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Brewblog serving up engagement

In a welcome and obviously well strategized move, Miller Brewing Company has stepped full force into the blogging world with their new site, Brewblog (which is a great url). It’s goal is to provide daily news, analysis, and commentary in the world of beer. Based on the articles on the current front page I believe it will be a welcome addition not only for employees, distributers, and journalists, but also for marketers and beer afficiandos. The commentary is smart, timely and unbiased… but as it’s written by a former Ad Age columnist its not surprising. As a small inticement, here is a sample of their commentary on marketing:

Differentiated advertising approach getting good response for Miller Lite campaign.

The “Men of the Square Table” campaign — in which Burt Reynolds, Jerome Bettis and other icons discuss “Man Laws” — set out to break away from the lowbrow humor that’s defined beer advertising for years and hurt the category’s image.

So far consumers appear to appreciate this effort to redefine the beer culture
dialogue. According to data from IAG Research, the campaign does a better job at
cutting through the beer advertising clutter than current work for Bud Light and
Coors Light. Miller Lite scored above its competitors in six out of seven
measurements, including general recall.

In terms of the usability, the blog is easy to navigate, has an upfront ‘About’ section where they describe the relationship between the blog and the parent company, Miller (their write up is quite good, I recommend a read), as well as a well laid out primer in blogging for their new audience (my assumption is they’ve started a large internal push to get the word out).

As a former beer marketer myself I welcome the addition to my browsing list, and although it may not fall definitively within the realm of “corporate blogging” it is a great use of the medium.

[photo credit: RavenHawk on Flickr]

[H/T Daily Fix]

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Interruption vs collaboration and community building

Quite a few different posts recently have brought up the subject of collaboration online, time management or interruption, and community building. In fact, it’s been a quasi theme of a couple of my recent posts as well.

There are many different schools of thought on the best approach to these very subjects online, which is to be expected as the Internet as a daily part of our lives is a new thing and we humans are notoriously late adopters. So how does our desire for order and a slower pace of living as a species mesh with the influx of new technology which make it easier (supposedly) to interact and connect with people, and the inherent expectations as to immediate responses and engagement? It’s a tough one for me and I am a huge fan of the Internet, Web 2.0, and community building. It can be hard to keep up sometimes with the combination of email, IM, cell, blogs, RSS, etc… let alone get anything truly accomplished while trying to do so.

From 37Signals:

The way I see it, interruption is being mistaken for collaboration. The are drastically different things. Interruption is productivity’s biggest enemy. It sounds counterintuitive to many, but we should be working harder on staying apart and less on getting in touch too much. A healthy dose of physical and virtual distance is a good thing. If we want to be highly productive we need more alone time.

Which brings me to a question – how far will we be able to push the frontiers before we encounter the ocean (to use a bad metaphor)? How much interruption will we, as consumers, be able to stand before the inevitable push back begins? Pop-ups and telemarketing used to be okay. Not anymore. Pop-unders and interstitials are going the way of the dinasour. Music on your site… only if I turn it on. Email marketing? Hello spam and filters. It’s starting to look as if managing and responding to comments on your own blog is getting to be too much of a drain for some. How many people subscribe to RSS feeds and never check them? How many have time to visit numerous social networking sites per day? Will fatigue set in, and if so, what form will it take? Or will someone invent the next great piece of software and solve all our problems as we continue to move forward?

Not questions to which I have answers, but ones I hope to keep a look out for as we continue to grow into the Internet age.

We marketers continuously seek new and innovative ways to get the message into the right peoples hands, but we also need to constantly look forward and consider the larger societal implications inherent in ever instrusive media. Which is why, I believe, the smart marketers will need to be customer evangelists first and engage and solicit feedback from the people we are hoping to reach. They’re the only ones who can let us know if we’re starting to get too in their face with our own brand evangelism.

[photo credit: Jakob Lodwick on Flickr]

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Blogging cornerstones revisited

In my last post about what I consider to be cornerstones of blogging, I mentioned interacting with the community and soliciting direct and immediate feedback. I took Seth Godin to task for not allowing comments on his blog (as did many other bloggers out there). I felt that by doing so he was shutting down the conversation and not practicing what he preached. I am a firm believer in open conversation and the ability to riff off each other in the comments and create a greater extension of your initial post. That’s one of the beautiful things about blogs.

However, I should have taken a bit of time to think about the larger issues of “what constitutes engagement” and is there only “one right way” to do so; I was mistaken about how he engaged the community. Seth dropped me a line to clarify how he interacts with his audience and why he has chosen to do so and it gave me some food for thought in terms of what our definitions of interaction and engagement are.

