Saturday, December 06, 2008

Talking Crackers

I've seen enough holiday animation on TV already, but I may check this out. Or maybe not. This story is from

Kraft Brings Crackers to Life in Holiday Push

Dec 3, 2008

-By Elaine Wong

Kraft today unveiled a print and online campaign that tells the story of three ginormous crackers: Ritz, Triscuit and Wheat Thins—all of which are part of Kraft's Nabisco division. The push comes as U.S. consumers prepare for another season of eat-at-home entertaining.

Kraft tapped ad agencies Euro RSCG, Momentum WW, the Starcom MediaVest Group and interactive agency Digitas for the nostalgic campaign that brings back childhood memories.

The campaign evolved following keepsake holiday recipe booklets that Kraft tucked into December issues of publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Ladies Home Journal and Country Home. One million U.S. magazine subscribers received a complementary copy of "The Tale of the Magical Crackers," which like the title suggests, tells the story of a Ritz, a Triscuit and a Wheat Thin cracker that come to life and magically regenerate each time the narrator—a dog—or his caretakers take a bite.

Israel Garber, Euro RSCG's executive creative director, said the creative team wanted to personify the brands to connect with consumers. "You're looking at three very famous icons of holiday lore. Why not give them their own story? Let's make them big. Let's make them ginormous," Garber said.

Another element of the integrated push is a microsite,, where consumers can play games, watch an animated film version of the story, or enter a Nabisco sweepstakes. Prizes include a 42-inch plasma HDTV and a $50 electronics gift card. A trailer version of the animated film is also playing on an outdoor digital billboard in Times Square. ( Walgreens unveiled the massive display last month; Kraft, Johnson & Johnson and several other packaged goods companies have all bought ad space.)

Laurie Guzzinati, associate director of corporate affairs at Kraft Foods, said that while the company has traditionally advertised its cracker brands during the holidays, this year, the emphasis is on recipes, partly due to an increase in in-home entertaining. The previous two years involved a holiday tie-in with cooking celebrity Rachael Ray.

Kraft has also extended the recipe portion of the microsite to its word-of-mouth network, "With products that are so much a part of consumers' lives, we have a very robust number of recipes for how to pair these crackers with other ingredients," Guzzinati said.

Mintel senior analyst Krista Faron said the campaign is "spot on" with relevant consumer sentiment right now, particularly as it conveys nostalgia. "We're seeing more of that now," Faron said of these types of campaigns, pointing out Kellogg's revival of the Hydrox cookie. "Considering the state of the economy . . . traditions, trust and transparency—these are the values that are important now," she said.

Faron added that cracker brands like Ritz, Wheat Thins and Triscuit tend to do well in a down economy because they are the "small treats and little indulgences" that consumers will treat themselves to.

Last year, Kraft spent $13 million advertising Ritz during Nov.-Dec., and $1.2 million and $1.5 million on Triscuit and Wheat Thins, respectively, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Those figures do not include Internet spend.

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Radio's Future: A Conversation with Seth

Mark Ramsey sent this yesterday. I will listen to it this weekend and you can too:

Exclusive: Seth Godin updates his take on Radio's Future

This will be one of those interviews you print out and remember long after you first read it. You will want to pass this around. And for more from Seth Godin on Radio, pick up my new book, Making Waves: Radio on the Verge.

What follows is only a partial transcript.

For the full audio, click here:

MP3 File

Seth Godin is a well-known marketing thought-leader and author of the new bestseller Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us . Seth previously wrote Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable , Permission Marketing : Turning Strangers Into Friends And Friends Into Customers , The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick) , and so many more. Here, Seth updates his take on Radio’s future in what may be the most provocative interview about our industry you will read this year.

The new book is Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. What is a “tribe” and why do we need you and you and you and you to lead us?

Well, a tribe is not a crowd. A crowd is what radio program directors and marketers and people who make Tide detergent seek. A crowd is a bunch of people who you’re able to somehow grab the attention of.

A tribe, however, is a group of people who share something, a common culture, a language, a goal. They often have a leader. At their best they are part of a movement - and tribes are incredibly powerful. They are hardwired into us. We want to be a member of a tribe. We seek them out. Different people want to be in different tribes. When we’re in one, it becomes a key part of our understanding of life and gives us a sense of meaning.

And the reason that there’s an opportunity today is because marketing as we know it is fading away. Tribes_01 Average products for average people advertised incessantly at the masses - that’s not working like it used to, and we all know that. At the same time, the Internet has connected people like they’ve never been connected before and rather than homogenizing the world and making everyone the same, we’ve discovered that it has allowed people to connect with like-minded others. So witches can get together, and Ukrainian folk dancers, Hasidic Jews, and people who are into Star Wars. They can find each other and amplify their mission.

So what’s missing today is not that we don’t have enough tribes, it’s that we don’t have enough people to lead them, and that is the opportunity I talk about in the book, particularly to people who already have a platform, who already are speaking to numbers of people, who already are trying to make something change.

The opportunity is to realize that what you do for a living now is not interrupt the masses but instead lead and connect a tribe.

This book opens with a discussion of tribes and then it moves very quickly to become almost a primer on leadership.

Well, if marketing is now the act of leading a tribe and people say, okay, what are my tactics? What do I do? What’s the “dummies” version? The answer is: The only thing you need is the ability and the willingness to lead. This choice of leading is actually a marketing tactic now because if you’re not willing to lead, no one’s going to follow you. If you try to manipulate, no one’s going to follow you. If you don’t understand what the tribe needs and wants, no one is going to follow you, and so I set out to write a marketing book, but I ended up with a leadership book.

That was my sense as I read it. Now one of your points is that getting more fans should be the goal, not getting more traffic. If I translate that to radio terminology, you’re implying getting more fans is more important than getting more Cume, more audience, more reach.

In fact, the worst enemy of a radio station is the Arbitron ratings because they force you to abandon the tribe.

