Oof, you guys. We're currently on day 2 of Internet Week, and I'm being forced to choose between a rock and a hot place, aka 82°F (outside) and 37°F (inside). This is my second Internet Week, and like its predecessor, this one is stuffed to its garbardine gills with marketing/ecommerce/advertising panels led by the natty doyennes of NYC tech. As one man in the registration line said to another, "that's a fantastic bow tie."

But there is more to IWNY than bow ties! Some of it is buzzwordy bunk, but some of it is quite useful. Tara Levy's session on demystifying engagement fell (largely) into the second camp. 

Levy is the Managing Director of Global Ads Marketing at Google. More impressively, she is able to say phrases like "Generation C" without incurring too many audience eye-rolls. This was good, because Generation C played a big role in her IWNY talk.  

The "C" in Generation C stands for: creation, connection, community, curation. Generation C is mostly but not completely comprised of Millennials. I think Tara said 80% of GenC are millennials, but the rest are GenX, Boomers, pre-Boomers.*

What's cool about Gen-C, from a marketing/advertising perspective? You have the opportunity to become embedded in their lives 24/7.** 

80% of Gen-C is on Youtube weekly. (75% of them are there to watch Truth in Tech.) Gen-C is the instant gratification generation, as any Time/Times scribe can tell you. So, what do they need to be gratified? 

Choice. They want to curate. They want to create images of themselves through curation of cool stuff, and connect with like-minded communities based on these curated selves. That's the reason search engines became the dominant way to buy/learn on the web–people liked the choice. And it's not just search, anymore. Google believes we're heading towards a time when all ads are user-chosen, as well. 

{Google also seems to believe that people like ads, rather than just tolerate them. "No one would buy Vogue without ads," says Levy. I wouldn't buy Vogue with or without ads, but I'm sure there are people who fall into both camps. People do buy things without ads. Like books, for example}. 

However, ads do, sometimes very indirectly, sell your product, so you might as well make some good ones. For starters,  ads that don't appear to be ads. Eg: Jeff Gordon in disguise, scaring the bejeezus out of some poor car salesman. That was an ad for Pepsi–signified by the can of Pepsi in the hijacked Camero. Honestly, the Camero came out better, but such is life. 

So. You put out a cool ad that doesn't feel like an ad, and some people click on it. These people are occupy the tippy-top of what Levy calls the "Engagement Pyramid." The Engagement Pyramid upends Kotler's Marketing Funnel. You start by engaging a (proportionally) small segment of prospective users--the people who have already engaged with your brand, on your turf. When you hit upon something that resonates with them, expand it to digital media, and then and only then to traditional media. It's kinda like how singers start by performing in their friends' basements, and then do local clubs, and then do MSG. Nike is famous for doing this, and it's reduced their marketing budget by 40%. Other brands that successfully adopted an EP-style strategy: Airbnb, Kia, Amazon, and In-n-Out did.

A good way to engage these super users is with a direct brand community. GoPro did this nicely. They started by putting out videos shot with the Go Pro of surfing, skydiving, that type of stuff. Users loved the videos and tried to match them. Now the GoPro channel has tons of user-submitted videos. 

Levy says 25% of brand content is user generated. I actually think this number is higher, if by brand content, you mean content that happens to include a brand. To get your own user-generated content, you do what Go Pro did–seed your platforms with engaging content. Measure unique views, interaction per thousand exposed views, ctr, competition rate, watch time, sentiment to determine whether you're on the right track. And spend your marketing $$ where there's engagement-based activity. 

Where to begin:

  1. Spend some time on the Youtube Ads leaderboard. Note trends, themes. 
  2. Type your brand and category terms into the top 5 search engines, on desktop and mobile. Do you like the results?
  3. Spend a full hour with your content. Do you like it? 
  4. Pick a brand that you'd like to team up with. What do I like about them?
  5. Look at your top media channels. Rank them by engagement strength. 

*Maybe not pre-Boomers.
**If you think this is creepy, you're at the wrong conference.