Social media networks are becoming an increasingly creative media for reaching friends, family and even strangers, but for Bangor native Tony Saucier, it’s also about business.
To Saucier, a 2002 UMaine sociology graduate, social media is a subtle, noninvasive strategy for creating brand loyalists by building “community.”
It also creates an interactive communication experience that exceeds some traditional advertising methodology, says Saucier, an account director and PR and social media strategist for the Minneapolis-based OLSON, one of the fastest-growing
nontraditional advertising and marketing agencies in the country.
“When you get to social networks and social media, you can be so much more engaged,” Saucier says.
“If you think about it, social media and community networks are all about building community,” he says. “So we need to ask ourselves how to make the brand most relevant for the consumer.”
The answer is in what he calls brand anthropology.
“We go in and we study brand community, not unlike what a real anthropologist would do in Africa or Peru,” he says. When working with the Bauer hockey equipment company, OLSON looked at what it meant to be part of the teenage community of hockey players. “There’s a lot of sacrifice there; they get up at 4 a.m., have mom take them to the rink, then go to school, then back to the rink and then back home for supper and schoolwork,” Saucier say.
Understanding the sacrifices that particular groups, or communities, make to excel, learning their vernacular, perspective, values and symbols helps a business, corporation or institution relate to that target market.
“We want to figure out the most effective way to understand and relate to a community,” he says.
A former Bangor Daily News reporter, Saucier worked for three advertising and marketing firms in Minnesota before joining OLSON. In his career shift to advertising and public relations, Saucier has worked with some high profile brands, including Nestle Purina, Polaroid, Verizon, Land O’Lakes, General Mills, and more recently, Chinet, Minnesota State Lottery and Imation, the data storage corporation that owns Memorex and TDK Life on Record, among other holdings.
“One of the coolest things I ever did was with the Minnesota State Lottery,” Saucier says. When the lottery wanted to roll out a new Las Vegas-themed scratch game a few years ago, Saucier and his team brought a little bit of the city to Minnesota and created the “Vega-sota” promotion. They rented a coach, hired four show dancers, a magician and two Elvis impersonators, and traveled for a week around the state performing 45-minute shows in shopping malls and parking lots.
The campaign was hugely successful, he says, and several video clips are still on YouTube, Saucier says.
Some of his favorite platforms — for now — include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Ning and Foursquare.
“The rate of innovation in social media far surpasses anything we know about,” he says.
Saucier’s work today centers around helping clients understand the role and potential of social media, and keeping up with emerging new media. But as exciting as this type of marketing can be, there is a serious side to it.
“You must demonstrate long-term effectiveness, so it’s not really about how funny the ad is or how creative, but how have your ads been able to move the company forward?” he says. “There’s got to be results, and sometimes with social media, the results aren’t always evident.”
Unlike earlier days when advertisers might launch a campaign on one or all of the three major television networks and measure the response, today’s marketing landscape is too broad.
“It’s sometimes hard to say when and where you’ve moved the needle, so often our efforts come back to building relationships,” Saucier says. “Social media is (used) to create a social network within a subgroup of a community. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. The goal is to be thoughtful and genuine.”
Saucier says his background in sociology at the University of Maine prepared him well and unexpectedly for the work he does today. He recalls advice he received from UMaine professor emeritus of sociology James Gallagher, when the former English major turned journalism major confided to the professor that he wanted to pursue sociology. Gallagher encouraged Saucier to follow his instincts.
“Sociology is such a great primer for getting into social media,” Saucier says. “I’m a much more sound strategist because I understand the way people communicate with each other, and how communities live, thrive and survive. I think everything I do is grounded in sociology.”
Image Description: Tony Saucier