best of 2010

This is my 463rd post at the end of 6 years of blogging. In the last week of each year that I have blogged, I have done a list of top / favorite posts from the past year. You can peruse previous years here: [2009] [2008] [2007] [2006] [2005]

And here’s 2010:

  • In terms of raw numbers of traffic / SM buzz / etc, I like it when it makes sense was clearly the biggest post of the year. Considering it has the words ‘bra’, ‘breasts’, and ‘facebook’ sprinkled throughout, I’m not surprised (that’s a SEO tip for ya). But it does have marketing merits as I make the point that you can’t make lightning strike twice by astroturfing a mediocre replacement of a previously successful grassroots viral meme.
  • Another highly trafficked post (and my personal favorite post of the year) was the part of marketing that marketing people forget. It’s my basic philosophy that the majority of your brand is not built through marketing, but built through mundane daily customer experiences.
  • You need to rethink numbers because marketing is no longer just about measuring eyeballs. It’s about measuring engagement.
  • Marketing is changing. If you haven’t already, you really need to learn how to use social media.
  • I’m one of the few marketing bloggers who stuck with Dave until the end of the “United Breaks Guitars” trilogy.
  • And then there was the over-riding theme of my 2010: My thanks to everyone who either bought a copy and/or helped promote my book, Brand Zeitgeist. The zenith of the book’s promotion was the Amazon Blitz on March 23rd when you helped Brand Zeitgeist become one of the most popular marketing books on Amazon.

I truly appreciate you reading what I write here. As I begin Year 7 of blogging, my goal is to do a better job of producing regular content. Make sure you don’t miss any of it by subscribing to the RSS feed here or following me on Twitter or Facebook.

i like it when it makes sense

So you’ve probably seen several of your female Facebook friends post status updates such as:

  • “I like it on the kitchen table.”
  • “I like it on a chair at the bar.”
  • “I like it on the floor of my van.”

While on the surface, this seems like a titillating reveal of personal information; it’s actually very mundane. The status updates refer to where the person puts down her purse when she gets home.

(Sidenote: I saw one woman post “I like it in the shower” which would imply one of two things. Either she has a wet purse or she went T.M.I. because she didn’t understand what was happening.)

The purse location meme supposedly is to raise awareness that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Compare this to the bra color status Facebook meme earlier this year.

The bra color status event was very clever because … you know … breasts and bras … they kind of go together like peas and carrots. But what do purses have to do with breast cancer? Yes, most women carry a purse and most have breasts, but is that a strong connection to breast cancer awareness? How does the location of a purse get a woman to have a mammogram or do a lump check?

Before someone posts the inevitable comment that I don’t care about breast cancer, please know that I do. But the purse thing has two major considerations that may hurt the cause.

Several women’s groups are raising the question of whether things like this are contributing to some of the backlash and fatigue over breast cancer awareness month.

And even if you make a connection between purses and breast cancer, the thing that strikes me the most about the purse meme is just the sheer copycat nature of it.

You can’t make lightning strike twice by astroturfing a mediocre replacement of a previously successful grassroots viral meme.

And btw – my wife likes it on the hearth of the fireplace.

the part of marketing that marketing people forget

Starbucks hopped on the Foursquare marketing train early and came out with a great promotion. But Starbucks’ bold move flopped.

Why did they fail? The answer is simple. They forgot (or failed) to communicate their marketing plan with a very important group in the marketing experience — their employees. (It’s the same reason I get stiffed on free syrups when I use my Starbucks card.)

You can spend gobs of money, time, and attention on marketing to get people in the door — but the promises you’ve made with your marketing have to happen when those people come through the door.

Most of your brand is NOT built through advertising, PR, or any marketing message. The brand is mostly built through mundane daily customer experiences. It’s not sexy, but it’s true.

And the customer experience is almost totally controlled by the operational side of the business. If the marketers need/want to build a brand, they need to share their vision and brand strategy with the parts of the company who actually interact with customers.

