Category Archives: Fans

Mass Media Planning vs Community Planning


Many bright people are discussing the idea of Transmedia Planning, an ever-evolving, non-linear brand narrative. Think ‘Lost’: For some (including me) it’s just an entertaining TV show, for others it’s a puzzle they want to solve, just to discover there are more puzzles to be found. And, for the ‘Lost’ fanatics fans it’s an obsession, constantly fed by new theories, facts and factoids fed to them through official and unofficial channels.

Currently, most media is planned around a single idea: Get me this amazing idea and I’ll execute it as a commercial, banner, sticker, print ad – you name it. My first Creative Director always asked the lowly copywriter (me) when he presented his ideas for a commercial: “Does this work as a radio spot? Print ad? Key chain?” (Most of the time it didn’t and I crawled back to my office for another all-nighter.) Our work had to deliver for any educational, age and IQ level. Just like the pyramids. Ask a 5-year old to draw the pyramids and the result won’t be that much different from your own drawings (Be honest!) Sure, there might be more texture, details and finesse. But one glance and everybody gets it. And just a few words come to mind when thinking about pyramids: Slaves, Construction, Sphinx, Pharaohs.


Do you know who this is? No?


Getting closer?


Easier? The overall scene composition might give it away.


These 4 images illustrate that everybody has a different concept of Jesus: Ask 100 people how they would describe Jesus in 5 words and you’ll get an interesting tag cloud. Some overall concepts and ideas (‘Compassion’ anyone?) will be repeated over and over again but each and every person developed their own, personal concept of Jesus. And you will quickly realize that people can handle more than a single core idea. Jesus is more to people than the symbol for ‘Compassion’. For some people he might stand for love. For courage. He might symbolize an oppressive childhood. Indoctrination. World Peace. The Truth. The holy spirit. You take from his story whatever you like. Whatever fits your belief system and values. You create your own Jesus story. Either based on the bible, on historic documents, on interpretations of your priest, on movies. All these channels feed you different story lines. They can never tell the whole story because you tell the story yourself. Since we’re social animals, we are looking for communities that share our values. Without these communities, the idea of Jesus could have never been that successful and all-pervasive. Interacting with people, discussing their understanding of the Bible, experiencing the complexity of the Jesus concept is just so much more powerful than reading the Bible in your living-room. No comparison.

‘Lost’ became a phenomenon because communities adopted the concept. These groups will develop naturally when you offer rich story lines. Well, not always.

People are ready to process much greater complexity, spread info through various platforms and become hypersocial. They are hungry for it. Problem: The kitchen is still cold, remodeling plans being discussed. It’s hard to shift from a one-item menu to a complex 20-course tasting menu. We need to find the right chefs, sommeliers, Maitre D’s and service personnel. And, to make things more complex, we might intend to serve up a 20-course tasting meal but everybody will have a different experience: Some will just have appetizers, some only deserts, some will take your best ingredients and cook something completely new out of it, some will only drink the wine, etc. We basically hope to cook for people that are cooking at the same time. (Mhm, that might be an interesting concept for a restaurant.) It’s complex and messy. But, it’s magic when it all comes together.


Loyalty Marketing is overrated


Image courtesy of Thomas Voorn

I belong to a few loyalty programs: SkyMiles, Starwood, Priority Club, Virgin Flying Club, Virgin Elevate. But almost every brand tries to sign me up for more programs: Supermarkets, Coffee shops, Gas Stations – you name it. My basic stance towards loyalty programs: You continue to make a great product/deliver a great service AND your competition doesn’t trump your efforts, I will keep coming back. Offering me loyalty points and bribes perks won’t keep me around. There are a few exceptions to that rule: airlines come to mind. I love Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic, can’t stand flying with Delta. But my Medallion Status (second group to board, a few upgrades once in a while) and the possibility to afford a business class ticket through my SkyMiles keeps me around. And the fact that Delta flies almost anywhere while my favorite carriers don’t fly to little towns such as Seattle or Atlanta. Brand often mistake loyalty for retention. Retention is just a behavior. I do fly Delta because nobody of my preferred airlines flies to that destination nonstop and I do accumulate points. Loyalty is an attitude: I wouldn’t recommend anyone flying Delta. The whole Medallion thing is rather ridiculous, the product and service stinks. 

Real loyalty is becoming more and more important for brands. But loyalty shouldn’t be confused with points, cards and status. Besides the obvious product/service benefits, people are looking for intangible benefits from their brands: Samsung with their airport chargers, Zappos with their commitment to service, Prius as a symbol for being on the green revolution party. 

Sure, keep on offering retention tools: Coupons, supermarket cards and special retention offers will people keep coming back to your store. Especially when times are tough and you offer the best deals. But, ultimately, you put your business at risk just focusing on retention tools. Times will get better and people will get antsy, looking for the new, new thing. Unless you converted them to loyalists through your extraordinary product/service, to people that want to spread the message for you, you will lose them. And no promise of points will make them return.



Local businesses know everything about recognition: Acknowledge and recognize good customers, make them feel welcome and listen to their needs and desires. These good customers will spread the word for you and add new customers. One by one. That’s how you build a flourishing coffee shop, a profitable flower store. This is a customer-centric approach that plays well within the overall idea of the Cluetrain Manifesto.

