Innovation in Advertising: Ignacio Oreamuno and Giant Hydra

I am excited to introduce a new feature on my blog. Every few weeks, I will be posting short interviews with interesting people who are truly making an impact in the business world – through their thoughts, their ideologies and their actions, paving the path for new and innovative ways of doing things.

This week’s interview is with Ignacio Oreamuno, a true innovator in the advertising industry. Ignacio is President of IHAVEANIDEA, one of the world’s largest online advertising communities, and he is CEO of the Tomorrow Awards, an international advertising awards show with a focus specifically on the future of advertising.

More recently, Ignacio developed and launched Giant Hydra. Giant Hydra is a unique technology that enables ad agencies and clients to access a global pool of creative professionals for work on a particular project. Qualified professionals, selected by the ad agencies and clients, participate in mass collaboration – working virtually and as a team through Giant Hydra, leveraging their collective ingenuity to create ideas for the project at hand.

Thank you, Ignacio, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to share your insights.

1. How do you envision the creative development process at agencies evolving over the next five to ten years? With respect to a movement towards mass collaboration, at what stage are we at?

The advertising has not changed in over 150 years. It is pretty much the same structure and method of work.

Take a look at all other industries and you can see that they all have changed dramatically over the last 50, 20, 10 and even last two years. Remember when Kodak claimed that digital photography would never have the quality of film? When music companies said digital music wouldn’t work, that the quality of CD’s was better?

The creative process between a copywriter and an art director that Burnbach famously pioneered is no longer apt for the campaigns of today.

As the recession proved, money talks. If an industry can produce a product (in this case creative ideas) in a lot less time, of better or equal quality and for less money, there is nothing that will stop change from destroying the old way of things. All it takes is a handful of agencies to start doing it and boom, it will change things forever.

Look at other industries, like digital film, online music etc. Once technology makes things better, it’s impossible to turn back the page.

Right now agencies are skeptical. They are all waiting for the other one to try mass collaboration and see if it works. Again, instead of seeing the opportunity and jumping on it, a lot of them are so scared of change that they would rather wait. I know a few people who say this model won’t work. They are the same people that have never used it. Ironic.

2. What do you believe is the biggest barrier with regards to improving collaboration and innovation?

The biggest barrier is going to be in getting proof that mass collaboration produces quality. Agencies want to know one thing and one thing only. That you can produce award winning work out of mass collaboration. Giant Hydra is so new that it is hard to show case studies since all of the work is confidential. It will take some time for the work to come out and for the evidence to be ready. I am not worried about that, I’m just focused now on showing the system on a case by case basis to each agency. Everybody always gets blown away by the quality of the people working in the system and the quality of the ideas.

I don’t think there are any more barriers apart from that. Giant Hydra works. Period. Mass collaboration works. Period. I’ve seen it, I’m seeing it right now.

3. A number of creative professionals and associations have expressed reservations about crowdsourcing, essentially claiming that crowdsourced creative undervalues their skills and expertise. What are your thoughts on this?

The HydraHeads in Giant Hydra are all paid. Some of them work on multiple projects at the same time earning multiple fees. And they work from wherever they are in the world, whether that is NY or Japan or a beach. They are all award winning creatives, strategists, planners, and social media mavericks. I would challenge anyone to have a beer with one of the HydraHeads and ask them how they feel about it. In all honesty, they seem pretty excited and happy, and these are 10+ years experience people.

Most people understand crowdsourcing as a contest where the best idea wins. This is not the case with mass collaboration crowdsourcing where it’s essentially a group of people (more than 2 working together online for a fixed salary). The word “crowdsourcing” is now tainted I think, and there’s not much anyone can do about that.

Follow Ignacio Oreamu on Twitter at @ihaveanidea.

Follow Giant Hydra on Twitter at @GiantHydra.

The One Question That Truly Defines Someone’s Level of Social Media Expertise

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a chance to blog. Now that my life is a bit more settled, I hope to be able to write and share my thoughts on a more frequent basis.

