My (Social Network) Life As A Dog: My Online Elevator Pitch

If we haven’t met in real life, chances are, you only know me physically as a dog.  My avatars and profile pics and whatever other new age words are used to describe the photos next to my online profiles, are those of my dog.  For consistency purposes, I try to use the same dog (I have two), if not the same photo of the aforementioned canine.

I’m a dog person.  I love my dogs.  If you know me personally, you know I am passionate about my dogs and can talk about them forever.  My dogs help drive my motivations personally and professionally.

So what, right?

Well, I’ve always gotten flack about using pictures of my dogs as my personal profile pictures.  Less so with Twitter and with WordPress (in fact, never), but mostly with my LinkedIn picture.

  • “LinkedIn is a professional site.  Why on earth would you risk your reputation and portray yourself as a dog?”
  • “LinkedIn is a professional site.   Considering your profession, shouldn’t you apply some of the best practices you preach?”

I was at a personal branding / social media conference in February of 2010 and we were in the process of critiquing each other’s LinkedIn profiles.  So clearly, Venetta’s dog profile picture really came under attack, of which the above two critiques were the most consistent.  Mind you, I didn’t know anyone there, so this was raw feedback from strangers.  Strangers that did not know my personal passion for dogs and also strangers well versed in social media.  Olivier Blanchard, author of The BrandBuilder Blog, and  Social Media ROI, was a guest speaker at this event, and told us about Chico as I was coming under attack for the depiction of my online persona.  Chico is Olivier’s dog and Olivier used to portray himself as Chico.  It wasn’t until recently that Olivier added his own picture to the blog:

Although I do not know Olivier’s original reasons for deciding to use his dog Chico as his personal persona (obviously, he has since added his own likelihood to his profiles), I do know my initial reasons as well as the evolution of those reasons.

For one, I am a highly private person.  However, I do like to participate in online conversations but I still am not personally comfortable taking the additional step and posting my mug out to the masses.  I don’t think that I ever will be – for me personally it’s uncomfortable, and as most people, I try to avoid any and all situations that are unpleasant. Simply and echoing Barnaby, when it comes it to using a “real photo”, quite frankly, “I prefer not to”.

Secondly, (and this comes from a highly successful sales career), a photograph of a dog has been one of the best conversation starters I have ever had the pleasure of benefitting from.  I will give you an example that has come forth on numerous occasions (these work best when your connections are dog owners or just like dogs).

  • Icebreaker question posed by many clients/prospects based on my LinkedIn profile alone:  “I saw your LinkedIn profile, what kind of dog is that?”

This question usually segways into what kind of dog the other individual has/had/known/etc.  This is a great icebreaker.  I still talk to these individuals based on our common interest of dogs even though we no longer do business together.  It has helped solidify relationships not only professionally, but personally – which is the true testament of “business relationship”.

People don’t typically take the time to read through bio’s on blogs and profiles if you’re connecting based on business.  I do, but I am one of the few.

This is what I have seen:  I know you, we’ve “met” in some professional capacity (typically this starts over the phone), we solidify our professional rendezvous online.  That’s pretty much it if you’re not a recruiter or sales executive that should be going through bios in greater detail.

So, my ten second online elevator pitch is my title, some random cliche words about myself and a picture of my dog.

And the picture sparks the connection.

When is the last time that you were able to non-creepily discuss someone’s LinkedIn profile picture as an icebreaker?

How would that work?

  • That’s a great shirt you’re wearing! (This is just creepy)
  • Oh, you’re older than I expected.  Secondary thought:  Based on your age are you biased towards technologies and communications that are out of date?
  • Oooohhh, you’re actually a lot younger than I expected.  Secondary thought:  Based on your age and possible lack of experience, should I even trust you with my business?

And the one we can all relate to 95% of the time:

  • You look absolutely nothing like you do in real life.  (We all experience this almost all of the time, or at least I do and chances are, the online persona depicted in that profile picture is better looking than the person in real life. This is not an insult to anyone, it’s just true.  You have the time and the care it takes to pick that one picture that makes you look stellar.  And why wouldn’t you – it’s human nature and virtually anyone on the Internet can stumble upon this, so it’s in your best interest to, well, look your best)

The Internet has given us all the most wonderful narcissistic playground.  We perform based on our audience and the platform.  The performance can be in the form of knowledge distribution (because I’m smarter than all of you and my Tweets prove it!), or social photographs (because I do awesomer things than all of you and go to events and have a great time all of the time and document all of this evidence on sites like Facebook!), or professional connections (because I am connected to more CEO’s than you are and my LinkedIn network proves this!) or even associations to specific locations (because my Foursquare check-ins show that I eat better food than you and check-in at the coolest and hippest new places!)

