Monday, December 22, 2008

Social Media versus Traditional Media...

...the debate continues.

Well, it's time to end the debate. It's not either or. It's "with"(in the words of Mitch Joel). The whole purpose of marketing through
any channel is to reach out to your audience where they will engage best with your brand. If this is true than the debate should be Media versus No Media. The differences between Social Media and Traditional Media are no different than those that separate Television and Radio, or Newspaper and Billboards. All offer:
  • Different levels of consumer engagement
  • Some form of scalability
  • Different execution strategies
  • Different results
Chris Brogan just wrote a great post on the unique experience that Social Media can (but doesn't always) provide. His story is about the small business, mom and pop shop of the 1930's type of brand experience...."That’s the time to use social media, when you want to reach people on a more personal and more connected way. It’s not always the path to more revenue. In fact, it’s definitely not as easy as just pushing a few clicks and having books sent to the house. But when you need a more personalized feeling, a more human experience, cafe-shaped is what social media does best."

Radio didn't start out with 15 second product dumps and the online space didn't start out with a focus on click through rates. We have created this environment. Social Media is no different.

First find out who you're talking to. Then find out what you want to say. Then explore where you want to say it. Not the other way around.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Why bother with a good design?

Don’t take this the wrong way, but will the design of your webpage, online ad, or any other marketing channel really impact your sales? I would agree 100% that it will impact your brand perception - but when it comes to sales does, sexy design trump the right message and offer?

This is a loaded question and depending which side of the conversation you’re on, will stir up some serious debate. I personally love good design. I enjoy something that is clever and pleasing to the eye. But I also like reviewing ad campaigns, reading and responding to blogs, checking out all things new online, and engaging in topics of interest with anyone willing to discuss them. In other words, I'm probably not the norm. The norm might look more like – I’m busy, I don’t want to figure out why the ad is clever, tell me the value, show me the experience, how easy is it to purchase.

We see poor design going viral - like the Max Motor Guns & Gas Giveaway. We are constantly forwarded to poorly laid-out landing pages from various Google ads or some daily newsletter. We'll even stumble upon cheesy copy that provokes an uncontrollable vomit reflex. There are endless examples of sub-par designs lurking around every corner that [perhaps unfortunately] achieve profitable results.

Without getting into the technical points or a discussion on consumer/brand connections, the basic point here is to avoid the distraction. With all the new media channels and all the discussion about 'connecting to your consumers' and 'consumer conversations' its easy to forget the single truth behind good marketing. A good message with the right offer for your audience will connect with them every time.

I’d love to see it look good, but that’s just me.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A childhood filled with Apple Fritters and Double Doubles

Sometimes a company finds itself in a unique situation. It starts to hear from customers. Not in the “my-customers-service-centre-is-getting-flooded-with-complaints” type of hearing, but the “who-thought-our-company-meant-so-much-to-people” type of hearing. If your company is one of the fortunate few to experience this, wake up and work with it. Drop everything that you’re doing and make the most of it. Then maybe the way you look at customers will change. Maybe the way you market your product will change. And maybe this fortunate experience will become a regular occurrence.

This is the story of Tim Horton’s. For over 45 years, this company has made coffee and donuts for the Canadian public. It turns out that although Tim’s has been busy pumping out caffeine and deep fried carbohydrates, Canadians have been consuming memories, stories, and fostering a deep connection with a brand fighting for its place in a competitive industry. Tim Horton’s is a great example of the accidental discovery of a truly engaged customer base. Although the company’s latest campaigns focus on consumer stories (fully jumping on the social media bandwagon), this direction didn’t occur out of some brilliant insight. Instead, someone at the company stopped making donuts and opened the pile of letters from customers that had been sitting in the mailbox.

It turns out that Tim Horton’s consumers associate a lot of what they do to the brand. The company receives thousands of letters and emails from loyal fans. Letters about friends travelling across the country together and stopping at every Tim’s along the way. Stories about childhood memories and the feeling that going to Tim Horton’s with family provides - thousands of heartfelt, genuine tales of what Tim Horton’s means to each consumer. People actually can’t wait to tell Tim’s how the brand fits into their life.

