January 2010

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Quick, I say “brand strategy,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind?  Okay, let’s try another.  “Brand plan.”  You say ______?  This sort of brand speak is really inside baseball to most businesses. Over the past couple of years I’ve spoken to some really smart people from many different walks of marketing life and they all know the words but, ask them to define or diagram them on paper, they can’t. 

Wikipedia “Brand Plan.”

Wikipedia the words “brand plan” and Wiki asks you “Did you mean Brand Play?”  The first option under the question is business plan.  Wikipedia “Brand Strategy” and it says “You may create the page Brand Strategy.”

Everyone agrees that brands are important…that they have value.  Most understand brands need to be managed.  What they don’t always get is that brands need to be managed to a tight brand strategy.  So they default to managing brands based upon acquisition, sales growth or retention metrics — all of which are measurable.  Thanks to the web, we can now even measure clicks and views and engagement and referrals and, and, and. And tie measures to dollar investments.  Break out the dashboard and play marketing videogames.

So if brands are important, and we all agree they are, how do we measure the efficacy of the brand strategy?  I often use the example that Coke’s brand strategy is refreshment.   Today, Wieden + Kennedy and Coke would have you believe it is happiness. Who is right and how to we find out?   

Now don’t get me wrong, a powerful brand strategy is only so if it increases sales and margins. Period.  But tying sales and revenue increase to a strategy, not a tactic, is what’s what. Peace!

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Wanting to tune into the Apple iPad press conference yesterday I spent time toggling between live.twit.tv and one of Robert Scoble’s video feeds. It was certainly better than nothing, but considering this day and age it was pretty prehistoric. Video reboots, freezing, hippopotamus grunts, feedback, poor screen grabs aplenty.

After about 20 minutes I blew it off and brought the car to “Tony, Park Avenue.”

The event was reported to have slowed down Twitter, gobbled up lots of bandwidth and, stirring though it was, was not nearly the event for outliers it could have been.  So, as a PR event it was a fail. 

A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Scoble was allowed into the Google Phone launch event and though there were some hiccups, it went much better. He streamed from his laptop. The audio was good, the video okay and the overall experience rewarding.  But had both these events been on television, the experience would have been perfect.  Were they both streamed over the net with the right software and load balancing, they would have been close to perfect. 

Apple wants to treat the press to first dibs. Also, it wants partners and employees to have a better seat.  But the press gets this stuff for free – they don’t pay for it. I know the press is supposed to influence millions of potential buyers but this is Apple.  The demand for Steve Job’s presentation and the iPad, comes from real buyers.  This event should have been open to the global public. This event should have been for the people. This event should have been handled better. Think different. Peace!

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The Apple Table launches today and it makes me think about its transformational nature.  If the tablet is a combination of reader and iTouch as most report, with a few extra wireless bells and whistles, it should be quite so. 

Some articles appeared yesterday that suggested print media companies will be developing reader experiences (RE – just make that up) to make reading digital content more enjoyable.  Think the printed word with sound, video and geo-linking.  But here’s my prediction — rather than embedding links in situ in a story, they will be organized at the end of the story or chapter, like a bibliography.  The written word needs a flow and pacing. A thought stream.  In both magazines and book form.  Clicking out to videos, communities, maps, audio files, etc. while reading is a very ADD and though something we’ve become accustomed to in the digital world, a behavior that good publishers will want to minimize. 

 There will be great attention paid to Reader Experience over the next couple of years.  It should be interested to see who establishes leadership.  I’m thinking the MPA (Magazine Publishers of America) should step up.  Tablet ho. Peace!

Photomontage: Robert Galbraith/Reuters

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Mitch Joel and Jaffe Juice’s Joseph Jaffe squared off yesterday in a podcast that was a good deal of fun.  Each agreed they were good friends but that was about all they agreed upon — save for the obligatory strokefest at the end.  Mr. Jaffe is a principal at Crayon now owned by Powered and Mr. Joel is president of Twist Image a leading digital shop based in Toronto.  Both are published (books, blogs and pods) and practiced “duelists.”

The discussion with which they played pong was “Is social media a discrete marketing practice?” Mr Jaffe says “yes,” Mr. Joel “no.” 