Over the last number of months, there’s been a fair bit of discussion in the social media world about how people describe their level of social media “expertise”. Terms like social media “expert”, “evangelist”, “guru” and, surprisingly, even “ninja” are used so frequently, it’s almost like there’s a fire sale on them.

Now, I am all for the progression of social media – I feel that it’s important for companies to leverage available tools and technologies in becoming more social and more human in the way they act, communicate and conduct business.  Having people who are enthusiastic about social media, as well trained in and knowledgeable about social media tools and emerging technologies, is key to this progression.

However, unfortunately there is a significant credibility issue when it comes to people and their often self-proclaimed level of social media expertise. Social is evolving at such a breakneck speed, can anyone really claim to be an expert? In my opinion, no. Further, and more notably, many who claim to be experts actually lack formal marketing or communications experience – social media doesn’t exist by itself in a vacuum, it needs to be integrated with marketing, communications, customer service and other business functions!

This leads me to a key point I would like to make. There is one great way to judge someone’s knowledge of social media. Ask them this question:

What tangible business results have you created through your social media efforts?

The proof should be in the pudding. Even Bruce Lee can’t fake an answer to this question.

50 Key Takeaways from the BCAMA VISION Marketing Conference

On May 19th, the British Columbia Chapter of the American Marketing Association held its’ annual flagship VISION Marketing Conference. This year, the focus was on the concept of ‘community’ and how the concept is reshaping our marketing landscape – as companies build deeper, more meaningful relationships with customers.

As I’m currently in Toronto, unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend VISION. However, I was paying close attention to the Twitter stream, enticed by a great speaker lineup and my affinity for the BCAMA – I volunteered with the association for over five years.

Thank you to VISION attendees, as well as the BCAMA’s social media team, for sharing what was being discussed. Here are the top 50 takeaways I was able to glean from Twitter!

Scott Stratten – Social Media Expert, Author of UnMarketing

  • rgerschman: #2011vision Marketing is not a task. Marketing is every time you choose to or choose not to engage with your market. It just is (S.Stratten)
  • wusnews: Online conversations are the most raw, passionate thoughts of your customers. #2011Vision
  • patrickmgill: #2011vision the best marketing is creating awesome customer experiences @unmarketing
  • rgerschman: #2011vision “When does the ‘we are experiencing an unusually high call volume’ = the usual high call volume? Think about Customer service!!
  • BCAMA: “Every time you create a QR code and it does not go to a mobile page… a puppy dies.” @unmarketing #2011Vision ^NT
  • kelsey_bar: People spread “awesome”. They don’t spread “meh…” Great stuff from @unmarketing at #2011Vision
  • GusF: By 2013 50% of web access will be done on mobile phones – get your website mobile #2011vision
  • GillianShaw: Create awesome content 1st then SEO. Create your content for your audience, not for Google. @unmarketing #2011Vision
  • rgerschman: #2011vision @unmarketing social media success doesn’t exist… It’s just amplification. If you suck offline, you’ll suck even more online!
  • shirleyweir: Reminder: we do business with people we know, like and trust. Live it #2011Vision @unmarketing

Kerry Munro – Technology leader and visionary

  • GillianShaw: 72% Internet users say they’re exposed to too much advertising (could you buy a @vancouverSun please : ) ) #2011Vision
  • nicolb: “Strategy. Insights. Automation. 3 areas that are the biggest level of challenge today. ” @kerrymunrois #2011Vision /via @bcama
  • GillianShaw: Your customers will create new customers, all you have to do is take care of your existing customers, sez Kerry Munro #2011Vision
  • GusF: A social media strategy should be inline with your business strategy. Many have that disconnect #2011vision
  • BCAMA: “FB user value: spend, loyalty, brand affinity, acquisition cost, propensity to recommend, media value” @kerrymunrois #2011Vision ^NT
  • GusF: Since the core of any business is to drive sales, it’s important to understand the value of your “fan”. #2011vision
  • rgerschman: #2011vision Consider this: Friends & family continue to be the biggest influencers in ppl making purchase decisions.
  • fburrows: #2011Vision Bing and Google change their analytics daily-impossible to keep up, just focus strategically on what works for you.
  • BCAMA: “It’s all about being in that moment and creating the most efficient and optimal connection w/ the consumer.” @kerrymunrois #2011Vision ^NT

