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Social Media Strategy

Marketing that inspires

January 6, 2010

Now that 2010 is underway, I thought it would be nice to take a moment to acknowledge some great success stories, or at least success stories in the making.  There have been several programs that I’ve run across recently that grabbed my attention, and each of these can provide us with lessons in how we approach marketing in 2010 and beyond.

The other night I was with friends when a commercial for Disney came on that highlighted their promotion where they are giving away theme park tickets to people who volunteer for selected charitable organizations.  I’ve been thinking a lot about causes lately and how they can impact customer perception of brands, so this really resonated with me.

Of course, there are detractors that claim Disney is bribing people into doing service work and it’s not truly an altruistic gesture.  I see the glass half full here.  Disney is taking a stand and making it clear that they support service to the community and are rewarding those who are willing to give up their time and service for the greater good.  I believe this is a great example of aligning corporate values and goals with the bigger needs out in our communities.  Sounds like a win-win to me.

Domino’s Pizza
I’ll go ahead and say right now that I’m not a fan of Domino’s, or of pizza delivery as a whole, however they have made an astounding leap forward with their business recently that comes on the heels of an embarrassing PR fail back in 2009 (you may recall the YouTube video fiasco where employees of one of the local franchises made a video of some pretty gross things happening in the kitchen).  Most interesting about the Domino’s approach is that they actually LISTENED to their customers and ADAPTED to the reality of the situation (a lot of people didn’t like the pizza).  Instead of making excuses or paying for celebrity endorsements to make up for the lack of taste preference, they turned their whole business on its end and actually re-worked the recipe for their pizzas!  Watch the video that shows how and why they did it.  It’s a remarkable story, and this really gets to the heart of how the entire organization should be involved with ‘social’ – not just the marketing/PR/Customer service departments.

I wrote about this back in 2007, and it’s wonderful to see a major brand putting this kind of thinking into action.  As Amber Naslund recently cleverly articulated on her blog, when brands suffer a setback, it’s important to circle back around and determine what happened and why, but most importantly to ‘get back in the saddle’ and commit to understanding where it went wrong and to doing better next time.  Excellent metaphor here, and clearly one that Domino’s ‘gets.’

By now, I’m sure everyone is well aware of Pepsi’s daring move to pull out of Super Bowl advertising in 2010 and redirect that money into the Pepsi Refresh Project, which is a cause-based initiative that’s being promoted via social channels.  This is a bold statement from Pepsi, but it reinforces the idea that brands are finding new ways of connecting with their end-users outside of broadcast advertising.  Think about the incredible potential Pepsi has to connect with people and truly align the brand with their values.

I believe we’re going to see a lot more of this type of thinking in 2010 and the years ahead.  Let’s face it – Pepsi can’t advertise their way into market leadership.  Coke is too far in front.  What they can do is connect with people in a more meaningful way.  Will it work?  We will have to wait and see.  In the meantime, I’ve got to tip my hat to Pepsi for taking this approach.

Eight O’Clock Coffee
This is another example of a legacy brand that has really stepped out of the mainstream and taken a fresh approach to social media.  Denise McVey, who runs the Eight O’Clock Coffee Facebook page is interviewed in a video that shows people how to get started on Facebook.  Pretty cool, because the focus isn’t on the coffee or the brand – the focus is on helping the customer solve a problem.  I’d bet the target demographic for the brand is a bit older than the median Facebook user, and I’m sure there are plenty of their customers who would welcome a guiding voice to walk them through getting started on Facebook.  And if that’s not cool enough, you also get the added bonus of getting to know the person behind the brand on Facebook – love that!  Kudos to Eight O’Clock Coffee and their agency, S3 for this!

I’ll leave it at that for now, but I plan to share examples like these more often as 2010 gets into full swing.  Hopefully these spark some creative thinking for those who are planning their own social programs.

