Monthly Archives: March 2009

The Chaos Scenario — Chicken Little was right!

In his current episode of the podcast Jaffe Juice, Joseph Jaffe talks to Bob Garfield about his latest in a series of Ad Age articles on the death of media and advertising as we know it (“Future May Be Brighter, but It’s Apocalypse Now,” Advertising Age Online, March 23, 2009).  In this most recent piece on what Bob has called The Chaos Scenario, he presents growing evidence that the business model of traditional media, based on content creation funded by advertising revenues, is coming undone faster than anyone may have imagined.

The written word is a wonderful thing, but actually to hear Bob discuss and elaborate upon his perspectives in the interview is an eye opener.  Those of us who think about social media already know a lot of this, but to listen to the man who still reviews the Superbowl commercials every year predict the demise of the 30″ TV commercial really makes an impression.  You can’t help but feel Chicken Little was right.  The sky really is falling.  (And in a few years I may be out of a job!)

Here are some of the key points that stuck in my mind:

The old advertising model is dying, if not already dead, because it’s built upon  two pillars that are crumbling:

1) Good content is scarce, 2) You can force people to look at advertising in exchange for that content.

YouTube has already taken a big bite out of the first pillar, and the adaption of TiVo and DVR’s is eating away at the second one.

Still, consumer generated content alone will never replace professionally produced content like Lost and Grey’s Anatomy.  And while newspapers in their current form are clinging to life, there will always be demand and a need for objective, well-researched reporting and journalistic excellence.  Indeed a democratic society depends upon it.  Gen Y’ers may ascribe to the philosophy that content should be free, but it isn’t.  Or at least much good content isn’t.  Talented directors and serious journalists also have to eat, buy clothes and support families.

Right now it’s easy enough to say good content should be free because there’s still plenty of it around that you can get for free, even as the revenue sources and models that fund the production of it are drying up.   But imagine a day when there are no newspapers like The New York Times, no magazines like The New Yorker, and nothing on TV except low-cost production reality shows.  If that day ever comes, people will be starved for something better.  And they’ll pay for better fare in one currency or another.  But it will no longer be by subjecting themselves to advertising that bores and irritates them.

We are observing a sea change — a major upheaval on a par with the industrial revolution and other historical movements that changed society forever.

I think this is true.  And as Bob points out, it will effect every part of society, not just marketing and communications.  The power has truly shifted from the top of the pyramid, to the bottom — the crowd, thanks to the digital and social media revolution that is enabling people to connect and wield collective power like never before.

People are still interested in products and brands.  They’re just not interested in advertising.

I don’t completely agree with this.  People are not interested in advertising for products in which they have no interest.  I have argued elsewhere on this blog that the 30″ commercial is actually a very efficient tool to learn quickly about a product and its benefits.  The problem is an ineffective distribution system that places too many commercials in front of the wrong people.

I do agree that advertising in future will be a small part of a rich pallet of consumer-brand interactions, enabled by the internet and social media, that shifts the relationship between the brand and the consumer from one-way telling and selling to collaboration, dialogue and partnership.

The Chaos Scenario — soon to be a new book and a platform for conversation.

the-chaos-scenario2Bob will soon be packaging his thinking into a suprisingly old media form — a book.  He’s also created a web site — www.thechaosscenario.net — that he promises will be more than just an online promotion for the book, but a place for people to come together and share thinking on the topic.  It’s not active yet, but you can already go and sign up to receive updates as the project progresses.  I for one will be watching, listening and participating.

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Facebook and Lovemarks

I just discovered a great site for slicing and dicing Facebook page rankings.  Check it out at Facebook Page Statistics.  It’s sub-site of AllFacebook The Unofficial Facebook Resource.

allfacebook

You can choose between rankings by number of fans, daily growth rate and weekly growth rate.  Those rankings are available for all pages or within 61 sub-categories — from  actors, bands and consumer products to TV shows, visual artists and writers.

Top three sites by fans overall?  Barack Obama, Coca-Cola and Nutella.

nutella2Now, I know Nutella is very popular in Germany and across Europe.  But I wouldn’t have expected it to be the third most popular Facebook page on the planet.  Would you?  (Do you even know what Nutella is?)  It has 3.2 million fans.