Scott Bedbury – Author of A New Brand World and former Marketing Executive at Nike and Starbucks

  • rgerschman: #2011Vision “Consumers are not just that into you. Look past your product to the world your consumers live in.” – Scott Bedbury
  • asilhouette: Worlds best brands connect themselves to timeless human needs that are both physical and emotional #2011vision bcama
  • G_Speaking: Cool. Original brainstorm map of Starbuck’s ‘the third place’. #BCAMA #2011vision
  • rgerschman: #2011vision Stand for something more than your product. Humanize yourself. Consider value, ethics & style. Tell stories.
  • Ian_Cruickshank: It’s what you do beyond your core product that actually defines you. Scott B #2011vision love it.
  • SuburbiaRetail: “At the heart of a brand is it’s relationship with employees.” – Scott Bedbury @bcama #2011vision
  • rgerschman: #2011Vision Physical brand touch points can do more than digital bytes. Who is representing your brand offline? Train, inspire & motivate.
  • kelsey_bar: Scott Bedbury: “Be fully present in the moments that matter most.” As true in business as it is in life. #2011Vision
  • k8senkow: “Stay forever curious. Don’t ever think you have all the answers.” Scott Bedbury at BCAMA #2011Vision Conference

Nikki Heller – Director of Marketing, Future Shop

  • timr03: Social shopping isn’t just online #2011vision
  • misscheryltan: “Social Shopping is ANY purchase influenced by your personal network (i.e. community forums)” Nikki Kellyer #2011Vision (via @bcama)
  • GillianShaw: Listening to people in social networks flipped Future Shop marketing plans for back to school. #2011Vision
  • BCAMA: The funnel before: & the funnel after is a loop: #2011Vision
  • codias: #2011vision #authenticity #authenticity #authenticity #authenticity #authenticity
  • erinpongracz: #NikkiHellyer just used #BBC “groundhog Alan” vid as an ex. of mrkters shouting msg into the void & not knowing ur aud. #Amazing #2011vision
  • elliottchun: Online and offline retail is merging. And, evenings & wkeds are dead. – Hellyer #2011Vision #FutureShop

John Ounpuu, Strategy Director at Blast Radius and Sarah Dickinson, VP Strategy at Blast Radius

  • Ian_Cruickshank: Traditional models work in traditional media – outside of traditional you have to be more creative and break some rules – #2011vision
  • codias: When you transcend categories, you elevate yourself beyond your category into a superlative. #2011vision
  • GusF: 3 steps to build meaningful relations – Foundation, Role, and Culture. #2011vision
  • BCAMA: “Gamefication – leaderboard scores, badges – moving out of the realm of games and into other areas.” John Ounpuu #2011Vision ^NT
  • BCAMA: “Finding your shared ideal. Understand role & live it. Build on relevant cultural currents. Execute boldly.” Sarah Dickinson #2011Vision ^NT
  • petequily: Social media can be an incredible tool but it can’t fix an acute internal problem. It may only make it worst. #2011vision
  • robynmichelles: Great insights from Blast Radius – understand the foundation of your brand & it’s role, then live it. Be culturally relevant. #2011Vision

Tod Maffin – One of North America’s leading digital marketing experts, CBC Radio Host

