Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Social Failures, Integration is Key and MasterCard

I just finished reading a good piece by Jonathan Salem Baskin on AdAge CMO Strategy.

Jonathan makes several great points about how many prominent and noted social media campaigns have garnered eyeballs but not pushed the needle on sales for their respective products or brands. Specifically, Jonathan mentions some common social media concepts or retorts as to why the social campaign did not increase sales for, as an example, consumer goods purchased at a counter, and not online, such as fast food and soda pop. I agree with Jonathan and building on specific points made in his article, I see the inability of the fly-by-night "social media experts" who have no real experience in disciplines like customer service, marketing or even consumer oriented operational process, being the cause for them to fall by the wayside in the next 12 months. No results in the revenue column typically means no more job, whether employed full-time or on contract a la Mr. Baskin.

I will never forget an experience I had when marketing for my old employer, a very large fast feeder. I was working on strategy to not only increase customer counts, but to do it in a way that gave cause for my local market customers to rave about things like our fresh food, superb service, family oriented experience and cleanliness, so in affect they would come back again and go out into their communities and spread the word (this was called word of mouth - you know, viral media before the term "viral" existed beyond describing a cold or flu). My boss told me not to execute any traffic generating activities until the operational procedures at my stores were excellent. Period. The point? Don't drive large amounts of customers to something that will prove out to be a bad experience. The short term gain in sales will turn into a long term loss for the brand and my stores. That sage advice was dually noted, I followed her direction, and consequently we had not just a short term gain, but long term positive gains across our entire local system, to the point where our local group of stores lead the entire national system in sales increases. Awards and bonuses were soon to follow. Score one for the good guys.

This has direct correlation to Jonathan's article. Another example - specifically a social media campaign I worked on (with our agency client) that garnered large sales increases for the end client. The client was yet again another national restaurant chain. They wanted to experiment in Facebook to see if/how they could get positive word of mouth AND increase sales, not just give away free product. Summary - very targeted and strategic media buy in Facebook, very well thought out coupon strategy distributed via Facebook and it was a long term solution, not a one time gimmick. A lot of detailed thought went into the coupon offers, how frequently they would be released, the redemption time frame, and how the stores would deal with the potential wave of customers redeeming the offers. Unfortunately, I feel like integration opportunity was lost ion this campaign, even though it was pitched to the client, they decided against updating or even optimizing their old brand web site for this big initiative. That was a missed opportunity in this guy's opinion. Results? Going from 3,000 likes on Facebook to 400,000+ in about 30 days. So what? Sales matter right? They experienced some of the largest sales increases in a decade and this campaign sustained over months. Could this have done even better with more integration through more online, in-store and traditional media channels? Of course, but the client, and more importantly their customers, were very pleased.

Last example - and I did not work on this one. I had the TV on the other night, ABC, prime time. I saw a commercial during one of the breaks for Mastercard. It was a spot for entrepreneurs/small business owners. That is me! I am their audience. It was a great piece of storytelling. The spot was well-written, I related to their pitch, and they left me with a call to action to go to their web site to learn more. I want to the web site to learn more!! Success right? Nope major fail. The site was horrible - no reference at all to what they were promoting on the TV spot. None! No consistent branding, no consistent messaging and the experience was completely different. I bounced off the site in 20 seconds. No integration at all. No new customer at all. Mastercard spent a lot of money on that TV spot, it was well done. They spent a lot on the media, major network in prime time on a highly rated show, and they lost me at the web site. No integration whatsoever, no positive experience whatsoever and no new customer whatsoever.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Moving Back, Moving Forward

It is really pretty amazing to see how the media industry and communications technology has progressed, and in some cases regressed, over a few short years.

I was going through an old email file the other day and I stumbled across an old project that a friend and I started about six years ago. We established a wiki and we each contributed periodically with thoughts on all things digital as they related to marketing, advertising, social and corporate communications. We went back and forth for months and met over breakfast every other week to discuss our online volleys. It was fun and pretty productive to have focused sessions like that with someone who was as into the industry, if not more so, than myself.

Well, as I hit the link to revisit the Wiki, relatively untouched five years later, I was pretty entertained by the postings. It was very interesting to see how things had progressed in our industry, but really some things haven't. The tools, hardware, terminology, software, bandwidth and more has evolved seemingly decades in a few short years. What hasn't changed? Principals, foundational strategy, how to use digital channels in a strategic/successful way, how to understand your audience and how to be a benefit, not a nuisance. Offering value, not offering a slightly less palpable alternative to spam. Listening, not yelling. Basically good old fashioned marketing sense.

Bad marketing still is ineffective no matter what new technology you are "leveraging." Sorry had to work in that tired cliche. Good marketing principal and relevance to your "crowd" still works, no matter the technology you have at your disposal.

Yeah, the channels are more sophisticated, the ability to wow greater and the pinpointing is finer, but ultimately the best product or services win no matter the shiny marketing object du jour. The old rules still apply, deliver a relevant, quality and valued product and/or service and know how to deal with your customers. Technology can make that whole process more efficient and effective but only if you address the basics first.

I know this is not nearly as fun to read as the "Top 10 things that will kill Twitter" or "How you can become a social media rock star overnight." Medicine never tastes as good as candy but it heals you much quicker.