Sunday, May 31, 2009


Back in March I talked about Montreal's Taverne Crescent, one of the latest to join the pay-what -you-want dining trend. The idea demonstrated by truly allowing people to give you what you are worth. A direct experience/reward strategy.

On the other side of the spectrum, there is Charlie's Burgers in Toronto. This restaurant does not have a fixed location. Customers must apply to eat there. If you happen to be one of the 30 of 250 applicants selected for the culinary experience, you don't actually find out where or what you will be eating until the day of your reservation (invited guests are sent to a public spot - like a phone booth or newspaper stand - to receive the address).

The whole setup leverages our own emotions and social behavior to build the brand. It plays with our heads and our internal sense of ownership over what we consume.
  • I can't go even if I want to - I have to be invited
  • The name of the restaurant has little to know reflection of the food it serves - so what am I getting into?
  • The restaurant is really only an idea (it doesn't physically exist) up until the point I actually get to eat.
All this plays on another sweet strategy to gain brand fans - scarcity.

Incorporate scarcity into your business/brand
When I say scarcity, most peole jump to the luxury brand market, but it can be an awesome tool to turn satisfied customers into fans for almost any brand. One way is to limit your immediate growth by defining criteria. An example of this is Seth Godin's Triiibes. When you pre-purchased the book, you were invited to a closed (and still closed) social network. This group of people became a tightly knit community and idea of triiibes beyond the footprint of a regular book launch truly driving word-of-mouth and future growth of the Seth Godin brand.

Another way to incorporate scarcity is to take a segment of customers and give them a privilege that no other customer gets - they'll immediately talk about it. I'm talking a remarkable perk - not movies passes to the local theatre (although those too have value for some customer service strategies). You may even have regular customers complain (which will scare your executive team, and you will have to be prepared to deal with both sides of the complaint). That's not really the point though.

Adding a sense of scarcity to your brand experience changes the game.
  • It usually eliminates most of the direct competition. Why? Because of the two points below.
  • It automatically pulls on peoples ego's (rather than rational thought). Irrational fans are every brands best differentiator.
  • Makes price secondary in the promise
So what's the problem?
The biggest problem brands have managing scarcity - they want to include everyone. If you have a high revenue customer segment who happens to be Mom's from 30-35, the impact to this segment diminishes for each additional age you stretch the criteria to meet. If I am one of 250 people I probably feel differently than if I am one of 250 million. Marketing scarcity is probably the most difficult tactic to undertake. Usually corporate self control and brand self-esteem, sabotage its implementation. The temptations to lower your standards or change your criteria, to second guess yourself, to think of all the reasons against it, or to gain the quick buck over building long-term immeasurable demand is always there. The minute you fall for this temptation, the investment into your customers is burned.

A final point on scarcity.
Regardless of the economic situation, a brands ability to market scarcity (either as the whole brand, a sub-brand, or segment of customers) provides a sense of control. You define who you want to be part of your club, and you make people work (emotionally, financially, or otherwise) to become a part of that club. In a recession, this usually means that your reputation and market stay relatively stable (remember irrational purchase behavior) - another benefit to this strategy.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Social Media Myth #3: Why Change?

I've talked about two other social media myths here and here. My third Social Media Myth is based on the train of thought that if my brand has been successful for the last 30 years doing advertising the way we do, then why change.

The problem with this logic is that the last 30 years have no relevance whatsoever to what will happen over the next 30 years. It ignores all the factors that can drastically impact your business - like technology, public opinion, common sense, global governments, economics and competition.

In GM's glory days of the 1950's, revolutionary auto designer Harvey Earl warned that people, although still buying behemoth's for cars, were starting to take interest in the smaller cars offered by foreign (not yet established) competitors. The public opinion was shifting. Harvey was ignored - GM had been on a growth blitz for over 20 years dominating the market place selling well over 50% of cars in the U.S. Why change? People were still buying big. They were established. They owned the market. I don't need to finish this story as the downhill slide is a favorite topic in the media. Similar examples can be found in the music/record label business, your regional newspaper mix and the U.S banking industry.

Okay, so those examples are beyond the scale of your organization. Let's try something else.

