Battle of the Brands: The Social Media & PPC Challenge
“Margot, if you’re struggling to think of ideas, just steal good ideas from our competitors.” I’ll never forget this tidbit of advice I received from a past colleague (I’ll keep names anonymous). But seriously, why not steal ideas from others and make them your own?
As marketers, we probably spend too much time admiring, comparing, and critiquing brands that we love (or hate). We’re creative people who thrive off inspiration and learn from the failures of others. From my few years of marketing experience, I’ve learned that you don’t have to just rob your competitors of their ideas, you can rob from companies that are not even in your industry. But how do you know what works and what doesn’t?
For this post, I spent time analyzing the online marketing strategies of brand competitors that I admire to really put their brand's marketing to test. I looked at social followers, analyzed social content, and evaluated paid search ads to determine the winners. I’d like to clarify that this post is mostly opinion-based, while taking some metrics into consideration. My hope is that you’ll leave with a bag of goodies that you can steal from for your next killer marketing campaign.
Brand Marketing Battle #1: Blue Apron vs. Plated
I feel like I see these two names everywhere. Perhaps they both just excel at remarketing. Anywho, for those of you not familiar with these services, they’re both meal-delivery services, which deliver the ingredients and recipe to cook a delicious and nutritious home-cooked meal, right to your door step. I’ve got to admit the concept is intriguing and I’ve contemplated ordering (and someday I probably will, but from which service? That remains to be seen!). Both of these delicious companies were founded within a few months of each other, with Blue Apron leading the way, and both are headquartered out of the Big Apple.
Without further ado, let’s see who gets chopped, shall we?
Blue Apron significantly trumps Plated on followers.
On Twitter, both of these services absolutely roast it. Their posts are both visually pleasing, with every tweet including a tasty shot of edible heaven. I might slightly favor the copy of Plated’s tweets, which use a lot of exciting and humorous language, and they also provide lots of quick and useful cooking tips (as an active tweeter and mediocre chef, I love these!).
Wow, good to know!
Although, Blue Apron has posted some good finds like this hilarious article below. KALEifornia, get it? Ha!
On Facebook, the posts look pretty similar to Twitter, and I’m still swaying a bit towards Plated’s posts simply because the copywriting is more engaging. Their copy for each post is clever and quick, which is appreciated on social, where people are usually visiting for entertainment purposes. I also enjoy how they address “you” and actively ask for feedback, like in the post below.
Blue Apron’s posts tend to include more detail and the way they’re written is not particularly interesting.
Ehh, this post just doesn’t do much for me.
Hmm, I’m not quite sure how to choose a winner for Instagram... I mean, how can you go wrong when it comes to filtering photos of food to make them appear even more mouthwatering than they naturally are? I’m seriously starving after looking through Plated and Blue Apron’s Instagram accounts. Thanks a lot guys! I’ll be the one sulking in the corner, attempting to enjoy my homemade peanut butter and jelly that I brought for lunch.
One thing that I love that Plated does is highlight their customers’ photos. They’ve heavily promoted their own hashtag #platedpics and with over 28,000 contributors to the hashtag, I’d say they have a wide variety of photos to choose from. Even more importantly, getting fans involved in the brand and featuring them on your company page is a strategically genius way to interact with potential customers and current customers to make them even more loyal.
BlueApron’s captions seem to be a bit more playful on this social channel, but aside from posting gorgeous photos of food they don’t tend to do anything out of the ordinary. Although I did love their cute vegetable Oscar nominee video post below.
Paid Search Ads
Blue Apron’s branded ad:
Plated’s branded ad:
- Headlines: Blue Apron’s headline is short and sweet, but Plated’s takes it a step farther by adding a pretty engaging tagline. Who doesn’t want to “cook an extraordinary meal today”?
- Description Lines: I love that Blue Apron explains what they do in their description, but they’re missing a strong call-to-action, where Plated has “Order Now!” I think a combination of the two would actually work best. Something like “Ingredients Delivered at Home. Order Now!”
- URL’s: Again neither have descriptions after the .com/, which is confusing to me. Why not add a call-to-action? Something like www.plated.com/ordernow
- Ad Extensions: Both are killing it with sitelink and social extensions, but BlueApron even has callout extensions, well done!
And the Winner is…
Plated! This cook-off was close, but for being the underdog when it came to social followers, I felt like Plated really used a lot of creativity and spunk within their social content. When it comes to their paid ad, I found their copy to be a bit stronger than Blue Apron’s.
