Conversational Marketing & Managing the Expectation Gap

17 03 2008

picture-4.png

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.





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?





It’s all a matter of perspective: Letting our physical spaces define us

19 11 2007

Our minds are built on patterns.

We are creatures of habit and we attempt to understand our world by forming patterns based primarily on our past experiences. But, unfortunately life, nature, and people we aren’t that simple. When we are children we learn through association: Fire is hot and it burned me therefore other things that are hot should burn me too; however, as we quickly learn, these rules can breakdown under certain situations. For example, I remember sticking my hand in a bucket of dry ice when I was 5 and being extremely confused as to how I got burned from ICE.

In the grand scheme, these types of survival based constructs are static and with a few exceptions serve us well in understanding our surroundings and staying alive. However, when trying to apply these types of associations, that work so well, upon ideas and concepts in flux like trends, it narrows our field of vision. The tough part then becomes being able to break through these layers of patterns and reverting to a child-like state.

This is a topic I have touched on before in a number of posts, but here I wanted to discuss how physical spaces influence our perspectives by reinforcing or diminishing our patterns. For example, if you are a high-powered CEO nestled in your office surrounded by your ‘success’, it reinforces your patterns since your previous applications of understanding based on those associations got you where you are today.

In the picture at the top of this post we see a series of concentric circles that are dependent on the physical location they are viewed from. Step out of your comfort space. Step out of the world you have built around you to reinforce your ideal self.

Trust me it isn’t an easy excercise.

But, try to build small escapes into your daily routine such as having lunch outside the office in varying environments, or conducting meetings outside the corner conference room.

Here are a couple cool examples of how we jump to conclusions too quickly (a bit NSFW)

Part 1

Part 2

More cool examples of the pic at the top of the post.





Facebook Fan Pages Guide: Destinations vs. Collaborative Conversation Spaces

13 11 2007

Facebook Fan Pages need to be conversation spaces not destinations.

There are a lot of posts flying around the blogs on Facebook‘s new Fan Page system, covering privacy, just outright outrage, and even a couple kudos on tapping into the influencer hierarchy.

However, very few are addressing the core issue: How to implement a successful execution and how it fits into the mix.

First of all, DON’T create a destination, no one needs another “branded space”.

People don’t need another location where they can download Mountain Dew wallpapers. The approach that is being pitched is basically just an extension of the groups feature with some extra bells and whistles attached, wrapped up in the ‘products’ category. Now let’s be honest, groups are just badges to show off to other people, in essence, cool by association. There is very little running interaction on most groups and most of the content is lackluster. Some of you may disagree, but you probably run in new media circles and thus are more inclined to interact. You’re not the status quo.

This is a group roll ripped off an average female college student’s profile and it is more kosher than most:

groups.jpg

She is trying to express that she is liberal and somewhat politically inclined by being in the Stephen Colbert group, environmentally motivated with the Climate Change group, of course she wants us all to know that people think she is good looking by being a part of 5 or so groups themed around “Smoking Hot Beautiful Stunning Girls”. Think she ever interacts with any of these groups?

Empower your core base and win over your enemies.

The first couple product pages will most likely operate like every other branded group. Attract people with some discounts or “hot news”, a couple thousand sign up, spam them, spam them, spam them some more, people start to leave, and finally the marketer gets bored. The end.

Sounds bleak; however, there is a huge amount of potential in amplifying the voice of your advocates. If done right.

So here’s what I propose: Build the fan pages into conversation hubs.

Online influencer outreach programs typically are comprised of identifying various online communities and influencers – usually in the form of bloggers -, and trying to chat with them without pissing them off. These types of programs take time, can be expensive, and are difficult to manage and track. So instead of scouring the net, piecing together a patch work of comments and posts, why not have them come to you.

Build areas that become conduits between your evangelists, your nay sayers, and your company. Build a space where people can voice their opinions, good or bad (I know this can be scary for some), and be heard. Having a corporate blog is nice, but let’s face it blogs are still 90% one-way. With Fan Pages you are built into a social ecosystem where people want to connect and express themselves, take advantage. What you get in return is an IV thrust deep into the pulse of sentiments surrounding your product. What people love, where you got it right. What people hate, things you need to work on. What people just don’t get, areas you need to clarify. This information is invaluable, and just by listening you can convert your loudest nay sayers into friends. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen countless times.

That’s my 2 cents. I’m gonna wrap up this post with a challenge to marketing and companies:

Be the first company to use Fan Pages to collaboratively build or improve a product with your consumers.

Want people to use the network to amplify and pitch your product? Give them a stake in it, and allow them to spread a personal message.

Turn, “Hey, a bought cool pair of Nike high-tops”, into “Hey man, check out my new shoes that I helped design, I know you’ll dig ‘em”

Now the shoes have transcended mere mortal shoes, and have become conversation pieces, perhaps even mythical. You bet that everyone of your ‘designers’ will be telling everyone they know, and the Facebook platform will make that voice infinitely louder through the ‘products’ feed.

UPDATE:

Check out this article on Marketing Vox discussing the rising trend in people wanting to work with companies to build better products.

UPDATE #2:

Video post on AdAge of a presentation given by Facebook COO, Owen Van Natta.  He says, “Our users love the [SocialAds] system”.  Since when do people like being accosted by brands in their private communities.  Wake up.





Does The Glove Fit: Social Media Isn’t One Size Fits All

12 11 2007

Web 2.0 isn’t dead.

