While I only really read the Penthouse tweet stream for the 140 characters, it seems, someone is having way more fun with the brand and its reputation than usual.
There is obvious frustration in every tweet, but this serves as a serious lesson for all brands – and not just those using social media in an official or even unofficial capacity. The clear point is that businesses and brands can now be held to account for their actions (or inactions). Sure, taking over an official Twitter account can cause some embarrassment and maybe even brand damage. But there are so many options available for George Costanza would call “the airing of grievances”. It’s no longer a question of whether your brand’s dirty linen will be aired in public. It’s a matter of when.
And with that in mind, business owners, directors and boards should consider updating their mindset, digital practices, approaches and security protocols. Or better yet, understand that we now live in an age of radical transparency, and that “ethical business practices” are the basis of our new social license to operate.
I’m expecting this to be the new case study on brand and crisis management for 2016 marketing conferences. But the question remains – what would you do if your brand was brandjacked?
Over the last few days, Australia has found itself with yet another Prime Minister. It is our fifth Prime Minister in five years.
What is fascinating is not just that there has been so much change but the speed with which that change has taken place. In fact, some time ago I suggested that with social media, we are all swinging voters now. And so the transformation in the highest office in the land happened in broad view of the voting public – we were privy to a vast range of opinion mixed with insight as and when it happened.
While the Liberal Party met to decide whether Tony Abbott would be trusted with another six months as Captain, ABC reporter, Chris Uhlmann reminded us that behind the public persona of any politician is an individual – and that at times such as this, that individual faces great pressure and personal challenge. “We forget politicians are human”, he said.
But broadcast media has framed the political landscape in a particular way. It constructs meaning very specifically – broken into catchy slogans, sound bites and images. The meaning, messaging and positioning of every action, announcement and “door stop” interview have been carefully crafted and rehearsed towards a specific outcome – to appeal to particular segments of voters. And in the endless repeating of these messages, the words and actions of our politicians have lost all meaning. We are living Baudrillard’s simulacra, caught on endless loop.
When Stacy Lambe and Adam Smith first created the Texts from Hilary blog, I thought it was genius. It was so clever, in fact, that I suspected that it had been created as part of a deliberate strategy to “humanise” the Hilary Clinton brand. My next thought was that the Australian Labor Party (or one of its supporters) should take the same approach and apply it to then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. It seemed like a no-brainer:
A proven and popular model to engage the imagination of the voting public
Low cost, high impact media that allows non-scripted communication in a shareable format
Distance between the creator of the account/content and the person herself.
But the “Texts from Julia” account never appeared.
About six months ago, a Texts From Malcolm Instagram account appeared and has been steadily gaining a following. Like the Hilary account, it uses text overlays to create imaginary conversations between well-known players on the political scene. In a way, politicians are becoming the cats memes of the internet – instantly recognisable, unusually intimate and slightly irreverent.
Now that Malcolm Turnbull has taken over the big chair at Parliament House in Canberra, this account has become even more interesting. And given NSW Premier, Mike Baird’s blisteringly strong social media performance over recent weeks, it seems that political media strategists are keying into the vast potential of social media. And it makes me wonder – is Texts from Malcolm a clever setup by the former Communications Minister? Will it create the necessary distance and psychological space between the knock-down political action and the voters to engender a new form of electoral trust? And, ultimately, will social media make politicians more likeable?
We’re entering a new understanding of media communications with politicians leading the experimental charge. Brands and businesses largely remain on the starting blocks, but politicians and their advisors – whose very jobs rely on the goodwill and support of the people, are clearly realising that there is advantage to be made in the occasional tweet, video or blog post. It will be interesting to watch this play out in the coming months.
This great presentation on content marketing and storytelling by Jonathan Crossfield got me thinking. What is it about brands, storytelling and technology that we continue to struggle with – and why is this struggle so pervasive?
Now, I see a lot of content marketing every day. There are newsletters, infographics and blog posts. Sometimes there are videos. Podcasts. Quizzes. Surveys. The variety is rich … but the quality? Well, often the quality leaves much to be desired.
