Don Novello: The Lazlo Letters My dad was in advertising, and he would uncontrollably laugh while reading this book that. In many respects, Lazlo was the first "citizen's journalist" or blogger for that matter. His CGM was all about experiences with companies, brands, or VIPs. (*****)
Seth Godin: All Marketers Are Liars I'm a huge fan of Seth Godin, but this one was just OK. I probably read it with a higher set of expectations that the book would be a bit more critical of the marketing industry. It's hard to disagree with the core premise of authentic story telling, but some of his points overstated the obvious (**)
As you can tell, I've barely touched this blog in a year. I'm not entirely sure why. I suspect the explosion of social platforms with vastly lower publishing barriers such as Twitter and Facebook contributed to the blog silence. I also took a new job which kept me incredibly busy in my initial ramp-up and onboarding.
On the blogging deficit, there's good and bad news here. The good is that very little of one's personal narrative is missed in a world of one-click or one-sentence posting. And with the ease of photo and video uploads to these platforms, who needs text, right? That Facebook now enables us to stitch together a longer personal narrative via Timelime makes the short-form publishing eve more seductive. We simply don't need to work as hard to connect the dots, arguably one of the most important skills in writing.
On the downside, we're taking less time to just sit back and reflect. Sometimes we just need to step back to gain critical perspective. There's little room for serious reflection on Twitter -- it's mostly impulsive -- and some of the dots we connect on Facebook are downright trivial. Indeed, there's no chance I could have authored a book, Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000 (Doubleday), had I not spent several years organizing thoughts on this blog...and absorbing feedback along the way. In many respects, the blog was the "beta test" for the book, and you can practically see the book chapters jump out in the tag cloud. Then again, writing a book wasn't the objective when I started the blog, although I did suspect something "organized" would emerge from the musings: better articles, speeches, consulting, etc. (I guess that's the point.)
Back to the Digital Future
But let's shift back to the good news. The digital and social world continues to stimulate and provoke and touch every aspect of our lives. It's not going to slow down anytime soon, and that leaves us with lots to talk about and debate -- irrespective of publishing platform. Last week, after going a good eight months of writing silence, I finally cranked out an Ad Age column entitled "Back to the Digital Future" which attempted to connect a bunch of personal dots into the future. It wasn't a blog post, per se, but I felt good to blog again. Here's some excerpts:
The past year saw digital and social media hit new tipping points in our daily lives -- shifting habits, cannibalizing old ways, inspiring new thinking, opening and closing gates to relationships.
But for me, social media remained deeply personal. The connections with family and friends, and especially old friends, powered an almost relentless engagement with social and digital platforms. I cheered friends from afar in their newsfeed pursuits. I cried in comments for those who experienced loss. I reopened relationships with the high-school crowd, even those I once snubbed (or vice versa).
Along the way, I dialed down my pontification level. My personal blog -- ConsumerGeneratedMedia.com -- went a year without a post, and my Twitter account found more substance (and motivating ridicule) in my NikePlus "updates" than in half-baked attempts at digital wit. While I finally hit 9,000 followers, the last 500 took the entire year. Hey, they do call it "earned media for a reason."
I was among the earlier testers of Google+, but got a bit intimidated when A-listers rushed to the platform with almost uncritical resolve. (It made me feel like the party was already closed.) I also got off on the wrong foot by creating too many darn circles. (Lesson for marketers: stop over-segmenting!)
If anything bordered on compulsive behavior, mobile-phone photos took the prize. I took photos of everything, and marveled at how a photo of Saturday pancakes for my kids could generate more "likes" than a "most emailed" article from The New York Times.
Interestingly, I shed a ton of devices: the standalone digital camera, the once-beloved FlipCam, the family video camera, a medley of alarm clocks. My watch, I dare say, is clinging for life. Yes, content quality took a hit, but honestly, I didn't really care. Good enough was my operating principle in a world of lower file-size Facebook and YouTube uploads.
Apps "appsolutely" stole my attention and engagement, but I wasn't the easiest consumer to please or seduce. I tried everything -- even clicked on app ads -- but only found sustained affection in about 5% of them. The apps that made the cut were crazy simple, rewarding and sometimes fun. They added value, and solved real problems.
Must-have mobile apps included Maps, Instagram, NikePlus, the Swiss Rail app, and French for Dummies. IPad winners included Google Earth, TuneIn Radio, Skype, and the brilliant "Charlie Brown Christmas" book.
On moving to Europe:
Moving to Europe digitized new areas. I haven't written a check in 8 months. Skype's a religion. Online grocery shopping, bless its soul, now accounts for 50% of our food purchases. Despite our large-screen TV, the vast majority of our TV-style content sources from iTunes (except for the kids, who are permitted to watch French cartoons on the regular tube).
On Digital Downsides:
I got crazy frustrated with email. The stuff that really matters in my Gmail pile, like family updates, struggled to compete with the garbage. Thanks to Farmville updates, even Facebook junked up a bit.
While I hit new records in saying "Happy Birthday" to countless friends on Facebook, at times I felt insincere and phony in my efforts. It was just too easy. Then again, my heart warmed when superficial birthday likes came my way.
I cursed hotels or events (even the Cannes organizers) with bad or unworkable or complicated WIFI. I tried every to-do list app, from Evernote to digital stickies, but napkins still reigned supreme. I learned that it's pointless to ask a colleague about their weekend in a world of Facebook transparency.
But make no mistake. 2011 was a great year. While a bit dazed and confused with the pace of change, I remain infatuated with the dynamic power of the digital landscape -- as should all of us. This is a great time to be in marketing, and a great time to be partners with the consumer. Let's raise our game, and along the way stay grounded in our own personal experiences and common sense.
I'm serious about the last part. Have a great year. Keep blogging (irrespective of platform). I'll try to do likewise.
Earlier this year I penned two popular columns in Ad Age dedicated to social media "jargon." Both triggered a fair amount of conversation and no shortage of additions to the list from outside contributors. I've consolidated the two articles into a master "Year End" list. I put a few of my favorites at the top. Enjoy!
SPURNED MEDIA: Just like it sounds, earned media that goes horribly negative, invades otherwise pristine search results or bleeds into traditional media. Bad customer service is a top driver of "spurned media."
MAYORAL GRAFT: The all-too-frequent practice of Foursquare fanatics falsely claiming an appearance at a location — a restaurant, bar or coffee shop — in order to secure or solidify early major status.
BRANDONMENT: When consumers un-friend or unlike brands that create lame experiences. Brands that fail to properly maintain and update Facebook or Twitter pages are at high risk of Brandonment.
WIKI-WHIPPED: When you just can’t change your wiki entry, under any circumstance. Often activist groups, detractors or others will completely own your entry.
MOBILENECKING: The alarming tendency to have our necks titled down or shifted sideways -- ever glued to our mobile device. This anywhere, anyplace epidemic is increasingly common in cars, airplanes and crosswalks. Closely related to term "Eyevoidance," where no one looks at anyone anymore.
