Customer Control and Social Media

Posted May 5, 2011 by marcichapman
Categories: Marketing, Product Development, Social Media

Tags: , ,

Peter Kim from the Dachus Group (formerly with Forrester and also a UPenn alum) is a long time writer and consultant about social media.  I subscribe to his posts and want to reprint one for you in its entirety today.  I think this presents a truly balanced perspective on the amount of power consumers have through social media.  The perception is that they have a ton of power.  But the reality is that when the decision makes sense for a corporation, the corporation will make the changes requested by the consumer.  But when the change will not make sense or will not pay out in the long run, the corporation is unlikely to make the change.  And for business, that does make dollars and sense.

Here is Peter’s Post:

Customers aren’t in control.

At least not in the way that the social media cliche would have you believe.

I was on an Alaska Airlines flight last week from Austin to San Jose. This route is nicknamed “the nerd bird.” However, Alaska announced that it would be canceling the route in May. While we were boarding, a passenger was lamenting its demise to a flight attendant. She told him that another frequent flyer had been on a mission collecting comment cards from the in-flight magazine to stage a write-in campaign to save the route.

Which reminds me of another write-in campaign that was once touted a feel-good best practice example of the POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA. As background, I disclose that I’m no stranger to being on the business end of multiple write-in campaigns. I’ve heard an earful about chimpanzee exploitation, racist reggae artists, and sexually suggestive advertising. But that was before social media – faxes, phone calls, and email are all one-to-one communication. Today, detractors can voice their displeasure publicly and incite others more quickly to their cause; examples like Comcast Must Die abound. The apparent takeaway for brands: customers are in control whether you like it or not.

 In 2006, US television network CBS piloted a new show called “Jericho.” It was a tale about a small town in middle America and nuclear holocaust, with plot driven by the principles having a lack of information. CBS programming executives had all the information they needed, watching show ratings drop like a bomb. The show was cancelled. That was when social media swung into action.

CBS is nutsJericho fanatics started a write-in campaign to save their show. But they took it a step further. In the show’s final episode, a protagonist utters the rallying cry “nuts!” before heading into battle. Jericho enthusiasts embraced the idea and decided to send nuts to CBS President Nina Tassler. 40 tons of nuts. Finally, the network makes the decision to bring Jericho back for another season and tells fans, “P.S. Please stop sending us nuts.

The story is described as a victory of social media. Power to the people! Consumers are in control!

But that’s not where the story ends. Jericho came back to TV – but no one was watching. Ratings were worse than when the show went off the air. Without ratings, a network can’t drive advertising revenue – and fans aren’t enough to offset a lack of corporate sponsorship. Jericho was cancelled again and finally put to rest. People rarely tell the part of the story where social media is proven wrong and that’s important to understand.

It’s true that consumers vote with their dollars. Social media can also generate business results when used properly. Plenty of opportunities exist for applying new thinking to content, operations, viewer engagement, commercial support, cross-platform integration, and elsewhere. It’s dangerous to rely on blanket statements from the early days of social media to today’s social business operating environment.

Pete Blackshaw of Nestle offers great advice regarding customers in control:

The overheated rhetoric acts as a deceptive rationalization. We marketers have far more control than we let on. We buy the media, make the product, write the message, pick the messaging platform, select the suppliers, and hire the employees who ultimately do all the above.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen to the Alaska Airlines route, but it’ll most likely go away as scheduled. I doubt loyalists think strategically about the decision – passenger loads, fuel costs, competition from Southwest, better yield on Hawaii flights – before beating their social and traditional media drums in complaint.

Organizations must have process and policy in place to deal with detractors (individuals and groups) rather than using a blanket approach based on the wisdom of the crowd – or lack thereof. And confidence that control is best shared in carefully measured cases.”


Why vs. What

Posted April 27, 2011 by marcichapman
Categories: General, Marketing


Sometimes I think marketers and consumer products companies get lost in what they are doing.  They lose their vision of the consumer and the reasons why people make purchases.  They focus on the “what” instead of the “why.”  What do I mean?  People don’t just buy things to have them – they buy them because they have a reason or a “why” to buy them.

I spent 10 years in the gifting business and we often made this mistake.  We got caught up in thinking we were selling flowers and gifts to people instead of selling to the emotion and the occasion that was the reason for the purchase.  People didn’t buy flowers just to send flowers – they bought flowers to send good wishes for a birthday or a holiday occasion.  They wanted someone they loved to know they were thinking of them.  They sent gifts to make someone else feel good or even to make themselves feel good for having been thoughtful.

