Tag Archives: Conversation economy

SOCIAL MEDIA IS SOCIAL BUT IT’S NOT MEDIA

 

Pencils

I am an adman.

Well, I am not.

I am a brand strategist.  But I spent years in the ad business.

First with McCann Erickson in South Africa, then Hong Kong, Greece, Mexico and then New York as EVP/WW Director of Client Services where I managed the Coca-Cola business globally. In 1996 I joined TBWAWorldwide in New York as Head of Global Clients.

 

I have been a lucky guy.  I have worked and learned from some of the best.  John Dooner, Michael Sennott and Marcio Moreira at McCann.  Jeff Weiss and Lee Daley at Amster Yard.  Sergio Zyman and David Wheldon at Coca-Cola. Bill Tragos, Uli Wiesendanger, Adam Morgan John Hunt and Lee Clow at TBWA. Steve Jobs at Apple. And my late ex father in law was Horst Sambo, the man who created and executed the incredible Red Bull campaign.

 

I love the ad business.  And as a brand strategist, I am still a part of it.

But the ad business is not ready for the conversation economy … and it will take a lot of getting ready to get there.

 

The social media experts?

The good ones know how to get the bread out of the refrigerator.

But can they make a sandwich? Someone else said that … and I can’t remember who.

 

AD AGENCIES MAKE ADS

Well, creative people make ads.

And great creative people make amazing ads. 

The skills and characteristics required to make amazing ads are many and diverse.

Strategy. Insight. Psychology. Imagination. Restlessness. Perfectionism. Craft. Design. Good taste. Courage. Intelligence. Curiosity. Arrogance. Humility. Sanity. Insanity. Recklessness. Responsibility.

Believe me the list goes on and on and on.

How many people combine just a few of these?

Not many … that’s for sure.

That’s why there are not that many amazing ads.

 

IN THE BEGINNING

Ad agencies were born with mass media.

They grew up with mass media.

The word “agency” hints at their origins.

Agencies originally represented media. They were the middlemen through whom advertisers bought media space.

In order to attract business, some agencies offered to work on the content. And that is how the modern agency arose. In the good old days (I am talking pre-nineties) agencies worked on a standard commission of 15% on the gross media buy. This was an industry wide standard. Nobody competed on price. The point of differentiation was the creative work. The content. Agency management was focused entirely on the professional product. The advertising was what mattered.

 

THE NINETIES

Everything changed with the emergence of the media shops. Services were unbundled. The 15% commission system collapsed. And price became an additional point of differentiation. Agency managers became money managers. The focus moved away from creative.

 

THE INTERNET MATURES

And threatens the revenue base. What’s the reach of a viral ad on Youtube? What’s the potential reach? What’s the cost? What’s the revenue stream? What happens to the agency business model? …… Have you seen “Charlie bit my finger?”

 

THE BIRTH OF THE CONVERSATION ECONOMY

Everything has changed. But nothing has changed. It’s back to the days when word of mouth was, as Gary Vaynerchuk puts it, “the most important currency”.  But this time round it’s “word of mouth on steroids”, according to Vaynerchuk.

 

IT’S NOT ABOUT GETTING INTO SOCIAL MEDIA.

IT’S ABOUT GETTING BACK TO SOCIAL

Back to the days before agencies were born.

Back to the days before mass media.

Back to the days of micro conversations between living breathing humans.

But this time the village street is called the internet.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA IS SOCIAL BUT IT’S NOT MEDIA

It’s a social gathering place.

Where equals (or close to equals) get together to interact.

On Facebook it ‘s like a school reunion or a family picnic or an office party. A loose social gathering with no specific interest focus.

On Twitter it looks more like a cocktail party. Lots of subgroups with specific interests. But however it looks, it is not a medium. It’s a social gathering. To twist McLuhan, “The message is the medium.” This is not a broadcast environment. People are not on Twitter for the content. It’s all about the context. And the quality of the conversation is what reigns supreme.  And here’s the problem ….

 

AGENCIES PRODUCE CONTENT THAT DISRUPTS. IT SHOUTS. IT’S A COMMERCIAL BREAK.

I swear. If I spoke to my friends the way that most ads speak to me I’d lose my friends.

 

THE PEOPLE WHO PRODUCE ADS ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE PEOPLE TO ENGAGE IN CONVERSATION IN THE SOCIAL GATHERINGS THAT TAKE PLACE ON THE INTERNET 

Their skill set is not right.

Their experience is not right.

Their branding model is not right.

Their process is not right.

And their management are focused on the kinds of revenue streams which simply do not exist online.

I mean, Twitter is free!

 

WRONG SKILLS, WRONG EXPERIENCE

Advertising on mass media shouts. It’s intrusive.

