Showing posts tagged: marketing

No, I Don’t Have “Category Experience”. And That’s A Good Thing.

This is a slightly edited version of something I wrote for Heart, almost a year ago. Been thinking about it a lot this week though, and wanted to re-post it.


In our first several months of existence, we’ve had a wide variety of conversations, with a wide variety of people, from a wide variety of industries.

And one thing I’ve noticed throughout, is a generally strong desire for founders, marketing directors, CMOs, etc, to hire people and agencies that have specific experience within a specific category.

Quick serve restaurant wants quick serve restaurant experience. (sweeping shots of steaming food!)

Automotive brand wants automotive experience. (dramatic footage of car driving on a windy mountain road!)

Luxury brand wants luxury experience. (implausible moment with impossibly good looking people - and a horse or other exotic animal!)

So on and so on.

But if you only look for category relevant experience as a filter, you will only get more of the category convention. You will get what an agency did for someone else (maybe even for a competitor), tinker-tailored and adjusted slightly for you.

You will get more of the same.

You will be another indistinguishable choice in a crowded space. 

Because if you only work from what exists, how will you find what is yet to be imagined?

Apple didn’t hire the former head of Target or Best Buy to run their retail business. They hired Angela Ahrendts, the CEO of Burberry, an extra-category executive with a knack for transformation. Because as usual, Apple is looking to re-define a category, not operate within an existing paradigm.

Brave brands don’t give a shit about convention. They don’t care if you’ve done it before - they care if you can see what’s never been done before, and do it.

It’s about changing the game, not playing it.

Craft Beer Marketing

Several weeks back, the folks at BevNET and Brewbound invited me to speak at their craft beer business conference in Boston, the Brewbound Session.

Specifically, they asked me to do a talk entitled “Evaluating, Shifting Marketing Priorities As You Grow”, which was meant to be my broad take on where craft brewers should spend their marketing time and money as they grow.

The first draft of this presentation, was actually 60 slides, and clocked in at almost an hour when I did a run through. But since I only had 20 minutes on stage, I had to dramatically cut this down to fit the format.

Which given how much I like to talk, was quite a challenge.

Below is the final presentation I gave at the event, cut down to 34 slides, along with my original speaker notes (which are written conversationally - as I presented).

The audience was a couple hundred brewers and beer industry folks, and despite the fact that I talked very quickly while on stage, and tried to cram as much content into the allotted time as possible, I think this was pretty well received.

Enjoy…


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Good afternoon everyone. Thanks for coming today, and thanks to BevNet and Brewbound for inviting me. My name is Andrew Teman, and I’m the founder of a creative agency here in Boston, called Heart.

I’m here today, to talk about how you (as craft brewers), can think about and prioritize your marketing efforts, as a means to breaking through in this increasingly competitive space.


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Because just as a bit of a level set - and this is something I know you’re all acutely aware of - this is what the average consumer is facing today when buying beer.

The sheer amount of choice is simply overwhelming. 


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I actually snapped this picture a week or so ago, at a liquor store not far from here.

These are bottles in the craft beer section, literally covered in dust, because they’ve sat untouched for so long. 

And these aren’t way down on the back bottom-shelf. These are left side, eye level - a prime spot.

So, it goes without saying that to even stand a chance, to even have a hope of being pulled off of the shelf, you need to stand out. You need to break through this clutter and noise.

And when I ask people in the beer industry how they are approaching marketing (especially those just starting out), what I hear most often, is this:


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And I get it. I understand completely why this is the starting point for everyone.


There is a perception that it is free.
That it’s easy.
That you can do it effectively without any outside help.

There is a perception that beer is inherently social, and thusly, everyone will just naturally talk about you and your product organically.

And while some of this may be partially true, relying on just doing social media alone, will not get you very far - I promise.


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Social media is a tactic (one of many) that’s part of a larger communication framework through which you tell your story.

It sits alongside things like PR, events, your packaging, the product…all of the ways you can communicate your brand to drinkers.

So what I want to do today, is get a bit broader. A bit higher level, and give you a framework that hopefully will allow you to better organize and prioritize how you market your brands and your products.


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And to keep things really simple, I’ve broken the world down into four pieces. Four pieces that I think can work for everyone, regardless of whether you’re MillerCoors, or two guys in a garage. All things you can be thinking about, and doing today, regardless of your size or your stage.

And we’re going to talk a bit more about what each of those things means in practice.


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Let’s start with making a great product.


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This is my friend Todd - some of you may know Todd, he’s been around the industry for a while. Todd worked at Sam Adams with me and ran the customer relations end of the business.

But his true passion is (and always has been sake). His commitment to the product, to the liquid, is second to none. He pours all of his heart and energy into making the absolute best sake he can.

And this is where it all starts - with that passion and that determination and that commitment to making an amazing product.

And this part, this is something I can’t help you with. Because all of the marketing in the world, can’t save a bad product.

And I trust, just based on your presence here today, that you are all people that have this step knocked.

So let’s build off of that and get into what happens next.


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Which is having a great story.


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And when I think about story, I think about it in terms of how each of you, in this room, would answer this question.