JACK RIPPER: The device warriors who hog outlets anywhere they can find them -- in the airport, via the USB port of a colleague's computer, even a restaurant reservation desk. They get a charge from a charge.
TAG STAB: The injury inflicted when someone is inappropriately tagged in compromising, unflattering or just plain stupid social “moments.” Mostly unavoidable, unless all cameras are “checked at the door.”
WIKI WART: A bad piece of news or an embarrassing brand episode (e.g., an activist protest or a social-media campaign that backfired) that just won't go away in a brand's Wikipedia description. PR pros often give false hope to brands of removing the warts, but relentless Wikipedia editors put them right back.
OEDIPOST COMPLEX: The curious neurosis that compels folks to sleep with their Blackberry or iPhone. The afflicted can't stop checking -- even in late hours -- for responses to tweets or blog and Facebook posts.
DECIPROCITY: When everything you post actually decreases your friend and follower count. Even when you friend or follow others, the rules of reciprocity just don't apply. Soul searching is typically in order here.
FAUX POST: When you are talking to someone on the phone and they notice an unrelated tweet or Facebook status update from you showing up in real-time. Bad form -- don't do it. (Trust me!)
RUNWAY REBEL: That guy (or gal) who keeps the "electronic device" going well past the airline warnings and prohibitions. We see them everywhere, and no one is innocent here.
GEO CRASHER: A person so intent on following a GPS-powered map or app that they can barely walk straight. Inevitably they crash into everyone — in airports, on sidewalks, in ballroom stalls. According to social guru Kevin Dugan (@prblog), there’s even a Flickrgroup dedicated to this.
APPFUSION: An inevitable outcome of app overload. Very common among iPhone users who download so many apps they can't find their address book. Appfusion can lead to as many problems as the apps solve.
BRAND TEASE: A consumer who "friends" or "fans" a brand, only to never return for a second date. Brands feed the cycle by forgetting to court the consumer with engaging, interesting or sustaining content or value.
CONVERSATIONAL DIVIDE: The huge gap between what marketers preach about social-media "conversations" and the brand's actual customer-service or call-center operations. Stems from cost vs. profit-center tension.
SHELF STORM: When organic search results suddenly go haywire, or shift to the dark side, thanks to the link-love logic of social media. Consider Tiger Woods' search-result shift from 95% positive to 60% hostile (in a matter of days). Or how brands with highly publicized service failures quickly acquire shelf-venom.
APPTOSTERONE: The mojo that fuels intense "mine's bigger/better" conversation about mobile apps. "Dude, you got Bump, but I've got FourSquare." Marketing techies are loaded with Apptosterone.
TRUST LAPSE: The frighteningly popular tendency we have to "open up" our friend network to a cool, unknown social-media service or app. Ego, vanity and impatience often collide with rationality here.
BLOG DODGER: Someone who has abandoned his or her blog for Twitter or some other lower-hassle social-media substitute. This was big in 2009, and we'll likely see much more of it in 2010.
QUAD STALKERS: Folks from your past who "friend" you (e.g., folks you marginally knew from the high-school quad) and who seem to comment on everything you post on Facebook. Mostly benign, but a tad curious.
TWEET-SHIFTING: Delaying or mixing Twitter posts so axe murderers don't know you're miles from home. Increasingly common as a spousal and family covenant among folks who travel with high frequency.
TEXTGRESSION: The curious migration of adults into youth behavior, habits and practices, especially when it comes to texting. Here our language quickly digresses into comedic short-form. R U w/me?
CURBCASTING: The almost unstoppable cacophony of loud voices barking all manner of silliness into the airwaves thanks to Bluetooth devices. You see this on every street corner and curb.
TWITSTOP: A bathroom detour from a meeting or conversation in order to check e-mail, Twitter or the latest and greatest via an app. (Swear on the Bible, I don't do this ... but I'm told lots of others do.)
DIGITAL DETOX: What we all need -- at least in doses. As we've learned, total digital immersion has side effects. Let's all pursue a roadmap for balance in 2010. (This is likely the topic of my next book, so send feedback.)
HASH BRAGGER: A person who consistently (and annoyingly) uses hash tags to brag about exploits, exclusive conferences or envious travel. Often uses multiple hash tags.
APP RAT: A relentless app collector who is known to download apps and then leave them to gather cobwebs. Related to Appotato, a compulsive app addict.
FAUX POCKET PAS: That all too common (and always embarrassing) situation where your iPhone, Blackberry or Droid phone misfires to someone you’d rather not call — often in the middle of the night. Can put major stress on relationships. App-happy children are also known to trigger such misfires.
INSTANTINENCE: The uncontrollable, compulsive and usually ego-dominated need to check “Google Instant” for real-time tweets, blurbs or inane comments or news items about you or your brand.
TRAIL MARKER: This person takes double-downs on Gowalla and Foursquare (and more recently, Facebook Places) to spot their trail wherever they go. They are easy to spot in bars and restaurants — they always have their heads down and are flustered.
JACKRABBIT: A tech freak who skips from jack port to jack port, almost as though he or she is on a mad quest for frequent-flier miles. Jack rabbits are common in airport lounges or coffee shops.
SNOWCIAL: A social-media meet-up in the snow or on the slopes. There’s actually a conference by this name, sponsored by Vail/Heavenly Resorts & Harrahs. (Full disclosure: I’m an informal adviser and mogul-happy Snowcialite).
TOP SQUATTER: A person who reads, tries or buys anything at the top of the “best of” or “most shared” lists, whether it’s iTunes, apps, Huffington Post, Ad Age or New York Times. This person never slips beneath the fray.
PROUD PADDER: An excessively proud iPad user. Known for over-embellished iPad demonstrations on planes or in public. (Guilty as charged.)
BUCK SUCKED: The condition that typically slaps you in the face when reading your credit card bill and you see dozens of "dollar" charges for music and "what the heck" iPhone or mobile apps. Expect much more of this as it gets worlds easier and more convenient to pay for online content. (Good news for publishers!)
FOUR SQUIRE: A person who uses Foursquare in pursuit of dates or relationship starters (or who knows what else). Beware!
PASSWORD PENITENCE: The need to continually use the “Forgot my password” function on websites, services and applications-often digital overload. (Courtesy of friend John Stieger, consumer-relations leader at Procter & Gamble.)
LIKE MEISTER: That person on Facebook who “likes” everything. Borders on compulsive. Even the goofiest photos get likes.
PAL PURGATORY: When you put a friend request on hold, sometimes indefinitely, via Facebook or Twitter.
SPOT SCRAMBLER: A person who delays or shuffles tweets or GPS check-ins for reasons of safety, security or just plain paranoia, i.e. you don’t want the world to know you are not at home with the family.