Conversation at social gatherings is inclusive. And it’s rude to shout.

Can these masters of the 30 second spot sustain a lengthy conversation?

Do they have what it takes?

 

WRONG BRANDING MODEL

A great branding strategy is the key to great creative.

It defines what the brand needs to say. And a good one does so beautifully well. You can almost see the creative in the document …

But the conversation needs something different. It’s interactive. It’s give and take. It requires flexibility and agility. It requires that the brand strategy is deeply understood … inhaled  and then exhaled with every breath. Harley Davidson does not sell to riders.  Harley davidson IS a rider. Big difference.

 

WRONG PROCESS

A great piece of advertising takes months to develop and produce. Months don’t exist at social gatherings. “Excuse me, I need to research what I am about to say next …” Forget about it.

 

WRONG REVENUE MODEL

I don’t need to go there. The Blendtec videos cost $5000 each.  Media was free. Agencies cannot survive with those revenues. No way.

What was the budget on “Charlie bit my finger?”

 

SO WHAT’S THE ANSWER?

Clients need to take charge.

I can hear my agency friends go ….. urggh!

Think about it.

The conversation is not a campaign. It’s conversation. It’s ongoing. It never stops. It’s not an assignment. It’s a way of life.

 

COMMUNITY MANAGERS? 

Yes.  But it’s not the right title.

You don’t manage the community.

You participate in it.

And there is no “you”.

There are many “yous”.

Everyone in the organization is a “you”.

 

BRANDING IS AN INTERNAL JOB

The entire organization must live and breathe the brand.  With every breath it takes. Branding is the key to organizational alignment.

But it’s not the organization that “gets” the brand. It’s the people within the organization.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA EXPERTS?

Yes.

To design the channels.

To reach the right people in the various interest groups.

To coach the participants.

 

IT’S NOT ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY

Facebook may come and go. Twitter too. (Though I doubt it will happen anytime soon).

But their impact on your consumer is long lasting.

People behave differently to what they did a few years ago. Online and offline.

And this affects every aspect of the marketing mix.

Everything you say.

Everything you do.

Everything you don’t say.

Everything you don’t do.

EVERYTHING COMMUNICATES

 

GREAT BRANDS HAVE ALWAYS UNDERSTOOD THIS

Coca-Cola. Disney. Nike. Apple. Avis. Starbucks. Absolut. Heineken.

And Harley Davidson who don’t sell the ride.

They ride the ride. 

 

NOTHING HAS CHANGED

Absolutely nothing.

 

 

 

HELLO I LOVE YOU

Welcome to the conversation economy

Conversation

 

Four years ago I went on a sailing trip around the Greek islands with my brother, a few friends, and my 15 year old nephew. Sheer bliss. The only pressure we felt came from my nephew anxious to reach shore and the next internet café. Facebook. Facebook? We were dumbfounded.

 

Four years later and facebook has more than 500 million users worldwide including my 82 year old mother. If you think that social media is a fad then think again.

 

Marketers brought up on a diet of mass media and mass retailing are grappling with the new media. Budgets are being diverted and everyone’s looking for the new holy grail – how to go “viral.”  Yes it is true. Social media provide new opportunities to reach consumers, often with far greater efficiency than traditional media.  But I think we’re all missing the point.

 

Social media is not about “media.” It’s about a fundamental seismic disruption in culture. And if business does not change when culture changes it is dead. The cultural change brought about by social media is far reaching and affects every aspect of how we do business. Today’s consumers think and act differently and not just when they are logged on to a computer.

 

Welcome to the conversation economy.

Welcome back to the future.

 

Ironically, today’s world resembles the world of the past.  A world where relationships matter.  A world where community opinion and word of mouth are the most trusted sources of information.  A world based on conversation.

 

Your brand, or your corporate image, is nothing more than the set of impressions that exists in the minds of your customers.  All things being equal, people like to do business with people they know and like. That’s called added value.

 

Now, we get to know someone through conversation. By exchanging points of view. By understanding and evaluating the personality and values of the other whilst they talk. Through conversation we establish relationships. It’s only human. And its always been like that. It’s how community is established. It’s the glue that holds communities together. The only difference is that today’s communities are huge, interlocked networks of people spread right across the globe.

 

Think about it. The average facebook user has 130 friends and is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events. If you “like” something your friends “like” then it spreads way beyond your initial network. Fast. Same if you don’t “like” something …

 

Mass media is not dead. But mass media companies which do not understand the conversational economy will fade to oblivion. Because the age of mass broadcast, as we have known it, is challenged by cultural change.  By the same token, mass advertising is not dead. But brands must understand the need to engage in conversation. Because it is through conversation that relationships are established. And relationships are everything in the conversation economy.