Tag Archives: Branding

MaaS Marketing the new Mass Marketing?

Is marketing now only about placing the order?

I have worked in a number of environments where marketing technologies have been at the centre of business transformation. I don’t mean to suggest that customer wants and needs were not a consideration. Rather, there was a tendency to undertake business tranformation in a way that was technology-led where the requirements of the client were the last consideration in defining the vision and implementation strategy.

Today, we have what appears to be an increased love affair with marketing appliances. What I mean is that there is an almost universal embracing of the latest piece of technical wizardry to hit the marketplace. When a new gadget hits the market it’s not just covered in a technology publication, it’s a major event that makes the front page of the daily news. On the consumer side, it’s been about various tablets, e-readers and smart phones. On the business side, it’s been about apps ranging from the latest in search tools for consumer-generated content, customer relationship management and licenced applications in general that provide augmented value through Internet access on demand known as SaaS – Software as a Service. Implicit here is the pervasive expansion of social networking platforms.

By no means am I suggesting a dislike for gadgets – I have plenty of them myself. It’s really about the illusion that using applications or appliances in and of themselves augment the value of a brand experience or address a complex business challenge. For example, having a website or microsite has little effect on consumer behavior if it does not enable something (or someone) and lead to an action or at best, a positive result. The same can be said for having a fan page on Facebook, opening a Twitter account or running banner ads on the Internet. Similarly, “ordering up” the latest in mobile applications might demonstrate that a marketing manager is taking an action but unless that application delivers value that the customer can see or experience, an enterprise is best to take the money, put it in the bank and let the interest payments flow to the bottom line.

We are a society that makes an increasing number of decisions based on data. Business goes to market with an array of marketing appliances. We all spend more time on the Internet. What we seem to be missing is the opportunity that technology should enable us to do and that is to have more time to create. What I mean is create new artforms in business – incorporating creative ideas that reflect an advancement of culture, art and intellectual enlightenment, something that seems to more of the past than in our future.

I was influenced early on in my career by Theodore Levitt. He wrote a book entitled  “The Marketing Imagination”. I was also influenced by Wally Olins, a practitioner of corporate identity and author of “The Corporate Personality”. Both books were about ideas, identity and shaping the corporate personna.

If we want to uncover opportunity in our own marketing futures, let’s take a turn toward the creation of ideas and not rely too much on appliances to do the work for us. That’s the difference between between having 15 seconds of fame in web-wide world and creating brands endure long after a marketing technology has reached the end of its lifecycle.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

Social Media is a Croc

There’s an awful lot of chit chat on social media networks about Apple’s latest product – the iPad. This is yet another successful product launch and continued revolution that Apple is leading in bringing new technology appliances to the consumer marketplace. It’s absolutely stunning that Apple doesn’t spend a cent on social media yet has garnered an enormous amount of publicity (admittedly good and bad) from people who just can’t help talking about Apple products on the social web. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why Apple doesn’t spend any money advertising on social networks – all of the publicity through Word-of-Mouth from those who desire, own and love to talk about Apple’s products is FREE anyway.

By the way, anyone who purchased Apple shares a few years ago would have made enough money to fund their iApple desires for the next decade…

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

Advertising in The Cloud: The Known Unknowns

Anti-Ageing Cream Might Work Better Here

The company advertising here markets some form of youth hormone treatment. Google rotates a series of unrelated ads through this post. I doubt that anyone has a clue on the advertiser’s end where the ad ended up. I could be wrong but placing this message alongside some dried out million-year old pin-headed skull overstates the case a bit.  

This could have been your brand and it may be on some websites unbeknown to you. Key question is – do you know where your brand is out in the cloud and who is paying attention to it? This also begs the question regarding accoutability in advertising in the cloud and what you, your company and your agency have put in place to know how your adspend is playing out.  

Oh, for the days of the Tupperware party.  

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM  

Social Media Bubble: Roundup in the Cloud

Social Media Hype Cycle: Cloudy chance of showers

 There’s been a fair bit of discussion in the past couple of weeks about the topic “Social Media Bubble”. Like most bubbles, it rages as a fad, peaks, then crashes. In the Gartner vernacular, social media goes through a hype cycle – early adoption followed by high expectations of value delivery, then a crash into a trough of disillusionment. The idea or technology either dies or survives and moves on to being a real, viable business. Based on recent questioning, social media, as a tool for business, is losing some altitude. Here’s a roundup of some recent opinion from Umair Haque – Harvard Business Review, Rachel Happe – The Community Roundtable, Peter Autidore – The Social Customer and yours truly (previous 2 posts).      

