Archive for the ‘socialmedia’ Tag

All Brands Need is Love

The other day a colleague pointed me to BBC’s 1 hour documentary on Steve Jobs called “Billion Dollar Hippie” (I’d send you a link but then the copyright owners might yank it. Google it for now). There’s a line around the 40 minute mark of the video where they’re telling the familiar story about the iMac and how its success was attributed to its unique design and how Apple managed to make a computer fashionable. Then came a line that not only captures the brand essence of Apple, a quote from iMac’s designer, Jonathan Ives, “We have to make this something people will LOVE![emphasis added by me]. “Love” according to my colleague, should be the thing to which every brand aspires.

Every brand? I wasn’t so sure. Don’t get me wrong, I love ‘love brands’. I’m typing this post on my beloved MacBook. I have a protective case and an InvisibleShield screen protector for my iPhone. I find Porter Airlines and the Toronto Island Airport (Yes I know it’s officially called Billy Bishop Airport) experience absolutely lovely. I think I’m falling in love with this (new to my neighbourhood) frozen yogurt chain from California called Menchies. As a professional marketer, I love to work on ‘love brands’. And yet, there’s a ton of no-so-loved brands that do perfectly fine if not thrive in the marketplace. Take a look at the top 10 companies in the 2011 Fortune Global 500…only one of them, Toyota, still going strong despite its massive recall in 2009 and the Tsunami, has some ‘love brands’ in its roster.

  1. Wal-Mart Stores
  2. Royal Dutch Shell
  3. Exxon Mobil
  4. BP
  5. Sinopec Group
  6. China National Petroleum
  7. State Grid
  8. Toyota Motor
  9. Japan Post Holdings
  10. Chevron

You see what I mean. While I’m uncomfortable to say it, the evidence suggests that you don’t have to be loved to be successful. So that got me thinking…maybe love and not-so-loved brands can co-exist in the same marketplace. While being loved can be a competitive advantage, there must be other ways to gain competitive advantage and maybe being loved is something a marketer can choose a brand to be or not to be.

Enter Advertising Age’s ad critic Bob Garfield, someone not known for jumping on the latest marketing bandwagons. In what I think will become a landmark cover story, Garfield writes, “Say goodbye to positioning, preemption and unique selling position. This is about turning everything you understood about marketing upside down so that you can land right side up. This is about tapping into the Human Element. [bold face added]”

Notice that branding was not in his goodbye list. That’s because branding and brand building is more important than ever before. “…you are being evaluated 24/7 in countless conversations that have zero to do with your ad slogan. On the contrary, they are about your brand’s essential self–which behooves you to think very hard about your essential self.”

“Your essential self.” In other words, we judge brands pretty much like we judge other people. We dislike insincere brands in the same way we dislike insincere people. We love those that we connect with emotionally and who we trust. Why do we tell brands to be authentic? It’s the same thing we tell people before their date…”Be yourself!”

Authentic, trustworthy, brands with whom we emotionally connect have staying power. The others do too…but they won’t get our love. Imc2’s “Brand Sustainability Map” charts out this brand universe where the love and not-so-loved brands co-exist.

Brand Sustainability Map

At the top-right are the familiar “love” brands but next to them and below them are brands that have enough to keep them going for a while. Emotional relationship brands aren’t maximizing that connection to its full potential or are missing something. In the bottom left are the reluctant relationship brands. These brands have traditional competitive advantages like high switching costs, high barriers to entry from competitors, patents, etc. which might explain why there’s a phone and cable company in that quadrant.

So love brands, not-so-loved brands, and even bland brands can co-exist. It’s the same with other people in your life. You don’t love everyone you know; some people are just friends and some people are that bland acquaintance who’s a friend of a friend who you see at parties but don’t pay much attention to ’cause they’re kind of…meh.  So here’s the thing. No one wants to be that ignored bland guy. Most of us want to be loved…or at least…not be bland. So how we get there? That’s for another post.
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Well @MeshCon, It Seems We’ve Crossed the Chasm

Mesh Marketing 2011 did not disappoint. Eloquent speakers sparked intelligent conversation. The camaraderie of the geek community was deeply felt. And yet, there was something different about this year’s edition. It seemed…calmer…mellower… in a good way. And I think I know why.

I think we’re out of the gee-whiz-isn’t-this-cool phase of digital marketing and social media. The social media/web 2.0 whatever you want to call it revolution is beyond the new normal, it’s just plain normal. We’ve crossed Geoffrey Moore’s chasm into the early majority phase. Instead of chasing shiny new objects, we’re into  more sober topics…like how to operationalize social media communications into business processes…and what to do with all that data?

