Friday, October 14, 2011

Discovering Your Inner Steve (Jobs)

When Steve Jobs, the visionary of Apple died, I think the whole world stopped for a moment. At least it did for me. We all lost something that day. We lost something special, someone special. We lost an innovator, creator, and charismatic leader. We lost an icon. But I'm not here to get all gushy though. After all, he was still human, an eccentric and hot-tempered perfectionist who reportedly used to scream at employees. But what he accomplished is almost unparalleled. With recent comparisons to Thomas Edison or Henry Ford, Jobs instinctively knew what the consumer wanted, and he gave it to them. More importantly, he knew what you wanted even before you did, sometimes. He saw what could be, before the rest of us, and beyond what anyone could ever imagine. He understood his purpose in life. He understood that good wasn't necessarily the best. He wasn't distracted by what everyone else was thinking or doing–he knew what he needed to do and went out and did it, all with a sense of urgency, no less.

From what I hear, he didn't believe in surveys, didn't test his products. He was that sure of himself. How many of us are that confident? How many people believe in themselves and go out and prove it? But that's the DNA of a true leader and innovator. They know their way is the best way and they're bound and determined to point you to it. They are the prospectors of this world, and for them the possibilities are endless. They invest in the future, and fearlessly go after it. They have something to prove, something to contribute, something they are destined to give to the world, and somehow they deliver. Perhaps it's luck. Perhaps it's fate. Perhaps it's pure genius. Whatever IT is, I think there's something in all of us just waiting to be discovered, if we're willing to make the investment and have the courage to trust in our instincts. Steve trusted his, and he was right more often than he was wrong. As I often say, a compass and map will get you far in life, but to actually see where you're going, requires vision.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Social Media for the Rest of Us Who Aren't 'Experts' Yet.

Anyone who's been in marketing for any length of time knows that marketing success requires making a connection with your audience. To do this, you first need to understand what's important to them, and more importantly you need to speak their language. It used to be in years past that marketers would broadcast or disseminate a message around what they wanted their audience to know or hear rather than the other way around. In today's socially mediated world however, that approach doesn't fly. Even the term audience, is somewhat antiquated.

Marketing is now centered around conversations that relate relevantly within personal, social and cultural engagement because you can no longer 'talk at' people, you have to interact with them. You have to connect with them based on their needs and interests. Of course, this is nothing new either, as most research analysts can attest. Market research traditionally dictated the approach and strategy of ad campaigns. But today, research is conducted publicly on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, and may even replace the need for paid focus groups one day. Maybe. But again if all advertisers try to do is gain more followers or gather free metrics for the purpose of manipulating buyer behavior, they've missed the whole point of what social media is about.

No, it's not a magic bullet, or bag of tricks, and simply adding a fan page will not make you instantly credible. That's pathetic. Let's be smarter than that. But the potential is there, nonetheless, and yet somewhat ambiguous even to the 'experts'. Still I like to think of it as a virtual greenhouse for growing brands into pop icon status the likes of which have rarely ever been seen.

But don't just drink the Kool-Aid. Embrace the principle and merge it with what we already know.

For instance, Apple didn't become what it is today through clever persuasion, but by purposeful participation; by listening and then doing. They relinquished control and allowed the consumer to take ownership of the brand. Anyone who ever bought an iMac or iPod first bought into an ideology, or way of looking at the world, way before the emergence of social media, or it's stellar customer service for that matter.

Humans are creatures of habit, and although the world has changed, we really just find new ways of doing the same old things. Marketing today is not so much about an audience or demographic, but the way a brand fits (or doesn't fit) into our global community of socially connected circles both online and off. So when you begin to lose touch with your customer, and your customer with you, the relationship dies, regardless of where it began, and so too does your bottom line.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Redefining "Full" in Full-Service

There's an age old saying which applies very well to advertising. "Out of sight, out of mind." Back in the days of TV dominated reach and frequency, this principle ruled the lives of media planners for decades. Of course, today's metrics have changed somewhat, but the principle hasn't. If you're not in sight or not within an ear shot, you're likely to be forgotten. You need to be front and center in the minds of your partners or consumers. But the way you go about that is certainly changing and what you do when you get there, makes all the difference. Cutting through the clutter is a nice cliche, but doesn't (if you'll pardon another) cut the mustard anymore.

