Archive for February, 2010

Building Online Communities For Insight, Advocacy

February 19, 2010

This article by Aliza Freud, a speaker at the BRITE ’10 conference, was originally published in Marketing Daily, and she graciously allowed us to cross post it here.

Before Facebook launched in 2004, were you part of a community? Did you share pictures of your vacation with your friends? Before LinkedIn, did you share details of your business contacts to help out a friend? Before blogs, when someone you knew said something controversial, did you comment on it?

Of course you did. Social activity isn’t new. We’re social creatures, mostly.

But why do we act as if online communities are completely new? We make errors in trying to build communities that we would never make in real life. Some of these errors are fundamental. In everyday life, if the conversation only went one way, you’d tell me that you’re not going to build a very strong relationship. No one likes to be talked at.

Marketers spend billions on “loyalty”-building activities to build and sustain relationships with customers. The new world of social media seems like a limitless lab for brands, with tantalizing opportunities to transform brand-customer interactions. But the web is littered with sad, lifeless communities.

Social media is about scale and tools, and the elimination of social friction. At their best, online communities accelerate and deepen our social proclivities. But building a vibrant community is hard.

Everyone wants to know how to drive interest and build engagement in the communities that they create, thinking (and hoping) that because they have built a community for their product, their consumers will come. Why?

In our experience building and operating consumer communities, we’ve observed that successful online communities have the same attributes as successful offline communities. Humans have been building communities for thousands of years. As social creatures, were conditioned to respond to certain implicit qualities in a community.

Following are the key ingredients to building successful communities:

  • Shared Purpose: We like people like ourselves. This is not a narrow-minded statement. In fact, Shared Purpose transcends traditional segmentation or obvious classification. It might be shared history, shared interests, shared hobbies, or even shared passion for a brand. In today’s social media world, we can find those like ourselves.
  • Connection: Communities must first and foremost provide an opportunity for a free and open exchange between consumers and the brand. “Duh,” you say? How many communities have we all seen with the anemic discussion boards relegated to low importance if not absent all together? Consumers are ready to talk; it’s up to brands to take up their part of the conversation.
  • Recognition: Status is implicit in all communities, no matter how egalitarian. The best communities recognize the contributions of their most active members, and the achievement of status in a community creates implicit rewards for increased contribution. In this context, its clear that Recognition does NOT have to be monetary or rational value. The most valuable brands have always created emotional connections with their customers, and brands now have the tools to recognize those relationships.
  • Impact: If brands engage with consumers, and meaningfully participate in a community with them, they have made a commitment. Many smart brands are already taking advantage of online communities to generate insight. But, are they taking it to the next logical step? Community members become invested and want to know what kind of impact their feedback has inspired.

For any brand, it takes commitment, bravery, experimentation and authenticity to capitalize on online communities and social networks, building new modes of brand-consumer interaction and dialogue. But the connections need to be built on principles as old as the human race.

For the original article click here

Haircuts as Inspiration

February 12, 2010

Bernd SchmittIn the fall of 2009, our Faculty Director, Bernd Schmitt, was interviewed by McGraw Hill as part of its “Thinkers 50” global ranking of business thinkers.

At one point, Schmitt discusses an enlightening haircut experience when a barber inspired him to rethink the way he had always parted his hair. Such challenges to historic thinking represent the importance for business leaders to be bold enough to “kill their sacred cows”–those ingrained methods of doing business that they never even consider rethinking.

The interview, conducted in three parts, provides more thoughts from Schmitt on:

To hear Bernd Schmitt speak at BRITE ’10, register now.

“There’s Nothing Like a Hanging in the Morning…”

February 12, 2010

Vivian SchillerIn a talk last year, Vivian Schiller, CEO of NPR, opened with a quote from Samuel Johnson that she believes captures some of the feelings in the journalism and media industry today, “There’s nothing like a hanging in the morning to clear a man’s thoughts.”