  • BCAMA: “By deconstructing viral videos, you can find 6 “markers” that can increase the chance of going viral.” @todmaffin #2011Vision ^NT
  • BCAMA: “#1 Audience, Content, Call to Action Matching: content must match audience. CTA must match content.” @todmaffin #2011Vision ^NT
  • BCAMA: “2. Successful viral campaigns are stripped down to a simple, single concept. Double Rainbow.” @todmaffin #2011Vision ^NT
  • misscheryltan: Successful viral videos are one of the following: Silly, Serious, or Stunning. @todmaffin #2011Vision
  • BCAMA: “3. Sentiment Factor (silly, serious or stunning). Dove was seeded entirely online: #2011Vision ^NT
  • BCAMA: “4. Reward sharing. Ex. Doritos unidentified flavour campaign, winner sharing Doritos profits.” @todmaffin #2011vision ^NT
  • BCAMA: “5. Embrace the unofficials. Do not hate them. Ex. Diet Coke & Mentos” @todmaffin #2011vision ^N
  • BCAMA: “6. Deliberate successive rounds. Need a certain # of impressions for people to take action. Ex. Shreddies” @todmaffin #2011Vision ^NT

Stop Counting, Start Engaging

More and more brands are truly embracing social media as an important component of their overall marketing and communications strategy. That’s the good news. However, unfortunately too many companies are focusing on the wrong metrics when it comes to gauging the success and business value of social media initiatives. Sure, it’s great to have hundred of fans on Facebook and followers on Twitter. But where’s the benefit if fans and followers aren’t engaged with the brand?

Companies must do what they can to inspire engagement and action from their fans – focusing on fan acquisition is simply not sufficient. One hundred engaged fans who can relate to a brand and share it’s core values are more valuable than one thousand passive fans. They’re more likely act in favor of a brand – speaking not only with their wallets, but also through recommendations to friends and family members.

Consumers are looking for companies to be more human-centric, and to show interest in the communities they already participate in. Companies that are currently doing a great job of this include Starbucks, Zappos, Converse and Lululemon. They realize that Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms are not broadcast mechanisms. Instead, they leverage available tools to build genuine relationships with their fans.

How are the relationships built? By providing a fair exchange of value. Companies must offer something meaningful to fans and followers, perhaps product, service or cause related, that generates goodwill and entices the community to spread word-of-mouth.

It’s not about numbers, it’s about relationships. Genuine relationships that will enable a community to grow and prosper.

See You in 2015!

We are going through some amazing, transformative times in the business world. I don’t think it’s a stretch to use those words. Digital technology and social media are providing unprecedented opportunities for companies to truly engage and build relationships with stakeholder groups, on a very direct, personalized and humanized one to one level. It’s scaled caring, to the point where companies and brands can create relationships with thousands of customers – and it’s what people are increasingly looking for in the brands they do business with.

Unfortunately, many companies do not yet fully realize or understand this. I have had a number of conversations with peers who work in marketing, communications and advertising – with companies and agencies. Many of them believe that the value and benefits associated with social media, particularly as presented by well-known social media bloggers and authors, are just hype – stating that they are far removed from present realities within the companies they work for or do business with.

Perhaps that is the case. Perhaps their realities are far different. If so, it is unfortunate, because their companies risk being left behind by competitors who embrace the social capabilities that digital enables – no matter which industry they operate in, no matter whether they are B2C or B2B.

Recently I sent a tweet to Gary Vaynerchuk, a well-known social media luminary and author of best-selling books Crush It! and The Thank You Economy, asking for his perspective on the issue. Gary was kind enough to record a video response, which he originally posted on and I have re-posted here.

I have read both of Gary’s books, and I agree with Gary’s perspective. I think, in today’s day and age, it is necessary to have an entrepreneurial mindset – to be proactive, to search for new and emerging opportunities to engage with customers and grow business, and to be willing to take risks while doing so. Digital and social are evolving at breakneck speeds, it’s important to be mindful of new platforms which companies can leverage to build relationships with customers.  Not all initiatives will be successful, but companies that employ a diverse, well-thought out range of engagement activities will uncover some that are “sticky” and favored by customers.

