Showing posts tagged: marketing

Continuing Thoughts On Social Media

My post the other day (“Why Bother With Social Media?”) definitely struck a chord and generated some good conversation, as it was meant to do.

Based on some of those conversations and responses, I did want to add some more thoughts to the original ramblings.

First, I’m not saying never ever ever ever shall any brand spend time or money in building a social media community and fostering some sort of engagement through it.

Where there is some (relatively) clear connection between the core assets/function of a brand and the natural user consumption desires/behavior on a given platform, therein lies some potential opportunity for gain, and a decent argument for an investment creating and building a brand-driven social media presence. 

But what I am saying, is that instances in which this strong natural intersection exists, are the exception, not the rule. Most brands are awkwardly forcing this connection at best, and all things being evaluated equally, it’d make more sense for them to reduce their focus in social down to near zero.

Because my central point in all of this, is that every marketing plan should start from zero, and channels should be chosen unsentimentally, prioritized based on their ability to drive the bottom line. Which more often than not, would put social media pretty far down that prioritized list. If on the list at all.

Some of the specific points that people brought up in response to my post were:

  • What about customer service?
    Yes, sure. Social media has most certainly shaken up how brands and businesses need to address unhappy customers. Though I’m not quite sure anyone’s really cracked that nut yet. The most common tactic I’ve seen throughout the industry to date, seems to be the GFTO (get the fuck offline) approach, where social media managers play whack-a-mole, and try to herd complainers into established offline channels (phone/email/web) as quickly as possible. So, again, the resource case we’re making feels a bit disconnected from the reality of what’s actually being addressed - since most social media “customer service” amounts to a copy/paste apology and link to a form so reps can “take it offline”.

  • What about purchase influence?
    Jess made the point that social presences give the undecided users a sense of the brand. While I have a lot of love for Jess, I don’t necessarily believe that active exploration of a brand’s social channels is a deciding factor (or even an influencing factor) in the majority of user journeys. I’ll buy that people visit Yelp, or read Amazon reviews, or check out Consumer Reports, but I just don’t see Facebook pages as being an important part of that purchase path. Again, this feels like another tenuous hypothesis we inflate in order to justify what we’re doing.

  • What about awareness?
    Can a brand’s social media presence help drive awareness? Some, sure. Any interaction, or even noticing of any brand anything, can theoretically raise awareness of the brand in some small way I suppose. I’d tend to think though, that if you’re already a fan or follower of a brand, your awareness is likely quite high as it is. So maybe that content your posting, at best reinforces awareness. But I’m not sure that your owned social channels are creating any awareness where it didn’t  previously exist. And frankly, your ability as a brand to even do that much, is basically going away as we speak.

Again, these are just my opinions today, and this is an evolving point-of-view that’s based on a lot of recent observations and conversations I’ve been having of late. Nothing I’m saying is a 100% truism or universally unassailable fact for every brand out there.

I do believe however, that brand marketers should be more assertive in asking the question (“is social media really worth it?”), and that they shuld be looking objectively at the channels they spend against, versus diving blindly into checking the boxes thrown in front of them.

And I’m also asking those who sell social media tools and strategies, to dispense with the fantasy, and to re-focus on bringing your clients the plans and recommendations that they actually need – not just the ones that you can best profit from.

I look forward to continuing the discussion, so keep the comments coming.

Why Bother With Social Media?

I’ve been asking the following question of my peers (as well as myself lately), and getting some really interesting answers - if any answers at all.

If you are responsible for allocating marketing budgets for a brand (any brand really), how do you justify spending a dollar on social media over some other channel (print, tv, pr, content, etc.)?

Or, even more directly:

Why bother spending any time or money on social media?

And for clarity, I’m talking about the earned, organic, content-calendar, community manager, lets-build-conversation, engagement stuff here. The things that require man-hours, software, creatives, listening systems and the like. Not buying ads on social platforms (that’s just advertising).

Unsurprisingly, these questions, when asked directly, seem to cause some rambling panicked responses, and momentary crises of identity amongst my social media practitioner friends.

Because deep down, they, like me, realize that the charade is over. That the once grand promise of social media as a beautiful brand engagement tool, has gone generally unfulfilled. 

