While he was watching Euro 2020 and hoping that England would bring it home, columnist Samuel Scott reflected on what the marketing industry can learn from the tournament. In this piece, he looks at the true difference between TV and social media, and how we should actually approach generational behavior.
Before the pandemic, a friend owned a chain of yoga studios here in Israel. She once asked what to do on social media to become an influencer in that space. My advice to her? “Get on TV instead.” Euro 2020 gave us a similar lesson.
Once I worked for a firm that did social media ‘growth hacks’ for Israeli high-tech startups. We compiled a lengthy list of the social media users in relevant spaces. Every day, I would follow 100 of them from client accounts with the expectation that a number would follow back. Some would.
We would unfollow almost everyone we followed after a week. That way, the client’s number of ‘followers’ would continue to grow while that of the ‘followed’ would not. Yes, I was doing was what Americans call ‘small potatoes’ – basically something unimportant.
If someone wants to gain an actual large following, there is a better way. With apologies to the Talmud, I’ll paraphrase Judaism’s Golden Rule to summarize the goal of most marcom: “Make something famous. The rest is commentary. Now, go study.”
What the multiplier effect means for marcom
One important advertising principle is the multiplier effect, which states that campaigns are more effective as they appear in more media platforms simultaneously. But the problem is that different channels have different levels of influence. Which ones should marketers choose?
In November 2019, Thinkbox commissioned Mediacom, Wavemaker and Gain Theory to look at their databases of econometric models for 50 clients, spanning 14 product categories and 11 different media types over three years. One finding determined each channel’s multiplier effect, which all ranged from 1% to 54%.
Say that you run a paid social media campaign (third column from the left). If you add television to the media mix (top row), the campaign will be 31% more effective (see the corresponding percentage).
Conversely, doing a TV campaign (left column) and adding paid social media (third row from the top) is only 2% more effective. In the study, ‘effectiveness’ referred to profits or sales. (Note: Thinkbox is a lobbyist group advocating that advertisers use television. However, the specific data that it cites is from neutral, objective sources.)
One thing that jumps out is that TV is the most effective channel to add to a campaign while paid social media is the least effective (compare those two rows).
Matt Hill, Thinkbox’s research and planning director, tells me that while the econometrics that determined the study’s results did not specifically explain the reasons, he does have some hypotheses.
He says: “TV campaigns are generally used to drive mass reach and product awareness. This means that other media are likely to be kicking in multiplier effects on top of the TV exposure rather than working in isolation. TV delivers signals of brand quality and financial strength. If you’ve seen a brand on TV, then you’re more likely to trust the comms you see in other media.
“TV ads are the highest quality of video exposure – played all the way through, with sound on, on the big screen. Video is proven to be the best means of delivering an emotive connection, which is fundamental for memorable advertising. TV ads deliver high multipliers to other channels because people are more likely to remember them.”
Essentially, the subtext of this analysis of the multiplier effect shows which marcom channels are generally most valuable. It is important to look at the greater context in terms of what ‘social media marketing’ really is.
Before Euro 2020, the ten people with the most Twitter followers were Barack Obama, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Cristiano Ronaldo, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Ellen DeGeneres and Kim Kardashian.
Instagram followers? Cristiano Ronaldo, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Ariana Grande, Kylie Jenner, Selena Gomez, Kim Kardashian, Lionel Messi, Beyoncé, Justin Bieber and Kendall Jenner.
Snapchat? Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian, DJ Khaled, Ariana Grande, Loren Gray, Gigi Hadid, Bella Thorne, Calvin Harris, Michelle Obama and Bella Hadid.
Now, did these people become famous because of their large social followings, or do they have large social followings because they became famous? Almost always, it is the latter. Large numbers of followers are usually by-products of becoming famous in the first place.
The effect of fame on marcom campaigns
Cristiano Ronaldo did not become a football star because of his social media following – he gained the following because he was a football star. Gigi Hadid had been a model since she was a child. All the Kardashians have been famous since their E! reality television series Keeping Up With The Kardashians started in 2007.