They force you to not have insiders and outsiders but instead to try to make everyone an insider, to homogenize and go for the lowest common denominator because big numbers are what you’re after. But what you really want is this: If your station changed format or went off the air for an hour, how many angry phone calls would there be? Who would miss you?

And it’s not very often that an author gets to gloat after a presidential election but I need to because all the stuff I wrote about is exactly what happened on election day in the United States. If you can connect to people in a way that they will miss you if you’re gone and in a way that they will feel missed if they are gone, then you have created a tribe, and tribes are always more powerful than the alternative, which is yelling at the masses.

And so radio has this interesting opportunity - the FCC has gifted you a priceless platform and for generations it has been misused to yell at people who didn’t have anything else to do in their car, but now we have something else to do in our car. Now we don’t ever have to listen to radio again. There are plenty of people who have every song ever recorded on their iPod. That iPod is hooked up to their car. They can listen with no commercials and with no one prattling on about traffic in a place they are not located.

But what they can’t get out of their iPod is the sense of connection and belonging. What they can’t get out of other forms of media is the sense of being in a select community, and the mistake that so many radio stations have made is they abandon that in favor of another point on their Cume.

Well, the radio station’s argument would be, look, you’re saying that a deeper relationship with a smaller audience is in the long run better for us than a shallower relationship with a larger one, but how do we sell that deeper relationship with a smaller audience when all the models are built around reaching as many ears as possible?

Well, the models are built that way because that’s what advertisers think they want. And you can persuade an advertiser to advertise once with you based on the numbers but you only get them to come back because they made sales. You only get them to come back because they moved product.

We know that when the Catholic Church runs a fund drive, they never fail. We know that National Public Radio raises more money more easily every year than ever before. Neither one of those groups succeeds because they’re big. They succeed because they have connected people, because people care about each other and the organization.

So if you’re an advertiser and you have a choice between reaching a ton of people who couldn’t care less, and so you have to talk really fast, yell, and make obscene promises on the radio to get them to show up at your dealership, or reach a smaller group of people about something that they’re very interested in in a very connected way, in the long run advertisers are going to come back to the smaller, more tightly knit group.

Where you need to have leadership as a station owner is to realize that you can teach advertisers to do business in a way that works for them, but you will only succeed at doing that if you are able to create this tribe.

Under the new Arbitron methodology, PPM, stations have anywhere from two to three times as many listeners as they thought they did under diaries, and of course those people are listening for shorter durations than they were under diaries. So the spin at the industry level is: “We’ve got reach that approaches television. Let’s sell radio as a reach medium.” Now correct me if I’m wrong, that’s exactly the opposite of what you’re arguing.

What we know is that not one major consumer brand launched in the last ten years succeeded because of TV or radio. Not one. Go down the list. The Amazons, the Apples, the Starbucks of the world, that’s not how they came to be. And for marketers today, especially given where the economy is, the easiest way to make your numbers is to cut your TV and radio budget - and they will. So to go out and say “we’re more like television, except we don’t have pictures” doesn’t strike me as the way to sell local advertising to people who are measuring what is happening.

True or false: You can more effectively create tribes and rally them around your cause because you’ve got their contact information. You know what they’re interested in. They have trust in you. You have a relationship with them and you have a relationship with the advertisers that have services or products that they need, right?

Exactly, but one thing you left out is they have to be looking forward to it. So if you create a tribe within your station of people who live within four miles of my house and are single, and you connect us to each other, and once a week we get an email about which bar to go to and what the playlist is going to be at that party, and you start connecting us to each other so that we look forward to that email, then you can go to ten bars in the area and auction off that site and whichever bar pays you the most is where you’ll have the party.

You can do that with 10 or 20 or 50 or 100 tribes just on top of one radio station because the radio station is the beacon that sends out the message to everyone that says this is a gathering place, a totem pole. And then you use the web and email to connect people and to make them feel wanted – it’s what I’m doing that with my blog now.

My blog is sort of popular. I posted a note in August and I said, “If you buy a copy of my book sight unseen (which is crazy) three months before it comes out (which is crazy) I’ll give you a free invite to this online tribe I’m starting.” And 3,400 people did it in 48 hours - and then I closed it. Now it’s still closed. It’s going to stay closed, but now I’ve got 3,400 people – well, I don’t have them. They have each other. I show up every once in a while to make sure order is kept but they are writing ebooks, consulting each other, connecting, meeting each other, having coffees in Washington, D.C. and lunches in San Francisco because I built a place for them.

And if I wanted to I could build a new place like that every week on different topics using the blog as a way of announcing it. I’m not trying to make money from these online communities, but if I was, what could be better than an online site where at 4:00 in the morning on a Sunday there are 40 people there, and a new post goes up every 15 to 30 seconds, and there are hundreds of groups and thousands of posts. This is their place. They like to connect with each other there. That seems to me to be better than running a commercial between two Beatles songs.

Now a lot of stations have had spotty results in creating social networks for their radio stations on their websites. To some degree their listeners say “I’ve got Facebook. I’ve got MySpace. Why do I need this?

Well, of course they’ve got spotty results because they don’t really care, and they’re not generous. They’re selfish, and it’s not a useful social network because anyone can join. There’s no curation. I don’t feel special when I’m there and it’s clear they did it to sell me something, right?

I mean here’s the thing, Mark, and you and I have talked about this before. If you hadn’t gotten that gift – your frequency - from the FCC 20, or 40, or 80 years ago, whenever your station got it, what would you have? Because this has all been about leveraging that.

Everything radio has done has been about leveraging a rare piece of spectrum, and the thing we have to acknowledge is that spectrum isn’t rare anymore. So the one asset you built your whole organization on is going away really fast and instead of putting your head in the sand and complaining about that, take advantage of the momentum so that when it does finally disappear, you have something else.

