Archives for posts with tag: transparency

A short movie produced by the Dutch producers Joep van Osch and Casper Eskes asks good questions: What the hell are we actually doing on Facebook? Does it make any sense? Should we “friend” people we barely know? Are we creating a virtual character just to please your Facebook friends?

Rethink your personal Facebook Strategy

A Facebook strategy, really? I thought it’s about sharing  whatever you want to with your friends?

No, it’s not.

You’re developing a virtual brand. Don’t think you can be real on social networks. You shouldn’t be. You don’t want to air your last fight with your spouse on Facebook. Have a serious discussion about your relationship on Twitter.

You gotta be careful.

Never say anything about your clients. Ever.

Never say anything real about your relationship. Ever.

Never be real.

Be Facebook real.

Showcase your strength. Showcase what you want to stand for. So many people talk about authenticity. It’s all garbage. You don’t want to be real on Facebook. You want to be Facebook real.

Don’t share everything. Especially the negative parts.

Share enough. Especially the negative parts.

Don’t convey the Unicorn world.

You’re better than that. You’re real. Just be real in the limits Social Networks put you in. Don’t go all out.

The semi-reality of Facebook

Nobody is a real person on Facebook.

You push your all-time-best pictures in albums. Or on Instagram.

You showcase your best thinking, your best information you gather.

It’s not enough.

You have to refine your Facebook strategy even more.

Don’t define authenticity as a picture from a party.

Define it as new way of thinking, ideas you want to share with people.

Make your own Internet better than just a reunion-stirring-memories-hurting platform.

Make it a platform to define yourself. You can change any day and become some other person. (At least, we in Los Angeles can.)

Why not change your presence on social platforms. Try to be the person you want to be.

More helpful.

More value-adding.

Just a better person.

You don’t become a lesser person because of this.

You become a better person.

Because you are aware.

Because you are.

That’s enough.

What about brands?

The same applies to brands.

Authenticity and transparency doesn’t mean you have to share everything with everybody. People don’t really care about all the customer complaints you field each and every day. They don’t want to hear about the tiny details of your production process.

They want their problems solved.

And they want to find out if your brand matches up with their Facebook persona.

How does your brand fit into their Facebook being? How does it make them look better?

No wonder so many people click on or “like” charity/CSR initiatives. It makes them look better. (“I care. I’m not one of these mindless consumers. I’m a responsible customer.”)

Highlight things and initiatives that make the customer look better. That’s what Social Media marketing is all about.

Make the customer look better.

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It’s a fact: companies have become more accountable because of Social Media. They can’t just hide behind mission statements, phone trees and corporate rules anymore. All of us should love that fact. Embrace it. And we should hold each company to the basic objective of being accountable and transparent.

It doesn’t mean, you shouldn’t be accountable for your own behavior.

The anonymity of the Social Web, the constant avalanche of information often leads to misinformation, skewed messages and subjective interpretations that aren’t based in reality. The need to be heard, retweeted and seen as a thought leader makes it even worse. So-called influentials (sanctioned by Klout silliness) waste all of our time discussing their bad product/service experiences, cheered on by the legions of followers and people that believe everything they say blindly. More importantly, companies waste a lot of time trying to keep these influentials happy and calm down the mob they tend to drag along. It’s easy for anybody now to start a rumor, to share a subjective customer service experience without having to face the consequences. There are always two sides to a story but we tend to hear only one side and immediately blame the corporation.

Recruit your own army of loyal followers

Facing an army of followers as a solitary brand will never end pretty. At best, you will be able to take care of the influential and their followers will disperse, looking for the next victim. At worst, you might start a brushfire. You can’t win this battle by yourself. You need to recruit your own army of loyal customers. People that will stand up for you when something goes wrong. Even to a person with 30,000 followers. The basic task in Social Marketing is to listen and engage. The real task is start building a group of loyalists, your brand guard that will fight for you when times get tough. Don’t try to buy mercenaries, or get professional soldiers. Deliver a great experience, amazing customer service. And, when something goes array, these people will pick up the fight for you.


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2011 will be the year when co-creating and collaborating through Social Media will begin to become more important than using the channels or people as messaging tools. And Customer Service will be become the transformative force to deliver on this promise.

Many enterprises we talk with consider this as their highest priority. They understand the need to improve quality of their Customer Service.

Changing from defensive to pro-active Customer Service is a natural adjustment to the changes in our daily behavior. We don’t care where service comes from (Customer Service, Marketing, Clerk, etc.), we just want good service.