Some of the data seems a bit off.  Skittles appears twice, ranked number 4 and 6 under consumer products.  And the Bible also appears under consumer products.  Well, I guess it is one, strictly speaking.  But maybe the “Non-Profit” category might have been more appropriate.  Or perhaps “Other Public Figure.”  After all, it is the word of God.

People’s propensity to actually become a fan on a brand’s Facebook page seems like a nice, if somewhat imperfect, measure of their love of  the brand.  Imperfect, because variables of content and entertainment value will influence the number of fans on the page.  And not all brand lovers are on Facebook — yet.

But the fact that Coke is the number one ranked page for consumer goods would support a correlation to Facebook fans and love.  (Remember the revolt of Coca-Cola enthusiasts against New Coke back in the 80’s?  This is brand that is loved, despite its age and the proliferation of competitive offerings in the soft drink category.)  Nutella’s high ranking would confirm that too.  I know people who would take to the streets if “their” Nutella were ever taken off the market or even changed in the slightest way.  At Saatchi & Saatchi, my employer, we call brands like these Lovemarks.  We all have our personal Lovemarks.  Brands to which we are loyal beyond reason.

lovemarks-standard

There are many ways to understand if a brand has moved beyond respect into the lofty realm of love.  The number of fans it has on Facebook is a new one worth keeping an eye on.

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Objectives for a hypothetical FMCG brand on Twitter

In a January blog post on Mashable, Jennifer van Grove wrote about 40 brands currently active on Twitter (“40 of the Best Twitter Brands and the People Behind Them”). It’s a worthwhile read. What’s interesting is that not a single FMCG brand makes the list.

This made me wonder. Is Twitter not a space that can be useful for marketers of fast-moving consumer packaged goods? I started to think what the possible objectives for an FMCG brand on Twitter might be. This is what I came up with. Some are somewhat specific to FMCG brands, but most aren’t.

Let me know what you think. And tell me others that occur to you.

I’ve framed the objectives with reference to women, since women generally are the decision makers about most packaged goods brands for the home.

  • Nurture strong relationships with women through dialogue, personal connection and conversation and by providing our brand with a human face and voice.
  • Drive commitment and loyalty among expanding numbers of women through the growing group of socially active individuals using Twitter and other social media platforms.
  • Multiply connections with our brand through relevant content that generates retweets and other viral actions.
  • Listen and understand how women truly feel about our brand and products through the immediate, real-time and truthful expressions and interactions that Twitter encourages.
  • Meet, connect with and acknowledge our brand’s most passionate users with an eye to further energizing their active endorsement of the brand.
  • Generate good-will, buzz and positive word of mouth through our brand’s efforts to engage, respond and share in real time on Twitter.
  • Identify, discuss and resolve issues or negative word-of-mouth immediately as these arise — for example, questions regarding sustainability, safety of ingredients or materials, product problems or dissatisfaction with performance, questions about usage instructions, etc.
  • Build awareness of promotions, price offers, events and other initiatives more effectively through pro-active opt-in of brand Followers on Twitter and through those Followers spreading the word to their personal online connections and communities on Twitter and elsewhere online.
  • Build awareness and drive traffic to other brand locations online, e.g. web site, Facebook page, etc.
  • Ultimately – generate increased sales and market share through women’s increased commitment, loyalty, appreciation and love for the brand and the people behind it.

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New marketing frontiers for Twitter hashtags

It’s been thrilling to observe how the use of Twitter by private individuals, media organizations and businesses continues to evolve.  And how that evolution accelerates as more and more people get on board and bring fresh ideas to the Twitter tea party.  Twitter has come a long way from the days when many people couldn’t imagine it doing anything more than providing geeky social media types a platform for broadcasting inconsequential, verbal snapshots of their daily routines to other geeky social media types hanging out in the Twitter universe.

Lately I’ve been reflecting on the potential use of hashtags for people and businesses and came up with the following thought.  Perhaps this or something similar has already occurred to someone else, but I haven’t come across it so far in any of my ramblings through the social media and marketing blogosphere.

