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MOCC does indeed Rock – Farewell my friend

How to start?

I met Michael for the first time over lunch at The Monk’s Table (it wasn’t called that then). It was ostensibly an interview but it lasted for about 2 1/2 hours and a couple of pints of Old Speckled Hen were consumed. This was back in ‘07 I believe. We’d known each other online for longer. I was the ____ (insert statement here, you know you wanna) digi marketing person and MOCC was the PR genius.

That conversation ranged from who we thought was a BS artist as social media was starting to come of age to politics, music, family (yeah, he never thought I’d have kids either), and the city we both loved. He made it his home and I transplanted back here after 9/11.

We worked together for 3 months as we pitched and won a piece of business together. We had lunch almost every day (at the same spot listed above). He never questioned my insights and I never questioned his, but I had no exposure to the PR world, and Michael taught me a lot.

When I left, we stayed in touch and chatted people that drove us crazy and people that inspired us. We also talked about our families. I had my girls in early 2009 and MOCC was one of the first people to welcome them on Twitter while I was still in the hospital and had been wheeled out of NICU so I could let the world know we were doing okay. I’ll never forget that. “Felicitations Isabelle & Olivia”

I also remember our Twitter spat over his UID. Should he be @MOCC or @MichaelOCC. Bugger won that one.

Years passed, I saw him infrequently because we both had jobs and families, but we planned meet ups and we snarked at each other online. We also did see each other at events where we’d grab a corner and catch up. The most recent being the last HoHoTO where I left a colleague, and my date at the front door  (and I wonder why I’m single) the second I saw him to go outside and catch up.

We had tea at Media Profile in March, where he had found his place, and we chatted about our world and family again. We made plans to go hike the ravines in the Beach now that my girls were old enough that summer.

And then the unthinkable happened.

I will forever cherish Michael O’Connor Clarke, the fighting Irishman, the undisputed family man, and the smartest guy I’ll ever know.

I’m only sorry I didn’t meet him sooner.

His family could use your support, please consider donating to suppormichaleocc.ca his family needs us and we can help.

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CluetrainPlus10: Theses 23 “Positioning”

Forward looking position

It feels like yesterday at times when the Cluetrain Manifesto was published, but in reality it’s been 10 years since the seminal, and controversial, book was published. To mark the anniversary, Keith McArthur began the “Cluetrain Plus 10” project which has 95 bloggers covering one of the 95 Theses that make up the book.

Cluetrain, for me, helped articulate the changing landscape of customer/ company interactions as the Internet began to come of age, along with other more brand/ e-comm focused books of the time. Although I see some parts as a tad one-sided and biased in terms of forcing a point, versus the natural evolution (and constraints) of business, the manifesto I’ve chosen to write about – Companies attempting to “position” themselves need to take a position. Optimally, it should relate to something their market actually cares about – rings truer than ever at this stage of the game in my view.

When companies decide to exist and build a product, one of the most natural and necessary things, for company wide alignment, is to develop a market position. All too often the way they go about it is internally, or shareholder, focused vs. allowing the focus to rest on their customer and their needs, insight, and focus.

Unfortunately it’s not surprising to sometimes find a force-fit approach lacking the fundamental questions all sustainable, successful companies in today’s market answer:

Why would anyone care?

What do they care about on a personal/ group level vs. as a “market”

Who are you really – are you part of the solution, or part of a problem?

What you do and who you are matter, especially as the world becomes increasingly wired and we become billions of loose threads interconnected 24/7. The absence of the connection – to something tangible we can relate to, be interested in, give a second thought to, and know there isn’t a hidden agenda, outside of making fair profits – means the potential loss of: trust; perceived value; a sale; a future sale; a referral; knowledge; social capital.

People still buy from companies they don’t really “connect” with (be it at a product, customer service, or emotional-brand level), but they do so grudgingly, and, on the whole, are open to other, more fulfilling, options. A company who is committed to a goal that makes sense to them as people, whatever that goal may be, in context, wins.

If you wanted to reach the people who may be interested in your product, would you want to be a company people understand & respect, or a company that’s a last resort?

Wouldn’t it be great to have your customers, and potential customers, on your side & providing you with actionable feedback, or would you prefer to be under siege & on the defensive?

The Internet offers one platform to become aware, and active, with the people who may benefit from what you have to offer them. But a strong position, in whatever regard, transcends the medium, and becomes part of the overall experience. The feedback loop in action. For this to truly work, the position has to be a real thing, not a product of a myopic “communications” view driven by expediency, lack of imagination, interest or insight, into the very “demographic” you are attempting to position for. Sometimes, when you dig deep enough, what you find will surprise, delight, and perhaps scare you. Maybe even open up a whole new opportunity you wouldn’t have considered if the “market” didn’t provide it to those who interacted with and listened to them.

