Conversational Marketing & Managing the Expectation Gap

17 03 2008

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The slide above is from Noah Brier’s Brand vs. Utility presentation, which reminded me of a post I wrote a long time ago in my young blogging days on a concept I called ‘The Expectation Gap”. I’ve left the article as is, therefore, it is slightly out of context, but the core concept still shines through. Also I wanted to showcase my ever greater skill as manipulating the English language….. Yes, I’m well aware it is a futile endeavor…

Without further ado:

The essence of conversational marketing is of course to get people talking. To ignite conversation around a given service or product. To seed the conversation and amplify it, you need the right people to say right things about your product. For example you want the camera buff to evangelize your new digital camera to his friends for he is a trusted source of information regarding cameras. At least within his network. However, how do you get the camera buff to crank up the volume of your message, to amplify it.

The key is in managing the expectation gap. To explain this concept I will use 4 scenarios at a local pizza shop.

1. You are hungry so you walk into a pizza shop you’ve never been to before. You are expecting a decent slice of pizza, but you’re primarily just trying to get a quick fix. The expectations are relatively low, but the pizza isn’t bad in fact it is slightly better than anticipated. You go back to the office and might mention it. The expectation gap was too small to register.

2. Now this time you walk into the same pizza place and are BLOWN away by the flavor. When you get to the office this time you tell everybody about this transcendental pizza experience. The expectation gap was huge, therefore the quality and volume of amplification is equally exaggerated.

3. Now if you get a slightly subpar pizza it’s also not a talking point as the expectation gap was insignificant.

4. The final scenario is if your best friend, whose pizza taste you agree with, raves about a particular pizza joint and you decide to give it a shot. However, the pizza was so bad you ended up throwing it away. Due to the hype, the expectations were astronomical and subsequently the negative expectation gap was equally as large. You now go back to your friend and curse him out for making you endure such a terrible gastronomic experience, and vow to never heed another recommendation from him. In addition, you tell everyone else you know how bad it was. Finally, your friend, the evangelist, loses confidence in his recommendation and stops promoting the shop. The repercussions are severe.

The greater the expectation gap, the more conversation, good or bad, is catalyzed around the product.

The key to conversational marketing is optimizing the expectation gap, not simply hyping a product to unrealistic levels. In today’s world if the product under delivers word travels fast. As marketers we need to find the balance between building positive buzz around our products and not over-hyping.

Create as great a gap as possible between expectations and delivery to catalyze conversation.





The Age of Conversation, One More Time

16 03 2008

Bigger and Better… What more can you ask for?

Gavin Heaton and Drew McLellan are at it again, with the next incarnation of last year’s The Age of Conversation, a collaborative book project where 100+ bloggers contributed short articles on various issues surrounding media today. You can still buy it here.

However, this time around yours truly will a contributor.

It is a fantastic project and I’m very humbled to have been selected to participate.

In addition, all proceeds will be donated to Variety’s LifeLine charity of kids. It’s win-win, you get to gain more perspective on the state of media today, and the budding media strategists of the future will have an opportunity to live full, fulfilling lives.

Finally, we are planning a huge Bum Rush for new book on March 29th, so please support the project and help spread the word.

Details here.





The Evolution of Social Networks

21 12 2007

“The Year Networks Become More Than Social”

Stop by Conversation Agent to check out my recent guest post discussing the evolution of social networks from merely connecting people to connecting people with ideas. 2008 will be the year innovation networks, or i-Nets, were born.





2007 Human Centered Communication Award: Fred Water

13 12 2007

“Fred has a blackbelt in hanging out.”

Fred water is the most brilliant product launch of 2007, even beating out the iPhone. No other product embodies the perfect synergy of marketing and design. Fred, redefined water, a product category most people would say is boring and saturated. Human centered communications is a term I coined to describe the fusion of the human centered design trend with marketing communications. Fred personifies water, making it different, but also increases utility through unique bottle design.  Fred is a product where the advertising positioning was integrated from square one, not a component slapped on the end of the development cycle.

The advertising/design convergence trend is something I have been proclaiming for a number of years, and Fred is the proof of concept that I hope opens the floodgates.

Tangerine Toad’s post on design as the new advertising.

Post on Human Centered Design

Post on Apple’s organizational structure to merge design and marketing.

Without further adieu, the inspirational development process of Fred direct from his father, via PSFK.





Google’s Biggest Hurdle to World Domination

13 12 2007

Goo – what? Chinese can’t pronounce Google.

