More often than not, panel presentations disappoint. The panelists haven’t prepared. The moderator can’t maintain control. The answers come off as too repetitive. But last night I participated in a different kind of panel. A competitive faceoff in which panelists competed to remain on stage and the audience decided who offered the most useful content.
Boston University’s Digital Media Club and Maurice Rahmey drew big crowd to hear four of us – Hill Holliday’s chief digital strategist Mike Proulx, Arnold’s digital platform director Drake Pusey, content strategist Margot Bloomstein, and me – attempt to avoid elimination by offering better answers than our rivals.
There were three rounds. The first had five questions, the second four, and the third three. The first two sets of questions were shared with the participants in advance. The last three came from the audience.
Moderator Eric Leist served up the initial query to one person in particular, but after that it was a bit of a free for all as there were only three minutes allotted to the panel for each question. There was a clock staring us in the face. We knew how much time we’d used and how much time remained. To be fair the moderator did let anyone who got shut out of a topic give a 30-second response. But the format forced us to be opinionated, concise and even disagreeable. More importantly it called for us to avoid repeating earlier answers.
After each round the audience texted who they wanted to hear more from and the last place contestant exited the stage.
This is how to do a panel. If you’ve never organized one this way, give it a try. If you typically avoid doing these kinds of appearances, re-consider if you get offered this format. It’s fast, fun, intense and actually gets your pulse rate up.
On a different note, it was also impressive to see the questions that students came up with. I’ve listed some below along with a very condensed version of my answers. I did not win, though I made it to the final faceoff where Mike Proulx kicked my ass with his knowledge of social TV.
First Round: Trending Topics (three minutes per question)
Two current digital media headlines are discussed. Panelists give detailed arguments and can offer rebuttals as well.
Q: Will brands flock to integrate iPhone Passbook and pave the way for mainstream mobile commerce?
A: Brands don’t flock to anything, at least not initially. Most marketers and retailers, despite the so-called instant success of Sephora, will wait until they see what consumers do. Brands like scale as we all know. As for paving the way to mainstream mobile commerce? That’s more likely to come from the credit card companies. It’s important to remember that technology comes first. Early adopter consumers come second. Brands and marketers are always the last to the party.
Q: Are second and third screen experiences affecting the way voters make decisions during political campaigns? Why or why not?
A: Not really. They are essential for access to content, they serve as a distribution channel and leverage social sharing of ads, videos, and candidates’ faux pas. But the technology alone is not affecting decisions. It may have played a bigger role last time around in the way Obama connected with younger, more digitally savvy voters, but less so this year.
Buy or Sell: A rapid-fire segment in which panelists are asked to “buy” or “sell” (be for or against) three different concepts (this time in terms of what audience needs to do to be better equipped for job market).
Concept 1: The interest graph is more useful to marketers than the social graph.
A: Yes. It’s always better to market to a consumer who’s raised his or her hand and expressed interest. The trick is to learn to leverage Pinterest, Springpad and other platforms to both identify those interests and to inspire their expression.
Concept 2: Web 2.0 sites have shifted from banner ads to platform native advertising. In the future, all content networks will adopt some form of native advertising. (Sponsored Tweets, Stories on Buzzfeed, Facebook Sponsored Stories, etc.)
A: We all know that old-fashioned banner ads don’t work. But when is the future? All content networks? They should. And inevitably they will. But it will take some time, simply because of how inventory is sold and the legacy systems, processes and habits already in place. Students, however, should know how to conceive and execute native advertising ideas. It will make them more valuable to forward thinking employers.
Second Round: Controversial Topics (2 minutes per question)
Q: Should marketers care about pay-to-play (ie non-ad revenue supported) social networks like APP.NET?
A: Certainly not yet. Though there is an underlying message. Social users don’t want ads and or a platform beholden to advertisers. Paid platforms may not take off, but smart marketers on the other platforms should take note enough to make sure their content and engagement is useful and welcome, not intrusive and self-serving.
Q: What non-payment mobile trend/tech is having the biggest impact on the retail industry for marketers?
A: Images, Instagram and in-store innovations similar to what Burberry is doing in Dubai and London.
Q: The web has broken down the barriers between PR, advertising, and in-house marketers. Who is the ideal person to create content on behalf of a brand?
A: PR people are best equipped. Marketers are used to multiple layers between themselves and their consumers. Advertising practitioners know how to make messages. PR professionals, at least those who’ve learned social protocols, understand one-to-one and real-time engagement.
Q: At TechCrunch Disrupt, Mark Zuckerberg stated that mobile ads are more effective and will be more akin to television than the web. Is there a non-annoying future for mobile advertising?
A: Yes. We just don’t know what it looks like yet.
Third Round: Questions from the Audience
Even these were quite good and challenging. One was on Facebook suggesting it would launch “wants,” and the potential impact on making it a better, more effective paid medium. (It’s a response to the interest graph.) A second was on the biggest disruptive challenge to agencies. (The need to compete with Silicon Valley for talent.) And the third, which killed me, was about Shazam and social TV. (I attempted to change the subject to the SuperPAC app.) But the audience was too smart to fall for that.
