Last year’s economic meltdown has shone a disproportionate light on the financial and automotive companies. The brands and institutions within these two industries have been scrambling to respond with clear, overarching agendas — green, consumer-centric vehicles in automotive, greater transparency (and regulation) in the financial sectors. While less in the spotlight in recent months, the food industry has been equally frenetic, but has not clearly articulated a larger agenda. Do the many microtrends, from local and organic to simple and safe, add up to something more substantial?
Twice each month, Twist Worldwide, a global visual intelligence firm, presents quick views and insights into the moments that are working in today's retail environments. Enough with self-impressed trend consultants who claim to see the future: Twist sees the present with clarity and provides practical intelligence on how to make your business better today. Over time, patterns emerge and possibilities get realized. But first we have to see what is right in front of us. This week: the power of transparency.
“As technology marches on, it will lead to the inevitable revolution of businesses acting in the genuine interest of their customers.”
McDonald’s announced last week that it will start posting calories for all its food on its in-store menu boards. Starting this week, when customers walk into a McDonald’s (MCD) restaurant they will see in bright lights that a Big Mac and large fries weighs in at 1,050 calories.
It’s impossible to become a great business leader without being a great communicator—not a big talker, but a great communicator—as well. Famous entrepreneurs are known for their skilled communication with employees, vendors, investors and clients. It is one of the most vital traits they must have. Whether the news is positive or negative, they know it is best to be forthright, honest and timely. They know that people appreciate transparency and truth.
If customers suspect you’re using their data in less-than-desirable ways, they may lash out and possibly stop using your product. What’s a data-driven business owner to do?
The era of social media is bringing more transparency to ski resorts' daily snow reports, with skiers and riders using smartphone apps, websites, tweets and video to spread the word in real time, particularly if traditional reports are off. And the industry itself has been quick to embrace social media to get the word out
When Russell Weiner took the helm as CMO of Domino’s Pizza, he knew that the status quo was not acceptable. The company had been experiencing same store sales declines for three straight years and change was needed.
Elizabeth Warren has begun her leadership of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ("CFPB") with calls to top bankers and a meeting to begin developing new mortgage disclosure rules. She explained her mandate at the mortgage meeting: "It is no secret to this group that consumers need good information so that they can make good decisions, and that's what this undertaking is about. It's about how it is that we think about what information consumers needs, and when they need it, to make the best possible financial decisions." Good luck with that.
Media companies must become smaller and more nimble to reach readers and the niche groups advertisers covet. Facebook and other social media platforms could become more important than company websites during this transformation. As that happens, Web companies and social networking, including Google and Facebook, will have to become more transparent and share information about the data they collect on customers, or so says Steve Rubel, SVP-director of insights for Edelman Digital.
While I’m certainly supportive of the idea that brand should treat their customers with the utmost care and respect, least they flee to hungry competitors or even to the interwebs to vent their frustrations with them, I think enumerating these ideas as requisites for the general consuming public is idyllic and naive. For every consummate professional out there (like Boches), there exists about 15 dipshits who will only bitch to bitch. Or bitch to get free stuff. The customer is not always right. In fact, sometimes the customer is quite an asshole. Should consumers hold brands to a higher standard? Yes. Should we unleash the huddled masses, trailer trash and mouth-breathers on Twitter and Facebook and blogs to whine about every misstep or oversight they encountered while buying Natty Light and Marlboro Light 100s at the Circle K? I’m thinking no.
When Peter Eckersley recently clicked on to one of America’s biggest online job sites, he was not alone for long. Using software to monitor programs running on the page of CareerBuilder.com, the researcher for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group, saw data identifying his computer being whisked off to at least 10 outfits that track where people go on the internet. More troubling was his inability to tell what the companies did with the data. His experience goes to the heart of a battle that could shape the future of life on the web – while also having very real knock-on effects in the physical world. The digital dossiers that companies are building from the browsing, searching and other habits of ordinary web users are becoming increasingly refined. At the same time, a deluge of personal information has been unleashed publicly on the web, with Facebook’s 500m users at the forefront. With rapid inroads on both fronts being made into many traditional expectations of personal privacy, the results could prove explosive.
Companies love positive feedback. They share it on Twitter, post it on their website and use it as marketing fodder. But what about when feedback is, well, less than pleasant? What can you do with a handful (or more) of irate customers? Do you ignore them? Bury them out back? Not in today’s social atmosphere. Rather than try to sweep these unhappy customers under the rug, look at them as a challenge and an opportunity to improve your brand and leverage them for some publicity.