Think about that.

Involuntarily, your customers decide to reach out to you – the company - in a positive way. You’ve been telling them they should buy your product because it’s economical and different. Now they’re telling you that they buy your product for reasons far bigger than that. It’s a backwards marketing model, but shows how a brands perception and the point of consumption can dictate your company’s success.

Credit: The image above is a photo that was given to staff at Tim Horton's by a loyal customer.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

We laugh, we cry, we eat, we smoke….

There have been a few posts about the British Medical Journal’s publication of a 50 year study on human behavior (see here, here and here). Sidenote: They’ve narrowed the effect of happiness down to geography – indicating your percentage of happiness in terms of kilometers from your happy friend.

It turns out happiness is contagious. It turns out most things are contagious.

This isn’t new. It is officially new, but the thought that we act similarly to our peer group…isn’t that what your parents always warned you about? “Just because Billy’s parents let him [insert verb/noun] doesn’t mean you can”.

Also new: how we respond to this information. 50 years ago when this study began there were no blogs, no websites, no computers, no social media. But there were letters, conversations, communities and books. In a time before ‘social networking’ and ‘consumer connections’ what relevance would a study like this have?

A lot.

It proves an inherent need that is part of the human fabric. We’re social. It isn’t Twitter, blogs, the internet, YouTube, Google, Facebook, Digg, and every other form of online communication or savvy ‘social’ marketing. The fact that we’ve titled the consumer human need to connect with other consumers humans with words like “Social Networks” is just another way to repackage what we already know – that people like to communicate with people.

A person’s entire frame of reference is based on the social community that surrounds them. As a marketer, this is the single most important aspect into consumer insight and should be the number priority with any communications strategy.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Seals aren't just furry sea mammals

This is the story of the U.S. Navy Seals. Not the whole story. Just the part about how an organization with polarizing ideology, controversial mandates, and a long history has been able to harness the power of its tribe to find organizational success and continued relevance.

The ideology around tribes is remarkable. For those who are unfamiliar, tribes are similar to the herd mentality, and are based on the thought that like-minded individuals want to connect with each other and need to be led. There's a bit more to it, and feel free to read further here, here, and here.

The U.S. Navy Seals - A classic, and rarely used example of the use of tribes within an organization (and also a great book on tribal leadership). The Seal's have all the goods to be a great tribe:
  • There are insiders and there are outsiders.
  • All the members of the tribes share a common bond that will connect each of them for their lifetime.
  • The organization has a clear purpose.
  • The organization connects with people on a genuine emotional level (both negatively and positively)
Whether or not you agree with the ideology or actions of the Seals, this tribe has overcome the greatest struggle facing tribal organizations today – it has proven the ability to take passion beyond an ‘emotion’, and has made it a life-choice commitment. As a result, the fabric of this tribe has become so tight that it is one of the few ‘corporate’ tribes where a member will give up their life for another member.

Lessons learned?

1. Be the connector - connect people of similar passion and ideology;
2. Be the source of something bigger; and
3. Fuel their passion through leadership and experience.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"The Beautiful Mistake" - an unintentional lesson in tribe creation

A few months ago, you may have come across the story of this guy in the UK who purchased an iPhone, only to find it preloaded with some photos of a girl on the iPhone production line. They apparently were testing the camera and forgot to delete them.

This generated a huge buzz. It was called "the Beautiful Mistake". Forums of people started looking for more info on the story or wondering what happened to the subject of the photos (Fired? Actually no, just given a few days off...).

Is this unintentional community connection or tribe creation? Or was it unintentional community/tribe discovery - where people had an interest and just needed the right environment to connect to each other.

There must be something to this. A colleague of mine, Martin Delaney, was talking about this story and how it is similar to Dole's move to connect consumers to their organic products. The company included a three digit code on its fruit/product labels and allowed consumers to go online and track back to the farm that the fruit came from.