This is true all the way from the master overall marketing strategy down to individual marketing initiatives. It’s important on all levels, but it becomes even more important when you’re using new and emerging marketing platforms like Foursquare or other forms of digital media. Innovators and Early Adopters are important groups. You want to make sure that employees are delivering superior customer experiences to people who will heavily influence WOM.

For example — The other day, a local sandwich shop tweeted that I could get 10% off if I mentioned Twitter when I ordered. I went there for lunch and mentioned it to the cashier who didn’t even know what Twitter was.

It comes down to the fact if you’re delivering messages to potential markets, you need to share the content of those messages with ALL the people in your organization. They are the ones who will make it work.

numbers are not what they used to be

The television event is dead.

After ABC heavily promoted it as the television event of the decade, the final episode of LOST on Sunday night was seen by about 13.6 million viewers. To put that in perspective, the final episode of Mr. Belvedere in 1990 had 13.8 million viewers.

While I suppose it would be an interesting treatise to compare/contrast the relationships of Jack / Locke / Sawyer to Belvedere / George / Wesley, that’s not the point.

Sure. LOST is probably an odd choice to be using as an example of the decline of the TV event as this last season had lost its sizzle. In addition, it was difficult for the masses to be real fans of the show because it took effort to follow it. And as it turns out, the core fans were victims of a long con by Damon Lindelof , Carlton Cuse and JJ Abrams.

If you haven’t done so already, you need to rethink the concept of audience and what numbers really mean. (but not these numbers 4-8-15-16-23-42)

The audience is smaller, but that audience has been distilled down to a more pure verson of a targeted market. It’s not just about measuring eyeballs. It’s about measuring engagement.

You have to look beyond the actual show to see value. There was a massive amount of social media buzz surrounding the show. (before, during, and after) The finale overtook both the U.S. and international trending topics on Twitter Sunday night. In the week leading up the finale, it dominated entertainment outlets (both online and traditional). No recent TV show has had as much discussion and speculation as this one in recent history. 

Even with light audience numbers, advertisers paid a premium price for placements in the finale. And those advertisers paid special attention to their creative placements. Verizon sponsored messages from the show’s fans. I thought Target had some great ads that were really tuned to the media buy. (My favorites were the smoke and keyboard ones.)

Overall, the LOST finale was a good example of a mass media outlet being used to reach a niche audience. If big media is to survive, it’s something that will have to happen more.

blitz aftermath

You should never eat food cooked by a skinny chef. You also should never buy a marketing book from someone who can’t get the message out about that book.

I am really happy with the success of Tuesday’s Amazon Blitz for Brand Zeitgeist. The book rocketed up the Amazon Sales Rank. It started in the sub-basement at #446,248 and went all the way up to the high water mark of #3,148 in just a few hours. I am most pleased that we stayed in the top 100 of books in the Marketing category for most of the day. The high point was when Brand Zeitgeist was the #33 most popular marketing book on Amazon.

Of course, the whole endeavor was just a gaming of the Amazon rank system. Today, the book has fallen back down (just checked — it’s at #9,732 this hour). But the blitz accomplished several of my goals: it’s still allowing the book to occupy a higher spot than it did (9,732 is better than 446,248) But more importantly, it put the book in the hands of a lot of people on Tuesday.

Obviously, the sales are nice from that. But I’m hoping for a secondary effect as those people read it, blog it, review it, tweet it, and spread it in all manner of ways to their IRL and online networks. It’s confirmation of a point I made in the book. You have to grab the attention of the Innovators and Early Adopters in any new product launch for the brand to become fixed in the zeitgeist.

The nice way to describe my budget for the blitz is “bootstrapped”. The more accurate word is “cheap”. Basically I leveraged and co-ordinated my existing networks. I called in favors. I did a few targeted media buys (the 800-lb gorilla of those being a HARO ad). I used the Brand Zeitgeist Facebook page as a central communication hub that fed out to other SM as current fans of the book helped spread the word about the blitz through their networks. And I prayed.