If I grabbed any one of you, and said “What is Backlash Beer?” or “What is Portico Brewing?”

Would you have an answer that’s clear, differentiated, own-able, uniquely yours, and above all…interesting?



Some of you would, I’m sure. But lots of you would probably respond with a long pause. Or some rambling monologue that’s hard to follow and ultimately trails off into nowhere.

Or you’d talk to me about being small, and independent - or having quality ingredients. Which I hate to tell you, isn’t story - it’s cost of entry to the category.

And it certainly isn’t unique or interesting.


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And the reason story is so important, is that it’s your story. YOUR story, that becomes the basis of that emotional connection you need to build with your drinker in order to break through the clutter we talked about.

Capturing people’s hearts is the first step to capturing their wallets. And capturing hearts, has everything to do with having a great story.

That one simple truth, that uniquely-yours thing that guides everything you do, make, or say.

And while we could do a full day conference on story and brand positioning, I wanted to give a couple of real quick examples of what story looks can begin to look like in its simplest form.


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First, Toms - one of my favorite brands, is built on a simple principle. A simple story that guides everything that they do. Whether they get into footwear, or eyewear, or even coffee. Their story is about social entrepreneurship.


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And industry example, a beer example - Clown Shoes. 

While this is personally not the direction I’d go in if I started a brewery, I do have an enormous amount of respect for what they are creating with this brand.

It is what it is, and it’s unapologetic about what it is, and it’s origins.

And from my perspective, this story is pulled through beautifully in the products that they make - certainly in how they are named. It’s a great, simple story.

And frankly, so much of its strength comes from it’s polarizing effect. The fact that it’s unabashedly not for everyone, is a big part of what makes it resonant. It forces a decision to be with them or not. And there’s great power in that.


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But regardless of the angle, regardless of what your story is, it needs to be rooted in an authenticity, an honesty, a heart that bleeds through and is undeniable. 

It’s cliche, but it’s true.

So begin with what you believe. Why are you doing what you’re doing? What is that one simple thing that can guide everything underneath it?

Because once that story is defined and strong, the rest becomes so much easier. The advertising, social media, packaging…it all has something to be guided by.


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But of course a great story poorly told, isn’t going to be of much impact. 

Because it isn’t in the idea, it’s in the execution. It’s in how this story comes to life and begins to work hard for you. 

So to that end, I want to go through some of the ways you can bring this story to life, in service of growth.


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First, and maybe most importantly, is to tell great stories through your products themselves.

I know we are in a world where we’re all chasing the latest, hottest, most interesting, underground and extreme thing. 

But there is enormous strength in having your brand and product stories map to one another.

I’ve always loved Dogfish, and while their portfolio is pretty eclectic, they (to me) are great at telling a brand story through their products. Product becomes a proof point for the stories they tell.


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Next, package design - something I see far too many brands skimping on. 

My advice is to invest in great design early on. The liquid inside is moot if no one pulls it off the shelf first.

And this matters more than you may think. Package design is key to what Proctor and Gamble called “First Moment of Truth” - which they described as the moment  “when consumers stand in front of a store shelf … and decide whether to buy a P&G brand, or a competing product.”

Eyes lead people - colors, patterns, objects of beauty.

And trust me, designers are DYING to do beer branding work. I’m not saying exploit them, but know that they WANT to do this work. Engage them, and design something beautiful from day one.


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Beyond just jumping out, design matters, because beautiful and interesting products become badges. They become social objects and vehicles through which people self-express.

This is Method, another brand I love.

Eric, one of the founders talks about how he knew people wanted cleaning products that they didn’t have to hide under their sinks. Genius. Totally upended the category style, and turned household cleaners into objects of desire.

What they’ve done with cleaning products (creating something beautiful) is going to quickly become a cost of entry - a necessity to compete, in the beer industry.


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And I know so many of you may only have one or two styles in retail now, maybe a few more. But as you approach design, think in foundational systems. Think about creating a design system, that is consistent enough to create that retail billboarding effect, but also elastic enough to accommodate growth.

Because people pattern match.

This is Pastene. People may not know the brand name Pastene, but they damn sure know the Italian brand with the yellow label. 

And this design makes it easy for Pastene to introduce new products and cross-sell existing ones. Because they’ve created a system of visual communications that works hard for them and makes it easy on shoppers.

And “system” by the way doesn’t mean bland and templated. 

I look at Pretty Things for instance, and every label for each different style is so unique and so intricate. But there is an unmistakeable style that they have. So those individual parts, as unique as they are, sum to something greater when on a shelf together.


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Social media and content - which to be clear, I don’t think is totally useless, I just don’t believe that it’s the ONLY thing.

What I absolutely do believe, is that we, as beer folk, create great content simply as a byproduct of what we do every day. And that these visuals, these simple, light content pieces are a great way to tell your story.

These are some examples of “content” that I “created” when I was with Sam Adams, and almost with no captions, they tell wonderful stories 

Remember, that what you are doing is interesting. Most people sit in offices, and wear ties, and create TPS reports. You guys are making beer, and that’s cool in itself. Don’t complicate it, just own it and give people a window into your world. Share the awesomeness that is working in the beer industry, with those who don’t.