Got better answers to any of the questions? Please leave them below. Been on a panel like this? Please share your reactions. And thanks for stopping by.
Photo: Heather Goldin, Daily Free Press
It was perfect timing. Right now I’m in the midst of planning BDW’s August sessions, and to be honest, having a bit of a hard time getting pumped up to do one of these in the middle of summer. But then I watched this and got excited all over again. Reminded me of why it’s both inspiring and rewarding to gather with people you admire and respect and do something of value.
Some of my favorite lines and sentiments shared by my cohorts.
Seek out the people you don’t agree with. Find the rich mix of people on the fringes. They’ll get you there faster.
Director of Brand Strategy
Goodby, Silverstein & Partners
This (digital) is new for all of us. There’s no textbook for it. As much as I enjoy teaching, I learn as much from the folks attending.
V.P./Executive Creative Technology Director
It challenges what I assume is the truth and what I think I know.
Creative Director, AKQA
Hang out with people in real life (not just on Twitter and each other’s blogs.)
Founder, Made by Many
We all know the line. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach gym.
But here, we teach, we learn, we share, we connect, we even make stuff. A couple of us even get to do a little bouldering under the watchful eye of John Winsor. And at the end of the day, as you’d expect from modern Mad Men, we enjoy a quiet, civilized, alcohol-free evening. (I have to say that for legal purposes.)
Anyway, hope you’ll join us for our August sessions. You can register here.
Above is a recent talk* I gave at the University of Oregon about the evolution of advertising creativity. We’ve moved from defining brands through their words to defining them by their behaviors. “A brand isn’t what a brand says; a brand is what a brand does.”
We’ve gone from being storytellers to marketers who need to master the tools and tactics that will get others to tell stories for us and or create them with us. As my my friend Mike Arauz likes to remind us, “We tell our friends about your brand not because we like your brand, but because we like our friends.”
We need to ask new questions in order to craft a more relevant brief. And while attention-getting, original, unexpected, entertaining and emotional are still the criteria we use to evaluate creative, we need to make work that is shareable, interactive, participatory, useful and ongoing.
Have a look. And as always, feel free to re-purpose in any way you want.
*This is one of many talks and keynotes I’ve delivered at U of Oregon as the Richard Ward Executive in Residence this week. Will share more soon.
We should probably start with a different question: what is social brand value? In the past, almost all of a brand’s value derived from the product, its characteristics and ultimately its performance. Today, a brand is as likely to be defined by the value created by a community and its members.
According to Vivaldi and Partners, the brand consultancy whose research inspired the Fast Company piece, social brand value (for a user) is the perceived value that results from the exchange and interactions among and between brand users within a community.
For the brand it’s the percentage of its equity resulting from those interactions. While the numbers invite debate, Vivaldi insists that at least 15 percent of customer loyalty and 30 percent of brand perception (seems high to me) is driven by social interaction within a community.
Its argument is built around five dimensions; combined they yield brand value.
- Affiliation Value: Social interaction creates feeling and assurance, as well as emotional ties among users
- Brand Evangelism: Community members both promote and defend brands
- Conversational Value: News and information spreads faster among an active community
- Identity Value: Connecting with the right community (think Harley Davidson owners and Apple users) makes users feel better about themselves
- Informational Value: Relevant knowledge and support solve user problems and perpetuate loyalty.
It’s important to note that social brand value, or social currency, is not the same as social media. Generating awareness with a gimmick, collecting fans and followers, being present in social media does not necessarily add to a brand’s value.
It’s what we do once we get them there. (Whether the there is a platform, forum, or in the case of Apple, a retail store.) How we add value, contribute to the conversation, introduce customers to each other, allow them to participate, give them a role based on their personal preferences, and foster overall connections to our brand and others in the community is what matters.
As Fast Company makes clear, Starbucks loses to Dunkin’ Donuts when it comes to customer advocacy. Starbucks may have more followers, but Dunkin’ involves its customers in more active ways. Their online create-the-next-donut contest, for example, generated nearly 300,000 entries, making those involved community members far more likely to say good things about the Dunkin’ brand than Starbucks customers say about the siren.
And no surprise, Wendy’s prevails over Burger King. The former engages with ongoing games, connections to influencers, and motivations to actually try the product. The latter relies on high awareness gimmicks, that while fun and visible, fall off the radar screen rather quickly.
In fact, the brands with the greatest social value include Apple and Google, the former, of course, basically absent from the platforms we associate with social media, but effective through the passion and participation of its active, vocal and loyal customer base.
What should we take away from all of this? According to Fast Company:
- Advocates are more important than followers
- Social tools are a means, not an end
- Gimmicks marginalize trust
While Vivaldi reminds us:
- Social brand value has to be part of a brand’s culture and behavior, not just it’s media presence.
- Simply distributing content across the web does not necessarily yield benefits to a community and therefore may have little contribution to social value.
- Consumers may have control of the conversation, but clearly brands can influence it.
What about you? Are you building social value for your brand?