The Brand You is Dead. « eyecube

The Brand You is Dead. Long Live The Brand You Build. « eyecube.

Right on the money…to once again quote from Dr. Zhivago “The personal life is dead in Russia – history has killed it!”

This is the single biggest thing that I see people pushing back against when it comes to Social Media – we resent the relentless injection of uber-egos into the mix.  The New Year is here, and with it, we find a new reality; one in which we get down to business and that business will rely on us building our brands, because in the end, that’s what we’re supposed to be selling.

Over the past couple months, I’ve seen the backlash building, but this puts it into perspective.  The personal brand is dead in America…the economy killed it.

Top Ten Posts from 2008

Following Ari Herzog’s example, here are my top 10 posts of 2008.

It’s a hard choice to make, but the votes are all in and I’ve got the envelope from our friends at Price Waterhouse containing the winners:

Its mildly surprising to me that my best posts from 2007 tended to center on small business marketing, online marketing and content management.  Of course, I was working with small businesses then, so that I guess makes sense.

Did I miss any important post?  Quite probably, but this is a fairly solid list.  Tell me, which is the best of 2008?

Little Focus Group of Horrors – Tales from the Dark Side of Marketing

(The names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

Over the past couple months an enterprise software vendor has been running a series of blind focus groups designed to ascertain what the market view of their products really is.  They’ve gone the full monty on it, with one way glass mirrors, professional moderators, and have worked with a truly representative cross section of consumers, not just their own customers.

Prior to the focus group, this company considered themselves top in the industry, in terms of technology, in terms or market perception, and in terms of customer support.  They walked tall, chests puffed out proudly.

Unfortunately, that isn’t what the focus groups (and there were many across the country) told them.  Universally they heard their brand associated with words like “second tier,” “outdated technology” and “poor customer service.”

This was truly heart wrenching stuff, which echos completely across the organization, not just in the marketing department, but through the produt teams, technology, customer support and  especially in the halls of upper management.

One telling statistic came through: when ranking products, one competitor continually came up on top, especially in terms of technology where they were ranked as heads and tails above all others.  That competitors product?  A white label version of the vendors application, the same exact software that the groups had also tagged as “outdated technology.”  Calling all the results into question.

The lessons here are legion:

  • You need to do blind focus groups to guage market opinion – talking to your customer base alone will give you warped view of the world.  Typically, someone says “let’s talk to the customers” so they get all the sales people to give them contacts.  The problem is those contacts represent the most tame of the existing customer base, and also they represent exactly the people who have a vested professional interest in your product. Yesterday I wrote about Branded Communities, and this is yet another reason they don’t make sense for focus groups, as you will only hear from the people who are proponents of your product
  • This is really Opinion Research – opinions stink and everyone has one.  The problem is that no one in your market is going to be a real expert on all the products, especially when it comes to enterprise software.  So when asked, they fall back on guesses, what they remember from that 10 minute demo at the tradeshow 2 years ago (which isn’t much, although they do remember that hangover, which was truly epic).  
  • A blind focus group is a loaded gun – you can expect your going to hear some very bad things.  Your baby is ugly.  Remember that you’re seeing a cross section of the market, which is going to be a warts and all experience.  You’d probably do best to throw out the best 10% as well as the worst 10% of views just to get a more realistic view.  The problem is, at some point your CEO will be looking at this research, and they have notoriously thin skins when it comes to hearing about problems.

Personally, I think that the fact that the same bit of software was listed at the bottom and the top of the solutions in this vertical speaks to an obvious marketing problem with this vendor.  If their competitor can sell it as “the best of the breed” then why would their own customers think it is outdated?

Okay, question for the masses: Have you done a blind focus group?  Would you consider doing one? How would you deal with the message these guys got?

Branded Community or Sponsoring Niche Communities

Paul Gillin posted on a topic that I’ve been mulling over for the past few days: Branded Communities.  I’ve said it in the past and I will say it again here and now: why would you buy a build a branded community when you can rent one instead?

From Gillin’s post:

Pssst… is intended to bring fans of General Mills products closer to the company by inviting them into a members-only space where they can receive inside information, get coupons and samples and share their opinions about the company’s products. This is all the stuff that I preach organizations should do with branded communities. The site is produced in collaboration withGlobalPark, a company that manages online panels.

Pssst… is good in concept but bad in execution.

David Churbuck posted on the issue and asked one very pointed question:

Begs the question of who does a decent job with a branded community — aside from the usual product support forums, etc. — I can see some reasons for stumbling, but begs the question: who joins a community about bad yogurt?

The classic example would be Nike+ – where they’ve built a fairly successful brand community.   However, I  think a yogurt community might be a tough sell.

That said, building a branded community is a daunting task.  Potential issues:

  • Time to Market – do you have time for a 6-9 month dev cycle?
  • Core Competency – do you have people who can actually build and manage a community?
  • Expense – do you have a budget to build, and even more importantly, a budget to maintain a community?

At NameMedia, I work with Niche Community Sites, and we’ve been coming up with interesting ways to put companies and their brands in touch with the customers they want to reach, and we’ve got some compelling stories about new and innovative ways in which we’re doing this.  A couple brief examples:

It took Nike over 2 years to build their community.  We were able to get the Brother campaign up and running over night on Craftster.org.

Okay, this isn’t meant to end up sounding like an ad.  My point is that you can get real results fast working with Niche Communities and Niche Social Media.  While I’d love to tell you that NameMedia has the market cornered on creative sponsorship, there are a lot of other creative folks out there.

Or course, we’ve  got 20 million visits a month, over 30,000 conversations a day across our sites, in niches like outdoors, photography, technology, gardening, crafting, and astrology.  Our list of sites.