The psychological implications of  social sites and how that ties into our behavior (and the performance of that behavior) fascinates me.  And it is also what hinders me from changing the “dog picture” to a “real picture”.

For one, the picture I would use would be a glorified version of myself that you wouldn’t recognize even if you knew me. But even more so, because social networking, to me at least, is about creating the right relationships based on common interests and nurturing those relationships for future mutual benefit.

Perhaps when I achieve the status of Olivier Blanchard, I can transition away from Chico and bring myself into the picture (pun intended).

But for now, my dogs have served me well.

They’ve solidified relationships and helped start new ones based on common interests – which is the power of social media – just moving the real world online.

Advertisements

“Social Media is Free!” No, It’s Not. Key Questions to Ask Yourself and Your Company

[tweetmeme source=”Venetta_Beretta” only_single=false]

One of my biggest pet peeves is the notion that social media is free.

I mean, yes, okay, technically it is free.  It doesn’t cost a dime to create a Facebook page, nor sign-up for a Twitter account.  WordPress gave me this blog for free.  Review sites don’t charge to post content (typically), Foursquare doesn’t run my credit card when I check into a location (off-the-grid of course because I am ironically private when in the online social sphere).

In any presentation I give, I typically tend to show a video from an outside source about social media because  A. No one wants to hear me talk. B. Stats are boring.  C. A collection of outside data is best for a wonderful potpourri of credible sources helping you make your point.  D. The music is typically pretty cool.

One of my favorite videos I never show is “What the HELL is social media – in 2 minutes” by timetogetsocial.  I like it because I am partial to the style of lists (Reason #1, Reason #2,  etc.).  Granted it’s a little bit of a ripoff of Eric Qualman’s Social Media Revolution, published in July of 2009 and then refreshed in May of 2010, but what is original these days? Anyway, Qualman usually gets played because I love “Right Here Right Now” by Fatboy Slim (and more so because of the final “reason”, outlined below).

My favorite pieces from timetogetsocial:   (awesome conversation starters and continuers):

So this is pretty much the trifecta of successful business conversations: people talking about your brand and company, people buying your products and services, and the juice of the internet: porn.  Bam.

Perfect conversation pieces with a mildly entertaining soundtrack, why wouldn’t I use this gem in any regard when discussing the importance of social media?

Well, after the holy grail of business fodder (purchase decisions, brand advocates and pornography),  Reason #10 sucks.  And is untrue.  And ruins the other points because of it’s lack of explanation.

Saying that social media is free in itself is a truth.  Again, it doesn’t cost anything to enter these realms of conversation as you don’t write a check  to Google every month for your monthly search subscription.

In order to effectively enter the social space, you are going to be spending more than just time.  You need the appropriate pre-research to understand what it really is that you are doing.  There are free tools out there to help you do this.  But there are some highly sophisticated ones that are, in fact, better, and also cost money.  There is no such thing as a free lunch.  Really.  No free lunch.

Are you combatting negative perceptions?  Are you leveraging the positive momentum from your products and services because everyone is singing your praises online?  How are you marketing your initiatives?

Why on earth would Pepsi, after almost a quarter of a century of yearly ads, pull out of advertising for the Super Bowl in 2010?  Because instead of spending 2-3 million dollars on a 30 second spot, Pepsi allocated resources to social media campaigns.

CMO of Pepsi Cola North America, Lauren Hobart explained, “It’s a big shift. We explored different launch plans, and the Super Bowl just wasn’t the right venue, because we’re really trying to spark a full-year movement from the ground up. The plan is to have much more two-way dialogue with our customers.”

Ok, so… if social media were free (and if the Super Bowl were the correct “launch plan”), Pepsi could have still continued their yearly Super Bowl advertising and complemented the efforts through social media.  Let’s pay for the 30 second spot and social is free, so we do both.  Well, instead they used resources for philanthropic causes fueled by the resources put into the social user-generated campaigns.