Because even now radio stations have relationships with many, many, many listeners that would be the envy of Amazon in any local market, relationships with many, many, many advertisers that would be the envy of even Google in local markets, right?

Right. I mean my wife gets in the car, she hears a DJ from her youth still on the radio, and there’s a connection there, a tenuous one but a connection. And then there’s three minutes of being yelled at about used cars. If the radio station was smart, they would know my wife doesn’t need a used car and she has never bought a car because it was advertised on the radio, so the obvious thing to do is to change the station. You took that great asset you had and you wasted it for what? Because the car dealer gave you a tenth of a penny per person. What a waste, and you keep wasting it over and over again because so many people in the radio business are stuck and unwilling to realize that they could take that and leverage it to a new place.

And my provocative statement is that five years from now the only profitable radio stations will be the ones that have vibrant, connected tribes of people who want them to succeed.

In the past year especially, stations have been finding revenue off considerably compared to the same time last year, and thanks to what’s going on now economically, especially as it affects the auto industry, we expect that to carry into 2009, compounding effects related to technology and iPhones, and so on. What do you say to the broadcaster who says, look, all this digital media stuff is great icing on the cake but my cake is shrinking! I’ve got to rebuild my cake and work harder to sell more spots at higher rates. Forget all that icing!

My answer is in industry after industry we’ve seen that you can’t defend the fortress because the fortress goes away.

AOL is a fine example. AOL said let’s defend dial-up. Let’s defend the walled garden because the web was too hard for them to understand. They lost billions and billions of dollars.

Consider the FCC’s ruling recently about the white space spectrum. What white space spectrum is going to mean is that in five years every car sold is going to have an infinite number of radio stations on it. Not 100 or 1,000 but more radio stations than you could listen to in your lifetime, and if that’s true, tell me again why you’re going to win? Tell me again how defending that fortress, how propping up that cake can lead to anything positive? It can’t.

On the other hand, do you want me to tell you what station I’m going to listen to? I’m going to listen to the station about me, the station that’s filled with my friends, the station that connects people like me with other people like me, because my favorite person is me – like everybody else.

Now the idea of getting more fans rather than more traffic requires people at the helm who have a passion for what they’re doing, and that requires creativity. It requires art. It requires inspiration. It requires really deeply caring about what you’re doing. Those people are being drained from the radio industry. How important is that kind of passion and spirit among the creators, the programmers, the content-makers?

Well, I think you just said it. It’s everything. The one thing I would add is you need people who are passionate about their listeners, people who are passionate about making their listeners’ lives better.

I want you to think about the last time someone in your station had a meeting where, in the middle of the meeting, someone said “but that’s not good for our listeners.” That never happens. They say “well, that might not be good for our ratings,” but that’s different. The question is who is going to step forward and shake up the status quo and lead, and it will happen, but how much damage and havoc will be reached before that? Given the history of most industries that are under stress, the answer is a lot.

If we look at how the music industry melted down to nothing, it happened because the people in charge kept firing or disempowering the people who actually could have done the right work because they cared, and what a shame, because they had everything going for them. It was the perfect business with the perfect medium, and over the last ten years they systematically dismantled it because they kept trying to preserve the status quo by bringing in “yes men” rather than challenging the status quo and building something better.

Seth, Tribes is another great book. I really enjoyed reading it. I can’t recommend it strongly enough. Seth Godin is one of the most popular bloggers on the planet and the author of one great business book after another. Thank you so much, Seth.

My pleasure. I’m a fan.

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The Trust Factor

I wrote about this on Monday. Click here to read what I wrote.

Ted Mininni at also wrote about it recently:

What Does Loss of Customer Trust Actually Cost Companies?

We all know that in challenging economic times, consumers are less brand loyal than ever. They’ll drop their favorite brands and seek out lower priced alternatives. But what happens when consumer trust is violated due to safety concerns? Or when expectations are not met due to a real or perceived loss of quality? We know that these issues have a direct impact on consumer spending, and worse: A powerful impact on consumer trust.

My consultancy works with many key consumer product industries and companies that have been impacted by quality and safety issues: toy, food/beverage and consumer electronics, among them. When Progressive Grocer reported on a study commissioned by Deloitte LLP quantifying the damage consumer loss of trust has on brands, in an article titled, Consumers Losing Patience with Recalls: Survey, it was of special interest to me.

I’ve written about the need for transparency, honesty and trust that brands must work at if they are to retain loyal customers, and that goes for B2B and B2C companies. In a past post, I pointed to the need for companies who source materials or labor from abroad to get actively involved in that process and to be able to trace every component of every product. The importance of doing this cannot be overemphasized.

The Deloitte report was conducted by an independent research company online in early September. 1004 adult consumers were polled nationally with a 3.1 margin of error. According to the report: 58% of respondents who heard about product safety and/or quality problems altered their buying habits.

But here’s the most significant part of their findings: these consumers didn’t purchase the products in question for over nine months, making it less likely they would purchase those products or brands ever again.

Now, here are concrete numbers to support my opinion in the toy, consumer electronics, fresh food and packaged food/beverage categories:

• 49% of Deloitte respondents surveyed were “extremely concerned” about the safety of products imported from abroad, especially older consumers.
• Highest level of concern: 53% of women and 56% among consumers aged 55 and older.
• 54% of respondents were more concerned about the safety of fresh food than they were just one year ago.
• 65% expressed “extreme concern” about the safety of products made outside the U.S.
• 73% expressed “extreme concern” about the safety of products made in China; half had the same doubts about products originating in Southeast Asia and Mexico.

What consumers in the survey want:

• 86% want more information about food product safety to appear on food packaging.
• 81% want more information about food product safety to appear on company web sites.
• 81% want more information about food product safety to be provided by the government.
• 67% want the following information on food product labels to help them in making their purchasing decisions: country of origin, product testing certification, quality certification.

