Monthly Archives: January 2008

Set the bar high

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“The problem is not that we’ve set the bar too high and failed but that we’ve set the bar too low and succeeded.” – Sir Ken Robinson
Change is in the air: Climate change, political change, economic changes. Changes everywhere. We tend to address these changes in a linear way: What’s the problem? Let’s the fix the problem and we’ll have our Kumbaya moment. Not really.

These obvious changes are just the headlines. The real story can be found on Page 37, in small print: Thanks to a combination of changing demographics and technology, we see a dramatic shift in our cultures and economy. Practicing marketers feel that change every day: Declining CTR’s, brands have to work harder to connect with people, make one big mistake and you’ll be out of business.

What not to do: Look for new, promising ways to engage people: Second Life, Video, RSS, Web 2.0 – whatever you want to call it. And it works. For a while. Great PR for Second Life, astonishing engagement rates for video placements, 40,000 brand friends on MySpace. Just to return to the client with your tails between legs: Negative PR and nothingness on Second Life, declining engagement rates for video, nobody gives a hoot about friending brands on Second Life anymore.

What to do: Continue exploring the external changes we’re seeing and experiencing. At the same time, acknowledge and try to understand the underlying changes in our cultures and economy that are happening on as you read this. We need to manage our responses based on human capabilities and responses. The linear approach won’t solve our current and future problems.

You’ve set the bar too low, if you believe the future of marketing is in data-mining, behavioral targeting and CRM.

You’ve set the bar high, if you believe the future of marketing is in developing deep relationships with people through Conversational Marketing.
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It’s about doing the right thing. Not the new thing.

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7 years after the dot-com boom and bust, we’ve seen an avalanche of new ways to connect with people: viral videos, social networks, mini-blogs, billboards, gazillion cable channels, IPTV, Skype, yada yada yada.

Businesses look at agencies to guide them through the jungle we call new marketing reality. Some agencies pledge for the Status Quo, adding a few Bright Shiny Objects to the mix. Others apply the Silicon Valley 70-20-10 rule: Spend 70% of your core communication channels, 20% focused on innovating the core communication channels and 10% on pure experimentation.

Frankly, scattershot apporaches rarely work. All these new tools make a promise to people: A promise to engage them in a meaningful way. A promise to humanize the relationship between people and businesses. A promise to be authentic. More often than not, those promises are broken the moment people dial the call center, try to communicate with the brand and can’t find the email address on the corporate site.

As Seth Godin says:

“New Marketing-whipped cream and a cherry on top-isn’t magical. What’s magical is what happens when an organization uses the New Marketing to become something it didn’t used to be-it’s not just the marketing that’s transformed, but the entire organization. Just as technology propelled certain organizations through the Industrial Revolution, this new kind of marketing is driving the right organizations through the digital revolution.

You can become the right organization. You can align your organization from the bottom up to sync with New Marketing, and you can transform your organization into one that thrives on the new rules.

Our job is not to sell businesses cool, new thing. Our job is doing the right thing:

Conversational Marketing is not about one-off campaigns.

Conversational Marketing is about researching, dissecting and analyzing organizations. And then move the whole organization into the new marketing reality. It might be changing the call center success metrics from ‘How many people did I process?’ to ‘How many people did I help today and offered a positive brand experience?’ It might be a full-blown conversational marketing campaign. It might be a change from email form letters to real email conversations.

Whatever it is, conversational marketing is a long journey. A life-changing journey. For people. And businesses.

New Marketing-whipped cream and a cherry on top-isn’t magical. What’s magical is what happens when an organization uses the New Marketing to become something it didn’t used to be-it’s not just the marketing that’s transformed, but the entire organization. Just as technology propelled certain organizations through the Industrial Revolution, this new kind of marketing is driving the right organizations through the digital revolution.

Scarcity vs. Ubiquity

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The NY Times reports about the sale of the Magna Carta:

What is Magna Carta worth? Exactly $21,321,000. We know because that’s what it fetched in a fair public auction at Sotheby’s in New York just before Christmas. Twenty-one million is, by far, the most ever paid for a page of text, and therein lies a paradox: Information is now cheaper than ever and also more expensive.

Mostly, of course, information is practically free, easier to store and faster to spread than our parents imagined possible. In one way, Magna Carta is already yours for the asking: you can read it any time, at the touch of a button. It has been preserved, photographically and digitally, in countless copies with no evident physical reality, which will nonetheless last as long as our civilization. In another way, Magna Carta is a 15-by-17-inch piece of parchment, fragile and scarce and practically unreadable. Why should that version be so valuable?