Conversations and stories are free.  So are most of the platforms and accompanying tools out there.  But, in order to be effective, there does need to be an investment outside of just time itself in order to align the efforts and maximize the return.  Whoever is putting in the time needs to know what they are doing.  Whoever is putting in the time needs to understand the long-term strategy and work with other individuals in order to make sense of short-term strategies and tactics.

In putting together the following questions to ask yourself before venturing into the world of social media, I kept the platforms neutral.  Although created with social in mind, they don’t necessarily correspond to this arena alone.

What’s Already There?

  • What is the general public saying about you?
  • What are your key stakeholders saying? (Employees, Customers, Prospects, Candidates)
  • What is being said about your competition?
  • How do these voices differ from your message?
  • How do these conversations interrupt your business goals?
  • How do these conversations complement your business goals?

Where Should I Be?

  • Who is my audience?
  • How does my audience perceive me?
  • Where is the most conversation occurring?
  • What platform do I need to tell my story?
  • Why am I even here?
  • What are my current marketing and communication goals?
  • How do these goals fit into any new conversations?

What Should it Look Like?

  • How does my message need to visually look?
  • How integrated does the message need to be with my current branding initiatives?
  • How do I change my current branding to support my message on this new platform?
  • How does my current design promote the behavior I am looking to create?

What Should I Say?

  • What behaviors am I trying to promote?
  • What action am I trying to drive?
  • Who is my primary audience? My secondary audience?
  • What types of content does my audience respond to?
  • How does this fit into corporate goals?

How Should I Market This?

  • Who are my current stakeholders? How do they play into this?
  • Where is my desired audience?
  • What does my desired audience respond to?
  • How does this fit into my current marketing and communications material?
  • How can I better integrate this into my current marketing and communications material?
  • How does this fit into corporate goals?

How Do I Manage This?

  • Who can do this for me?
  • How do I respond?
  • What do I say?
  • Why am I saying this?

How Do I Measure Results?

  • What were the goals for this initiative? Both long-term (strategy & business objectives) and short-term (marketing campaigns)?
  • How have these goals changed?
  • Have we uncovered any new audience needs and behavior? How can we continue to promote this or change this?
  • How has each campaign affected strategic goals? How can we continue to improve this?
  • What new learnings have surfaced? How do these affect strategic goals?

The list is still a work in progress as I am sure there are things that I have not added.  What else would you suggest as a key consideration to companies entering a long-term journey into social media?

My Love/Hate Relationship with LinkedIn

[tweetmeme source=”Venetta_Beretta” only_single=false]

Please note:  The goal of my personal profile and “work” on LinkedIn is not to obtain a job or to be sourced for positions.  If job seeking were my goal, I could speak more to the experience of using LinkedIn for that purpose and would apply the appropriate tactics in order to build relationships with those that could assist in that goal. When you are attempting to use a social site in any regard, there must be a defined purpose and tactics tailored to that purpose.  This is true for both job seekers using LinkedIn, individuals looking for thought-leadership on Twitter, and also for corporate brands using social media to meet business initiatives.  Musings such as “So don’t bet on this as a place to get hired even if you’re active on the site like I am” are in no way a reflection of what this platform can or cannot do for you.  Simply, if you are actively looking for a job, you should not be reliant on a single tactic alone such as posting a profile on any website, posting a resume into a database or applying for a position.  There are other actions that you must take in order to produce better results in your job search.  It’s a competitive market, make sure you’re as creative as you can be in order to get in front of your intended audience.                                                              (Note added 1/19/2011)

Okay, so this doesn’t have much to do with LinkedIn as a social platform (I could spend hours on that subject as well), but more so of the behaviors of people that are on LinkedIn.  Actually, it has nothing to do with LinkedIn and the behaviors of people on that site in specific, but with people in general. LinkedIn, in this sense, is just a facilitator of human “behaviors” that irk me, so, unfortunately, LinkedIn as a social network becomes the front and center impetus for the following example(s).

After spending a good year or so analyzing user behaviors within online social networks, you begin to see patterns.

Social Learning #1: People really don’t act much differently online than they do in real life.

As an avid LinkedIn user as well as a social network analyst, LinkedIn is a powerful tool.  Too bad no one knows how to use it.