What do a small chocolate maker, a global tire manufacturer, a natural-foods company and an insurance company have in common? They all believe that acting with integrity is helping their businesses perform better. The recession was caused by a culture of capitalism that was characterized by an all-consuming pursuit of profit that put integrity on the back burner and made irresponsible business practices acceptable.
Domino’s last week introduced an industry first: A transparent pizza. The chain, working with Crispin Porter + Bogusky, attempted to one-up competitors on the authenticity front by announcing that all the photographs of its pizza that will appear in ads will from now on be devoid of “fancy food artistry” or “fancy touch-ups.”
Digital is fast becoming so pervasive for marketers that it may soon lose its meaning as a separate media designation, according to Procter & Gamble Co. Global Brand-Building Officer Marc Pritchard. It's one of the many ways the company is changing through a brand-building organization he brought together last year that encompasses all areas of marketing communications.
When it comes to social media for business, there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy. But to ensure results, you must align it with your overall business objectives and avoid falling for “shiny new objects” simply because they are trendy or hyped. For example, a new business or “first mover” may want to focus on establishing thought leadership, while a more mature business should aim for customer support. In all cases, creating a product that actually solves problems for customers, present and future, should be every business’s top priority — and you should be using social media to help you figure out what that product is. Below, we’ll take a closer look at how each department can blend traditional and social media to drive business goals and collaborate on a seamless customer experience.
If Facebook were smart and open and meant what it said about the benefits of publicness and transparency that it now expects of the rest of us, then:
It's like Trip Advisor for drugs. Even as Big Pharma wrestles with social-media marketing and the pending guidelines on its use from the Food and Drug Administration, consumers are taking the conversation into their own hands with online communities, message boards, forums and chat rooms offered by websites such as askapatient.com, MedHelp and patientslikeme.com. On these sites, consumers are not only sharing information about their respective illnesses and providing support for one another, they're also rating prescription medications.
Social media has exploded in recent years in its use to gauge customers’ likes and dislikes and to identify consumer buying trends. Users have migrated from trusting traditional media for reviews, ratings, and recommendations to trusting what their peers have to say in social media. The new age of digital and social media is upon us, and apparently, already dying in some areas. New data shows consumers are rebelling against all the “noise.”
It has never been more important to turn your brand into a service. Jaded, time-poor, pragmatic consumers yearn for service and care, while the mobile online revolution (it's finally, truly here!) makes it possible to offer uber-relevant services to consumers anywhere, anytime. Basically, if you're going to embrace one big consumer trend this year, please let it be BRAND BUTLERS!
Should we be surprised that the biggest fight over freedom of expression in years involves Google, a company that produces algorithms rather than articles? Probably not. Google executives struck a blow for free speech in China last week when they announced they were moving their service to Hong Kong after a series of mounting conflicts with the government over the privacy of its users and the free flow of information. That would seem to put Google in league with newspapers, television news divisions and other outlets that look to protect information from government control. But no, Google insists, it is definitely not a media company.
Trying to control, or even manage, your online reputation is becoming increasingly difficult. And much like the fight by big labels against the illegal sharing of music, it will soon become pointless to even try. It’s time we all just give up on the small fights and become more accepting of the indiscretions of our fellow humans. Because the skeletons are coming out of the closet and onto the front porch. We’ll look back on the good old days when your reputation was really only on the line with eBay via confirmed, actual transactions and LinkedIn, where you can simply reject anyone who leaves bad feedback on your professional life.
At a time when other financial services firms are rolling out flashy multi-million dollar advertising campaigns aimed at rebuilding consumer trust, Citigroup is unveiling something that seems far more simple: a blog and videos featuring top executives. The company this week launched a new branding campaign including a fresh Web site, new.citi.com, and print ads directing people to it. The Internet roll-out features personal blog posts from Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit, as well as testimonial videos from CitiMortgage President Sanjiv Das and CitiRisk's Chief Risk Officer Brian Leach. By featuring the executives, the company aims to position Citigroup ( C - news - people ) as a more transparent, accessible and conversational corporation.
I am in Tampa waiting to fly back home to New Jersey and, thanks to the snowicane but rather than sitting in the usual information vacuum to which airlines subject us, I am watching as Continental shows us the status of the flights that were supposed to bring our jet in from LA to Cleveland to Newark to Tampa. I saw the flight to Cleveland canceled, then the one to Newark canceled, and I figured we were doomed when I saw the aircraft number for my flight erased. But then I saw us assigned a new jet, one that flew into Tampa from Houston last night. That’s simply amazing. Continental is practicing operational transparency. It opened up information is already has to us, the customers, so we can be informed and empowered.