Joe Fernandez‘ influence rating service, Klout, sparks mixed feelings among many but his appearance at Mesh disarmed a lot of cynicism. He doesn’t want to recreate high school popularity contests, he’s just trying to show that a lot of people have more clout (with a “c”) then people recognize and he’s trying to do it with 20 terrabytes of data a day! And seeing him in a panel with the inventor of Watson, Rod Smith, was amazing to see.

But the show stealer of the day was Marcus Sheridan. If you need proof that digital in part of the DNA of everyman, read his blog and watch his videos. The Sales Lion injected some straight talking street smarts to a conversation dominated by geekspeak. Finally someone makes it clear that SEO is still immensely important and that digital and social serve to generate leads and sales. Sandra Gornall has an excellent summary of his solo talk here and I can’t wait to link to the video.

A big thank you to the @meshcon organizers and volunteers for a great event.

The Leafs Get Social

Dave Fleet’s going to a Leafs game, makes an off the cuff tweet about it, then gets an @reply from @mapleleafs followed by a direct message from the Leafs new  inviting him on a pre-game behind-the-scenes tour of the ACC given by Jonathan Sinden, the man behind the @mapleleafs and a member of the Leafs interactive marketing team.

Surprised and delighted, Dave blogs about the experience. Looking at the comments, some people are suspicious, (as was I). Dave’s blog is well read and he has lots of followers. In a way, this seemed like they were scanning twitter to see who was tweeting about the game and then approached Dave because he had a large follower count. As it turns out, that wasn’t the case. Jonathan Sinden had the idea of giving an enhanced fan experience to one of the Leafs twitter followers and Dave just happened to tweet at the right moment. That’s what he wrote in his comment on Dave’s blog and I believe him because the comment sounds very sincere and doesn’t sound like it was cleared through legal.

I like how this turned out as a rapid response initiative rather than part of a tight strategy (and this coming from a strategist). What I mean by that is, I can’t envision a long discussion at MLSE over how this is going to further business objectives and generate a great ROI. This had a “Hey I have an idea to enhance the fan experience that won’t cost us much, let’s try it out” kind of feel and that’s something more businesses should start doing more often. Leafs tickets are among the most expensive in the league and rightly so given demand in this hockey mad city and as a result, there seems to be a lot of corporate types at the games (well, at least in the platinum seats). With a random acts of kindness like this, one feels that the team does care about the average fan.

I’m not really friends with [brand name]

So Razorfish puts out a new FEED report and all marketing 2.0 punditry is aghast.  All the happy hippie, trippy things we’ve been telling brands to do like authentically engaging our consumer in a meaningful dialogue using social media because it’s, er, social has been all for naught. Turns out, when people ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ brands, they’re really just looking for a deal. All that time and money spent trying to figure out this social media thing could’ve been spent on coupons?

Folks, the sky isn’t falling.  Take a look at the data:

Reason for Following a Brand on Twitter

Reason you friend a brand on Facebook or MySpace

56.5% of those who follow a brand on twitter and 63.1% who friend a brand on Facebook or MySpace do it for some reason other than getting a deal. Deal seeking was the plurality of rationales but not the majority.

Second, what did you expect? Did we forget our 1% rule? Our Forrester technographics? It only takes one click to follow or fan a brand, it takes a lot more effort to evangelize. That’s why there’s more joiners and spectators than creators and critics. Not everyone in your digital embassy is going to be a brand ambassador. Like a real-life embassy, some functionaries are there because the job pays the bills and offers nice benefits.

Third, yes they want a deal but they still might be exhibiting a preference for your brand. What the study should have done is ask those who indicated that they were looking for a deal, whether they friended or followed a brand’s competitor as well. I’d be curious to know how many Coke fans are also Pepsi fans, how many Nike fans also follow Adidas. True deal seekers, the ones a brand wouldn’t want to be friends with, are brand agnostic; they’ll take whatever’s the cheapest. A person who genuinely prefers Brand X and sees an opportunity to join “club brand” due to “special offers” might be thinking, “I’m a good customer, I deserve something special from you, Brand X, in return.”

Whoah, whoah, wait a minute. Is that how to treat a friend? You’re only friends with that guy with season’s tickets so he’ll take you to a game? What about his winning personality? You’re shared values? Please forgive the marketer trained on “brand personality”, “brand as a person”, “personae development” and “personal brands”  for forgetting that brands are not actually people. They are representations of something to be purchased so our relationship to them is fundamentally a business transaction. Sure there are people who worship at the altar of your brand logo but those valuable customers are the exceptions. Here’s the deal <bad pun intended 😉 >, the deal may be the impetus for them becoming a “fan” but providing them with an engaging experience afterward might convert some into “true fans”. Deals bring them in, experiences keep them coming back.

A corollary to this, maybe we’ve infused the word “brand” with too much meaning and associations. Maybe we need to back to a simpler definition. How about, “the intangibles that cause people to prefer and value one product/service over others”