Who can we blame?
Content marketing – like all marketing – has many masters. There are the internal subject matter experts to please. The brand and reputation folks to appease. And let’s not even bring up compliance/corporate affairs. Or Legal. Imagine having to include them!? Then there are the representatives from sales, product, engineering and finance – after all, someone has to pay for this.
Eventually, someone will create the brief and the creative process will kick in. It could be internally created or pushed out to an agency. There will be drafts, revisions and feedback. There will be interpretation.
And then one day there will be an approval … and your content marketing baby will be pushed out into the world. Will it work? Will it deliver a bounty?
Too often our marketing efforts end up a pale imitation of the original idea. After review upon review, interpretation upon interpretation, much of the spark and energy is lost.[Tweet “Too often our marketing efforts end up a pale imitation of the original idea.”]
It makes me think that we need a new custodian. A Chief Brand Storyteller (CBS). Someone who ensures that the story we want, need and should tell, remains intact. The CBS would:
Prioritise our audiences over our processes
Reclaim our business narratives from the tyrannies of product form and function
Remind us that our purpose is to serve customers, guide them, delight and surprise them.
And the CBS would also have an important technology role. So many of our brand and business narratives are generated, delivered and amplified through technology – and this impacts the story and the storytelling. The CBS needs to help brands re-imagine storytelling for our times. And this may, perhaps, be the most important aspect.
We’ve been heralding the death of TV ever since we plugged a 2.8k modem into our phone lines. Sure it meant we couldn’t make a phone call while “online”, but we were living the future. It just required some patience. Or maybe an overnight download. But the possibility of downloading a TV show that had just screened in the US was tantalising – so when modems leapt to a powerful 28.8k rate, it felt like the world had become a fraction of its former size.
As usual, however, the future takes its own sweet time to arrive.
Decades later, we still – as a population – continue to make massive personal investments in ever-larger flatscreen TVs and home theatres, keeping our “second screen” relegated to our laps. But the CONSUMPTION behaviour has changed. We’re not just watching free to air TV. Screen Australia tells us that 50% of internet users from all walks of life are watching movies and TV online.
Based on a variety of Nielsen data from 2014, this infographic by Anthony Calvert reveals some interesting changes in the way that Australians CONSUME content. My favourite insights are:
We like our content local – There are 16 Australian YouTube channels with more than 1 million subscribers
We watch what our friends watch – While TV advertising and word of mouth rank highly in helping us discover new shows, 36% use social media to learn about new shows
We’d watch more with the NBN – No surprises here, but 51% say they’d watch more online content if they had a faster connection (ADSL 2 sure beats 28.8k, but is a far cry from the speeds offered by fibre)
We like free, but could and would pay – If Apple has done anything at all, it surely has conditioned us to pay for use.
So … with this shifting behaviour, how do you feel about the future of TV? Is it on its last legs – or are there a few more laps left in the beast?
Today’s announcement making Spotify Premium available to Vodafone mobile subscribers amps up the pressure on the music and media industries with more disruption on the horizon.
They say that the number one reason that startups fail is due to distribution. It’s not a poorly designed product, or an inexperienced team or even bad customer experience. The challenge, as it is for any new business, is reaching a market.
Now, it used to be that we knew where to find music – on radio stations, at record bars and on Countdown. As a kid, I’d go and see Mrs Fry at Sandy’s Music in Dee Why (and yes, it is still there). With her son, Nigel, they were the go-to people when it came to new music – from the most interesting punk coming out of the UK through to the emerging Birthday Party more locally, they had their finger on the pulse. They could steer you through both country and western, knew the difference between Boy George and Marilyn and would even keep an autographed single behind the counter for you.
Nigel and Jenny were the central node in a local music marketing network. And each week, they inspired their customers with stories of new music, artists and breakthrough video clips. Their knowledge and passion was extensive and their enthusiasm was contagious. Each person would leave the shop knowing just a little bit more about the music they were about to listen to. In effect, they were creating and cultivating advocates – people who would influence their friends and family through music.
