Hamilton Won More Than Twitter

My piece from the Washington Post 9.17.2016, based on a case I wrote for Darden.

Hamilton Won More Than Twitter

The big idea: Lin-Manuel Miranda has become a household name, thanks to his musical “Hamilton,” which has grossed more than $75 million and won 11 Tony Awards. But before it moved to Broadway, Miranda and his backers needed to figure out how to promote the show and engage the audience online. It seemed only fitting to dominate social media as no previous show had, considering “Hamilton” was a mix of modernity and history, gaining acclaim for featuring a cast that represented the racial diversity of 2016 America, with characters who pushed boundaries by retelling history via hip-hop. They needed to make its story accessible to more than those who could afford a Broadway show.

The scenario: Stacey Mindich, the producer, organized an “Influencer Night” during the show’s preview performances. She invited executives from Silicon Valley and digital media experts to the show and asked them for feedback and online strategy tips. This interactive media board of advisers ranged from Mashable COO Mike Kriak to Amazon’s head of online advertising Jason Nickel. But her greatest influencer turned out to be Miranda himself.

The resolution: A strategy was developed to leverage Twitter as the most widely available way for followers to touch the secret world of “Hamilton” and feel included. Miranda used Twitter to connect a broad cross-section of people who love rap, history and theater by soliciting fan art and poetry. He responded to questions one on one and treated his followers like pals. Using 140 characters at a time, he created a special digital club that kept fans engaged.

Hundreds of celebrities from Oprah Winfrey to Jennifer Lopez took to social media to declare their adoration for the musical and for Miranda. Comedian Jimmy Fallon simply stated, “HAMILTON is a game changer.” Musician Alicia Keys flamboyantly used emojis and hashtags, “#wearelimitless!! #unboxable #canyoutelli’mintoit?” Backstage selfies of celebrities began to dominate social media.

They also successfully created buzz around “Hamilton’s” lottery for 21 10-dollar seats. The impromptu #Ham4Ham live performances were engaging thousands of people on social media with each release.

By the numbers, the “Hamilton” YouTube channel has more than 100,000 followers, and “Hamilton” has more than 250,000 followers. Miranda personally has more than 500,000 Twitter followers.

He engaged directly with fans on 65 percent of Twitter posts, via tools such as retweeting and commenting, so fans came to love him even more. Miranda’s Twitter feed is brimming with insight, connection and interaction with the online world. He tweets about celebrities, but he also makes personal comments about everything from his hair to his lunch.

Through these channels, the show created platforms not only to promote the play but also to create a visceral connection to thousands who will never set foot in the Richard Rogers theater.

The lesson: However, social-media buzz is only worth so much. The real winners in “Hamilton’s” financial equation have been ticket resellers. Before the show launched, they were charging a 42 percent premium over face value. As it turns out, boosts in ticket resale price correspond directly to the musical’s promotion on mainstream channels such as a feature on the CBS news program “60 Minutes” and a Grammy performance. The show’s 16 Tony nominations resulted in 11 Tony Awards on June 12, 2016. By the end of June, both StubHub and Ticketmaster were selling second-row orchestra seats for Miranda’s final show, July 9, 2016, for almost $10,000 each.

There was no direct correlation between specific social-media activities and ticket price sales. But mass-market exposure such as awards shows and guest appearances drove up prices.

No doubt, social media helped the traditional exposure of things such as TV appearances. But without television, the ticket resellers would not be netting $240,000 a week.


See the original at the WP site


Under Armour’s Willful Digital Moves

My Washington Post piece from last weekend.

Under Armour’s viral campaign for the female market proved a winning strategy

The big idea: Kevin Plank has taken Under Armour from a business run out of his grandmother’s Washington basement to a global athletic wear empire in just two decades.

By 2013, Under Armour had expanded from breathable, wicking football shirts to shorts, shoes, uniforms and even hats, and was a success within the men’s athletic-wear market, competing with powerhouses such as Nike and Adidas.

In 2013, Under Armour had $2.3 billion in sales, yet only $500 million came from women’s apparel. Plank was ready to expand.

The scenario: Although Adidas had previously failed to create a successful digital campaign to attract women, Plank took a risk by pursuing viral promotion. Debuting in July 2014, the “I Will What I Want” campaign first featured American Ballet Theatre ballerina soloist Misty Copeland dancing as a voice-over reminisced about how she was rejected by a top ballet academy at age 13 for having the “wrong body for ballet.”

The YouTube ad went viral with 4 million views in the first week. Audiences spent an average of four minutes on the Under Armour website during the campaign’s peak.

