Do you think that marketing your product is something people simply can’t get excited about en masse? Sure, it works with music, movies and fashion, but never you product. Your product is boring, low-interest, utility-like – more like a mobile phone price plan. Now really, who would care?
You might have even experienced with crowdsourcing or other forms of crowd engagement in the past with little or no results. And that’s another barrier facing marketers everywhere: didn’t work before (say 10 or 5 years ago) so it can’t work now.
Whatever the case I urge you to check the video below. Of course, it’s not about a product per se. It’s about finding the right Language to talk about with you customers, prospects or even people who would never buy your product but can be willing to join your marketing efforts given a well-framed opportunity. It’s about letting people do something unique and amazing, show it others and take credit for it. It’s about sharing.
BMW launches their new Z4 (a beauty, although I am lukewarm to private driving) using augmented reality. The TV ad was produced with artist Robin Rhode attaching paint sprays to the wheels of a real Z4 and driving around over a white floor. After a few rounds, joyful figures emerged:
Participation is also utilized. By printing out a fiduciary marker icon and placing it on a surface in front of your webcam, you can command a virtual BMW around your living room or desk and paint it with vivid colors that are imposed on the video footage on-screen. Naturally, the idea is to then upload and share the video with your friends.
Fun and creative, but you need to download a software for this and it is available only in Windows version. As regards the nature of the campaign, it would probably have paid off to produce a Mac version as well as this kind of playing around and tinkering is usually more natural to Mac owners than Windows users. Nevertheless, a fun and bold take on how to use the latest tools in marketing (and I am telling you about it, am I not?)
Me and my colleagues were pondering this question today in our weekly morning meeting and I decided to share the results here (posted in Finnish by my Colleague Riku Vassinen here). We defined buzz simply as clearly elevated levels of discussion in its different that is encouraged by media but goes on also without it, formerly face-to-face, on physical discussion groups and letters to the editor, but today also in social networks and virtual communities. You’re welcome to add to the list or challenge it.
First, we naturally went over some of the greatest causes of buzz in this and the last century. Among those listed were:
The assassination of JFK
‘who killed JFK’ remains the most controversial and specualated of all conspiracy theories, inspiring everything from Oscar-rated movies to horrible 90′s euro-techno songs.
Man landing on the Moon
…Or did they? The debate still continues today.
The buzz about the 60′s version still lives on while people stopped talking about the 90′s version on the week after the event.
The coming down of the Berlin Wall
The people strongly collabrated in co-creating the experience that still stands as a symbol of the fall of communism and the beginning of freedom for many people in the eastern block.
Lots of merchandise manufacturers, IT consultants and soothsayers made a lot of money on playing on people’s fears of what might happen. Nothing really did in the end.
Again, what really happened? Conspiracy theories abloom.
Launching of the iPhone
1,4% of all new blog posts on launch day concerned the iPhone, now that’s buzz for you in today’s metrics.
A collaborative effort of hundreds of thousands of people made the impossible possible. Now everybody’s waiting what will happen in reality.
From turning these and a few other events around a few times and chewing on the details, we came to a conclusion that effective and widespread buzz can created when (at least) these five preconditions are fulfilled:
Man was only sent to the moon for the first time once. So were other listed events too unique events that can’t be replicated and thus need to be savoured in as much detail as possible as they unfold. Ok, Woodstock made an exception but look how the sequel turned out.
Also in Finland, people all over were following the U.S. elections very closely, and younger ones joined their American counterparts in changing their middle names to Hussein so Obama wouldn’t be the strange one. When also their future is at stake, people suddenly get interested.
Without being inspired about the thing yourself, what are the odds other people will get interested? And when you have set goals to fulfill, you will be inspired. Y2K sold everything from gigantic IT overhauls to baby food and succeeded tremondously (except with the supposed-to-be-gigantic-turned-out-to-be-a-flop Millennium celebration I took part in, but that’s another story).
It’s not explicit from the start and usually not even after the actual event is over. Hence the conspiracy theories. A good buzz urges people to start filling in the gaps – to start contributing and collaborating.
A good buzz doesn’t unite people in harmony but instead raises issues and debates. It’s better to be loved by 50% and hated by 50% than ignored by 99%. Remember that also Obama split the nation roughly in half even after a disastrous period for the republicans.
