Taking Marketing Beyond Advertising

Today’s unprecedented access to information, demand for transparency, and empowerment of social recommendation speed the transition from mass marketing and toward more relevant and personalized communications: in short, digital video content.

Advertising improves selling, but video content improves communication. Of all kinds. Which in turn, improves sales. That’s why it’s where marketing is moving.

Make no mistake; I love great advertising. And great advertising still builds brands. But it’s no longer the only way. Because it’s not just brands that need building; businesses and organizations of every kind need to reach audiences with compelling messages.

So there’s always another story to tell.

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You’re Listening. Bose Might Be Too.

BoseDBluetooth enables wireless listening. For more than one, apparently.

An article posted on Fortune.com describes yet another example of corporate intrusion around data collection. A lawsuit filed this week alleges that Bose monitors users’ listening habits via the Bose Connect app, then sells that information to third parties, without permission or knowledge. Charming.

This is just the latest in a string of similar line-crossings, all in the name of the much ballyhooed IoT. Connecting ‘things’ to the internet inevitably creates a byproduct of consumer data, and a lot of companies can’t resist scooping that up for themselves. But this is almost inexcusably idiotic and any decent marketing firm should advise them against doing this in no uncertain terms.

First off, the majority of users would probably allow them to collect the data if they were afforded an opt-in choice, particularly if they got some benefit like increased functionality. We grant incredible access to personal data to services like Facebook and Instagram with hardly a second thought. But more to the point, given the aggressive transparency empowered by the internet, this kind of shadiness will inevitably come out, revealing your brand’s shit-weaselly behavior.

And I’ve never seen a brand pyramid featuring the attribute ‘shit-weaselly.’

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Facebook Privacy Settings Confusing You? There’s an App for That.

Of course there is.  There’s an app for damn near everything.  So given the rising chorus of complaints over Facebook changing it’s privacy settings with the onset of Open Graph, it’s only natural that someone would step into the breech with a digital solution.

That someone is ReclaimPrivacy.org, a shareware app written by a JavaScript developer who takes his own online privacy seriously, hiding his name and only offering that his full-time gig is running Olark: a lightweight app for websites that provides online chat capabilities.  On Reclaim Privacy’s simple page, they publish their full privacy policy:

“Our privacy policy is not long:

  • we never see your Facebook data
  • we never share your personal information”

Impressive.  Anyway, once you drag the app to your browser menubar, you open Facebook’s privacy settings then run the program.  Using a simple Red-Yellow-Green warning system, it suggests where you might want to change your settings.  The whole process is remarkably easy.  And reassuring, even if the cow is already out of the barn, so to speak.

Facebook has been under withering scrutiny lately as people rebel against founder Mark Zuckerberg’s silly statement that ‘privacy is no longer a social norm.’  He’s right, but he’s a fool for announcing that.

But 400 million Facebook members who don’t understand that nothing is free in this world and that hosting the world’s largest social party runs up enormous costs are being equally foolish, or at least willfully ignorant.  Facebook’s only asset is data, data we all agreed to sign over when we signed up.  For an insightful assessment of Facebook’s privacy follies, read this article B.L. Ochman wrote for Advertising Age.

If marketers learn anything from Zuckerberg’s troubles, it should be the singular value heavy web users place on transparency.  Because that can be so easily abused.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Detroit Doesn’t Need Ads, It Needs Documentaries. And Transparency.

So I was quoted in the latest issue of Newsweek

And I’m trying to be cool about it, but this kind of thing doesn’t happen everyday.  I considered spending the morning riding the El around the Loop with the issue open on my lap, saying things a bit too loudly like “Now here’s an interesting point of view” or “This fellow seems to have something to say…”

The Big Story Is On Page 29

The Big Story Is On Page 29

It’s flattering to be asked for commentary by a national magazine, but it’s also an inevitable compromise: you talk to a journalist for twenty minutes or so and from all that, they select a single sentence that supports the point they need to make.  It’s not that they misquote you; it’s simply that the story you hope to tell rarely matches the story they are telling.

Under the headline “Turn This Lemon Into Lemonade”, Newsweek writer Matthew Phillips asks six advertising people for their perspectives on the challenge of selling GM and Chrysler cars today.  My quote reads “Show me plants shutting down, let me hear from the workers…  That story’s powerful.”  I definitely said that; the sad reality that America has shifted from manufacturing to service sector jobs bums me out and the long list of sins by boneheaded corporate and union management that led us here is soul-suckingly demoralizing.

But the larger point I’d hoped to make was that Detroit doesn’t need another ad right now–and certainly not more over-produced anthems like the “Reinvention” spot currently airing.  This kind of clever speechifying, as much as it approaches a mea culpa admission of errors, still feels like more of the same: the requisite slowly-building rock track, the irrelevant NHL and NFL clips, the timelapse of seedlings sprouting, the barn raisings and sweaty-brow moppings–all of it reeks of yet another round of highly-polished obfuscation.