Deloitte LLP’s vice chairman and consumer products practice leader, Pat Conroy: “Companies are meeting consumers’ concerns by upgrading or expanding safety procedures, including stricter safety standards, testing, and third-party audits, and government intervention is driving change.”

• Do you feel, as a consumer, that enough has been done to ensure product safety?
• Do you feel that there is enough transparency and traceability in consumer goods to earn your trust yet?
• When there has been a recall on products you generally purchase, have you refrained from buying that product or brand again?
• Do you think there will be more incidents involving tainted food, toy or other consumer goods?

I’d love to hear from you.

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Christmas Fun for Guys

I doubt that many of the ladies that I know would appreciate the website that is mentioned in this article.

Or at least, they won't admit it.

Many folks are putting up Christmas decorations today, if that includes you, turn up your speakers when you visit the site. From the THINKing Blog:

A Holiday Gas

You have to love clients who clearly understand their brand, their audiences and have the courage to communicate with them in their vernacular. That’s why I love the folks at Newell Rubbermaid. They get it.

Their BernzOmatic brand website that My Creative Team built has been redecorated for the holidays. It now features the bed of a plumber’s truck filled with BernzOmatic Fat Boy gas cylinders, which toot out holiday ditties. We call it the Fat Boy Farting Choir.

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Review Time

This mornings sales training is geared towards managers and those that want to do better. If you are a slacker, someone that believes pay increases should be based on simply showing up, you might not like the following article from Harvey Mackay:

Harvey Mackay's Column This Week

Telegraphing feedback: The stuff of yesteryear

When Jack Canfield, author of The Success Principles, gives a training session on feedback, he'll recruit a volunteer from the audience. The job? Steer Jack, who is blindfolded, to walk up to the volunteer's spot in the auditorium.

Step after every step, the volunteer utters up just two words: "On course" or "Off course." The audience notices two things: Had Jack been told he was "off course" more often, he would have reached his goal faster. But, even so, Jack always gets to the right spot because he's "continually taking action and constantly adjusting to the feedback."

For half a century, the annual performance review has been one of the most elaborate rituals in business. Weeks are spent in preparation. Employees haul in reams of documentation. Managers orchestrate scripts to telegraph messages. Is a warning notice or firing in the offing? The personnel department blesses every comma.

Not exactly snappy, constant or fast-acting feedback.

The tradition of the annual performance review is under siege. Not extinct, the annual review has become a confirmation, not a revelation.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a piece on how youthful Generation Y employees are revamping reviews. Gen Yers, born after 1980, thrive on lots of red-hot feedback.

Such formality can be as crippling as it is cautious. Twelve months is just too long a stretch, especially when someone's on the ropes. To paraphrase a Web joke making the rounds these days: "Last year, you reached rock bottom. Well, this year, you've started to dig."

"In a recent survey, 65 percent of 'Generation Y' workers at Ernst & Young said 'providing detailed guidance in daily work' was moderately or extremely important, compared with 39 percent of Baby Boomers," reports the Journal. "An overwhelming 85 percent of Gen Y employees said their age-group peers want 'frequent and candid performance feedback,' while only half of Boomers agreed."

  • Even when the input is not positive, younger employees would rather get bad news fast than no news at all. In an instant information world, it's often possible to give feedback a lot faster.
  • Surprises in annual reviews are increasingly likely to result in bad morale. A Business Week article cites the wisdom that "a good manager is one who, in an annual review of an employee, doesn't say anything for the first time. In other words, the boss should have conveyed the most important feedback in real time, throughout the year."
  • Some Gen-Yers na├»vely assume bosses will dish out praise. An expert in the Journal says they grew up in a world "where everyone gets a trophy."
  • Trophy awards can easily get out of hand, as with the outbreak in "title inflation." A recent New York Times article commented: "If an employer limits how many people can hold a given title, and if people with that title don't move up or retire, more-junior employees may become frustrated and leave for other jobs." While titles may seem cheaper than raises during a slowdown, hyped titles can bankrupt a company's structure long-term.
  • Don't tell subordinates they are or they aren't something in absolutes. A Conference Board article recommends "behavioral-frequency" evaluation. Point to specific cases when employees were a "true master" in certain skills.
  • Some judgments need time. A meaningful appraisal includes measuring an employee's staying power over time. Persistence, response to setbacks, and other key traits can't be rated in a day.

The One Minute Manager, by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, is the all-time classic on giving feedback. They term feedback "breakfast of champions." The reason weaker managers avoid regular feedback is so they can play "gotcha!" when an employee stumbles. It makes insecure bosses look better.

Businesses with antique review practices often suffer from planning paralysis. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg once wrote about his company, Bloomberg L.P.: "While our competitors are still sucking their thumbs trying to make the design perfect, we're already on prototype version #5. . . . It gets back to planning versus acting: We act from day one; others plan how to plan—for months."

Mackay's Moral: Too rigid a feedback loop can prove a noose around your neck.

Miss a column? The last three weeks of Harvey's columns are always archived online.

