As more and more brands race into social media it appears they’re bringing with them the exact same short-term mindset that they apply to advertising campaigns. I hear it all the time.
“If we do this (fill in the blank: Twitter, Facebook, blog, whatever) how many (fill in the blank: clicks, inquiries, sales, customers) will we get and how soon?
“Because we need it right away. Like tomorrow. Or next week. Otherwise we can’t sell it in.”
Despite all that’s been written, discussed and in many cases proven (thank you Blendtec, Zappos and Gary Vaynerchuk) regarding the long-term value of listening, engaging, building and mobilizing community, and engendering loyalty, lots of marketers still insist on applying the traditional advertising model to social media, demanding an instant correlation between spending and results.
For years, digital agencies have pointed out the shortcomings of advertising campaigns — they have to be repeated over and over to maintain visibility and impact — arguing instead for platforms that integrate into people’s lives.
Well people, social media is, in many ways, like a digital platform.
When it’s done right, if mirrors the tactics pioneered by none other than the Grateful Dead.
And it generates the same kind of lasting results. It produces an ongoing journey, allows the community to influence the experience, introduces like minded people to each other (a reason in and of itself to be part of a community) and rewards them in such a way that they want to invite their friends to come and join.
Consider all the press and pundits who’ve questioned the effectiveness of the recent “Hello Ladies,” campaign. (I wanted to write a post without saying the name of the brand behind it just to see if I could.) A gazillion views and all anyone can ask is, “Yeah, but did it sell more product?” In fact it did. But not because of the videos alone. Promotions and discounts buffeted the campaign, topping off the buzz with real incentives.
Still, half the world had nothing but praise, while the other half felt compelled to point out that video views (social media) don’t translate into revenue. Even Brian Solis, a social media pioneer, correctly predicts that the videos will diminish in impact over time, but surprisingly suggests they should have included customized offers and discounts as part of their monologs.
You think so? I’m not sure incentives and offers in the videos would have aided views. Plus it misses the point. That being we should stop being so obsessed with the immediate impact of social media efforts. The real benefit of “Hello Ladies” is that like any good engagement advertising it generated over 95,000 new followers for the brand on Twitter and, combined with other marketing efforts, bumped its Facebook likes up to nearly 800,000. Those new community members are the real value. Long term value. Thousands of people who’ve opted in to be part of the conversation.
Presuming that the “Hello Ladies” folks now engage with those fans and followers, they have something even better than a positive blip in weekly sales. They’ve got their equivalent of Dead Heads — people to whom they can market and introduce new products; a community from which they can crowdsource ideas and content; people they can mobilize to bring even more fans into the fold.
We all know that if you want to sell a lot of something you’ve got three things you can do.
One, do what Apple does and come up with an awesome product that everyone wants.
Two, run a promotion with incentives to try or buy the product.
Three, get good at contextual marketing so that you can push messages (don’t spam) to customers who’ve opted into receiving them on their terms.
And, if you really want, you can continue to use social media for short term, campaign oriented results. Give something away. Beef up your engagement ad budget. Incent people to un-friend or re-friend their friends.
But if your objective is to take advantage of social media, stop evaluating everything you (or others) do based on the immediacy of results. Long-term relationships are always better.
For years, digital agencies have strived to distinguish themselves from traditional advertising agencies that practice digital with the claim that they build platforms – applications and utility that delivery functionality and integrate into people’s lives – while ad agencies come up with digital gimmicks. In fact it was in the news today. As the argument goes, the latter may generate awareness and buzz, but like all offline advertising campaign, they quickly lose their impact when the media buy comes to an end, calling for yet another campaign and then another.
This is true. It was true of Subservient Chicken, true of the Cadbury Gorilla, and true, inevitably, of Old Spice’s recent social media frenzy. In fact, once these campaigns end the only people who tend to remember them are agency types scrambling to replicate their temporary success while making it look as if they didn’t copy the idea.
Meanwhile platforms like Garmin Connect (bet you never even heard of it unless you’re a road cyclist and a Garmin user) and iPhone apps like Stylebook, Zipcar and Timberland Expeditions (one of ours) continue to attract users, generate downloads, and provide the kind of functionality that earns both loyalty and repeat business.
The fact is brands and marketers need both. Without awareness and buzz, the kind of utility that makes a brand indispensable (if that’s possible) never gets embraced. Nike Plus would be invisible if it weren’t for the brand equity built up with years of advertising.
However, the challenge now is more complicated than what’s implied by the debate between idea and platform. The new frontier is the ecosystem. (Yes I know that term gets used to mean a lot of things; but for this purpose it means the interdependency of a brand’s multiple digital properties.) Think about it. Most brands have an advertising campaign. They probably have a website that offers more than brochure-ware and delivers something of genuine use — either applications, commerce, customized user-experiences, community or how-to videos.
But with the proliferation of social media, chances are good that a brand also has a Facebook page, Twitter account, YouTube channel and at least one if not three iPhone apps. (I recently had a prospect tell me, “We need apps, lots of apps. It’s important for you to know that we’re app happy around here, so whatever you do bring us apps.”) And since the pre iPhone craze was “build me a micro-site,” chances are good it also has half a dozen of those.
Years ago, John Wanamaker said he knew that half his advertising worked, he just wasn’t sure which half. Today, with all the metrics and analytics baked into everything we do there’s little doubt that we know which stuff works. But do you know whether it all works together?
My suggestion is that if digital agencies and traditional agencies continue fighting over the idea versus the platform they’re wasting words and energy. The new frontier will be the brand’s overall digital ecosystem and figuring out how to get advertising, platforms, social media, conversation strategy and a brand’s existing community of customers to reinforce each other in a way that generates awareness, allows prospects to enter a relationship on their own terms (whether they want to learn, connect, join, transact, share or simply watch) and then holds onto them, ideally turning them into advocates.