Interesting article here from Bloomberg that explores a huge problem that Google faces in China. People can’t pronounce the now ubiquitous verb.

In the annals of advertising history we have a number of comedic stories such as the latin Nova launch fiasco, and the debatable Gerbers selling ground babies in Africa tale. These were always cute stories, used to get a chuckle from intro level marketing students, but it is indeed a difficult issue that global brands need to contend with.

Web companies names like Yahoo! were hailed as perfect for international expansion as they were very phonetic and didn’t have clearly defined meanings.  As internet penetration in China increases rapidly, entrepreneurs and conglomerates alike need to start rethinking their naming processes. China also appears to a be unique as for some reason many 2.0 names roll off the tongue in a cutesy way in Japanese.

Can any readers weigh in on other languages?





Media Is Not Longer Counted In Impressions

4 12 2007

Time to evolve from impressions to impact.

To quote something everyone has read in their marketing 101 textbook, “You need to make 6… 7… 8… or was it 9 impressions before a consumer will recall your ad?” Truth is it really doesn’t matter how many times someone has had the pleasure of being exposed to your ad, what matters is creating impact. To be fair we still need a base metric for pricing and setting goals; however, everyone understands that eyeballs are moot in the 2.0 realm, so lets start the conversation around evolving metrics.

In the traditional advertising world impressions rule.

The question is framed as, “How many people will see my ad for X dollars?”.

In the mass media world this metric is the gold standard; however, applying impressions based thinking in new media, guerrilla, and experiential executions can irreparably damage a brand, because you have only one chance to make a positive impact.

NBC’s online video viewing experience is a perfect example of how impressions based thinking is killing brands. Last night I plugged my computer into my TV, gathered some friends, and hit play to catch up on some missed episodes of Heroes. Before the show started a recycled Nationwide spot ran, no big deal we thought since we are watching Heroes for free. Then, we saw the ad again… and again… and again for a total of 7 times. To make matters worse I had to get up and full size the screen after every spot. In 42 min Nationwide lost 5 customers. In the traditional impressions based market NBC’s video platform seems incredibly attractive as you get 7 impressions with no clutter, but to reiterate even if your dealing with TV based content the online rules are different.

What’s the solution? I don’t have all the answers, but Nationwide could have easily run a 1-2 min pre-roll spot and I would have thanked them for subsidizing my experience, or if the client insisted on interrupting the show they could have taken a 3-4 min mini-story, say of someone who went through a crash, and broken it up across the length of the episode. At the very least feed me a fresh spot at every break. 7 identical spots in a row? That is just lazy.

What works on TV doesn’t work online, so apply the same strategies at your own risk.





Becoming Gatekeepers: How Old Media Can Leverage Brand Trust

28 11 2007

“This is art? My 4 year old could paint this”

Any person that has ever walked into a museum, especially of the modern/contemporary variety, has no doubt uttered an iteration of these words. Lets face it, art is an ambiguous concept and us laymen goto museums because people that know far more than us about the art world carefully curate the pieces that are displayed. They are our filters to the art world, and I would say 95% of the art I am exposed to is in museums. Of course, aficionados have expanded circles of exposure beyond museums such as galleries, art shows, artist friends, publications, books, etc.

The art world is a great metaphor for today’s media landscape because for the same reasons that we allow curators to filter our peek into the vast artistic realm, we allow media outlets such as Vogue, CNN, BusinessWeek, etc. to filter our fashion dos & don’ts, world news, and business thinking. The answer? Trust.

As productive people we often don’t have the time to waddle through 3000+ blog posts a day so we either trust other bloggers like Robert Scoble to filter news for us, or let it bubble up to mainstream trade publications and news sources. To further clarify, just like in the art world the hardcore among us read everything ourselves and conduct our own filtering, but that is merely because our egos tell us that we are the best curators for our information, which sometimes can be true as no one else knows what information you deem most relevant.

So, what is this holy grail that I speak of?

Well the most trusted media sources are offline entities, although they may have online components. Therefore, they are in a position to leverage their clout to become online filters for their area of expertise. For example Vogue should reach out to fashion bloggers, allow them to become affiliates that they can sell ads for, and create a mini-portal where they aggregate posts they feel are most relevant for their readers on their site. It’s a win-win situation: Bloggers get better CPMs and more exposure, and Vogue becomes a gatekeeper and increases their online ad revenue. I spoke about topic-centric vertical ad networks in my previous post and in my opinion these old media powerhouse names are best positioned to take advantage of this new trend.

Thoughts?








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