altimeter group

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Charlene Li, a great business mind, recently sold Altimeter Group to Prophet, a long standing brand and marketing concern. Charlene is, and has been, a great meme-alist. She comes up with big business ideas and memes them. These memes helped put the Altimeter Group on the map. Each meme, a mini brand, constitutes a “proof” of her innovative business approach.

Now at Prophet, however, she seems to be doing things a bit differently. Next week she is hosting a webinar on improving employee engagement. No doubt it will be a good one, because engagement has become big business these days. (Back in the early 80s my dad Fred Poppe used the word in a number of Ad Age thought pieces, giving him national cred.) That said, engagement has become a pop-marketing term and the title of Ms. Li’s talk feels a bit “early majority,” perhaps even a little “late majority” to use Geoffrey A. Moore’s framework.

What I love about Ms. Li is her “beyond the dashboard” approach. She needs to settle into her new office before mad redecorating. I suspect she will be back on her game shortly. Then watch out!

Peace.

 

 

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I do a good deal of work with corporate brands and they are way harder than consumer brands to package, yet I approach them the same way. The brand strategy for a corporation is the same as for a packaged good — one claim and 3 proof planks. Corporate proof plank arrays are rich and deep while those for, say, an energy drink or break-and-bake cookie are few and shallow. (For CPGs you make actually need to create proof where none existed before.)

It is because corporate proof arrays are manifold that The Reputation Institute has made such a nice and successful living. They mine attributes and values customers feel are business-winning, then track them through quarterly quantitative studies – measuring key careabout movement versus competitors — packaging it as reputation. Brilliant.

But in B2B, reputation is just a lovely generic way of saying strategy. They are measuring strategy. Multiple strategies. And if you looks at some of Reputation Institute studies you will see they cluster values generically: product values, innovation values, governance values, ETDBW (easy to do business with) values, etc. These are market research-centric studies. Brand-centic studies look at the proof based on the unique brand strategy of the corporation, organized by brand plank.  Not multiple generics. This is how we measure ROS (return on strategy.)

When companies like Undercurrent and Altimeter Group talk about more responsive organizations or disruption, they are (and often may not know it) thinking about a brand value paradigm for organization, not a generic B-school paradigm. Stay tuned.

Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”  – Mahatma Gandhi

“Brand success is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” – What’s the Idea?

Brand success was more easily managed 10 years ago before many marketers ceded control of messaging to consumers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read and heard senior marketers say “We don’t own our brands anymore, consumers do.” Hell, Google the sentence (use quotes). And the sentiment is dead wrong. Imagine saying the same thing but substituting the words “produce” or “price” or “distribute.”

And today the markobabble of the day is not authenticity or transparency, it’s content. Content marketing, more specifically. The Alitmeter Group just published some quantitative research with three key data points worth sharing. All of which don’t bode well for proper brand management in the age of social.

1. 70% of marketers surveyed lack a consistent or integrated content strategy.

2. 10% of marketers say their content marketing technologies are “fully integrated across people process and platforms.”

3. 40% of marketers surveyed say that the lack of interdepartmental coordination is leading to disparate tools used.

I love social, but it needs to be brand-managed. Not tactically managed. Done well, it helps set expectation for the brand and reinforce brand experience. Done poorly, it can undue lots of good work.

Peace.

 

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An interesting piece of research conducted by The Altimeter Group and published in Technorati suggests marketing departments handle only 51% of all corporate social media activity. (Here’s the link.) That’s not good. I understand marketing can’t control word of mouth, but the internet isn’t word of mouth. Didn’t your momma teach you that? What you say or show online stays there.

If 49% of corporate outbound social media is potentially random then the company is leaking. Even if benign, these leaks aren’t putting deposits in the brand bank as they might.

Here’s how to fix it. The marketing dept. needs to share the brand strategy (idea and planks) with all employees. It must emphasize that all outbound messages, pictures, videos etc. toe the brand strategy line. Employee creativity, on message, can be a wonderful thing. Off message, not so much. And I’m not talking about getting your people to parrot the latest ad campaign, I’m suggesting let them express the strategy in their own words, actions and deeds. The fact is, marketing oversight of all social media is optimal, but giving employees the guidance to share what the company s good at and what consumers want can provide wonderful learning, field testing and brand personality.

Peace!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A lot of money is exchanging hands today in the design and manufacture of websites. People get the “Is” of the website.  It’s a thing. Every company needs a site. But the vast majority of websites are all about the Is not the “Does.” And if there is a sense of Does, it’s about offering information. Contact. About. Products.  Some conduct ecommerce on their websites, but very few.

The best websites start with the “Does.” What is the role of the website in moving a customer closer to a sale?  I think it was Ford’s James Farley who first said “Good advertising makes you feel something, then do something.” 

We might call this approach doability. Doability before usability.

As ad agencies wean themselves from making just ads and move toward selling applications and selling buildables, they will transform what the modern website looks like. And I can’t wait.  Brain Solis of the Altimeter Group said last year “It’s 2013, why do websites still suck?”  Because they are overlooking the Does.

Brand planning starts upstream, pairing what a company is good at with what customers want.  Great websites do the same. They start upstream. Call it customer journey or whatever you like, but websites are about predisposing customers toward a sale at the very least and about placing an order at the very most. So please don’t share this post. Write or call me and let’s do.

Peace.

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The Altimeter Group just rebranded according to Charlene Li, CEO. I’ve never met Ms. Li, but did do an analysts briefing with her (while she was in China) during my Zude start-up days. Influential doesn’t even begin to describe Ms. Li’s role in the technology business. She’s the Ester Dyson of the new millennium. That said, Ms. Li has fallen into the trap many have when referring to branding, or in this case, rebranding. Brands are not style and make-up. Not logo design and color. Brands are organizing principles anchored to an idea. A customer facing idea.

