Personality matters

PersonalityNotIncluded Last April in NY during the Blogger Social, we all received a bunch of goodies, most of it small promotional items, but also some marketing related books. One of those books was ‘Personality not included’ from Rohit Bhargava, also present at the event. We had a little chat about the book, which was pretty interesting for many reasons but one thing Rohit said made me more curious about reading it than anything else and that was part of a chapter talking about Microsoft and The Blue Monster. So I started reading on the plane back already, it just took me a while to write down my thoughts.

In the introduction Rohit already makes it very clear what this is about:

“Personality matters. Being faceless doesn’t work anymore. The theory of PNI is that personality is the answer. Personality is the key element behind your brand and what it stands for, and the story that your products tell to your customers.”

Rohit defines personality then as:

“The unique, authentic, and talkable soul of your brand that people can get passionate about”

Chapter 2, that talks about The Blue Monster, interested me for two reasons. One, it’s The Blue Monster (see earlier posts) and two because it talks about ‘The Accidental Spokesperson’. The reason why that interested me more has to do with the revealing of corporations who get social media, lists you can find all over the place these days. Microsoft who used to be mentioned a lot in the beginning as a company who ‘gets it’ is hardly ever in those lists. Why? Because they look at corporate blogs, corporate twitter accounts etc. And we don’t have that – at least not like a CEO blog or something. But there are some hundreds of Softies on Twitter, a few thousands that blog and those are not to be ignored – the chapter shows it well.

Last point I wanted to highlight is something about transparency. Rohit says ’transparency is overrated’ and talks a bit about transparency and authenticity. I pretty much agree with his point and it reminded me of something David Weinberger said during the Euroblog event in Brussels, about how transparency and authenticity are too often used in the wrong meaning, or even terminologies that are sometimes mistaken for one and other. Now David was a lot more articulate about this than I am here now, but I’m sure you know what I mean.

Rohit is a smart guy, he writes one of the better marketing blogs you can find and is a great person to discuss with about the changes in consumer engagement. And that reflects on his book, you can see the personality. The one thing I didn’t like (much like Jennifer) is the ‘Guides and Tools’ section of the book, which is too much repetition for me re the first part. That said, good book, go check it out.

When did we start trusting strangers?

“When did we start trusting strangers” is a new research from Universal McCann done in September of this year and is part of their Wave global digital research program. The research/survey was done in 29 countries involving 17.000 internet users.

“It explores how the web and in-particular social media have made it incredibly easy to source and share personal opinions. This has created a revolution in where we source information and what we trust that has massive impacts for the role of professional media and marketing communications.“

I strongly recommend that you take a look at the presentation as it holds some pretty valuable and recent information on consumer behavior and commercial influence. You can find the presentation below, there’s one thing I wanted to highlight specifically though. At a certain point the research talks about superinfluencers:

“In a world of mass influence – some people rise above the average. These are the individuals that influence regardless of category. This is why we call them superinfluencers – they go beyond the average.”

Now that is nothing new, but then they look at these superinfluencers motivations to recommend products or services to their peers (indexed against all respondents) and then you get this:

superinfluencers

You’ll notice that these motivations are pretty similar to all respondents when you look at good or bad personal experiences or when it involves high quality brands, but that they are a lot more driven than the rest of the population by values such as celebrity endorsement/usage, fashionable brands or in case brands are unknown amongst their social group. Now I found that pretty interesting.

Anyway, as said, interesting research and good presentation so go check it out below:

Moving on…

… to a new role at Microsoft. During my 4 years at Microsoft, first as the Belgian Consumer Marketing Manager for MSN and later as the Marcom Lead for MSN and Windows Live in EMEA, I’ve been experimenting with social media. Remember the Windows Live Sessions we did all over Europe (e.g. Brussels, London, …), inviting bloggers to events such as MIX, sponsoring and attending Barcamps or Girl Geek Dinners and bigger events such as Le Web for instance, the adventures with Steve and Hugh around the Blue Monster, speaking at events, getting the word out on ‘Bring The Love Back‘, engaging on blogs and twitter, etc… Although it was only a small part of my job (the main part was setting up online marketing campaigns), I’ve always been very passionate about it.

Since October 1st that has all changed. Since then I’ve started working in a new role as Digital Media Communications Manager for all Windows Consumer brands – PC, mobile and online – as well as MSN and Live Search in EMEA. I got to say, it’s like getting paid to do your hobby just like Steve seems to think about his job as well. And it’s also the reason why this blog has gone silent for a bit, as I’m still transitioning stuff from my old job to other people. Also our fiscal year started on July 1st so I got to get my new plans ready asap, expect more about that here soon.

Anyway, I’ve been waiting for the moment I could tell you all this, wish me luck and if ever you have ideas on how you think I should run this… let me know in the comments.