Americans, we the people, have become a distrustful lot of late, hardly surprising news given our Recessionary new world order that is rammed home daily in headlines detailing the failures, cover-ups, and worse, of corporate America and its leaders. Enter the 10th annual Edelman Trust Barometer 2010, not co-incidentally published (Jan. 26) during Davos, which found that, "Trust is now an essential line of business to be developed and delivered. Trust in business has improved, but the patient has a long road to go for a full recovery," according to Richard Edelman, president and CEO, Edelman Public Relations. "The increase in trust in business belies its fragility."
Successfully responding to a corporate crisis -- like, say, having to recall millions of vehicles because they accelerate out of control or have trouble stopping -- isn't that complicated. The experts say you need to tell customers everything you know as soon as you know it, and you should never ever give the appearance that you're spinning the story or, worse, covering up bad news. "You can't hide," said Bob Grupp, president of the Institute for Public Relations, an industry-funded think tank. "These are uncomfortable situations to be in. But in today's 24/7 society, you have to step up and acknowledge your reality very quickly." So why don't more companies do it?
Toyota Motor Corp.'s U.S. arm said Friday that its dealers have received the parts and training needed to fix accelerator pedals in recalled vehicles. In a statement, the world's No.1 auto maker by sales volume said the repair requires 30 minutes of work. It also said it has begun mailing letters to the owners of recalled vehicles. "Nothing is more important to us than the safety and reliability of the vehicles our customers drive, and we are determined to live up to the high standards people have come to expect from Toyota over the past 50 years," said Jim Lentz, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor Sales.
The Kaiser Foundation recently released a study documenting the astounding fact that 8-18 year olds in the United States have increased their media use from 8 hours and 33 minutes' worth of usage per day in 2004 to 10 hours and 45 minutes' worth in 2009. Regardless of whether you think this is bad news signaling the demise of our society, or good news intimating that our progeny are on their way to becoming more literate in a media-rich world, as business leaders we must all accept the new reality and understand what it means for managing our brands.
Toyota has announced a shockingly comprehensive response to relatively limited reports of a sticky gas pedal: it has suspended production and sales of nine models and recalled millions to replace the potentially offending part. Comparisons have been made to Johnson & Johnson's famous and much lauded reaction to its Tylenol product tampering crisis in the early 90s. I don't think anybody is going to write a textbook entry on Toyota's actions, however. And it's too bad: as the President's chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel said last year, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. This event is likely Toyota's biggest branding moment in recent memory, and what is it telling customers, renters, dealers, vendors, and employees? Nothing, or not much as far as I can tell.
Creating a definition of the word brand seems to be both the easiest and perhaps the hardest thing to do. The challenge is not that the existing definitions aren’t correct (or more accurately weren’t correct). The challenge is that the environment in which brands live is inherently Darwinian. As the environment changes brands must adapt. Once brands have adapted enough then what you get are effectively new species - entities unlike what have gone before and that must now be defined in completely new ways. This has been a constant process over time, but I think we could now define ourselves as being in the third age of brand.
In a post-recessionary world, trust has moved from the individual to the corporate realm. It is one of the most important issues that business organizations face when it comes to the future of their brands. A 2008 study by the Chief Marketing Officer Council found that some 99% of customers surveyed said they would either scale back or terminate relationships with companies that fail at building customer trust. In the past, trust may not have seemed like a natural part of management's role, but these days it is a critical part of every business, one proven to have an effect on the bottom line. Customers need to see that a solid foundation has been built within a business and that their needs will be addressed--especially in times of crisis.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, will on Thursday launch a website hosting hundreds of sets of data - including previously unreleased information - about the capital, as part of a new scheme intended to encourage people to create "mashups" of data to boost the city's transparency and accountability.
Today, technology is enabling new capabilities and I see three trends which are recreating customer service in a new, more responsive, and economically efficient manner: transparency, tribes, and talent. Transparency is best exemplified by Federal Express's efforts over the years. They were among the first companies to "expose" their internal systems so that not only could the customer schedule pick-ups, print labels, and manage his account, but he could also see the same level of detail the firm had about the location of his shipment. Many firms could benefit by letting customers see where their product or service truly is. BMW allows people who have configured and ordered a Mini Cooper to check the status of the order, and see it location on the high seas as it is shipped across the Atlantic. So what? Well, just think about how the dynamic with your cable company would change if you could actually see if the service truck was on its way to your house. It certainly would change the attitude between the customer and the company. Heck, even the government enables you to track tagged polar bears!
