From Silicon Valley to Madison Avenue in 20 Years

LOOK AT ME!!

I don’t get it… I really don’t. When (and why) did silicon valley abandon the idea that technology – particularly the web based variety – had intrinsic value. The kind of transformative value that people would pay for…

Find me two business plans for an online consumer product that don’t have “and monazite via ad sales” somewhere in the business plan – go ahead, I dare you.

On the backs of Google and their transformation of advertising based on keywords and relevance we’ve become lazy. Why deliver real solutions to the problems of consumers when you can just aggregate eyeballs and information? Make something “cool”, something that will “go viral” and “generate buzzzz”. Get people to LOOK, not buy.

Think about it for a second, how different is Facebook from Yahoo circa 1998? Yahoo had tons of users. Yahoo knew a lot about their users based on what they made part of their “portal”. Yahoo sold ads.

I’m not talking about how advertising is evil, I’m not demonizing marketers. I’m asking why we’d have conversations like these: SEO vs. Usability

I’m also not suggesting that if you simply build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door… I’m just suggesting that we should get back to trying to build better mousetraps – and by extension trying to change the world.

Being in the Conversation – Social Media and your Brand

The current trends in Social Media Brand Monitoring focus around your PR/Marketing agency. They provide tools to create nice reports telling you what the public perception of your brand is – and perhaps some alerts when something “bad” happens.

Led by Radian6 – this trend is very powerful and shouldn’t be ignored. But the real questions facing you (COO, CEO, VP of Product) are:

  1. Is there any real advantage to cleaning up after the perception is already created?
  2. If so – how the heck to we operationalize that?

The first question goes to the advantage of quickly (in near real time) engaging, participating and correcting the issues that cause a negative brand perception. As I’ve said before – the urgency is preventing the perception (and attendant backlash) from becoming the story. The real danger is having the original negative perception create a story – the story about how the Social Media universe erupted in outrage. That story will repeat and re-enforce the initial negative perception and create another, more subtle and destructive one – that you are not listening, empathetic and responsive.

more after the jump…

Continue reading “Being in the Conversation – Social Media and your Brand”

Defining your Brand – One Conversation at a Time

I’ve spent a large part of my professional life dealing with the realities of having conversations with customers. In every type and size of company imaginable. And there is one single reality that holds true:

Your brand is what your customers say it is… regardless of your best Marketing and PR efforts.

With the rise of Social Media this reality is even more true. Not because you ever really controlled you brand – but because word of mouth just got global, social and the biggest megaphone you could have ever imagined.

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It used to be a single pissed off customer might only impact 10 or 20 people over the course of 3 months. Now a single dissatisfied customer with a Twitter account or Blog can reach hundreds of people in a single day. And, as a rule, if you are doing (or not doing something) that makes customers mad, you do it to more than one per day.

So feel free to create all the marketing material and press releases you want lauding your superior product or service and you commitment to great customer service. In the old world that might have worked. But today it simply can not compete with the conversations your customers and prospects are having about you. You are what they say you are.

If you want to really impact your brand – and how it is perceived by your customers and prospects, get in the conversation.

Your PR and marketing staff will tell you to invest in Social Media Monitoring tools like Radian6 and Techrigy to gather Social Media data to analyze for your next marketing campaign. And I concede – monitoring what is said about you is a positive first step. The challenge with this strategy is that you are still trying to control the conversation.

What you need to do, what you should be doing is participating in the conversation.

Provide Solutions, Inform, Listen and Respond

The most important branding you do (and can do) is in the conversations you have with your customers and prospects.

Think I’m nuts? Great – Let’s look at two examples:

Motrin’s Blunder:

Motrin released an ill conceived ad. And it isn’t that they didn’t realize their mistake – it was that they weren’t engaged in the conversation. Because of that there were 4 days to allow the controversy to reach significant proportions.

Links:

http://mashable.com/2008/11/16/motrin-moms/

http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/motrin_bows_to_social_media_pr.php

Exploring Social Media: The Motrin Moment Impact of Social Media

http://blogs.reuters.com/mediafile/2008/11/18/motrin-moms-and-the-perils-of-social-media-marketing/

Ford’s ScottMonty:

ScottMonty from Ford is actively engaged in Social Media. And because of that he is able to react in real (or near real-time) to negative and positive brand messages. This allows Ford the opportunity to actively engage in the conversation and refute false perceptions and reinforce positive messages.

Links:

http://friendfeed.com/e/a8d15997-12ec-eeee-921b-61c96ed66d27/Why-I-love-the-US-auto-industry/

http://friendfeed.com/e/e34bb7df-5a8c-4d1c-84cb-d16e0fa09099/I-am-watching-CNN-and-seeing-bad-employment/

http://friendfeed.com/e/b4753ec3-a123-6ef4-6671-cdd7ef10e4b5/Glohamar-Here-are-a-few-of-Ford-s-other-Twitter/

http://friendfeed.com/e/45cec2a1-17c8-3e26-3afc-4a9d3897c15a/ScottMonty-scottweisbrod-LisaHoffman-1-2-Bill/

The takeaway:

Analyzing the data and reacting is about how fast you can “clean up the mess”. It pre-supposes you can megaphone your brand message and shout down those who have a different point of view.

