5 Take Aways from the ANA’s 2010 Masters of Marketing Conference

Last year, I had the pleasure of attending my first Masters of Marketing event in Phoenix, AZ (recap here). The thing that blew me away at that event and convinced me not only to come back, but also to sponsor this year, was the amount of talent amassed in one place at one time. Unlike many other conferences, the speakers all stick around and network… for three days. This leads to unprecedented access to people like:

  • Mark Baynes – CMO, Kellogg Company
  • Marc Pritchard – CM, Procter & Gamble
  • Erin Nelson – CMO, Dell Inc.
  • Keith Pardy – CMO, Research in Motion
  • Ralph Santana – CMO, Samsung Electronics NA
  • Jim Speros – CMO, Fidelity Investments
  • Joseph Tripodi – CMO, Coca-Cola Company
  • Ted Ward – CMO, Geico Auto Insurance
  • Mary Beth West – CMO, Kraft Foods
  • Michael Francis – CMO, Target Corporation

What’s amazing is that the ten CMOs I’ve listed above only represent about 1% of the senior marketers attending the event. Given the talent and experience the Masters of Marketing event attracts, you can only imagine the quality of the 3-day marketing “MBA” you receive after attending. And that’s assuming you only make it to 50% of the sessions. Even more impressive is that many of the marketers seemed to be singing off the same song sheet. To that end, here are my five key takeaways from this year’s event:

Top Take Aways

  1. Companies are getting back to basic when it comes to defining what their brand stands for. Several speakers talked about the importance of a brand having purpose and there seems to be a greater awareness of a need for the brand to be better connected with its customers.
  2. While the topic of social media came up in almost every presentation, it’s still not a top priority for most brands. What is encouraging is that if social wasn’t on last year’s CMO’s “must do” list, it definitely is this year, even if it’s priority number 8, 9 or 10.
  3. As a follow up to point number two, most marketers are at least “social curious.” As someone that lives and breathes social media, I had at least a dozen very interesting conversations with marketers who wanted to know more about things like Twitter, location-based marketing and developing a social strategy.
  4. While many of the presenters included clips of their 30 second spots, it felt more integrated versus “showcased” in comparison to last year’s event. In fact, Coca Cola CMO, Joe Tripodi, only showed video clips from Youtube and customer research projects. By the way, with the exception of Seth Greenberg of Intuit, Joe seemed to be the most socially savvy CMO of the bunch.
  5. The uptick in the economy this year was reflected in the event itself. First and foremost, there were easily 50% more attendees this year. Also, the quality of the receptions and entertainment were ratcheted up a notch or three. To me, that’s a good sign that marketers are feeling comfortable (or at least cautiously optimistic) about spending again.

Another thing I included in last year’s wrap up post were some of my favorite tweets from the event (many were quotes from the speakers). You can see all the tweets from the event that were tagged with #ANAMarketers but once again, I’ve selected my top ten (in no particular order) out of the hundreds for your viewing pleasure:

  • @ANAmarketers: Friend casting on Facebook has no media cost. Friend casting was 4 more times more effective then a banner ad for #Intuit #ANAmarketers
  • @StepByStepMktng: AmEx CMO John Hayes: build a narrative around the WHY of what you do inside and outside the company. #ANAMarketers
  • @betterads: #ANAmarketers: @Starcom Laura Desmond – “Paid Media gets the party started, Owned & Earned keeps it going all night long”
  • @ANAmarketers:Very cool: #Target’s take over of the Standard Hotel in NYC http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQ_v_WrahrM #ANAmarketers
  • @WellsMelanie: Social media can do a lot–but it can’t solve brand problems, say top marketers. #ANAmarketers http://bit.ly/dtylTj
  • @lisarosenberg: Univision’s Graciela Eleta: There is no average American. 46% of all people under 18 are minorities. #ANAmarketers #PNID
  • @cindygallop1: All CMOs speaking @ #ANAMarketers showing work – PLEASE give your agency shout-out by name. Best new biz opportunity they will have all year
  • @StepByStepMktng: Dell CMO Karen Quintos: we love data. We measure everything. we’re mining through data all the time. #ANAMarketers
  • @aaronstrout: Laura Desmond also talks about curation, content, conversation. Did she read @JaffeJuice’s #FliptheFunnel book last night? #ANAMarketers
  • @maryleesachs: Joe Tripodi of Coke talks about moving from measuring impressions to expressions, from loyalty to advocacy. Makes sense. #anamarketers

Oh, and while this isn’t really of value to anyone but me, my response on Twitter from the lovely and talented, Leann Rimes, was hands down my favorite tweet during the event. In fact, I did a quick podcast a couple of days later on what brands could learn from how Leann engages` with her customers (and prospective customers like me).