More information and learning tools can be found online at

Where I work, we do weekly reviews of our sales staff: informal, numbers based, one-on-one, quick meetings 5 minutes to 20 minutes each.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Friday Night Marketing News

From Mediapost:

by Karlene Lukovitz
As for emerging trends in premium chocolate, Packaged Facts identifies bean-to-bar and microbatch production; dark milk and upscale white chocolate; sustainability; "premiumizing" the familiar; exotic flavors; exotic functions; ultra-dark bars; ethical chocolate (organic/fair trade); large tablet bars; and filled bars. ... Read the whole story > >
by Sarah Mahoney
There's also plenty of evidence that price cuts, usually a store's most effective weapon in downturns, aren't working. At Kohl's, for example, which radically upped its value-price marketing over the month, sales dropped 17.5%. And while department stores on every end of the demographic spectrum were trumpeting amazing deals, consumers in every zip code just said no. ... Read the whole story > >
by Karl Greenberg
"We found that for most people, driving a car or truck does not make them feel sexy, fast or powerful," states Mark Guarino, senior analyst at Mintel. "The problem is that the auto industry is built on selling power, speed and sex. Those images are dynamic, but they don't necessarily resonate with the majority of utilitarian, safety-focused drivers." ... Read the whole story > >
by Karl Greenberg
Rich Howse, senior director of the automotive finance practice at J.D. Power and Associates, says involving customers in the finance provider selection process can lead to higher satisfaction with the lender, as well as to higher rates of intended loyalty and advocacy. The key is if they can get to the consumer when they are still in the decision-making process," he says. "If they do, they will have an influence." ... Read the whole story > >
by Wendy Davis
Tiffany is currently appealing a decision by a federal district court dismissing a trademark infringement lawsuit against eBay. The jeweler alleged that eBay didn't do enough to stop people from selling fakes. "Tiffany's position," Google, Amazon and other companies argue, "would as a practical matter severely damage or eliminate secondary markets for the sale of used goods on the Internet, causing great harm to consumers and the public interest." ... Read the whole story > >

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More on Social Media

A few hours ago, I posted an article on Social Media and Google Alerts etc. Here's more information from the MarketingMinute Blog:

The Marketing Minute

The Art Of Listening In Social Media (Jason Falls)

Posted: 01 Dec 2008 06:09 AM CST

19153246 While I'm on vacation, I've asked some very smart bloggers whom I am fortunate to consider my friends, to share some insights with you. Enjoy their brilliance because before you know it, you'll be stuck with me again! Next up, Jason Falls.

I recently posed the question to a group of advertising professionals, “What do you think the first step to social media success is?” The answers I got were varied and some were close to being right but most of them made the common mistake of concentrating on the technology. “Get an IT guy who can translate all that web stuff,” is a common response.

But social media isn’t about technology, it’s about communications. The technology is just a common mechanism that facilitates the message exchange.

The first step to success in social media is listening.

But how do you listen to millions of blogs, posts on social networks and billions of websites? Well, it’s easier than you think. Here’s how:

Google Alerts
Go to and type in a search for your brand or company name. Select “Comprehensive” as the type and “Once a day” for how often then put in your email address. Now do the same for your CEO’s name, any variations or additions to your company or brand (sub-brands, divisions, etc.). You’ll get an email once daily for each alert. Click on the links and see what people are saying about you.

You’ll want to refine your search term based on the number of irrelevant links you get. For instance, a search for “fruit loops” may yield lots of posts about fruit or even posts on roller coasters talking about loops. By adding quotation marks in the search term (“fruit loops”) instead of (fruit loops), you’ll get more relevant posts.

If you’d like to keep the links, sign up for and use a bookmarking site like By using a one-click bookmarklet (or button on your browser’s top frame) and filling out a few simple fields about the page you’re saving, you can organize and save and endless number of pages. (For my bookmarks on public relations, click here.)

You can also take the efficiency one step further and subscribe to the Google Alerts as a feed in your favorite RSS Feed Reader. If you don’t know what an RSS Feed Reader is, go watch the CommonCraft video. It will change how efficiently you surf the web.

Other Listening Mechanisms
Keep in mind Google Alerts doesn’t catch everything. You’ll also want to conduct searches of Twitter and perhaps even a more advanced search of blogs using Bloglines, Icerocket or Technorati. But these results listings come with RSS feeds as well, making it very easy to manage. (Hint: You really ought to figure out that RSS thing.)

For more advanced listening, there are a number of paid services that not only help you identify who is saying what about your company, but also provide analysis and insights to help you … or pretty charts and graphs for the CEO who doesn’t want to try and understand it. Those services range from economical (Radian6, BuzzLogic, BrandWatch) which normally don’t include human analysis, to pricey (Nielsen Online, Cymfony, Collective Intellect). Some, like K.D. Paine & Partners, offer both do-it-yourself solutions and full-service reporting.

I’m Listening. Now What?
Now that you’re keeping up with what the world is saying about you or your product or service, you need to know what to do with it. There are several schools of though here, but let’s look at some examples:

1. Dell Computers was suffering from historically bad PR in 2006 when they decided to start listening to their customers. Now, Lionel Menchaca and others in the blogging/social media effort at Dell try to respond to ever mention of Dell online, be it on a blog, Twitter or elsewhere. All listening has done for Dell is turn their customer service reputation around, 180-degrees.

2. Comcast Cares monitors Twitter for mentions of cable issues, access problems and more when someone mentions the company. Again, the customer service reputation for Comcast, at least within the Twitter community, gets high marks.

3. You can also just choose to respond to only the negative, or at least only those that might be inaccurate. In January, Sara from Breaking Up With Bread posted her concerns that Maker’s Mark bourbon may have aggravated her gluten intolerance and made her sick. When the master distiller posted a comment not only assuring her there were no glutens in the bourbon, but even provided a link to a government study that verified that, the blogger posted an apology and took the entire post off her blog.

4. And, of course, the baby step is to respond to the positive to engender a multiplier effect on the good vibes. By posting thank yous when people mention your brand, it at least sends a message to the writers and readers of that particular post that you are, in fact, listening. But I would caution you that if you do this, people will expect you to respond to the negative as well. Be prepared, even if this method is the toe in the water.

Listening is really the easy part. It’s knowing how to respond and react to what you hear that is the fundamental indicator of how a company will be received in the social media space. While each company or brand will need to develop their own personality in doing so, the key to success is simple:

Respond online the way you would respond to the same thing being said in person and in public and the way you would want to be responded to if you were voicing the concern.

As risky as it might seem, as intimidating as the permanence of the web is, it just takes removing the marketing hat, setting aside your tendency to try and control the message and just have a conversation with people. Try it. It will change the outcomes to your liking.