But the shift to digital has transformed this kind of relationship. Our music discovery is no longer curated in the same way by the programming directors, radio hosts or record bar owners. It’s at the mercy of algorithms, networks and big data stores. And it feels like it … but I digress.
Most importantly, we are playing under new rules of distribution. Music needs to find its audience – and increasingly, that audience exists at the end of a data stream. The device that transforms that stream into music is a phone. And this places mobile phone networks in a powerful position.
With the ink now drying on the Vodafone + Spotify partnership, Voda customers will have access to the Spotify Premium package as part of their plan – that’s $11.99 a month in value. And while the deals are not yet up on the website, I’d expect you can chat with customer service about it.
But this is not the end of the line for the music industry. Nor is it for the media industry. After all, disruption also breeds opportunity – and the very thing that made Sandy’s Record Bar popular is still the thing that we crave. And for all the technology under the sun, we haven’t been able to replicate that yet.
It doesn’t take a genius to know that the days of mass marketing are over. But it is taking some time for us to disentangle ourselves from old ways of thinking. Gone are the days when you could produce an ad and blast it out to the compliant masses who would watch, absorb and then automaton-like file out of their homes to purchase our products direct from retailers next day. These days, advertising is a much more complicated business. It’s complicated by technology, social media and the proliferation of channels. But above all, it’s complicated by our audiences – the people who, at the end of the day, buy the products we pitch them. Because people choose the channels and the media that they are interested in, we need new tools to reach, engage and inspire them.
And by new tools, I don’t necessarily just mean technology. I also mean strategy. Products. Processes. We need staff who are interested in the needs and aspirations of others. How do we do this? How do we make it happen? These are some of the things that we are work with clients on at Disruptor’s Handbook.
The thing is, “disruption” doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem. In fact, it can be a catalyst to innovation. This is also something that we work on – reframing disruption to help organisations capitalise on the opportunities that come from disruption. A great way of understanding this opportunity comes from this fantastic presentation from Michael Goldstein.
In this presentation on cultivating and amplifying audiences, Michael talks about the way that we discover, experience and enjoy music. He suggests that we are moving away from “taste dictatorships” and are rejoicing in “genre discovery”. This is a trend that music streaming platforms like Spotify and Pandora are leveraging. But platforms like Boiler Room cultivate a different style of engagement and audience. Beginning as a single live streamed event, Boiler Room has evolved into a live music platform and has now hosted events in over 50 countries and produces around 100 new videos a month. Their eagle-eye focus on both emerging talent and audience engagement has seen enviable growth for the platform along with a growing community.
Does this mean the end of radio stations? Or labels?
Not at all. The long tail takes quite some time to snap the back of the incumbent. But without the benefits of aggregation, we will see further fragmentation of audiences and budgets. While this is a problem for the “Music Industry” (capital M, capital I), it just signals a rockier road ahead. It also signals disruption and opportunity. And it also means we need to work harder – to spot talent and cultivate communities. And we need to delight audiences too. After all, it’s the “music business” – and there’s money in opportunity.
Focusing on the customer journey is never easy. After all, customers are fickle, transitory, loyal and contradictory. I am somebody’s customer. You are. We are all somebody’s customer. And being a customer is an emotional experience. We buy on whim, impulse or trigger. We may plan, research and save as long as we like, but decisions can be swayed by friends, connections, a good salesperson. Or even a lingering smell.
But knowing this doesn’t make easy for businesses – even marketers don’t make it easy for marketers. With every click, interaction and purchase, with every review, tweet, blog post or call, connected consumers like us are shaving away the stubble of established brands. We are eroding the protective layers that brands have built up over time to insulate themselves from us.
We know this has been happening for some time. It is a shift of power in the buying process away from brands to consumers. It is digital disruption in its purest form – connected consumers tapping into the opportunities and power of the internet to out flank the efforts of brands. And helping us to chart this disruption – indeed helping us to move from idea to practice, has been Tara Hunt, author of (amongst other things) The Whuffie Factor, coworking pioneer and theorist (in a very accessible way). In many ways, Tara has been a harmonising voice in a technology dominated world – reminding us that its the people that matter most.