As with anything, there were mistakes. I wish I had co-ordinated my blog tour a bit better. I wish my publisher had listed the book in more categories (I would have shown up higher in some additional categories). And I wish I had done a smaller pre-blitz to give the main blitz a better jumping-off point than from #446,248. But — hindsight is 20/20.

The Amazon rank is just a number. The point is not to sell books. The point is to spread the ideas. The Amazon blitz was a good jumping off point for the rest of the book’s promotion. I now head into media interviews (some additional ones generated by yesterday’s blitz) and physical location book tours for the next few months (counting down to the book tour kickoff with home field advantage on May 2nd in Bowling Green).

The big thing I take from the blitz is not the rank or the sales figures — it’s the people. There were people spreading the word for me that I had never met. I had lots of personal friends, who maybe were not that interested in marketing, buying a book just to help me out. I got lots of encouragement from several people.

If you bought a book, spread the links to your friends, or just wished me well — I truly appreciate it.

And if you didn’t get to take part yesterday, it’s never too late. http://www.amazon.com/Brand-Zeitgeist-Relationships-Collective-Consciousness/dp/1450206794  😉

learning as you go

I would venture to say there are very few people who would skydive, ride a bull, wrestle alligators, or climb one of the Seven Summits without experience or at least after watching a very good orientation video.

And yet companies are rolling up their pants legs and wading out into the shark-infested waters of social media without a clue. They’re letting the interns and other untrained personnel control the messaging to some of their most important contacts and setting up a social media disaster.

Social media is currently biting Nestle on the Nestle facebook page.

Protesters are taking to the Nestle page to voice opposition about their alleged use of palm oil from deforested areas in Indonesia. That’s trouble, but a prudent social media manager could handle it (like the way Southwest handled the Kevin Smith incident). Instead, the admin(s) of the Nestle page went on the offensive responding to fans in a derisive and aggressive tone. This is not breaking a social media rule. It’s destruction of basic PR 101. The company should never argue with someone in public (and for all practical purposes, it was the COMPANY not the admin making the comments.)

Overall, this is a great look at how companies should think about their online reputation management mechanics and the need to plan for an online crisis response in the same way you’d plan for a traditional crisis.

My favorite thing about the Nestle incident is that on Friday the admin(s) posted

“Social media: as you can see we’re learning as we go. Thanks for the comments.”

This is true for any brand. Despite what the social media snake-oil salesmen say, there is no one who actually has any real experience in social media.

What companies should have experience in is basic customer service, public relations, advertising, etc and apply those lessons learned in old media to the new model. And if you’re going to jump in the deep end of the pool, you’d better know how to swim and expect to get wet.

united trilogy ends

Last July, I wrote a post about United Breaks Guitars.

Dave Carroll had promised to write a trilogy of songs about the sub par customer experience he had with United Airlines. The first song was an internet sensation. Currently, it’s nearing over 8 million views on YouTube and it was heavily downloaded on iTunes. The second song wasn’t as much of a hit but still did well with about 900,000 views.

Carroll is releasing the third and final song tonight. I doubt if it will be as hot as the first one, but these three songs make a great point about how companies need to act in this digital age. In fact, the United Breaks Guitars case study was a last minute addition to my book Brand Zeitgeist as an example of how one unhappy customer can use the power of social media to move the image of the brand in the zeitgeist.

As Dave says

I had hoped that creating these videos might make a big corporation rethink how they think of each and every customer but could never have imagined the potential hidden inside a music video and a few social media tools. Corporations of all kinds around the world now feel compelled, in part because of United Breaks Guitars, to build in a better model for customer care into their businesses. I’m proud to have been a part of it but the real credit goes to the millions of people around the world who took the time to laugh and tell a friend. The power behind the United Breaks Guitars Trilogy lies in the numbers of people from countries far and wide who are laughing with me.

Companies are worried about the effects of social media are having on their brands. Social media is not the danger. Businesses need to be concerned with customer service. People will tell their friends.

Update: The third song…