Got a wonderful visit yesterday from Darryl Ohrt, the Prime Minister of Awesome for Humongo. The digital shop is doing a road tour. They’re visiting friends, generating content, and putting social media into action because, well, because they can. They’ve got a video camera to record stuff, Twitter to connect and promote, Vimeo to post their videos, and a blog from which to report. What else to you need?
Anyway, Darryl and I spent a few minutes talking environment, culture and social media – three of my favorite subjects. It’s been a year since Mullen has moved from the isolated woods of the North Shore to the heart of downtown Boston.
Answering his questions reminded me just how important any company’s physical environment is to fostering culture and innovation. Or in our case to inducing collisions. We want people, opinions, disciplines and ideas crashing into each other, hence our open floor plan and physical integration of disciplines. In an age when the creative team includes technology, UX and digital design and the output can be anything from an app to an eco-system, everyone has to work together in a space that encourages it.
At the same time, Darryl’s road tour — combining video, social, blogging and the mobilization of a community to spread the word, drive inbound links, and create new new connections — reminds us of another equally important point. And that is if you want to lay claim to anything remotely resembling knowledge of the new way to market, you have to get out there and actually do things.
You can follow along with Humongo Nation if you want. Check out the blog. Or watch the entire content from yesterday’s video featuring @stuartfoster, Kane’s Donuts (damn they’re good) and folks at New Balance. And as always, if you want to leave your own thoughts about culture, environment and how they work together to inspire people, go for it. Thanks for stopping by.
This is bad news. We have just entered the age of crowdsourcing, consumer generated content, and plethora social media tools and technology that enable consumers and spectators to become creators and broadcasters and it turns out this transformational moment coincides with a measurable decline in creativity.
You know what that means? I do. If there aren’t already enough bad TV spots on air, heinous videos on YouTube and insufferable online ads popping up to take over our screens we can now expect the next generation to produce even more. Egads, the last thing we need is less creativity just when we’ve all become content creators.
The findings are based on tests that have been in use for over 50 years. Pioneered by E. Paul Torrance in 1958, the evaluation system, while not perfect, has accurately predicted kids’ creative accomplishments as adults with enough reliability to remain the de facto standard to this day.
Historically those who’ve done well as children have grown up to become entrepreneurs, inventors, college presidents, authors, doctors, diplomats, software developers, and, of course, creative directors. Between 1958 and 1990 creativity scores went up; but for the last 18 years they’ve inched downward year after year.
No one knows why this is happening, exactly, but if you have kids in public school, especially those that emphasize standardized testing, you know that we’re not doing much to encourage creativity and problem solving compared to the efforts put into rote memorization.
Interestingly the solution isn’t about teaching more music or art or creative writing necessarily. It’s about problem solving. Neuroscience now informs us that the relationship between the left side of the brain (concentrating on facts and what you know) and the right side (scanning distant memories for relevance) is what yields that aha sensation. And there are exercises and educational approaches that can both stimulate and encourage that catalytic moment.
What should educators and parents do?
1. Emphasize project-based learning. Develop curricula that call for fact finding, idea generation, solution evaluation and implementation.
2. Encourage role playing at a young age. Seeing alternative views and perspectives helps creativity.
3. Don’t answer your kids’ questions; make them explore possible answers on their own.
4. Mate with an opposite: families that celebrate uniqueness enhance flexibility and adaptability.
5. Diligently practice creative activities and problem solving.
Got any other ideas? Besides turning the schools over to Tim Brown and Sir Ken? Please share.
We’ve heard the concept from Chris Anderson, in his book Free. If you want to ultimately make more money and win more fans you first have to give away a lot of stuff. That’s right, give it away. Like we all do in the social media space.
Anderson made a reference to the Grateful Dead, one of the only bands that allowed fans to record concerts and make their own bootlegged tapes. In fact they practically encouraged it. Why? It was simply a way to deliver greater service to the only constituency that mattered to the Dead. Who cared if it cut into album sales? It won the hearts of millions, generated greater attendance at live performances and a produced a community of self-proclaimed Dead Heads.
Other influential sources, including the Atlantic, have referred to the Dead’s “management secrets.” In an article published just this March, Joshua Green wrote, “The Dead’s influence on the business world may turn out to be a significant part of its legacy. Without intending to—while intending, in fact, to do just the opposite—the band pioneered ideas and practices that were subsequently embraced by corporate America.” Here, too, Green refers to the Dead’s novel idea of focusing on its most loyal fans.”
Well, it may not be a new story, but it’s finally a new book. Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead. Leave it to my two friends Brian Halligan and David Meerman Scott, pioneers of inbound marketing, to take the case a step further and remind us that it was this legendary band that helped invent modern marketing and social media. A press release issued this morning states that, “For years the band broke almost every rule in the music industry book and profited as a result.”
In fact the band used the very techniques we are all learning to master now in order to differentiate itself from the all those other bands that emphasized record sales instead of fan satisfaction.
In the book’s foreward, the ultimate Dead Head of all time, former basketball great Bill Walton asks, “Who would have ever thought that it would be the Dead’s business and marketing models that would today be the envy of the culture they all fought so hard to change.”
I’ve seen the authors’ deck on the subject and read a previous blog post, but my advance copy won’t be here for another week. So whether the topic merits an entire book is a question I can’t answer. But as Brian says in the press release, “it’s a concept that really resonates with people.” How can it not?
If the book is half as cool as the cover, it will be the next social media classic. Congrats Brian and David on getting it done.
Note: Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead will be available in August, 2010.