The marketing strategists at Callaway Golf hope to tee up more transparency and authenticity for the brand in 2014.
A big first step in that is giving consumers more of a direct voice into brand messaging through a leap of faith. As part of a newly designed site launched last month, Callaway integrated streaming social content about its products and its brand throughout the new site -- even its ecommerce pages.
Powered by social curation technology developed by Livefyre, the launch bucks the trend of extremely controlled social branding strategies and could even be the precursor of Callaway's use of user-generated social content in its paid media placements.
"We wanted to be sure we were bringing in all the great content that was out there in the social space and making sure that it's real-time, authentic content that's relevant to all of our consumers," explained Randy Varela, director of digital marketing for Callaway. "We wanted those conversations that were happening outside our current social platform, to bring that content back onto our own properties for consumers to see and interact with."
Jordan Kretchmer, CEO of Livefyre, says the move by Varela and his team at Callaway is a gutsy one considering the hesitance by many others in the retail space to stream any social content onto core Web and ecommerce properties that wasn't expressly created by their marketing departments.
"A lot of brands historically have been very cagey about including social into their core site experiences because they don't want to distract from the product," he said.
Initially built as a social curation platform geared for aggregation of streaming content for publishing customers, Livefyre has branched out into providing widgets that stream content into modules placed as paid advertising. This project with Callaway is the first time a retail brand has integrated the content into its main Web property, Kretchmer says.
A quick peek at the Callaway front page will show how the feed works, with flashy tiles containing quotes and images with a strong tie into the core Callaway identity, but which come from everyday duffers, golf industry bloggers, pro golfers and all sorts of other fans in between. While the authenticity remains, the feed isn't unchecked. The Livefyre platform allows Varela and his compatriots to tap into a large pool of content surfacing from Twitter and Instagram feeds, and then moderate what eventually appears on the site.
"The moderation piece is key. We wouldn't be able to include any of that content without that component," Varela said. "We couldn't just set up a hash tag and bring all that content in. There are a number of things that can go wrong there."
It's too early to report results, but according to Varela, Callaway will be tracking and expecting gains in key metrics areas such as order conversions, as well as micro-conversions like video views, page views within certain sections like the media and blog section, and email newsletter sign-ups.
From there, his team could be investigating the possibilities for extending the social curation strategy out to its paid media placements.
"Coming from a display standpoint, we really haven't had discussions yet on how we can leverage this content within a display unit, but we're starting to understand that strategy can be very powerful as opposed to your typical marketing message," Varela said. "That's the next step for us. Bringing in that user-generated content is very impactful. We see that all the time with our sites with product reviews and we see this as an extension of that to help consumers make that informed purchasing decision. "
Livefyre has already started conversations about this next step. A number of big brands have already used the firm to increase their advertising traction through social feeds.
"Right now we are playing into the external marketing for a lot of customers like Sony PlayStation and Unilever and now we have Callaway who has integrated us into their core site user experience, but we haven't had a customer yet where we're doing both," Kretchmer said. "We're definitely already talking to Callaway about that, though."