Having the right corporate culture, one that truly supports the new social paradigm, is also key. According to Jason Baker, Digital Strategist at Magnify Digital and Digicate, “The most important thing for any company is to focus on their culture and how their culture fits into telling their story in an authentic and genuine fashion. Anyone can know that you’re a social company. You can blabber on Twitter for as long as you want in 140 characters, but no one can truly connect with your business until you’ve identified your core values, personality, vision, purpose, and/ or cause. Ask the hard questions to extract those answers, then develop an integrated digital strategy that allows you to share those elements in a passionate, authentic, and genuine way.”

Collectively, we are all learning as we go – and sharing insights along the way. Age and experience in marketing and communications, while still important, are not the be all and end all. Look at the number of bright, young minds who are excelling in digital marketing – there are a lot of young entrepreneurs out there. Awesome!

That said, while lots of the talk is on social and digital, I don’t believe that traditional marketing is going away. Actually, I look forward to the day when traditional marketing and digital marketing just become known as “marketing”. I think there is a fantastic opportunity for companies to develop integrated campaigns across a variety of platforms, telling their brand story while engaging and building rapport with customers. Companies need to pick best platforms and engagement styles that are right for them.

It’s important to think strategically and realize that success in digital and social media will not happen overnight. At the same time, companies need to be nimble and fleet of foot, adopting a culture that enables engagement opportunities to be seized as they arise.

For a great example of this, please read my recent post on KLM.

As for everyone’s favorite social media topic, ROI, well let’s not kid anyone here – tangible metrics are important. Here is a great post on the topic from David Armano, SVP at Edelman Digital.

It’s an exciting time to be in marketing and communications, I can’t wait to see what the next few years have in store. See you in 2015.

50 Key Takeaways from The Art of Marketing Conference

By all accounts, The Art of Marketing Conference held in Toronto on March 7th was a smashing success – as speakers provided the audience with cutting edge thoughts and insights on key marketing issues. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend, however thanks the willingness of a number of audience members to share what they were learning through Twitter, I did get a flavor of what was being discussed.

Here are the top 50 takeaways I was able to glean from the Twitter stream!

Avinash Kaushik – Brand Measurement: Metrics & Analytics

  • doomzto: “If people tell me that you can’t convert love to money over the Internet, then they’re wrong.” – @avinash #taom
  • KimMcWatt: Marketing can be orgasmic if you use data for insight #taom
  • amirad: People focus too much on the what and not enough on the how much #TAOM
  • GGFM: you have access to all your competitors data so use it says @avinash #taom
  • casiestewart: HITS = how idiots track success. Bounce rate = “I came, I puked, I left”. This guys is funny. #taom
  • luudiana: Are the metrics you’re using measuring people’s behaviours? Getting rid of the data puke is the first step @avinashkaushik #TAOM
  • SocialKamel: #taom @avinash you can’t improve something by 1000% but u can improve 1000 things by 1%
  • soniyamonga: Most websites aren’t effective because the purpose doesn’t overlap w/ customer intent. Therefore efficiencies are missed #taom #segmentation
  • KimMcWatt: Look at your site content, where are you spending your time, compare to where your customers are #taom
  • YouNxt: @avinash at #TAOM – use social media not just to add revenue but to build economic value to your company

Gary Vaynerchuk – Social Media & Word of Mouth Marketing

  • Debbie_h2o: #taom @garyvee when asked “what’s the roi of social media?” he responds what’s the roi of your mother? Your best friend? Your pet?
  • amirad: Everyone talks about content, but the focus should be on context #TAOM
  • SocialKamel: #taom social media has scaled caring, one on one marketing is here, that’s the thank you economy @garyvee
  • laurenonizzle: “I don’t care if you have 40,000 followers – if you have 17 that care, you have 17 followers” -@GaryVee #TAOM
  • write_mich: @garyvee: “it is totally unacceptable for companies to not respond to customers talking about their brands” Context matters. #TAOM
  • GGFM: according to @garyvee a social media campaign is a one night stand not a conversation which is what socia media is #taom
  • GraceMarketing: Run 3 less commercials and hire more people to actually respond to customers @garyvee #taom
  • JRiddall: Companies who mine data properly and execute on some form of humanization will be the winners @garyvee #taom
  • samantha_kwan: When you hit the emotional centre of your customer, you will never loose them as a customer, it’s human #TAOM @garyvee
  • lauralimawilson: Social has tremendous ROI ’cause it’s emotional @garyvee #TAOM so true