There is a whole generation of people about to enroll in university who have been online their entire lives. They never used a rotary phone, owned a record/eight track/tape/CD collection, and can text message quicker than they can call a friend. They are currently a low value consumer. Meanwhile, your primary loyal consumer base is aging and shifting their spending to match their fixed income retired lifestyle. You know them well. Their loyalty is social across their generation. Delivering on one good promise set you up for a lifetime of loyal spending. However each subsequent generation of people is less loyal. Less loyal and louder. Delivering on one promise isn't enough. They can be in love with your brand but one bad experience and they are gone. Plus that slip up will be video taped, photographed or transcribed online and archived forever. You don't get credit like you used to. You blame 'that target market'. You focus your money and attention on the dying consumer instead. Meanwhile a competitor realizes that loyalty comes at a higher price. They change their communication model. They shift their culture to embrace the criticism and react. They win.

This social media myth is the most poisonous. Not just because it ignores the opportunity that comes from talking to people who will pay your salary (and make your shareholders happy) but because it reflects a far worse, underlying problem in corporate culture.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Barrier to Social Media: Negative Feedback

A major barrier that keeps many brands from creating an integrated social media strategy is the self conscious worry around what people are actually saying about it. "What if they don't like our service?" "What if there compliant is unresonable?" "Great, now the rest of our customers will see what a few disgruntled customers think of us". The gap between a brand's view of its current strategy and a strategy integrated with social/new media always seems much wider to those making the decision than what reality actually presents. For example, if you ask an executive why they have not looked at a social media strategy you will hear a never ending list of excuses from 'what will our shareholders think' to 'our PR team tries to keep control of that stuff' to 'why would anyone want to talk to us'. On the other hand if you were to go to a customer of this same brand and ask them what they want from that brand, chances are the response will reflect a wish for better service, a different process, or at least that a brand has an awareness of the relationship (beyond man 25-50 bought a new stereo from us). People like to know that their investment in a brand is noticed.

Simplify the barrier - think referrals.
John Jantsch unitentionally frames this up nicely for me in his recent post about increasing the right type of word-of-mouth. "Referrals most naturally happen when two people are talking and one of the parties expresses a pain in the neck. If the other party just had her pain in the neck fixed, she may very well say something like, 'ooh, you just gotta call Bob, he’s the best pain in the neck fixer on the planet.' " Likewise, if manager from a brand is at a function and overhears this conversation about their brand, they will probably react. Maybe not by joining that conversation, but perhaps by addressing the person who spoke favorably (thank you) or the reffered indivual (may we help you). So why do these same managers freeze when it comes to social media?

Whether online or offline most new business naturally comes from a conversation about a problem. Luckily, we now have the ability to see some of these conversations online and react. Not just by listening, but by promoting those conversation to occur. Maybe it's by creating/recognizing a place where customers can talk to each other. Even if its only 50 customers, that's 50 more discussions than you heard yesterday.

The more problems a brand can solve the more people will be available to help that brand through word-of-mouth. Don't ignore the fact that the reason you are in business is that you have a solution for at least one problem people have. Whenever there is a problem, there will be an unhappy person. It's always about them, even when it is inconvenient for your brand.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

More personality from a local brand

In February, I commented on the common-sense approach (yet one that is rarely used) that Nova Scotian Crystal used to address consumer confidence in the financial strength of the brand. A well crafted letter written like a friendly conversation - rather than the corporate nonsense we often hear from most brands- went out to customers. It discussed how the downturn in the economy has affected Canada's oldest blown glass company, made a couple of suggestions on how one could help and even made a few guarantees about the future of the company.

Well, it's now May and a follow-up letter has been sent to the same audience. It is written in pretty much the same conversational tone, but tells a story of renewal rather than recession. I've attached a copy below for you to read.

I have not seen any formal press on this yet. I hardly expect a story like this would make it into the newspaper - it just isn't scary enough. Regardless, I don't think it matters. The previous letter came out during a time of bad press for Nova Scotian Crystal. In my post there was a comment left about the importance of balancing consumer communications with the media as both impacted perceptions and ultimately word-of-mouth. However, in this case I think that Nova Scotian Crystal has continued to acknowledge the source of its success and the power in its customer base. We often say that customers will speak with their wallets and, although the newspaper is a trusted source of information, it still does not surpass the referral or reference from a trusted friend.