A lot of what appears on TV – news, sport, celebrity interviews – is then discussed on social media, and people who appear on television are then followed. But outside of a certain former American president’s tweets, comparatively little of what first appears on social media ever makes it to TV.
Of course, there are exceptions. Justin Beiber is one – he got his break solely from getting discovered on social media. But people like him are the exception to the rule. Business and marketing strategy is about maximizing the chances of success in achieving a desired goal. And it is much more likely that people will become famous after first appearing on TV rather than on social media.
Now, here is where Euro 2020 comes in – the following three players are examples of those who are young and either unknown or less famous than the big names.
Manuel Locatelli. Through the group stage and the round of 16, the Italian averaged between 500 and 5,000 new Instagram followers per day, according to the analysis tool Social Blade. But what did Locatelli get after scoring twice in Italy’s 3-0 victory against Switzerland on June 16? 78,000 new followers in one day.
Mikkel Damsgaard. Before Euro 2020, he had 15,000 Instagram followers and did not start in Denmark’s opening match. After Christian Eriksen’s injury, he went on to the pitch and scored an opener in the country’s 4-1 win over Russia. By the end of June, he had 36,000 followers.
Denzel Dumfries. The Dutch player had been averaging around 500 new Instagram followers per day. But after his valiant effort during his team’s 0-2 round of 16 loss to the Czech Republic, he gained 3,700 in one day.
If you are a football player who wants to become famous, worry less about what your publicist is doing on Instagram and more about what you are doing on the pitch. Do something amazing there, and success will follow. Attention flows from TV on to social media and other lesser media channels.
Victoria Beckham has had various successful solo careers as a result of getting famous with the Spice Girls first. Football players have large social media followings as a result of getting famous on TV first. As Bob Hoffman rightly often reminds everyone, a certain former US president first became nationally famous after appearing on a television show for years.
Social platforms are basically a bunch of people commenting on what they see and read in other media. What happens on social media tends to stay on social media.
So, what happened with my friend who had wanted to become a yoga influencer? The obvious, though sad, answer – strike a yoga pose in as little clothing as possible and share the pictures on social media – would not work because she was religious. Besides, everyone was already doing that.
I had a better idea. Determine which Israeli early-morning TV show is most watched by mothers as they prepare for work and get their children ready for school. Most likely, they do not eat as well and exercise as much as they should because they are busy. They would welcome wellbeing advice from a female yoga expert.
Then craft a pitch to get my friend on the show as a guest. Think of some timely or newsworthy hook. Come across on the show as a gentle, soothing and wise expert on health. Demonstrate some basic exercises. Most importantly, plaster her social media handle next to her name on the screen at all times.
Sadly, we never got to try. Pandemic. But I remain convinced that she would have gained a large social media following by appearing on a relevant TV show with hundreds of thousands of viewers in this small country. And in part, it would be due to the subtext of the multiplier effects of various channels.
Plan your media by segment, not generation
Segmenting groups of people by alleged generation is just as trendy – and just as stupid – as man buns and skinny jeans. Euro 2020 was no exception.
Before the tournament, ad platform LoopMe surveyed nearly 3,000 UK consumers to determine how people were going to watch the event. Here were some of the findings:
Gen Z (18-24) are most likely to watch with their friends and on a laptop or desktop computer.
Millennials (25-34) are most likely to watch the Euros on their mobile.
Baby boomers (55-64) are most likely to watch with their family.
In a move that should not surprise anyone from the generation that first wore flannel and ripped jeans, gen X was forgotten.
One question. How is any marketer supposed to use this information? To understand the ludicrousness of this research, it is important to have a crash course in basic segmentation first.
Market segmentation divides a market into groups of buyers with similar traits and then targets each segment with a different marketing mix (the 4 Ps) or decides to ignore the segment. Which traits are most important to use? Those that relate to buyer behavior. We could segment by eye colour, but that would be useless.
