Monthly Archives: April 2008

How to market at Coachella

Big events have become the nirvana of marketers: The perfect target audience, the perfect setting, minds being to open to marketing messages.

Most marketers waste that opportunity with big billboards, crappy giveaways, fly-over planes – you name it. Heineken did it right: Coachella is an all-age event in the Southern California desert. They have gated beer gardens to ensure that the pre-21 crowd doesn’t get the promoter in trouble. In order to gain access to the beer garden, you need to go to various ID Checks to get your prized wristband. As you can see on the picture above, the white wristbands include the Heineken logo. So what, you might say.

Think about it: Every time when 21+ attendees think about alcoholic beverages they see the Heineken logo, they have to show it to security to become part of the drinking crowd. And the under 21 crowd who desires to be part of the beer garden crowd regards the Heineken wristband as a symbol for their desire.

Does it work? I don’t usually drink beer at home. Back home Sunday night, I was looking through the fridge to find a Heineken. Worked for me.


Why customer service is part of your marketing strategy

Businesses have become obsessed with the blogosphere: They task companies with buzz/trend/blog conversation reports. They read them daily, trying to gain a better understanding of people. And then they’re struggling with the question: “How do we join the conversation?” And: “What conversations are we joining?”

Let’s focus on the second question: Most businesses are immediately drawn to the blogosphere because it’s so easy to lurk and find out what the public thinks about their brand. But they often oversee the most important opportunity right in front of their eyes: Their customer service department.

People try to initiate conversations with businesses all day long: They have problems with the product, they have questions about the product, they want to connect with someone that speaks for the brand. Changing the paradigm of customer service from processing as many people as possible to solving as many problems as possible is the first step to join the conversation. Empowered people will put increasing demands on consumer affairs. Divorcing consumer affairs from marketing divisions doesn’t make any sense in the new marketing reality. Increasingly empowered people want to speak with the brand itself and consumer affairs will have to become part of your marketing strategy.

It should have been this way all along.

and the demands on consumer affairs will

American Express gets it

From Mediapost:

“Claire Bennett, SVP/Advertising, Marketing and Media at American Express, threw down a gauntlet at the outset: digital, traditional, grassroots–it doesn’t matter if consumers don’t want it. Paraphrasing Einstein, she said any marketing fool can overwhelm consumers with meaningless information, but it takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.

Her message, delivered through a rundown on her own company’s efforts, was that the opposite direction means moving from intrusion to invitation. “Are you making something better for your customer or intruding on an experience they are having?” she asked, rhetorically. “We want to be invited in by the consumer: from transaction to relationship; from disrupting to empowering.”

Facilitating conversations, making people’s life better. Bingo.

Live TV – The last bastion is falling

The one thing that kept TV vital and as the premium communication channel was the promise of live TV: People will watch live TV, such as sporting events, and they will consume commercials just to see the live action again.

This theory was always faulty: Besides the fact that people might not leave the room but focus their attention on their family and friends during commercial break, a majority of people have their laptop handy and will focus their attention on productive work before refocusing their attention on TV again. But, more importantly, people are getting sick of the time tyranny of live TV.

A Global Broadcast Consumer Survey conducted by Accenture shows that people are getting used to an on-demand lifestyle: they want to pick and choose when they consume any form of media. The numbers are astounding: 83% of of people are unhappy with the inflexibility of live TV, mostly based on their complaints about commercials (64 percent) and not being able to rewind (40%).

Media consumption habits are changing so rapidly, businesses and agencies have problems keeping up. Even worse, media consumption habits are not even studied closely enough. An impression makes no impression anymore. When you have a magazine next to you on the couch, the TV blaring and the NY Times homepage on your computer, what do you count as an impression? We all know that people can’t consume  three different medium at once, so how do you count these three impressions? And how shall publishers be reimbursed for part-attention impressions?

Add to the mix the advent of Social Networks, the move from top-down to bottom-up entertainment and you have a pretty confusing picture and even more confused brands. Agencies need to help businesses to clear up that confusion. Unless they are even more foggy.