Will LinkedIn (or a professional “online profile”) replace a traditional resume?  Absolutely not. There are certain things within resumes that help sell candidates that should never be posted publicly.  Like what?  Try, sales numbers, revenue growth, confidential projects and the nature of those learnings, etc.  It’s a complement not a replacement. Funny how LinkedIn now wants your resume for you to now have a “complete” profile.  I am curious how many people upload in order to fulfill that achievement, “Your profile is 100% complete!”.  Who cares?  An official resume shouldn’t be shared publicly if you are not an active job seeker.  And even then, you must keep some things private (trust me, I’ve seen more than my fair share of public resume snafu’s – but I digress).

So we hit on job seeking and the reverse – candidate sourcing (kind of). So what else do your professional relationships help with (aka, what else is LinkedIn good for)?  Sales. As in selling things on a corporate standpoint where you source buyers and corporate hierarchies so you find your appropriate decision makers.

Does LinkedIn make it easy for you to source leads?  Yes, of course.  It’s a public (when logged-in) user-generated professional network.  People put up their professional histories and education and “perform” the social dance of “this is who I know”.  Then they put up their blogs and their slideshare and powerpoint presentations and join groups and ask and answer questions so their entire networks (and those viewing their profiles) can have a better scope of “this is what I know.” You can argue that this is done on LinkedIn as a passive aggressive way to say “hire me”, or “buy from me” after we have solidified our online relationship. So, no harm, no foul.  As humans this is natural behavior to connect with others and to gratify feelings of our self worth.

So, why do I hate LinkedIn?  Because people don’t know how to use it.  People don’t know how to create relationships. People don’t know how to sell themselves and/or their service.  LinkedIn’s fault? No, absolutely not.

I can’t count on my fingers and toes the amount of cold calls I have received in the last year based on my LinkedIn profile.  Is anyone trying to hire me? No. (So don’t bet on this as a place to get hired even if you’re active on the site like I am).  Is anyone trying to sell me something based on “we share a group” and “you work at a huge company”?  Yes.  Every single one of them.

How many people have I called back? None.  Why? Because their messages are irrelevant to me and I don’t waste people’s time and I expect the same of others.  I’m active on social sites so with a minor amount of research you can find out what I do and tailor your sales pitch to me.  LinkedIn,  narcissism, and the internet itself have made this research available to you at no charge.  On top of that, people are narcissists and social networks, blogs, micro-blogs, location based platforms magnify this behavior and social longing.  Use it to your advantage when you’re sourcing for your leads, please.

After all of these horrendous cold calls, I tweeted this:  

(I’m in social media and everyone cold-calling me knows this because they sourced me on LinkedIn to sell me their social media crap – so you would think, “Venetta is involved with social media, it looks like she is passionate about it, her blog is on her LinkedIn profile (that I am sourcing from), oh and look, her Twitter account is attached.   Let me see if there is anything I can use from those sites to help tailor my pitch to something that could be relevant to her. Or, if all else fails, it looks like she has an affinity for dogs.  Maybe I can mention my dog/cat/bird/whatever and reference her dog(s) to make it look like I at least kind of care or went through the motions just to create some conversation and common ground”  This is not a stretch, we’re talking about social media here, something I am deeply involved in and something I am being targeted for on a purchasing standpoint. And really, come on, my name is incredibly easy when it comes to finding me through a simple Google search. Social Learning #2:  People love talking about themselves.  They really do.)

Then, I get a cold-call from Leanne (her full name is being protected because I don’t want to embarrass her or put her company in any jeopardy).  Awesome.  She sees my company on my profile and calls the general corporate number and they transfer her over.  I don’t pick up calls that are routed this way for this exact reason.  She leaves a horrible voicemail talking about her company and the only reason I listen to the full message is so I learn from her mistakes and never do this on any calls I ever make.

Then, Leanne sends an email. (Feel free to click on the image if you care to read it)


At this point, I am only assuming that she used my LinkedIn profile to find me.

So, I double check.  (And thank you LinkedIn for this feature, because I love seeing who views my profile, it helps my personal narcissism grow.  Not being facetious, I love this feature).  And there is my Leanne:

Is LinkedIn the greatest (free) business tool of all time?  That might be a stretch, but yes, perhaps.  Will it ever work for sales and recruitment?  Yes, absolutely.  I’m afraid no one I’ve ever come in contact with knows how to use it in combination with other (free) research in order to achieve their goals (in Leanne’s case, selling me something).  I looked into her company (only because I was writing this).   Do they have a decent service that I would consider? Actually, yes.  Would I buy from them?  No.  Why?  See above.