An example. Before I joined The Drum and became a global keynote marketing speaker, I was the first director of marketing for a high-tech company that sold a SaaS log analysis platform. We segmented the market into groups such as technical SEO professionals, software developers, IT system administrators and devops engineers.
We analyzed the segments based on the volumes of log data that their work activity would produce. The more that our system processed, the greater our revenue. We targeted the latter two groups because they would ship the largest amounts.
Now, there are four main types of segmentation: geographical (location), demographical (age, ethnicity, religion, income), psychographical (social class, lifestyle, personality) and behavioral (use of or feeling towards a product).
Segmenting based on age can certainly be useful. Babies eat baby food. Senior citizens will take specific vitamins and supplements. Women purchase feminine hygiene products after puberty begins. Men get a certain uncomfortable exam after age 50.
But why is the obsession with generational groups wrong? It mixes up two types of segmentation by trying to assign specific psychographic qualities to large demographic groups. All people of a certain age will have the same biological and physiological characteristics, but they will have different social classes, lifestyles, personalities and needs.
To communicate that point, I created this quick graphic comparing the teenagers in the cult 1980s film The Breakfast Club to a hypothetical group of celebrities from the next generation of millennials in the 2000s.
The people in the red boxes have a lot more in common with each other than those in the blue boxes. The individuals grouped horizontally just happen to have been born within the same set of arbitrary years. All men over 50 need a prostate exam. But all men over 50 are not geeks or jocks or criminals.
“The supposed boundaries between generations are no more meaningful than the names they’ve been given,” University of Maryland sociology professor Philip N Cohen wrote in The Washington Post last week. “There is no research identifying the appropriate boundaries between generations, and there is no empirical basis for imposing the sweeping character traits that are believed to define them.”
In May 2020, BBH Labs used TGI’s Jan-Dec 2019 UK dataset to calculate Group Cohesion Scores for various collections of people. Here was one finding:
Basically, people who eat nuts every day have much more in common with each other than any single generation of people.
“The data is clear: passions, habits and temperaments unite us, not generational groupings,” BBH Labs wrote at the time. “Understanding consumers through their nut consumption may sound kooky, but it’s no more ridiculous than doing so through a random 16-year birth window.”
In my Breakfast Club mash-up above, each market segment has the same general personalities, outlooks, interests and hobbies – and probably a lot of the same typical media consumption. Each demographic group does not.
From right to left: Breakfast Club gen Xer Brian and his hypothetical millennial counterpart Daniel Radcliffe would probably watch science programs and documentaries on TV while also reading related magazines and websites.
Claire and Taylor Swift would probably read fashion magazines, visit the Refinery29 website and spend way too much time on Instagram. Allison and Angelina Jolie? Who the hell knows. Andrew and Kobe Bryant? Sport stuff. Bender and Justin Bieber? I’m not sure they know how to read.
Depending on what they are selling, marketers should target all geeks, princesses, weirdos, jocks or criminals regardless of their ages. There are more differences within generations than between them.
In 2019, I gave the keynote speech at a national marketing conference in California for American companies that manage long-term rental properties. In the Q&A, someone asked me how they can target ads when US law increasingly forbids basing such activity on factors such as sex, race and ethnicity.
My response? Get rid of the demographic targeting, and come up with segments that are more relevant. One example I gave was career military families, who move every few years and all have the same rental needs and concerns regardless of their age or race. A marketing mix can cater to them.
My recommendation? If anyone ever tries to tell you that social media is the most powerful marcom channel, or that everyone born within a set of years is the same, just take the attitude that gen X learned a long time ago: “Oh well, whatever. Never mind.”
The Promotion Fix is an exclusive column for The Drum contributed by global keynote and virtual marketing speaker Samuel Scott, a former journalist, newspaper editor and director of marketing in the high-tech industry. Scott is based out of Tel Aviv, Israel.