Building stories, or fueling up the community of consumers, is a powerful tool but rarely executed well, or perhaps, intentionally.

Do you think there is any long term value in the "Beautiful Mistake" for Apple as a strategy?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Are your purchase decisions an accident?

I enjoy talking about online advertising. I enjoy it because we are currently at the bottom of the growth/progress curve with online advertising. Our actions today, as consumers and marketers, will determine the path this medium takes many years from now. I've talked about how, as marketers, we are too quick to shoot ourselves in the foot. How the temptation to focus on site statistics, rather than the growth or the health of your consumer base, only solves short-term problems.

Well it seems like these thoughts are on a few peoples minds. In the online space, it would appear there is a strong movement to re-examine online advertising. To build a framework that fits more with consumer expectations and works towards building a tightly knit customer base.

At the same time, we see strong examples of the present day reality. Poorly thought out Adword campaigns, Google Ads, and permission-less email marketing are alive and well. Our impulsive consumer nature continues to motivate un-targeted advertising tactics. When Chris Brogan can make over twice the revenue from a general ad versus a targeted recommendation, what would motivate others like Chris to do anything different?

It comes down to two things: the goal of consumer interest versus the goal of consumer leadership.

Consumers are notorious for impulse decision making. We can easily build campaigns around consumer impulse. We've done it for years with Point of Purchase materials, candy displays in grocery aisles, Instant Win telemarketing schemes, and (more recently) stand alone pay-per-click advertising. This trend shoots marketers in the foot and keeps consumers unfulfilled and skeptical about the products and services being marketed around them.

The alternative is that we lead our consumer base. That we provide consumers with the connections they need to make the best decision as a consumer of your brand. This type of thinking builds brand communities. It builds loyal fans of your brand that will resist impulse decisions and demand better from you and your competition. This type of thinking weeds out the companies that fail to listen. In the long-term, a market populated by this type of consumer will ultimately change the way marketers talk to consumers.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Downside of Social Media, Tribes and Blogs

I've been thinking about the possible downside of the new media and the related focus on communities of consumers, fans, or like-minded individuals. There is a road that many marketers often go down when they attempt to shift their focus from the occasional scream to a steady conversation that connects them to their consumer. We have all seen and heard about this. We can clearly see that these companies/individuals just don’t get it. It’s easy to critique them but it is even easier to fall into the same traps. We can pick out a marketing mistake a mile away, but when it is close to us we fight to defend it. There are a few factors that influence this:

1. In an effort to diversify, we often narrow our focus. We start to look at what appeals to us or our company. We subscribe to blogs and newsletters, we go to conferences and unconferences. We entrench ourselves in the subject of our focus.

2. During our efforts to focus, we are attracted to groups of like-minded individuals, or those of similar interests. We start to use the social tools that allow us to communicate with them and exchange ideas.

3. With all the information that we can have pushed to us through Google, blogs, Digg, etc. we are encouraged to often continue our focus on the things we are comfortable with.

We end up surrounded by influences that reinforce our existing beliefs and affirm our attitudes. We strive to be an expert by following other experts. We strive to build a great lumber business, by following other great lumber businesses. You can see where I’m going with this. We start to conform to the standard. It may not have been the standard when you started out, but it has become the standard as the community has fused together and narrowed its focus. Conformity in industry creates a stagnant environment, which is perfect for breading competitive business.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Making the world a heavy place.

Finally - a website with substance.

The Home of the Whopper has decided to blast crates of charbroiled meat patties in a sesame seed bun to remote areas of the planet that have yet to be transformed by the unsurpassed privilege of Western fast food. But the American fast food chain is not alone in its imperial quest to reach the corner's of the world - it is traveling with a comrade, the rival Big Mac. Together they promise to put an end to the long disputed title of the Western worlds best-tasting-made-in-under-2-minutes-hamburger.

Finally a corporation that is putting aside political differences and reaching out to its global neighbors. Imagine how limited and bland the lives of these targeted villages were before a helicopter landed delivering ...independence? ...economic stability? Nope. How about two patties of ground meat and FDA approved meat filler slammed between two pieces of sugar-laced bread product.