I've been spending lots of time with my kids educating them about this historic World Cup. So in the process I've identified ten of my favorite soccer clips. A few are consumer-generated, but all are "consumer fortified" (in the forms of views, comments, sharing, etc). A few like Nike's "Good Versus Evil" were not appropriate to share with kids but still made my list. Enjoy, and please send any obvious ones I missed. (For reference, here's a post I wrote in 2006 about World Cup CGM campaigns.)
Nike Joga Consumer-Generated Media Soccer (2006): You'll watch this several times - trust me. This ranks among my favorite soccer and "consumer-generated" spots. Nike essentially spliced together hundreds of soccer clips from contributors.
Diego Maradona's "Goal of the Century" (1986 World Cup): OK, I've watched this one about a thousand times, but it's worth it. This is from a game between Argentina & England in the 1986 World Cup.
Nike "Good vs. Evil" -- Good guys take on the bad guys in Rome's Coliseum. Don't show this one to the kids. I'm serious!
Pele "Head Shot" Goal in 1970 World Cup: Short but sweet. Pele was a hero to all my friends while in primary school in the 70s. He was also a Grand Marshall of the Pasadena Rose Parade...quite a thrill for me at the time.
Nike "Write the Future" (2010 South Africa World Cup)- Pretty amazing. And funny! This is the video clip that's stealing all the buzz (so far) for this year's World Cup.
Women's World Cup Soccer Final (1999): I struggled to find a decent version of this on YouTube, but here's a clunky version that captures the full drama of the entire penalty kick exercise with China. I'm especially devoted to this moment because I was actually in attendance. Truly and amazing and inspiring moment.
Diego Maradona - La Mano De Dios " -- No soccer list could possibly be complete without this 15 second gem.
Brazil Score vs. USA (1999): Another inspiring goal from Women's World Cup (China).
Best Goal Ever: This is billed as "the best goal ever" on YouTube. I honestly have no idea who's playing (and don't care), but I'm inclined to agree this is one of the best.
Great Goal Montage: Awesome montage of great goals across a host of games
I recently reviewed Charlene Li's new book, Open Leadership, for my Ad Age column. Here's a link and an excerpt:
"Li argues that social media-enabled services and sites can "improve efficiency, communication and decision-making for leaders and their organizations." The book is less a sequential follow-up to her impressive "Groundswell" collaboration with former Forrester colleague Josh Bernoff than a more forceful and practical reinforcement of many of the same themes, albeit with a special emphasis on mission-critical leadership skills. Key ingredients of "open leadership" success, Li suggests, include respecting employee and customer power, sharing constantly to build trust, nurturing curiosity and humility, holding openness accountable, and (are we ready for this everyone?) forgiving failure.
"Importantly, Li aggressively takes off the table all our lame excuses for not having a credible "ROI" strategy for social media. She does acknowledges upfront that the "difficulty with today's new social technologies -- like Facebook, blogs, discussion forums and Twitter -- is that they appear to lack clear, direct benefits compared to more established relationship channels," but she then proceeds to articulate such direct benefits. She offers, for instance, ROI templates like the "New Customer Lifetime Calculation," which smartly marries traditional lifetime value metrics with new value sources, from referrals and insights to ideation and user-contribution systems and support.
My column in Ad Age today takes on a topic that may well be the title of my next book: Defensive Branding. Defensive branding, I note, is "protecting and defending brand equity and
reputation in an increasingly consumer-driven environment. Think media
planning plus actuarial viral risk management." Here are some excerpts:
"The logic goes something like this: Sandbag before you sell. Protect
before you promote. Defend before you dance. Self-critique before you
"Folks, we're vulnerable. Our Achilles Heel just moved up to our chest.
Indeed, beware exuberant social-media pontificators bearing gifts. This
stuff is hard, and often it blows up in our faces. The digital landscape
is littered with social-media roadkill. I've been in the
brand-monitoring business since 1999, witnessing what the late Dr. Carl
Sagan might have referred to as "billions and billions" of online
conversations. It's not all good.
"The era of friction-free feedback is turning Twitter into a 24/7
anywhere and anyplace complaint desk. Facebook pages for raving fans
often morph into frying pans. Paid-media gains are getting erased by
"spurned media" (earned media gone negative) pain.
"It's not like the negativity dissipates or blow away. Wikipedia and
search results never forget brand screw-ups or stumbles. Media
reporters, now fortified by social-media tools themselves, regularly
source scoop from a cheat sheet of tweeters, bloggers and article
commentators. Often, they know things about our brands before we do.
"...it's not that we can't win, but we might be best served by first
fortifying the defense and sharpening our brand radar. Listen first,
answer next, engage last. Rein it in, folks. Know your vulnerabilities
and assume the worst. Think like your worst critic. Heck, put your own
products and service to the "torture test" before other consumers do it
This isn't a new chart, but I presented it yet again today in a speech before C-Suite executives sponsored by the South Florida Interactive Marketing Association (SFIMA) and BGT Partners and it triggered the most and best reactions. And so I'm sharing it again. Soak in in!
In my day job I head a digital strategy group at Nielsen (
Digital Strategic Services) and below is a a job description for a new position I'm looking to fill, ideally in the Cincinnati region. Send any resumes to Joshua.Hammond@nielsen.com.
Analyst- Nielsen Digital Strategic Services (DSS): DSS is a team of
consultants charged with advising Fortune 500 clients on how to best interpret and act upon social media (CGM, earned media) and customer feedback to improve
marketing and drive consumer and brand advocacy.We are seeking a highly energetic analyst to support efforts
across a broad spectrum of initiatives including marketing, industry thought
leadership, product innovation, content strategy and client consulting. Analyst
will work with team of seasoned client consultants, led
by EVP and industry leader, Pete Blackshaw.
Analyst: Digital Strategic Services
The analyst will assist in the core consulting
delivery of Digital Strategic Services and will actively support the needs of
senior consultants and executives.This
individual must be able to analyze, interpret, and present a broad spectrum of BuzzMetrics,
Nielsen and non-Nielsen data across multiple projects at a time.Strong analytical skills and understanding of
consumer-generated and social media a must.
interpret data from proprietary tools to provide actionable insights to clients
and qualitative analysis in written reports
interpret and present primary research with managers·
design client and conference presentations with managers·
leadership and client presentation delivery·
Assist managers with
Assist with product
testing for new initiatives
CRM, CGM, social media, and emerging Web 2.0 platforms
experience with interpreting data, performing qualitative and quantitative
Understanding of marketing
mix and effective marketing principles·
communication and writing skills ·
and web-based tool mastery a must
The position will be located in Cincinnati, OH
Timing: As soon as suitable candidate is identified
how the digital times are a-changin'. We're downsizing to small
screens, friending the world, thinking in 140 characters and
downloading -- dare I say -- "billions and billions" of apps designed
to make everything we do simpler, faster and more convenient (well, we
think). And so, only days into 2010, I decided to kick off the year with an Ad Age column dedicated to the most appropriate buzzwords to describe our curious stampede to the social media and mobile future. Here's are a few excepts and favorites from the piece. Read the full-article here. Anything missing? Send feedback here or via my Twitter account (twitter.com/pblackshaw)
SPURNED MEDIA:Just like it sounds, earned media that goes horribly negative, invades otherwise pristine search results or bleeds into traditional media. Bad customer service is a top driver of "spurned media."