It’s a tough realization, and I’ve taken no small amount of angry shit from my colleagues in pushing these questions. In part, because there’s this sense that if you’re in the game, you’re in the game.

We’re all in this together. The agencies sell the platforms, the platforms sell the ads, the media company sells the ad software, the other agency sells the measurement (which always says “it’s working!”), and we all get paid. By the time anyone starts asking questions, it’s too late because no one in this industry stays anywhere for more than a year or two and we’ve all moved onto new jobs.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

But that hyperbolic collusion rhetoric aside, there are some real, honest questions about the efficacy of social media and value of investing in the building of “brand communities”.

The biggest problem that we can’t just sweep under the rug, is that broadly speaking, the average person gives zero shits about your brand at all, let alone connecting with it. In social media or otherwise.

We’re trying desperately to force a selfish narrative (that people want to engage with brands), when in fact the exact opposite is true.

People far smarter than I, have put this more eloquently than I ever could, so here are some quotes on the topic that I love.

First, from Seth Godin.

Start by understanding that no one cares about (the brand). People care about themselves. Anyone who tweets about a brand or favorites a brand is doing it because it is a symbol of who they are—it is a token, it is a badge. It’s about them, it’s not about the brand.

Next, from one of my favorite pieces of content, ever.

Our challenge is that people are not paying attention. Our challenge is that people really don’t care. Our task is not nurturing enthusiasm, but overcoming indifference.

So then, why are we spending so much money trying to make social media work, when the audience doesn’t care, and the efforts lag so far behind other mediums in terms of driving business growth?


Seems like your time and money is still better spent on the classics - paid search and email. It may be un-sexy, but it’s hard to argue.

  • But brands that set smart social goals, are making it work!” you say. 

    I’d say that this is a false construct peddled by those who benefit from the idea that social media works and is necessary. Meaning, we’re creating arbitrary social media goals to justify what we’ve already decided we want to do, versus allowing broader business goals to lead us into the proper channels with the proper investment. Which often times, won’t be social. When you’re holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

  • "But we’re getting great engagement on our content!" you argue.

    The question isn’t whether or not people will engage with puppies and babies and click bait on Facebook (they will). The question is, what impact do those engagements really have on your brand and business? Again, we’re feeding into a false-construct of our own making. We decided that engagement = success, and then we figured out how to game the system so that we get engagement. But despite all of that engagement, social falls flat (and hard) when it comes to actually moving the needle where it matters.

  • "But Facebook fans of XYZ brand spend twice as much than non-fans!" you plead.

    This has always been a favorite of mine. Aside from the fact that the “data” here is dubious (“much of the data thus far has been anecdotal”), this argument is also a wonderful case of the confirmation bias approach that the industry takes to justify its existence. Is it also possible for instance, that heavy spenders are more likely to become fans? I know that’s an inconvenient possibility, but it is a possibility, yes? I fully expect select parts of this J.Crew story to be used ad infinitum in social media presentations henceforth.

I could go on, and talk about the myriad other arguments that I hear in support of social media, but my point is a fairly direct and simple one:

If you are an individual who is responsible for deciding where to spend your marketing resources (time and money), you need to ask your agency and your team why you should bother with social media at all. And you are owed good, honest answers to that question.

I met with someone last week, a marketing director for a near 100 year old financial institution that catered to immigrant families and the local community. She was concerned that they were “behind”, because they didn’t have a robust social media presence. As the discussion went on, we all agreed that they’re not losing customers because of their social media absence, and they’re not likely to grow the business based on their social media presence.

But prior to our chat, she’d seen a parade of agencies talking about big digital ecosystems, and the need to “engage” with their customers in social, as if not doing so made her a marketing pariah.

Of course each of these recommendations came without any consideration as to how doing these things would help her business - or even if at the most basic, whether or not these were the right channels for her to focus her limited time and resources on.

They were selling her what they had, not what she needed.

So I’d ask again (as I did in that meeting), why bother?

Quizzes As A Brand Marketing Tool

Seeing the resurgence of quizzes as a publishing/sharing/marketing device, has me nostalgic for the old days. When I, along with a merry band of awesome friends, product people, content writers, and developers built a min-quiz empire.