Drew's Note: Jason Falls is a stand up guy. He is an natural conversationalist, which may be why he gets social media like nobody's business. He's the director of social media at Doe-Anderson, a brand-building agency in Louisville, Ky. He is the author of, a leading social media, public relations, marketing and communications blog. He's also completely ga ga over his kids. Another reason to like him.

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Ignorance or Ignoramus?

Over at Labov & Beyond's Idea Factory Blog, they wrote about the tech troubles with the new Blackberry Storm and Verizon that I've seen a lot of ads for recently.

Apple's I-phone had problems when it was launched too, but at least they addressed problems instead of hiding.

What happens if you pretend a problem doesn’t exist?

“So far, RIM has not commented on the problems of its first all-touchscreen BlackBerry, considered a strong competitor to Apple’s touchscreen iPhone. Verizon Wireless, the exclusive carrier of the device in the United States, has said little, except how well sales have gone. The company, like most, doesn’t publicly share sales figures.”

Which is funny, because before the Storm was launched we could not escape its omnipresent marketing campaign. Now that things seem to have not gone as planned in its first few weeks in the marketplace, however, everyone’s clamming up. And, as we all should know, what happens when you leave a void where your information and reassurances should be? That void is filled with negativity and online mob rule. And your supposed iPhone killer becomes dead on arrival.

Avoid the void, people. Avoid the void.

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Rite Aid does Email & Customer Service Rite!

From Becky at Customers Rock!:

The Christmas Season and Customer Focus

As we step into a very, very busy time of year for a lot of people, we have a great opportunity to re-double our focus on customers. We get so distracted around the holidays, it is easy to look only to year-end numbers rather than taking care of customers. Also, our customers are so over-loaded, they often forget to follow up on little details.

I have a great story about a business that did something small for me, but it made a big difference in my mind.

I often shop at our local Rite Aid, a pharmacy whose tagline is “With us, it’s personal”. I never thought much about this tagline until I recently received an email from them. I had purchased a few items recently which were eligible for rebates. Having done rebates with Rite Aid before, I was familiar with their nice and neat process where receipts can easily be processed online (thank you!). This has always gone very smoothly for me.

Back to the story about the email I received from them. Here is the email in its entirety:

Dear Becky Carroll,

Thank you for shopping at Rite Aid and participating in the Single Check Rebates program. Our records indicate you have valid receipt(s) but forgot to request a rebate check prior to the expiration date of 11/24/2008.

As a courtesy to you for being a loyal Rite Aid member, we have requested your check for you.
You will receive your check within 2 to 3 weeks.

You are receiving this email as a result of your participation in the Rite Aid Single Check Rebates program. Note: Please do not reply to this message. Because this message has been automatically generated, your reply will not receive attention.

For questions about Rite Aid’s Single Check Rebates program, please email us via the “Contact Us” page:

Thank you for using Rite Aid Single Check Rebates.

Rite Aid Corporation, 30 Hunter Lane, Camp Hill, PA 17011, 1-800-RITE-AID

Wow! I hadn’t realized I had forgotten the deadline for this rebate. I was absolutely impressed with this email for several reasons.

- Rite Aid knew that I had missed the deadline and took care of it for me. :)

- The email addressed me by name so I knew that it was most likely not a mistake.

- Rite Aid acknowledged that I am a “loyal Rite Aid member”, something which makes shoppers feel good this time of year (or any time of year, for that matter!).

- All contact information was clearly laid out in the email.

Thank you, Rite Aid, for taking care of your customers at a time when some of us are too busy to do some of the “little things”. I would love to see more companies looking out for their customers this way. Come on, you all have the same information that Rite Aid has on your customers. What can you do to make life easier for them?

A suggestion for Rite Aid (we can always make things better, right?): Now that I know you can do this for me, why don’t you just take care of it for me every time so I never have to enter my receipts for rebates? This would be a great incentive for joining a loyalty program! Especially in this economy, where people are looking to save every dollar they can, it could really drive an increase in participation. You then have an opening to dialogue with your customers. What a great Christmas gift for customers and brands alike.

(Photo credit: trebuchet)

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They're talking about you...

Before the rise of the internet, there where a couple of ways that consumers would check on a business or product before spending their $$.

Consumer Reports publishes an annual buying guide and the Better Business Bureau handles local business complaints. Now both of these are also online.

Did you know that you can find out if someone is saying something good, or bad about you on the internet with a Google Alert? Set one up for you and your business by clicking here.

Also check out this report from

Online Reviews Second Only to Word-of-Mouth in Purchase Influence

Online reviews and comments written by users - often overlooked by marketers in favor of things they can control - are disproportionately influential to consumer buying decisions and are second only to personal word-of-mouth for purchasing influence for Americans, according to research from Rubicon Consulting.


The survey, which was undertaken as part of a broader look into how businesses can use online communities, found that all online information is important in the purchase-decision process, but the most influential information is user-generated.

The research confirmed the power of what Rubicon terms “Most Frequent Contributors” - the 9% of web users who produce 80% of all user-generated content.


Rates of participation in online discussion also vary according to the type of content being viewed or consumed. Some people are contributors in one type of content but “Lurkers” in another.


Key findings about influence in online communities:

  • Small groups of enthusiasts dominate most online conversations, but that doesn’t mean online communities matter only to a narrow segment of people. Most web users read community content rather than contributing to it and are strongly influenced by the things they see there, especially product reviews and recommendations.
  • Most web users are voyeurs more than contributors, and marketers should view an online discussion in the context of a theater performance in which the community leader(s) interact with a small group of contributors while a larger number of people look on. Companies who turn away from communities populated by enthusiasts have mistaken fellow actors for the audience, Rubicon said.