MOBILENECKING:The alarming tendency to have our necks titled down or shifted sideways -- ever glued to our mobile device. This anywhere, anyplace epidemic is increasingly common in cars, airplanes and crosswalks. Closely related to term "Eyevoidance," where no one looks at anyone anymore.
JACK RIPPER:The device warriors who hog outlets anywhere they can find them -- in the airport, via the USB port of a colleague's computer, even a restaurant reservation desk. They get a charge from a charge.
WIKI WART:A bad piece of news or an embarrassing brand episode (e.g., an activist protest or a social-media campaign that backfired) that just won't go away in a brand's Wikipedia description. PR pros often give false hope to brands of removing the warts, but relentless Wikipedia editors put them right back.
OEDIPOST COMPLEX:The curious neurosis that compels folks to sleep with their Blackberry or iPhone. The afflicted can't stop checking -- even in late hours -- for responses to tweets or blog and Facebook posts.
BRAND TEASE:A consumer who "friends" or "fans" a brand, only to never return for a second date. Brands feed the cycle by forgetting to court the consumer with engaging, interesting or sustaining content or value.
APPTOSTERONE:The mojo that fuels intense "mine's bigger/better" conversation about mobile apps. "Dude, you got Bump, but I've got FourSquare." Marketing techies are loaded with Apptosterone.
TWITSTOP:A bathroom detour from a meeting or conversation in order to check e-mail, Twitter or the latest and greatest via an app. (Swear on the Bible, I don't do this ... but I'm told lots of others do.)
DIGITAL DETOX:What we all need -- at least in doses. As we've learned, total digital immersion has side effects. Let's all pursue a roadmap for balance in 2010. (This is likely the topic of my next book, so send feedback.)
While attending Snowcial (a relatively new conference that fuses social media and snow sports), I had a chance to interview the superb kickoff speaker, none other than MC Hammer. A social media maven since 2004 (long before most of us), he talked about the role of authenticity, relationship building, and the promise and potential of the social media space. In my view, it's not a coincidence that he has nearly 1.8 million followers on Twitter. This was clear even in his post-speech interaction with all the attendees: accessible, friendly, the opposite of pretentious, and highly attentive to the issues, themes, and topics raised by others at this event. This two-minute interview is an excellent social media primer.
In one of my last Ad Age columns for the year, I focus my attention on three critical words marketers need to embrace, repeat, and perhaps even "retweet" in 2010: Serve, Shrink, and Simplify. It's worth a full read, but here are a few excerpts:
Serve: You've heard this from me before, but I'll say it again. Service is the new marketing. Serving trumps selling. If consumers are in control, we can't just sell or wrap ads around them. We need to serve their needs, solve their problems and dial up talk-worthy "brand experiences." And we must do so 24/7, as Twitter-influenced consumers increasingly expect the "service desk" to be on all the time, from the 800-number and brand "chat" line to the Facebook fan page. Serve and you'll touch the nerve. The other good news is that more brands are getting this -- almost intuitively. That's why we're seeing a fire hydrant of service innovation taking place across brand blogs, Twitter and even iPhone apps. Consider the implicit assumption in mega-brand Tide's new iPhone app -- the "Tide Stain Brain" -- which acts as a de facto washing consultant.
Shrink: Our screens are shrinking -- big time. With billions of "app" downloads -- certain to explode further in 2010 -- much of our attention is now fixed (often frenetically) on screens half the size of a playing card. That has big implications. We need to adapt to a smaller interface. We need to rethink design. We need to cut the clutter. We need to obsess on the power of "icons" with the compulsiveness of a Steve Jobs or an airline safety card designer. We need to translate "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink" brand websites into two-inch screens. Oh, and this "shrinking" principle also applies to how we tighten and simplify copy. Twitter's 140-character limitation may seem like a climbing Everest to the "diarrhea of the mouth" crowd, but get used to it. Brevity is the soul of wit, my friends. We need to do more with less. Indeed, small is the new big.
Simplify: Of course, we'll never win on either the "serve" or "shrink" principles unless we really simplify things for consumers. Admit it, we love complexity. We hide essential information in illegible fine-print. We're rather give consumers a 200-page "how to" manual than a simple video demo. If you want your iPhone app to sing, you darn well better build it on "add water and stir" simplicity principles. If you want your small-screen ad unit to engage, or your sponsored content to drive participation, you better think hard about stripping out the gobblygook.Just think about the upside. Consider all the micro-charges on our bank or Amex statements because Apple computers made it ridiculously simple to pay for content. Then project that to e-commerce sales, or perhaps even the riddle of how to save online content from Jack-the-"Free"-Ripper." Let there be no doubt -- simplicity sells.
Outstanding recap of the most important tweets from the 2009 WOMMA Summit, held last week in Las Vegas. The tweets follow the conference in chronological order. I especially encourgage folks to pay attention to FTC keynote tweets. The panel I moderated with Comcast, Best Buy, Levis, and Bunn is at the very end. Kudos to @brandautopsy's John Moore (also WOMMA's evangelist) for this outstanding recap.
The WOMMA ethics code. Here at the WOMMA annual conference. Outstanding event -- easily one of the best. (Disclosure: I'm a co-founder.) The industry has really grown up, and it remains committed as ever to helping brands navigate through all the relevant issues around word-of-mouth marketing, including ethics. Here's a snapshot from a couple current and former WOMMA board members about the state of the industry and key trends. The Twitter tweets around the conference reflect record-breaking conversation, and I encourage folks to tune in. The WOMMA.org website will also post transcripts and video feeds from the various presentations and keynotes, especially this morning's FTC keynote. I also urge brands exploring word-of-mouth and/or social media for the first time to spend quality time reviewing (even debating) the WOMMA ethics code. As for me, I'll be hosting a general session conversation with Comcast, Best Buy, Toyota, and Levis on the relationship between customer service and word-of-mouth. Stay tuned for a recap on that front.
Yesterday, during a spirited panel discussion I moderated at Cincinnati's Digital Hub Conference featuring P&G's Dave Knox, Empower's Kevin Dugan, and former P&G digital leader Suzanne Tosolini, we talked a fair amount about how to balance "Paid" versus "Earned" media, a question I've been thinking about constantly at Nielsen and beyond. It's a mission critical question -- one with massive implications for both marketing and operational investment -- and it was no coincidence that I used this as a foundational slide to prod and catalyze the conversation on the topic of using social media and digital to build great brands.