I always thought (and still do) that the brand marketing potential (from a branded content standpoint) with quizzes is huge. It hits all of the right notes at once, for users, publishers, and brands.

BuzzFeed’s marketing team also has access to the quiz template as a platform that brands could possibly take advantage of — think “Where should you go on a road trip?” sponsored by Hertz. Says BuzzFeed spokesperson Catherine Bartosevich: “You can expect lots of sponsored quizzes in your Facebook and Twitter feeds soon.”

It’ll be interesting to see if this catches on. We were doing these types of integrations back in the MySpace days, using quizzes as brand vehicles for clients like ABC, MTV, and Kohls (shown below), and had some good success.

So if anyone out there needs someone to be their sherpa guide when it comes to creating branded quiz content, give me a shout. I know this space inside and out.

Heart: Four-ish Months In Review

Earlier this summer, I penned a post exclaiming that I was “quitting advertising”, and it caused a brief, and rather silly stir. We got some funny press, I got the pleasure of being misquoted, and the whole thing lasted for about one full rotation of the internet’s attention-cycle (roughly three days). By now, I’m sure that post, and I, have generally been forgotten.

But while that little bit of excitement has run it’s course, what we have set out to do with Heart, has not.

Our first four-ish months were a learning experience in so many ways. We stumbled face-first into some unique and profitable work, only to then fall backwards out of other equally unique, and potentially profitable jobs.

We made new friends and clients, we made some of our own furniture, and along the way, we made as many mistakes as we did interesting things.

Overall, it’s been an invaluable education, and one I wouldn’t trade for anything.

And as we head into the new year, we’ve gained a strength and excitement that will propel us forward. We have clarity of vision and a sense of purpose.

As one our our smart friends and mentors said, we’re “modern, lean, agile, unencumbered, honest, hungry, and idealistic”.

I couldn’t have chosen better words myself, so I just stole his.

Our refined focus in 2014 will be on our ability to create beautifully designed brand experiences - spanning digital, analog, and everything in-between.

We think there is massively rich opportunity to transform businesses by rethinking the way advertising dollars have traditionally been allocated. Viewing the standard marketing line-items as opportunities for long-term investment in the future, versus short-term expenses tied to the present.

We see the power and the possibility in brands that consider and choreograph every possible encounter into a single, beautifully designed narrative - regardless of format or channel.

We see the strength of experiences that come from aesthetic and communication systems, that ensure each moment between brand and person, is connected, thoughtful, and deliberate.

We see the continually disruptive nature of digital, and we have a deep love for the timelessness of the physical.

And we see the promise of a magical future that lies in our ability to literally connect the two.

As Claude Debussy said,

Music is the space between the notes.

Most of all, we’re excited to work with forward-looking, brave, challenger brands and people, that seek to define the future instead of trying to predict it.

Let’s talk.

A Return To (Actual) Social Media Humanity

Pick a brand. Any brand.

Now go to their Facebook page or Twitter feed and what do you see?

Maybe a car that’s rooting for a football team? Perhaps it’s a box of cereal that wants to know how your weekend was? Or it could be a stick of deodorant that’s curious to know what you thought of the Breaking Bad finale.

And it’s all fucking awkward.

Every last post.




Because we as marketers have somehow lost our way. We’ve somehow gotten comfortable with a set of social media “best practices” and “standards” that are as phony as they are foolish.

We’ve somehow bought into this silly idea that brands in social spaces, should act like people. That the key to success in social media is to “humanize” your brand, and it give it “a voice”.

And as a result, that’s what every ding-dong community manager and stuffed-shirt social media “expert” is doing.


They’re just clumsily attempting to animate brands like some fumble-thumbed puppeteers at the worst community theater puppet show you’ve ever seen.

Hence the awkwardness in a cup of coffee becoming sentient and asking you what you think of this weather, on Facebook.

Seriously. I barely want to talk to my human friends about the weather, let alone a faceless corporation.

But social media pros have been selling this bullshit approach for so long, that I think they’ve started to believe it themselves. Or maybe they legitimately don’t know any better. It’s hard to tell.

Either way, it’s time to stop the nonsense.

