Archive for the ‘WOM’ Category

4 in 100 at an Int’l. Ad. Assoc. debate had heard of Walmart and Edelman controversy

October 31, 2006

Last night I went to a debate sponsored by the International Advertising Association on the motion “In the online age consumers are the new brand managers”. During the right to reply I did a quick straw poll of the 100 or so people attending and asked how many of them had heard of the Walmart/Edelman fiasco.

There was definitely not a massive show of hands. Only four of the hundred plus advertising execs, media representatives and brand managers had heard of this MONUMENTAL CRISIS that had nigh on annihilated Edelman’s reputation. Or so the blogosphere would have you believe.

Is it important that of this assembly inhabitants of the advertising ecosystem so few had heard of this flog saga? No, but what it does show is that social media is still in its infancy in the UK.

The idea of consumer endorsement via blogs was novel to some. One gentlemen stood up and suggested if this internet (which he might well have thought was a series of tubes) was effective why not hire 100 students to write positive blogs for your company. I could feel the spirit Steve Rubel, Neville Hobson, Ben O’Connel and Jackie Huba rise in me, that is definitely not in line with WOMMA guidelines.

In the end, I had to vote against the motion despite feeling a deep affinity for what Simon Waldman, Digital Publisher at the Guardian, and Gary Lockton, founder of Strategically, who proposed the motion were saying. They showed the new power of word of mouth with the examples of Kryptonite locks and Mentos fountains, the problem was that they didn’t define brand managers tightly enough.

Patrick Barwise of London Business School, however, used Peter Drucker‘s definition of marketing – the art of seeing an organisation through the eyes of the customer -, locked down branding as delivery of a promise and said brand managers executed that promise. With that done he deftly showed that whatever the changes in media, there will still be those that manage brands. Tough to argue against that.

However, had brand managers been pinned down as those who, through the purchase of above and below the line media, attempt to deliver a controlled brand message, it would have been a different story. The days of controlling all channels of delivery, and the possibility of ignoring consumer reaction, are gone.

Dreams of control should be a thing of the past. However, there is a wealth of opportunity for those who will be able to let go and engage in the conversations which are happening online. I’m really glad to be taking part in these conversations and to hear them happening in the UK.

It really was a great night and I haven’t stood up for some public speaking for a while. Man it’s fun.


An Economist PR Experiment

October 4, 2006

So the idea that I was the person to speak to about blogs spread. Until one day Charley Smith, PR and brand guru, walked through the door and asked me – can you believe it? – to help her get in touch with bloggers.

My breath got short, with knuckles white I struggled to contain myself. “Yes of course I can help” came the unsurprising answer.

Tom Standidge had written a very funny article on the real dangers of air travel – definitely not something to read before an Aeroflot flight to Ulan Bator. Charley wanted to get in touch with bloggers about it.

After a bit of a think three strategies came up :

a) Contact A-list bloggers with the piece, to get as much viral as quickly as possible.

b) Find out who had written recently about air travel, then give them a very funny piece on it.

c) Approach Economist reading bloggers and reward them with a pre-press scoop.

In the end we decided the third option (option c, for those weak in the alphabet) would be best. For a start getting linklove of top bloggers is a chore. They get so many approaches a day that it would be tough to get anywhere.

The second choice (b) was better as it involved finding people with a concern, then providing them with some great content. However, it was close to the liquid explosive on planes incident and could look a little opportunistic (a little too “good day to bury bad news“).

And any way option c (no. 3) looked far more exciting. Rather than going to the top, or going to those on message, why not go to our fans? Use the passion that our readers have for The Economist to generate word of mouth.

Charlotte sent the article to Michael Seaton’s blog Client Side, saying Michael could “scoop us on it, you can criticise it, do what you want with it, or even just ignore it”. Best to hear what happened from the man himself :

“My delayed reaction was a serious “wow”. Being a long time reader of The Economist I am really intrigued and impressed at the notion of using the blogosphere as a test-bed. Especially in the way they have reached out.

Sure, it feeds my ego to know that one of my favourite magazines has asked me to participate in this little social media and PR experiment. I must say that I really respect that they seem to have a grasped how to engage folks like myself in a conversation where the outcome for them could go one of several ways…

The bottom line is that this tactic worked with me. So, am I a sucker? Am I part of an elite group? Not sure yet. Let’s see how this plays out”. (Link)

Not only did this story reach one blogger but it caused a (mini) splash from Toronto via Talinn (do not adjust you browser, that is in Estonian) to Calcutta.

Lee, a PR blogger in Toronto commented on the story thus :

“i think what the economist has done is fantastic; inviting you to scoop them, not being anally retentive about their content – it seems as if they’ve really learnt from, as opposed to reported on, the social media survey.

i’m just mad that my favourite periodical didn’t get in touch with me!” (Link)


Mad LeeĀ 

Whilst Louis liked the fact that The Economist “ought to run with the idea of engaging with (in contrast to the Independent’s asinine attacks on) the blogosphere.” (Link)

This side project shows that I have some understanding of how the blogosphere works. That I can get positive results through it, and can be innovative. What’s more, this combination of word of mouth marketing with digital PR show that I have quite wide interests and skills. And startups frequently have to rely on generalists, more than specialists.