Hashtags enable anyone on Twitter to follow a particular topic, provided someone has created a specific hashtag for it.  For  example, conference organizers are increasingly creating hashtags for events.  All tweets relating to the event, either from those in attendance or not, can be viewed in one Twitter feed as long as the Tweet includes the hashtag somewhere in it.  A hashtag always starts with the pound sign — #.  The reason for this, as far as I can tell, is so it can be indexed and searched by http://hashtags.org/.

This got me thinking.  Hashtags can of course be a great tool for people who share a common interest of any kind — conference or otherwise — to keep that community continually informed of relevant news.  Let’s take English springer spaniel owners for example.  A hashtag could be created for the best places and times to meet up with other owners in their local area or to help them find the best buys on Eukanuba English springer spaniel formula (presuming there is one).

The specificity and local aspect is especially interesting. The hashtag can be written for a narrow topic and for a small geographic area, making the information especially useful and actionable to anyone living there.  For example, I could set up #EukenglspringerFFM for people looking for good buys on Eukanuba springer spaniel formula anywhere in the Frankfurt area, where members of that community could continually inform each other of those good buys.  Local pet retailers could also use the tag to instantly inform the community of price off promotions or other special offers.  Twitter could potentially charge those retailers for commercial “participation” in the hashtag, with an additional charge when a link in the Tweet to the retailer is clicked.

Is anyone aware of consumers, brands or retailers who are already using hashtags in this way?  Let me know via a comment.  And if you have any builds to this idea, I would love to hear them.

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The resurrection of an iconic German ice cream bar through online communities and social media

When I first came to Germany in 1989, I became enamored of an ice cream bar on a stick called Nogger Choc.  It was similar to a  favorite Good Humor bar variety from my childhood, the name of which I no longer remember.  Both had an outer chocolate shell, coating a creamy wedge of ice cream, and in the middle, as a crowning conclusion to the the whole taste experience, a delicious hard, chunky, chewy chocolate core.

In 2001, Nogger Choc was taken off the market by Langnese ice cream, a division of Unilever, never to be heard from again.  At least that’s what Langnese, and many consumers, must have thought.  But in 2008 Langnese reversed course and reintroduced Nogger Choc.  According to a presentation by Edelman Digital, it was the largest selling new product launch from Langnese.

The successful reintroduction of Nogger Choc was initiated by, and executed through, social media and online communities.  Above-the-line communications were not part of the picture.  And the impetus to bring back the brand didn’t originate with Langnese, it was thanks to a group of Nogger Choc passionate consumers.

It all started when Benjamin Gildemeister launched an online petition directed to Langnese, after he discovered that there were many others like himself who longed for the return of their beloved Nogger Choc.  Over five-thousand people signed.  But even more people, over 16,000, became members of the “We miss Nogger Choc” community on StudiVZ, a German online social network for students.

Langnese was impressed by the passion of these brand lovers.  And here’s what they did that was really smart.  They realized this was a business opportunity that could be best fulfilled by collaborating with the very online community that was calling for the comeback of the Nogger Choc.  And they initiated that comeback by starting their communications right where it had all begun — in the social web.

They kicked-off with an online video of the marketing director and brand manager announcing that Nogger Choc was back and thanking the community for alerting Langnese to the “big mistake” it had made in taking the brand off the market.  By engaging with the community to spread the word in blogs, forums and other online communities, Nogger Choc attained 150,000 impressions online.  That established the platform for generating traditional PR around the relaunch in mainstream media generating an additional 40 million impressions. (All figures from the Edelman Digital presentation.)

Blog post announcing Nogger Choc come-back

Blog post announcing Nogger Choc comeback

All-in-all, a winning case for the power of online communities and social media, complete with happy end.  Or is it?  There appear to be a few clouds on the bright new horizon for Nogger Choc.  The same social web that was the springboard for the relaunch is yielding a number of critical voices.  Some Nogger Choc fans claim the product isn’t the same as the one they know and loved.  Among other things, they say the chocolate core is too small and soft.  If that’s the case, Langnese should have known better.  You can’t pull the wool over the eyes, or the taste buds, of your most passionate consumers, whose disappointment and critique will spread like wildfire through the online community.  And from there it could eventually be picked up by more mainstream media, just as the relaunch was.

I haven’t yet tried the resurrected Nogger Choc, so I don’t know if it’s as delicious as the one I learned to love when I first came to Germany.  As soon as I do, I’ll let you know.

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