Sales 101 and social media 101 both have taught us that no one cares about you and no one cares about me.  Social Learning #3: You are irrelevant (as a brand, product, service and person) until you tie your offering to what the other person wants and/or needs.

Be a good human, good recruiter, good salesperson first and then have at the tools within your reach.  They work better that way.

It’s All About the Content (Strategy), Baby!

[tweetmeme source=”Venetta_Beretta” only_single=false]

What’s the next best thing after social networking sites for marketers?

Another innovation in content delivery.  Yes. That’s it. That’s all Facebook is and why marketers are flocking to the medium.

As AOL announced that it would let go of Bebo in April 2010 (yes, another Bebo reference), only a few months later did the news make it out that AOL would be hiring hundreds of reporters for their new media venture Patch.com.  In their own words, Patch.com is “is a new way to find out about, and participate in, what’s going on near you […] a community-specific news and information platform dedicated to providing comprehensive and trusted local coverage for individual towns and communities.”

So, citizen journalism, right? Not quite. With the emerging popularity of Examiner.com and subject-specific writers/bloggers spreading their content via their own social networks (“Examiners” are paid on traffic, comments, and social shares of their content, and I hear that it’s barely pennies), Patch.com notes that their communities (what the beats are called) are run by “professional editors, writers, photographers and videographers who live in or near the communities” they are reporting on.  Patch is banking on their elevated credibility as opposed to the you-don’t-even-have-to-interview-and-can-write-for-us Examiner.

Moving away from competing with the social networking behemoth, Facebook, AOL is investing in content. Rightfully so as their CEO, Tim Armstrong defines AOL as “a global media content company” in an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow.  The full interview can be viewed here.  Regarding the “hysteria” of paid vs. unpaid content, Armstrong notes that companies have “to be open to the business model that meets the content you’re producing”.

Enter genius marketing/business strategy by, of all organizations… The United States Postal Service.  With all of the buzz of internet marketing and earned media through social media, marketers don’t need direct-mail anymore.  Why pay for production, shipping and barely any tracking when only a small minority of the recipients will even open the piece? Instead, jump onto FaceSpace and track your followers.  Boom. Complete.

Not so.  And who better to let you know than the United States Postal Service.  Deliver is a magazine geared towards marketers with an attempt to revive direct-mail budgets. Not too bad of an idea from the USPS.  Create a niche publication geared towards your actual buyers.  Give them content and still promote your agenda (direct-mail budgets).

I mean, I loves me some social media, but the back cover of Deliver Magazine, July 3, 2010, Volume 6, is pretty compelling:

(Written on the paper: “Why are we paying so much attention to this [social media] if HALF the population isn’t”; Response in alternate color: “Cause it’s the cool new thing”).

I give it to you, USPS, clever idea with this Deliver Magazine of yours.

And then… the impetus for this post… Rouge Magazine.  Publisher?  P&G. Yes.  Procter and Gamble.  Procter and Gamble published a magazine for women. Yes, that P&G. Comet, the household cleaner P&G. (Okay well, Javelin Custom Publishing Inc. for Procter and Gamble).  You can read the Totem (Javelin Custom Publishing is a subsidiary of Totem) brand story about Rouge Magazine here.

I received my first copy of the magazine today (in the mail, thank you United States Postal Service) and was completely in awe – I didn’t order this, this is an amazing piece of content I can waste my time with, and… these are “inspiring ideas by P&G Beauty”. Intrigued, I go through the magazine. Okay, granted, all ads are for P&G brands.  Most advice is shrouded in “Head and Shoulders is not just for dandruff”, but it really isn’t that overwhelming salesy.  I’m actually quite impressed.

The Fortune 500’s beauty magazine makes sense. Why spend millions on a campaign in Allure or Glamour or any of the over done beauty magazines.  You’re competing with plenty of others in the retail stores, why fight for the advertising eyeballs? Chances are, the $50,000 one-month full page spread may or may not drive sales at your local Target. You really can’t measure the ROI on that.