The crux of the debate is this:  Social media needs to be well integrated into the marketing and digital practices of corporations. Today, it’s not.  Mr. Joel says there are smart companies doing so and he’s right.  Mr. Jaffe says those companies are the “exception not the rule” and he’s right. Powered is betting that specialized shops – best of breed social shops – will be better positioned to make waves and earn low hanging engagements.  Mr. Joel believes that cleanest most likely social successes will come from integrated digital shops, and in the long run that is probably more correct.  But his approach is less promotable and less newsworthy.   Social media is the haps today.  There is demand for it and a social marketing swell surrounding it. 

Da Monies.

So where is the money in social media?  Tweeting buy the pound? Friending by the hundred? In strategy?  Yep.  Where is the money in the integrated approach? The answer is tweeting by the pound and building websites – a more lucrative approach.  

Win by Knockout?

No. Both arguments are very compelling. Mr. Jaffe and Powered CMO Aaron Strout are loudly breaking new ground. (There are supposedly scores of quiet social media agencies in NYC alone.) Mr. Joel gets it for sure, and though his sound bite is not as powerful he will probably have higher margins this year. Were I a marketing director and these two pitching my business, I’m sure the last one to present would win the business.

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Last week at the DMA/PMN social media conference, Steve Rubel, a digital honcho at Edelman, said “information scales, attention is finite.” He couldn’t be more right.  As social media adds more and more conversation to what is already being said about brands in the marketplace, the cacophony grows louder.  It is in this environment that brand planners become even more important.

Creating a brand strategy that is easy for corporate officers and consumers to articulate is job one for today’s planners.  Once that strategy is in place, “proving” it and refreshing it is the real work.  Simply repeating the brand strategy — using words, pictures, speeches or song — is not marketing.  Proving it is marketing.  Proof through actions, deeds, and product innovation is what makes a brand strategy and what makes people pay attention…and remember.  If you have a great strategy and no proof, you fail.  Peace!

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I attended a really great event in NYC yesterday put on by the Direct Marketing Association and Participatory Marketing Network (shout out to Curley, the DMA’s receptionist of 26 years).  Called Social Media Spotlight, it really exceeded expectations. Steve Rubel of Edelman Digital got things started.  Steve is the Obama of the social media space.  Unlike most speakers about social media, if Steve trots out a statistic, it’s a good one. “More digital information was created last year than in all of history combined.”   Steve, thanks to his PR training, talks in tee-shirts. About the growth of Tweeting vs. blogging he said “A lot more snacking, a lot less meals.” He’s memorable and inspiring.

Rob Krin, a digital dude from Castrol, showed great élan and marketing smarts by suggesting a strategy to “Be everywhere his customers are.” Is that a strategy?  Oh yeah.  A media strategy – but a strategy nonetheless. Castrol has an on-staff photographer who takes awesome action shots at car races and posts them to Flickr.  That’s what car heads want, that’s what Castrol gives them.

Involver

But one of the biggest surprises of the day was @rahimthedream. I’m not going to undignify my send-up by talking about his age—but Rahim Fazal, CEO of Involver, is da monies. I walked into the meeting not getting Facebook Fan Pages, thinking they were a time kill where people went to build their friend lists (which is still partially true), but I left eating some serious crow. Involver is the “app store” for Facebook marketing tools. Think of Facebook as television and there is only one ad agency.  That’s Involver. It’s pronounced Rah-Heem.  Peace!

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crowd

In Jaron Lanier’s new book You Are Not a Gadget,” he discusses how the Web has spawned an almost mob-like behavior favoring Pasters (those who copy, paste and mash other people’s content) over Posters (original content creators).  The “wisdom of crowds” (James Surowiecki) mentality, he writes, supersedes individual wisdom…and that’s a shame.  

Readers of “What’s The Idea?” know I write about the proper care and feeding of Posters and Pasters in social media marketing.  Understanding the theory is easy, making it happen, not so much. The key to successful, extensible social media marketing initiatives is in finding the right Posters to pollinate the Web.  That’s the heavy lifting.  One needs to be a good talent scout. Finding Posters (in your product category) before they become too big is also key. Find them on the way up, in other words.

How will you know a good Poster when you find him/her? Here are a few hints.  They are doers — they get out of the house or building. They’re creative — experimenting and solving problems in new ways. They are not shy, though their posts and content are not “me, me, me ,me” focused. They blog and have a following. They inspire respectful comments on their blogs or conent channel.