Jeffrey Hayzlett – Brand Strategy & Growth

  • JRiddall: Passion is not a substitute for planning @jeffreyhayzlett #taom
  • shamattygalle: You have 8 seconds to hook me and 110 seconds to sell me – @jeffreyhayzlett #TAOM
  • jdojc: “HR and Legal shouldn’t drag you backthey should keep you from falling down” @jeffreyhayzlett #taom
  • DebWeinstein: “A Social CMO’s job is to: set Conditions of Satisfaction; cause tension; be who you are; & be brave,” @JeffreyHayzlett #TAOM
  • JRiddall: Gotta be willing to take one is going to die @jeffreyhayzlett #taom
  • alinebadr: A brand is nothing more than a promise delivered #taom
  • JRiddall: Four E’s of social Engage Educate Excite Evangelize @jeffreyhayzlett #taom
  • amirad: The social game now is about hearts and minds not eyeball and ears #JeffreyHayzlett #TAOM
  • ACURASHERWAY: What’s ROI on social. “I don’t know tell me what ROI is on IGNORING” – @JeffreyHayzlett #TAOM
  • clickeric: What is your 118? People don’t take pictures they capture moments #taom #marketing

Dr. Sheena Iyengaar – Consumer Behaviour & the Psychology of Choice

  • YfactorInc: @taom Dr Iyengar “the Jam problem” too much consumer choice makes it harder to actually buy
  • Drafted_Boy: What happens when faced with too many choices: less commitment, poorer decision quality, lower satisfaction @Sheena_Iyengar #TAOM
  • melissa_very: #taom “How many choices can we handle? The magical number 7 (+/-2)” Dr. Sheena Iyengar
  • jdojc: Experts know enough to limit their choices to important criteria. Amateurs end up with paralysis when faced w\ too much choice #taom
  • thecellularguru: Cognitive overload is the 1st cause of Choice Overload #TAOM 2nd cause is indistinguishable options
  • thecellularguru: Everyone believes theyre more unique than others but everyone conforms to being just unique enough not too bizarre & not too boring #TAOM
  • KimMcWatt: Categorize choices to help the decision. Our brains can process more categories than choices. Dr. Iyengar #taom
  • KimMcWatt: Condition people for complexity. Help them learn their preferences. Dr. Iyengar #taom
  • djacob: “People may say what they want is more choices but what they really want is more control” #TAOM
  • shamattygalle: We are born with an innate desire to choose but we are not born knowing how. – @sheena_iyengar#TAOM

Guy Kawasaki – Creativity & Innovation

  • soniyamonga: The process of delighting and enchanting people; that’s @GuyKawasaki’s mission when it comes to building lasting influencers #taom
  • irwinliunews: @guykawasaki There are three steps to likeability: (1) Smile [preferably Duchenne] (2) Dress for a “tie” (3) Perfect handshake #taom #yam
  • clickeric: Become a bakery not an eater @GuyKawasaki #taom and u need to default to a yes attitude
  • amirad: Make the position of your product short, sweet and swallowable. No acronyms or industry term @guykawasaki #TAOM
  • samantha_kwan: When you create a product/service, do something DICEE: deep, intelligent, complete, empowering, elegant @guykawasaki #TAOM
  • soniyamonga: The change in mktg today is a direct result of the lack of understanding of the ‘A-listers.’ So plant many seeds, across all levels #taom
  • keridamen: @guykawasaki #Taom: The most innovative people will encounter the most resistance.
  • SocialKamel: @guykawasaki in all the negativity failure and resistance try to find the bright spot. For apple it was desktop publishing. #taom
  • YfactorInc: #taom Guy Kawasaki “Enchant all the Influencers” consider impact of families + friends + others in decision process
  • savvari: @GuyKawasaki says the best response to “Thank You” is “I know you would do the same for me” #taom

Challenges Companies Face in Truly Embracing Digital

Over 700 million people are now on social networks worldwide. Numerous companies are successfully engaging with these people, leveraging social media, technology and emerging platforms to engage with customers, generate demand and drive sales. They are also gaining valuable insights and data as a result of their efforts, paving the path for more intelligent business decisions and targeted marketing.