But… create your own content (women read anything that has to do with beauty even though we’ve read the same advice since we were in high school, there are just new advertisements now), advertise your own array of brands, sprinkle your own specific products within the content you’ve produced (I took note of a blouse in their fashion spread and I vividly remember the CG lipstick the model was wearing – of which I might buy), and offer up a couple of coupons in the back. Oh – and did I mention, send the less than 60 page P&G brand-orgy magazine to someone that you identified from one of your retailers as buying a competing product (I’m almost certain I was targeted, pun not intended, based on my Target Visa).

Take it from AOL that threw their attempt at creating a social networking site to rival Facebook away and refocused on content.

Look at the clever way the United States Postal Service is getting marketers to digest content aimed to increase direct-mail efforts.

Even P&G, the consumer goods manufacturing titan is making content part of their overall strategy.

Social platforms such as MySpace and Facebook, YouTube and Blogger, have altered the way that we communicate with each other and digest content.  That’s a fundamental shift in how we will do business and interact with our various stakeholders.

But do keep in mind – Facebook wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the content that personal networks produce.  You post a picture (you add content), your entire network knows and the voyeurs digest that content and possibly act upon it (comment on your picture).  But if it weren’t for your personal networks, and the automatic interesting content that humans are prone to (because realistically, it’s the controversial that gets the ball rolling for discussion), Facebook wouldn’t be where it is today.

The future of innovation is the content itself and it’s delivery.  It’s that simple.

And I cannot believe the best examples I have seen are from Procter and Gamble and the United States Postal Service.

For the reference… my copy of Rouge, making its way to the top of bills and news journals:

Sometimes You Just Have To Cut Your Own Hair Off

[tweetmeme source=”Venetta_Beretta” only_single=false]

For me, my hair is my darling.

That doesn’t sound right as it implies that I am vain and that classic literature (and the characters of classic literature) and the mop on my head are one of the same.  Not what I mean. I’m comfortable with my hair. My hair is my adulthood blankie.  I’m fine with that.  Don’t judge me.

According to the United States Department of Labor, it is a common misconception that 80% of small businesses fail within the first five years.  Instead, between the years of 1992 and 1996, only 17% of small businesses closed due to bankruptcy or “other failures” in 1997 (because 1997 would be the five year mark/time-frame in question for this… yes, it confused me too at first). Granted, these numbers are over a decade old, and we don’t want to scare away entrepreneurship with ridiculously high failure rates – I get that.

Erring on the side of older-than-a-decade-optimisitc percentages that are over 60% less than the common misconception (Real people speak – these numbers are insanely low AND from 1997), 17% is still a considerable number when you factor in the amount of darlings that went into the start-up.  Your traditional, and well over-used “blood, sweat, and tears” of the 17% of these ventures in question would likely equate to an overwhelming pool of bodily secretions.

And then, begin to factor in the departments within companies, the failed divisions, the poor innovations, the non-profitable areas that barely function in the large scope of the organization.  Part of the 17% of actual failures?  No, not quite.  But hundreds of thousands, hundreds of millions, probably, of dying darlings that were killed by the mothers, fathers, adopted parents and familial units, thereby ending the lifespan of hundreds of thousands/millions of bad ideas and an equal, if not more, amount of true innovations.

Most of the time, the darling needs to go.  It’s impeding the bottom line of something.

But, the other times, the darling just doesn’t get the love it deserves.

The case of Bebo fascinates me. In April of this year, AOL decided to pull the plug on the once successful social networking site, mostly popular in Europe.  The site was purchased for $850 million in 2008 and then, well, sold for peanuts. Criterion Capitol Partners LLC bought the site for less than $10 million. After being acquired by AOL, Bebo employees claim that they lacked the funding needed, both on a financial as well as development standpoint in order to successfully compete in the marketplace.  Well, at a loss of about $840 million, it’s clear that this was a darling that didn’t have a chance on a strategic standpoint after the acquisition. AOL: You probably should have given them more resources and strategized more effectively as to how this network could figure into your larger content based strategy.

And then, there are the dreamers.  Theatre in high school got me through it all – the awkwardness, the boredom.  I was told I was good.  I was told I should have continued, somehow in the performing arts.  I see friends and acquaintances, old teachers and the like and the question always remains, “why didn’t you continue with it?”.  As Hedda Gabler, “You were better than Martha Plimpton!”  And so began my nickname from those that knew me years ago, “Corporate” (because, and so apropos, I went corporate).  And for me, letting go of theatre was my first real meaningful darling I had to let go.