If you’d like to hear more about the creative campaigns we’re doing, get in touch with me or leave a comment here.  I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg and there are probably better folks than me to tell the story.

New Journalism in Action – Using Twitter as a Photoblog with the Iphone

The idea: to run a live Tweet stream from the varied events of the Sutton, Ma Chain of Lights, a celebration that happens at many different locations thoughout the town and its villages.  I used my Iphone with the Twitterlator Application that lets me post pictures direct to Twitter with pictures that I take on my phone uploaded right at that moment.  The tweets all contain the hashtag #suttoncol – short for Sutton Chain of Lights which make them searchable via the Twitter search function, formerly known as Summize.  You can check out the full tweet stream here.

Additionally we (my 9 year old daughter Mackenzie helped me with this) took photos at the events we attended with my Canon Power Shot A530 5 megapixel point and shoot camera.

Why Would You Bother: Sutton, like many small communities, doesn’t get a lot of coverage in the local paper, The Worcester Telegram, and substantially less from the television stations.  Even if they did send someone out to cover the events, they’d have gone to a single location, took a quick couple pictures, or did a quick standup talking to some happy kids, then they’d have been off to their next assignment.  Local events are naturals for crowd sourcing, and what better way to do it than live tweeting with a hashtag, posting a photo gallery, etc.

When I sat down last week to add pictures to the National Gallery and Gift Shop site to help publicize the event, I was surprised to find there were no pictures online anywhere from the Chain of Lights last year, save a few marketing shots by The Vaillancourt Folk Art Museum. Continue reading “New Journalism in Action – Using Twitter as a Photoblog with the Iphone”

Experiments in New Journalism – Live Tweeting the Sutton Chain of Lights Festival

I’ll be live tweeting today from the various events of the Sutton Chain of Lights celebration, in Sutton, Massachusetts.  You can find my tweets at http://www.twitter.com/mncahill or by searching in Twitter for the #suttoncol hash tag.  

My tweets throughout the day will include pictures of the event via my Iphone, and later today I’ll up load a photo gallery of the pictures.  If your out and about in Sutton, I encourage you to tweet using the same hashtag and I’d be happy to put your photos into the photo gallery I post later.

I you aren’t tweeting and just want to catch up, I plan to be that the National Gallery and Gift Shop on Putnam Hill Road at 1pm.

The Dour Marketer – Churbuck.com

The Dour Marketer | Churbuck.com.

David nails it.  Marketing is changing fast, and it’s all about the ROI.

With those markets off 40% from their highs in the fall of 2007, marketers are also feeling very dour right now, and despite feeble exhortations that now is the time to double down and crush the competition, all signs are in place for a major flattening and decline in global marketing programs from advertising to PR. It is an article of faith that one of the first expense items to get whacked in a downturn is marketing and other corporate services perceived as “soft” and nice-to-have versus essential to make payroll and keep the lights on.

Some marketing activities will survive and continue through these hard times, and I believe it will be the newest techniques and tactics which endure thanks to the simple fact that they can be measured so well. These are the days when every dollar or Euro spent on marketing has to defend itself from that king tyrant Le ROI.

David gives us a real world view.  Not the airline magazine version, but the “been backwards and forwards through the numbers a thousand times looking for nickels and finding pennies” view.  Then from there, he offers real advice, and even better a commitment to providing more info going forward.  For now, his advice for a couple zero cost marketing wins:

  1. Open a blog. WordPress.com. Stop. Go no further. Go there. Open a blog. Go battle with your PR and legal teams and before you visit them do a quick Google search for “corporate blog policy” and print out one of the many policies held up as classics by the experts. Do a search and replace and put your organization’s name in the appropriate places. Get permission. Start blogging. Cost: zero.
  2. Monitor what other blogs say about your organization. Google Blog Search. Technorati. An RSS reader. Google Reader. Bloglines. Whatever. Learn them. Set up RSS search feeds on your brand names and start reading. “Engaging” with bloggers? Google search on the topic. There’s more advice out there than a herd of consultants could impart for a fee in a year. Cost: zero.

Post Olympics Reviews from Lenovo

When a project ends, good companies do post-mortems to determine what worked, what didn’t to help them improve institutionally, while identifying possible opportunities created, and mitigating any risks exposed. Great companies do this and they do it in a way that the rest of us can benefit as well.  Such is the case of two excellent post Olympics assessments from Lenovo.

Esteban Panzeri
Esteban Panzeri

First off, I’ve got to call attention to Esteban Panzeri’ post “End of Madness Recap” from his blog, “The Challenge”.  Since I spend a lot of time in the trenches shoveling bits and bytes around, I naturally gravitate to the folks that turn the dreams into reality, and on this project, Esteban was apparently the guy.  

He comes up with an excellent list of lessons learned and among them:

  • Ideas will flow like rivers, it is execution that matters
  • One must learn to focus and discard things quickly
  • Anything can be done
  • Outsourced stuff does not always work as it should
  • Distributed content is the future

Ideas will flow like rivers, it is execution that matters” – a line I am printing out in 72 point type to hang in my office.  Yes, indeed, ideas are important and without them, there is no innovation, but too many of us forget that at some point we need to stop talking a start doing.  Only a select few ever truly learn this lesson. Continue reading “Post Olympics Reviews from Lenovo”

Mid-lining: Why Shooting for “OK” Gives You Incredible Results

Mid-lining: Why Shooting for “OK” Gives You Incredible Results | Work Life Balance | Time Management Tips | Wake Up Early.

We can’t be great at everything.  If the need for excellence is getting in your way of trying, then lower your expectations.  At least then, you try, and sometimes trying is enough.

A very thought provoking post.  Utterly contrary to most of what you read, but has the ring of truth, and borne out by experience.