It’s time to stop writing tone guidelines, and internally coaching your community managers on how to make your ketchup or snow-tires or dog biscuits sound “approachable”, “quirky”, and “fun-loving”.

It’s time to stop hiding behind logos and stock photos, content calendars and platitudes.

It’s time to hire the right social media brand stewards, and then trust, empower, and elevate them to roles of front-facing prominence.

It’s time to stop saying “human” and start being human.

Because if you’re not prepared to put a face (an actual face) and name (an actual name) alongside your brand in social media, perhaps you shouldn’t be there at all.

Credit Card Idea

I love credit card marketing.

The little tugs at human psychology, and the behavioral economic tricks that these companies use, are fascinating. The “History of the Credit Card" is one of my favorite pieces of media.

One of credit card marketing moves that I love most, is card personalization with photos

The idea here is simple really. If you have three credit cards in your wallet, one American Airlines Mastercard, one Chase Rewards Visa, and another Capital One Visa with a photo of your kids on it, guess which one will be used most? That little bit of personalization, means top-of-wallet.

And top of wallet is what credit card companies are after most.

Now this would never happen, but my semi-evil idea for enhancement of this card personalization, would be to slowly fade out your kids photo (Back to the Future style), if you didn’t use your card enough. Keep using the card, and the photo stays sharp. Switch over to a different card, or slow your spending…and your photo fades away.

Five or six years ago, a standalone YouTube video or Facebook app could have been relatively successful. Today, marketers must plan social media activations in conjunction with above and below-the-line campaign media spending. Most brands have invested in creating platform presences (e.g. Twitter handles and Facebook pages) and can now leverage those ecosystems efficiently. Marketers that don’t integrate channels or leverage platform expertise will end up paying a lot more for results than the competition.

Peter Kim, chief strategy officer, Dachis Group.

Premium pricing is rationalized in part by ensuring consumers’ awareness that real people are touching (or “curating”) the things they buy. Next to those beautiful $10 containers of fruit in the produce department, Whole Foods posts signs announcing that these goods are not only natural or organic, but were cut up by hand by real people named Miranda, Steve, or Bethina. To drive this personal touch home, Whole Foods features store employees’ names and sketches throughout the store on well-placed chalkboards.

How Whole Foods Became The Luxury Brand Of Millennials

Nike Digital Sport

Traditional ad spend down, in favor of more digital innovation and tracking/use of consumer data. Love everything about this.

But Digital Sport is not just about creating must-have sports gadgets. Getting so close to its consumers’ data holds exceptional promise for one of the world’s greatest marketers: It means it can follow them, build an online community for them, and forge a tighter relationship with them than ever before. It’s part of a bigger, broader effort to shift the bulk of Nike’s marketing efforts into the digital realm — and it marks the biggest change in Beaverton since the creation of just do it, or even since a graphic design student at Portland State University put pen to paper and created the Swoosh.

Nike’s new marketing mojo.

The Brilliant Marketing Of Diamonds

I was just talking about this with Brad last night. Now there is a great piece in The Atlantic, about DeBeers, and the history of the diamond’s place in love. Spoiler alert…it’s all in the marketing.

My favorite passage from the article:

De Beers needed a slogan for diamonds that expressed both the theme of romance and legitimacy. An N. W. Ayer copywriter came up with the caption “A Diamond Is Forever,” which was scrawled on the bottom of a picture of two young lovers on a honeymoon. Even though diamonds can in fact be shattered, chipped, discolored, or incinerated to ash, the concept of eternity perfectly captured the magical qualities that the advertising agency wanted to attribute to diamonds. Within a year, “A Diamond Is Forever” became the official motto of De Beers.

In 1951, N. W. Ayer found some resistance to its million-dollar publicity blitz. It noted in its annual strategy review:

The millions of brides and brides-to-be are subjected to at least two important pressures that work against the diamond engagement ring. Among the more prosperous, there is the sophisticated urge to be different as a means of being smart…. the lower-income groups would like to show more for the money than they can find in the diamond they can afford…
To remedy these problems, the advertising agency argued, “It is essential that these pressures be met by the constant publicity to show that only the diamond is everywhere accepted and recognized as the symbol of betrothal.”

Full article here.

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