Building relationships

This is truly brilliant! Thanks Darryl for sharing, it’s probably the best take on brands building direct relationships with their customers ;) And I guess for all women who can relate to this… there’s always The Women of course.

Check it out.

Famous Jaffe

Last Friday I was invited by Famous to come to their annual BBQ at the Africa Museum in Brussels. They also had arranged for Joseph Jaffe to come and talk about The Conversation to the audience of marketers and advertisers. I had wanted to see Jaffe present again as last (and first) time I saw him was in November 2005 and it was good. Given the post about that presentation was only the second one I had ever written on a blog, it’s fair to say it was part of the reason that I got into blogging to begin with (just like reading “Naked Conversations” was another one). Another reason why I was interested to go was because it would be a good opportunity to finally meet face to face, after several conversations online.

And just like in 2005, Jaffe never seems to disappoint as a presenter. Reading his books always leave me somewhere in the middle, I like them because they’re well written but most of the content is not new to me so that makes them less interesting. But then again, I don’t belong to the core target audience for these books either. The marketers and advertisers invited by Famous do belong to that audience though and I really hope they will read the book. Since everyone received a free copy that shouldn’t be too much of a challenge :)

ConversationalMarketingConstruct

One of the slides that interested me most was the one above about “The Conversational Marketing Construct”. I thought it was an interesting exercise on defining the innovation process, and something we ought to use to check on our own progress with Bring The Love Back.

Overall, very good presentation and glad to finally meet Joseph in person. There were a lot of good statements being made during the presentation but since Clo captured most of them in her Twitter stream, I suggest you check that one out. My favorites:

… And this is my social security number and my bank account. Since you’re all marketing professionals I know you’ll be too lazy to use the data to get into contact with me anyway” (when showing his AMEX, bank account, etc details on his ‘who’s Jaffe’ slide)

Or this one…

It’s not enough to get your foot in the door. Consumers are now so powerful they would break it. They would have to ask you in.

Out of Focus Reply

Why complain about email overload? Take advantage of the fact that you get a ton of email every day, especially when you’re away. It’s interesting that hardly anyone uses a creative “Out Of Office” message these days (I admit, nor do I).

Today I got an interesting OOF message that immediately caught my attention, from an agency using it to promote one of their clients.  Here’s what I got from Tom De Bruyne (Boondoggle Amsterdam):

Bye,
I am currency out of the focus. I will make my comeback on Tuesday July 28th. Please contact my comics at Boondoggle for surgeon matters. I will cancer your male asap.
Kind rewards,
Tom De Bruyne

Below this message it had a small banner for Berlitz:

clip_image001

The banner obviously referring to the fact that people say strange things whenever they are not good at foreign languages.

I just loved it! Berlitz is known for creative advertising (just thinking about the ‘What are you sinking about’ video makes me laugh) but I never had seen such an original auto-reply just yet. Great stuff Tom! Just tell them Berlitz people to do something about their website, it looks horrible.

True innovation

There are probably not a lot of words that get misinterpreted so many times as the word innovation. Anybody today who builds a friends list on their site, who releases an API, who created a ‘viral’ ….(you catch my drift) is innovating. Bullshit. Innovation refers to something that wasn’t done before and most of what happens on the web today is a copy of a copy… so hardly true innovation.

Why this statement? A few weeks ago I met for lunch with the founder of an independent financial services company. He and his marketing manager (who’s an ex-colleague) wanted to know more about whole this social media stuff and they knew I was kind of ‘active’ in that area so therefor the lunch. A quick initial check during lunch on what they knew and didn’t know didn’t take long. Flickr? Never heard of. Okay – get it.

To get the right idea of what needed to be done they then started to explain what their business was and how they saw their company move into the future. And to be honest, they explained me the most innovative business approach that I had heard for a while. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what it is but just take it from me that it was. Everything was there. It’s totally different from the typical business approach in that sector, it gave incredible power to their communities, they really let go of control, … Very cool. So what was missing? The right tools, techniques, services, etc to do so.

And then it hit me again. It’s not because people are on Twitter, Friendfeed, Facebook and blogs that they’re necessarily innovative. On the contrary. If ever that is what an agency or a social media consultant comes to tell you then run away (fast). Don’t turn away though because someone hasn’t heard about Twitter. They still might be more innovative thinkers than the rest of us and you know what the coolest job of all is? Making sure you work with the right people and use the right toolset to translate that really innovative idea into reality. That’s what me thinks.

Oh and for the record, my friends at the independent financial services company is looking for someone to do exactly that.

Engagement tracking

When I wrote about AideRSS for the first time about a year ago the company was only a couple of months old. Their slogan said best what it was they tried to do (and succeeded in quite well): Read what matters. AideRSS was built as a service that would help you overcome the struggle keeping up with your RSS feeds. Ideally you would upload your OPML (or add feeds manually) and you could then based on a few metrics skim feeds to only the most popular posts. On top of that it would allow you to create a new feed of that… basically mashing up feeds to make them more readable. I loved it instantaneously (as did Marshall Kirkpatrick apparently).