I'm interested to see how this campaign rolls out. I'll admit- its clever. It even has some captivating imagery and a very intriguing countdown clock (who can resist the countdown). It will garner some PR, build a community of new fans, and will probably give one of the companies the title belt. But we saw this with Pepsi and Coke. Nobody really cares which tastes better. Consumers have more reasons for their purchase beyond taste. Besides, if someone wanted a really good burger, I'm sure that they know a local restaurant or an uncle who makes the tastiest. Or if someone wants to be truly refreshed, they would drink a cold glass of water.

In this case, the brand is bigger than the burger.

What would be interesting (let me know if you have any info) is if Burger King has been priming these chosen markets with other advertising or communications and building the brand before the taste test.

Full disclosure: I'm not a vegan, and I do actually eat these products.

Who cares if your brand is online?

Well, apparently many people. More staggering news regarding the state of the newsprint industry in the U.S.

Perhaps the movement towards more engaging media is being facilited by the dip in our economy or the fuzzy line between fact and fiction in some of the world's leading journalistic institutions. Or perhaps the reason lies in that eternal need for human's to connect and own the responsibility to respond to the community that surrounds them. There's a reason why there are more web pages than people on the planet. And there's a reason why there are millions of blogs reaching millions of people (even though some are wondering how many are too many?).

People want genuine relationships. They want to receive genuine information and to interact with genuine people. Media is shifting away from the impersonal one-way communication it used to be. People can boost a brand with a few key strokes. A consumer can speak to (or with) millions with 30 seconds of video. The proclamation that social media is a 'fad' should be reviewed. Perhaps the technology that we currently use is just the current trend, but the urge to connect one on one has been there long before Konrad Zuse and Ray Tomlinson.

This inherent need for consumers to connect and how this translates into brand messaging is a key interest of mine. It is important that we continue to differentiate driving force between the use of social technology and the fall of traditional media. It has far less to do with technology, and far more to do with how the medias have been used and the brands that use them.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Easy Way To Shoot Yourself In The Foot

I have an anniversary coming up. So finding a perfect gift has been top-of-mind. I’m on the web reading every ad, checking every review, searching sites for ideas. I’m watching the television and tuned in to each 30 second spot. Then, on my way to work I notice a great sign on the sidewalk in front of an intriguing shop. You know, one of those places you may have passed a million times before, but with your current elevated awareness, its seems to jump at you from the road. It says “Original Gift Items - Perfect for your anniversary”. This is crazy. How did they know I would be driving here? So I take the time to find a parking spot. I get out, and walk towards the store front. The sign takes up the whole store window, and its promise has me thrilled about what lies ahead. With a message like that, I know that what’s on the other side of that door has got to be exactly what I had in mind. I try the door. It’s locked. The sign looks down at me, taunting me with a promise it won’t deliver. This store probably had 200,000 people go through this same experience.

Lots of impressions. No conversions.
Big Promise. No Delivery.

This store probably had 200,000 people go through this same experience. Why would this store/brand/website waste its time and money on grabbing attention and not making sales? An easy answer, but a scenario that pollutes the traditional marketing space and has crept into the online and new media space.

Why do marketers continue to build hype and break trust? Why do marketers continue to degrade every possible way to connect their consumers? Is it any wonder that online ads have become another "branding" medium, while 'old' consumers and companies are skeptical about 'new' media?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Samsung: Testing the true fans

The photographic adventures of Nick Turpin is the latest attempt by a global organization to reach out and let go.

The idea is simple.

Get a guy to use the new Samsung Pixon Camera Phone. Post the picture on a microsite, flickr and YouTube. Make the content easy to share and easy to keep track of through Twitter, email updates, GPS tracking and a few other cool tools. Then ask the tribe to lead the photographer on a 30 day adventure.