Well, now that I’m famished for a gourmet meal, let’s move on to our next battle…
Brand Marketing Battle #2: Uber vs. Lyft
If you’re anything like me, you’ve completely abandoned the idea of hailing a cab, and have come to rely heavily on these types of services. The convenience of ordering a personalized driver from an app at a discounted price (unless surge prices are soaring) without even having to deal with credit cards and counting nickels, is like the cherry on my sundae. I respect both of these big players changing the taxi industry, but who has a better online presence? Let’s dig in starting with…
Looking at these numbers it’s pretty clear that Uber dominates. To be fair Uber has a much larger market share than Lyft. According to Slate, “Lyft’s $700 million valuation is tiny compared with Uber’s $18.2 billion estimate. Lyft operates in fewer places than Uber in the U.S. Abroad, it has no foothold, while Uber runs in 45 countries around the world.” Therefore comparing followers isn’t completely fair, so let’s look at social content a bit closer.
Both Uber and Lyft do a decent job of posting images, videos, and engaging content. Lyft definitely leans toward a more relatable, company-culture, human element to their posts while Uber drives lots of posts toward contests, discounts, and partner initiatives.
Check out Lyft’s campaign with George Lopez as a Lyft drive for a day. It’s hilarious and adds a great celebrity endorsement element.
Lyft’s posts are fun, humorous and relatable. A lot of them cracked me up, like the one bellow. They say never to take candy from a stranger, but I’m not sure I’d be able to resist…
Uber on the other hand is a bit more serious and community service oriented. The majority of their Facebook and Twitter posts raise awareness of their UberMILITARY initiative, which launched in September of 2014. Uber also supports causes like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and No Kid Hungry. I’m truly impressed by their dedication to supporting great causes.
Seriously? Uber, you’re melting my heart.
I’m also a big fan of Uber’s Instagram posts, where they lean towards a much more human, storytelling side. Lyft tends to do more on Facebook and Twitter. Some of these stories really pull at my heart strings.
I only wish that Uber would focus more on these stories of successful rides and interactions on their other social networks, as well as doing more humor and company culture type posts as Lyft does, while mixing in their charitable content.
Paid Search Ads
Lyft’s branded ad:
Uber’s branded ad:
Let’s dissect these ads by their components…
- Headlines: Uber’s headline strikes me as much more intriguing because it has a call-to-action, the brand name is displayed right away and it takes up more real-estate then Lyft’s headline.
- Description Lines: I love how Lyft uses concrete numbers of how much a driver can make per hour and incorporates a call-to-action, but their ad is cut short with only one line of text. Uber’s on the other hand includes some appealing offers, like “Work When You Want,” sounds good to me! They also highlight several other appealing benefits and have a strong CTA as well.
- URL’s: Lyft has a descriptive URL making it clear this ad is speaking to drivers. Uber on the other hand failed to incorporate a description to the URL, boo.
- Ad Extensions: Uber’s the clear winner here. They have 4 well-done site-link extensions that even have descriptions, callout extensions in their ad, and reviews. I’m impressed! Lyft on the other hand doesn’t have any ad extensions displaying.
And the Winner is…
It’s a tie! I’d say that for being an underdog with much less market-share, Lyft’s social media content is a bit more engaging then Uber’s. On the other hand Uber’s killing it with their paid search ad copy while Lyft’s is slacking.
I know, I know. Ties are BORING, so let’s move onto the next brand marketing battle.
Brand Marketing Battle #3: HubSpot vs. Marketo
If you’re a marketer, you are likely familiar with both of these platforms. You probably use or have used one or both of them at some point during your career. If you’re not a marketer or you’re new to the field, these two rivals offer a suite of marketing tools to push leads down the funnel and (hopefully) turn them into customers. Personally, I’ve consumed a lot of HubSpot’s content, and I’ve treaded around in Marketo so my experience with both services is pretty high-level. Interestingly enough, both of these companies were founded in 2006, so the battle is on!
HubSpot is the clear winner here!
I’d say about 80% of HubSpot’s tweets direct to their own content, but to be fair their blog is huge (they have three separate tracks) so this isn’t super surprising. From time to time they mix in other content from marketing influencers, and their overall tone is pretty conversational, which in my opinion is perfect for social media. They’re not afraid to ask questions and make jokes. And who doesn’t love a good Seinfeld throwback?
Marketo is even more self-promotional on Twitter, but unfortunately less engaging. Several of their recent tweets are promoting their presence at SXSW in Austin, but they also dedicate a lot of their Twitter love to direct followers to their own content. This does get a bit dry and repetitive, especially because the copywriting isn’t quite as engaging as HubSpot’s. I wish they would mix in more content from other sources and add a little more humor and personality to their posts. Check out the typical Marketo tweet below, directing to a Marketo blog post; it’s a bit boring, don’t you think?