Tara’s 2009 presentation on vendor relationship management has influenced the thinking of many (or even found its way into the thinking of many surreptitiously), including myself. But never content to let ideas percolate in isolation, Tara went beyond the theory into practice, bootstrapping and launching Buyosphere, a fashion suggestion and style matching website. I can remember signing up myself, wondering how it may work out here in Australia. It was an idea ahead of its time.
In late 2012, after growing and struggling to scale, Tara stepped out of Buyosphere, taking a role with Toronto based communications and engagement company, MSLGROUP. As she explained at the time, “If we were going down, let’s go down in a blaze of glory. Or at least with a product we could be proud of.”
Yesterday, in classic style, Tara shared the next stage of the journey – saying goodbye to Buyosphere:
Once upon a time there were three startup founders who had a dream. They were going to build something that solved fashion search. And they spent 3 years of their lives, their entire savings and pretty much all of their energy on it. Fortunately, they built something great and learned a whole bunch. Unfortunately, they ran out of money, time and energy and had to go back to work and once they abandoned the site, it never took off. xoxo Buyosphere. We love you.
Watch this video and you will hear the very personal, emotional and exciting journey that Tara and the team went through. It’s the journey that so many of us take – or wish we had taken. And while I too, feel sad, to see from a distance, that Buyosphere has ended, I also feel great hope. There have been lessons learned and friendships forged. This is a story of disruption, disrupted, not destroyed. And I for one can’t wait to know what’s next – not just from Tara but from all who build on her experiences.
I have never been a fan of demographic profiling. Sure, this information, at scale, can reveal certain things about a population – and this can be useful to understand whether there might be a connection between our age and (for example) our propensity to over-eat. Or contract disease. Or buy new cars every four years.
But populations don’t interest me. They feel like a dead weight around my sense of, and interest in, humanity. Instead, I prefer audiences – which is perhaps why I studied theatre rather than statistics.
It’s also why I am continually fascinated by digital technology and transformation – and it is why social media continues to attract the attention of people, corporations and governments. For digital transformation is not just about bringing the non-digital world online – it’s challenging the very nature of what we consider “our selves” to be.
As marketers, we are constantly drawn to the idea of demographics – the cashed up profiling of the Baby Boomers, the anxious, try-harder Gen X-ers and the slacker Gen Ys. But like any generalisation, these labels are easily unpicked. There are plenty of Baby Boomers who are slackers and plenty of cashed up, power wielding Gen X-ers. And Gen Y are just starting to flex their creative, financial and intellectual powers – and there is more goodness to come. Rather than simply relying on this style of profiling, we should be working harder to understand these audiences. We need to map their behaviours, attitudes and interests, not just their age, sex and location.
This is why I quite like the work that marketing automation firm, Marketo, has done on Generation Z. And while, yes, they have started out with the age-focused label, the research carried out by agency, Sparks and Honey, reveals the patterns of behaviour, interests, attitudes and insights that can help build a deeper understanding of this audience. While the data reflects a US-based audience, there are cultural parallels that are useful indicators such as:
Do-Gooders – an interest in making a difference in the world
Shift FROM Facebook – Facebook lost its allure when the parents arrived. Gen Z are embracing newer platforms like snapchat, secret and whisper
Creation trumps sharing – Gen Z embrace the prosumer ethic of digital media creativity.
But to really understand this “Gen Z” audience, I would go further. I wouldn’t stop at the age of 19. I would ask:
Why would my brand be relevant to audiences exhibiting these behaviours
Why would these audiences choose to purchase my product/service/thing
Which values embodied by my brand augments the life, behaviour, experience or purpose of this audience
How do these behavioural profiles help me understand my customers regardless of age / demographics
And when it comes to planning, insight and future proofing your brand, I’d look to opportunities to self-disrupt your strategy. Ditch the path of lazy profiling, put the work in to really understand your audiences, and then invite them into the process of creating a brand that has a purpose. Start by delving into the data behind the Sparks and Honey research (below) – and then work on your own business by starting with the audiences you rely upon.