Everyday a picture is taken and posted. The tribe goes online and clicks on an area in the picture. The area of the picture with the most clicks determines what the following days photo will be. For the last 18 days, Samsung has managed to build a growing tribe of engaged followers. There are a couple of hundred followers on Twitter and around 1200 people assisting Nick with his adventure.

Nick's comments and his interpretation of the tribes request keep the story building. This only serves to increase the engagement and tighten the tribe. In the process, Samsung is testing their tribe, building a new tribe, and perhaps discovering an existing tribe it has not previously reached.

What I think is most impressive about this idea, beyond the simplicity, is Samsung's dedication to the project. Many companies 18 days into a 'campaign' would be looking for visitation of 'mass' proportions. They would get nervous, edit the positioning to feel more 'mass' oriented and water down the experience. This isn't the case. The experience feels genuine. There are no marketing optics. The momentum is given the room to grow at a natural rate. The results may not deliver the traditional reach of 1 million impressions, but will build a tight tribe of a few thousand true fans.

What's your impression? Any predictions on the long term success?

*Thanks to Martin Delaney for keeping me in the loop on this one... another conversation starter.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Avoid Fork, Knife, Butter

I was recently at a Judges Breakfast for a regional advertising award show. The guest speaker/lead judge (who shall go unnamed) had just given an impressive speech on the need, now more than ever, for advertising agencies to be innovative on how they connect between brands and consumers. To exemplify this point he engaged the audience with a basic question and pointed at random to the attendees for a response. The questions was “what items do you find in a kitchen?” He points at an individual at the front table - “Fork!” is the response. Another “Knife”. Another “ Butter”. This goes on for a few minutes, with more responses coming out representing cutlery, dishes, or appliances- “Fork…saucer…fridge…party…blender…plates”. Stopping the exercise our judge asks the intent listeners what was the most memorable kitchen item? The resounding response: “Party”.

Apparently, the top three responses received when this question is presented to a group of people are Fork, Knife, and Butter. I guess Butter is the attempt at some people to avoid saying Spoon, and rounding off the cutlery name game. This exercise was a great example of how unconventional thought, when appropriately applied can create a memorable response amongst listeners, while telling a lot about the brand that is making the statement.

On the discussion of unconventional thought, a member of the group asked the lead judge what his thoughts were on the “
Gorilla” ads for Cadbury – which happened to win a Gold Lion at Cannes this year. His response and the other responses that surrounded the discussion, were very similar. The general consensus was that the ads were irrelevant to the brand, were another gimmick used by Director Juan Cabral (creator of the Sony Balls and Paint spots)”, and without the hindsight of Cadbury's success, it may not have been so well received by its peers.

I’m not sure if you’ve picked up on this, but even if you haven’t seen the ad, you can guess by its title that it is beyond conventional. With the previous demonstration of the need for marketers and advertisers to avoid Fork, Knife, Butter, I did find it a little bit surprising that many members of this group would be surprised that a Gorilla playing the drums could have a chance at delivering positive results for brand and product. In fact one of the judges mentioned that this ad would not win in this regional competition as they couldn’t see the connection between the brand and the ad, and although it was funny, would not constitute good advertising.

I had a look at the spot. I don't have 30 years of creative experience. But after seeing the ad and taking in the discussion at the breakfast, I’m reminded of a quote I read once “the products and services that succeed wildly are the ones that everyone expected would fail..." (Is that Seth's?). In this context “products and services” could be replaced with “ad campaigns”. A group of old agency executives all looked at the Gorilla ad and said this won’t work. Even with the hind sight of knowing the ads success with the brand and at Cannes, most of this group would still never consider producing an ad that followed the unconventional, left-field, thought process that went into the Gorrila spot. To play on the metaphor – these folks would avoid Fork and Knife, but deliver Butter. Party is too risky.

Whether you like the Gorrila spot or not, my point is that all the rules of business are changing - and the agency world seems to be the last to take notice. This spot doesn’t seem to connect to the product. But it DOES connect to the emotion. It DOES catch your attention. It DOES guide you through 60 seconds of experience (don’t most of us pray for 12 seconds?). And it DOES make an effort to break the mold and give the audience something to share.