We're finally at a true crossroads in marketing. There is so much evidence across the web that "earned media" -- consumer-generated media, social media, conversation, variants of PR -- is creating meaningful lift and value for brands that we now need to think more critically about resource and spending allocations. Empirical evidence makes clear, for example, that customer service is a major driver of "earned media," but fixing or improving customer service takes real investment. Where does it come from? Do we slice it off the "paid media" side of the equation. And who makes that decision? The CMO as currently defined, or some new hybid role that combines marketing, PR, and service? Alas, the big questions.
Then again, it's not that simple, which is one reason the latest iteration of my paid/earned grid (which draws its initial inspiration from Dachis's David Armano's very early industry prodding on this framework) includes a third wheel called "blended media." Here is an attempt to acknowledge that paid media often serves as a critical stimulus or even vitamin for "earned media." Moreover, in a world of crowdsourcing and co-creation, "earned media" is increasingly becoming a core input into the paid equation. Yes, we must always accomodate that fuzzy middle.
Needless to say, our discussion on the matter was lively and spirited, and I hope it continues to drive and advance the conversation during the second day of this event which features keynotes from Peter Kim and Bob Gilbreath and presentations from many others, from Jason Falls and Jack Graydon. BTW, if you want to follow this excellent conference, the Twitter hashtag is #dhi09 or just click this link.
Thanks again to Dave, Kevin, and Suzanne for a most excellent panel. And congratulations to all the event organizers, especially Jack Streitmarter or ScreamingBob Media and the Cincinnati Ad Club. Outstanding!!!
Within a half-hour of Mad Men winning a coveted Emmy (yet again) for best television drama, New York's "Advertising Week," a five day celebration of the advertising industry, officially kicked off. In surveying the program content, one can quickly detect the significant changes and groundshifts in this industry, from digital transformation to social media strategy to the proliferation (and necessity) of service-grounded iPhone Apps. Even the website for the event reflects a new world order in communication -- what with "sharing" utilities, digital media kits, mobile "utility" downloads, and the like. It's a far cry from what my father, Bill Blackshaw -- one of the the orginal Mad Men -- experienced.
Still, the ad community remains challenged (if not overwhelmed) by the new rules and dynamics of consumer control. Of course social media is an "opportunity," but it's also a cross-current that threatens to dilute messaging and desired impact, or even put distrust on viral steroids. Indeed, consumers have greater leverage to "advertise" their attitudes toward brands, and a significant percentage of them remain highly guarded and skeptical. Marketers need to focus -- nay, obsess -- with how to renew, re-invigorate, or perhaps even redefine the trust covenant between consumer and brand.
Importantly, we need to keep asking: are we just selling or are we serving the needs of consumers? Are we branding or bonding? Are we embarking upon what Bob Gilbreath, CMO of BridgeWorldwide and a fellow P&G alum, refers to in his forthcoming book as "Meaningful Marketing?" (He defines meaningful marketing as the 'marketing itself add[ing] value to peoples’ lives.' ) Or are we all, as Bob Garfield implies (not so subtly) in his provocative, arguably must-read book, The Chaos Scenario, just toast. I'm actually convinced there's a world of potential for marketing and advertising, but we need to reset many of our core assumptions and operating principles. I'm equally convinced that this unprecedented bubbling of consumer conversation (from online communities to Twitter) is a well-spring of free and thoughtful advice to marketers about which roads and direction to take to secure the long term loyalty and advocacy of consumers. But we first need to check or respective agenda at the door, and tune in to what the conversation is telling us. Listen first, then engage!
Toward that end, I thought I'd "prime the pump" a wee bit. A little over a year ago, around the time I published my book "Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000", I started writing a column for Advertising Age magazine (mostly online) on a range of topics related to future trends in advertising, the relationship between service and marketing, and the broader impact of social media. I just skimmed my content archive and pulled ten columns that might serve as a useful "primer" going into Advertising Week. These are themes and topics that are especially meaningful to me, but I suspect they might resonate with others. As always, I welcome feedback.
Earned Media May Be Efficient But It's Far from Free: Getting the full divident of "earned media" requires much more that setting up Twitter and Facebook accounts. Meaningful product and operational investment (e.g. customer service) pay the biggest dividends.
Underwriting Your Super Bowl Spot: You just can't think about TV the same anymore. Much of the value in TV advertising comes through the "multiplier effect" across digital expression venues, and the digital trail. How do we think holistically about TV?
The Consumer-Generated Media (CGM) that most inspires and motivates me is personal. At the end of the day, social media is all about cementing connections, nurturing narrative, and redefining relationships. Yes,I have a day job at Nielsen promoting CGM and social media as a business vitamin and stimulus, but much of what helps me intuitively understand how and why CGM matters redounds to what I explore, test, and experiment with in my free time ... usually at a personal and even family level. DosBebes (blog dedicated to our twins) and Cucina.com (family recipes, inspired by my Sicilian mother and six siblings) are good examples of personal CGM.
And so I spent this Memorial Day attempting, once again, to stitch together what seems to be an almost endless narrative from an archive of video interviews I conducted with my father before he passed away in 2007. World War II was one of our favorite and engaging conversation topics. What follows are three short video clips, drawn from several hours of interviews and conversation, that capture slices of his experience as a young 18 year old cadet in World War II. In so many respects the War changed everything for my father. It served as a ticket out of Trenton, NJ. It both tempered and expanded his view of a world undergoing dramatic change. It exposed him to personal tragedy (11 of his Trenton Catholic classmates were killed). It opened up a gateway to higher education through the GI bill.
There's nothing particularly heroic and "movie-worthy" in my dad's experience -- he talks about a light German air attack on his massive convoy and a precarious encounter with a concussion grenade while training in Africa -- but, hey, a window in time is a window worth time for reflection, learning, and maybe even a wee bit of wisdom. Plus, these exercises always give me an excuse to spend time with someone who I deeply miss, and who I hope to reintroduce to my kids as they grow older. (The twins actually hung around my Mac while I pieced these together.)
Is the consumer affairs department an endangered species?I know, this sounds harsh – but the question is quite honest, and certainly timely.I’m also tossing this out there as a provocative “call to action” at a time when consumer affairs professionals – contact center heads, customer service suppliers -- are assembling from all over the country to the Society of Consumer Affairs Professional’s (SOCAP) annual symposium n Chicago. Normally I’d be there – this is one conference I never want to miss – but I just so happen to be moderating the keynote panel at Ad-Tech San Francisco tomorrow on the topic of “Innovate or Die: Building Great Brands in the Era of Disruption.” (Yes, in light of my opening sentence, there’s irony in the title, and I certainly hope to include a representative of SOCAP -- perhaps President Matt D’Uva or Chairman Pete Edghill -- on the panel next year.)