Through traditional and social media channels, brands can now interact in more meaningful ways that relate relevantly within personal, social and cultural engagement in order to cultivate advocacy and loyalty. It's an integrated approach that keeps you in the conversation, and keeps your footprint fresh. How you measure that, is another discussion for another time. But one thing is certain. All forms and channels of marketing and advertising must be equally as important or equally validated if full-service agencies are to truly serve their clients effectively.

Despite claims to the contrary, traditional is not dead, and social media is not a fad. It's here to stay, and has already revolutionized the industry. Be wary of any consultant or expert who tells you there is only one way to do things. There isn't. All need to work together for the good of your brand; transparency and credibility, forming and connecting to communities of influence, and nurturing relationships built on mutual trust.

What we need to watch for and be mindful of going forward however, is that the research is still in flux because our society is in flux and students of culture are constantly aware of it. Some of the findings are somewhat counterintuitive because we continue to see a shift in the way people live their lives, the evolution of habits, values, and priorities, etc. But the human mind still seems to work and respond predictably in different ways to different stimuli, and knowing this vital aspect of psychology will go far in helping you get the most out of your marketing mix and creative strategy. For instance, a message received through passive or relaxed viewing of a television spot is received quite differently than one competing for the attention of someone actively engaged online, or driving distractedly past a billboard in rush hour traffic for that matter.

To illustrate my point, many advertisers are shifting more and more of their budgets to digital media yet still feel they don’t have a handle on advertising in a digital context. Hence, all the experimentation as many are learning what works and what doesn't in our new socially mediated world. But there's one guideline which cannot be overstated. Choose your advertising medium mix based on its strength in relationship to your purpose and what you're trying to accomplish. Remember everyone gets to tell your story now, so it takes the right mix to clearly articulate your brand, it's promise, product offering, and what the customer can consistently expect to experience by buying into that story, and investing in a relationship with you.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Social Soliciting Prohibited?

I'm not that old, but old enough to remember when people used to hang signs outside the front door of their business or home that read "No Soliciting". Actually some still do, but many sales people have already gotten the message. Soliciting is not socially acceptable anymore. Well, maybe not in the physical world. In the digital world however, we see a far different standard, albeit for now. Yet if history is any indicator, we may need to be careful. So far though, marketers continue to use every available avenue online to increase their business or brand recognition efforts like never before. It's becoming blatantly obvious and social marketing is not only gaining ground, but threatening to completely overshadow traditional forms of marketing and advertising. In fact, some agencies have already abandoned traditional in favor of digital altogether.

This is because social or online media offers something that traditional media doesn't, and it's exactly what sales people need in order to survive, but have been desperately deprived of in years past. It's about interaction. Period. The internet allows businesses to interact with customers in ways they have not been able to in a long time. And like an alcoholic who hasn't had a drink in awhile, many are impulsively overdoing it in ways that are irresponsible and self-indulgent. I mean some have focused their entire advertising around the latest popular social media channel, offering to reward you or enter you into a contest if you like them on Facebook. As if Facebook or Twitter for that matter, was the end-all, be-all strategy for success.

Most people are wising up to it too, and research shows it. If you're not engaging customers in ways that are relevant to them, than you are nothing more than another distraction or uninvited intruder vying to break into their world.

Yeah, plenty of us tweet, blog, digg, facebook, or whatever. But for the most part, people have a life outside of their social networks, though more and more companies act like you don't sometimes, and therefore, put their credibility in jeopardy by just jumping on the bandwagon, because this is what's hot right now. Sure I get it. But these cookie cutter copycats are mere novices just muddying up the waters.

"Experts" know that social media is not a one-size fits all formula. Each company has different goals and objectives, and what works for one client might not for another. Just ask Burger King or Pepsi. Simply applying a process over-and-over, may in the long run, serve only to desensitize and annoy people, and like the days of pop-ups and pop-unders, force advertisers to once again reorganize and rethink how to best get your attention and support their bottom line: business performance and thus ROI. Great brands understand the pros and cons and make thoughtful approaches to connect with customers and partners in a credible and integrated way. Sometimes that means not doing any social media at all; (God forbid), or doing so under the radar so that at least in the digital world, they never overstay their welcome.