The Story of

You may have heard of micro-credit or micro-lending agencies. They've received tons of press and even garnered a Nobel Prize. The business model is simple – lend small amounts of capital to organizations in developing countries. Empower marginalized communities, women, villages, and the other stakeholders that make up the lifeblood of these countries to grow their business and collectively improve the standard of living. agencies. They’ve received

You also may have heard of the Meatball Sunday. The thesis that describes the tendency for traditional companies to take the strategies that worked in a pre-internet/globally connected consumer landscape and combine them with the new media and the latest technology fads- thus resulting in a disgusting concoction of communication that fails the brand and further alienates the consumer base. The lesson being that the globally connected consumer has changed the strategic landscape, and in many cases existing companies either need to reinvent the way they view their consumers or make room for new companies who ‘get it’ to take over the ill-served market.

This brings me to the story of The organization that has taken the lessons learned from micro-credit organizations and has been built to serve this new consumer landscape. It provides the tools for people around the world to connect to businesses in developing countries. It provides the mechanism for these people to build new relationships and help build new economies.

The fundamentals of are simple: It isn’t a charity. It doesn’t provide gifts to small business. It’s a lending system that allow anyone to lend as little as $25 to the business of their choice.

Here’s how it works*:

1. You go to the Kiva site and choose an entrepreneur who has posted and been screened for a need. Example: A small fish selling business in Mozambique.
2. You make a loan for as little as $25 through Paypal or a credit card. This may assist that fish selling business to buy more product and provide a necessary service to a community.
3. Receive a journal so you can keep track of how your entrepreneur is doing.
4. Withdraw or re-loan the proceeds from your original loan.

The amazing thing about this program which now raises millions of dollars a month for poor entrepreneurs is the loan payback is at about 99%. If lending isn’t your thing, will connect you to several volunteer opportunities as well.

The success with has been all about knowing the audience, knowing how to connect like-minded individuals and building an authentic sense of ownership for the community it serves.

*Paraphrased from this great article by John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing. He delivers a dose of daily insight and always delivers something to think about.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Gillette's Trying to Connect

The latest online attempt for Gillette to interact with it's consumer base takes online interaction to a whole new level. The website is a cross promotion between Gillette and EA Sports and promotes their Champions of Gaming tournament. Who would have thought that most EA Sports gamers are men who need to groom more often? The real experience comes from two promotional tools that are available for a visitor to interact with. The site allows you to "Star in your own Times Square billboard" and "Host your own press conference". These two features take this one dimensional campaign used to hype an online gaming tournament (and provide a nice hallo for the Gillette brand) and goes a step further to provide the environment for a consumer to:

  1. interact
  2. be involved in their own story
  3. increase the possibility that in some way they will associate this positive experience with Gillette in future purchase decisions.

Meanwhile, the corporate sponsors are provided with the data needed to better reach these people in the future - increasing the relevance of the promotions they bring to market and improving the product (or at least its marketing).

"Star in your own Times Square billboard"
Innovative and interactive. Playing to the egos of sports fans everywhere, this application allows you to upload your picture, which it will place on a EA sports billboard in Times Square. The site will send you a photo of it and gives you an approximate time when it will be 'live' (my approximate time was between Nov.1 and Dec 31, VERY approximate)

"Host you own press conference"
This takes the "Snakes on a Plane" phone call from Samual Jackson one step further. You upload your photo to the website. The application places your head on top of a suit in a press conference photo. It then animates your face so that your eyes move and blink, and your mouth moves. Then you are taken through a really interesting process. You input your phone number, and immediately receive a voice automated call. It asks you "press conference" questions and records your response. Your response is placed into the sequence of the press conference, where you animated image answers the questions posed by the press.

Although this site is still a commercialized connection, and is somewhat superficial, this online experience succeeds in three ways:

  • It entertains
  • It delivers on the promise (the experience is flawless)
  • It plays on the insight of fame to connect the consumer to something bigger.