This letter plays to all the common-sense marketing strategies that are so often forgotten:
  1. It recognizes that existing customers are easier and more cost effective to keep, and persuade to repeat purchase, than finding a new customer.
  2. It recognizes that existing customers usually have a vested interest in your success (they've given you time and money - which never comes lightly).
  3. The letter is about 'you' not 'us'. Although it has to communicate the 'us' story, it puts the attention on the the people that contribute to the success rather than the brand.
  4. It has done something that most brands have a lot of trouble doing - recognized that there are people who are passionate about the brand. Most brands are extremely insecure about this. They fail to give their customers credit. Need an example - think of most viral participation campaigns. Even if humor has no place within the brand it is often used because it is generally thought to be an easier sell. In these cases it is just underestimates the way people actually feel about the brand and discredits the intent behind the campaign.
  5. NS Crystal makes a remarkable product. This always helps. I know it sounds obvious, but there are a ton of just-good-enough products sitting on the shelves at department stores across the country. None of those manufacturers could establish the customer relationship like this even if they wanted to.
  6. The brand has a story (that sometimes is not told well enough). To the people that buy into the brand, the remarkable product becomes part of their life. Word-of-mouth spreads easier when your product is a big part of your brand. In this letter, the story continues to be told.
I know there are a pile of other little things I could pull from this, but I think the main points resonate well. Often marketing tactics are just distractions to the truth. However it is truth and common sense which are two foundations of any good relationship.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I guarantee that for the next 300 years...

I read this post the other day. Brikolor, a new Swedish company, is making furniture"with a guaranteed emotional and technical durability of 300 years".

Timid trapeze artists are dead trapeze artists.
To misuse a quote from Seth Godin, if you're going to do something, doing it with confidence is usually the best chance of survival (Seth was actually talking about transitions in his blog post). We often talk about how we need to be more confident in our marketing efforts. Too often we settle for just-good-enough when it comes to how we position our products (although we see many companies settling for just-good-enough products...but that's another post). I'm sure that there have been thousands of furniture companies who could have claimed a 300 year guarantee - I mean I have at least one elderly relative who has a chair that is still rocking after a few generations. But Brikolor said it first - and many times in marketing that's enough to own the positioning. In this case it is a litteral description of the product, sometimes it is less to the point but equally appealing - like T-Mobile's "Life's for sharing" (which is awesome for so many reasons).

Don't forget emotion.
Notice as well that Brikolor even provide their own 'emotional' guarantee. An ambiguous statement intended to play to your own personal ego and taste. This overrides the common sense that most of the furniture I owned in college is not still in style today, or that the ottomen that sat in my childhood living room, with it's rust plaid patch work and gold wheels, is hardly going to fit todays style - but that's the beauty of doesn't need to make sense.

Your positioning is not for your benefit.
Not only has this company gone out and made a bold statement, it has decided to make one that evokes loyalty to the customer. It is positioned to matter to the customer, rather than the industry. I'm pretty sure I will not live to be 300 (you never know) - but Brikolor's has told me that if I give them my attention and money, they will return the favor by giving me the last chair I will ever need to buy. Of course, if it's the last chair I'm ever going to buy it will take me a while to figure what style I will enjoy for the next 300 years. Basically Brikolor has tapped into the fact that people are skeptical. The guarantee attempts to bypass the history requirement that most of the competitors use to prop up reliabitly (we've been around since 1759). It also speaks to a few niche audiences, while not alienating too many people in the mass audience. Think eco-friendly, people friendly, family friendly...

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. The company is still young, but has already provided some great examples of one part of the marketing puzzle. How they service their customers and how the purchase process goes is another piece of that puzzle that will ultimately determine weather Brikolor sinks or swims for another 300 years.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Is imitation flattery?

I've been meaning to post a picture of this for a while. On my drive to work I pass these two billboards. I was hoping to get a decent picture of them side by side but this will just have to do. It's much harder to snap a photo while driving than I expected but I think you'll get the point.

So the billboard on the right is a Bell advertisement for 3G service in Canada. With the new Bell brand, the "B" is used to create the "M" in "More 3G".

The billboard on the left is for a local car dealer. You'll notice that there appears to be a "M" on the lower left in similar fashion to the Bell ad.

Coincidence? What do you think?

Or is there something obvious I'm missing here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

When people become consumers

We fail.

I don't mean when-a-person-buys-your-product consumer. I mean when you start to view all people as consumers.

Here's why:

When we talk about consumers we tend to talk in general terms and assumptions. "The target audience is 22 - 54 years old, married, probably 2 kids, lives in a house, likes things, hates bad people, etc" We all do this. We may want to sell to that target audience, but that does not describe the 'people' that constitute it. It also doesn't help anyone market effectively to those individuals. How many similarities between a 22 year old and a 54 year old are there?

