’s talk show hosts need to be extra compelling to capture attention.
Kelly Clarkson has been hosting her show going on three years now, and if you ask me, she’s doing an amazing job. There’s something about Kelly’s personality that makes us feel like she’s just like us, although we know no one has a voice like hers.
Speaking of her voice, Kelly incorporates a daily segment that promotes the show in a way that’s true to the talent that made us fall in love with her in the first place. Can you believe it’s been 20 years since she won our hearts as the first American Idol?
Kelly Clarkson’s Social Media Brilliance
To start every episode of her show, Kelly takes the stage to sing a cover of a popular song. It can be the latest Billboard chart-topper, or a throwback that hits us right in the feels. The segment is branded as #Kellyoke, and it may be my favorite use of a branded hashtag for a few reasons.
• It’s not a gimmick. #Kellyoke lets Kelly do what she does best: sing. She’s even compiled the songs into a mini album released earlier this year. My favorite is her cover of ‘Happier Than Ever’ by Billie Eilish.
• All the songs she performs are requests from the audience. This is a brilliant way to foster fan engagement and make her viewers feel like they are contributing. It also creates a powerful storytelling moment. After each performance ends, Kelly will interview the fan who requested the song. Nine times out of ten, there’s a heartwarming backstory about why the song is meaningful to them.
• The covers are shareworthy. You’ll often see them shared on social media after Kelly elevates a song with her own rendition. This is a perfect opportunity to keep her talk show top of mind simply by sharing a fresh new cover every day. The concept is consistent, but each performance is unique. It’s repeatable but never stale. It’s also a great way to tap into new audiences by appealing to different fandoms across generations, depending on the song choice.
• It’s a fully integrated idea.
What is a repeatable content idea you can incorporate into your marketing strategy? If you need help coming up with surefire themes that help you become a more strategic and efficient creator, check out this article about how to apply the content formula.
Why Social Media is a Lot Like Karaoke
There are a lot of takeaways from Kellyoke, but there’s also something we can learn about marketing and social media from the regular ol’ karaoke you do with your friends during a rowdy night of bar hopping.
In fact, social media and karaoke are actually very similar.
Whether karaoke is your jam or not, it’s a special form of live music. The audience gets to come on stage and share the spotlight. They get their own moment to shine.
To an extent, you can mimic this magic on social media, but most brands get it wrong. They treat their social media more like a solo act.
They hog the mic and make it all about them. They don’t invite others to participate. They focus more on promoting something instead of making people feel part of something.
Your path to conversion starts with more conversation. Instead of always talking at your audience, listen, engage, and share the stage.
Attention is Earned on Social Media
So, how can you make your audience go from a passive person in the crowd, to an engaged participant who is on the metaphorical stage, singing your praises?
A common misconception about social media is that we automatically have our audience’s attention. But just because someone follows you doesn’t mean they follow you. This is quite literally the case because social media algorithms may not distribute your content. But beyond that, your content has to be interesting to capture attention.
Your audience will only feel prompted to engage if your content resonates with them.
More brands need to realize this truth: people want to talk about themselves. It’s not about what your product or service does, but about how it fits into your audience’s lives.
When you find more ways to relate to them and make them feel seen and heard, they’ll find more ways to support you. They will also feel more comfortable opening up and engaging with your content.
With everything you post, ask yourself what’s in it for your audience.
Will they see themselves in your content and identify with it?
What emotion will it make them feel?
Does this content address a relatable perception, pain point, or objection they face?
Why will it resonate? What makes it relatable?
And frankly, why should they care? As marketers, it’s important to practice putting yourself in your customer’s shoes as often as possible. It’s far too easy to get caught up in our company’s initiatives, deadlines, meetings, and corporate ivory towers that by the time you share something with your audience, we’ve lost our way a bit. But it’s always about them.
Sparking Engagement the Right Way
Lastly, I’ll leave you with another thing to keep in mind when creating content.
I see a lot of businesses that think simply posting on social media is enough — as if each post is just to check a box for the day. The biggest mistake you can make is posting and expecting engagement instead of proactively inviting it.
I’m not saying every social media post needs a call-to-action, but why not be direct and tell your audience exactly what you want them to do?
I’ve spoken about this during marketing seminars and one thing people aks is, what happens if you ask a question on social media and nobody responds?
There are two answers to this:
1. Your question may be too complicated or open-ended. People are scrolling through social media — they’re not taking an exam. Simplify your question, or incorporate an easy opportunity to engage like a poll with limited answers. There’s more on this in this post: How the Boy Band Wars Can Boost Your Social Media Engagement
2. We always start off talking to an empty room. If you’re starting from scratch, assume your content won’t get a lot of engagement right off the bat. But if you keep at it, one day, one person will respond. And with the nature of social media, that one person’s response will amplify your post. Their own followers may see it pop up in their feed, and then one more person responds. Audience building is something that compounds over time.
Be patient. Growing your brand and attracting an audience takes effort, consistency, and creativity. Be okay with posts that flop, because it will happen. Experiment and try again. And as Kelly Clarkson says, the posts that don’t kill you make you stronger… or something like that.
READ MORE: The Fool-Proof Content Marketing Formula
RELATED: All the Small Things Content Creators Need to Remember
All brands want more social media engagement. So how do you get it? It starts with giving your audience easy ways to express themselves. Too often, we ask too much of them. We present them with obstacles instead of options. If your call to engagement is too complicated, your audience will scroll past.
Most of us are on social media to connect with friends and pass the time. This means your brand is already at a disadvantage. Your content seems out of place — showing up among all the personal things our friends and family are saying. You’re competing for attention, so your content has to be extra interesting. You can’t afford to be boring.
This is done with tactics like:
– This or that
– Multiple choice
– Fill in the blank
– Would you rather
– Rank your favorites
You don’t have to create fancy graphics or any assets. For polls or multiple-choice content, just write a question and a few options and you’re done. But don’t make your polls random and for the sake of creating polls. Always ensure they tie back to your brand’s overall strategy.
‘See and Choose’ content is also one of the fastest, cheapest, and most effective ways to learn about your audience. Instead of wondering what your audience thinks or wants, you can just ASK! And in real-time. Every post is an opportunity for insight.
This isn’t my opinion — this is based on the science of System 1 and System 2.
System 1 and System 2 Thinking in Social Media
In his book, Thinking Fast & Slow, Daniel Kahneman explains how our brain and thinking process is broken down into two parts: System 1 and System 2.
When we employ System 1 thinking, decisions are easy and automatic. We decide based on intuition and instinct and are able to think quickly.
System 2, however, calls for more rational thinking vs. instinctive thinking. When we activate System 2, decisions are slow and take a lot of effort. They require more logic and analysis.
Social Media is a Skill
I like to think these takeaways I’ve shared with you today are further proof that although everyone can do social media, not everyone can do it well. It requires a deep understanding of your brand, your audience, and how people think.
It may be tempting to have a friend or family member handle your social media, but investing in a true social media professional with the proper training is one of the best things you can do to grow your business.