Flash or fundamentals?

How do you know when to add some sizzle to your clients' steak vs when to stick to the meat and potatoes? (Image credit: chemistryland.com)










I heard a great line today. Sometimes the steak needs a little sizzle. I like that. And it was appropriate because of a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. Let me tell you the story.

Last week a few FH friends who went to SXSW and I had a meeting — a brain bend we called it. The idea is for one person to lead the meeting and share something new or different they’ve seen in the communications tech space. In the same vane as SXSW.

Anyway, Kathleen Souder from our St. Louis office led the first meeting. And she showed us some examples of how companies like Oakley are using motion graphics, flash and customized content curation to create a unique online experience, often in game form. Instead of reading that tongue twister explanation I just wrote again, check out the You vs Oakley site. It is pretty impressive, if I do say so myself. Not like anything I’ve ever seen.







In case you didn’t click the link, Oakley has created an experience where you can challenge one of five professional athletes — pro cyclist Mark Cavendish is the only challenge that currently works. You sign in with Facebook, and your experience is customized. Cavendish holds your Facebook pictures in his hands and your name is on the bike jersey he gives you. Then you make decisions along the way as you race him — including what pair of Oakleys to ride with, of course.

Sounds pretty intriguing, right? That’s because it is. Definitely an experience that will get people talking. But my question — that question I mentioned a few paragraphs ago — is this. When does the sizzle make sense and when is it too much? You know, flash just for flash sake?

See, a sizzle play like Oakley made here costs a decent amount of money. And there are a lot of companies that would be better suited to spend that money on the communications fundamentals. Strategic planning, listening and engaging with customers, researching and targeting influencers. And I am so against the shiny penny syndrome. Plus, the Oakley site is mostly flash, which causes some usability issues for folks who don’t have the right version of Adobe Flash Player as well as on mobile devices.

But to play devil’s advocate, the sizzle Oakley created gets people talking. It got me to write this post, didn’t it? It’s memorable. Since it’s a game, it gives users a reason to come back for more. It creates brand engagement. And they’ve integrated their products nicely. It’s content marketing at it’s finest — awesome content people will want to share. And remember, a third-party customer share is more trusted than any other form of marketing.

So when do you go for the sizzle and when do you stick to the meat and potatoes? I’m still pondering this one. But my thought is if you can back the flashy play with a compelling insight, then go for it. If the brand research says customers want that sizzle, then light your steak on fire.

As long as you aren’t doing it just to get the oohs and ahs. Because like everything else, you either think a decision like this through and  back it with research. Or you’re chasing that shiny penny. And you know what happens if you chase the penny and catch it? Nothing. You have a penny and that’s all. Good luck with that.

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