However, in spite of this, many companies have been slow in embracing the digital frontier. For these organizations, several concerns stand out.

Lack of attention and priority to digital

A digital mindset must involve all levels of an organization, starting at the top with senior management. In fact, many companies at the forefront of digital have senior managers who actively engage with customers, whether through corporate blogs, Twitter or other means. Peter Aceto, CEO of ING DIRECT Canada, openly shares a variety of insights on Twitter at @CEO_ingdirect. Without senior management support, as is the case with any strategy or initiative, it will be difficult for digital to permeate through an organization.

A tactical, and not strategic, focus

Related to the point above, a digital strategy must be highly integrated with the overall business objectives and marketing plan. Merely setting up a corporate Twitter account and Facebook Fan page, and regurgitating marketing and communications messages from other platforms, is not sufficient. A digitally strategy must be well thought out, with consideration given towards the needs of the target market and how each unique touch point can be leveraged to engage and create value.

Organizational education and alignment

To effectively build a strong digital presence, specific skills are required. Those people responsible for being the face of a company online must understand how to foster and build community and loyalty with customers. A sense of trust is of the utmost importance. Further, some organizations allow employees from departments other than marketing and communications to engage with customers. In such instances, it is critical that employees understand they are representing the brand, and that external departments buy into and support the effort.

Disparate consumer touch points

Companies are now able to connect with consumers in a variety of ways, through a variety of platforms, both online and offline. The number of different consumer touch points certainly makes it more challenging for companies to ensure that consumers are receiving positive, consistent experiences that are aligned with the brand. Well thought out digital strategies, including proper training and internal communication of brand values, will help ensure consistency.

Dated CRM strategies and research methodologies

While customer relationship management systems are still important, solely relying on them is not enough. Digital provides an opportunity to collect rich and relevant insights about customers, and how they want a brand to fit within the context of *their* lives. One new and evolving way to glean insights is through crowdsourcing, which enables a company to tap into the collective intelligence of a large group of people or community. Crowdsourcing could, for example, be used by a company to determine how it can improve its products and services, brainstorm products and services it should consider offering or, from a philanthropic standpoint, learn about causes its customers would like it to support.

So, how to get started with a digital strategy?  This is definitely a topic for another blog post, or a book (and there are many great ones out there!).  A good first step is for a company to figure out which social media platforms are most relevant for its brand. At minimum, consideration should be given towards cultivating a following on Twitter and a community on a Facebook Fan Page. Staff should get involved, engaging with customers on a daily basis, which will result in credibility and trust being built over the long term.

Ah yes, long term trust. Imagine the rewards that can be created, for both companies and consumers, through a forward-thinking digital mindset and well-conceived strategy.

Do any of the concerns mentioned above resonate with you? Has your company truly embraced digital?

Stand for Something

One way a brand can stand out and build a stronger bond with customers is to become aligned with a relevant cause that truly benefits the greater good.

Consumers, and even customers in business to business environments, certainly expect the companies they purchase from to be good corporate citizens. Fair and ethical treatment of staff members, giving back to the local community, and adherence to green practices just make good business sense. But imagine how your customers might perceive your brand if you *WOW* them by setting a gold standard for social and environmental practices.

Digital technology is making it easier for companies to engage with consumers and support causes in new and unique ways.

Here are several examples of companies that are making a difference.