Here’s the rub.Right now, in 2009, the consumer affairs (or consumer relations) industry has two strikes against it.One, marketers generally treat this group as as “the neglected stepchild,” a term drawn directly from the most important chapter of my recent book “Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000” (Doubleday Business). This is reflected in budget, staffing, and, in many cases, a typically marginalized role at the strategy table. Second, the explosion of social media tactics and strategies – typically led by marketers, ad agencies, PR firms, and the mushrooming legions of Twitter-schooled “social media experts" – has started to eclipse if not cannibalize consumer affairs' role in bread and butter consumer engagement activity: listening, responding, solving, managing feedback loops, and more.It’s not that consumer affairs is doing less that they were, say, a year ago, but their total “share of conversation” relative to other groups is heading south. Relevancy matters!
All of this has led to what I’ve often referred to as a massive “conversational divide.”Marketing stakeholders are jumping into the social media space aggressively, and with no shortage of hype and exuberance (not necessarily a good thing) – from Twitter "service" accounts and corporate blogs to Facebook fan sites and user-generated ideation contests – while the consumer affairs department is barely keeping up.The “divide” is most pronounced in the consumer experience.Direct feedback channels (800 numbers, email feedback forms, online FAQs) are innovating at a fraction of the pace of the external social media “engagement” efforts. Don’t believe me.Just randomly pick ten major brands and ask whether their “feedback interfaces” match the pace of innovation with their social media efforts. Yes, there are pockets of innovation where corporate accounts on Twitter act as de facto “consumer relations” outposts, but with the exception of perhaps Frank Eliason of Comcast (disclosure: a client) it is unusual to find a person with customer service or consumer affairs “credentials” staffing such efforts. Even on the phone front, brands simply are not keeping up with consumer expectations, a point Emily Yellin hits hard (and persuasively) in her excellent new book, "Your Call Is (Not That) Important to Us" Again, we have a “conversational divide.
So what does this have to do with SOCAP?Now more than ever, the consumer affairs community needs to step up to the plate and grab a real seat at the social media table. The conversation and table-talk at this year’s SOCAP confab should center around the tactics and strategies to realign management thinking about their potential to lead this promising area of innovation, and why they consumer affairs is positioned to do this better than anyone else. That was precisely the theme of my keynote speech to SOCAP at their annual conference in October 2008, and I repeat the point for emphasis here.In fact, the need is more urgent than ever.
Don’t get me wrong.I’m not blindly taking a position or throwing darts at the corporate org chart. The folks closest to the pulse of the consumers who reach out to companies should naturally have a hand in the “expansion” (e.g. social media) efforts.Brands will slip, trip, or outright fail if they don’t enroll the very same folks have invested years and years of experience in empathetic listening to consumers; in solving problems to retain consumer loyalty, and perhaps even nurturing advocacy.The social media movement needs that discipline.It might even need a wee bit of consumer affairs caution and conservatism. Again, the consumer is in control; we -- all of us -- can't screw this up!
Consumer affairs is well-positioned to make headway, but they can’t take the space – or their birthright in consumer “listening & engagement” – for granted.As I note in my book, “one of the most important imperatives for management seeking top-line growth is to rethinking, and in many cases, reengineer, the entire consumer affairs operation. In fact, this revamping may prove to be a far more efficient, high-return investment than pouring more money into paid media.”
“After all, the consumers most likely to fill out an online feedback form or call the customer service number are the same folks who create online word-of-mouth.In every study I’ve conducted on online consumer behavior, a strong correlation exists between consumers who exercise feedback channels and those who create media.”
Here's a big advantage. The consumer affairs/relations department technically owns what we referred to at the recent Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) listening leadership summit as the “brand backyard.”This is a critical zone of control, leverage, and “sense and respond,” and also one that’s expanding via online chat, brand communities, and vastly smarter CRM tools. This “brand backyard” is where keynote speaker Kim Dedeker of P&G drew inspiration to ultimately become one of the industry’s leading marketing research executives. Turns out her first job at P&G was answering often-challenging consumer calls on products like Downy, an experience that was so revealing of brand insight and value that she used it to open up her speech.
Which leads me to a few final thoughts on “Listening.”Even if the consumer affairs department makes meaningful headway on the “listening front” – and by that I mean better translating the value of it collects from consumer for marketers – we can hoist a partial victory flag.Reinventing “listening” is nothing short of an industry obsession these days, and for good reason.Just ask the Advertising Research Foundation’s Joel Rubinson, who along with CEO Bob Barocci are challenging the entire research industry to rethink the entire listening equation. As the Nielsen chart I presented at the ARF event suggests, listening now feeds many mouths and needs in the organization. That's a huge opportunity for consumer affairs.
So, again, now is the time for the consumer affairs department to step up.I frankly think the marketing folks will meet consumer affairs half-way. Last month I spent half a day with room full of CMOs and VPs of Marketing on this very topic as part of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) "Senior Marketer Think Tank." We asked hard questions about whether "service is the new marketing," and we obsessed over the topic of the "conversational divide." They are ready to engage (pun intended) consumer affairs or anyone for that matter dedicated to forging meaningful relationships between brands and consumers.
So the timing is perfect, and the conditions are ripe. In the end, the consumer will benefit much more from a bridge…not a divide. - PE
Consumer Affairs Reform “Reader” (Select Articles I’ve Published in the Pas
This morning I decided it was my duty as a digial consultant and author of a book about the viral power of complaints (Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000, Doubleday Business), to take yet another look at that disgusting, now legendary video posted to YouTube by two former (and now being sued) Dominos employees. Aside from the video itself, the comments are a rich source of insights, ever revealing of brand credibiliy and reputation, and I wanted to give them a good look as well. Alas, much to my surprise, this infamous video -- this "when bad things happen to brands" case study of the year -- was nowhere to be found. Instead, YouTube, posted the following curious comment:
This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Kristy Hammonds.
Kristy Hammonds is one of the former employees in question. The specific nature of her "copyright claim" is yet to be seen, although it could be related to her prior record. What I do know is that there are going to be a ton of surprised folks over the curious removal of this video. I also predict a viral rush to any TV news clip (see example here) or non YouTube versions of the clip on the web. Once the viral Domino-effect starts on the web, it's really tough to remove. The good news for Dominos is that YouTube version generated the lion's share of exposure, generating so much link-love that the video now ranks #3 against general "Dominos" queries on Google. Now the highly incriminating video hits a dead-end...for now at least.
Irrespective of the damage control tactics employed by the brand or others, this incident represents yet another sobering wake-up call for brands about the power (and potential ugliness) of consumer expression. My Ad Age column this week focuses on the power and potential of "earned media" versus paid media (Earned Media May Be More Efficient, But Its Far From Free), but it also seeks to temper our social media exubberance by introducing a new term into our vernacular: spurned media (earned media that goes negative). Indeed, expression cuts both ways.