One of the key changes will be pulling Customer Service out of the dark alley into the light of transparency. While many companies started to listen to customer expressions, they still try to take the conversation “off-line”, “off the grid”. They treat customers like parents their kids when they have an adult conversation: “Nothing to see here.” This paradigm will be reversed in 2011:

  • Customer Service will become public. Utilizing the channels to spread the word about good experiences. And providing a psychological barrier for each stakeholder to deliver sub-par service. It’s tough to perform badly in public.
  • Enterprises will reverse their strategy from passively waiting for customer feedback to actively looking for it.
  • Customer Service will be moved (figuratively and literally) from the edges of the enterprise to the center. This will require organizational changes that will impact each division and stakeholder.

All these changes will finally help delivering on the promise of “Service as Marketing”.

It’s going to be an exciting 2011.

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Just read an interesting post by Don Dodge where he makes the analogy that startups play poker, big companies play chess. He continues:

Using a game analogy, startups are more like poker players. They take big risks, they bluff, they make quick decisions, change direction constantly, and they keep their competitors off balance. In poker you never have all the information, but you must make fast decisions. You never know if what you are seeing is a real threat, a bluff, or something that will soon disappear under the stress of the game.

Poker is an aggressive game where if you play your cards right you win big, and win fast, or totally wipe out in just a few hands. However, if you lose a hand on a reasonable bet,  you can come back and double your money in the next hand. There is no time to wallow over a loss. You did your best. Move on and your luck will be better next time. Chess is a very different game. Both require incredible skill and talent.

Big companies think long term. Like chess players, big companies think four or five moves (years) ahead. They protect their assets, play defensively, think strategically, and carefully consider the options before making a move. Big companies have a lot to lose, while small companies don’t. No offense to Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, but big companies like Microsoft don’t go “all in”, risk everything, and bet the company on one thing. Big companies can lose a “pawn” or even a Rook in a strategy move, but they wont risk the King.

Big companies leverage their assets (conservatively) and flex their muscles where they can. They go for incremental improvements in position. Big company CEOs, like chess players, work a long term strategy. Each short term move plays a part in a longer term strategy that is not visible to the casual observer. In fact, their strategy is often kept secret, and they take care to make sure their short term moves don’t reveal their long term plan. Strategy is a competitive advantage.”

Instead of playing chess or poker, successful companies in the 21st century have to be more like MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games). It’s not enough to be skilled at chess or poker anymore, the complexity of systems, connections and networks in the 21st century requires different skills:

  • 21st century companies will have an authentic mission that is transparent and believable.
  • As a subset of a general mission, 21st century company will set out on various quests and missions.
  • 21st century companies can’t focus on shareholder value alone. They need the community of all their stakeholders to succeed in their quests and missions.
  • A culture of collaboration and co-creation between all stakeholders is required to succeed in the 21st century.
  • 21st century companies will use game mechanics to reward their stakeholders by deploying various ranking and recognition systems. This proves to be a much better motivator than any bonus or salary increase.
  • Incentive systems that allow to divide the winnings from a “quest” improves the connection between effort and reward.
  • Hyper-transparent information with data-rich dashboards will be basic requirements for successful companies in the future.

Most importantly, you have to create “thick value”, defined by Umair Haque:

“(…) awesome stuff that makes people meaningfully better off.”

The creating of thick value will be the core of each successful company in the 21st century. Most of the bullet points are natural extensions and will develop organically if your mission is authentic and taps into the idea of thick value.

Poker and Chess were about beating the competitor at any cost, often just creating thin value. MMOGs are about co-creation and collaboration, delivering value throughout the stakeholder supply chain.

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For a few weeks, an Australian study created some waves because it talked about teenagers who are “text addicts” and suffer from a range of serious mental and physical disorders. NTNews writes:

“The study – which was conducted out of RMIT University in Melbourne – has suggested that the mobile telephone has become “meshed” into the everday lives of teenagers.

Jeannie Carroll, a technology researcher from the Melbourne University who has been conducting the study since 2001, says texting is a major part of teenage lives.

“Texting is quite tribal – it is just what teenagers do with phones,” she said. Ms. Carroll said her study had shown a pattern of behaviour easy to classify into four groups:

Textaphrenia: thinking you’ve heard a message come in or felt the device vibrate when it actually hasn’t.

Textiety: the anxious feeling of not receiving any texts or not being able to send any.

Post-traumatic text disorder: physical and mental injuries related to texting, like walking into obstacles and crossing roads blindly – all while texting.

Binge texting: teenagers sending multiple texts to feel good about themselves and trying to attract responses.”