It’s funny, after poking around the posts on HubSpot’s and Marketo’s Facebook pages it felt pretty hard to distinguish either one as stronger than the other. They both share regularly, include photos and pretty well-written descriptions with each post, but there was nothing that sparked me as outright astounding or remarkable comparing one to the other. I’d probably lean a bit towards HubSpot’s posts because they tend to share more company photos, which humanizes their brand, but I was pleased by the content shared on both company pages. A couple improvements for both would be adding a bit more humor and conversational language, as well as increasing video posts (for B2B companies especially, videos help explain the business/offerings and engage potential customers).
Last but not least we have Instagram. HubSpot has a much more active presence on this channel, but both are active and share decent content. HubSpot’s post are a mix of inspirational quotes, company culture shots/videos, and even some mouth-watering food pics (which in my eyes are always appreciated and “like worthy”). They recently ran a contest (see picture below) for the best snowed in picture of a HubSpot’s support team employee working from home. The winner got an orange jawbone, pretty creative stuff!
Marketo’s photos all seem to have a purple tint (the Marketo brand color), which is sort of a cool approach. The majority of their posts are giving the follower an inside look into their office life, with also lots of company event and promotion items, like the Marketo car and Marketo purple blankets. While they do a decent job, they could do a lot better. I’d like to see the frequency and quality of their posts improve a bit.
Paid Search Ads
HubSpot’s branded ad:
Marketo’s branded ad:
- Headlines: Marketo’s headline takes up more real estate, which I prefer, and also explains what the purpose of their toolset is right off the bat. HubSpot’s ad mentions their name twice to reinforce the brand and has a call-to-action to demo their software. I’m leaning towards Marketo’s headline as more engaging.
- Description Lines: HubSpot’s description line wins here since they highlight a clear call-to-action to make it very obvious to the reader what action they want them to take. Marketo’s includes some strong selling points and features of the software, but there is no call-to-action, tisk, tisk!
- URL’s: Neither have descriptions after the .com/, which is definitely recommended. Even something like www.hubspot.com/demo would add additional information to the ad.
- Ad Extensions: Both have social and sitelink extensions, which is great. I prefer the copy of HubSpot’s sitelink extensions as the language is more simplistic and to-the-point. HubSpot also has a phone number in their ad, which is a huge benefit to connect leads to a salesperson and push them further down the funnel.
And the Winner is…
Isn’t the answer obvious? HubSpot! While both are very active on social, and have clearly put time into their paid ads, HubSpot’s engaging social personality, much larger social follower base, and strong call-to-action within their paid ad, make them the clear winner here. Now that we’ve completed three vicious battles, let’s discuss some actionable tips that you can take home.
6 Brand Marketing Strategies To Steal From The Winners (and Losers)
- Don’t Take Yourself too Seriously on Social: The posts on social that made one company win over the other incorporated humor and a casual tone. Use HubSpot’s strategy of using a popular television throwback, like Seinfeld, to make your content more engaging, or try Blue Apron’s hilarious Oscar vegetable cat walk video. Spend time doing some creative brainstorming to think of witty ideas to make your posts stand out.
- Find Ways to Connect to the Emotional Side of Your Followers: Uber does this very well with their community oriented partnerships and their Uber driver stories on Instagram. Find ways to tell mini stories through social media to further engage your followers.
- Run Mini Social Contests and Use Hashtags for more Engagement: Social contests don’t need to involve months of planning. Steal HubSpot’s spontaneous strategy of running an internal contest on Instagram to show off your hard-working employees. Hashtags are also an easy way to get your followers engaging with your brand, and will give you an opportunity to share their photos and give them shout-outs to make them feel special. Take Plated’s lead with their #platedpics hashtag, and make your own hashtag go viral. This is especially effective in visual industries, like the travel vertical.
- Utilize All Relevant Ad Extensions in Your PPC Strategy: Ad extensions should be a no-brainer for your paid search strategy. Not only are they easy to set up, but they allow you to increase the real estate of your ad, include more unique selling points and opportunities to receive phone calls, which could lead to an uptick in conversions. Ad extensions can also improve your quality scores and the ad rank of your ad. Almost all of our contenders utilized the power of ad extensions, so follow their lead and set these babies up!
- Make Sure your Description Lines Incorporate a Strong Call-to-Action: This best practice has been proven to work time and time again. You need to give your searchers a reason to click, and enforcing the desired action right away will only increase the chances of your searcher completing the action i.e. converting. “Sign up to start driving with Lyft,” is a good example of subtle CTA to get people moving (literally and figuratively).
- Make Sure Your URL is Descriptive: Not many of our contenders did this, but adding a CTA or some form of relevant description after the .com/ is just another opportunity to add characters to your ad and reinforce your message. Take advantage of that space with a relevant description or CTA.
Some of the best brand marketing ideas can be stolen from other marketers. Just make sure to put your own spin on them.