TOMS Shoes – For every pair of shoes purchased, a pair is given to a child in need. Since the program launched in 2006, over 600,000 shoes have been given to children in the United States, Argentina, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Guatemala, Haiti, and South Africa

Pepsi – Rather move forward with a traditional Super Bowl TV spot, Pepsi launched the Pepsi Refresh Project. Through the $20 million crowdsourcing initiative, which will no doubt be a marketing case study, people are enticed to submit and vote on ideas that will have a positive impact on society. The best ideas will receive grants ranging from $5,000 to $250,000 each.

CauseWorld – CauseWorld is an iPhone and Android app that is similar to Foursqaure and Gowalla, in that it enables users check into check into locations they visit. For each check in, users earn “Karma” points, which they can then redeem using the app to donate money to select charitable organizations. The money is provided by sponsors including Procter & Gamble, Kraft and Sears.

Have you thought about how your company can leverage digital in making a difference?

Observations on the Old Spice Campaign

Old Spice’s “Old Spice Man” campaign may just be a precursor of advertising and brand engagement efforts we can expect to see in coming years. The campaign, orchestrated by Wieden+Kennedy, started off with a TV commercial in the winter which garnered attention from notable bloggers and celebrities, and received numerous views on YouTube.

On Tuesday, the Old Spice Man became a social media sensation, with videos uploaded to YouTube featuring the character responding to people’s comments and questions from Twitter, Facebook and other Internet sources. A few of the videos were filmed in advance, featuring Old Spice Man’s responses to comments on the original commercial, however the majority were filmed on the fly – sometimes within thirty minutes of someone submitting a comment or question.

Approximately 180 videos were created over two days. At last count, Old Spice’s Twitter following had increased to over 70,000, and most of the videos were downloaded over 100,000 times. There were also a couple of hundred news articles on the initiative, and no doubt numerous mentions in other media. It has been an amazing viral marketing campaign.

There are many things worth mentioning about this effort, here are a few that come to mind:

  • Mass and digital media can work beautifully together. Old Spice firmly established the character in the TV spot, there was already a strong degree of familiarity prior to the social media blitz.
  • Blogger and celebrity outreach planted some of the seeds for the viral nature of this campaign. It was smart to create videos mentioning influential bloggers and celebrities who were already fans of the TV spot – no doubt they became bigger fans, and again let their networks know about it.
  • The videos were FUNNY and ADDICTIVE. Viewers, myself included, were compelled spread the word, sharing with their friends and followers.
  • Old Spice Man is a very likable character, one that people are easily able to gain an affinity for.
  • A handsome guy with sex appeal. Women have an influence in 80% of all purchasing decisions, including men’s grooming products. Many men aspire to be like him. Enough said.

I’m curious to see what Old Spice’s next steps will be, given the large following that has been garnered. How are they going to continue to engage the social media community they have built?

Another question on ponder, do people like the Old Spice brand or just the campaign itself?

I’m also interested in the processes and metrics that are in place to evaluate success. Will there be a sales lift? A measured increase in brand affinity?

Lots of questions asked, and some valuable insights already gained. What are your thoughts?

Communications Providers and Customer Service

It never ceases to amaze me how often communications providers rely on promises of “better network coverage”, “faster Internet access”, or “better pricing” to differentiate themselves from competitors and lure consumers. Such advertising, in my opinion, does very little to make their brands truly stand out in the consumer mindset. Other than perhaps offering exclusivity for a particular product, such as an iPhone, it seems that you could insert any brand in any campaign.

How can a communications company stand out and be remarkable? How about innovating around customer service? Wouldn’t it be amazing if your cellular provider contacted you mid-contract, to advise you of a better and more cost-effective cell phone plan based on your usage? Would that perhaps build your loyalty to the brand, and reduce the chance of you switching when your contract expires?

Communications companies could also benefit from establishing themselves on social media, to open themselves up to customers and engage with them. Yes, they can and will receive criticisms from customers that can be viewed by anyone. However, putting a human face on a cold, corporate brand has a tremendous upside. As an example, read about Comcast Cares.

What are your thoughts?  How should communications providers innovate, so they can stand out from the competition?