Mini once again strikes us with relevant, timely but irresisitibly Mini-spirited and fun campaign. When everybody’s calculating their carbon footprints and worrying about the environment, Mini delivers a new measre, the Carfun Footprint, which is, naturally, a score derived from the amount of fun your car produces vs. the amount of environmental impact it has on the environment. I don’t own a car, nor have I never owned one, but the probability of my first car being a mini got a little bigger again.
Harvard Business Review just had an interesting article on the ‘incumbent’s advantage’, the possibility of the market leader to use its customer understanding and insight to better segment and serve its customers. This action has two positive consequences: 1) the company can better unearth its customers’ needs and cost-effectively drive up usage through well targeted efforts and 2) the underserved segments, exactly the ones competitors aim at when they start gobbling up market share from the incumbents, can be exposed and better nurtured through this methodology, underminging the challenger’s aspirations.
Today I ran into two artefacts of using customer information in direct marketing messaging. The other example was an excellent example of things done right, the other was an appalling example of no things done at all.
Good things first. 37Signals’ Jamie had been a DirectTV customer for four years. To celebrate the anniversary, DirectTV posted him a mail congratulating him of continued customership, notifying him of a free 3-month Showtime viewing period, and best of all (in his words), simply including a line that said “loyal viewer since 2004″. Furthermore, when he wrote them feedback thanking them but voicing his concern about rising monthly fees, they replied within hours that they will take the feedback from their “most important customers” very seriously indeed. In other words: welcome to our family – for life. With such small effort.
Here’s another example. A Finnish magazine house contacted me through email. I have previously subscribed to their car-oriented web service (I don’t own a car because living in downtown Helsinki you really don’t need one – but I like to browse through them on online auction sites and think about owning them).Â In physical magazines I subscribe to The Economist, National Geographic in Spanish, Scientific American Mind and Harvard Business Review (no, I don’t have time to read everything). So what does the magazine house do? They approach me with a direct e-mail where they offer me: gossip magazines for old folks and not-quite-urban families, magazines about young girls’ issues and home furnishing (mass market/family appeal, not very design-oriented) and beauty magazines. And oh, they even offered me a pearl necklace as a subscriber gift.
If you won’t even make the effort of finding out my sex and targeting your message accordingly, why bother approaching me at all through direct email?
My last week at Sonera came to an end just yesterday and now it’s time to look ahead. On Monday I will be joining TBWA Helsinki as a partner in a new venture called DIEGO. I’m truly excited about this new challenge, as DIEGO will concentrate on all things digital and social on both strategic and tactical level in marketing and business. Maximizing the potential of social and digital culture is the area where I concentrated at Sonera too, and now I will simply continue to do that for great many other companies as well as an outside consultant. We are currently in the process of putting up a great team and we certainly aim to be the preferred partner for companies internationally as regards our area of focus.
This blog will continue to be my personal discussion channel and will most certainly be more active now as participating in the discussion in these areas will be an important part of my job.
A couple of months after the launch of our AIVO service and related blog at Sonera, another B2C (also touching B2B) blog is launched, this time by Posti, Finland’s postal service. What strikes me as very welcome is that although they at this point have only a couple of people writing the blog (this I’m sure will increase in the near future – if not for other reasons then at least for the time needed for blogging which can be surprisingly plenty), the bloggers already include a director-level writer, something that will certainly bring credibility to the blog and actually gives people a feeling that the company is invested in the initiative and opening up a dialogue on a higher level.
An interesting observation is that neither of these companies is actually what is usually seen by the consumers as responsive, nimble and agile service organizations heeding to their customers’ needs (wireless carrier business is the 2nd most complained industry in the world), but instead large, relatively heavy, formerly state owned enterprises. This I think tells about the need and will of these corporations to inch closer to their customers that is greater than in small and medium sized service companies. Apparently SMEs in Finland still feel to be close enough to their customers vias traditional communications and marketing and thus don’t feel the need to renew their approach. Actually, when I googled for “asiakasblogi” (“customer blog” in Finnish), the only links to a B2C blog I found was for – you’re right – Sonera’s AIVO blog. Somehow worrying is that, given that e.g. blogilista lists close to 20.000 Finnish blogs, I can only find one (and now two, with Posti’s service) B2C blog by search. There’s still work to do it seems…
The professional creative world is stuck with Adobe. That’s one thing that is not going to change anytime soon. However, although the usability of Adobe products is usually on a pretty ok level, Adobe’s products are far from being perfect and stable, while at the same time demanding increasing amounts of firepower with each iteration.