If Gillette and EA are following the consumer response beyond the immediate sales I'm sure they are hoping to see, this website could become bigger than either company expects. The next step for this site to build a true brand following, would be to watch for consumer engagement, allow the consumers to control the experience more and connect to each other. This will assist both companies far greater than the current emphasis on connecting these consumers to the product.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hurry Up And Wait!

Okay, so here’s a challenge for today. I invite you to respond to this post or send me a question that is provocative, polarizing, and begs to be responded to. The potential for the conversation is huge. You’ll get excited. Other readers will get excited. Then I won’t respond. You’ll wait. How long? A couple of days? Hours? Minutes? You’ll become frustrated. You’ll comment to others about the poor experience. The conversation we’re having will lose its impact. The things that make dynamic conversation or that define inspiring marketing will disappear. This happens all the time. A client demands immediate action for assistance on a product launch from their marketing company. The marketing company meets the deadline. The client then delays the response a year. A boss demands the latest sales report from an employee and then takes weeks to respond. A company demands immediate delivery of a new service that pushes all other business and customers aside, only to take months to pay the supplier that helped them.

Time is the one constant, the universal currency - its value is greater than ever.

The insight here…avoid the “Hurry Up & Wait” strategy. If something is urgent, deal with it. Complete it. If you demand something of your customer, be sure to value their time equally. If you demand the priority of your employees or partners time, be sure to reflect the value in their response by investing the time to provide feedback. If you have a doubt that a task requires more thought, more feedback, bureaucratic approval, or your conscious tells you otherwise, then hold off – but manage those who have committed their time to date. Relationship marketing and customer service have far less to do with the image we project, and far more to do with how we are perceived to manage our customers time. If you practice “Hurry Up & Wait” in your company, with your suppliers or with your consumers, you’re working against yourself. You’ll have watered down your relationships (or brand) and lost one more level of trust with the people that pay your bills.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

10 Ideas for Corporate Counselling

"Maybe I hate my customers. Does that make me a bad business person?" I have heard these words - or their variance many times in conversations and the actions of companies. The solution: Corporate Therapy. I’m sure this is a service that falls under “Consultants”, but I really think there is opportunity for psychologists to branch out into this area of therapy. Some companies hide from their customers, some run from ideas, others just don't really enjoy being a company. The point - there are companies out their with huge self-esteem issues that seriously need help.

Before you respond too seriously, allow me to run with a short scenario to help connect the dots here...

The scenario: A marketing team has decided to take a step and present an idea that is truly authentic and exciting (For the purposes of this scenario, we'll say it was agreed that it is the best solution available). The idea is presented to the executive team. One executive, Jim, says "Great approach. But do you really think our product is that beneficial? I mean, I know it has its benefits, but don't you think this is a bit too positive?" Another executive, Mary, says " I agree with Jim. We are well priced and can sometimes connect with our consumers...but we're not THAT well priced to actually be so bold". Finally, a third executive - Rob - pipes in "You know, we really should look at scaling down this idea, or maybe merging it with that neat campaign we did in the Fall of '92."

Jim, Mary and Rob all need serious help. They suffer from Poor Corporate Self-Esteem, often found in monopolies, or single player markets that have seen increased competition. Their inability to go beyond what was, while trying to improve on what actually is, will lead this company into a deeper depression.

I’m sure we’ve all worked with a Jim, Mary, and Rob. With my experience working with companies and executives, it would seem many fall for the same problems that often ruin marriages or individuals.

Maybe some areas of counseling could be:

1. Why Talking To A Machine Is Not The Same As Talking To A Human

2. Egos – Not Just For Athletes And Monopolies

3. Battling Fiscal Year Vision

4. Customer Hatred And Why It Paralyzes Growth

5. How To Be Friends With The Kid Across The Street

6. How To Recover From A Wahoo Hangover
(thanks Ben McDonnel & Tom Fishburne - 10 Questions with Tom Fishburne )

7. Let’s Learn How To Share

8. Why Nobody Cares About the Fall Campaign of '92

9. Why it's good to leave the boardroom to find customer opinions

10. Build culture through communications - you are not as intimidating as you think. (Presidents edition)

I could go on...but I thought it may be interesting to see what topics you would add?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Crowd or A Community?