But as tough as things currently are, somewhere among GM’s 235,000 employees good people have great ideas and workable plans to change things: to improve fuel economy and engine reliability, to streamline production and lower mistakes, to ratchet up aesthetics and bend metal into forms that make pulses pound again.  Those stories need to be told, specifically and with rich detail.  We need to know what GM is doing right now, today, this moment, to change their fortunes and set their ship right.  These stories don’t require massive film crews and Panavision cameras to tell; in fact, they are far more effective without them.  The honesty of documentary storytelling focused on sharing a constant stream of new stories would be far more effective than a few super slick generalizations.

Detroit does still need the massive reach of compelling television commercials to get their story out–but they should be producing great television commercials that not only turn heads on air but drive people to deeper, more complete engagement online with opportunities to weigh in and share their own opinions.  Things like new car designs excite people–GM and Chrysler should share those and invite responses from the public, conducting polls and encouraging debate.

What Detroit needs now more than anything else is transparency.  The time of an all-controlling, monolithic monopoly has passed; that mentality simply can’t sustain in today’s information-saturated culture.  Moreover, truly leveraging modern manufacturing requires sharing and openness–unless Detroit starts to encourage their secondary suppliers to bring their own technologies to the task of improving performance, their cars will remain deeply compromised.  Detroit management simply must get over their outdated need to control all aspects of production.  That scene of the barn raising in their current spot brings to mind a very relevant Amish expression: “Many hands make light work.”  Detroit can get further faster by changing from a vendor to a partner mentality, but they’ll have to do that quickly before they drive those smaller partners out of business.

America doesn’t want our car industry to fail.  Sure many of us are angry and consider this crisis largely self-inflicted, but still, we want GM and Chrysler to be strong.  Whether or not the government proves to be the answer, radical reinvention will have to be part of the solution.  And that must start with the mindset first.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

 

PS:  I would like to thank all of the Element 79 contributors who kept collective-thinking fresh last week: Ryan, Lance, Kim, Todd, Amie and of course Brian, who was both incredibly generous and flattering in his comments and dead nuts right that I would have found a way to radically revise them had he shared his post in advance.

The First Question for Advertisers Considering Social Media: Is Your Company Agoraphobic?

Imagine this: you are at a cocktail party: chatting, mingling, nothing out of the ordinary. Suddenly, a total stranger walks up and throws their Appletini in your face.  What do you do? Throw your drink in their face? Arch an eyebrow and toss off a withering bon mot? Or do you walk away, consult your lawyers, then return days later with a scripted response?

In The 24/7 Social Media Cocktail Party, You Will Meet Some Boors.

At The 24/7 Social Media Cocktail Party, You Will Meet Some Boors.

This is not an idle exercise; it’s actually a reasonable gauge of any organization’s comfort with the all-access world of social media.  Recently, a planner friend of mine told me how–metaphorically speaking–this very thing happened to McDonald’s after they posted a spot on a social networking site. Within the first few comments, PETA activists showed up and launched a coordinated assault against the ad, the restaurant, and most every aspect of the McDonald’s business. The client was horrified and wanted to immediately pull the posting; a corporate reaction that is totally natural and understandable.

But in this environment, it’s also totally wrong.  This medium is ‘social’–even if you are there as a corporation, the group expects you to behave like a human being.  You can’t suddenly lawyer up and start speaking in that robotic, Teflon language of corporate PR; this simply isn’t the venue.  Transparency is critical.  Imperfection is okay.  Immediacy is everything.

People go to social media to talk, so anything that happens, generates discussion and debate. Returning to the cocktail party metaphor, how would other guests view that unprompted assault?  They probably wouldn’t like it anymore than if someone launched into a strident political diatribe over crab cakes; it’s uncalled for and entirely inappropriate. Yes, the insult remains, the offense still happened and you will definitely need to get your tie dry cleaned, but in the end, the other guests will see that you were wronged, not wrong, and so based on your response, many otherwise neutral bystanders will now actually support you.

Negative opinions like these have always been out there, we just never saw them. They were never widely published.  We never had web-scrubbing programs that could uncover them and bring them to our attention. Now that we do, the real challenge is determining the importance of any particular negative comment.  Is that thought viral?  Or is it simply the rantings of a crank?  We need to know the difference.  If we respond to every potential threat, we will exhaust ourselves in the effort and waste untold resources on this fool’s errand.

At Element 79, we advise clients considering social media efforts to take a brutally honest look at their own corporate culture and assess how comfortable they are with public exposure.  A few take to it naturally, putting themselves out there in a highly-human manner, but many more recoil.  They worry about liability and the need to protect proprietary assets.  In the new world of social media, these clients are agoraphobic, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Emily Dickinson, arguably America’s greatest poet, was a noted eccentric who could not stand the thought of public spaces, and she did pretty well for herself. The same applies to client organizations; when you’ve made literally hundreds of millions of dollars over the years behaving one way, you need some strong fiscal arguments to change those ways. As of yet, there are no guarantees that entering social media will pay off for every organization. In fact you could create a rather compelling argument that to date, it has paid off for very few, and may never pay off for some.  Every medium is not appropriate for every organization–that truth endures.  The key demand today is for organizations to truly know themselves.

Which, interestingly, applies to people as well.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79