This incident also underscores, once again, the importance of understanding the relationship between business processes -- product quality, customer service, employee training -- and word-of-mouth. Much as we bear-hug viral "campaigns," the most viral word-of-mouth emanates from more foundational business processes. Just think about the Taco Bell "Rats" incident. Hygiene and cleanliness in particular is one of the most viral issues in the fast food industry, an issue I've come to appreciate in monitoring buzz for Nielsen and earlier in my founding of PlanetFeedback.com.
Much of what's propelled my fascination with CGM and social media has been the topic of trust. Trust is the currency of productive business relationships as well as the cornerstone of effective advertising and marketing. Since October I've had the unique opportunity to shape the agenda of marketplace trust in my capacity as Chairman of the Board of the National Council of Better Business Bureaus. Below are remarks I delivered last night to kick off the BBB International Torch Award ceremony at the Reagan Center in Washington DC. It was an amazing evening, keynoted by Chris Matthews and hosted by ABC Good Morning America consumer corresponded Elisabeth Leamy, and I was honored to be a participant. A list of award recipients, including Target, American, Honda, and Cincinnat-based Messer Construction company, can be found here.
It is such a privilege and a delight to welcome you to the BBB International Torch Awards.
This is a difficult time for our nation and for our world. To be honest with you, we thought about cancelling tonight’s event, as so many organizations have done in recent months. But we felt that would be sending the wrong message.
In fact, we came to the conclusion that this particular event is needed more than ever. BBB is all about marketplace trust, and our market is experiencing an unmistakable crisis in trust. Restoring, rebuilding, and celebrating trust must be at the top of everyone’s agenda.
The loss of trust in the business community has been growing since Enron’s collapse and scandal in 2001, followed by revelations from the World Com audit in 2003, and most recently with the ongoing subprime crisis which kicked into high gear in 2007. All of this has made marketplace trust issues exponentially worse.
And our current economic mess is directly traceable to the loss of confidence – read that as “loss of trust” — that we have in the banking system and Wall Street — in business generally, and in government — and frankly, to some extent, in each other.
Every day, in my capacity as a market research executive, I see telling, if not sobering signs, of the erosion of confidence and trust in our marketplace – from shopper behavior to the tone and tenor of what consumers tweet on Twitter.
So it is crucial that those of us who work so hard to advance trust in the marketplace – who understand the relationship of ethical and trustworthy behavior to economic success – gather to celebrate the “best of the best” in business and consumer leadership.
We are here to honor those who conduct their business and their career with the utmost integrity, compassion and dependability.
So it’s fitting that we have gathered here tonight to remind ourselves – and the public – that most businesses are honest, dependable, reliable and trustworthy.These companies and individuals we honor tonight are doing a remarkable job of advancing trust in the marketplace
And by recognizing exemplary performance, we hope to encourage all businesses to follow the examples set by this evening’s honorees.
The BBB International Torch Awards program is an integral part of our mission to advance marketplace trust. Last year, we expanded the categories and changed the program to increase visibility for our award recipients, and for the issue of marketplace trust.We are delighted that you are here to share this special night with us.
Alas, we have another dimension of changing consumer behavior throwing a wrench at yet another (time-tested) dimension of consumer behavior. Lately I've taken fancy in watching certain TV shows in conjunction with my Twitter and Facebook activity. Ups the entertainment value. If a plot twist grabs you, you put your thoughts out there -- however risky! And others, of course, do likewise...often in huge quantities. My colleague and CEO, John Burbank, wrote about this in a recent post entitled "Could Social Networking Bolster the 30-Second spot", the logic being that so called "telecommunities" (powered of late by microblogging) are heightening consumer attention around real-time TV programming and advertising. Writes Burbank:
While there is still a lot to learn about the interaction of social networking and TV, it’s clear that there is opportunity for programmers and advertisers to leverage telecommunities to drive audience participation with both the programs and the advertising. And it doesn’t have to be just live programming such as awards shows and sporting events. Any show with a deeply loyal fan base could drive live viewing and deeper engagement through these telecommunities
Big idea -- and much needed conversation -- but with every opportunity comes new complexity. Late last night, after Tweeting a key takeaway about key lessons from Dennis Rodman's failure to deliver on even basic customer service principles on the Apprentice (a comment that immediately got sucked into my Facebook page), I noticed a Facebook comment from my Nielsen colleague, Charlie Buchwalter, who piled on to my comment "Hey...I'm on the west coast. Don't give it away!"
Are you serious? Are you asking half the world to contain its "impulse to engage" to save the West Coast time slot? I'm just not sure that's going to work. Half the fun with TV these days might just be posting Tweets and status updates in real time. We're all going to have to take a step back and figure this one out. This is especially problematic for programming targeted to increasingly "wired" and "conversational" younger segments. Will we need to move "Prime time" to an early starting point on the west coast to keep up with what we might dub "Talk Time."
Every once and a while I'll stumble into an amazing piece of CGM that took me months to discover. Earlier today I received an email from my sister Julie passing on this amazing video entitled "Where the Hell is Matt." Apparently, it's sponsored by Stride Gum. Just a wonderful example of the creative power of human expression.
Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.
Such is the title of my recent column in Advertising Age, and boy has this topic been on my mind for quite some time. If you take a close look under the hood on so many of these word-of-mouth, viral, buzz building, and social media campaigns, the folks with marketing pedigree and credentials are everywhere.
In the blogosphere, there are thousands of bloggers who source directly from the marketing and public relations ranks. Double that for Twitter, which seem to matriculate another hundred "social-media experts" every couple hours. Conduct even the most basic Twitter search on user profiles and you'll find nearly 30,000 Twitter users self-identified as marketers. Nearly 8,500 use the term "PR," and another 8,000 use the term "social media."
Look no further than last week's Skittles brouhaha. Or the Super Bowl advertising buzz that I tracked for Nielsen. Or the Motrin Moms controversy many months earlier. Upward of half of the overall buzz came from the folks with marketing industry pedigree or credentials -- and the percentage conspicuously peaked even higher in the early waves of buzz. Put another way, marketers are complicit in pushing the snowball into a "buzzball."
Is this a bad thing? Well, I hold off a bit on that particular question, but at minimum we at least need to recognize and acknowledge the disproportionate voice of marketers in the conversational stream. Even I'm a bit guilty of over-romanticizing the "consumer voice" when in fact the earliest buzz-building megaphones are being sounded by the folks I regularly rub shoulder to shoulder with at industry conferences. Not to suggest we don't wear both consumer and marketer hats; I'm 100% aligned on what Dan Schwabel's suggesting about Personal Branding or Rohit Bhargava is putting out there about "authenticity" in Personality Not Included and I'm a proud participant in that tango.