Selling out Social Networks

We tend to value things by putting a price tag on it: The watch must be good because it costs $5,000. The Mercedes-Benz must be better because it’s more expensive than the VW. Applying the same method to relationships or connections seems laughable: What is the value of a friend? What is the value of a business connection?  

Unfortunately, Wall Street, many businesses and agencies try to value Social Networks just on a monetary basis. They see the overvaluation of Facebook as a reminder of the dotcom bubble and a warning sign that all this talk about Social Media and Conversational Marketing might just be that: talk. 

I agree: Facebook is not a $15 billion company. But, at the same time, I couldn’t care less. I’m not Mark Zuckerberg, I’m not an investor, shareholder, don’t really care if Facebook ever makes a profit. I don’t even care if Facebook survives the next two years, ends up to be another MySpace aka Advertising Network or thrives and prospers. But users care: Once they feel the sell-out, they’re moving on.

What I care about are changing behavior patterns: People don’t ask companies anymore to get them things, they ask their peers. People avoid advertising at any cost but they are open to valuable tools that facilitate their conversations. Facebook is one site where many of these changing behavior patterns manifest themselves. There are thousand others. And you can experience it outside of the digital space: In airplanes, at work, in pre-school, stuck in traffic.  

Debating the value of MySpace or Facebook might be an entertaining discussion. But it distracts us from the fact that people are changing. Relationships and connections are the real value of Social Networks. Not a Wall Street price tag. 

Groundswell – the new media bible

When you wake up at 3.30 am to catch an early flight (after 3 hours of sleep) and you spend the full flight reading a book, you know you have a winner in your hand. It’s not easy to keep social marketing/conversational marketing freaks and geeks thoroughly entertained while, at the same time, adding a new level of understanding and knowledge to my 100-social-media-blogs-daily-brainwashed mind. But Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff achieved this goal by writing the first new media bible titled “Groundswell”.

Targeted towards the marketing department at businesses, the insights won’t disappoint or bore the chin-stroking social media experts. Quite the opposite: “Groundswell” gives marketers enough reasons to listen to and join the conversation but warning them throughout the book to take it slowly and, in the spirit of “Meatball Sundae”,  adjust their social media strategy to their specific business and desired objectives.

The examples and case studies were fresh but I was hoping for an online extension of the book (Joseph Jaffe did a great job) and, even more important, all of us would have benefited from failure stories. There are many and we can all learn from them. But these are just constructive additions:

The writing, the case studies, tools you can use each day to evaluate your new marketing strategy and a first attempt at calculating the ROI for various media tactics should make you run out to the bookstore. Or just click here.

American Airlines – Failed Crisis Management

American Airlines is on everybody’s mind right now: Thousands of flights cancelled, more than 100,000 passenger stranded and millions of dollars lost.

How did AA react to this crisis?

Sure, they put up a link on the corporate site, summarizing the situation. Very White House press statement of them. The press statement from Gerard Arpey was uploaded on their YouTube page. They covered the bases. But did they join the conversation? 

Obviously not. 

Top-down statements might have been good enough a decade ago, today they just cause a shrug. CEO’s tend to apologize on a daily basis and links on sites to a press release are almost an insult to seething customers. Instead, American Airlines should have explained the situation in full: Why were the planes grounded? What is the benefit for the customer? How are they going to make sure this won’t happen again? Are they willing to accept that customers are so fed up with their product? How are they going to change it?

Encourage people to converse with American Airlines. Let them express their feelings. Passengers feel helpless when dealing with airlines. Give them a channel to communicate their feelings. 

And, most importantly, give the staff on the ground authority to treat people like they should be treated: If they have to spend the night, offer them luxury accomodations. If their flight is delayed, offer them a generous voucher for food and drinks. Give everyone affected a free flight within the US. People that had to stay overnight should receive a transcontinental flight. 

Currently, American Airlines is hiding and hoping another airlines will mess up and their mistakes will be forgotten. People don’t forget days of delays. They will talk about it. Write about it. Share it with others. American Airlines should consider the crisis as an opportunity. It’s not too late.