Marketing Geeks, Social Media, Toronto, and Shel

It was quite a whirlwind of interesting and engaging people, excellent thought provoking conversation, and not enough time to meet or talk to everyone the last 24 hours, as Shel Holtz hit T-dot to speak at an AIMS Canada event.

Last night a gaggle of marketing and social media geeks (okay, I love that… a Gaggle of Geeks!) gathered at Big Daddy’s downtown for dinner to chat about all things related and not. Shel, David, and Michael have weighed in with their takes already (and quite a nice photo!) so I won’t dwell on that portion, but do want to note that blog/ RSS overload seems to be a common theme among quite a few of us and in terms of me, I’m pretty certain I can see the warning signs of DADD (Digital Attention Defict Disorder) already…

This afternoon afforded a chance to hear Shel’s take on the past and future of social media and its impact on marketing and communications.

The main take-aways are what he terms “truths” (and I agree):

  1. New media do not kill old media [They evolve. They shift. They adapt.]
  2. The audience controls the message
    • The message is controlled in the conversation
  3. Numbers don’t matter [it's not the size but the influence that matters]
  4. Institutions must engage in the conversation
  5. Institutions must cede control of the message in order to participate in the conversation

Great points and ones that resonate with my philosophy to marketing. Shel’s an engaging speaker and one whom I’d gladly sit down with again.

[photo credit: scienceduck on Flickr]

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Integration, Innovation, and the Big Idea

Can you develop a “big idea” in this day and age and then decide how to disseminate it? It’s a question that’s been on my mind for the past few of days after reading an article on iMedia Connection – “A Guide to Successful Integration“. The guide provides quite a few practical steps to take to integrate campaigns, however, the first point “come up with a big idea and then decide which medium to use” is a perhaps slightly flawed approach. I’m in the camp that thinks the age of a “Big Idea” that is easily transferable to different mediums (think DM/ TV/ print) is past. A concept in isolation of targeting and profiling (which by extension takes into consideration how the consumer/ target demo uses media or mediums in their daily lives, how they live their lives and how they want to engage), probably won’t be as effective in the long term as one that is generated to complement and integrate itself into the consumers lifestyle. And that necessitates considering the channels you will use to disseminate your message to your target audience first. Not necessarily as the driving force, but as part of the overall consideration set going into planning.

By considering who your product or service appeals to, what their behaviour is, what type of influences they consider, etc. the type of medium/ media your campaign will use to reach them becomes an integral part of developing your concepts. A campaign targeting 16-24 year olds which relies on WOM and getting buzz on blogs, or a high trafficked video on YouTube, should focus on an idea which will resonate with that audience and work in concert with the media they interact with, or have passion for, in their daily lives. Coming up with a big idea that is best suited to direct response might not be the best use of brainstorming time. On the flip side, a campaign which is targeted at Financial Planners probably shouldn’t rely on an idea which is best suited to SMS, iTunes downloads and Beta-testing invites.

These are extreme examples, but the concept is the same – For a ‘big idea’ to fully resonate in our 500 medium universe, it usually means the medium itself is agnostic but the customer profile isn’t.

[photo credit: Al-Fassam on Flickr]

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Are you your customer?

One of the first rules of interacting and engaging with your customer is actually knowing who they are and what they think about your product. One of the ways to do so is to ask them (and with social media that can happen in a much more meaningful way), to ask your frontline staff, and to keep an eye on churn. But do you really know how your product, or brand, is perceived in the marketplace beyond the 30-thousand foot view of dashboards and satisfaction surveys? Do you know what it means to experience your brand from the first impression to the last? From the customer perspective vs. the company?

A show I’ve always appreciated, in a bizarre laugh at the poor CEO trying to sort inventory on the shop floor kind of way, is CBC Venture’s “The Big Switcheroo!” because ultimately it teaches a profound lesson in business… processes or big ideas on paper are worth nothing until the first customer walks in the door and they’re put into action in real life. And that’s something that executives miss about the businesses they run — how they actually RUN. If the VP Marketing was spammed 10 times in a week and received no response to her repeated requests for removal, would the email marketing policy undergo a transformation? If the CTO tried to order a rental car online only to have to repeat steps frequently, and then be delivered a cryptic error message would he demand stricter (and longer) QA cycles? If the CFO needed to make changes to her account via phone would she care about the customer service she received or the wait time regardless if the bottomline took a tiny hit for additional call centre staff and training?

If you aren’t in your customers shoes it’s hard to accurately judge the fit.

[photo credit: eye2eye on Flickr]

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3 Lessons for Starbucks

Starbucks Coffee recently found themselves in the position of revoking a coupon they distributed to employees in the Southeastern US, as it was redistributed beyond the “original intent” after spreading far and wide in cyberspace… as offers usually do on the web. I’m frankly befuddled as to Starbucks’ inability to foresee how an offer like this distributed via email would NOT become a huge viral item.

Although the damage has been done, Starbucks can still learn from this experience (and must learn from it if they hope to engage their customers successfully in our real-time marketplace):

  1. Understand the medium & your message, anticipate the worst and strategize to mitigate it – i.e. anticipate that an offer like a free iced coffee, with a web-based coupon, will be shared outside of the small circle of friends and family you initially planned for and ensure you recognize what you can do to contain it, or not. If the potential costs outweigh the benefits, don’t do it.
  2. Technology is your friend. Why not build a self-serve contest/ content management app for all Starbucks regions to use for their own promos? Set parameters for the offer and send out an email to employees directing them to the website to send the coupon to a friend. Starbucks could set the parameters for instance, to only allow 10 coupons to be available per employee and institute a unique bar code for each that can be scanned and verified at the Starbucks location. More cost to set up than just sending an email, but if Starbucks is so concerned about freebies getting out of control, it may be a worthwhile investment in the long term. If Starbucks is willing to invest in podcasting (which ironically is aimed to bring back consumers to the coffee chain, which the coupon was succeeding in doing), then they really should be using the very basic strengths of the Interactive medium in their daily business… bells and whistles are nice, but basics like honouring offers mean more in the everyday.
  3. Your competitors will take advantage of your mistakes and that will spread across cyberspace in real-time as well. Caribou Coffee in a great move will accept the coupons on Sept 8th from noon-close at all locations. I’m sure they’ll win a few converts, if not new employees from this maneouver… and a lot of positive word of mouth as well. Was that potential cost factored in to the decision to revoke the coupons?

[photo credit: nate steiner on Flickr]

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