This dialogue started with Haque’s piece in HBR. His main hypothesis is that social media produces a lot of thin relationships. He draws a metafor to ‘low quality’ as in those in the sub-prime mortgage meltdown. This context implies that bankers didn’t take the time to get to know their borrowers. They relied on short cycle time approvals using only quantitative data. Ironic, given that real relationships are about getting to know people, not just seeing them on a data sheet or as a ‘follower/fan’ on a social media network. Haque goes on to outline the keys to real relationships – mainly trust, disintermediation, community and value. It’s not a beauty contest or about shouting out to be heard about the rest of the crowd. It’s about real relationships that have the equity required to build brands and extend a company’s customer franchise.     

Rachel Happe offers a perspective that builds on Haque’s by focusing on the value element of relationships. Rachel digs a bit deeper into the weeds by hightlighting the role that online communities play in the formation of relationships – people come together because of a mutual interest and build from there. There is an important point here in that online communities are something much different from Social Networks such as Facebook and Twitter: “Social media is not going to be sufficient to build that kind of relationship.” Face time – that qualitative dimension, it key to building deep relationships, something that technology alone cannot accomplish and at most, falls short. This was a hard-learned lesson in pionner days of CRM of the early 2000’s.

Peter Auditore takes an opposing stance. He thinks Haque’s view is “myopic” though we’re not sure why. Auditore is also adamant that the sub prime metaphor is “bizarre”. Seems to me that in the old days, before loan approval processes were automated, your local bank manger got to know you and was an integral member of the lcoal community. People met face-to-face. Familiary and trust were built as a result. In the subprime case, bankers and borrowers alike had very thin relationships indeed that resulted in unbridled risk in the marketplace. Auditor also mixes Word-of-Mouth marketing with social media. To quote Andy Sernovitz, the founder of WOMMA, “WOM marketing is not about social media at all. Social media is just one WOM tool.” Andy goes on to say that WOM only works for good companies that make good products. This last point is core to Haque hypothesis and one that I fully support (see “My New Levis Jeans: Outside the Social Bubble”). Competitive advantage is gained by a specific core competency, not just by the use of social media tools – Kodak and Procter & Gamble had strong franchises pre-Internet.  

I think there needs to be a better balance overall between leading with technology and considering the importance of the brand’s overall value proposition. Many brands that are market leaders established solid consumer franchises well before the Internet and may or may not benefit to varying degrees from social media. Many enterprises are experimenting with various social media technologies and tools to channel content, engage consumers and build their brands at the tactical level. They also admit that while there’s a lot of beta testing going they’re not ready to declare mainstream adoption of social media tools. One proof point: most adspend goes to television; consumers are watching more TV than ever whether on a TV screen via computer (see Nielsen for the data). Large enterprises especially are approaching social media with a curiosity and critical eye. 

Let’s remember that Haque makes it clear that his view is a hypothesis and not the final word on social media. There’s plenty of room for constructive dialogue (one way of sharing and buidling mutual trust amongst people). What’s most important is to take a critical eye, be dispassionate about the issues and ask key business questions.    

Until such time as the business merits of social media are proven, we’re all still somewhere in the cloudy part of the Hype Cycle.   

(cross-posted at CloudAve)

-Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM   

HBR – The Social Media Bubble: Opinion

Umair Haque, Director of Havas Media Lab, recently posted a thought piece in the Harvard Business Review .

In general, Haque hypothesizes that Social Media doesn’t really connect people but instead, creates the semblance of relationships. Haque states, Social Media is ” largely home to weak, artificial connections, what I call thin relationships.”  He goes on to say “Today, ‘social’ media is trading in low-quality connections — linkages that are unlikely to yield meaningful, lasting relationships.”  Here are my own observations relating to some of Haque’s supporting points.

Truth: If we take social media at face value, the number of friends in the world has gone up a hundredfold. But have we seen an accompanying rise in trust? I’d argue no.

