Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Case study: American Express Members Project

What kind of marketing works when there is no substantive customer service issue as the mainstay content king, like Home Depot's big bet? That's the question when it comes to participation marketing, isn't it, Todd Defren?

I should state that I think Todd is brilliant in his conclusions that things need to be both sexy and long-term (sounds a lot like what most marriages need) but I'm not so sure participation marketing is as clear to strategize when it comes to a business that has less apparent customer service content to broadcast and share.

Does that mean we must cultivate a customer service "awareness" campaign to tell consumer we care? Or does that mean we find other ways of showing we care? And then ask consumers if they, too, care.

I think it's a combination of all of the above, plus each case must be examined on it's own merits when it comes to fully integrating social media as part of a larger campaign.

Here is an example of an organization fully integrating their corporate endeavors with their social media strategy; also a good use of a celebrity endorsement.

To the consumer, it starts as a FB ad with some compelling copy --- "Don't Be A Sue." and attached to a trending topic: Glee. Or in some cases, it starts as a TV viewer of Glee searches online for Glee assets and gets pointed to the Members Project Facebook site (that also offers a Glee tab). Any way the consumer reaches the destination is the same; the multichannel seeding is robust and therefore, succesful.

In the case of the FB ad, the video pops up in a frame right there on Facebook and delivers some quiky, funny humor with a call to philanthropic action; driving to a fully built-out Facebook site.

The site offers 27 other compelling video's, areas of engagement for users, a tab for fans of Glee and more; all with the goal of promoting their contest to donate $1m to charity; and thus promoting their brand quite nicely.

The site has 341,627 fans. American Express has 80,566 fans and Glee has over 8,000,000 fans, so clearly there is plenty of room for growth. (In my own circle of FB friends, 14 are fans of Glee. Wow. Must mean I have a lot of twisted, sarcastic, trendy friends. Yay!) But more than that, people are showing signs of correlating content to content...they enjoy Glee, they enjoy (or dispise) Sue, Sue promotes AE Members Project...they become engaged with AE Members Project...they think positively about AE.)

Of course, there is data I don't have: how much money was spent in budget for marketing this campaign compared to overall marketing of AE, GLee, and the Members Project - and how this activity impacts the financials of AE or even the public perception of the brand. But the idea here is that there is an equation worth investigating when it comes to baking a successful social media strategy for a large corporation; use your existing partnerships...pithy up your areas of opportunity to build the strongest campaigns and add into those campaigns these ingredients:

1. compelling content (unique, emotional, funny, slightly offensive, very funny, with kids, causes, puppies or superstar & celebrities)

2. a reason (contest, sweepstakes, prize, voting, etc.) to engage, share, comment, forward, reply

3. a concentrated brand...a robust experience...a strong following (users can tell when campaigns are low budget, slapped together last minute or not a real area of interest for the enterprise...if the company doesn't care, why should the consumer?)

It's interesting to note that for the last two years, American Express has been listed as 22, 24 for the years 2009, 2010 respectively, on Interbrand's Best Global Brands. Read an interview with Alison Bain, their head of International Advertising. Good stuff.
Anyone have insight into how much American Express commits to Members Project each year? Or how much they pay for their partnership with Glee? That would be good stuff to know, too.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

When I Say People, I Really Mean Strangers

We all want people to like us.

Insert "You like me!" You really, really like me! World-famous uber-tanned, super skinny Sally Field acceptance speech. Ugh. On second thought, I won't insert the link. I like ya too much.

Of course, when I say people, I'm referring to total strangers.

That's why we want to collect friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter and connections on Linkedin. That's why we stack business cards on our desks and drop names like they are going out of style every chance we get. That's why we carry expensive clutches and wear name-brand shoes. That also explains why we write our names on our arms and legs and t-shirts when we run marathons and volunteer for good causes.

We want to broadcast our good deeds and really tell people how awesome we are.

It's called personal branding. And EVERYONE DOES IT.

If they don't, I really wouldn't know. Either would you.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Are you a Necessity? It's all Relevant.

In the world of marketing - and life - the struggle is always the same.

To stay relevant.

Back in the day the equation to accomplish this was likely same as it is today, but the factors are constantly shifting. For example, when folks, farmers and cowboys clamoured around a soapbox to hear about some magical hair tonic or whooping cough elixir, few people had expendible cash and even fewer people had hair maintenance as a top priority in their life. (Cowboys carried six-shooters back then for a reason.)

