Category: Multi-layered Marketing

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Despite their sociopolitical woes, Uber has maintained their prominence as a first option among millennials to get from Point A to Point B in a comfortable setting. But, one thing’s certain. Whoever pays for the ride wants to be paid back.

How is the friend who called the Uber going to get paid back?

Insert Venmo. Last year, Venmo and Uber teamed up to allow payments through Venmo on the Uber app. How is this different from a bank account being connected to Uber? Transactions are seamless on Venmo. Venmo is the new cash. And with Uber, you can split costs via Venmo before the ride even happens, relieving any stress that you might have about not being paid back and getting everyone to the destination safely.

You may be thinking, “There’s cash, there’s a splitting costs feature on Uber, there’s buying the friend something equally as valuable. There’s all kinds of ways to pay the friend back.” These are valid answers; However, they are not the most convenient. People are willing to pay more for convenience. Just look at Uber Eats. Instead of just ride-sharing, Uber busted into the delivery service game and partnered with McDonalds to start delivering food through mobile ordering. That’s right, McDonalds. A restaurant that can be found less than five minutes from practically anywhere delivers food now and it’s done from the comfort of an app.

So, when you’re scrolling through memes, you can switch apps, buy food in 30 seconds and have McDonalds delivered to your door by the end of your favorite Friends rerun. According to NRN, “[Digital ordering] represents 53 percent of all [food] delivery orders, up from 33 percent in 2013.”

But the classic payment quandary facing Millennials needed to be fixed. How is the friend who fronted the money getting paid back in a timely manner?

To a non-millennial or non-Gen Z audience, this might still not click. People have been dealing with paying back their friends since the dawn of currency. But for young consumers, things need to be instant. The Uber-Venmo coupling is Convenience Nirvana. And for Digital Marketers, it’s another sign that Corporate Partnerships are a top priority for Branding.

Corporate Partnerships aren’t new, but they might as well be in this new age of Digital Marketing. These partnerships have had many looks throughout the years from disaster relief initiatives to Doritos Locos Tacos. In reality, their main purpose is to increase brand awareness and increase capital while divvying up costs and responsibilities.

In the world of digital marketing though, influence is quantifiable in terms of email subscribers and social followers. When big companies band together today, they are able to absorb a chunk of their partner’s audience, building on top of the audience they already have. Audience overlap is vital for corporate partnerships to succeed. For instance, Taco Bell and Doritos’ target demo of Late teenager to late 20-something midnight munchie warriors makes the two companies a match made in heaven.

Every parent in America was rolling their eyes upon the roll-out of “Doritos for taco shells.” Much like a lot of Taco Bell’s creations, it sounded like a microwave nacho invention by a D-average Colorado high schooler on suspension. But, the companies didn’t care because they knew their complementary audiences. After a little market research, T-Bell and Doritos were already celebrating. All they needed was a solid Digital Marketing Strategy. What was it?

When you get invited to a party there’s an expectation that you supply something like beer. Well, what if instead it was a Taco 12 pack. It’s a little ironic and it’s very smart.

Pushing it out via many a social media channels, 100 MILLION Doritos Locos Tacos were sold in the first 10 WEEKS, and in the first 14 months an average of 1.1 MILLION Tacos were sold per day. Oh yeah, and their science experiment didn’t just satisfy late night taste-buds. The initiative created 15,000 new jobs for Taco Bell.

Audience Matters. And, Venmo knows this.

As technology has become a necessity in everyday life, cash is approaching obsolete territory. Millennials and Gen Zers prefer Venmo to make their transactions between friends and increasingly with businesses. If you can make instant transactions online and businesses are slowly trickling out of cash payment, then why should people use cash? Why carry a wallet?

Partnerships like these also give millennials a worthy reason to open their email. Many Venmo users don’t use Uber and vice versa. With both companies possessing giant email lists, they can leverage those channels to significantly extend their reach by offering a genuinely useful new product together.

It isn’t just pizza and beer that’s being paid for on Venmo. Big-ticket items like rent and utilities are being paid on Venmo. Venmo has really cornered the market of convenience. But, Venmo has done something else, which should not be overlooked. Their app is a social media platform. Possibly the biggest reason why people were drawn to it in the first place was caption creation feature for transactions.

Unsurprisingly, the company is turning fun into dollars. With Venmo’s Transaction Feed comes monetization for companies. Over the past year, PayPal (who acquired Venmo in 2013) has accelerated its efforts to profit from Venmo through e-commerce partnership brands. As a result of those partnerships, Pay with Venmo was launched, which lets customers use Venmo as a payment method with 2 million online retailers, including Grubhub, Williams Sonoma and Seamless among many others.

In addition to use at many retailers, Venmo rolled out its own limited-edition credit cards with Mastercard. Why would a revolutionary mobile-first payment platform join the physical payment world? According to Huber, “nine out of 10 transactions are still carried out at the physical point of sale, allowing PayPal to bridge the gap between physical and online transactions.”

Here’s the kicker. Venmo’s Social Feed is marketing for retail companies, which will help these companies target advertisements based on transaction history. Digital Marketing weaves its way into our everyday lives. For example, when someone buys a t-shirt from H&M in person or online with their Venmo account, the transaction will pop up on their social feed for others to see. Now, H&M knows to target that person with advertisements. Plus, H&M can target other people who engage with the post as well. Plus, people will just see H&M, so free marketing is always an added plus.

