ANA Annual Meeting 2013

ANA Meeting Takeaway: Social Is Now a Core Driver of Strategy

Grown Up Brands Are Taking It Far Beyond Likes on Facebook, Twitter and Vine

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Social has flipped from marketing candy to the core driver of a brand's strategy. That was the overarching idea at last week's Association of National Advertisers annual meeting in Phoenix. No longer focused just on tactics to use on Facebook and Twitter, social is owned by the CMO and is becoming the engine that powers substantial market-share-driving campaigns for grown-up brands.

Google President-Americas Margo Georgiadis told the first morning's breakfast meeting that a remarkable 24 of the top 100 brands have had a viral video on YouTube this year. She implored marketers to create content like this instead of traditional advertising, and heralded brands that are plugging into pop culture, citing Pepsi's edition of the Harlem Shake with Nascar driver Jeff Gordon. That video hit 7 million views and delivered topical street credibility for the brand.

Joe Tripodi, executive VP and chief marketing and commercial officer of Coca-Cola, described how the company's marketing team in Australia personalized Coke Cans and bottles with 150 first names, showing that content can come in many forms, including a product's packaging. This helped reconnect the brand with millennials by increasing its social currency; he said consumption grew by 7%.

Chrysler CMO Olivier Francois showed how social tactics were powering the automaker's overall approach to marketing, aiding the remarkable revival of a brand that was in near-ruin just five years ago. The company has now deployed Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy from "Anchorman" to pitch Dodge in dozens of videos that will no doubt be the backbone of an integrated TV and social program.

As much as CMOs cling to ROI numbers and advocate data-informed decision making, however, it became apparent that unlocking social media magic can't be only a matter of science. There is a fine line between social gold and YouTube obscurity.

In a moment of candidness, Mars' Debra Sandler revealed that her company almost didn't use Betty White in the 2010 Snickers Super Bowl ad that turned out to be a big hit, a social media sensation and the spark to revive Ms. White's career. Would the ad have gained such fame if they had used the Aretha Franklin version in the big game?

It was big of Tony Pace at Subway to admit that he initially had rejected the idea to create a competition, dubbed #ProjectSubway, to have designers create outfits made of recycled Subway waste. The 70 million impressions that the company garnered with that campaign outside of paid advertising illustrated that social is about putting ideas back in the forefront, something that I'm excited about.

So what were the lessons I took away from the ANA's top marketers in 2013?

  • Social isn't just a single channel or a tactic, it's increasingly a core principal behind the marketing strategy.

  • Consider content over advertising. That's shifting how media and communications need to be planned.

  • Judgment and ideas are probably going to be more important in conceiving social strategies than logic and data for the time being.

  • But social tactics' success is being measured by overall marketing metrics. Sales. Brand opinion. Reach and Impressions. Not just follows or likes.

  • The CMO is now owning social, not a "social team."

  • Integrating paid media with the owned and earned, not the other away around, is the new hierarchy.

  • The top marketers are demonstrating that the future of our industry is not about social marketing. It's about marketing in a social era.

Antony Young is president of Water Cooler Group.
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