@leannrimes: @AaronStrout thx! It was fun!!!!

As an added bonus, there were some great performers at the event including the Goo Goo Dolls (remember them)? If you liked the song Name, here is a live recording (thank you iPhone 4) of the performance. I have to say, the sound quality is actually pretty good.


The Value of Social Media – ForumOne’s Interview with Aaron

Earlier this week, my friend, Bill Johston at ForumOne Communications was kind enough to interview me for an article on their Online Community Summit Report. The interview is cross-posted below.

At the end of the day, companies will enjoy the greatest success when they are coordinating all of their efforts and driving their customers to their online communities and/or social outposts…

What should the role of social media be in a company’s marketing mix?
I like how you worded your question. It implies that social media SHOULD be in a company’s marketing mix vs. being a standalone solution. At the end of the day, companies will enjoy the greatest success when they are coordinating all of their efforts and driving their customers to their online communities and/or social outposts on places like LinkedIn and Facebook. In those places, customers and prospects alike can interact with a company’s employees, talk to one another, interact with content that company has created to provide a learning experience and ultimately, feel more a part of the company’s brand.

How would you differentiate between social media and online community?
Social media in its truest form is really any content – text, video or audio – that allows people to comment on, discuss or interact with. The most common examples of social media in my mind are blogs, Twitter, podcasts, and video sites like Youtube. Online community requires both content, tools like forums, ratings/reviews, tagging AND social profiles. It’s the latter that creates “community” because members are able to connect to one another moving from a “what you know” to a “who you know” model.

There has been a lot of noise recently about the “death of corporate blogging”. What is your take, are corporate blogs still important? What makes a successful corporate blog?
Corporate blogs are far from dead. In fact, I think they are just getting started. However, you are correct when you mention that corporate blogs are getting a bad rap. There was a recent Forrester report by Josh Bernoff that stated that only 16% of Americans trust corporate blogs. To be honest, I’m surprised that number is as high as it is. Many of the corporate blogs I’ve browsed are not that good. Most are very inward focused and only want to talk about how great the company is or how great it’s employees are. Unfortunately, this isn’t what its readers want. They are looking for value, insights and a way to better connect with the brand. Until companies can better deliver on that promise, corporate blogs will continue to struggle.

I (and others) have commented on your expert use of twitter. What do you feel the core values of twitter are to a business, and what advice would you have for burgeoning twitter users?
Let me start by saying that you are too kind. I’ve been at the “Twitter” thing for a while now and I’ve learned a lot over that time. For one, it’s very important to be authentic. People appreciate other folks that are comfortable in their own skin. Even more important is understanding the value of “give before you get.” This is probably the hardest one for anyone to abide by. That’s mainly because when Twitter asks, “What are you doing,” it feels like you should talk about yourself. WRONG. Talk about other smart people you’re meeting. Point to good articles or blog posts. Comment on how funny someone’s last tweet was. At the end of the day, if you do those things, the benefits will come back to you in spades.

If you would like to hear more from Aaron, as well as Rob Harles of Sears Holdings and Kate Neiderhoffer of the Dachis Group (formerly with Nielsen) and me, join us for Building a Business Case for Social Marketing“, which will be held live on Wednesday, January 28th, at 2:00 PM. We will discuss real-world experiences in managing online communities and provide practical advice on how to build an effective business case and overall strategy for social marketing and community initiatives.

3 Reasons Why Social Marketing Critical to Success in a Downturn

Let’s get this out of the way right up front. We’re in one of the worst economic slumps in the history of the U.S. The week before Thanksgiving, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed below 8,000 for the first time in five and a half years. We’re also in the midst of a horrific credit crisis that is crippling the financial, auto and housing markets in the U.S. If that wasn’t bad enough, earlier in November, the unemployment rate in the U.S. hit a high of 529,000 — the highest it’s been since the grand old days of President Jimmy Carter Ronald Reagan [updated on March 7th thanks to the keen eyes of Rebecca] in 1983.