The campaign continued, featuring other known women such as supermodel Giselle Bunchen, which was a second risk. Signing a famous name to a brand has been found to increase a company’s sales by just $10 million annually and increase the company’s stock returns by only 0.25 percent.

Of the 100 most-shared video advertisements of all time, only 13 percent had celebrities in them.

But it worked for Plank.

The “I Will What I Want” campaign’s success surpassed what Under Armour had imagined. It produced 5 billion media impressions worldwide and a staggering $35 million in earned media, resulting in a 28 percent increase in women’s sales and a 42 percent increase in traffic to UA.com.

The resolution: Targeting the female market with this viral campaign proved to be a winning strategy for Under Armour.

Following the success, it surpassed Adidas and moved from the No. 3 spot in the U.S. sportswear market to No. 2 today, second to Nike.

Plank has said he plans to make the company a $10 billion brand by 2020. To do so, he’s doubled down on digital by launching a mobile shopping app and investing $1 billion in Connected Fitness. The company has invested in relationships with athletes such as Cam Newton, Steph Curry and Lindsey Vonn.

The lesson: Can marketing moves drive business in women’s athletic apparel sales? Twenty-four consecutive quarters of 20 percent-plus revenue growth answers the question.

By — Meghan R. Murray July 16 published in the Washington Post



Audience Growth & Engagement: Video

The Difference Between Video Marketing and Video Advertising

Some people may think that the words marketing and advertising are synonyms, as they are used interchangeably very often. Especially when we talk about Video, not everybody is able to get the difference. Is the YouTube pre-roll ad considered marketing? Does a video on a company’s home page count as an advertisement?

The incredible growth of promoted videos on social media platforms such as Instagram or Facebook, made the picture even blurrier. Sometimes is, in fact, possible to see a promoted video on a platform, which will also host the same video for free on a brand’s feed. Is marketing just a fancier way of saying advertising?

Let’s try to explain. Imagine a big circle and label it as video marketing, then draw a smaller circle inside: that is called video advertising, where all the paid distributions channels actually take place. There can also be a small circle next to it for social sharing and another one for a brand’s own website, but these small circles inside the big marketing area do not overlap, as they do not belong to the advertising circle.

Video Marketing: The use of video as content in websites, landing pages, social media and email to inform, educate and engage.

Video Advertising: Running video commercials online across all screens, using advanced audience & geo-targeting to reach precise markets

Video marketing has been a powerful online tactic for quite a long time now, almost a decade. With the explosion of mobile devices in the last few years, videos have increased their presence, because it’s easier and more engaging to watch a small handheld screen than read on it. Data shows that last year, mobile was the fastest-growing platform for viewing video—and it will continue to be so into the foreseeable future.

Why invest on Video advertising if video marketing is already performing? It’s like TV advertising online—only better. Here is some data provided by Sightly, a video advertising tech company:

  • 9% of marketing professionals worldwide name video as the type of content with the best ROI
  • S. viewers watch between 25 and 35 billion online video ads each month
  • 90% of consumers watch online video
  • Video is the fastest-growing ad format, with spending rising 41.4% this year and 40% next year
  • 58% of worldwide marketing professionals say that digital video ads drive better engagement than TV ads

Video advertising gives you the potential to reach a huge audience – people of all ages, many of them difficult to reach through traditional advertising channels. YouTube advertising has the potential to reach over 800 million visitors worldwide.


Analytics Drives Content

I constantly recommend Google Analytics to my students and clients, whether they’re starting research for their SEO campaign or starting an email effort.  The below article from Entreprenuer.com has some great tips on using GA for social media.

5 Ways Google Analytics Finds You Relevant Topics for Your Social-Media Campaign

Social media are communications channels that many of us think about in whimsical ways. But these channels are also something marketing experts take dead seriously, for the opportunities they present to post content that is sharable, interesting — and potentially crucial for marketing a business.

All of that is great to know, of course, as long as you’re not a content writer.

The reason is those times in every content writer’s career when coming up with the constant stream of interesting topics social media requires doesn’t happen so easily. If this is an issue for you, here are a few tips that will give you the fastest, easiest way to find those new content topics that are exactly what your target audience is interested in.

Google Analytics for content topics

Google’s free reporting platform, Analytics, provides a wealth of data and information pertaining to your website and website visitors. Using this tool is as simple as creating an account, inserting the code to your website pages and letting the data come flowing through. Business owners and webmasters use this data to determine how to make their websites better, improve user experience and, more importantly, gain insights.

Here’s what to check out on, and use Google Analytics data for, to determine content topics you can include in your social media content strategy.

  1. Interest categories

Interest categories are based on users who visit your website. Google categorizes them by interest, lifestyle and product purchases. Interests may be found under the “Audience” tab in Analytics. Using this information, you can craft content based on categories such as: movies, music, business, news, travel and other categories that your website visitors or target audience may like.