Additional findings about the internet’s influence:

  • The Web is the #2 resource for customer support information, after user manuals. It ranks ahead of calling the manufacturer or asking a dealer.
  • Website categories that get the most daily usage are search, social communities such as MySpace and Facebook, general news websites like and, and online banking.
  • The websites that Americans value most are (in order), Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Wikipedia, and Facebook. Although Yahoo’s financial challenges have generated a lot of press attention, it continues to have a very large and loyal following.
  • Young people (age 22 and under) are much noisier online than their elders. They account for about half of all the content and comments posted online.
  • The major social networks are much more satisfying and useful to teens than they are to adults. In fact, satisfaction with the social sites peaks at age 14 and declines steadily with age.
  • Facebook appears to be ahead of MySpace in terms of number of users in the US, and perceived value of the site.
  • A person’s age makes a difference in the types of online information they are influenced by. However, across all age groups, the web has a significant influence on the purchase of consumer electronics.


  • Despite extensive publicity, the community sites SecondLife and Twitter reach only a few percent of US Internet users.
  • Democrats are more active online than Republicans, and say the web has a greater influence on their behavior, including voting.
  • About a quarter of web users say they have dated someone they first met online.

“Many companies downplay the importance of online communities because only a few percent of all Internet users contribute to them heavily,” said Harry Max, a principal at Rubicon Consulting. “What they don’t understand is that most other Internet users read those reviews and rely on them heavily when making purchase decisions. Taking good care of online communities can be a huge money-saver for companies trying to get more marketing impact from limited budgets.”

About the survey: In September of 2008, Rubicon Consulting’s web strategy practice surveyed 3,036 web users age 13+ in the United States. The survey was conducted online, using respondents sourced from a national sampling company, and should be projectable to the US web-using population, or about 75% of US residents. The white paper, “Online Communities and Their Impact on Business: Ignore at Your Peril,” is free and available for download.

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Advice I Don't Agree With

Yeah, I'm going to feature an article that I received that has advice that I disagree with, because there is some good marketing information here.

So what I will do is add my two cents in red. This is from

5 Marketing Tips for Businesses on a Budget

By Jennifer Lange

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand we live in a social networking world.

Businesses of all sizes have quickly caught on to the importance of having a presence at websites like MySpace and Facebook for a number of reasons.

From the sheer volume of traffic these sites attract to the demographic diversity of their users, smart marketing professionals consider social networking a significant part of their branding efforts.

Contrary to popular belief, having a substantial presence at a site like MySpace, for example, doesn't necessarily require a substantial budget. As a matter of fact, there are a number of easy-to-follow marketing tips businesses can follow to have a commanding MySpace presence, for pennies on the dollar.

1. Create a MySpace Layout that showcases your business.

A clean and attractive MySpace layout that includes your company name and a description of your products and services is essential in marketing yourself to the MySpace crowd.

When you consider that one of the most popularly searched phrases on the Internet today is "MySpace Layouts," you'll understand just how important this tip is. Aside from the popularity of social networking itself, the second fastest growing trend is customization, or the art of being able to decorate your profile with cool layouts, backgrounds, pictures, graphics and video and music applications that convey your likes and dislikes and, in essence, your overall personality to the friends who visit your page.

It's no different if you're a business. Posting a layout to your MySpace page, one that clearly conveys who you are and what you do, speaks volumes to the people visiting your profile--people who may very well become your customers.

Look online to find websites that offer custom layouts and incorporate your company's information and graphics into the elements of your layout design, including backgrounds, extended network banners and boxes within the layout such as contact tables. Whatever you do, keep it simple. Cluttered and confusing layouts lose their branding effectiveness.

MySpace and Facebook are NOT Professional Social Media Networks. Please do not use them as a substitute for a professional site. I'll have a few more options for you coming up.

2. Add MySpace friends who fit the demographic profile of your customers.

MySpace has a nifty feature that allows you to browse for friends by age, gender and relationship status. Use this tool to locate friend prospects that fit the demographic profile of your target customers and reach out to those prospects with friend requests.

When you add friends who you believe will be most interested in learning of and receiving information about your products and services, you increase your chances of gaining new customers through targeted marketing.

Be sure to communicate important company news such as discounts and special deals or the launch of new products and services to your MySpace friends as often as you can, in a reasonable manner. Keep in mind MySpace has safeguards in place to prevent spamming.

3. Work your MySpace profile.

Having a MySpace profile that features your business is one thing, "working" that profile so it works for your business is something completely different.

Assign someone within your company to manage your profile on a daily basis. It's important that they add friends, post comments, post bulletins, write blog articles and send and receive messages. Don't assume that by creating a MySpace profile, millions of people will find you. The art of social networking is just that - networking socially within a site like MySpace by reaching out, making friends and interacting with those friends as often as possible.

Also, aside from foul language or inappropriate content, don't be afraid to allow people to post public comments about your organization on your MySpace page. A big draw for social networking is the ability to be real, to speak your mind and say how you feel. If you allow only positive comments about your business to be posted, you lose credibility. But if you allow people to speak their minds, you gain credibility while learning a lot about your customers - and your business - in the process.

4. Let your MySpace friends become your own marketing army.

Posting a business layout at your MySpace page is a great idea. An even better idea is offering layouts that feature your business for free download to other MySpace users who want to customize their profiles. As a result, MySpace users get to customize their pages with cool designs featuring your business and in turn, you get an entire army of marketers who brand your organization to their friends...and friends of their friends...and so on.

Certain MySpace customization websites like, for example, now offer a service where they will create layouts and other designs, such as backgrounds, extended network banners, contact tables, graphics, glitter graphics and flash widgets, that feature a particular business, product or service (in this case, up-and-coming bands). These designs, showcased prominently throughout, are available for free download to any MySpace, MyYearBook, Xanga, Friendster or Virb user.

Not only do participating bands get excellent marketing exposure at, they get excellent marketing exposure from the various social networking users who customize their profiles with the band's layouts. Aside from bands, virtually any type of small or large business can take advantage of this service.