With a background in television (CNN & Discovery) and digital media (, Schiller has a breadth of experience to talk about the uncertain future of media and journalism. In fact some of her insights could be applied to the management of any organization in these changing times.

At a lot of legacy media companies, there is a tradition from the past — you take months to develop a new idea or program…. If it’s a failure, you’ve taken up so much time to do it. What I learned at the New York Times is to be much more nimble — it’s a test-and-learn philosophy. If something doesn’t work — okay, we tried it, no big deal, get it off the site, move on.

As the executive who “killed” the TimesSelect and the head of NPR with its memebership donation model, Schiller is also at the forefront of the current debate on establishing micropayments or paywalls for news media sites. It’s no surprise where she stands so far, “My gut is, no, the micropayment system doesn’t make sense; on the other hand, I don’t have a solution for how to save newspapers.”

To hear Vivian Schiller speak at BRITE ’10, register now.

Consumer Confidence and The Brand Bubble

February 12, 2010

John GerzemaJohn Gerzema, one our BRITE ’10 speakers and the Chief Insights Officer at Young & Rubicam, is concerned that Wall Street thinks brands are worth more than consumers do. In his recent book, The Brand Bubble: The Looming Crisis in Brand Value and How To Avoid It, Gerzema and his co-author (Ed Lebar) contend that the consequence of this variance in valuation is a brand bubble that could erase a significant amount of intangible value within business and the global economy. Watch Gerzema elaborate on this theory in the video below.

So what should be done to avoid a brand bubble? Gerzema is now looking at what motivates the “post-crisis consumer” and how companies can react and build their brand in response to it. He sees today’s consumers moving from fear to empowerment by being smarter about how they save and spend money. In a recent blog post Gerzema began to riff on the idea of “slow marketing” tactics that can help post-recession marketers:

  • Remember to tell the story of your roots.
  • Embed feedback into your company, your brand and your marketing.
  • Show both the value and values of your brand.
  • Practice declasse consumption–reckless spending is out.
  • Learn “flea market capitalism”–based on personality, uniqueness, provenance and storytelling.

To hear John Gerzema speak at BRITE ’10, register now.

The More Ads Change, The More They Stay the Same

February 8, 2010

In the first few years of the internet revolution, I kept waiting for Super Bowl ads to adapt to the new world of networked customers, using their high visibility moment to lure TV viewers into a more interactive experience via their PCs or mobile phones.

Instead, the art form known as the Super Bowl ad keeps sticking stubbornly to the identical forms that served it in its first four decades: beer parties, talking animals, and uplifting stories of soda-inspired happiness.

Watching the annual parade of gazillion dollar ads on Hulu last night, I found myself paraphrasing Wooderson in Dazed and Confused, “Every Super Bowl, I get a year older… but these ads keep staying the same age.”

If there was a recurring theme to this year’s ads, I would link it to the Economic Mood Which Must Not Be Named. Just as television programs last year reflected the Great Recession obliquely (with grimmer themes, but not unemployed characters), the subtext of this year’s Super Bowl ads seemed to be: “Your life (job, girlfriend, family) really sucks, but our brand will make one small corner of it a little more tolerable.” How uninspiring.

The ad I actually enjoyed the most was for Google, an ironic twist, as the search ad behemoth turned to mass market broadcast advertising and brand building – the exact opposite of the model it offers its own advertising clients (hyper-targeted, permission-based, and transactional).

In Google’s “Parisian Love,” the brand is front and center (unlike the car ads, where you can easily miss it). The ad shows Google’s product features, ties them to emotional benefits for the customer, and wraps it all up in a love story. This is all conveyed via nothing but screenshots, as the ad shows how search has transformed our lives in a way that nacho chips, SUVs, and light beer never will.

So maybe doing a Super Bowl ad the old fashioned way doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

See the Google Ad on YouTube:

Watch all the ads on Hulu’s AdZone


This post originally posted by David on the blog at:

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