We tend to look at consumers with weird golden rules. We want all consumers to be our friends, while at the same time paying us with their attention and then their pocket books. I'm as guilty as the next person - often in my blog referring to The Customer in this way. The customer is always right. We want share of wallet with that consumer base. Today's consumer is not easily deceived by our crafty advertising. When was the last time your befriended a neighbour by shouting over the fence "hey 22 year old male, listen here, have I gotta deal for you...". You probably sold him that lawn mower, but he probably didn't invite you over for a beer.

This mindset leads us to create a sense of numbness and inpersonality around 'the consumer'. They become some other form. We use sentences to describe how we interact with them or to define what action we want from them. How does our consumer identify value? What is the differentiators our consumer will notice? There are two easy ways to step out of that foggy world.

1) Check your sales. Are people buying? No? Then what you are selling they do not like. It could be more complicated than that, but usually that's the problem. If they do like what you are selling you are poorly priced in comparison to the benefit you deliver to them. This is far less a marketing problem than a corporate problem.

2) Change the tone of the discussion. "How does our consumer identify value?" covers up the real point: "What do people want from us". "What are the differentiators" good to know, but better is "Why do people buy from us". You're thinking he just said the same thing in two different ways. The use of the word 'people' changes the response. Make it personal. If you want people to have a relationship with your brand, you need to pull your weight on the other end.

Monday, May 11, 2009

We have an audience in Papua New Guinea?

Who would have thought so many consumers would be interested in hearing our story? We would have never guessed that 80% of our engaged base are 32 year old males from that area of the country. Why would so many people leave that webpage? These are the voices of surprised companies upon reviewing a measurable online campaign. The response to most of these ideas and questions is pretty easy. Who cares?

The volume of information for any integrated campaign can be overwhelming. It can be paralyzing for an unprepared marketing team, leading to irrelevant questions or a confirmation biased approach to analyzing the results.

To avoid this and be better prepared here are three things to keep in mind:

1) The online audience is not always a reflection of your audience. This is a dangerous one for me to write, but let me explain. The people who react to your marketing or advertising online will be very specific to the action you instituted. In this case the word 'action' should not be mistaken with the word 'strategy'. For example, you may develop a funny viral video. As a result 300,000 people may view it - exciting, I know. Then you read the comments on YouTube that reflect disdain for the video or lower than enthusiastic love for your brand. Probably a less comforting experience. This doesn't mean that the consumer who buys your product feels the same way. In this case, your action (the viral video) may have appealled to a broader crowd. Your strategy was to reach 2,000 people (which you did) but the nature of your action allowed the online masses to take control. You can control the message all you like but you can't control who likes it.

2) Beware the vocal minority. When the agency I work for is first hired to listen online, the companies that we are working with are surprised about the level of negative/positive discussion. I often relate the online environment to any public meeting (if your in University think Student Union issues, if your have kids think PTA meeting, if you engage in public planning think 'public' feedback on the planning process). The people who are the loudest are usually those on the fringe. You rarely here someone speak up "I am adequately satisfied with this proposal, this is pretty good". You usually hear "that sucks" or "autograph me a copy so I can frame it". Some people will never like you. Some people love you (but aren't guaranteed to always love you - a post for another day).

The act of listening online alone is not enough. You require the skill to assess the risk and acknowledge the ability of when take action. Prop up the people who are your fans. Don't let them turn. Reach out to the haters, but do so knowing the probable outcome. It may be a case of showing your intent, rather than the outcome (don't mistaken this with selfishly assisting someone, that will get you burned). With this in mind, you can use the information found from 'listening' online very effectively, but do not mistaken it with the views of the majority. Most companies in Canada do not yet have the critical consumer mass to have their audience accurately reflected online. There will be people who will never speak up, but who will only watch. They are equally as important and should not be forgotten in the hype of social media.

3)Listen to the people you do engage. This may sound like a contradiction from the first two points. The intention with listening to the engaged people - the people who respond to your survey, buy your product online, engage in whatever action your online tactic is aiming to do - is to find out how to get more people like that. You're online audience may not always be a great reflection of the broader mass audience, but it is still an audience with a wallet. Identifying who reacts positively online, and tailoring integrated marketing efforts online to build this base of positive reactions in the ultimate key to a sustainable online strategy.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mitch Joel on perseverence

I've been working with a few folks at Seth Godin's Triiibes project on an ebook currently titled "We want you to fail". It explores perseverance and its impact on the success or outcomes in ones life. We've been compiling interviews with a variety of individuals - from the famously successful to those stories of the lesser known. About two months ago I did my first interview for the project with Mitch Joel.

