Q&A: Evan Wray talks brand engagement through messaging

In our webinar Tequila, the Pope, and What Brands on Mobile Can Learn from Both, Swyft Media’s Evan Wray explained the advantages and opportunities that mobile messaging apps can offer brands that are eager to engage with millennials. Afterwards, he answered your questions about messaging apps, campaigns, and metrics. Here’s what he had to say.

You said millennials don't want to be “talked at”. How do we ensure messaging content makes millennials feel “talked to”?

Creative design/experience, relevancy, and targeting are all key factors in not “talking at” users but rather engaging with them. Incorporating your brand into an engagement campaign that’s tied to a relevant social event or holiday can be a great way to weave your brand into the conversation without seeming like a blatant marketing ploy. Our Miller Lite “Game Day” pack is a good example of what I mean. The campaign was centered on the Super Bowl, with a slight nod to the MIller Lite brand by incorporating the product and logo tastefully within the branded stickers. The sticker that was sent the most out of that entire pack was two Miller Lite bottles “cheersing” with the message “It’s Miller Time” because the sentiment was contextually relevant to the event, conversational, and something the sender would naturally say during a sports celebration like the Super Bowl.

What is the difference between a sticker and an emoji?

The basic difference between and emoji and a sticker is size. Emoji are smaller, whereas stickers are larger and reflect a lot more in terms of conversational elements, brand messaging, etc. Another key difference is that the “standard emoji” (yellow smiley face) is supported on the operating system level while stickers are supported on the application level (messaging apps).

The Pope Is Hope campaign’s aesthetic is quite a departure from what you’d expect from the Vatican. Was there any push back from the Pope’s team?

You’re exactly right. It is a departure from what you might expect from the Vatican, which is exactly what they wanted. It was actually his marketing team who envisioned the ‘Popemoji’ concept. Their goal was to resonate with a new, younger audience and get the Pope’s messages across different types of digital media. The content we launch for a campaign is always approved by the brand, and we make sure to focus on both the brand’s message, as well as the user experience. So our in-house design team worked very closely with the Vatican’s marketing team to ensure that the illustrations had the right amount of humor and accurately represented the image and messages they were trying to share. Like all campaigns it took multiple iterations to get it right, but the final result was a huge success. The PopeIsHope campaign had a 99% positive sentiment according to our agency partner on the campaign.

With the 1-800 flowers campaign, the brand was added as a contact in the user’s phone. Was the contact automatically removed for them after campaign completion?

Every user has the ability to remove the 1-800 Flowers brand account from their messaging app contact list whenever they choose. All of our campaigns are opt-in and opt-out. What is great, though, is that because users are choosing to download the content, we see less than a 10% opt out rate.

18–35 is a pretty large age spectrum. Does your content target a much smaller subsections of the millennial age range, or does it truly perform equally across the whole demographic in a lot of instances?

Different content types definitely appeal to different demographic segments, and to take that further, different app environments index higher in certain demographic segments than others. This varies from brand to brand, but overall, if that content is targeted appropriately it can resonate with large audiences. Most of our brand and agency partners, however, have a specific audience in mind that they want to target. For this reason, we can target a specific group of users for Ford, another group for Miller Coors, and yet another for YouTube, all in the same network with similar content types.

Do you think WhatsApp’s unquestionable market dominance is due to the lack of in-app advertising and add-ons? What does this tell you about millennials attitudes towards messaging adverts?

Well, I disagree that WhatsApp has unquestionable market dominance. In developing markets, they are the clear leader due to the low bandwidth required to run the application, but if you go into other major geographical markets, there are different players (China = WeChat, Korea = KakaoTalk, Japan = LINE, India = Hike, Russia = Viber, N.America = FB Messenger). Then, to further this to millennials, the most popular platforms with millennials are actually full of content (stickers, emoji, brand accounts, etc). What this tells us is that if the content is engaging, adds value, and is relevant to their interests, it is actually a very welcome feature of the messaging applications.

Can you define messaging impressions and how impressions impact brand?

Impressions from a Swyft Media campaign are calculated the same way that they would within a traditional banner campaign. Each time a piece of branded content is fetched and rendered on screen, it is counted as an impression—meaning it was seen by the recipient. All of our impressions are 100% viewable given the user experience of our application partners in our network. The primary difference between a Swyft network impression and a standard ad network impression is that all of ours are opt-in. A majority of the impressions with a messaging campaign come while the user is actually engaging and interacting with the brand after they have opted into an experience. They are valuable engagements, not just a passive impression, all tracked via our API and displayed to clients via our analytics dashboards. In addition to impressions, we provide deeper layers of analytics such as usage, popular content types, hours engaged, etc.

How are the metrics you talked about gathered, and how long after a campaign do you keep tracking the data?

Our content is pushed into these messaging app environments via our APIs, and we track the metrics related to each campaign via our events APIs. Brands and marketers can then log in to their customized dashboard to view the real-time analytics for each campaign they’re running—seeing data like how many times their content has been downloaded and shared, total impressions, number of hours engaged, and which pieces of content are generating the most interactions and among their users.

In addition, we share more detailed mid-campaign and end of campaign analytics reports with our customers. Once the campaign flight has completed we pull down the dashboard, but the data is always accessible. For example, Miller Coors asked us to pull the number of shares of their Super Bowl campaign five months after the campaign had finished, and that was no problem. They had seen an additional 5,000,000 shares AFTER the campaign had completed. And we can keep completed campaign data visible if a customer wants to keep seeing it in their dash.

Where do you find information on the styles that resonate with the different demographics?

Unfortunately I don’t know of anywhere that’s publicly researching and reporting this info. These are insights that we’ve gathered by assessing our own data. Our in-house designers have created over 10,000 stickers and emoji to date. Because all of our campaigns sit on top of our API, we’re able to track which individual pieces and styles of content are performing the best in different geographies or with different users. We’ve compiled this data across all of our app partners and use it to make sure the brands and agencies we work with produce the most suitable and effective designs possible for the audiences, apps and geographies they want to target.

For small agencies that are not doing global campaign work, where should they start?

It really depends on your goals, but targeted sticker or emoji engagement campaigns can be a good, small scale way to start. This involves creating content that reflects your brand and resonates with your audience, and then pushing that content into our messaging app network in a very targeted manner. These can be targeted as close as state, from a geographic side, and then further when we target specific app environments and target the context of the content. The key here is that because our campaigns are “pay for performance” you can pay for as few or as many downloads and engagements as you want. Typically our minimum spend starts at $50k.