Speaking at BarCamp Nashville

chris houchens speaker at barcamp nashville

I’m very excited to be speaking at BarCamp Nashville. I will be giving my “Social Media and Blogs in Corporate Marketing” presentation at 12:20pm on August 18th in Nashville.

As you can see from the barcamp schedule, the organizers have broken the day up into specific focus areas and I will be a part of the Business and New Media timeslots.

If you’re a blogger in Middle Tennessee, Southern Kentucky, or Northern Alabama, you need to attend all or part of the day. Find more info here.

Reality Check

Recently, I spoke to a group of late teens/early 20-somethings about online media. These students were in an honors class in one of the top journalism schools in the country.

In all, they threw me for a loop on what “the online generation” is doing.

Granted, it was only about 90 minutes with 18 people. But perhaps before you invest heavily in online platforms, you should get your head out of the blogosphere where “everyone” knows all about the potential of Web2.0 and you should drop in on a few of the people out in the real world.

Come on Down

I speak / write / blog about brands alot. My mantra is that brands are not created by marketing. The creation of a brand is assisted by things like logos, brand strategies, and the like. But in the end, a brand is created in the consumer’s mind by the interactions with your product/service.

Here’s a prime example – Drew Carey is “replacing” Bob Barker as host of The Price is Right.

Many days of my summer vacations, snow days, and wasting time in college were spent watching The Price is Right. While I was playing along with Plinko, Rangefinder, and Safe Crackers, I (and millions of others) were developing The Price is Right brand in our minds. The Price is Right brand involves a skinny microphone, brand new cars, and Bob Barker.

It’s not anything against Drew Carey. I think he’s a great guy and a good entertainer. But no one will ever replace Bob Barker and maintain the current brand of the show. (Plus – it’s debatable if Bob was a great guy or a good entertainer.) But Bob Barker is synonymous with the brand image of the show.

Engaged Media

Today, I had the chance to be at a meeting where a representative of Simmons Market Research Bureau gave a sneak peek of the methodology and findings of their new Multi-Media Engagement Study. Right now, it’s only being done with internet, magazines, and TV, but hopefully it will expand into other media in the future.

Simmons is trying to rate media properties along several metrics that they’ve defined such as inspiration, sociability, life-enrichment, advertising receptiveness, and others. In short, they’re trying to figure out not only if you’re consuming media, but how involved you are in it. Do you just have something on or are you actively watching?

For example: There’s a difference between the way people watch, talk about, and create a lifestyle around the show LOST than in the way they watch Judge Judy. While one is daytime filler, the other has the potential for social interaction (water cooler talk), and a much deeper engagement.

Some of the web examples make sense as well. There’s a much deeper attachment and lifestyle involvement in sites such as espn.com and oprah.com than sites like yellowpages.com and other information based sites.

And while examples like these just make common sense, this research attaches real data to each media property to rank and compare rather than just doing a gut check.

This engagement factor has been decreed in the Web2.0 era for a while now. We know that getting people involved in the content and creating an emotional attachment with the brand will yield great rewards. It helps to concentrate marketing efforts on those consumers who are more likely to be aligned with your company. Simmons is working with the figure is that (1) engaged viewer is worth (8) regular viewers.

It’s not just the number of eyeballs that see something, it’s how much those eyeballs care about the show, website, or magazine. This carries over heavily into the ads they are delivered as a part of that media.

The more information to make a media buy with, the better. By cross-referencing information like this with quantitative numbers like ratings and demos, you’re much more likely to have a successful campaign.

While I welcome info like this, the research skeptic in me raises several concerns even from a well respected and reputable company such as Simmons that knows what they’re doing…
1) These numbers are based on people’s own responses to how they feel and do with these media rather than an independent observation of behavior.

2) Do people really know how to respond to a question like: “Do you feel inspired by [insert media]?” It makes me think back to this.

3) And while there’s a good sized sample (over 30,000), are the numbers a good representation? I wonder this a lot about surveys. There’s a certain type of person who can spend 25 minutes of their life on the phone to tell you about their media habits. But I want to know more about the person who hurriedly answers the phone and tells me they don’t have time to take my survey. How do I reach them in a hectic and hurried market?

A couple of problems, but certainly a step in the right direction to separate effective ad vehicles from the laggards.

Fire Your Customers

It seems that Sprint has “fired” some of their customers. Good for them.

With some of these “demon” customers, it becomes unprofitable and not worth the abuse to your employees to keep a customer with whom you can’t reach contentment. And companies should take the bold step to “break-up” with them.

But can there be more than one side to these situations? If you’re feeling great that you got rid of your problem customer, you should examine why there was a problem in the first place.

Granted, there are nutty people who just enjoy complaining. But I have had experiences with corporations bad enough to warrant me harassing them to get satisfaction. Sometimes it takes calling a customer service line multiple times before you can get a real person that will look past operations and procedures long enough to actually help a customer.

Now, I think Sprint did the right thing in this instance. But too many companies have set up a system that demands that customers must be a bit of a demon before they can get the attention that they deserve.

We’re the only ones

A story in today’s paper was highlighting the owner of a new restaurant in town.

” (name of owner) said the restaurant is competitive with its customer-centric hospitality. “Nobody really does that anymore,” (name of owner) said.”

Really? No one does it? There are no restaurants in the town that are customer focused?

I know there’s a meat and three in the same town where the owner comes up to my table each time I’m in and greets me like I’m a member of her family. There’s even a chain steakhouse near the mall / big box area with great service and a waitress that we’re on a first name basis with. And I’ve had great customer experiences all over town.

But I’ve also had many bad ones. And a few horrible ones.

You hear the old “we’re bringing back customer service” line a lot, but the follow-through is often lacking. It’s like politicians promising lower taxes.

And I have no doubt that a lot of these promise makers are sincere. But what happens when I go into the restaurant mentioned in the story 3 months from now after the new shine has worn off for these owners? They’ll be off launching another location and making the same customer-centric statements while a teenager making minimum wage is slapping my sandwich together and telling me they can’t give me extra pickles.

It’s easy to say you’re all about the customer. It’s not so easy to make the customer service follow-through.

It’s like being good-looking. You really can’t say that you are. Only other people can bestow that upon you.