Image courtesy of http://kcbs.com

Do you feel all warm and fuzzy yet? At least you know I’m not going into this post with rose colored glasses on. I know that the economy stinks right now but here’s the good part. Not all hope is lost. In fact, I’d argue that there is no time like the present to shore up that leaky bucket businesses call “customer attrition” with a healthy dose of retention, loyalty and a greater willingness to recommend.

As the title promises, here are three reasons why I believe that social marketing is critical to any company’s success in the downturn (and why now is the right time to invest in it):

  1. Let’s kick off with some research from our friends at Forrester Research that uber-analsyt, Josh Bernoff, included in a report back in April of this year. The piece titled, Interactive Marketers Are Bullish In A Recession (requires login), was based on a  survey of 333 interactive marketers conducted by Forrester. The essence of the post was that interactive marketers were still bullish on things like e-mail, search engine, web and social marketing even though the economic outlook for the country was less than ideal. While it’s true that things have gotten worse since Josh put the report together, I think a majority of the takeaways still apply.Below are excerpts from some of the major bullets from the report along with a diagram below that of the response by marketing channel/tool:
    • Interactive budgets will mostly hold steady or increase. Seventy-two percent of the interactive marketers we surveyed expect to keep their interactive spend on plan or increase it in a recession.
    • Social applications will garner the greatest increases. Interactive marketers are most likely to increase investment in social networks, with 48% planning an increase and another 34% keeping investment steady. Marketers are also bullish on user-generated content and blogs. Podcasts, RSS, and widgets, while less popular, will still generate increased investment from at least 20% of interactive marketers (see Figure 2). These channels actively engage customers, are fueled by user contributions, and scale without significant additional marketer resources.
    • Display ads could lose ground. More than 40% of respondents expect to decrease spending on display ads, while only 10% plan an increase.
  2. Josh isn’t the only one that’s bullish on the fact that social media/social marketing is a good bet in a down economy. In fact, successful entrepreneur AND social media guru, Gary Vaynerchuck provides good rationale as to why it’s impossible to ignore social media as the effectiveness of marketing and advertising vehicles like banner ads and SEM, continue to erode (note: this is mostly video but it’s worth the watch).
  3. Back to Josh on this one – social marketing is MEASURABLE! And not just in a “we got 18 comments on our blog” measurable. I’m talking, “we know that our customers are xx% more likely to buy from us and xx% more likely to recommend this product/service to a friend or family member. See my recent post on ROI for more details on results we’ve seen with some of our clients.

What, three reasons isn’t good enough for you? Here are a few more posts that give their own reasons as to why you should think about social media/social marketing during the downturn.

What ways are you including social media/social marketing into your business during this time of opportunity? Thoughts are welcome in the comments below…

Cross-posted on http://blog.stroutmeister.com

Building a Lagoon

lagoonOne of my favorite metaphors for the social web as it relates to marketers is the ocean. Although metaphors are often overused, it’s a great way to think about – and explain to others – Web 2.0 as a marketing medium.

I have been a certified SCUBA diver for several years now and have had wonderful experiences exploring the underwater wilderness. Every time I do it I’m reminded of something that my certification instructor told me – “This is not your world. You are merely a visitor.” Submerging always makes me poignantly aware of that fact, with all of the awkward, heavy equipment restricting my movement, a mask limiting my vision, and the rattle of my regulator a constant reminder that under normal conditions I can’t even breathe here.

To marketers, who are the lifeblood and to a great degree the masters of other communications mediums like television, radio, and print – the social web is a vast, foreign world that belongs to the fish (the users) and where they can visit, observe, but never feel truly at home or enjoy any degree of control. It is highly unique in that way.

Occasionally, the marketer can throw some bait in the water to attract the fish, but when the fish see him or her they might get frightened away by that foreign presence – and one always runs the risk of attracting sharks (aka “the wrong audience”) when there is bait involved.