Now, when people gather 'round a television or pop open a laptop, they are very much in the same state of engagement as back in the Wild, Wild West. Plus, they know better. They has access to instant experts to tell (or sway) them away or toward whatever new tonic or elixir you are trying to pitch.

For me, personally, this entire equation is thrown out the window as soon as one thing happens.
Here is how it goes:

Me: My baby is acting like she is sick.
Doctor: We can try a little of this, a little of that, maybe this and maybe that.
Me: Oh. Really? Is that good? Is that safe? I read on the internet....
Doctor: Of course. I'm the doctor. I'm the expert.
Me: Okay. (Opening wallet) Take whatever you need to make baby feel better.

I realize that, as consumers we are growing stronger and smarter with our purchasing power and web-education of illness and disease, but sometimes I am amazed at the simplicity of it all. And when I find myself in that place of wonder, doubt, helplessness and desperation, I am more than happy to let all the wisdom WebMD has to offer, all the knowledge at my fingertips and in front of my televised face fall to the wayside.

Which is, of course, a marketing tactic of days past. Elevating the relevance to the point of necessity.

It's brilliant, really, how much the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Then again, I'm almost certain that my medical health depends on mamma getting a new pair of shoes today.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Chicago Marathon

We finished the Chicago marathon. Here is proof.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Everyone Wants to Matter

Everyone wants to matter. Some people want the whole world while others sleep soundly knowing that a single soul out there rests with the same amount of interest and care as they, for they.

So that's really my biggest problem with continuous partial attention. What? You don't know what that is? Yes. You. Do.

It's the fact that email dictates our work flow instead of supports it. It's the reason for articles on blackberry etiquette. It's the guy at a coffee shop ignoring his beautiful date. It's the mom on the soccer field feverishly checking her Facebook. It's me shopping online while at the same time writing a blog post while walking the dogs and putting on shoes while texting my sister. And it's not multitasking, folks. Nope. It. Is. Not.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Giuseppe Must Have Been Omnipotent

Buy a friend. Get a fan. Go on a date. Whatever.

It's all the same to me, kid.

The crucial elements are all the same in order for a transaction to be completed; currency, dialogue, mutually benefitting arrangements aaaaaannnnd SCENE. Deal over and out. What am I talking about? Social shopping, of course. Duh.

Here is an example;
Dude #1: I was out last night.
Dude #2: No you weren't.
Dude #1: I was. I went to that new place.
Dude #2: No you didn't. I didn't see you check in.
Dude #1: That's because I was on a date. (Holding up his iPad and shaking it ever so slightly.) With a REAL girl. 

In a strange and crushingly absurd correlation, has anyone ever purchased a friend? Have you ever wanted to make a friend into a pet? I shit you not, you can do it. Go ahead, check out http://www.facebook.com/#!/friendsforsale and learn what it is exactly that has garnered more than 1 million fans across the Facebook frontier. While you are doing it, though, try not to judge those who do, because you never know where you will find yourself in this adventure we call life.

I guess what I am talking about today is human truths. In particular, I am talking about human truths when it comes to the field of emerging technology and social media. But when I state it that way, even I feel my eyes rolling back and my lids lowering in pure exhaustion.

The fact is, that the very idea of social shopping works so well because we are talking about reaching a person when they are asking to be reached. It's the pizza delivery promise in a relationship-based reality. When someone is seeking companionship, entertainment, courtship, adventure, conversation, interaction; social media has the power to deliver those experiences, piping hot in less than 30 minutes, right to your front stoop. Many tools in the social media repertoire allow people to reach other people whose specific needs are often similar; or in the very least, offer an array of custom order options. You want pepperoni, mushroom but no onion at all? Done. Only onion and no pineapple, please? Okay. And still, when that pizza dude delivers, there is still an aura of surprise and engagement and lust that likely makes us want to return the next time we seek such (human) interaction.

The danger here is two-fold. One, we can get addicted to feeding the need. And two, we can lose touch with actually being touched.

People that talk only in 140 character sentences. People that look at any new experience through a webcam and a webcam only. People that attend keynote speakers and never once make eye contact with anything other than their palmed mobile device. People that read and write but have never done. All CEO's and no factory workers. All business owners and no customers. That's the danger in living in any one dimension exclusively. We lose touch because we think we are so well connected.


And there are dangers to a social life, as well. Imagine walking into a bar, and tap, tap, tapping on the crystal face of your watch while yelling into the crowded room, "Who wants to come home with me tonite?"

Chances are, someone is going to take you up on your offer. And why not? You are soooooo popular.