Find a good Poster in your category and learn from her/him. Don’t seek out wisdom in the crowd or hive.   Peace!

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 staples logo

A “social” friend of mine, Julie, turned me on to a Twitter site today that kinda follows one of my best practices for commercial tweeting. It’s Staples.  I preach to clients and friends that corporate users shouldn’t just broadcast promotional info and/or respond to help questions on Twitter. Rather, they should create a persona for their Twitter presence that embodies the brand and inspires positive thought and action. Think of it as a role in a movie with a motivation. The motivation should track to the brand plan and push the brand planks.

In the case of Staples, the “tweet team” consists of five people, each with their own tag. Michelle is MO, Kevin AB, etc. This allows them to be identified and personalized, plus it shares the workload. At this point, I’m not yet sure if these people are SMEs (subject matter experts) or generalists.  It would be a smart if they had discrete areas of expertise and personalities to fit. 

Buy and Multiply.

More and more companies are hiring people to handle social media.  Some are outsourcing (stopgap), others using interns (big gap), the smart ones employ senior management who get the brand strategy.  The big promise of Twitter is not to make customers happy – one at a time – but to inspire customers to buy, share and multiply.  The key word here is inspire. Tweeters have to be engaging individuals…with personalities.  And just like in a retail setting they can’t be shills. They must be sensitive, funny and friend-like.  If you are on the receiving end of a commercial tweet you need to “feel” the company tweeter – and like her/him. The persona is key.

Staples has made a good start here, let’s see hat they do with it. Peace on Haiti.

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paste brush

On the Web everybody has the opportunity to be a spokesperson.  It’s how you use this fact that determines a marketing program’s efficacy. 

What’s the Idea? readers know that unlike Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, who in their excellent book Groundswell suggest 6 different social computing profiles (creators, critics, collectors, etc.), I focus on only two: Posters and Pasters.  Posters are spokespeople.  Pasters amplify them.  Posters write about products, services and trends. Pasters share those links.  Posters have followings, influencing people they don’t know. Pasters have link buddies, most of whom they do know.   

Taking advice from someone you know or with credentials you trust is and has long been the key to successful commerce. If that advise is well-crafted and convincing, so much the better. That is why targeting Posters with your social media effort is a business-winning strategy.

Social Media Briefs

Good social media programs target Posters, but are considerate of Pasters. Writing a brief for a social program, my targeting takes account of both. For the Poster the idea has to be salient selling. For the Paster it just has to make them a trusted, fun and/or thoughtful poker (to steal a word from Facebook.)  If the brief can not accomplish both, then don’t force the Paster side of the equation, let it be.

On TV, you can pick your spokespeople. On the web you can’t.  Simplify your brand claim, make the proof points powerful and memorable, and manage it. Don’t poop out an off-strategy message in the hope that consumers will turn into creative directors. Peace!

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coke and bottle logo

It may date this blogger, but I still believe Coca-Cola is one of the world’s greatest brands.  At McCann-Erickson in the 90s when the editing floors echoed with the best commercial music extant, Coke’s TV spots were the envy of the business. Then the tea and water craze came about, sales slipped and agency roulette began. Frankly, it had a severe impact on the McCann brand, but that’s a story for another day.

One of Coke’s big pushes today, to lift all Coke brands (Sprite, Minute Maid, Vitamin Water, Honest Tea, etc.), is promoting all the good it does.  Many of these efforts can be found at the “Live Positively” website.  The site has about 90 different links and, though pretty, is a disorganized mess. Too much to choose from, therefore I choose not to choose. The beauty about good advertising is, done well, it tells a simple story.  That goes for websites too. Brand sites need to be “idea based” not “menu based.”

I was reading the paper paper today and after many stories about the devastating earthquake in Haiti, came across 3 consecutive ads by Coke on its good work for Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Student Scholarships, and Rails to Trails.  Nice image burnishing communications.  But menu based advertising. 

Before Coke split into 20 companies, with 500 marketing people in siloed, still-to-be-organized departments, someone smart would have said “Let’s load up one of our planes with Coke and Dasani and fly it down to Port au Prince with some ice.”  That’s “living positively.” That’s an idea. That’s refreshing. Peace!

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