The difference is simple. A crowd consists of a group of individuals who are all in one place. They all have a place to go and will push, pull, shove, yell, or sneak past other individuals in order to get where they need to go. The individuals in a crowd spend more time running into each other or wandering aimlessly than getting to their destination. Like a crowd, a community consists of a group of individuals who are all in one place. They too have a place to go. However, these individuals look to each other and realize that only by working together can they reach their destination.

This is a wonderful analogy that works well beyond the marketing space or its literal meaning (although appropriate in either case). As wonderful as it is, I have to confess - these words aren't mine. They were spoken by a young man with an insprirational story - Doug Ulman. Doug is President/CEO of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. After beating cancer three times before he was 21, Doug has worked every day since to defy this terrible disease. A leader in every sense, Doug was asked to participate in a discussion during an evening of music, cocktails, and inspriational stories for the Tony Griffen Foundation - which has another truly remarkable story (hint: Coast to Coast, over 4500 miles, on a bike). What I found so profound was that this group of individuals, of all different backgrounds, and brought together by a common experience, personal or otherwise, have recognized the power of community and have reacted in a truly remarkable and provocative way to deliver change and inspire others to act. Even though they were touched by tragedy, they allowed themselves to submit to the passion that was burning within them. It may not have been the rational way to react. It may not have been what was expected by friends or family. In many cases, it turned the world as they knew it upside down. But they committed to act and delivered on this commitment. As a result they have stretched the boundaries of human possibility and become true global citizens. The ability to allow themselves to adhere to their passion, versus what would be expected, is what seperates those with remarkable stories from the rest of us.

It is lessons like these that resonate most with me. The ability to not only determine your passion, but embrace it without pretence, takes unimaginable courage.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Online ads don’t sell your product

This was a comment I heard during a presentation the other day from a large media company. It was backed up by statistics from the companies internal tracking and some comScore reports. Apparently online ads get little results, so instead of saying that online ads are a tool to drive sales, advertisers are switching their tune to say online ads are now just another tool to build brand awareness. My thought is that advertisers have dropped the ball when it comes to online communication. They’ve trained the consumer to ignore ads by consistently delivering irrelevant content.

There are two reasons for this trained consumer behavior – the failure of ads to deliver and a Need for Impressions Inertia. Perhaps each influences the other.

A consumer is surfing the web, searching for Gluten Free Restaurants in New York. They see an ad that peaks their interest. When they click it, they end up on a generic company home page, miles from the content they went there to find. The trust is lost. The ad failed to deliver on its promise. The impact is felt across the online medium.

A perfect example of the Need for Impressions Inertia was given in that media presentation I mentioned. In the question period following the presentation there was some debate about the true purpose of online advertising. The following response was used to support the argument that impressions are a better indicator of an ads performance over click-through-rates. When asked for an example of a context where impressions served as a better indicator, the presenter described a media buy on the Weather Network for a communications company. The ads get in front of a lot of people..but people on the weather network are there for the weather, not the products the communications company sells. Wow. My obvious question – why were you serving ads on a content network that had no connection to the product? Would you advertise Kobe Beef on a PETA website? I mean a ton of people would see it, and it might even boost the brand awareness index. I guess the Need for Impressions Inertia is the legacy left from a generation of mass advertisers and another example of trying to fit an old business model into the new rules of marketing.

Online ads can deliver sales. Like ALL communications, there must be content, context, relevance to the audience, and a promise…that is delivered. We all know this. It's old news - so why does this continue? (feel free to let me know through your experiences)

There is obviously more to tracking online ads than a few metrics, but my point is only that advertisers often justify the media to your problem, versus solving your problem through any means possible. The result is a less than favorable ROI that hurts the media (even if it is useful), it hurts the consumer who can not trust the medium, and it hurts the company who has lost, yet another, opportunity.