Says BL Ochman in his recent post on MarketingProfs. Couldn’t agree more. But, companies need to find what works for them.

Ochman’s central point is that there are a number of larger companies that still haven’t jumped on the bandwagon and they can benefit greatly by integrating more 2.0-ish components into their corporate machines. An example he provides is the publishing world, and how publishing houses are getting a little bit closer with social media tools lubricating communication between previously extremely siloed operations. Great!

Again, I agree complete.

A number of my previous posts may have been perceived as anti-2.0, but in reality they are anti-hype. In the 2.0 media landscape where marketers are seduced with new buzzword daily and company valuations are ludicrous (Facebook, anyone?), we need take a step back and take a deep breath. Instead of just jumping because everyone else is, take a long hard look at your customer base, your targets, what your brand represents, and look for tools, communities, and networks that work for you.

Make sure the glove fits.





NBC Media Offering Goes Multi-Platform: IGA In-Game Partnership

5 11 2007

Old media looks a little fresher when holding hands with the new kids on the block.

I recently wrote about how FOX was leveraging other components of the News Corp portfolio to aide in pushing Super Bowl inventory. Well here’s another announcement that old media vanguard NBC is entering into a strategic partnership with IGA Worldwide Inc., the largest private in-game advertiser.

Personally I love these collaborations. It makes the blander TV, radio, and print sales packages sexier and allows new media companies to leverage the awesome sales power of their older cousins. In addition, it provides a boost in authenticity for these new platforms. I am extremely excited for the next upfronts as the TV ad sales game with undergo a significant transformation and I feel that especially TV will be a major conduit to funnel more money online and beyond.

In my opinion finding yourself an entrenched partner can only help a newcomer with a sexy product.

Full press release here.





How Google’s OpenSocial Will Revolutionize Community Targeting

31 10 2007

Community based targeting accommodates multiple, mutually exclusive and compounding brand messages to be expressed.

OpenSocial will spur the development of micro-social networks that will be tied together on the backend, facilitating the seamless movement of users from community to community. This in turn will create an umbrella system where I have an over arcing super-identity, but express multiple aspects of it through the micro-communities I join.

Your first question is probably: Well I can already do that with groups in Myspace and Facebook. Wrong.

Let me explain. Groups on mass social networks are usually merely badges that signify affiliation. Interaction on these groups is relatively low as the barrier for entry is low. Being part of micro-communities is a far greater commitment as one has a reputation that resides in the space that needs to be maintained. Thus, the people in micro-communities are the hardcore, the key influencers, and people with intent. If you are a regular reader you have read my rants on intent based advertising. The citizens of micro-communities are there to acquire information on a subject, share information, and interact with a small subset of passionistas. Micro-communities are places of intent, thus targeting messages to these communities can be very effective.

What kind of messages you ask?

Messages that provide utility. Provide them information, insights, discounts, group buys, or branded widgets, that are also portable throughout OpenSocial. Don’t be their friend, cause they don’t want to be yours, but provide a service and they will appreciate it.

Still wanna work with banner ads?

Let the community shepard/s select the messages. Align your interests. Parse the site, give them a selection of relevant ads and let them choose the ones they feel will resonate the most with their community. More clicks = more money for the shepard/s. In addition, they feel empowered, and a little empowerment goes a long way. Finally, no one person, marketer, or algorithm know a community better than their shepard/s.

Alright so what do I mean by, community based targeting accommodates multiple, mutually exclusive and compounding brand messages to be expressed?

Well in the age of mass media – TV, Radio, Print, and Portals – brands were forced to pick one message they felt would resonate with the largest group of people and blast it. That is no longer the case. Now I believe there still needs to be one all encompassing theme, but now you can target communities with unique messages. Bear with me here.

Imagine the Venn Diagram at the top of the post, and imagine that each circle represents a different community. Now the advertiser disseminates 3 different messages that highlight different aspects of a widget that resonates strongest with each community. If am a member of community A I get sent message A and it makes sense to me and I am not exposed to messages B and C as these communities are mutually exclusive for me. There might be crossover with some members that might spread messages between communities, but since I don’t care much for the information I would bypass it. This keeps message A clear and undiluted, thus more effective. Now the other scenario is I am a member of all 3 communities. In this case I care about all three messages and thus they compound and build an even stronger pitch to the user.

This is the power of community targeting, it allows brands to transition from a OR world where a brand has to be X OR Y, to a world where brand can be X AND Y AND Z.

Finally, these citizens of micro-communities are influencers and will continue to spread your message in a way that makes sense to their audience. If I am a tech aficionado and reside in multiple tech micro-communities and have received 3 compounding messages, when I am communicating the message to say my nephew who wants a new laptop I will relay the messages that make the most sense to him; thus, you have a multi-tiered message filtering system. The more messages that make sense to the influencers the more ammo they have when pitching it down the line.

Very curious to hear everyone’s thoughts.





Networks Leveraging Full Portfolios to Push Super Bowl Spots

31 10 2007

Fox is leveraging other portfolio companies to sell Super Bowl inventory.

Fox is making its Super Bowl TV slots more attractive by bundling Myspace executions and added PR through Ryan Seacrest interviews. We saw this in more limited ways during the last two upfronts (Mostly digital replay bundling), but this is the first major push that incorporates other portfolio companies.

Moving forward we will see an increasing number of deals of this manner as content proliferates and umbrella corps control various brand touch points.

However, for this to work we will need to see less siloing and more collaboration between these entities and also more consolidation of planning on the media buying end.

Full article here via BrandWeek.








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