Even in everyday purchases of soap, tooth paste or peanut butter; consumers are buying the items for their home with an underlying emotional intention.  They are trying to do their best to take care of themselves or others, and make the choice that fits their needs and their image of themselves. While features, price and functions play a role; so does ego and the desire to reinforce relationships.

This is true in corporate purchasing, particularly for items that carry a company’s logo.  Sales people and corporate staff buy items with their logo on them to build relationships with their employees or customers.  They are not buying pens, they are buying something that will form a reminder and a connection with another person.  An extension of themselves and their pride in the work they do and the companies they work for.

The bottom line – as a marketer and as a product innovator, start with the why and you will always end up with a better what and better sales.

How important is Facebook?

Posted March 26, 2011 by marcichapman
Categories: Social Media

I read a lot about social media (it is all marketers can talk about).  Every company worries that they are not doing enough on Facebook or whether they are doing the right things.

I came across this article on ClickZ and think it summarizes what many have been thinking but afraid to say – Facebook Social Marketing isn’t as important as people think it is.  

For your convenience, here is the short article she wrote (reprinted from the article “If Facebook Social Marketing Really That Important” by Pace Lattin 3/24/2011

“Right now, perhaps the biggest “new job” in online media is the social media manager, and similarly the social media management company. Agencies all over are scrambling to create social media divisions and every major brand out there has been equally hurried to hire “experts” to assist them in this new empire of social media. All those “new media” and “affiliate marketing” experts have now become “social media” experts in order to get jobs. The pundits are constantly talking about how they engage users on Facebook, how to use it to engage clients and make new clients, how to get people to click on “like,” and so on. I honestly believe that most of this talk is not only self-serving nonsense that is created to fill the plethora of junk journals out there, but more importantly has no basis in reality. Most Facebook “social” marketing has little or no return on investment.

  1. Most people are using Facebook as a communications device between themselves, friends, colleagues, and family. Facebook works because it’s an easy way to get in touch with people you know. It’s great because you don’t have to remember someone’s e-mail address, you don’t have to remember someone’s birthday, and you don’t really have to care all that much for the people to show interest in them. People relate to others on Facebook at the most superficial levels, and that’s partially why people love Facebook.
  2. The actual engagement ratio is close to 0 percent. Here is non-scientific-based proof: I’m a member of the Starbucks group, as are 20 million other caffeine and scone addicts. On a daily basis, some 1,000 people leave short messages on Starbucks’ websites, with things like “I love you Starbucks” and “My Café Latte tasted like cat pee.” That’s approximately a .005 percent engagement ratio. The people who respond to these posts with “likes” and other actions are usually close to few or none. People aren’t involved with the Starbucks’ fan page, even though on a daily basis a large percent of them are involved with Starbucks. However, the “real” posts where there is actual feedback and involvement is close to zero.
  3. In the cases where there is engagement, there is no way to engage the users back. I’m one of the 9 million or so people who “like” the Britney Spears Facebook page. When Britney (I love you Britney!) or her manager uses Facebook to communicate, they receive at least one to two thousand responses back. There is no way they can process those comments in a way that is actually useful to them. It’s like monitoring teenage girls’ cell phone habits and trying to decode what they are saying. Half of it they’ll forget the next day, similar to comments on Facebook, so who really cares?
  4. There are too many groups on Facebook to be truly engaged. Facebook has become the flea market of online media. While everyone once in a while loves going to a flea market, no one would enjoy living in the middle of one. While in real life you can meet a group of friends, sit down for a drink, and talk about subjects that everyone likes, doing this on Facebook is like trying to have that same conversation in the middle of a rave. You’re going to try for a few minutes to have a real conversation until someone slaps you with a glow stick and gives you a hug (or “poke”). Everyone who joins Facebook at first joins the groups, “likes” all their favorite brands, and tries to engage, but eventually just starts to ignore the cornucopia of pages and groups.
  5. Facebook advertising, on the other hand, provides real and immediate results in comparison. If you want to spend money on Facebook, buy an advertisement. With the growing amount of targeting features, the enormous audience buying advertisements and sending to your own landing page seems like a much better spend. Instead of having to worry about all the management issues with having a fan page or group on Facebook, you can send people to a site that you control.

