Friday, June 30, 2006

 

The Me2Revolution @ Edelman

I had the pleasure of attending a breakfast meeting with Steve Rubel this morning at Edelman's Seattle office. Steve is the author of the MicroPersuasion blog, and is regarded as one of the most insightful, well-read marketing bloggers online right now. Steve joined Edelman in February after a distinguished run at CooperKatz, and has brough with him a fresh look at how social networking (he calls it the "Me2Revolution") is changing the face of marketing.

Steve presented his ideas about social networking, the power of individual consumers amplifying their opinions to the masses, and the huge opportunity for brands to harness this phenomena to communicate brand messages in a very personal, meaningful and powerful way.

I've heard many PR firms talk about word-of-mouth lately, but it's exciting to see a firm really get it. The mainstream media aren't going away anytime soon, but citizen journalists are increasingly powerful in their infleunce and their reach. Steve understands this better than anyone, and is championing several exciting initiatives within Edelman that will help clients accelerate and amplify their messages direct to the customers and prospects they care about most.

 

A little Friday fun...

Make your own motivational poster.

Caution: This can be addicting, but also quite fun.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for whatever shame or embarassment you submit others to with this tool.

An example of its output is attached. Yes, that is my head unscrupulously Photo-Shopped by a colleague from another less-than-flattering photo.

No, that is not my body.

But yes, that is my championship belt.

Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

 

The Un-Media

Had the unique opportunity to hear Robert Scoble speak this morning at the WOMBAT conference. Robert is one of the most influential bloggers working today, and more than that he really gets how the channel can be best used and leverage to communicate new thoughts and ideas to the masses.

Robert's blogging philosophy works so well because he doesn't really care about circulation. Doesn't care about marketing his products. Doesn't spend time worrying about his channel distribution strategy, or things like that.

He simply stays connected with current conversations in the marketplace, and blogs about what he cares about. And because he's so well connected with other conversations ongoing in the blogosphere, he's writing about what others care about as well. And that's the secret to his success.

In many ways, Scobleizer represents the un-media. It's conversation without pretense, without promotion, without hype. But it's extremely authentic, and it connects with others in a way that feels real.

Robert focuses on the story and conversation, not the marketing. And in focusing on what matters most (the product), he's pioneering a very differentiated media channel that works.

Blogs aren't going to replace "traditional" media anytime soon, but social marketing channels clearly have a prominent place in every marketing plan as a means of clearly and directly communicating products and ideas.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

 

Pilferables

Think about the last trade show you attended, and how much money went into all of the swag made available to attendees. Now think about what small percent of that swag was actually interesting, truly breakthrough, or desireable. Probably a low percentage.

Trade show giveaways are often overlooked as a significant opportunity to drive buzz and pass-along word-of-mouth marketing value starting with those primary show attendees. If you want pass-along value and buzz, pens and notepads probably aren't going to cut it. You need something that people covet.

This week, I heard Julian Aldridge from Ammo Marketing call these breakthrough swag pieces "pilferables." It's a great, visual name that describes well what good swag does. It's not just a piece of plastic with your brand name or logo on it. It's something that your audience wants, needs, covets.

Creating pilferable swag isn't always cheap, but the impact of good pilferables can be considerable. Consider Julian's example from a campaign his firm created for Miller High Life. For this campaign, up-and-coming rock bands were the target, as they were the influencers who woudl impact their broader target audiences (other bands, and especially the audiences at the band's shows).

What Julian did was plant Miller High Life keychains and well-designed t-shirts in the dressing rooms and back rooms of the clubs that their target bands were playing in. They didn't promote this, they didn't ask the band to take anything. But everything disappeared.

Then t-shirts started appearing on stage at future shows, and the bands started handing out key chains with the High Life brand to their friends.

Whether at a trade show or in broader marketing strategy, swag has a purpose. It typically serves as a reminder to your primary audience, or a tool to encourage referrals and pass-along marketing.

Don't pass out swag. Enable pilferables with a purpose.

 

What does Google know about you?

Admit it, you’ve Googled yourself. Just to see what it turns up, right? Chances are, others are Googling you as well.

Like it or not, the Internet is compiling a record of you for others to see. That record is likely far from complete, and only offers readers small windows into your life – personal and/or professional. But in a world of increased access to information of all types, you’d be surprised what others can learn about you.

So who would want to Google you? Future employers, for one. But also colleagues, direct reports, potential clients and business partners, etc. Your online record will increasingly impact how new professional relationships are established and shaped.

So with all of these groups reading about you online, how do you control what they read? How can you help increase the possibility that they’ll read what you want them to read about you?

Perhaps the most important and easiest way to influence what’s people read is for you to actively contribute to what’s available. Create a profile on LinkedIn that gives your employment history, education profile, even endorsements of work you have done.

If you haven’t done so already, start a personal blog. Don’t worry about frequency or even readership. Just establish an online paper trail about things you find important, ideas you have, how you think, etc. This blog, for instance, would give any future business partner or employer a good sense for how I think about marketing, what I value and how I might help further a business goal of theirs.

And if those two tools don’t go far enough, keep a resume online. Register your personal URL, and make it a portal for people to learn about you. Include links to your blog, your past work, your LinkedIn profile, articles you’ve written, etc.