Social media has a powerful ability to stimulate and create conversation. But when you are planning your communications, it’s essential to know your audience. And these days, “knowing” your audience isn’t just about mapping, analysing and researching. It’s about understanding their “pungent granularity”.
Pungent granularity and the social audience
To survive in a world where consumers expect one-to-one marketing and real time business responsiveness, we need to move beyond the simple targeting of our consumers. This means responding to:
The three forces of self-segmentation: Before we take an action, make a decision or puts our hand into our pocket to actually transact, we make a quick personal assessment. We self-segment according to our needs (does this “thing” solve a need state that I have), behaviours (does this “thing” reinforce, challenge or shift my behaviour) and attitudes (how does this “thing” make me feel?). Marketers must understand the nuances of this self-segmentation and bring this understanding to their efforts
What we already know about our consumers: Whether we capture “big data” or just quickly trawl the social web, we can quickly amass a detailed knowledge of our consumers. The challenge with this becomes not one of data collection but of frameworks for making decisions and taking actions. This is where I quite love Sam Gosling’s OCEAN framework. Moving away from the MBTI mappings, he suggests that Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism can be easily assessed via our digital footprints. And in doing so, we can plan our communications accordingly
When we pull together all this information, we get a deep sense of our consumers. We know not just what they say they “like” but how this influences their actions and decisions. We understand their connections, social graph and the way that they operate in a digitally-connected world. And deeply buried amongst all this is the “trigger” – what motivates.
The “trigger” is the kicker
Take a look at this fantastic video featuring “illusionists and entertainers”, Penn and Teller. It’s on the subject of vaccinations. It’s forceful and NSFW (with a few F-bombs scattered throughout). The language is direct, the message clear and in your face.
But will it achieve what it is intended to do?
Unfortunately, I don’t believe it will. The motivation here – not of the creator – but of the viewer is triggered by the same level of frustration shown by Penn. Those who are pro-vaccination will be keen to share and validate their own position. Those who are anti-vaccination will reject the facts, figures and approach outright. The frame is out of focus for the second group – and the argument will be based on the framing of the data as a way of disputing what is “true”.
This is why wheeling out big data will also be challenging. While the Mayo Clinic clearly states:
“Vaccines do not cause autism. Despite much controversy on the topic, researchers haven’t found a connection between autism and childhood vaccines. In fact, the original study that ignited the debate years ago has been retracted.”Mayo Clinic – Childhood Vaccines: Tough questions, straight answers (here)
… many still view this sceptically.
But if there really is a desire to change the point of view (or point of belief), behaviours and attitudes of anti-vaccination folks, there is a need to more deeply understand them.
That was certainly the case when there was a “daily” news cycle. Any announcements or revelations needed to be revealed in time for stories to be written, edited, photographs to be prepared, processed and newspapers to be printed. Breaking news was the domain of the more instantaneous broadcasters like radio and TV. And even then, only the most explosive news items would break programming.
But the web changed all that.
It has taken two decades at least, but the internet has now thoroughly transformed the way that we source, gather, verify and consume news. There has been a breakdown between those that produce the news, those who are the subject of the “news” and those who consume it. And the structures which once provided certainty, built trust and way points for navigation in a chaotic and busy world have, in the process of this disruption, been swept away.
These structures have been replaced by data.
Data about data.
In a way, it was ever thus.
And the new arbiters of this data – our navigation beacons are themselves built of data. Google. Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Pandora and Amazon. They sound like the names of ancient gods straddling the primordial chaos – but they are massive enterprises designed not to serve, but to create value. Revenue. Share holder returns.
So think about what happens in an internet minute (see the infographic from Intel). Every minute of video. Every byte of uploaded photo data. And every tweet costs someone somewhere something. The question for you today is what does it cost YOU?