Last week I sent an email to Googlers about the meaning of "open" as it relates to the Internet, Google, and our users. In the spirit of openness, I thought it would be appropriate to share these thoughts with those outside of Google as well. At Google we believe that open systems win. They lead to more innovation, value, and freedom of choice for consumers, and a vibrant, profitable, and competitive ecosystem for businesses. Many companies will claim roughly the same thing since they know that declaring themselves to be open is both good for their brand and completely without risk. After all, in our industry there is no clear definition of what open really means. It is a Rashomon-like term: highly subjective and vitally important.
Does your company truly care about its customers or are you--and your employees--just saying you are "customer focused"? These days, customers won't be fooled if your company's actions don't live up to its promise.
Get a bunch of longtime chief marketing officers in a room and you'll hear one thing for certain: lots and lots of questions about staying power. The Association of National Advertisers CMO Roundtable this past weekend was no exception. The group, comprised of Best Buy's Barry Judge, General Mills' Mark Addicks, Con Agra's Joan Chow and Fidelity Investment's Jim Speros, underscored the importance of transparency, relationship building and making sure you're right for the job in the first place.
Victors & Spoils launched today, touting itself as the “world’s first creative (ad) agency built on crowdsourcing principles.” The agency’s crowdsourced approach stems from identifying the need for companies, brands and agencies to be radically transparent, to address the consumer’s demand to be more involved and from a growing cost consciousness regarding clients’ budgets. Recognizing that the crowdsourcing paradigm can feel a bit unruly for most clients, Victors & Spoils will face the daunting challenge of identifying an array of possible crowdsourced solutions and keeping them on-strategy for their clients.
Few things have changed faster than the way we communicate. Coupled with the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or green movement, there has been an explosion of information available about how and what companies and organizations are doing to improve society and the environment. During the past year, at least three major events have influenced how communications relate to CSR.
Open source, open access, open standards, open architecture — all are part of why so many have fallen in love with Facebook, Firefox, WordPress, and — I’ll say it because everyone else is saying it — Twitter. They’re all flexible platforms, invite user opinions, and enable co-development and co-creation to varying degrees. The “open web” and its underlying set of technologies have indeed made a big impact on how we interact and engage with online properties, sites, social networks, and the like.
Our Culture (high and popular) is usually created by people who are happy with the systems the world has given them. Magazine editors don't spend a lot of time wishing for better technology. Opera singers focus more on their singing than on microphone technologies. Novelists proudly use typewriters. Sure, there are exceptions like Les Paul (who developed the electric guitar) and Mitch Miller (who invented reverb) but these exceptions prove the rule: often, culture is invented by people who are too busy to seek out new technology.
The Federal Trade Commission just released rules to regulate product endorsements not just in advertisements but also on blogs. (PDF here; the regs don’t start until page 55.) It is a monument to unintended consequence, hidden dangers, and dangerous assumptions. Mind you, I hate one of its apparent targets: Pay Per Post and its ilk, which attempt to co-opt the voice of bloggers. But I hate government regulation of speech more. And mind you, I am all in favor of transparency; I disclose to a comic fault here. I think that openness is the best fix for questions of trust and advise companies and politicians and certainly governments to become transparent by default as enlightened self-interest. But mandating this for anyone who dares speak online? Foolish.
MIT's Media Lab has designed a way to help you understand the economic and ecological implications behind different products you buy--it's an interactive map that displays where each component came from. Specifically designed to be a "collective tool for transparency and sustainability," SourceMap's intended to demonstrate how important supply chains are, and what the consequences of each part of the chain work out to be. It's set up like a social network, so that anyone from producers to end-users can take part (as long as you're a registered member).
You can hardly have a conversation about social media today without discussing the concept of transparency. More and more, companies are incorporating transparency into their marketing efforts. Why? The reason, according to Debbie Weil, a corporate social media consultant and author of The Corporate Blogging Book, is because customers and stakeholders increasingly expect it. “It (transparency) is the new operating standard,” she said. Transparency is about being open, honest, and accountable. It’s about responsibility. People are listening to you and making evaluations and decisions based upon what you say, and as such, it’s important to take responsibility for the messaging you put out there. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh explains it best, “I think people worry too much about bringing their personal selves into business, when I think the way to succeed in today’s world is to make your business more personal.” For those looking to refine their social media messaging, here are five ways to become more transparent.