And then offing my darlings became a little easier.

Find a way to take your loves, your true loves in what you do and apply them to your mundane.  You’ll have to kill them most of the time in order to move  forward.  We can’t all win Academy Awards and fraternize with the Zuckerberg’s of the world.  But quite honestly, the darlings will never truly die.  Even Faulkner knew that, and you can see the similarities across some of his most popular pieces.

Plus, this was only a chunk of an otherwise ridiculous mass.

John Quelch’s “Marketing Your Way Through a Recession”. Harvard, I Expect More From You.

[tweetmeme source=”Venetta_Beretta” only_single=false]

The elements of John Quelch’s 2008 recessionary marketing tips are important considerations for corporations considering their marketing plans in 2008 and 2009. But, Quelch hasn’t considered the “Long Tail of the Consumer” and the groundswell’s importance in these post-capitalistic times. The arguments that Quelch makes are outdated, better suited for the 1980’s U.S recession, or even for the dot.com bust in the late 1990’s. The power of technology and the adaption of interactive marketing that have dominated our society and marketing initiatives within the last decade are non-existent within this post. Really, Harvard? This is what you pay professor and resident blogger Quelch for?

I’ll give Quelch one thing – he makes a good simple point to research the customer to learn how “consumers are redefining value and responding to the recession.” This is a key element to corporate success and redefining brand value propositions when consumers are less likely to be loyal to certain products and brands. It’s shocking that still, in 2010, most companies can’t define their consumer image or just turn a blind eye to what people are really saying about their brand. 

The incorporation of simple brand management techniques, as discussed in Chris Anderson’s The Longer Long Tail and Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff’sGroundswell, are not as common as you’d think. Despite the simplicity and ease that technology offers, according to Anderson, in his 2008 Long Tail adaption, “you’d be surprised how many companies don’t know the answer [to what their consumers say about them and their competition]. They don’t Google themselves” (231). Though recessions often present opportunities for marketers – Quelch’s lack of interactive marketing strategies lands short.

Quelch’s dusty dogma fails to properly assess marketing spend during a recession, most importantly, this recession during the same digital era (i.e, Quelch wrote this article just months before the financial free fall in September of 2008 while digital spend was still gaining momentum) Although it is a documented trend that “uncertain consumers need the reassurance of known brands” (Quelch), Quelch’s suggestion to increase television ad spend during tough economic times again fails to consider the decrease in importance that these media play in consumer influence during the current digital age.

Taking into consideration the following:

  • “McKinsey, the consultancy, projects that by 2010 advertising on broadcast television will be barely one-third as effective as it was in 1990” (Anderson 225)
  • What the Forrester Research team identified as the “Groundswell”, published just a month after Mr. Quelch’s article: “A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations” (Li and Bernoff, 9).
  • The Forrester US Interactive Marketing Forecast
Okay, okay, I get the rebuttal, these figures weren’t even published at the time that Quelch and Harvard published the article. So… let’s see what was available to us/him in an era so long, long ago in 2008:
  • In TNS Media’s 2007 Intelligence Reports, all media spend decreased from 2006 to 2007, with the exception of the Internet, which grew by 1% point
  • MC Marketing Charts reports Nielsen data for 2007, with “Internet display advertising continued its growth leadership, increasing 15.9% in 2007 to $11.31 billion in expenditures” compared to “television media, full-year Network TV expenditures declined by 2.0% to $22.43 billion”
  • Digital Marketing Guru, Mitch Joel publishes TV Viewing is Down As Internet Usage Continues to Rise? Not Exactly in November 2008. And although it appears that Mitch’s post reveals Quelch’s point… not exactly. Not exactly at all. Traditional media is fragmented, “DVR usage continues to rise and American’s spent more than 6 hours per month watching TV that was time-shifted. On top of that 31% of those watching all of that TV were also online at the same time.”
Quelch misses the mark with the following: “when economic hard times loom, we tend to retreat to our village,” for a suggested marketing focus on family values. And I absolutely agree. But… coupled with the decrease in television advertising effectiveness, and more so, with what Anderson calls a fundamental marketing shift where “selling doesn’t work” (The Longer Long Tail, 225), Quelch undermines the importance of technology to support his point. Quelch fails to mention how powerful social technologies are in “retreating” to the village. A village in which the consumer can now create (Myspace, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the list goes on). And is it a coincidence that social media usage is growing rapidly amongst global economic chaos? Doubtful. Agreed, “uncertainty prompts us to stay home but also stay connected with family and friends”. Yet, Anderson’s “fragmentation of marketing” (225) and Joel’s “fragmented media” are pieces of the puzzle that are missing in his suggestions. More attention to marketing plans are needed during the recession, more precision, more strategy, but not in the traditional media that focused upon with a disregard for the digital explosion.
I agree with the spirit of Quelch’s article, though there are numerous factors omitted that would better reflect the current marketplace in which we all live. Quelch’s major flaw lies in not discussing the elements of technology that are currently shaping communication. In the “new landscape of influence” shaped by technology (Anderson 235), consumers are connecting to each other in self-built online communities. People trust what those in their own personal networks say, not what a company is broadcasting as the message of the week. True, “successful companies do not abandon their marketing strategies in a recession, they adapt them” (Quelch). Unfortunately, there isn’t any insight in how to best adapt such strategies in the midst of a recession amidst the groundswell – two prime opportunities for marketers and consumers to become best acquainted.

