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Posts Tagged ‘Zocalo Group’

Picture 5SocialVibe President and prolific new platform pundit Joe Marchese’s most recent blog entry on MediaPost presents a simple, 21st century update on Marshall McLuhan’s original marketing mindblower “The medium is the message.”  In a few paragraphs, he presents the case for “People are the medium” and his thinking is genuinely compelling. Most notably, he cites how people will spend over three hundred and thirty million hours this year on Facebook alone, creating and sharing incredibly vast quantities of consumer generated content.  To McLuhan’s point, this personal stewardship of content and commentary, the highly human context of all these ideas, inevitably influences how these messages are received.

Marchese believes marketers must reconcile themselves to this new truth and respect the revolutionary notion that people are the medium before they can truly work effectively in social media.  Given that our industry currently lacks the infrastructure resources to do that on a large scale, social media could remain broken as a marketing platform for a long time.  At least as far as Facebook is concerned.

One marketing medium that does recognize people as the medium is the rapidly-expanding specialty of word of mouth.  Today, almost all marketing professionals recognize the increased role recommendation plays in purchase decisions and so word of mouth has exploded as an offering, with agencies, PR firms and specialists all jumping in to set up shop and claim expertise.  Our friend Paul Rand at Zocalo Group got into this space early with the balance of assessment and direct engagement required to change mere observation into actionable influence.  Without participating in the discussions out there, word of mouth remains a game of chance, and no one can afford that these days.

Historically, corporations have proven awkward at connecting with people on a personal level.  As we charge headlong into an increasingly hyper-connected future, we will have to address that.  

If we don’t, we will lose one very valuable medium.  And billions of potential consumers.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79
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picture-11One really nice perk of a career in advertising is free music; record labels send out CD’s promoting tracks and artists hoping we will use them in commercials, thus launching their artists to a music-buying public.  Every week, anywhere from four to ten CD’s arrive at my desk.  Which is kinda great. This photograph showcases maybe four months worth of free music that I’ve collected in the trunk of my car with the intention to eventually give all of them a listen and find some cool new music.   Because I know that somewhere in those thousands of tracks, I will find my next ten favorite songs ever.

However, finding those specific ten songs demands a lot of time.  Sifting through these thousands of tracks will require more than a few hours–it will demand weeks.  Once you fall behind on this, the task seems to grow exponentially.  It’s kind of like subscribing to The New Yorker–you inevitably fall behind but you know the writing’s so good that can’t just toss them in the recycling bin.  Which is the issue: with all of this raw product, the real value resides in the curation, not simply the ownership, of these assets.

This mirrors a fundamental challenge of the internet: while most of us share a tendency for collecting, few possess a natural propensity for archiving.  The abundance of information and content means there’s always another post to read, another link to follow, another tweet to retweet.

Regarding the CD’s, my best solution–aside from arranging frequent long car trips–would be to enlist a trusted friend who knows music to tell me what tracks she thinks are great.  Which is nothing other than recommendation marketing; the stock in trade of word-of-mouth advertising companies.  The smart folks at Zocalo Group cite studies that show 92% of Americans rate WOM of friends, family, and others as the best source of ideas and information (up from 67% in 1997) and the #1 driver of technology or services purchase decisions.

In a crowded world thick with potential experiences and opportunities, making informed choices efficiently isn’t simply appealing, it’s essential.  Because even when you get something for free, the time required to experience it commands a premium.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Who doesn’t love a good story?  Something that makes you laugh, that surprises you or fascinates you.  In very real ways, good stories change the way you perceive the world around you.  They always have.   Our ancestors shared their stories, huddled in small groups around their long-lost antediluvian firepits.  And so it continues today, as we gather virtually around the flickering light of cathode ray, CRT or LCD screens, still swapping tales and thoughts and anecdotes.  Stories distinguish the human race from all other life on Earth.  They humanize us.

Grab a S'more and Lemme Tell You About My Brand...

Grab a S'more and Lemme Tell You About My Brand...

In a socially-networked world, stories humanize brands as well.  Today’s advertising agencies must recognize this truth and fashion brand communications in ways that make them easy to share and extend.  Because what are planning insights but a means to create powerful context for brand stories?  What is creative but a means to insure your brand story sticks in listeners’ minds and encourages repetition and pass along?  Intuitively, we’ve been telling brand stories for years, but today when so many buying decisions are influenced by the stories and endorsements of our friends and neighbors—those we choose to bring into our circle—honing those stories to increase the likelihood of passing them along powers real brand success.

All of which means that  in this two-way world of recommendation and consumer participation, simply telling those stories does not go far enough.  Today, whether or not we actively propagate narratives about our brands, brand stories develop and expand on their own, and not always in ways we like.  When that happens, when brand stories wander too far away from the core brand truth we hope to seed, agencies must intervene and redirect them.  This intervention and redirection requires fast-acting and influential word-of-mouth outreach.  By directly engaging in consumer conversations, savvy agencies can correct or at least improve brand perceptions far more quickly and effectively.

At Element 79, we have been very fortunate to partner on some of our brands with Paul Rand’s band of WOM experts at Zocalo Group.  And our client stories are far better for it; more actively tended, more actively encouraged, more personally engaged.  While many tools exist to measure brand conversations online, we need to go further and try to influence and encourage them.  To reconfigure an analogy Seth Godin made in his book Tribes, this is the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat: one measures, but the other actually creates change.

So…heard any good brand stories lately?

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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