Sears, one of the oldest and largest big box retailers of the 20th century, have announced a nifty 21st century marketing strategy. They are going to be sending 5 established tech bloggers to the much anticipated Consumer Electronics Show (CES) show. The 5 bloggers will be part of the "The Sears Blue Blogger Crew" according to ClickZ, which has more details on the team and assignment.
At SEW, we think this strategy is 'on trend' and a great example of how traditional brands can stay relevant and play the disruptive space of online technology to their advantage. Sears' campaign has the potential to hit a broad spectrum of goals within an integrated online marketing strategy. Here are 5 reflections on what makes it so in-step with tactics and trends in 2011:
1. Sears, not a content producer, will create content that there is a demand for.
The increasingly real-time nature of the web is creating new opportunities in the search and social media sphere and disrupting traditional intermediaries such as mainstream news sites or TV stations. In order for companies to market themselves in the realtime web they have to, in some capacity, become a content publisher themselves. However, most companies are simply not equipped to become content publishers so they have to be smart.
CES is one of the most anticipated technology shows of the year that offers journalists and bloggers alike a chance to get sneak previews on the hottest gadgets. It's a huge opportunity for real time online marketing and done right, could generate significant exposure to new audiences.
2. Sears' holistic approach will tap into new audiences.
Sears seem to have embraced the fundamentally fragmented nature of the web and dared to realize that search or social media is not the only route to audiences.
Whilst search audiences display a higher degree of intention, that can now be bought and sold, bloggers often have loyal audiences built on trust and discretion and can cause social media advocacy - all of which is difficult to put a price tag on. Sears' willingness to let go of owning the content or the distribution, but instead commission it for that blogger's own channel will have a lasting effect on the brand's reputation. Allowing bloggers to use their own production values, or at least remix the Sears 'script', will ingratiate the brand with loyal readers and provides an avenue for advertising opportunities later down the line.
And it's a brilliant example of "co-opetition" - bloggers need new, fresh and exciting content and the means to create it, whilst Sears needs a way to align itself behind fresh and exciting content, but cannot realistically afford to pioneer it's own destination site or a long term content creation strategy. There is an exciting ring of 'see what happens' in this deal, which is good for all participants.
3. The campaign will create links to Sears' online properties, but more importantly will generate authoritative 'hubs'.
The beauty of commissioning content for other other websites is that it will naturally generate links to your own site. However, the real value is when the campaign generates link equity in and of itself, distributed between all the collaborators. One link from participating blogger to a campaign destination site is not worth as much as many links to that blogger's content from lots of different sites - which then only has one link from their site to yours. By putting your brand authority behind your network of collaborators and building their authority, you can generate more long term benefits from historical links. Put simply, it's good to create 'hubs', of which your campaign is 'a spoke'.
4. Sears' brand can show up in search engines among new keyword themes it could not reach before.
Sears cannot rank on search engines for everything, so there is a physical limit to how much exposure it can generate from search. This physical limit is how much it can spend on paid search ads and how much content they have to optimize for organic search positions.
Partnering with bloggers, on their blogs, means that the Sears brand can generate additional exposure via inbound searches for their content. The demand for information about CES will be huge and it's a term that Sears could never hope to rank, or pay for, on it's own. So, it neatly short circuits the problem by commissioning content for the sites that are likely to rank well. This means more brand exposure around hot topic, that may cause an uplift in brand recognition within key audiences in the future.
5. Sears will create social media advocacy and generate more 'earned media'.
Again, by allowing bloggers to own their audiences and respectfully intervene rather than interrupt the broadcast, Sears can harness the legitimacy and social proof of it's partners. This will cause more sharing of content in the social web and furthermore create more reasons for their brand to be a vocal participant. The conversation exists already and the Blue Blogger Crew is a means for them to 'be a part of it'.
Sears are being smart about the syndicated video economy on the web and using it to address the increasing need for companies to become publishers (no matter how alien it is to their core business). By taking a syndicated approach, sourcing the content network and directly commissioning content, Sears earns itself the power and momentum to reach super niche audiences over a hot news topic. Through video bloggers they can create an emotional engagement that will create brand recognition and loyalty that could influence future search and social media campaigns and help them generate relevance among new audiences.
This a traditional company demonstrating guts and trust in the power of their own brand and their strategy is extremely efficient. All of which has the potential to resonate across the web.