I first met Mitch Joel just over a year ago. I was attending the Annual General Meeting of a client, and had heard that there were a few guest speakers. When I arrived I was seated at a table in the front left. Beside me sat a young guy with a shaved head and glasses. We were both listening intently to Terry O’Reilly give an impassioned speech about creative communications. When Terry finished and the applause was over, I noticed he was in my direction. That’s odd, I thought. He sat down to my left. As he did this, that guy on my right stood up and proceeded to the podium. That’s when I realized I was sitting at the speakers table (uninvited). As I looked up at the podium, that guy was introducing himself. It was Mitch Joel.

I wanted to speak to Mitch about perseverance because he has had an extraordinary ride, but did not come from a priveledged environment, invent some new technology, or climb his way through some political ladder. I wanted to speak to Mitch because he has successfully made it where he is based on knowledge, insight and audience. These are intangibles that are a valuable currency in any industry and being able to use them effectively is not a common story.

Here are a few excerpts from our interview:

Q: When did you realize that for you – the rules of the game were changing and you wanted to be ahead of the curve? Your colleagues must have thought you were crazy…

A: Pereverance has two sides. One side is negative. This is has to do with facing obstacles that come along and viewing them as problems or adversity. The negative comes out mostly in external factors you cannot control, like the people who are naysayers, or the barriers you create for yourself. With this side of perseverance you have to keep on pushing no matter what people say to you or how you feel.

For example, people will look at the Newpaper industry and say ‘look how it is persevering through these tough times”. I think that’s not it at all. I would say that Newspapers, like the music industry, are failing to persevere. Persevering for these industries would be to acknowledge the shift from content ownership to content publication. They would look at what they’re creating and who they’re connecting with. They would see the change in consumer habits, the prospects in new revenue and ad models, and the greater opportunity of taking advantage of the limitless opportunities that exist beyond their traditional walls.

The other side of perseverance is positive. This is how I look at the equation. You determine what you want to do. Then you do what you want to do. It’s really rooted in the knowledge that when you wake up in the morning you know what you want to do and you’re excited to do it. You know what success looks like and that excites you. You want to learn and take the steps to get there.

These two sides of perseverance are two different worlds. The positive side is not about doing it to keep on doing it. That’s not smart and strategic. Our actions should be flowing with the times, always searching for that better way.

Q: How is that going reflected in what you do (work, book, blog, etc)?

A: The positive side of perseverance has affected my career in a fundamental way.

About three weeks ago I had a light bulb moment… I started in magazine publishing and journalism. I still love the industry. I was preparing the sales and marketing plan for the book [Six Pixels of Separation] with my team at Twist Image, and it hit me. My blog Six Pixels of Separation, my podcasts, Media Hacks, Foreward Thinking, my business book review twitter feed, the columns in the Montreal Gazette and the Vancouver Sun - wait I’m a publisher. While persevering in my career I’ve become more of a publisher than when I owned two magazines.

If you would have asked me 5-10 years ago what I wanted my book to be, I would have said the standard answer “I’m working for this to be everything I know it can be” At the time, for most people, a book was ones opinions published and projected to the masses. Now, a book doesn’t feel the same. It is no longer the single source of opinion, commentary or insight. My blogs, columns and opportunities to speak are all part of that impression and each influence the other. Think about it. I finished the book in December 2008. However it set to launch in September 2009. The book is coming out almost 9 months after it was finished. In that time I’ve published a blog post everyday, gathered more ideas from colleagues and podcasts, it’s almost another book worth of valuable content.

The book is really a reflection of all my other content publishing efforts. It’s not a feature on Mitch Joel but on the columns and experiences I write about. The blogs, podcasts, and columns supplement the book, while the book provided the road map.

And my favorite quote of the interview:
"One thing I can say that I’m most proud of - I will always try things even at the risk of my livelihood. That’s not always the best choice (ha), but it keeps the fire burning and drives my excitement. Understanding how to be proactive in a serious confrontation is the self defense of marketing."