(Again, not necessarily so timely, but moving content over from my original publishing on Blogger)

Starbucks & Nescafe – Counterproductive Nescafe Campaign?

[tweetmeme source=”Venetta_Beretta” only_single=false]
So… Starbucks is Starbucks. Their brand is synonymous with luxury all over the world. Numerous books have been written regarding what Starbucks has done to create such strong brand equity with a commodity – my personal favorite The Starbucks Experience – regarding the brand (love it, or hate it), behind the coffee giant.

As the recession deepens, Starbucks is feeling the pain with an 8% decrease to $2.3B in the first quarter of 2009. Expenses were reduced to $120 Million while consumers become stingier with their discretionary income but still feeding their need for caffeine.

(This is an ad campaign from May-ish of 2009 – Post originally published on my Blogger blog, but am transitioning some content over)Combatting the ideas that their coffee is more expensive than it is worth, Starbucks unveiled a new campaign (part of the city wall poster seen above). CEO, Howard Schultz, discusses the Starbucks story – “It’s not just coffee. It’s Starbucks” here. Starbucks, Schultz asserts, will break outside of it’s coffee bean shell. With the historic campaign (Starbucks is not an avid advertising company), Starbucks will focus on their overall experience, rather than the coffee itself.

Makes sense, in the middle of the recession, as consumers do not have the time, and quite frankly no one looks to brand names when they are on unsure of their job stability, to promote “Starbucks Via”, a ready-brew, at a fraction of the cost, as an attempt to stay on top of the easy-to-self-make coffee drink capturing (possibly recapturing) market share lost to McCafe and cheaper coffee alternatives.

Taking a look at a concurrent coffee advertising campaign – Nescafe, on the other hand, is trying to capitalize on the Anti-Starbucks sentiment shared by numerous consumers. As a corporate conglomorate, Starbucks faces criticism for their “over-priced” coffee, labor issues, fair trade, real estate practices, et al. The Nescafe campaign, part of which can be seen in the photos above, is counterproductive.

As seen on many billboards, specifically in the Chicagoland area, their usage of “Starbucks Via” as the front runner of the text on their campaign, might be causing the opposite of their initial intent. Driving in my car, on the bus, walking my dogs, “Stabucks Via” is the first thing that I see. Capturing an audience that is mobile (as with most forms of OOH advertising), marketers and advertisers have a limited time to capture their audience. The message is completely lost amidst the Starbucks campaign itself, further fueling brand recognition for Starbucks. Arguably, “Starbucks Via” is more compelling than the Nescafe logo at the bottom of their ad.

Not the smartest move, Nescafe. The message makes sense, the Anti-Starbucks target makes sense. The media chosen is too expensive to share the platform with the competition. Nescafe is advertising for Starbucks. They are sharing their message with an organization that they are trying to combat. They are using precious marketing and advertising dollars in an economically sensitive time to further promote a brand they are advertising against…

(This campaign originally ran in April-May of 2009.  My original post was on Blogger on May, 18, 2009)