While the study made no waves, it was picked up as story everywhere in Australia and Asia: Here, here, here, here, here, here, here and I could go on to link to 6,940 results. The original press release can be downloaded here.

Problem is, the press release and its content is a hoax and part of a marketing campaign for Boost Mobile. There was a study about youth mobile behavior, conducted by Shari Walsh in 2008, but the study never talks about addiction or mental disorders. The aforementioned Jennie Carroll went further and gave interviews but quickly distanced herself from the disorder names (invented by Boost Mobile) when the scam was finally called out by various Australian publications.

Clearly, the campaign can be called clever. It used the weakness of central-hub-plagiarism based news media to get major exposure for a campaign. Boost Mobile and their agency, TCO (The Conscience Organization), created these “disorders” first, turned it into an ad campaign, supported through academia and then a story was woven to support the advertising campaign.

The ads are clearly a spoof, the URL textaholics.com.au links out to their Facebook page.

Well, I could talk about the state of journalism for the next few hours but I will spare you that. Instead, let’s talk about the overall marketing campaign

  • No matter how you slice it, it is unethical to create “disorders” and then promote them in media. Not everybody is a media cynic. People actually do believe what is written or said on TV/Radio.
  • A total failure as a comprehensive marketing campaign. Once you see the ads, you should understand that everything said is just advertising. But, if you see the news reports alone, you might think this is for real.
  • Boost Mobile wanted to target teenagers. I’m sure they achieved that goal. As an unintended consequence, they alarmed parents. I would love to find out how many teenagers caught grief from their parents because of the news reports.
  • The PR agency sent out the press release fully aware that the media may just be unethical or lazy enough to run it. Being unethical by exploiting unethical media. And the consumer was the loser. Once again.
  • The campaign didn’t make sense: Ok, so you are ‘suffering’ from this disorder and your cure is cheaper texting? I’m an alcoholic and the cure is cheap whisky? They should have done the opposite, claiming texting makes your life better, releases happy hormones, whatever. And Boost Mobile makes it affordable to feel better.

Lessons learned

  • Unethical marketing doesn’t pay off. I know, this is more of a gray area but still, the press release didn’t mention an ad campaign, tried to use a weakness of media. What will happen next time the agencies and Boost Mobile issue a press release. Is anyone going to believe them?
  • If you create an integrated campaign, better integrate your agencies first. It’s pretty obvious that PR and ad agency didn’t work together. The press release has a different tonality than the advertising campaign. It almost feels like we’re talking about 2 different brands. Did both agencies deliver independent solutions to one Creative Brief? Very possible.
  • Consider unintended consequences. Parents are by nature protective. News reports about texting mental disorders might convince parents to take that cell phone away. Not really the goal of a campaign for text service, right?
  • Short-Term Gain often results in Long-Term Pain. Your short-term stunts often end with crashes and negative long-term effects for your brand. Consider that before you race down that ramp like Evel Knievel. You might just crash and burn.
  • Transparency equals trust. When you create a transmedia spoof campaign be open about it. That doesn’t mean you have to reveal everything upfront. It means, make it obvious to anyone it’s a spoof. Make it outrageous. Make it funny. And make it so transparent, even a grandmother gets it.

What do you think? Am I too harsh? I’ve read a few comments from Australia and the industry folks were mostly impressed with the campaign. Are you?

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Image: Courtesy of 25.media.tumblr

It’s tragic but true: Seduction is never easy when you’re seducing someone you actually like. When we fall in love with someone, we see them in the light of perfection. When we seduce a person we don’t really like, we put on the seduction mask, and desire to elicit a sense of inferiority.

Over the decades, most companies have shown all of us that they really don’t like people. They try to push them away with phone trees, form letters, and bureaucracy. People perceived to be inferior and felt the need to lie or take on a different persona to deal with companies. A soft-spoken person can turn into a raging tyrant after 20 minutes on hold.

With the advent of social technologies, people feel they regained some of their power back and that makes it harder for brands to seduce. Resulting in an emerging demand for transparency. People want to understand what companies are standing for, they want to share values. Ultimately, they want companies to love them and see them as equals. Not as inferior targets.

Too many brands are still using the seduction formula. Since seduction is a form of acting, brands need to have a concept of the audience’s expectations, understand what people will want to hear. The age-old problem with seduction aka advertising is that brands often don’t know what the audience will actually be touched by. More often than not, we guess why people fall in love with us. And brands are as clueless. It might be time for brands to put away the seduction masks and use the ultimate trick: be yourself.