(…)

“The value of the particular item sold at Sotheby’s eight centuries later is entirely different. It’s a kind of illusion. We can call it magical value as opposed to meaningful value. It’s like the value acquired by one baseball when Bobby Thomson batted it out of the Polo Grounds. A physical object becomes desirable, precious, almost holy, by common consensus, on account of a history — a story — that is attached to it. (If it turns out you’ve got the wrong baseball, the value vanishes just as magically.)”

And the conclusion:

“Just when digital reproduction makes it possible to create a “Rembrandt” good enough to fool the eye, the “real” Rembrandt becomes more expensive than ever. Why? Because the same free flow that makes information cheap and reproducible helps us treasure the sight of information that is not. A story gains power from its attachment, however tenuous, to a physical object. The object gains power from the story. The abstract version may flash by on a screen, but the worn parchment and the fading ink make us pause. The extreme of scarcity is intensified by the extreme of ubiquity.”

Good marketers were always storytellers. Stories help build emotional connections with people, make the brand appear human, draw us in. These stories have to be supported by experiences. Compare a good brand experience with dating: The guy you meet might have the greatest story ever told but nothing is founded in reality. Result: You’ll run for the hills. When your brand overpromises through storytelling and underdelivers in the experience department, you have nowhere to go. And your customers will go somewhere else.

In the new marketing reality, experience specialists and storytellers have to work together. The goal: To create a scarce story that’s supported by a ubiquitous consumer experience. And that goes much deeper than advertising and marketing. That goes to the heart and soul of an organization. Because people want to connect with brands not on an intellectual level. They want to engage from heart to heart. And, dare I say, from soul to soul.

Our logo

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Developing a great logo is a weird mix of art, science and psychology. We wanted to have a logo that speaks to the brand pillars of ConversationAgency: Authenticity, Trust, Open Dialogue. In addition, the logo should represent our foundation in proven marketing and advertising techniques, while, at the same time, being open to the world of new marketing. Last but not least, the logo needed to be human, signifying an openess to conversation and real dialogue.

We trusted our friends at Geyrhalter Design, Inc. with this task and were pleasantly surprised how well they translated our brand vision and mission into the new logo. The only major discussion points were the colors: Many were considered, discussed and debated. Gray and orange made the final cut because the combination of both colors felt true to the brand:

Orange represents fun, cheeriness, openess, warm exuberance and speed. Grey translates to authority, trust and praticality. A perfect match for ConversationAgency: We stand for open conversations that connect with people on an emotional basis. Conversations that are beneficial for people and businesses, based on trust and mutual respect.

Ok, the logo is done. Let’s get the conversation going!

Passion Points

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Everybody has a passion. Football, news, music, film, cars, blogging – the list is infinite. A passion changes everything: Money and time become irrelevant. Being an expert, becoming part of a community and connecting with other people is a driving force that’s unstoppable.

Marketing always tried to tap into passion points: The love for pigskin has been exploited and monetized by numerous brands. Passion Point Marketing 1.0.

 With the advent of Web 2.0, communities can form in moments and converse with each other through various channels. Instead of interrupting/disrupting these ongoing conversations (more often than not negatively impacting the brand), businesses need to engage and join a passion point conversation.

Segmenting and targeting these ‘passion communities’ garners a higher ROI than any traditional segmentation. Businesses just need to get out of their own way: Stop segmented broadcasting and start to narrow-narrowcast.

Introducing our mascot – McWaddle

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Why did we choose a penguin as our mascot?

A few reasons:

– The ConversationAgency is a specialized agency, just like the penguin is one of the most specialized birds today. In this complex marketing world, penguins teach us that specialization is imperative for survival.

– Penguins, just like the ConversationAgency, regard politeness and sensitivity towards one another as important skills: Penguins bow to one another in courtship, they have processions in courteous lines to the water and hold themselves with dignity. Ironically, penguins teach us how to be better and nicer humans.

– The penguin teaches us that we have an uncommon grace and should be authentic about it. So what if we can be clumsy in some areas of our life? So what if we don’t look the way we should? So if we can’t express ourselves like trained speakers and writers? Just like penguins, the ConversationAgency believes in the grace of the common man and believes in authentic voices.

Penguins and the ConversationAgency know their place in the world. We understand the human need for conversation and exchange of ideas. And we connect this human desire with the need of businesses to converse with people in meaningful ways.

We welcome the honorable McWaddle to our family.