The Altimeter Group has altered its logo, PPT, newsletter format and, soon, will redesign its web site — but I’m not feeling a brand idea or brand strategy.  Disruption, social leadership and change are three words to describe the sandbox Altimeter plays in. And as for the Is of the Is-Does, they are definitely analysts. But I’m not seeing a strategy.

Ms. Li and team have been leaders in sharing information on social business strategies. And it is thought provoking, smart, transformative work. However, treating branding with color and design and not a strategy component is like saying social business redesign can take place by adding some Twitter, content managers, Yammer and a video production studio.

Hey Altimeter, What’s the Idea?  

Peace.

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At a recent Dachis Group conference in NYC, Altimeter Group’s Brian Solis said something that really resonated with me.  I paraphrase, “We’ve been making websites for about 25 years now, wouldn’t you think we could make a good one?”

If great marketing is supposed to make you feel something then do something, Mr. Solis’s rant is dead on.  If you watch Grey’s Anatomy, it’s hard not to well up with emotion. When was the last time you had a single feeling while on a website? About. News. Services. Contact. Websites are little more than navigation tools offering a way for people to find information organized by the most basic of interests.  

Brands and web development companies often don’t get that the home page is not only a positioning tool, it’s a selling tool, and loyalty tool. 90% of websites are navigation tools. Ladies lingerie, third floor. 

When you drop someone at a traffic hub with 6 streets leading out, they make the choice. When you drop them at a location with only one street, you lead the way. You dictate the narrative. You can make them feel something. The only reason user experience is such a growing business today is because websites provide a cacophony of choices, with no brand strategy end in sight.

Cookie me this.

The first time on a website, or on a revised site, a visitor’s pathway should be directed by the brand.  Return visitors should be allowed to navigate their own way. This said, home pages should never be allowed to sit unchanged – to get old. Feel something then do something. This is the way beyond the wireframe. Peace.

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Who handles social media at large companies? Corporate Communications? Public Relations? Investor Relations? Marketing? Website? Customer Service? Human Relations.  Yes.  And at large companies there are often regional and international offices. Yes and yes. Most large corporations have a number of agency partners, as well: ad agencies, PR shops, digital, retail, B2B, promotion shops – you get the idea.  And God forbid, some of the people on payroll are career climbers trying to do some new things, new ways and name a name for themselves? So who is orchestrating all of this stuff? Is it the CMO? That wo/man with the 19 month shelf life?

Social media, one component of marketing, is creating a dilution of corporate brands and products similar to what global warming is doing to the glaciers and icecaps. We know it’s happening, we just don’t believe it. And we are having too much fun with our carbons. I mean social tools.

So what’s the fix Mr. Steve Poppe (as my friend Rachel might say)? An organizing principle that governs the product, its experience, and all facets of marketing. A brand plan: one idea (strategy), three planks.

Customer service, guided by a brand plan is better customer service. Pricing supporting a brand plan, better pricing. These are the words of the brand planner. Peace!

PS. Thanks to Altimeter Group’s Charlene Li and Jeremiah Owyang for the thought starter. 

 

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There are a couple of really smart consulting companies I’ve been following for a few years: The Altimeter Group and Dachis Group. The latter gave birth to a concept called “social business design” and the former more recently codified a similar practice they call “social business.”

Following Dachis Group from a far, it was my view that they should monetize by selling software.  Build it once, charge forever. Consult regarding the need for a new, more efficient way to do business then sell proprietary software that enables it. This approach is one with which Accenture’s has had great success.

Altimeter, on the other hand, is all about the consults and the hourlies. When you don’t have to push your own product, it appears cleaner to customers. Selling knowledge and providing the groundwork for companies to heal themselves is viable and healthy.

There is room for both approaches and each company has a long list of blue chip clients. Today in this very digital world there is enough pie to go around.

Because marketing is at the center of all things business and because brands are the drivers of what is marketed, there is big room at the table for brand planning. (You saw that one coming.)  In fact, social business without brand planning can sometimes be little more than a loose federation of processes, tools and measures.  Organizing everything with a principle that sells more, to more, for more, more often is the last mile of social business.  Peace.

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I was working with a company recently where the main deliverables were a marketing plan and brand plan.  One of the company’s other needs was a revised website.  The ability to deliver the brand plan — a brand strategy and three supporting brand planks — in the form of a website was new territory for the company. It was a break from the past where their mindset was to create easy navigation to the diverse and changing offerings of the company. Since the company was expanding into new markets and changing the composition of its product set, its brand meaning and value were not well known and misunderstood. Rather than create an information architecture, this company needed a clean Is-Does and a succinct brand organizing principle. In other words…a strategy.

Part of the assignment was to affect change in the social space. The company, with a good blogging culture, some really smart people and lots of deeds and stories to share, unfortunately gravitated toward Pasting rather than Posting. (Pasting is sending forth other people’s content, with a yay or a nay; Posting is creating original content.)  My admonition was to provide more analysis, and less curating…and to do so on brief.  This takes time. It takes thought and context.  But it’s what readers and users are looking for in their social – in their media.

Charlene Li of the Altimeter Group posted yesterday about a lack of strategy in social media. Though I haven’t always agreed with Ms. Li, I love that she studies and commits to points of view. Charlene is a thought-leader. A Poster. She is worth way more than the price of admission. Find influential Posters and follow them. Question them, exchange ideas with them — don’t “like” them. Peace.

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