How is that not the way to go in the long-term?

[photo credit: RichardLowkes via Flickr]

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Managing expectations: the passion of ideas vs. the passion for brands in social media

Social media is taking people powered organizing to a new level – the relative ease, speed, and agility with which groups of like-minded people can get together and affect change is amazing. The real life examples of this power continue to roll in and while the case studies are intoxicating, from a marketing and brand standpoint, it’s a good idea to separate the insights from the actions and ultimately to manage our expectations as marketers/ communicators.

A recent example of the power of social networks to rapidly mobilize and pull together an amazing “crowdsourced” event is the #hohoto.ca geek holiday party in Toronto which benefits the Daily Bread Food Bank. This event didn’t exist prior to a week ago and so far has raised over $8k for charity based only on Twitter communications (while the event will use other channels – Flickr, YouTube, etc. the organizing and promotion has happened almost exclusively via Twitter networks) by a group of people who got together and decided to throw a party. The money raised from ticket sales is impressive with over 100 folks signed up to attend, but the small business community has stepped up as well and sponsored the event, and the venue (Mod Club) and ticket agent (Eventbrite) have also waived their fees to help with a good cause. All in all this mobilization and the resulting support has been something to behold – check out the twitter search stream for a sampling of how active and generous the community has been!

(Other recent examples are of course the #motrinmoms recent controversy and the #mumbai tragedy, but those have been well covered, and for these purposes I’m going to focus on what brands can learn from the #hohoto example.)

However, the temptation will be to say this is another proof of concept that social media works and use this as a case study for how brands should jump on board and harness this crowdsourcing. Yes and no. While this does prove in the power of the tools to mobilize and activate individuals, it’s not something brands should *expect* to happen for them just by participating in the social web. There is a difference between passion for an IDEA and passion for a BRAND after all.

Here are a few key insights that companies can learn from #hohoto and what makes it different from outreach and participation in SocMed for a brand -

  1. This event needed influential catalysts – the Mesh Conference team who are well known and liked influencers on the Toronto scene stepped in at the outset and pledged their support & promoted and “re-tweeted” the details non-stop to their network of “influencers” in the Toronto tech & communications community.
  2. It’s the holiday season and geeks like any reason to get out and network in person – throw in a charity angle and you’ve got a winner of an idea.
  3. Low commitment on behalf of the attendees – it’s a party after all, not providing intellectual property for the benefit of a company brand.
  4. Lowered expectations surrounding the implementation – the website and promotion was a work-in-progress by a loose group of individuals. There were some snafus – the website didn’t actually list the event details when it first went up, the date changed after the launch & tickets were sold, and there were spelling mistakes, etc on the site. No harm, no foul, but if this was a “brand” event I expect the reaction would have been a tad harsh to the “launch & learn” approach.
  5. The timeline for the event is tight – it’s being held on December 15th and therefore the constant stream of #hohoto hashtags and promotion is tolerated and embraced. If this were for a brand program I think we may have seen some “cease & desist” snark and comments from the Twitter community when every other tweet is about the event from personal accounts.
  6. The tools are powerful and the “cool factor” of tweet streams, on-site video streaming, twitter DJ requests, etc. etc. are important to extending the reach and motivating this particular community, *but* without the two key IDEAS – holiday party networking & charity – they are just that, cool tools.

For a brand venturing or participating in the space it would be dangerous to expect the same type of response for a purely commercial endeavour. Crowdsourcing can be powerful, but it can also backfire if the right insights aren’t there at the outset. Planning matters and a good idea will still rule.

Participating and building a network honestly is the rule of the day, and ensuring that you’re tapping into the passions of individuals for something they care about will motivate people far more than any shiny tool will.

If you don’t receive the same type of response to your brand, don’t be discouraged, it’s a different experience. Your response is probably just fine for your goals… if they were realistically set to begin with.

See you at #hohoto on the 15th? :)

[photo credit: Derektor via Flickr]

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Change of scenery? Change of community.

change of scenery

Since moving back to Toronto in late 2001 I’ve moved around quite a bit. Part of it was born of a desire to rediscover my hometown after being away for over a decade, and determine where I wanted to finally ’settle’. I’ve recently done so again and am out in a neighbourhood I’ve wanted to live in for way too long to remember.

As I’ve been out and about exploring the new ‘hood, I’ve been consciously aware that although we are all Torontonians, and Canadians, the folks out here roll differently. If I want to get the most out of this community, I have to find out what makes it tick and what the ‘when in Rome’ rules are. Reflecting back, I’ve only gotten enjoyment and fulfillment out of any new community (work, home, play, study) when I take the time to listen and explore vs. bulldoze my way through, oblivious.