Not long before that post on AideRSS I had written about the lack of innovation at Technorati and where they were missing some opportunities. Today Technorati has made itself irrelevant: there are way better blogsearch engines out there (like Google’s) and their so-called Authority metric is ridiculous. Anyway – back to the point – the opportunities I called out for Technorati are still there and when I saw AideRSS for the first time I considered they could be the ones to deliver upon these opportunities. Interestingly enough, it looks more and more like it that they will. AideRSS isn’t just that ‘read what matters’ service anymore, it has grown into an engagement tracking service, measuring storytelling ROI as they call it. And that’s a great evolution. They’ve even gone beyond keeping their ranking method as they released a new site dedicated to that ‘Postrank’ and also developed a Google Reader extension for Firefox which I’ve been using for a short while now.

postrank

Hopefully they don’t stop there. When I look at the stats for my own feed, I can only notice that not all metrics are correct: too many comments counted, not enough delicious bookmarks counted, … so some finetuning is still in place. But it remains an overall solid service. And I’m pretty sure Melanie will pick up on this as well ;)

Finally I believe they should give access to the full metrics AideRSS gathers for each blog (delicious, comments, …) and not only the Postrank itself. Imagine that you want to build your own bloglist with the top ‘x’ blogs in category ‘y’ but unlike Mack Collier or Peter Kim  you don’t want to look up all this data manually to collect in XLS etc etc to make your weekly or monthly list. What if I could enter all the blogs I want to track against each other in AideRSS where they let you choose which metrics you want to track them with (only Technorati? or maybe subscribers as well?…) and have AideRSS build my list automatically based on the weight I defined for each metric? You define how often the list needs to be re-calculated. You create a widget for your and participating blogs. You create a weekly/monthly autoposting rhythm to your blog etc etc… Wouldn’t that be a compelling offer? And of course AideRSS can take the learnings for what happens in the backoffice because all of that.

Beyond the hype

Content is King! Content is dead, Community is King! Context is King.… etc etc. What is right and what is wrong about all this? There are a few things I learned over time that I think are important values in marketing today. Let me know what you think. And by the way, it’s not one or the other right, it’s the combination of all of them.

Content is King

It’s clear it’s some people agree and some don’t on this statement, more than anything else this has sparked many discussion already and also I have written about it before. Mitch Joel says content is everything, Doc Searls said right the opposite and I respect them both, still I’m with Mitch on this one. And this is not just an online thing either. Whether you talk about Google’s search index, a blogpost, … it’s where it all starts. What has changed most vs. when we started using ‘Content is King’ in the nineties is the fact that creating content has become a lot more democratic these days, today you and I can create a lot more and easier than ever before.

Distribution is Queen

But content is not all. I think it was when email marketing really began to take off that we added ‘Distribution is Queen’ to the first statement about content being king. All of a sudden we were talking about push vs. pull, permission marketing, etc and it was clear that getting your content out there using more channels than the one it was initially created for was a good idea. That was back then. Today we have RSS, widgets, SEO, APIs, … and all kinds of different ways to get content distributed. Taking the example again of Google’s index being content, then we have to recognize that the clean and fast landing page, fast search, AdSense, etc etc also have been crucial in their success. Distrubution trumps destination.

Context Matters

You got great content and I can access it the way I prefer… still I need to be in the mood for it. Is this the right occasion, or that right timing? John Dodds recently said (when talking about content): “Your focus should be on giving people content they want, when they want it and realise that as soon as you don’t, they’ll move on and remember your content as being irritating multi-media spam in their noise-filled lives.” Microsoft Advertising and MEC Interaction did some research a while back on context which you can download here. Take the context into account and your message will become more relevant… and so will you.

Age of Conversation

Make it social. Get people involved, for real. Some people find the term conversation overused, I don’t. It still is a very good metaphor – yes a metaphor – about how consumers want to interact differently with brands. I’ll take the liberty to repeat this definition of ‘conversation’ found in Wikipedia: Conversations are the ideal form of communication in some respects, since they allow people with different views of a topic to learn from each other. A speech, on the other hand, is an oral presentation by one person directed at a group. For a successful conversation, the partners must achieve a workable balance of contributions. A successful conversation includes mutually interesting connections between the speakers or things that the speakers know. For this to happen, those engaging in conversation must find a topic on which they both can relate to in some sense.” And yes it’s a cliche, but that conversation is already going on, you don’t have to set it up.

In the comments of Mitch’s post about ‘Content is everything’ which I referred to earlier there’s also a nice quote made by Kneale Mann putting it like this: “Content is king, context is the glue, community is the soul.”

Anyway, that’s my take. Tell me what’s yours.