Archives for posts with tag: research

A few weeks ago, I started working with a new client, a mid-size business. They started using Social Media a few years back and, over time, developed presences on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ YouTube, LinkedIn, Foursquare, a blog, Facebook Places, Tumblr and just started on Pinterest. Their previous Social Media consultant operated on the premise: Businesses need to be on as many social media channels as they can.

Why? In this rapidly changing world, businesses never know where their customer is going to be, so a business needs to be everywhere.


Mr. Consultant, stand in the corner and write “I will never recommend something that insane again.” 10,000 times.

There are two reasons why consultants, experts or agencies would give obnoxious advice:

– They try to fleece customers.

– They don’t know what they are doing.

I won’t even bother with people that try to fleece brands. Ultimately, brands will see through it and end the scam prematurely.

I’m much more concerned with people that believe in the philosophy that brands should be everywhere. Should Axe advertise on each TV Channel, even the Hallmark Channel? Should PETA run an ad in the Hunter’s Journal? Should Obama advertise on the Rush Limbaugh show?

Social Media shows its immaturity when “being everywhere” is still an advice I hear every day. Just like traditional and digital media, social media needs to rely on research – for example a social media audit. Understanding demographics, psychographics, spend decisions, social network use, day/time parting – all the good stuff and more that helps you understand where you need to be, when you need to be there, and what you should be doing/saying while you’re around. This helps brands and their community not to waste anyone’s time, helps to achieve goals and measure results.

Don’t be everywhere. Just be where your research tells you to be.


So, you’re the brightest agency in the world. You work with the best clients. You sit in meetings and get the client exited about all these new projects. The client sign off on the strategy and the final work is not what you had in mind and visualized for the client.


People love to get excited about new projects and innovative ideas. But when it comes to the execution, things start to look rather risky and the revert back to the generic ways of doing things.

When you can feel that excitement in the room, you need to capture that feeling and keep it alive. You need to keep the momentum. The more momentum you keep, the more real the project becomes. And the more likely to be what you envisioned when you got your clients excited.

Keep the initiative.

Next time you feel that excitement in the room, get an agreement from everybody to make something. It could be a research project, a brainstorming session, a workshop – anything that keeps people engaged and connect with the initial excitement. Make sure to keep everybody active or you’ll have the doubts creeping in, the fizzling will begin and you end up with something mediocre and safe.

Agencies are idea factories. They’re nicer and cleaner and less noisy, they’re still factories. Keep the engine running and churn out ideas that go beyond a vision and cheap talk.

Make things.

Or, in other words: Always ship.

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As a teenager I admired definite views. It conveyed a sense of strength and power.

Democrat or Republican.

Pro-life or pro-choice.

Evolution or intelligent design.

Dodgers or Giants.

Wodka or Whisky.

Beef or Chicken.

Muslim or Christian.

You go with one side and you go to war. You against the other idiots who don’t get it. I’m the good guy. They are the bad guys.

Over the years I had to learn that certainty is a clear sign of stupidity.

If people are stuck in their definite views, they are afraid to think for themselves. They are also frightened that thinking might change their point view, the one thing that defined them. Suddenly, they have no opinion. And without a strong opinion, they are nothing more than an empty suit.

It’s a sign of intelligence and maturity when you proclaim to the world that you don’t know everything. It’s okay to ask for further explanations when you are confused. It’s okay to ask your client what acronym A stands for or what these numbers mean to them. Pretending to know everything is not a sign of strength. It’s a sign of severe weakness. You just keep your head down, mired in your own ignorance, hoping everybody still thinks you’re smart. Unfortunately, that’s a common, human trait.

That’s why people write blog posts about things they don’t really understand, using words they don’t get. At least, they impressed their own ego.

That’s why we work through RFP’s that we don’t comprehend. But we’re frightened to ask the client for further explanations: “They might think we don’t get them.” Well, you don’t. And that’s why you complain about them later when you don’t win the pitch or the onboarding turns into Chinese water torture.

One thing I learned in school.

I was lucky to visit a school that was run by teachers infected by 60’s virus. Their mantra was: Question everything, man.

Ok, you can cut out the “man” but the other two words are powerful: Question everything.

Question research. The majority is flawed.

Question known facts. They are often known lies.

Question common knowledge. More often than not, it’s common stupidity.

And, please question any brief or complex task. You owe it to you and your clients. If you don’t understand it 100%, you have no chance of succeeding. Don’t be afraid to look dumb/lose client’s respect/lose the account/lose your livelihood/live in a trailer/roam the streets homeless.

Just be afraid to stay stupid.

In contemplation, if a man begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts: but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties. (Bacon)

Question everything.


When you ask people who’s running the United States, you will get many answers. The most common one is: “The President”. A popular one will be: “Wall Street.”

There’s no wrong answer. The first answer provided me a data point/a fact, the second offered me an insight.

Brands don’t care about data. They want insights.

Brands are clamoring for insights. They built their own CRM systems, work with media companies that add more data sets and are starting to tap into the social conversations. Just to get more data. And no insights. Brands spend millions on surveys, research, data mining, data analysis, focus groups, brand experts – and what they get are facts. Self-congratulating facts to keep things the way they are, rather than mind-boggling, enterprise-changing insights.

The false promise of Social Marketing

We just analyze social conversations about our brand as well as the competitive space and we finally get the insights we were waiting for, right?


Mining social conversations will get you a lot of data. A lot of sentiments. A lot of analysis. But when the agency or technology provider comes to the conclusion slide, you’ll only get facts. Interesting facts, maybe. But not insightful or valuable enough to transform your brand. To steer the brand ship into a new direction.

How to get real insights

The likelihood that pure observation and analysis of social conversation will offer actionable insights is extremely low. I’d rather invest $50,000 in the California lottery than investing $50,000 in research based on that premise.

You have to start out by asking the right questions, go way beyond pure observation. Why do have people stronger relationships with vertical A and not your vertical? What drives them to fall in love with a brand, what are the emotional drivers? Can we transfer those drivers to our brand? When do customers fall in love with your brand? When do they fall out of love, divorce or write threatening letters? What part of your mission and vision connects with people? Insights come from an open mind.

Agencies and technology providers have to listen to people and the brand. Be empathetic to the truth of who they are. Understand the soul of the brand and then make that soul more relevant to a greater number of people.

If you want to transform your brand, you need to step away from the data pile.

Nobody has ever discovered an insight on a spread sheet.

Expand the idea of what an insight is, ask the right questions and listen.

“Only he who can see the invisible can do the impossible.”

Open your eyes.