The most demanding users are naturally the ones with greatest pains and now they have joined forces to create Dear Adobe, a site that gathers Adobe users’ gripes from all around the world and facilitates the wisdom of crowds to find the most popular issues of concern.
Now, a few years ago this would probably have been handled by Adobe’s lawyers through an ultimatum to shut the site down on the threat of a lawsuit. How times change: Adobe’s staff has actually started to work with the site’s maintainers to work out what their users’ most acute concerns are and how to deal with them. This shows a great understanding by Adobe of the tenets of true marketing spirit in the age of social media – joining and fostering a genuine conversation. You can’t always invite the people to your party. However, if they’re having a party without you but still talking about you, you should go in and join the talk with an open mind; close them down and tell them to shut up and they’ll just move to another address – and they won’t have any nicer things to say about you than they had before…
Initiated an interesting discussion (sorry, only in Finnish) yesterday on a topic that had been on my mind lately: whether or not Flash sites (especially microsites) are the new 30-second spot: a standard first (because of high production values) offering by agencies for marketing activities from basic product launch to an invitation for customer collaboration. Working on a client side, these solutions get thrown at me every now and then as a solution to just about everything. And why not; a Flash microsite is a well-defined project with a beginning and an end; you get to work with creative people who make all stuff colorful and put them moving around in exciting ways; in the end the site is launched and you get to have a party with the team.
There’s just one problem. Flash sites are usually not very social. With being social I don’t even mean that it should initiateÂ a genuine dialog between the customers and the brand, but simply finding the content in the first place. Sharing individual pieces of content from a flash site is not always possible: trying to copy-paste and email/IM/Tweet a link will just send your buddy to a front page or 1st level sub-page, even if the content you wanted to show was deeper in the hierarchy. Flash is not well indexed by or found with search engines (although this is improving) and mobile devices, which are increasingly used for surfing, don’t get it. Still, Flash sites are offered as a cure for just about everything.
One reason of course has to do with great sales people at ad agencies. Flash sites motivate designers, bring good money and score awards better than Google adwords campaigns. But the other reason clearly is internal: it is far easier for a busy marketing manager to write down a three-slide powerpoint on sales goals, main communications target and a schedule, than engage in long-term thinking about how the company should continuously engage with the people through digital channels. This latter is not a job for ad creatives (they can help with the tools of course), but instead rest on the shoulders of client-side people. It’s tedious, lengthy labour with no quick returns (as with numerous eyballs that you might lure onto your flashy Flash site with extensive banner campaigning), but instead trying, failing, trying, failing and trying again, and doing it in relatively small steps, as few companies will hire an army of bloggers outright, but instead the existing workers need to manage this on their coffee breaks. Customer satisfaction and rewards from these kinds of activities are built over time, and require constant and active effort from the people that are running them. Also, not all marketing managers are fortunate enough to launch e.g. an official company blog before lots of numerous, strenuous sessions with general management and communications directors and strangling rules and guidelines for communications. Still, these methods of marketing should be pursued as they create a customer experience completely different from the traditional tools of web marketing – a human one. Loyalty and customer bond from these activities last and can withstand hard times better than the experience from visiting a Flash site.
Don’t get me wrong. At best, a Flash site is a great brand building tool, even without funny videos. One of the most powerful branding experiences that integrated seamlessly with the product itself was (and to my surprise, still is) the Requiem for a Dream site, which unfolds the story in ways that enhance and expand the movie experience in a way a html site couldn’t (ok, ajax and some other tools could – to some extent). Flash is a tool like anything else and needs to be applied to a correct context; you wouldn’t cut your nails with a chainsaw either.
Thanks to everybody on Jaiku who commented on my initial question. While the feedback was largely what I expected, there were lots of true insights there as well.
Here’s an extended presentation of my FLIRT model as presented at Talentum seminar 6th February 2008. Mostly in English despite the opening slide. There’s not much text on the slides so you need to be there the next time