This isn’t about ego. This isn’t about building a brag sheet. It’s about making it clear who you are, what you do, what you believe in, and what you’re interested in. If nothing else, you will be surprised what kind of networking and business opportunities it will generate for yourself personally and your current business.

 

Creating a customer-centric media plan

If you don't already follow the work of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), you should. They are pioneers in understanding how to amplify the kind of brand and product evangelism that's existed among consumers for generations, but just now is being harnessed and accelerated by smart marketers.

I'm attending WOMMA's Basic Training Conference this week (my cup runneth over with blog posts to come), but one of the things this conference has already reinforced for me is the importance of building a marketing or media plan based on customers, not channels.

Too often, media plans are built based on a set of marketing channels leveraged to communicate to a set of current or prospective customers. The resulting plan is then inherently channel based, in that it tells us exactly how to use television, radio, online, print, etc. to communicate said message to said customer.

But marketing, at its core, isn't about any particular set of channels. It's about the customer. It's about what they want, what they need, what will make their lives easier and/or better.

Media plans should start with a heavy dose of how target consumers operate - what motivates them, who they influence, and what they're passionate about. Consumers don't compartmentalize their time based on channel. From a consumer perspective, it's really just one big experience. Their interaction with brands aren't thought of in terms of online vs. offline, radio vs. television, even advertising vs. organic evangelism.

With a deeper understanding of the needs, motivations and passions of our customer, far more efficient and effective marketing strategies can be developed that mobilize your customers to action and evangelism.

 

There are no stupid ideas

At HouseValues, we start every brainstorming session with a few simple rules. Perhaps most important: There are no stupid questions or ideas.

To have the most effective brainstorm, all assumptions and pretense need to stay in the hallway. Brainstorms are about establishing new ideas, challenging old assumptions, and thinking in a way that might otherwise be challenged or shouted down elsewhere.

Oftentimes in brainstorms, the best ideas are brilliant in their simplicity. Great ideas don’t always require reinventing the business. Sometimes they just require that we open a door, turn over a stone, or otherwise make a simple discovery that’s really just right in front of us.

Thinking in an environment where precedent, tradition and establishment can be challenged and questioned is essentially for discovering those simple but brilliant next steps for any business – big or small. “We’ve always done it that way” isn’t a reasonable answer. Answering “we ran the numbers on that last year, so we know we’re right” is equally dangerous. Last year was a LONG TIME AGO for most businesses, where competitive landscapes and consumer demands can changes dramatically in a matter of months, if not weeks.

Business breakthroughs are often born from stupid ideas and stupid questions. So keep asking.

Monday, June 19, 2006

 

Networking is easy

I don’t think I’m very good at networking. But I’ve learned that nobody else really thinks they’re good at networking, either.

I know many people – colleagues, friends, former co-workers, etc. – whom I consider expert networkers. But when I ask them for the secret to their networking success, the first think they say is how bad they think they are at it. Everyone, even the best, thinks everyone else is better.

Networking isn’t always easy to begin with, but none of us think we’re very good at it. So when you think about it, that should make networking a lot easier.

The next time you attend a local networking event or a cocktail party at a conference, keep in mind that nearly everyone else there shares your insecurity about why they’re there in the first place. Use that as confidence to strike up a conversation with someone, join an existing conversation in progress, or walk up to someone you’ve always wanted to meet and introduce yourself.

But networking isn’t just about the initial conversation or introduction. It’s largely about the follow-up. And when you follow-up with those you’ve just met, you’re likely to be in the vast minority of networkers who have the courage, or take the time, to do the follow up at all.

As I get older, my increasing number of “at bats” in networking opportunities is naturally increasing my confidence as a networker. It makes me realize I shouldn’t have been so nervous or averse to networking earlier in my career. It particularly makes me take notice of younger colleagues who don’t yet have that confidence, but would be 100% welcomed once they get into the pool with the rest of us.

You see? Networking isn’t that hard. Really.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

 

The CD is NOT dead

My iPod is chock-full of thousands of songs, all arranged in various song lists of various sizes. There's the metal-head music I listen to when I work out, there's the classical I listen to when working late at night, etc. I've bought way too much music on iTunes, like many iPod users.

But that doesn't mean I've forgotten about CDs. I buy more CDs now than I did before the iPod. Not to mention the hundreds of CDs still in the back of my closet.

So now there's lala.com, a fantastic new CD exchange service that serves the best of many words. First, lala recognizes that most music fans still have dozens if not hundreds of CDs on hand, most of which rarely get listened to anymore. They also realize that there's an incredible second-hand market for these CDs, especially among other music fans that are interested in discovering new music.

For just $1 dollar per disc, plus 49 cents for shipping & handling (lala provides the shipping materials), lala members can exchange their CDs with each other. Buy a new CD that didn't meet your expectations? Trade it on lala, and ask for something else you wanted instead.

Even better, lala is giving 20% of the sale from each CD exchanged back to performing artists, and founder Bill Nguyen has a goal of getting that percentage much higher.

It's a win for consumers, a win for the recording industry, and a fantastic realization that "old media" doesn't just fade away. It just requires a new idea to make it both more relevant and more valuable.

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