What about you?  What are some examples of programs or campaigns that you think are worth sharing?  Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by!

photo source: iStockPhoto

Social Media Strategy

Talking is not enough…

November 3, 2008

Neither is listening for that matter.  Marketers love to talk and Researchers love to listen.  We find all kinds of ways to say things in oh-so-perfect fashion and a zillion ways to quantify and qualify consumer behavior.  But guess what?  It’s not enough anymore.  We can no longer research consumer behavior and then come up with a brilliant, slick campaign to get people to buy from us and expect these to work on their own.  It’s just not enough anymore.  Of course, we must continue to do these things, but not in lieu of ENGAGING with our audience!  Engagement is the missing piece of the puzzle for many brands out there in the world.  Some of the most well-known and most respected brands are still not fully engaged with their consumers.  Why?

I think one of the biggest problems that we are facing in the Marketing world is the lack of commitment to true, ongoing engagement with consumers.  Many executives are hesitant to engage because they see it as a big commitment and one that can be a bit scary or uncontrollable.  But why are they scared?  Isn’t this exactly what they want?  Don’t we as Marketers want to establish that connection between our brands and our consumers?  It is not the goal to get the attention of our target consumers and encourage them to spread the word amongst their own spheres of influence?  Surely we should be embracing this and becoming part of the dialog as much as possible.

Maybe they think this is all just a passing phase.  Well guess what – things are not going to go back to the way they were.  Nope – we’ve come too far.  Consumer engagement is not a fad that will be a thing of the past in 2 years.  Technology has allowed information and opinions to spread at an incredible pace, and there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle.  Can you imagine online customer reviews being a thing of the past?  What about blogging – can you envision 3 years from now blogs being a joke?  Next year, could people decide that they no longer want to share videos and photos with each other online or connect with each other on social networks?  Of course not!  So what is stopping so many brands from doing what they need to do to fully engage their audience?

The PR departments of forward-thinking companies get it.  They know that they have to get down in the trenches with consumers and interact with them consistently.  Putting out releases is part of the equation, but instead of directing them specifically at media outlets, they must now be geared toward everyday consumers and bloggers who can run with the ball.  Instead of magazine editors or newspaper writers contacting them for information, consumers now expect this kind of access.  Denying them the ability to engage is as foolish as ignoring an author that wants to write a story about your brand in a respected publication.  Sending out information is only the first step – participation in the conversation that occurs as a result is the key to effectiveness.

Check out one of our clients who has recently embraced Social Media.  Zoo Atlanta took the first step by engaging on MySpace.  Less than a month into the program, there have been 2 big announcements that the Zoo has been discussing with its MySpace community.  Check out the blog entries and note the volume of comments in response.  This is a great example of how Social Media can work when you have people who are open to new ideas and are willing to dedicate the time to talk directly with their audience.  If a local non-profit organization can ‘get it’ and run with the ball, then other brands can too.  They just need the guidance to help find their way.

Social Media Strategy

Social Media’s role in the tanking Economy

October 7, 2008

It’s hard to turn on a computer, much less a television, without being inundated with messages about the gloom and doom of our current economic nightmare.  But what does that mean for the Marketing world?  One thing seems clear to me – now is NOT the time to crawl in a hole and scale back on Marketing.  To the contrary – we know from history that most companies will slash the Advertising and Marketing budgets that could turn the situation around and keep them alive.  Like a sea captain caught in a storm, the best chance of saving the ship is to turn directly into the waves.  Sure, the ride will be rough, but it’s the best strategy for survival.

Social Media and Social Network Marketing in particular has a role to play in navigating the troubled waters ahead.  Think about it – people will continue to communicate socially online, regardless of how much the Dow plummets.  Consumers might not have as much money to go out to dinner or take a vacation, but you can bet that they will spend as much or more time checking their Facebook profiles, surfing YouTube, checking out new bands on MySpace, or engaging in gaming and other applications on mobile devices.  So, this begs the question – why pull back now?  Isn’t this the time to put even MORE emphasis on Social Media?  Wouldn’t NOW be the time to show customers that you care about them and you empathize with their struggles?  Wouldn’t it be great to have positive messages about your company spreading in the midst of all the negative stuff that is spreading out there?