That all this moves the needle is beyond question. Just consider the impact of search. In the pre-search world, marketers could critique one another into submission and no one outside our hermetically sealed silo would have a clue what we are saying. In the post-search world, all the marketer talk, fortified by heavy doses of link love, pushes straight to the top of organic Google-search results, meaning consumers are as likely to see our informed, often critical spin before they see the first billboard, display ad or TV spot. That's big.
At minimum, we also need to acknowledge that this curious trend blurs lines, and muddies the water. I call this out not to be righteous but only because I truly believe we marketers need to consistently go the extra distance to keep things transparent, clear, well-disclosed, and of course "open." When the commentators and analysts are becoming de facto media channels (which is clearly happening), we need to dial up the "clarity" levers.
Then again, maybe that's the bargain we've all struck in this Byzantine conversational bazaar we've buzzed up. Social media both softens silos and mucks up the lines. Web 2.0 marketing is de facto research, and feedback-powered research is the highest form of loyalty marketing, right? Lines naturally get blurry, even confusing, when we're both observer and participant. Inevitably, we end up interpreting the very buzz we created or fueled ourselves.
If you buy into this theory, you really have to think hardder about how to build the likes of David Armano, Steve Rubel, Jeremiah Owyang, BL Ochman, Peter Kim, Charlene Li, Chris Brogan and Susan Bratton into your buzz building or launch strategies, or at least have a strategy for "viral sandbagging" their potential negatives or venom.
This is no cake walk. While there's shortage of easy high-fives from the social-media set on anything that smacks of progressive marketing, let's not forget that these folks know all the tricks of the trade, and can smell an imposter, fraud or half-baked campaign a mile away. Indeed, if you look at the digital trail of road kill (especially in search results) from stupid or unethical marketing practice, the marketing experts -- not Joe Consumer -- were the first to throw the fatal daggers. "Et tu, Brute?" indeed!
I toss in a few final tips on the outreach side, but let me close with this observation. However this nets out -- even if the net percentage of marketer-initiated buzz increases -- we must keep the space credible and trusted. Social media is a wonderful thing -- enabling, empowering, rule-breaking -- but at times it blinds us to certain realities. We're a much bigger part of the conversation than we readily concede. As long as we're open and transparent (and maybe even a bit self-critica) about this point, the odds of preserving trust will go up.
Lately I've been so busy that I haven't even had time to recap in this blog important, conversation-triggering articles I've penned in my Advertising Age column. I'm hoping to change that, even if I have to backtrack a bit. Below are excerpts from perhaps my most read and "shared" (according to Ad Age metrics) article to date, and my core premise is this: the bigger idea in social media might be as much about business process innovation than next-gen communication. Here's excerpts, and I also encourage folks to skim the comments and blog posts that either build upon or challenge the argument.
What's the bigger idea: social media as marketing stimulus or social media as a way to innovate business processes?
Every brand manager or CMO should recognize that it's both -- and in a disruptive economy, you need to take advantage of both outcomes. And when the potential dividends of a marketing effort include changes to a company's process, we need to rethink the entire notion of ROI.
This isn't an easy task, as marketers typically leave things such as organizational strategy and technology implementation to other stakeholders -- keeping lines cleaner and allowing marketers to focus on, well, their areas of focus. You let technology folks do technology, quality folks do quality and service folks do service.
But social media softens the silos. It's hard to turn over a rock in social media, dip your toe into Twitter or comment on someone's blog without rethinking the fundamentals of a firm's organization, product development and even listening infrastructure. Such firsthand experience begets inspiration. Inspiration powers change. And change is needed more than ever before as we're asked to contract our resources.
Social media and communication Social media, at the end of the day, is about reinventing communication. Executed wisely, it's a new covenant of interaction between consumer and consumers, and, more recently, consumers and business. You could even argue that it's the long-overdue realization of one-to-one marketing that we over-romanticized back in the 1990s and inexcusably put on the "direct marketing" shelf.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pete Blackshaw is exec VP of Nielsen Online Digital Strategic Services and author of 'Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000' (DoubleDay). His biweekly column looks at the relationship between marketing and customer service in the age of consumer control.
But "organizational" communication, across thousands of companies and brands, is an area so bankrupt with inefficiency and scared of change that it's hard not to wonder whether your latest Twitter "aha moment" is better shared with the chief information officer or human resources than with the marketing team
Driving innovation Then there's innovation -- the engine of value creation and company growth. Social media is one massive feedback loop. It's chaotic on the surface, but unmistakably efficient if you consider the life cycle of vetting a good idea or absorbing the ideas of others. If you really peel the onion on what's happening across blogs, Twitter and other online communities, brands are setting up de facto listening labs that rewrite the rules of gathering and managing feedback. We're getting more ideas faster. The funnel is broadening. The filters are sharper, more immediate and grounded in deeper levels of intimacy with the product or proposition.
The end outcome, whether intentional or incidental, is a disintermediation of existing, and potentially more expensive, processes. That alone should be reason enough for the CEO to personally initiate "Social Media Day" or "CGM [consumer-generated media] Day."
Procter & Gamble's Kim Dedeker, speaking to the Advertising Research Foundation's recent Listening Summit, suggested that brands need to reinvent "how to listen" not merely to figure out how to turn on online strategy or social media, but far more importantly, to reinvent and "inspire" the entire market research department. Put another way, listening is about reinvention.
The irony here is that a free tool known as Twitter was being used in real time by many of the attendees, the resulting data streams inspiring new ideas and playback throughout the conference.
Joel Rubinson, chief research officer of the ARF, called it "an amazing record of our research transformation conference, definitely more insightful than my old-school note taking. The big idea was that listening creates a fast-learning organization, which is the only way marketing can catch up to the consumer."
Driving margins, saving money Let's end by hitting the sweet spot of practicality. At the end of the day, our foray into social media is teaching us how to save money. Consumer-generated media and social-media-enabling tools allow us to create websites and blogs for extremely low prices -- a far cry from the multimillion-dollar websites we built when I was co-leading interactive marketing at P&G back in the 1990s. Brands including Ford, Comcast, Toyota, Southwest, Sony, Denny's and others are testing new models of customer service on platforms such as Twitter that, under the old "enterprise" rules, would have cost millions to launch or even test. It's not that everything's cheap, but the barriers to low-cost earning have plummeted.
Whether we as marketers admit it or not, our dips into the collective social-media learning lab are making it really hard to justify $5,000-a-pop conference trips where we listen, learn, interact and collect leads. One could easily argue that the collective, real-time wisdom of social media, thoughtfully absorbed, easily substitutes for attending a "live" conference. And online video makes the substitution all the more tolerable. Video is a process innovation that is rewriting all the rules of efficiency.
Across the social-media airways there's no shortage of inspired thinking about what's possible. At a time when organizations are under intense pressure to reinvent themselves -- to take lemons and make lemonade -- it might be the right time to focus our efforts, even for a moment, on the overall "business process" equation. That's probably the easiest and most obvious way to demonstrate ROI around all of these efforts.