The same principles apply online and with social networks. Each network, although they may look outwardly similar, or have the same type of backbone software, is unique based on the individuals who populate it, and, drilling down, those who are its "power users" are, in a fashion, the ‘community elders’ and have more say in what the norms are. Of course, as with everything in life, as new people move in (join), the standards can begin to shift, but this usually (unless it’s a revolt, but that’s a different tale altogether) happens organically from within the network vs. by external pressures.

It’s important to keep the thoughts of your ‘real life’ community in mind while exploring and engaging in the social space online. Just because something worked a certain way on MySpace, doesn’t mean it’ll be the same on Flickr or Twitter. Just because you’d say something a certain way in an opt-in email or on a brand forum, doesn’t mean it works in a Facebook group.

Each community, and each community subset, is just as unique as the folks who populate your neighbourhood, or mine.

[photo credit: gracias! via Flickr]

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Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should…

493215161_618453be8a_m

The rules haven’t changed THAT much.

Molson has pulled it’s Facebook advertising campaign after public pressure and denunciations accused the beer company of promoting drinking amongst young adults. There’s always been a fine line alcohol companies have had to navigate in their marketing campaigns, especially considering the target market for mass vs. premium beer brands has always been 19-24 year olds (or 21-25 in the USA) who the beer brands try to make loyal customers for life by targeting them when they can first start drinking legally. That’s the nature of the biz, and one rainy day during patio season can heavily impact sales. When I worked on the LBOC and LUSA (Labatt Breweries of Canada and Labatt USA respectively) interactive brands back in 2002 this was something we had to be acutely aware of, and submitted our campaigns to rigorous scrutiny and approval by the AGCO. Frankly I’m more surprised this got past the AGCO than I am that Molson tried to push the envelope.

According to Molson this campaign is a result of the social media space being relatively new.

‚ÄúThe whole realm of social media ‚Äì there’s lots to learn,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúIt’s really a new area. We’re probably groundbreaking and leading in a lot of things we’ve been doing.‚Äù

Social media tools, the Read/Write Web, and CGC may be relatively new, but the regulations surrounding alcohol marketing and advertising are not, and strategies that involve getting young adults to drink to excess to promote a product are not “groundbreaking”.

Social media does not mean throwing common sense out the window, no matter how much you’d like to get a beer version of Girls Gone Wild going to encourage sales (and believe me, sex sells and there’s nothing wrong with that… when done responsibly). Social media is not “one size fits all”, nor should it be. If you’re tying your brand to a campaign, there still may need to be rules in place (especially if you are a regulated industry), and Molson, and their agency, should have had the sense to have moderators in place before allowing a video picture to be posted or entered into the contest at the very least, and should have nixed the idea of having the contest revolve around students “partying on campus” at the brainstorming level. There are other ways to promote a product and engage in the social media space.

The campaign, pure and simple, involved getting young adults, with whom binge drinking is already a huge concern, to drink beer and post videos about it for a chance to win a trip to Cancun; what other message were they supposed to take away from “partying around campus”? Tupperware? Tea? And anyone who has been to Cancun knows it’s the haven for drinking to excess, so the underlining message is quite clear. If Molson and their agency didn’t think through the ramifications of this, I’m truly surprised. “One upmanship” amongst young adults is well known, and it’s one of the reasons why drinking games like quarters and keg party’s are still around; to think that giving them a chance to do so to win a trip wasn’t going to happen, or indirectly encourage it in order to create the most provocative video pic, was irresponsible. They were right to pull it and they are right to be called out in two subsequent Globe and Mail articles (the power of the print medium is still alive and well).

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Owning up to a mistake is a key part of the transparency and authenticity of social media… that may be the “groundbreaking” part Molson is missing here. There are a ton of ways I can see to have gotten the same message across, had fun, and engaged the demographic they were trying to reach. Hopefully they’ll have learned from it and my guess is the regulatory agency’s won’t be too far behind.

It would have been a different thing had they targeted it generally vs. specifically to colleges in my opinion.

Update – and viewing the creative where “Molson Cold Shot 6.0″ cans are front and centre leaves the premise that the campaign was “misunderstood” sorely lacking.

Update 2 – From one of the comments on the article:

If anyone should be worried about anything, it should be about pictures being on Facebook. Has anyone said anything about the fact that unflattering pictures may end up being within the public domain without someone’s consent? Has anyone mentioned that such pictures bein used by Molson as part of a commercial undertaking without the express consent of those being captured? [i.e. anyone in the photo who didn't enter the contest]

ps – before anyone accuses me of being anti-partying… I’ll see you at the Firkin during a Leafs game ;)

h/t – Traffick

[photo credit: AffiliateBob via Flickr]

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