As a result, a lot of marketers remain safely on dry land, but staring longingly at the ocean. Why? Because the very thing that makes it awkward for them makes it preferable, and natural, for the fish. And marketers by nature want to be where the fish are. But there is another phenomenon underway. The Internet as a medium is starting to absorb the others. Radio is becoming Pandora and Last.fm, Television is becoming YouTube and Hulu, and the print industry is becoming blogs, RSS feeds, and Twitter. Dry land is shrinking, and learning how to swim is evolving from an opportunity into a matter of necessity.

But marketers have time, are getting more savvy, and are figuring out new ways to deploy their resources. They are starting to get keen on another option – the lagoon strategy. Lagoons are the shallow tropical pools connected to the ocean where fish can feel completely at home, but which are safer and more comfortable for people as well. There is a slightly higher degree of control in a lagoon – you let water flow in and out freely but can typically keep unwanted fish out (and fish can keep themselves out, if they like). You can decide on the dimensions and features in the water ahead of time in order to make sure the lagoon is for you as much as it is for fish. Because it’s safer, it’s also a great place for new swimmers to get comfortable and learn about the ocean.

Social marketing is all about building lagoons. “Lagoon websites” built by marketers must emulate the places where your customers spend most of their time online, meaning any content has to be valuable and relevant to them, and they must be able to contribute and share using a full suite of social tools. Lagoon sites work best when connected to those social sites in the open ocean (Facebook, YouTube, etc.), but the tactics employed out there have to be designed to give customers a taste of what is available closer to shore. Putting a display ad on a social network is like putting it on the bottom of a boat. The fish just don’t care – they’re too busy swimming.

Likewise, lagoon-builders have to know at the outset that a lagoon requires the right kind of constant maintenance and oversight to stay healthy and populated with fish. More than that, they must be willing to jump in and take frequent swims. And most importantly they have to be passionately dedicated to doing things on their customers’ terms. This is, after all, not their world.

~ Photo uploaded by bluangelsdream

Social Marketing ROI: Ignore At Your Own Peril

Last Friday morning, I had an informative conversation with new friends Paul May and Jeremy Bencken of BuzzStream. The topic was return on investment (ROI) in the world of social media/social marketing and whether companies will continue to spend money on social endeavors without a demonstrable return on their investment. What spurred the conversation was Paul’s recent blog post inspired by friend and fellow blogger, Jason Falls, similarly focused post.

What I liked about our discussion was the fact that Paul, Jeremy and I were all completely aligned. While we appreciate the “Clue Train” mantra that many folks cite these days about social media/social marketing being able to put a “human face” on a company, at the end of the day a company needs to be able to be capable of demonstrating real results from their social efforts. What this doesn’t mean is that the two goals need to be mutually exclusive and in fact, when done correctly, a company can enjoy greater results by being human AND tapping into the power of social

This is reinforced by what we’re seeing in terms of results from some of the companies that our company, Powered, helps our customers enjoy (yes, I know I promised I wouldn’t talk too much about Powered but the results we’re seeing from our customers social marketing/elearning programs reinforce my point). As we wrap up our annual ROI report, here are just a few of the preliminary results our customers experienced in 2008.

Of our customers’ web site visitors who participated in one of our “Powered” learning centers/managed communities:

  • 92% would recommend our customers’ site to a friend
  • 95% would visit our customers’ site again
  • 85% would recommend our customers’ brand to a friend
  • 66% would be more likely to purchase from our customers’ brand
  • 63% have a more positive view of our customers’ brand

Yeah, I was impressed when I first saw these numbers too, but what I really liked was the fact that our account services and content teams here make a point of regularly encouraging our customers to be open, honest and transparent with their customers. One might think this is a no brainer given the fact that our customers are investing time and money into these programs but that’s not always the case (as evidenced by Gartner’s recent report). Even better, most of our clients actually listen to us.

So is your company measuring ROI around its community efforts? Does your community tie to specific business goals like engagement, loyalty, purchase intent or other traditional marketing metrics? If not, you may want to start thinking that way. While it’s important to put a human face on your brand (and that can likely be the BIGGEST area of impact for your company), having measurable programs will be critical in helping protect your social marketing/social media programs in tough times while the world sorts through its current credit/financial mess.

If you have examples of companies that are doing a great job of growing and measuring their “social” efforts, please include in the comments below.

Cross-posted on http://blog.stroutmeister.com