Bottom line - by offering free MySpace designs that feature your business, your MySpace friends, and MySpace users in general, become your very own marketing army.

5. Use MySpace Ads.

MySpace Ads, similar to Google AdSense, allows you to promote your business by targeting your advertising to MySpace users for a fraction of the cost of traditional online advertising.

MySpace Ads is an online advertising program available through MySpace that allows you to create ads featuring your business, target those ads to a specific group of MySpace users you choose based on demographics information, spend only the money you want based on your budget, and then closely monitor the performance of your campaign with detailed reporting provided through your MySpace Ads account.

Depending on the size and specifications, you can use your own ads or use MySpace's pre-made ad templates and you never pay more than the budget you originally determine at the outset of the campaign, according to the company.
Businesses on a budget should consider MySpace Ads as an affordable online advertising alternative.

About the Author: Jennifer Lange is President and CEO of (, a website specializing in layouts, backgrounds and graphics for a variety of social networking websites, including MySpace, MyYearBook, Xanga, Friendster and Virb.

Okay, here's the rest of my comments and why I disagree with using MySpace or Facebook as a professional social network.

The emphasis on those two networks is social, not professional. You will diminish your professional reputation if your webpage is a MySpace or Facebook page.

So why did I take the time to even put this article here?

Because I wanted to present to you a couple of alternatives.

You can register a domain name for your website for as little as $10 per year.

You can use Google Apps to build a basic website. You can use Blogger, or WordPress and design a professional, respected online presence at virtually no cost.

Stay away from the cute crap. Stick with the image you want to project to others that you want to attract to spend money with you.

There are even professional social networking sites that are designed to be for professionals. is my favorite. is another that some people use. You can create a forum on at no cost too. (Click on each to go to their sites.)

So, am I totally against MySpace and Facebook? No, as a matter of fact, I have a page on each of those social networking sites, but the key is it is social, not professional. (I actually signed up to stay in touch with some of my kids and their activities.)

And finally, one last word of warning regarding MySpace and Facebook. Do not put things on line that could come back to haunt you. Your current or future employer can check out your pages and decide that they do not want to be associated with you and you could be denied employment. It is still not wise to, "let it all hang out".

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The One Answer

Last Saturday, while some of you where recovering from your Turkey Coma, our sales training featured an article from Shep Hyken on 8 questions you must ask.

If you missed it click here.

Here's the follow up:

The One Thing Question

If you go back to the last tip, question number eight may be the
single most important question you ask a customer. Just to
refresh your memory, it is:

Can you think of one thing that can make your experience with us
even better?

This is a very powerful question. If you ask one hundred people
how they like you and all of them think you are great, you go
home happy. How can you improve on greatness? Believe it or
not, there is a way. You simply ask them.

Just ask all of your happy customers the "one thing" question.
You may not get many answers. And, the ones you get may not be
valid. But what if ten or fifteen of these one hundred customers
come up with the same suggestion. Then it might make sense to
take a hard look at it and make a change.

You can improve on greatness!

Copyright © – Shep Hyken, Shepard Presentations

Shep Hyken, CSP is a professional speaker and author who works
with organizations who want to build loyal relationships with
their customers and employees. For more information on Shep's
speaking programs, books and tapes contact (314)692-2200 or (

Shepard Presentations, LLC
711 Old Ballas Road, Suite 215
St. Louis, MO 63141

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Thursday Night Marketing News

Mediapost will email this to you each day, or check here nightly:

by Karlene Lukovitz
The need for macro data analysis is growing as computer technology makes it ever more feasible to cost-effectively collect and store huge amounts of data in more accessible formats and modeling and analytics continue to advance, says Adrian Chedore, who is based in Hong Kong. He notes, for example, that Synovate's Australian division is now collecting one billion records per day. ... Read the whole story > >
Financial Services
by Aaron Baar
As the industry's turmoil continues, banks have been rolling out messages of reassurance to current and potential customers alike. Yet, confidence in people's hometown banks continued to drop. "What the banks [have been] doing is communicating with customers more, through email, ads and other sources," Morpace's Tom Hartley. "But that doesn't seem to be working in restoring their confidence." ... Read the whole story > >
Packaged Goods
by Karl Greenberg
Philips Norelco is looking for comedy writers, as it extends the humorous campaign it launched in 2007 to tout its Bodygroom shavers. The company is supporting the launch of its Bodygroom BG2030 electric shaver with a national promotion that lets consumers submit scripts about the slings and arrows of outrageous shaving of body areas south of the clavicles. ... Read the whole story > >
by Karl Greenberg
Benjamin Steinman, editor of Beer Marketers Insights, says the Hispanic market is one of the growth areas in the mature U.S. beer market. "It's heating up, but traditionally Coors is under-represented in both African-American and Hispanic markets," he says. "In the last couple of years, as Coors has ramped up their marketing and they have gained." ... Read the whole story > >
by Les Luchter
A key offering is part of a multiplatform ad deal between My M&M's and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Indeed, MSLO President of Media Wenda Harris Millard singled out the campaign during the firm's most recent earnings call as an example of its ability "to put integrated packages together that other publishers cannot match." ... Read the whole story > >
by Mark Walsh
In terms of online sales, comScore emphasized the spike in buying in recent days, driven by an increase in discounts and promotions. The $846 million spent on Cyber Monday, up 15% from a year ago, was the second biggest online one-day shopping total to date. "This is an extremely encouraging development for retailers," said comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni. ... Read the whole story > >
by Erik Sass
Downturn or no, the digital out-of-home video business is still expanding, a sure sign investors are betting on the medium's prospects for long-term growth. The latest new venture comes from IndoorDirect, which is launching theBITE Network, targeting diners at quick-serve and casual restaurants nationwide. ... Read the whole story > >

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