Venmo’s Social Feed is smarter than it looks. The company has the opportunity to analyze our spending habits better than Facebook, Amazon, and Google because it is directly connected to our spending. Did the creators of the app know the social feed would turn into a way to market companies? Doesn’t matter. They definitely know now.

Expect an amped up digital marketing strategy from Venmo in the near future. As popular as Venmo is, the company needs to make money. Marketing their retail partners by posting every transaction on the social feed is Venmo’s Yellow Brick Road towards Monetization. They live and die by the strategic partnership. Expect to see more companies on your Social Feed or expect to see Venmo fall from grace.

Last September, Subway released an onslaught of ads smearing McDonalds. Between TV, Organic Social, Paid Social, Email, Building-sized murals, there wasn’t a marketing technique left unused. This was a campaign with more in common with political attack ads than the typical easy-going fast food ads on TV.

The campaign started slow. Two ads showed a Ronald McDonald doppelgänger chilling on the beach with Subway in hand. A simple idea to undercut McDonalds’s image.

Very contained, yet the third ad took no prisoners.

It displayed what looked like McDonalds’s golden arches performing a heart monitor-like motion accompanied by the words “Burger after burger after burger…”.

Then, the arches flatlined. Viewers. Were. Outraged.

Subway warned the world of death by McDonalds. And to be fair, cardiologists and nutritionists almost universally support this message, as blunt as it is.

Yet, this was an emotionally charged advertisement. Nobody cared about the logistics of the burn. It burned. And ironically, after the message of death by cholesterol, Subway gave their cheesesteak (high in cholesterol) a lot of screen time as a substitute for burgers. Again, logistics weren’t important. Subway was taking a risk, feeding on McDonalds’s unhealthy reputation in an attempt to rebrand as trendy.

It makes sense that Subway would do this. In recent years, Subway’s sales have been down since the very public demise of former spokesman Jared Fogle, Subway’s previously perfect, neighborly, healthy spokesperson. Subway recognized their need to pivot the operation. The company needed a new look and attitude. From new uniforms to updated restaurants (with self-order kiosks, mobile payment options, an app, and a pre-ordered pickup area) this was all part of the corporation’s Fresh Forward initiative. Subway jumped into their new millennial friendly “Make it what you want” brand, a slogan noticeably similar to Burger King’s former “Have it your way”.

Subway’s advertisements changed from ‘familiar and wholesome’ to ‘shock and awe.’ Their first series of TV commercials and Social Media Marketing in February consisted of millennials doing a wide range of cool things with Subway in hand. Synchronized roller skating with Subway, snowboarding with Subway, throwing footlongs as footballs. You get the point. The commercials were fun, they showed the range of submarine sandwich options available, and they showed the range of young people who ate their subs.

Then, during the World Cup, the corporation dropped a bizarre, three-day campaign consisting of in-your-face, subliminal messaging. This campaign covered a lot of space.

In Chicago, Subway had giant images of subs projected on buildings, 3D chalk art of meatball subs, huge veggie-loaded footlong images crafted in sand. The company had 6 second Youtube ADs, most notably one with a UFO abducting a Subway footlong from a herd of sandwiches. There were Instagram filters with UFOs, blinking Subs memes on Facebook, GIFs of Dinosaurs eating footlongs on Twitter (during the opening weekend of Jurassic World) and cryptic email messages which read “Seeing Subs?” After Subway’s three-day effort to entice even the shortest of attention spans, they released 15-second multiplatform ads saying, “You’re not crazy, you’re hungry. Feed your SUBconscious here.” This odd, attention grabbing campaign

Of course, this odd campaign was not the company’s end game! It was a move towards their check mate. At this point, Subway was ready to get go deeper into their Millennial-focused campaign. They wanted to get their hands dirty.

*Cue McDonalds slander*

With the rise of social media has come the rise of social media roast battles. Twitter and other social media platforms have laid the foundation for people to call out adversaries at a moment’s notice in front of the world and Millennials love it.

Wendy’s picked up on this early with Twitter persona who calls out other fast food chains, notably McDonalds in 2017.

McDonald’s Announcement: “Today we’ve announced that by mid-2018, all Quarter Pounder burgers at the majority of our restaurants will be cooked with fresh beef.”

 Wendy’s Response: “@McDonalds So you’ll still use frozen beef in MOST of your burgers in ALL of your restaurants? Asking for a friend.”

Wendy’s goal was to gain buzz and they did that. Subway saw an opportunity to gain buzz and call out a competitor in millennial fashion on a larger scale with the flatlining commercial. They undoubtedly knew they would experience backlash from it.

A lot of people didn’t like a fast food chain telling them they would die if they kept eating food from a different fast food chain. And, a lot of people took to the internet to express their concerns and complaints. Subway responded to as many upset users as they could, expressing remorse and hope that their customers would keep coming back. According to Sprout Social, “29% of consumers are more likely to go to a competitor if they’re ignored when expressing distain on social.” Subway made sure to respond to its consumers, but did they do enough?

Bottom line: Subway got attention. More and more, every day, attention, no matter if it’s positive or negative, is becoming a priority in marketing. Attention matters. The jury is still out on whether negative advertising taints sales, but buzz-worthy content is always a means toward that goal. Via TV, social media, YouTube, email, print, sand art, and more, Subway created a multi-layered marketing plan that popped. They hurt some feelings on the way, but it wasn’t too serious. They didn’t attack the morals of Americans. They just attacked a rival. Of course, they have their critics, but people those critics were talking about Subway after the campaign.

Maybe there really isn’t such a thing as bad publicity?