Agreed. In fact the word ‘friend’ is used very loosely in the social media vernacular. To me, a friend is someone that I know and trust. Most of us have about 5 real friends in our lives whom we trust implicitly. The rest are aquaintances, people that we are tied to loosely via circumstance like work, associations, clubs or…Facebook and Twitter. What we have seen a rise in is conversation amongst relative strangers under the pretense of ‘friending’. Caveat Eggshell.

Disempowerment:  If social tools were creating real economic gains, we’d expect to see a substitution effect. They’d replace — disintermediate — yesterday’s gatekeepers. Yet, increasingly, they are empowering gatekeepers.

It’s been notable that service providers such as PR agencies, advertising agencies and media consultancies have been vying for ownership of social media within the advertiser domain re. client side of business. They advocate the social media imperative, are evangelical in their style of persuasion and purport to offer social media “ROI”. They fall short by ignoring the element of accountability – something ingrained in traditional media. There is however, substitution in the form of reallocating traditional media dollars to digital. In this regard though, the financial equation is incomplete: digital is cheaper but the material business benefits are elusive. Quantified returns, in management accounting terms, are a work in progress.

Value: The ultimate proof’s in the pudding. If the “relationships” created on today’s Internet were valuable, perhaps people (or advertisers) might pay for the opportunity to enjoy them. Yet, few, if any, do — anywhere, ever. .. I can swap bits with pseudo-strangers at any number of sites. “Friends” like that are a commodity — not a valuable, unique good.

This is a tough one. Social Media is increasingly seen as a near free channel or pipe to deliver content, customer service and promotional offers. It’s also cheap in the sense that it has the capacity to diminish the value of fact-based, expert content while simultaneously encouraging the rise of ill-founded, non fact-based crowdsourced opinion. In this context, success is all too often gauged in purely quantitative terms (# of fans or followers) rather than say, degree of loyalty/willingness to recommend. In a similar vein, it is problematic to prove that people are who they say they are in the world of social networks, as many use avatars to represent themselves. If something is a known unknown then how does one ascribe value? 

There also exists an element of social media that is redundant, maybe superfluous, in terms its effect (non-effect?) on consumers. For many brands, the franchise is well entrenched (Tide, McDonald’s, BMW, Wal-Mart and of course, Apple) and the principles of The Discipline of Market Leaders are in place. These same brands already have meaningful relationships and established trust with consumers pre-Internet. Social Media is not about to change this any time soon, though to some, it may appear that way.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

(Cross-posted at Cloud Ave and reprinted by IBM Business Insight Blog)

My New Levi Jeans: Outside “The Social Bubble”

I just bought a new pair of Levi’s. Blue jeans. Levi’s 501 with the red tab. I bought them because my 10 year old pair are done. I also have a black pair. I have always bought Levi jeans since I was in high school. While we all struggled to carve our our own identities, fitting in was important. Funny thing is, we all wore the same but different (?)  ‘uniform’ – Levi jeans, Bass Weejuns and Lacoste tennis shirt.

To be clear, I don’t think about Levi’s as an ‘iconic brand’. There’s little that is iconic about a 100+ years American brand now made in Bangladesh and Mexico. Instead, I want to relate this post to a couple of things that had nothing to do with why I bought by latest pair of Levi jeans. 

Social Media had nothing to do with my purchase. It did not influence, there was no online conversation, no online recommendation, not even a visit to a Levi website, microsite, Facebook page or banner ad. No online activity whatsoever. I didn’t even wonder if the Levi’s brand would be my ‘friend’. Social Media didn’t exist when I bought my first pair of Levi’s; it’s utterly irrelevant to this day. 

I am not part of a Levi community, online, offline, inline or out of line. While I may be one of millions who wear Levi’s jeans, I don’t have discussions about the brand, don’t care whether or not others wear the brand and don’t care what others think, feel or experience about the Levi brand. I wasn’t connected to a ‘friend’ that I ‘trusted’ or had an online ‘relationship’ with.

I didn’t go into a Levi retail outlet or even a jeans store. Just went to a chain department store to the menswear department. 

I have never bought another brand of jeans, never will. If someone gave me a pair from another brand, I would give them away. 

This was purely a value exchange. I paid my money, got new Levi’s. I bought them because I like them more than any other brand of jeans. I just do.

To paraphrase a recent quote from “The Social Bubble” in the Harvard Busness Review, “Levi’s makes awesome stuff”.

I am a Levi’s 501 jeans with-the-red-tab customer for life.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

Marketing Research is Fun!