By participating in conversations about your brand you have the ability to prevent situations where the perception becomes the story. You have the ability to turn negative experiences into positive brand affinity moments that increase your customer loyalty and enhance your brand in the eyes of those watching. And in this new Social Media world we are all watching.

Seth Godin & the Myth of Launch PR

I love reading Seth’s posts. He always manages to shine a light on something that is not only true… but also leads us to think beyond marketing and PR and ask some fundamental questions about why we are entrepreneurs and how we create a business.

New startups can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars racing after a dream: a giant splash on launch.

Just imagine… a big spread in Time Magazine, a feature on all the relevant blogs, a glowing review in the Book Review. Get this part right and everything else takes care of itself.

And yet.

Here are some brands that had no launch at all: Starbucks, Apple, Nike, Harry Potter, Google, William Morris, The DaVinci Code, Wikipedia, Snapple, Geico, Linux, Firefox and yes, Microsoft. (All got plenty of PR, but after the launch, sometimes a lot later).

I’m as guilty as the next entrepreneur. Great publicity is a treasured gift. But it’s hardly necessary, and the search for it is often a significant distraction.

It works for movies, in fact, it’s essentially required for movies. But for just about every product, service or company, the relentless quest for media validation doesn’t really pay. If you get it, congratulations. If you don’t, that’s just fine. But don’t break the bank or your timetable in the quest.

[From The myth of launch PR]

No question – Seth is right.

Here is the big question… Why do you WANT that big launch PR splash?

You say “because it is great for the company”:

The fact is… even if you get it, you are probably not ready for it. Point of reference – Cuil. Cuil had great launch buzz. Made a huge splash – and an ever louder thud when the reality failed to meet the buzz. Maybe the product is great, maybe not… but if you are not ready (technology, process and people) to handle the rush of interest and the glare of the spotlight it really won’t matter.

And let’s face it… that giant thud is very, very hard to come back from. So before you go off feeding the hype machine be sure you can deliver (technology, process and people) the goods… otherwise you’ll just get exposed.

So, what is your motivation? Here is the dirty little secret every entrepreneur needs to acknowledge, understand and guard against.

That PR splash – it isn’t about the company… it is about YOU.

YOU want to look like a genius… YOU want to be the new darling of the Silicon Valley echo chamber… YOU want to get invited to the Googleplex to have lunch with Sergey and Larry… YOU want Sand Hill Road to beat a path to your door…

And that is great… congratulations. But what you forgot is that building a company has nothing to do with any of that. It is about creating an offering backed by a company (again, technology, process and people) that can deliver on it. It is about delivering value to your customers. PR and Marketing are supposed to help you make the company visible and compelling to potential customers… not boost your self-image.

It isn’t about YOU.

You get what you pay for

From Seth Godin this morning…

If you don’t want spam in your inbox, never respond, never buy anything. Not even if it’s a good deal.

If you don’t like TV commercials featuring loud aggressive announcers, don’t buy what they’re selling. Ever.

If you don’t want people ringing your door asking for donations, don’t give, no matter what.

If you think politics is too nasty and not focused enough on creating value, then don’t donate to a candidate that’s nasty, even if you agree (and even better, call or write and tell them why).

If you don’t like bait and switch marketing, where promises don’t match the product, don’t buy it.

If you don’t like snarky, angry blogs, don’t read them.

If you deplore the lousy service at big chains or certain airlines, don’t shop there, even if it’s cheaper.

There’s a new asymmetry, with loud consumers able to connect and actually have an impact.

We’re all hypocrites, and we get what we pay for. The market is astonishingly quick at responding to what consumers do (and incredibly slow at reacting to what we say).

[From You get what you pay for]

Nothing to add here… Seth hits then nail squarely on the head.

John-Scott Dixon on the new book Groundswell

From John-Scott Dixon’s post.

I’ve been reading and enjoying a new book called Groundswell. It’s about adapting your company/organization to the new world of social media (Web 2.0). In the book, there are countless examples of companies fighting to maintain control of their brand and corporate messaging. All ultimately reaching the conclusion that it is no longer possible today. Your brand is what people say it is, not what you say it is. Well, I’ve related to a number of these stories, and as a social influence marketer – I’ve been nodding my head up and down with an “I told you so” kind of attitude. It’s great that companies are being held accountable – the days of the PR smooth-over are gone! Anyway, nothing quite brings a concept home like being involved in the middle.

So, as your company begins to deal with customers who are Twittering about you, creating groups, blogging – reach out to them. Don’t be afraid. This is no longer about control – you don’t have any. What you have left is influence. So, get to know them. Help them. This stuff is not an annoyance that is going to fade out and disappear. It’s time to embrace it before your competition does – leverage it to your advantage. Sermon over!

[From “Groundswell” Case Study]

I’ll be picking up Groundswell this week. I think what John-Scott says is spot on…