Monthly Archives: March 2010

A Universal Truth

This week’s posting is not for the wussy and may actually piss some off. Can you use the words ‘piss’ and ‘off’ in a professional blog? Some may think I’ve crossed a line in human decency – in the “some things are better left unsaid, even if we might think it” category.

Last night I attended the launch party for IHeart Charity. IHeart Charity provides a smart phone application that allows users to “Tap-n-Give” to a number of pre-selected charities. The application is currently only available on the IPhone/Apple platform.

Four charities are currently hosted and each had their opportunity to speak. The first three had reasonable causes – animals, Haiti, green energy – with solid positioning and sound reasons to encourage donations. I listened – relatively unmoved.

Then Dianenecklace
Moore took the stage. Diane is tall, strikingly beautiful, with closely shorn hair (a tribute to her daughter not the 80’s edgy singer Sinead) and a peaceful presence. While I ‘care’ about a smattering of other topics in the world, I felt a resonant, heart-wrenching connection to Diane’s organization, Striving for More. Founded by Diane after her daughter’s death from cancer at the age of eight, the charity’s sole purpose is to ensure that no family endures childhood cancer alone. What parent cannot relate to that?

I think we can all agree that there aren’t many ultimate truths – that we each, as individuals, connect to or with different messages – hence one of marketing’s challenges, right? Understanding different audiences and digging deep to create a Disruptive Conversation™ – that which will rise above the din of the white noise and move the potential consumer to take action is no easy feat. Ms. Moore has her Disruptive Conversation™  nailed – it is authentic, personal, compelling and it rings out above so many other messages because it speaks to us as a universal truth. The natural order has been disrupted and we fundamentally don’t understand how that can happen and want desperately to make it stop. Or, with the help of Striving for More, at least survive it.

She shared her story – simple, direct, not a trace of marketing speak – and the audience wept. Ah yes, there were women present but I heard a few of the men complain of blurred vision. Sometimes it’s obvious – right? What is worthwhile? What we can all get behind? When we have the opportunity to be involved with one of those organizations – whether as a client, consumer or supporter – the answer is simple.

So, why am I going to make people angry?

Well, because in the midst of all of this I believe there is a marketing lesson here for those of us who don’t have an obvious ‘universal truth’ to deliver. The closer we can get to one, the higher likelihood we have of altering our audience’s perceptions and behaviors.

Great marketing is when something as banal as athletic wear can speak to us at that ‘universal truth’ level. Nike delivers it: our fundamental fear of failure. Everyone has it – everyone can identify with it.

Always the truth delivered here – at least MY truth: www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

The image above is one of the many ways that Striving for More provides encouragement to children struggling with cancer.  Each time a child endures a procedure they are given a Courage Bead.

Twitter Sold Me a Bridge

Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal posted an article entitled Entrepreneurs Question Value of Social Media – Marketing via Facebook, Twitter Yields Results for Some, Others Say It’s Overrated; ‘Hype Right Now Exceeds the Reality.

The important words in the title are “Right Now”.  Don’t be fooled, Social Media is here to stay. If you ignore it, it will run you over. A true paradigm shift – reinforcing what is already a reality – consumers are in control.

It’s not new; consumers have been rating products online for more than 15 years. The “Social Shopping Study 2007,” commissioned by PowerReviews identified a significant segment of online shoppers as Social Researchers – “consumers who actively (always or most of the time) seek out and read customer reviews prior to making a purchase decision.” 86% of Social Researchers find customer reviews extremely or very important and 76% find “top rated product” lists (by customers) to be extremely or very important.

These results align with what I describe as Summit’s Credibility Pyramid.

Picture1We believe our own experience first and foremost, then we believe those who are similar or like us, third on that credibility scale are the industry pundits, analysts or media and at the end of it all – the least credible source is the vendor.

Why is understanding this concept critical in the advent of the rise of Social Media?

We no longer have to go online and “look” for reviews. Now these opinions – good or bad – get pushed to us anywhere at any time. Twitter, Face Book, Buzz, even LinkedIn all provide conduits for consumers to be heard and heeded. So while there may still be some skeptics about making the investment and not everyone will rush right out and pull a ‘Jackie Siddall’ and purchase a $1,900 folding kayak based on a Tweet, the power dynamic has permanently shifted and whether you are selling kayaks, bridges or pharmaceuticals you better join in the conversation.

Cross over to the Smack – http://marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Under New Management

My dojhang has been recently stamped with a – what is supposed to inspire glee and hope sign, “UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT”. We’ve all experienced it – either within our own work environments due to mergers or acquisitions or in our communities. Typically it happens to a restaurant or bar that has been closed for a while and then, just like that – it pops back on the scene promising better food, ambience, hipper music. And, when that’s the case everyone’s the winner.

What happens when the business is an on-going entity with a subscribed set of consumers? How do you manage the transition to the new management without alienating your existing customer base – without stamping out the ‘culture’ so to speak? I do think the key word here is TRANSITION the concept of passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another ….rather than the abrupt, no room for dialogue, Alice in Wonderland ‘Off with His Head’ type moment.

At the risk of falling into the ‘everyone’s a critic’ camp, I can certainly give you a fat list of what NOT to do. So, I’ll try – really, I will – to stay on track and stick to what should be done.

When managing the changeover, which may include – feature enhancements, price adjustments, rules of engagement alterations, employment modifications it is best to lead with what will be received well. If your promise is a better new widget then prove it. I may suggest to you that major price increases with absolutely no real change – but just a ‘promise’ for change – and an unclear promise at that, is a BAD idea. It builds resentment and mistrust, even amongst the most patient and loyal.

If your organization depends on the geography model, meaning your customers must be local to consume your goods and services then ignoring that communities’ ‘corporate culture’ is another grave error. While you may have standard operating procedures and a brand that works really well in your corporate headquarters they may not translate to outside of that location. Let’s face it, a hot new bar by the name of G-Spot or ManHole may inspire long lines in San Fran or Key West but would sit lonely and empty in ConservativeTown, USA.

As we all know change, no matter how it’s presented, can be stressful – the fear of the unknown, the break in routine, the adjustments to a new product or service. And while it is inevitable and can only be classified as ‘change’ for a short period of time before becoming the new ‘norm’, I do believe there are ‘better’ choices to be made when it comes to gaining customer acceptance and continued loyalty.

Managing to deliver yet another week of MarketingSmack www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.