. The Transom .

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The tide might finally be turning with B2B social media

I had the opportunity today to speak to members of the IABC St. Louis chapter (International Assoc of Business Communicators). The topic was how to use social media to advance business goals. I'm always amazed at the number of people in our business who don't know about, follow, or participate in social media and use the many tools available. But today was different. It seemed that most of the attendees were past the "what's a blog" stage and wanted to know how to take these tools and use them.

I had some great side conversations about what companies are doing, struggles they are coming up against, and ideas about how to use social media as an alternative. The one overwhelming feeling in the room was that businesses shouldn't get into social media just for the sake of it. It seems the tide as finally turned from every company jumping in without a strategy or understanding to pulling back and saying, "what's the real business reason we're doing this?" And that's a good thing.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Marketer's Gardener

Listening to the radio today, I heard a woman talk about gardening and the joy it brought her. She described the feeling of her fingers digging into the soil, the smell of the crisp air, the sense of peace she received, and how she felt closer to God and to life. Now I must confess, I don't feel this way about gardening. I find it annoying, difficult, frustrating, and incredibly boring. I'd rather smash a hammer into my skull than do planting, pull weeds, pluck vegetables, flowers or anything else that resides in dirt.

However, the feeling she gets from gardening, I get from other activities, like golf. I enjoy the sense of nature, the sounds of birds chirping in the early morning or late afternoon, the time to get lost in thought, and all the other aspects of the game that make it one of my most favorite activities. And I understand that to some people, they would rather hammer their skull than play a silly game like golf.

And thus I'd like to introduce a rule of marketing that is often overlooked, ignored, or simply not believed. You can't please the marketer's gardener. I've tried gardening. I honestly tried to enjoy it. But it sucks. You couldn't pay me to do it.

All the best marketing in the world isn't going to get me to like gardening. If I'm the traditional marketer, and I get feedback that Client X doesn't like gardening, I might try to change my message, or my delivery method, or some other waste of time and money that will end up with the same result. I don't like gardening.

And yet marketers try so hard, in fact many consider it a challenge, to try and convert a non-believer. New ads are created, more focus groups formed, new research, blah blah blah. Anything will be attempted to make me a believer. But you know what? Gardening sucks.

There are a lot of customers out there. Many semi-non-believers that will benefit from creative marketing with a new angle of attack. Some will convert. But save your time and money on the marketer's gardener. All you'll get is worms.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Kobe Bryant makes image blunder - le'ts focus on the real problem

We already knew that Kobe Bryant's judgment wasn't the greatest after his Colorado-mistress reputation and relationship disaster. In the face of that situation, and the need to rebuild his brand as a reputable and trustworthy sports figure, you'd think he would go out of his way to not put himself in a position to look foolish. However, numerous jokes and one-liners about the kind of players that populate today's NBA aside, Kobe has done it again with this video released on YouTube.

In it we see Kobe hawking his latest sneaker (doesn't EVERYONE have their own shoe these days??). He straps on his boot and mutters "don't try this at home" under his breath. He then walks a few steps away, signals to someone and leaps over an Aston Martin as it tries to run him over. After much celebrating and chest bumping with his boy, he looks in the camera, says "that's how we do it" and then again, "don't try this at home," as he walks off camera.

Amazingly, the online debate right now is whether or not the video is real and whether or not he actually pulled off the stunt. To me, the discussion should focus around a professional athlete seemingly putting himself in the face of death and giving a lot of good kids a really bad idea about recreating the stunt. How long will it be until we read about some young boy killed after getting run down by a car attempting to do the same stunt? It's just stupid on the part of Kobe to use his reputation for this. Sure it's impressive. Sure it's a cool trick. But he's a finely tuned professional athlete that jumps for a living. The high school kid that has half Kobe's vertical leap and probably twice his brains is gonna get flattened.

Bad move, Kobe. By showcasing your ups, you highlight your judgment, or lack thereof.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Branding: Shifting gears

Marketing is sometimes a reflection of life in general. You try to build relationships with people, get them to trust you, show them you're worthy of their time and attention, and then if successful, try to maintain that brand loyalty. But sometimes you lose their trust and you market to them in ways that they don't like. It is during these times that your brand equity is put to the test. If you were good to them before, if you did your best to provide a good product, perhaps they will continue to listen to your message and not write you off completely.

Too many times marketers will try to oversell in the wake of a big snafu. Sometimes it's best to just ride it out and let the customer remember the good 'ol days. Things weren't always bad. All brands change in the face of profits, generations, or culture. Sometimes you lose certain demographics in that change. Sometimes they follow the brand.

Many brands have thrived when they take a new marketing direction. Some fall flat on their face because they failed to plan or were naive to the market. Before taking a brand in a new direction, make sure you know what you're getting into. Loyal customers are loyal to the brand they know, and you'll need to make them loyal again to the reinvented one.