Plus - a few thoughts about Mad Men, Apple and some other exploits
By Alan Brody
As co-sponsors of Andy Sernovitz’s Word of Mouth Supergenius event on July 21, I finally get a chance to weigh in on a number of issues that have been weighing on me for a while।
The reason these media can be so annoying is because most people are using them poorly. It's as if the New York Times offered all comers free ads. The average person has nothing to say except "Hey I’m going to the beach and I love cotton candy.” Actual marketers go hey, we can do what we did for free and they find ways to spam you. Most realize they have to give something away, and so they organize games, offers and promotions – which is something they understand and that definitely works, but only for a while।
Only the really smart understand they have to be something different। That’s where the gurus kick in. Be lovable. Be outstanding. Be honorable. Be a cult. Be a linchpin and so on.
Now for the fun part. How many of these corporations could actually do that? How many popular products are remotely outstanding? Even if the conference attendees get it, imagine the conversation when they get back to the board room. You want us to what? We can get sued. We don’t want to talk to the consumers. We aren’t like that…॥ B-school never trained us to give up control to the customer and so on।
This leads me to Mad Men because, as a student in 50’s advertising research I can tell you that corporate America was similarly shook by a cultural shift when Madison Avenue was introduced to the unconscious। It wound up with the kinds of odd interactions you see in Mad Men. Except there, the client just had to OK an ad and hold on. With WOM/Social Media, they actually have to change.
So here’s a quick breakdown of this cultural gap as evidenced with our Supergenius interactions।
2. Who really knows what they are doing? PR Exec talks about creating stories – that sell। WOM is not just about telling stories – it's about telling stories that make you want to tell other people. That drives them toward an action that leads to becoming a customer of some kind. So my reasonable question is – you’re an agency, how do you test which story ideas will work. Answer: we don’t - if Henry Ford asked farmers they would have told him they wanted a faster horse. My answer is yes, and that horse is called a Mustang. Research is not the answer - it is guidance for your creativity.
Gevalia reinvented itself in Social Media because its affiliate marketing program made it look like a spammer। Many companies are probably viewing Social Media as a cheap ad or ethical spam machine. Gevalia did the right thing and got their customers in on the action – made them heroes, part of a club that even helped named their product. It also happens to be extraordinarily good, if expensive coffee. Now, could you imagine if Kraft or General Mills or Hormel went up that warm and fuzzy route. Wanna blog about Kraft American Cheese, PopTarts? Join their fan group. Read their labels?
Steve Jobs and Apple come up a lot। So here’s the memo: the word cult comes from the Latin “cultus deus” - the care and worship of gods. So unless you are willing to deal with life and death (most cult brands have come back from the dead, overcame some amazing obstacle or represent people who did - and don't forget the Grateful Dead) don’t waste your time. Settle for fickle fans. This way you go home at 5 and have the weekends with your families. PS there is no second coming for BP or Napster. But they can try.
Next iBreakfast on July 28 – Exploding eBooks & iPad Market