Going back to the fundamentals of Social Media – ask yourself what added value you can provide.  Is competitive pricing an option?  How about a contest where people have a chance to win something cool while helping others that are struggling in the process?  Can your company give a little more to charitable causes that help those most in need during rough economic times?  Remember, when times are tough, charitable organizations take a big hit, while being called upon more than ever to provide services to those in need.  If you can champion one of these causes and share this enthusiasm with your online communities, you will have gone a long way toward building goodwill and positive associations that will affect the balance sheet for years to come.

Remember, the volume of messaging will almost certainly slow down as companies scale back on ad budgets.  Seize this opportunity to double down on your Social Media efforts, or if you haven’t yet embraced it, there’s no better time than right now to get in the game!  Show your customers and potential customers that you understand the challenges they face.  They will remember your goodwill when their situation improves, and chances are they will have told a few people along the way.


iPhone Changes the Game (again)

July 11, 2008

Wow – what a day for technology and marketers too!  Release glitches notwithstanding, the release of the new iPhone 3G is going to usher in a new era of mobile media consumption and the proliferation of consumers who have even greater access to information and the ability to stay connected with their friends.  Of course, the usual suspects like MySpace and Facebook already have applications for the iPhone that will no doubt reinforce their place as a mainstay of the daily life of millions of people worldwide.  But iPhone is making waves with other, more traditional media outlets also – The New York Times and AOL among them.  And then there is my favorite of all – Pandora.  I’ve written about Pandora before, but it’s perhaps the coolest website for discovering and sharing music ever created, and it’s totally FREE!  Now Pandora is making the leap to the iPhone, which is going to change the game of how people discover and listen to their favorite music, once again.

With a price point of just $199 and the addition of enterprise functions such as integration with MS Exchange, the iPhone is going to explode into a totally different dimension.  The big guns obviously see it, but it’s going to be interesting to see how other marketers react and embrace (or not embrace) this incredible emerging medium.  I think it would be wise for marketers to take note of this phenomenon and figure out how to carve out a niche that helps customers stay more connected with their brand.  The time is now!  Like the old adage goes: Lead, follow, or get out of the way!

Social Media Strategy

26% of Marketers Care About Understanding Consumers

June 30, 2008

Get ready – this is going to blow your mind.  I ran across a blog entry by Ted Mininni on MarketingProfs this morning that references a recent survey of senior Marketing execs and it had some stunning findings.  Seriously, I can’t believe what I read.  Here are the 3 most shocking statistics from the article:

  1. 6% of respondents felt that their “go to market” capabilities were “very good.”
  2. Only 26% reported making inroads in better understanding their consumer targets was a priority.
  3. Only 14% cited retail and service execution was a priority.

Ummm, are you serious???  6% are confident in their go-to-market capabilities, while only a fourth of the respondents want to understand their customers better?  Really?  What year is this?  No wonder we still see companies blowing money on traditional advertising and marketing while retreating in fear when emerging media is discussed.  One thing’s for sure – if you don’t want to understand your customers, then you DEFINITELY don’t want to engage in Social Media!  How in the world can this NOT be a TOP priority?  I’m struggling with this one.

Equally as disturbing is the incredibly low 14% who said that retail and service execution was a priority.  What are these people smoking?  Hopefully it’s one of those things where ‘somebody else is worrying about that’ and these critical factors are not truly being ignored.  Either way, for marketers to thumb their noses at the customers and customer experience is nothing short of shocking!

This reeks of old school mentality where companies would put out a product or service and expect people to flock to it because they said so in their advertising.  Well, guess what?  That doesn’t fly anymore!  Smart marketers know this and take the time to understand their marketplace before throwing something out there that might not make sense.  Companies would be wise to invest some of their budgets in getting to know the consumer market and developing a solid strategy before going to market with a product or service.  But, isn’t this Marketing 101?  Maybe these execs need to audit that course every once in a while.