Monday, May 4, 2009

We give ourselves too much credit

Yesterday I posted how we don't give our customers enough credit. That we underestimate the role our brand plays in their lives. This should not be confused with the other side of the equation. That is - that we over estimate the role our products play in the lives of our customers.

We love the products we make. We're pretty sure that everyone else who uses them feels the same. Unfortunately, there are a few problems with this.
1) We are all very poor judges of what other people think is important (don't pretend otherwise).
2) Our competitors love the products they make, and think everyone else feels the same way.
3) Our shared customer base is not buying your product. They are buying the product that fits them at that particular moment in time. To them it's not so much a choice, as social availability: its what I want at this time and it fits my current standards.

When we focus on our product our messaging changes to focus on immediacy, exploiting the weakness of the old or building a mountain of value around what is shiny and new. This increases sales by nudging consumers into a state of inadequacy. What used to pass as 'great' drops down in their standards to 'useless'. We shift their focus to filling that void with our new product. Unfortunately, this focus does nothing to build trust in a consumer base. It does nothing to stand out from our competitors. It fails to be truly different.

This may sound crazy, but people tend to enjoy feeling confident. They enjoy being praised for their decisions or comforted by their peers. The role your product plays in their lives is only as good as the narrow promise that product can make to them. Chances are, someone else's product can make a comparable promise (I mean comparable in the mind of your consumer - yes, I know your product is different, holds more value, blah, blah, blah). Shift that focus to your brand - as my last post describes - and you change the game to a relationship strategy over a product strategy. One where whoever has the most fans wins.

Of course to do this, you require significant confidence in what you are selling. Your product needs to be great. Your people need to be better. Every measure of consumer interaction has to be held to that brand promise. In the long run, this strategy will win. In the short run, you'll definitly piss off at least a couple of sales and product managers - but it will be worth it.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

We don't give our customers enough credit

We often under estimate the role our brand plays in the lives of our customers. As companies, we downplay the value of direct communication (of any form - social media, face-to-face, hand written letters, etc) because we don't think anyone cares enough about our brand for this stuff to matter. This is a problem derived from a combination of two corporate self esteem issues:

1) A brand's fear of being called out for being something other than its corporatly controlled definition
2) combined with a brand/corporate/marketing culture focused on 'the mass' rather than the customer. Our brands have long tried to get bigger, but only rarely focuses on getting better.

As a result, we avoid situations where the brand message is open for public interpretation. We over manage every piece of advertising just in case our customers notice (or even care) that our product is facing left instead of right and as a result decide jump ship. We tell our retail stores to sell but take away the opportunity to keep customers by always referring them to a 1-800 number or passing the responsibility to a higher power.

Be a brand that believes in its customers more than its ego.

One example of a brand who has made the effort to overcome its self esteem issues is T-Mobile. I've talked before about their current obsession with flash mobs. They've taken their benign, easily comparable mobile phone product, and repositioned it in favor of the customer (rather than the masses). They removed technology from the equation and made it about sharing. The Life's for Sharing campaign has so far be quite successful. I can't comment on T-Mobile's ability to fulfill the promise, as its service is unavailable to me.

The latest attempt at a flash mob involved 13,000 people in Trafalgar Square singing Hey Jude together. It has seen mixed reviews. Some digital marketing folks are slamming it as disappointing and a failure. Lucky for T-Mobile - those guys aren't really their target. The most allusive consumer are those who are 25 years old or younger. This also happens to be the sweet spot for the communications indusrty. These folks use the most bandwidth (= most profit) and have little loyalty. Mobile carriers around the world have been trying to figure out how to reach them. I think you could almost define a new category targeting this market within the mobile phone industry (thinkBoost, Fido, Virgin, Koodo).

So what are these consumers saying?
"These T-mobile events are great, keep them coming, im proud to be with T-mobile!"(15 year old CraigTaylor94 on YouTube)
OMG, I love the new T-Mobile advert that just premiered tonight at 9! #Trafalgar Square” (from this excited tweet) Source: ViralBlog

That's not everyone - but the fact that a 15 year old would say that he's proud to be with a brand from an industry full of boring players is a huge step.

Give you customers some credit. They are waiting for you to surprise them. They almost expect it. Eliminate the legal/corporate mindfield of what would make everyone happy and focus on what would make the people who care about your brand happy - a focus on the individual instead of the masses. You'll get people talking and your customers will reward you for it.