Seth mentioned that he takes the time to respond to direct emails and monitors the trackbacks from his blog on a regular basis. From his perspective one-on-one interaction is a good way to engage with his community and ultimately a more productive use of his time than trying to respond to comments from anonymous bloggers (let alone controlling spam and monitoring inappropriate posts). And that’s not a wrong perspective. It’s just a different one. It doesn’t mean he is ignoring the conversation, just participating in it differently.

I can understand how, as bloggers, we tend to want immediate and direct feedback and interaction, and that’s not a bad thing. In fact, the ability to communicate with those across the country, or around the world and exchange ideas out in the open is a wonderful thing. But it’s not the only way of doing things. I think there is room for both kinds of community interaction, depending on your goals.

Ultimately both methods (and I’m sure there are many more – podcast messages, skype, etc.) only work if you have the cornerstones of community engagement and relationship building on blogs – authenticity and feedback to begin with.

[photo credit: kay-d on Flickr]

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“Thanks Comcast” (and not in a good way)

Word of mouth. It can be such a powerful marketing tool. It can also be a PR disaster if your brand doesn’t fulfill it’s promises. When a guy can pull out a video camera and start filming your terrible customer service in action, post it on YouTube and watch it spread like wildfire… well… it’s time to do some serious work on your service offerings.

How could Comcast respond to this shot from their customer? A nice email apologizing might be nice. A commitment to improve it’s wait times. A month free internet service might help. But above all, a recognition that what they are currently doing isn’t working. A cable installer from the company put on hold while trying to activate a modem for an hour? 3 missed appointments? This is customer service at its most oxymoronic.

Comcast should take immediate steps to rectify or they will continue to see posts like this across the net and perhaps if they upset enough folks they’ll see a loss in business to satellite TV or a non-cable based ISP.

{Although, a quick browse through Flickr to find an appropriate photo for this post (I can’t embed video yet… working on it) and it seems they are already on a whole bunch of people’s s**t lists. Time to re-think the strategy guys.}

[H/T Church of the Customer Blog]

[photo credit: Mr. Bartlett on Flickr]

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Search, social networking and privacy issues

Recent news has MySpace looking to outsource its search advertising capabilities to Google, Yahoo!, or MSN. This deal would be a complete coup for whichever company inks it with News Corp.

We will redesign the pages to make search more prominent…We will auction off our search business to Google, Yahoo, or MSN.

The data contained within MySpace profiles and content, which these engines index, combined with additional harvesting of search information trends by MySpace user would be a powerful addition to any of those companies search engines. It could also open a wide range of possibilities for marketing use. However, there is also the possibility for abuse of personal information. This poses an interesting question – is search and data mining the new email of privacy concerns? By a factor of at least 10 the engines have more overall data about consumers. Information like: what we search for, when, from where, who we know, etc. Combine that with webmail, calendars, RSS feeds, blogs, etc., and in Microsoft’s case, product registration data and it’s staggering how much they know about us.

Will consumers start to cry foul? Considering the recent news that the Pentagon is expanding its data mining capabilities into social networking sites such as Friendster and MySpace, and will continue to harvest and compile data on people across the web, it may be only a matter of time before this issue takes centre stage in the electronic privacy battle and gains mainstream prominence. Combined with the Net Neutrality debate burning up the Internet and in the halls of Congress, this is an issue that we should all be paying attention to.

New Scientist has discovered that Pentagon’s National Security Agency, which specialises in eavesdropping and code-breaking, is funding research into the mass harvesting of the information that people post about themselves on social networks. And it could harness advances in internet technology – specifically the forthcoming “semantic web” championed by the web standards organisation W3C – to combine data from social networking websites with details such as banking, retail and property records, allowing the NSA to build extensive, all-embracing personal profiles of individuals.

In an interesting move yesterday, Google released a statement championing Net Neutrality and urging action by web users to protect equal access to the Internet. I think Google could stand to gain a lot by continuing to champion the issue of neutrality and privacy issues, while continuing to lead the way in “organizing the world’s information”, which as a mission is itself fraught with potential pitfalls or missteps in terms of privacy, anonymity, etc. Not only would this be a good PR move, but it would also be in their best interests to help set the standards for data collection, mining and privacy online in the long term from a purely business and brand perspective.

I do trust, for the most part, Google, Yahoo! and MSFT, my ISP, etc. to do the right thing in relation to the abundance of data they have on us, but it may be time for an industry wide push to set specific standards for protection and usage now before a potential consumer backlash hits.

On another search related note, eBay is getting into the search advertising business which is a move that makes complete sense for them as they continue to leverage the massive community they’ve built and the profitability of affiliate programs.

ONLINE AUCTIONS GIANT EBAY SAYS it will launch a keyword advertising system called eBay Ad Context for its sellers to promote auctions on other Web sites. The online auctions provider will allow Web site affiliates to run contextual ads for eBay auctions in exchange for a cut of eBay sales.

[photo credit gun show on Flickr]

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