National/global brands understand the need for recognition as well. Instead being customer-centric, big brands focus on themselves by creating ginormous CRM systems, hoping to cash in through recognition. That’s not recognition. That’s just opportunistic.

Merriam-Webster defines recognition as ‘special notice or attention’.  Paying attention to customers when it’s opportune for your business goals might lead to short-term gains. But offers no value for people in the long run.

Prying open the old marketing book, customer satisfaction is a combination of customer perception and customer expectation. If the client perception of the product delivered is lower than their expectations, negative satisfaction is the result. However, if the client’s perception of the product delivered exceeds their expectations, a positive level of satisfaction is achieved.

The challenge for national/global brand is in redefining ‘client perception of the product’. This is much more than a review on Amazon or Tripadvisor. Every call to 1-800-YOUR-CALL-IS-IMPORTANT-TO-US, each email, each interaction with the final product changes the product perception. I used to love my car, and the brand associated with it, until I had to deal with a service issue and were introduced to layers of bureaucracy. Now I can’t wait to get out of the lease.

In the new marketing reality, recognition is more than just paying special notice and attention to people. It’s listening to and understanding the changing needs and desires of people. Acknowledging them and integrating those insights into your marketing touch points.  It’s nothing new or revolutionary. It’s very human and natural.

So, next time when you want to find out more about the importance of recognition, close that marketing text book. Walk down to the butcher next door. You won’t regret it.

Brand Loyalty


I’ve been thinking a lot about brands lately and how they need to change in the new marketing reality in order to survive. Many things have changed: what defines a brand, who defines a brand, the roles communities play in defining and establishing a brand. Brands are still very important, maybe more important than ever, but brands needs to shift their focus from attention to loyalty.

The old marketing world told us that getting the attention of people, engaging them in your brand world, will ultimately lead to consideration and purchase. Since it’s becoming increasingly harder to break through the clutter, most agencies focused their efforts on getting attention at any cost: Takeovers, Pre-Rolls, Interstitials, etc. And, as we all know, they are losing the battle: abysmal CTR’s and undesirable ROI’s coupled with apathy towards advertising. Focusing on mass attention barely works and will not work in the long run.

The future of marketing is getting attention through brand loyalty. I’m not talking about CRM or other top-down connection programs imposed by brands. In some cases they might achieve the business goal of repurchasing, more often than not based on lack of alternatives or convenience.

Traditional brand loyalty exists when people have a high attitude the brand. In the new marketing reality, this high attitude has to be developed through building relationships with people. Not marketing to people, rather practically and emotionally connect businesses with people. In many ways, a practical, efficient connection with a business often leads to an emotional connection. (My Infiniti Service Manager has done more to build my relationship with the luxury brand than any glossy brochure, commercial or banner ad.) These connections are not restrained by information transmitters or reach mechanisms. Frankly, the only limit imposed on these connections is based on organizational issues within businesses.

Seth Godin says it best in his new book ‘Meatball Sundae’:

“Feel free to get all excited about the neat things you can do with the New Marketing. But be prepared to fail. If you don’t get your marketing in sync with your organization and your product, game over.”

People are starting to define brand loyalty by the degree businesses enrich their lives. This encompasses all brand touchpoints: Service, Retail, Emails, Customer Support, etc. People expect a string of connectivness from all touchpoints. It can be practical, efficient or, at best, emotional. These connections turn into relationships and, ultimately, brand loyalty.

Brands will matter more than ever. And a brand can’t be developed in a vacuum or through brand exercises. Good brands always were organic expressions of organizational structures, vision and passion. Future great brands will be developed and nurtured through relationships.Because everybody has a seat on the brand table today. Make them feel at home.

How to turn visitors into fans


Want to know how to turn customers into fans? How to develop strong connections with people? Just do what Angler’s Boutique Resort is doing. I researched the hotel before, it’s ranked as #1 in South Beach on Tripadvisor. Good start but I remained sceptical.

I arrived in Miami after a grueling overnight flight from Los Angeles, tired and worn out. I requested an early check-in at 8am but I’ve done this many times before and often had to wait until early afternoon to get a room.Arriving at 8am, I was greeted by a host, already expecting me and immediately heading to the room. No wait for paperwork or any other bureaucratic tasks. I was introduced to the amazing entertainment system (linking your iPod to all rooms, making DVD’s accessible throughout the suite – did I mention I was upgraded to a suite?) The host left with my credit card, leaving me time to unpack and get settled. For the first time in my life, I experienced a Hotel Internet connection faster than my DSL at home. The room was setup for an overnight traveler: dark room, bed ready to take a quick nap, temperature perfect for a morning sleep.

Yes, I could rave about the bed, the shower, the amenities. But I can get that from many hotels. Adjusting to the needs of a specific customer, that’s what I want to talk about. These little things felt so thoughtful and opened a space in my heart for this boutique hotel. Add to that a little note left on my bed after turndown service, showing the weather forecast for tomorrow (60 degrees in Miami? Whhh-whhh-whhat?) and you feel so good being a guest in this hotel. And, once I get my work done tonight, I will reciprocate by posting a review on Tripadvisor and Yelp. Love is not selfish. Love is about sharing. How does your business transform customers into fans?