I’m not going to say that there’s no reason to have a page or group on Facebook – that recommendation would be silly indeed. It’s free advertising. However, I am saying that having a “social media” plan with a panel of experts advising you on what the page should look like, 10 full-time employees looking at the comments, and also paying some analytics company $250,000 to give you reporting on how many people responded to your “we are not open on President’s Day” message is just plain ridiculous. Please, I beg of you, don’t waste your money on these “experts” who have about as much experience in media as I have in swimsuit competitions. Most companies don’t pay people to monitor the graffiti in the boy’s bathroom, and much of Facebook is similar to that. It has little or no real-world impact on sales or brand perception. If you disagree with what I am saying, feel free to post it on your Facebook page, and I’ll “like” it.”

Change is a good thing?

Posted March 20, 2011 by marcichapman
Categories: Customer Service, General, Marketing

Tags: , , ,

Did you catch the question mark in the headline?  The old saying is that the only thing that is constant is change.  And I agree that companies must continuously find ways to provide better products and services and to keep up with their competition.

But I also have to say that change for change sake is a waste of time.  Leo Burnett said (and I am paraphrasing here) that companies should talk to consumers when they have news.  So brand companies go off and try to create news and excitement.  And that is fine, when it is meaningful news and excitement.  Unfortunately, a good portion of the time, the changes have little consumer benefit. 

Take for example a product I used to love (and those who know me personally can attest to my love affair with this product) – Wrigley’s Big Red Gum (r). 


I was a major purchasor of this gum for probably more than 10 years.  And over the years they have made several changes to this product.  Here are a few that I can remember as well as my thoughts on the benefit:

Flavor changes:  They change the flavor on this gum about every 18 months.  And each flavor change gets worse.  I don’t know what they are doing to taste test this stuff, but they need to go back to ground zero.   (Need I remind you of the New Coke debacle?)  BAD CHANGE.

Removing the paper that separated the sticks in multi-packs:  This was to reduce waste and be more environmentally friendly. Now the sticks fall out of the packaging, which stinks.  But I will give on the environmental issues. GOOD CHANGE.

Adding Aspartame to the Product: Aspartame makes the product cheaper as they have to use less to attain the same level of sweetness.  It is also cheaper to transport.  Did they pass on any of the cost savings to customers?  Nope.  Did they reduce the calories on the gum at the same time? Nope?  Was this the only gum on the market without Aspartame or other artificial sweeteners in it before they made the change?  Yes.  Did it make the taste better?  No.  BAD CHANGE

Switching to paper wrappers from foil:  Again this was to help the environment.  GOOD CHANGE.

Package design changes: A big waste of time.  No consumer impact what so ever.  BAD CHANGE.

Switching from 18 piece multi-packs to 15 piece multi-packs:  They covered this change up with a new multi-pack design that opens like a cigarette box.  The pack is really not that great and the value decline was made worse by an immediate price increase on the product. BAD CHANGE.

I used to work for a brand company and I understand when you have profit targets to meet and demands from the retailers for more margin.  I get it that companies have to find cost savings and periodically have to raise prices to increase shareholder value.  And I know that  they do the math to estimate how many customers they will lose when they make these changes and they do the changes anyway because the results are still net additive to their bottom line.

But seriously, these companies need to find more innovative ways to accomplish these goals.  Because if you don’t, in the long run, the only change these companies are going to see is a continuous decline in buyers.


Posted February 22, 2011 by marcichapman
Categories: Media, Social Media

Truth is the new black.  Truth is the newest buzzword.  It appears to be something that people have recently discovered (as though they just did some search on google or bing and magically the truth appeared in a search result).  There is a lot of noise about searching for and finding the real truth.

I am sure you have heard that old adage – there are 3 versions of the truth.  Your version, the version of the other person (or people) involved, and the actual truth.

These days, it gets even more complicated.  For every event or issue, there are now so many more voices and opinions, I think the internet has gotten us further away from the actual truth than we have ever been before (and let’s not get started on the whole lack of reality in reality TV – that has really screwed up our concept of truth).    The truth seems to be the version that gets repeated most often, not necessarily the version that is the most accurate or correct.   Or in the case of Yahoo answers, the one that gets the most votes from other people .  Or the most “likes” on Facebok.  So now, instead of having a real truth, we just have the most popular truth.  What kind of truth is that?  And who are all these people who vote on which is the best truth?

The next time you read something where the writer professes to be saying the “truth,” I ask you to consider that what you are reading may not be the entire or most accurate version of the truth.  Even when  a writer is supposedly a journalist writing for a reputable newspaper, you may be getting just one side or version of the truth.