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Lastly, another place I’d focus on and spend in if I were a brewer (in addition to design) is PR.

Aside from huge reach, these magazines like GQ, Women’s Health, etc…provide third party validation, which has great value. With these placements, you are able to borrow equity from other established vehicles as a means to build your own.

Same goes for awards and festivals. Enter and win. 

My sister in law covets the Boston Magazine Best of Boston award for her day spa every year. And not just because winning is awesome. But that ability to badge, and get the press that comes along with winning. It’s such phenomenal validation - that borrowed equity is so strong.


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But whatever the medium, and whatever the story, as Dan Weiden (one of the most famous advertising minds of our generation) says, “Just move me dude”.


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Lastly, I want to talk about media. 

Advertising. 

Marketing with a capital “M” - giving all of this story a boost, and making sure people actually get a chance to see it and hear it and experience it.


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Back to social media for a minute, and this idea of just “doing social media”.

Again, what I understand the logic path to be, is…

Social media is free
Social is about engagement
Engagement is good
Beer is social
We will get engagement, because beer.


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Not sure if we have any South Park fans here, but most social media approaches I see, are a bit like the underpants gnomes from South Park.

Collect Underpants…..Profit.


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But the harsh reality is, that Facebook and social media are now unambiguously paid platforms. Even Facebook themselves has said so.

Beer, no matter how inherently social, is not immune to this reality I’m afraid.


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And the data proves this.

If you do not pay for ads on Facebook, you simply are not seen. You do not exist.

The latest data (this is from Ogilvy Social), says that only about 6% of a page’s fans are reached with its content.

So do the math. Without paying…

For every 1,000 fans you have, you’re going to be lucky if your posts even appear in the newsfeeds of 60 people. 

And appearing is different still from being seen, or from having any impact. 


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The good news is, the targeting abilities on these platforms, are amazing. 

For instance, here is a quick cut I ran. 

Let’s say for instance, you make a stout and distribute in New England. This targeting segment would allow you to get content in front of people in New England, that have indicated they like Stout, and who have an upcoming birthday.

3,000 people now (that aren’t necessarily fans of yours) that you can reach with a specific message - like “celebrate your birthday with an XYZ stout” or something like that.


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Getting WAY outside of social media, and going in a totally different direction….

One of the first things we did at Heart, was a billboard. I’ve been a digital guy for 15 years, the last thing I thought we’d do would be a billboard.

But we did, and they ran on Route 93 and the Mass Turnpike here, for 3 months. Total media cost was around $XX,XXX. The artwork and production end is not terribly expensive either. Maybe half that.

And from a pure reach + resonance standpoint, this actually outperformed everyone’s expectations. We STILL get mentions of this billboard, months after it’s come down.


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Radio and TV, also tend to be overlooked, but are not nearly as crazy or expensive as you may think.

Sam Adams and Jim Koch did so many things well (they still do), but one of their smartest moves, was buying TV. It was a huge part of what allowed them to blow past the competition and become a category leader.

And recently we’ve seen folks like New Belgium and Kona start experimenting with TV also.


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So to recap…

Make a great product - that’s all you

Have a great story - know your reason for being, why you exist, who you are and who you aren’t

Tell it well - take that story and be considerate of every touchpoint you have with a drinker, from product stories to content stories. And make sure they all build towards something greater.

Give it a boost - Don’t be afraid of paid media. You’re in an extremely crowded space, and for short money, you can start to force your way above the fray.


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Lastly, I want to leave you with one more framework to help put all of this into a time and priority context.

And in the name of broad applicability, this is obviously grossly simplified.

But as I’ve mentioned, I’d start thinking about building relationships with three important partners sooner rather than later…

A creative partner

A PR partner

An advertising partner (media + creative)

And look at deploying those partners, roughly along this timeline.


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Thanks a lot everyone, hope this was helpful.


Falling Back In Love With Owned Channels

I’ve been pretty unabashed lately with my criticisms of Facebook (and social media in general), contending that organic brand-engagement is a silly marketing fantasy, and that these platforms (at best) are merely paid media channels like any other.

Turns out, I’m not really wrong. Even Facebook themselves just out and said so rather bluntly.

Like many mediums, if businesses want to make sure that people see their content, the best strategy is, and always has been, paid advertising.

Yet for some reason, everyone feigned surprise and tried to muster some pathetic outrage when this came out.

But once again, we’re ignoring the gargantuan elephant in the room - that you (as a brand) have always participated in, and continue to participate in Facebook’s world, on their terms.

You’ve been renting their space.

Instead of building a house, you decided to rent an apartment.

This means they make the rules.

You own nothing.

Jason Loehr of Jack Daniel’s puts it perfectly in this Digiday clip. He calls Facebook and the like, “leased channels”.

He goes on to say that all of their owned channels, are now most important, and I couldn’t agree more.

Microsites and the like used to seem foolish, but now how do they look, compared to practice of pouring millions into building something you don’t own and can’t control?

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?

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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.

Forced.

Cringe-worthy.

Embarrassing.

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.

Literally.

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.

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