More Than Just Contests, BrightKit is Changing the Engagement Game

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Marketers have always wanted something in return for the chance to win the concert, car, or cash. They want us, and we’re all in with our coordinates so long as it seems like a fair exchange. It’s tough saying no to cool new swag. It’s always been about engagement, and arguably always will be. The fragmenting digital audience is making it more challenging than ever for brands and businesses to connect. The noise versus signal ratio is deafening.

Vancouver’s BrightKit is launching out of Invoke Labs with a social marketing platform that clients such as The Gates Foundation,  NBC Universal, Snapple, Sprint, Tommy Bahama, SpinMedia and KFC have come to count on. Brightkit’s suite of products helps with launching contests, branded galleries and apps on websites, Facebook pages or mobile devices. According to Brightkit CEO Richard Hungerford. “Social marketing campaigns are 30 to 60 percent more effective per dollar spent than traditional online advertising.”

We can safely say goodbye to the worn out mantra, “I know 50 percent of my marketing budget is working, just not which 50 percent.” For many startups, two of the biggest challenges on the path to becoming a grownup are customer or audience engagement, and distribution.

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Being at the forefront of the engagement equation, Hungerford recently shared his experiences and insights.

BrightKit has morphed from the contesting platform (MemeLabs) of it’s initial incarnation five years ago. While at the time as Hungerford suggests “it was incredibly innovative, and we knew it wasn’t banner ads or click throughs, but it was the cool apps and engaging pieces companies were doing, and thought that online contesting was one aspect of many things a brand can do.”

Times change, trends change, and business is changing even faster, so it became apparent that shifting direction made total sense, “as we saw how the market was shifting towards more of a quick turn around self serve systems. With Facebook and new apps there’s a lot more variety and ways to engage your audience, we wanted to have a whole suite of tools to roll out to clients to engage them in different ways, and being able to adapt and be flexible to what the market was looking for.”

Easy shouldn’t be in the entrepreneurs lexicon. Talking in appreciation of the journey through uncertainty and chaos should be. For Hungerford, he’s excited about the emergence of visual content being driven through social media. There’s a richness and beauty to the chaos of all of this unstructured data. It’s all telling a new story. It’s a user centric universe.

He points out “a year ago customers engaged through our campaigns by uploading images and videos through their computers. For instance, with our platform all it takes now is to simply hashtag on Instagram or Twitter and your content appears. Compare running a video contest which has a relatively high barrier to entry versus how Instagram or Twitter are presenting such a low barrier to entry.”

According to Hungerford, “brand engagement on Instagram has grown 350 percent over the past year. We can continue to help our clients leverage platforms, such as Instagram by aggregating user- generated and drawing insights from photos, videos, comments and also on the users behind the content. 84 percent of millennials purchasing decisions are at least somewhat influenced by user- generated content. We have a big opportunity in driving fan participation.”

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I asked Hungerford to comment about a couple of brands he sees leading the way. “The two brands I admire are NBC Universal. They are great example of a company that rolls out compelling and engaging digital activations across their shows. We are lucky to be one of the partners NBC uses to launch user-generated galleries and contests for shows, such as The Voice and America’s Got Talent. They have huge audiences for these shows and our digital activations are an opportunity for fans to engage between shows.”

As well he shares the amazing metrics behind the Lays Facebook campaign to have fans create a new flavour of chip. For a cash prize, Hungerford says “there were over 3.8 million submissions. Even more impressive, was the fact Lays reversed a 6 year slide in sales and had an increase of 2 percent in sales from millennials. This campaign demonstrated the appetite customers have for interacting and initiating a conversation with a brand. If it wasn’t for this campaign, would Lays ever have know that ‘Chicken and Waffles’ or Siracha were the flavours consumers wanted to see on store shelves?”

The huge challenge, yet equally huge opportunity for business and brands is figuring out how to harness and engage all of the energy and activity. We’re witnessing an exponential explosion of peer to peer sharing of media, the creation of communities, and the sharing of ideas online.

Hungerford is big on the fact that “it’s also about ideas. A good example of this is the campaign we did with the Gates Foundation. We focused on Millennials, and through a Facebook app asking them to share their hopes for 2030, and what they want the world to look like. Allowing young people to upload a wide variety of content, I was blown away by the global participation, and the exchange of caring and thoughtful ideas.”

While ROI, metrics, and data driven marketing campaigns matter to some, it’s also encouraging  seeing a world of engagement that’s beyond the loot and the swag. All we need now is more campaigns of good ideas to turn into deeds of goodness.

John Gray

John Gray

John jumped into the start-up world in early 2009. He was co-founder of Mentionmapp, a visual analytics company that was acquired in October 2011. John is Launch Academy's Program Facilitator, and is leading their Lean Entrepreneur Program. He's a freelance writer, focusing on keeping the humanity in our conversations about technology. John has a B.Ap.Sc. in Communications and a B.A. in English, both from Simon Fraser University.