So when you are reading some “facts” on the internet, especially ones that don’t seem quite right to you; stop a moment and think.  Search in your head and your heart and I bet you will find that you already know the truth.

And the Superbowl Ad Winner is….

Posted February 7, 2011 by marcichapman
Categories: Marketing, Media

Tags: , , , ,

As an alum of the Kellogg Graduate School of Management, I am admittedly biased towards their ratings, particularly when it comes to advertising and marketing.  The school is known as “the marketing school.”  So they had better know what they are talking about when it comes to rating Superbowl ads.

My friend Professor Tim Calkins gathers a student group each year to rate the ads.  They use a strategic academic framework known as ADPLAN for their ratings.  The acronym, developed by Kellogg School faculty, instructs viewers to grade ads based on Attention, Distinction, Positioning, Linkage, Amplification and Net equity.

And their picks?  Volkswagen earned top marks for its “Beetle” and “Star Wars” ads, winning the seventh annual Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review.  Other top-ranked advertisers for 2011 included Chrysler and Doritos, while Lipton Brisk, HomeAway and Hyundai ranked at the bottom of the much-anticipated Review.

You can see the full article and their ratings here.  And I have to say that I agree with most of their ratings.  For years, I have hated the Go Daddy executions and the Kellogg team gave them a D.  And for some reason, I just do not ever get tired of the Etrade baby.  I wonder when people will wear out on that one.  (And check out the Etrade website where you can send your own baby mail – nice viral tie in by the Etrade team). What was your favorite?  Let me know.

New EBook Offering from Amazon – Singles

Posted January 28, 2011 by marcichapman
Categories: Marketing, Media, Social Media

Tags: , ,

One of my favorite blogging teams, Hubspot, reviewed this announcement from Amazon.  The bottom line: you can now publish mini books on Amazon (20 to 40 page digital documents often published as White Papers by various business experts).

I am repeating the short blog here as I think it is really helpful to any marketer (or just someone who wants to share their thoughts in a more formal way).

Ebooks Hit the Big Time With Amazon Singles and TEDBooks

Posted by Kipp Bodnar, Wed, Jan 26, 2011 @ 12:15 PM

“For a long time, there have been two types of ebooks. The first is the electronic version of traditional, novel length written works, spanning hundreds of pages. The second type are the 20-40 page digital documents offered by marketers and industry experts that are typically free to download or can be download in exchange for registration information. Today, these two worlds of ebooks are colliding and becoming one. 

Today Amazon, a company that has been pioneering the ebook market with its Kindle device and store, announced a new format of ebook that would now be sold in its store. Amazon is calling this new ebook format Kindle Singles, which are books typically between 5,000 and 30,000 words (fewer than 50 pages). According to Amazon, “each Kindle Single is intended to allow a single idea — well researched, well argued, and well illustrated — to be expressed at its natural length.”

Along with the announcement of Amazon Singles came news about a new type of content from TED. Famous for conferences that feature short presentations from some of the brightest minds on the planet, TED has announced it will begin selling TEDBooks as Kindle Singles for $2.99 each. According to TED curator Chris Anderson, “The success of TEDTalks has demonstrated that millions of people around the world are hungry to absorb new ideas. But not everyone has the time to go out and read an entire book on an interesting subject. TEDBooks fill that gap. Their shorter format allows someone to see an idea fleshed out in a satisfying way — without having to set aside a week of reading time.”

Ebooks Are Now Prime Time

Prior to this announcement, businesses, marketers, and authors have been able to submit their own ebooks to the Kindle store. However, Amazon’s Kindle Singles create a category and a market for a length and type of content that has long been relegated to the dregs of written content. Ebooks, as most of us marketers know them, have lived in a strange in-between world, too long to be read quickly like a blog post, but too short to command the thought and attention of readers looking for more in-depth content.  

Today’s announcement is a sign that digital publishing is slowly changing the publishing world. The flexibility of digital formats and distribution means that it is possible to share and monetize ideas regardless of their length.

Marketing Takeaway

As a marketer, it is important to understand the role of ebooks in your inbound marketing strategy. If part of your strategy is to gain credibility and thought leadership on a topic, then consider publishing your ebooks in Amazon’s Kindle Singles store for added distribution and reach. The bigger takeaway here is that the category of 5,000 to 30,000-word books has been given a boost in credibility. As consumers begin to read these mid-length books, their expectations will be that they can consume this type of content from organizations with which they are planning to do business, regardless of whether they are B2B or B2C.”