  1. Keywords

Another great way to find out the interests of your target audience members, specifically related to your products or services, is to learn what key-word terms they themselves used to find your website.

When a number of people use the same keywords, these are great potential areas of audience interest for your audience that can be used to craft your content topics. Keywords or search terms may be found under “Acquisition,” and then “All Traffic,” with an assortment of keywords offered.

  1. Search feature on your website

The search feature on your website is one of the most overlooked features. But by looking at what website visitors are searching for, you can gain direct insights into what their interests are. You can find these search terms by visiting the “Behavior” tab in Google Analytics, then opening up the “Site Search” tab and reviewing “Search Terms.”

Not only can you find the search terms people are interested in, you can also gauge the importance or relevance to your target audience, based on how many visitors have searched with similar terms. You can then compile a list of content topics based on these customer search terms.

  1. Comments on blogs

Comments that visitors leave indicate a level of engagement with your content. The more comments there are, and the more different types of comments and information they’re focused on, could indicate further needs in those areas, and become great content to use to refine your social media content strategy.

For example, a long debate or discussion might relate to a specific article you could expand on in your next content piece and share socially, to drive more people back for further discussion. Comments will likely be found in the blog of your website or on your CMS.

  1. Pages visitors frequent the most

A final area in Google Analytics where you can gather indications of what types of content or topics interest your target audience and website visitors is your website pages.

Looking at Analytics, you can determine which pages or blog posts your visitors have viewed the most. You can also determine how much time they spent there. Using this information, you can then generate more content about those areas you know your audience already has an interest in. You can also look at your site’s popular content from a different angle: Find a direction that those topics haven’t addressed before, or give customers a behind-the-scenes sneak peak at your product or service.

However you find your topics or creative ideas for content, the most important thing to keep in mind revolves around your target audience. What needs or concerns are you addressing for them? What information can you share that will draw them into what you have to offer?

Now, you’ve got the great content. What do you do next?

Now that you have a long list of content topics to write about, the next step is obvious: You will want to write your own content. Once it’s drafted and posted, on your website or blog, share it on social media with a link and an image.

Make sure that that content is something enticing and important enough for customers to share and feel compelled to comment on. That is the true test to determine that you’ve found the right content topics for your social media audience.



Bro, Wingman, Pal

Brands are increasingly crossing the line between fun viral shows and true advertising.  The McGillicuddy “baby announcement” is a fantastic example — over 300K views in the first two days (posted July 31, 2014).

#ShareaCoke, man.  You can share a virtual Coke, earn rewards, upload your own photos.  They have us beat.


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La La Lots

Three and half minutes long. Over 250 million views in 2 months.  An ad, produced to promote a prooduct – yogurt – capitalizing upon the World Cup.  Many fun viral videos have more views, but this is produced as an advertisement and it’s incredibly long.


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video + controversy = viral

A Great Summer for Three at Least

There has been no shortage of drama over online videos this summer and people are sharing them like crazy.  The three I find most interesting are Roxy’s surfer girl ad and the Johnny Walker one featuring Bruce Lee, plus Justin Bieber taking a leak — the third (older video) is not professionally produced, though arguably timed to be released when his buzz was at a lul.

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Smart Way to Promote

The Australian ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ created to promote train safety has been highly successful: viral, spun to a video game, and reached beyond its intended audience.  The video has won over 25 awards.  It reminds me of the 1980s “Don’t Mess with Texas” campaign to clean up litter.  The entire state has embraced it as a motto representing far more than eliminating trash.


Entertain Me Quickly

A new eMarketer report on viral video sharing indicates two categories, Entertainment and Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG),  account for over half of total viral activity.  In addition, 25% of total shares happen in the first 3 days.

Video Ad’s Success Hinges on Social Sharing in the Early Days

Digital video has viral potential, and advertisers are increasingly trying to tap into the social-sharing instinct among viewers. Unruly Media Inc., a video technology company, studied social shares worldwide and found that the fast-moving consumer goods and consumer products category (FMCG) made particular strides in the first quarter of 2013, capitalizing especially on Super Bowl placements and increasing the number of social video shares by 78.2% over Q4 2012.

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Innovative Movement?

“Why Groupon is Selling Out”

Each wave of Internet innovation has its own character, just as human generations do. Amazon, eBay, Yahoo—they were the Internet’s Greatest Generation, creating a new form of democratic commerce. And Google, when it gave us access to all of human knowledge, echoed the idealism of the baby boom counterculture. The way Web 2.0 blended real-world social connections with the social domain was a product of the millennial generation’s connected nature and take-it-for-granted use of technology.

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