I spoke last week at the Google ThinkTravel! conference and moderated a panel discussion with several CMO’s on what the travel industry will look like in a post-recession world. The discussion ranged from identifying most valued customers to media mix modeling and multi-channel attribution. We had a robust conversation that brought into one room airline, hotels, OLTA’s, cruise ship and destination marketers. There were ‘frenemies’ and collaborators alike all focused on the bigger picture. Call it, Corporate Social Responsibility. Call it CSR 2.1
The hype and puffery of 21st-century ethical marketing may finally have met their match: a small band of venture-funded academics who have set out to systematically rate thousands of consumer products and their manufacturers on how good they really are. In the two years since Berkeley environmental policy professor Dara O'Rourke led a handful of academics off the University of California campus to launch GoodGuide.com, it's rated about 75,000 consumer products and counting, distilling dozens of facts from public and private databases to score each on a 10-point scale for health, environmental and social impact. Each brand is scored on each measure individually and then given a collective rating.
I recently stumbled across the cluetrain manifesto again. It had a big impact on me when I first read it ten years ago. At the time, I was building web sites for big companies and it gave voice to a lot of the frustration I felt trying to get these companies to really embrace the potential of engaging with consumers directly. I worked with an airline that refused to handle any consumer inquiries generated by their web site. They actually had an in-house call center for reservations, but didn't even want their phone number listed on the site (let alone an email address). For them, the web site was a cheaper way to book reservations, and they were trying to lower transaction costs, not increase consumer loyalty. This was particularly odd because the airline prided itself on in-flight customer service.
Social media is helping to forge a new era in business transparency and engagement, creating both new challenges and opportunities. Gone are the days when companies could rely on carefully crafted press releases or flashy ad campaigns to communicate with their customers, often in an attempt to convince people that their products are the best in the field. In the age of social media, the rules have changed radically, and people today demand a more honest and direct relationship with the companies with which they do business. Companies now face a clear choice: wall themselves in and become increasingly controlled and hidden, or use social media and other means to reveal their human side, welcome transparency, and forge new relationships with their customers. The old game is undoubtedly over, and the question now is, “what can businesses do to transition and succeed in this new era?”
FCC Chaiman Julius Genachowski outlined a number of new principles today that will guide the commission's rulemaking with regards to net neutrality. As Genachowski points out, openness was a key factor that made the Internet the success it has become. While the FCC never adopted any formal rules with regards to net neutrality, the commission adopted a set of four policy principles in 2005. Today, Genachowski announced that the FCC will begin the rulemaking process to formalize these principles and also announced two additional principles that should guide this process: non-discrimination and transparency. In addition, the FCC also announced the launch of OpenInternet.gov, a site that will track the progress of this undertaking.
"Intel Inside" was the first, and arguably the best, "ingredient" branding to come out of Madison Avenue. And thanks to that campaign everyone knows that Intel chips are inside computers. But the success of that ad push, which made its debut in 1991, created an image of Intel as a staid chipmaker.
For corporate communications specialists and reputation managers in the post financial crisis universe, the combined elements of distrust for authority and demand for transparency converge on the internet, specifically in the realm of social media. Hardly a day goes by without a breathless email announcing yet another conference, video, webinar or book providing the definitive answer to the mysteries of bending social media to one’s will. However, the relentless hype that has accompanied its growth may exaggerate or misconstrue its impact. Professionals would do well to take a deep breath and begin to think about how to build a detailed business strategy that includes but does not necessarily focus on social media so as to create sustainable value.
"My Administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks." U.S. President Barack Obama felt compelled to speak these words to the leading U.S. bank CEOs at a White House gathering to which they had been summoned on April 9, 2009. Driven by public anger at the financial crisis, the President employed a metaphor invoking images of "peasants with pitchforks" rising up to demand better treatment. That Iranian students, indigenous Peruvians and Somali pirates feel similarly inspired to take violent actions affecting global businesses reinforces the point. Based on recent polling data, it is would seem that his uncharacteristic use of alarmist imagery was not misplaced. According to the 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer, 49% -- or fewer than half of the people surveyed in an annual assessment of US attitudes -- support an independently functioning free market.
As a consultant working with many brands on social media strategy and efforts, I hear a lot of perceptions about social media. Extended out to the conferences that I attend and sometimes speak at, it is surprising how often I hear the same myths about social media. These are not things that brands are just using as reasons to not engage ... they often come from brands and marketing teams that are actively using social media as well. The following is a selection of some of the myths that I hear most often, as well as some thoughts on why they are simply myths and what your brand can do to get past them.
Many banks have started using social websites to help them with everything from healing the financial industry to promoting their latest credit cards. By embracing the most popular tools available, the industry has also been embracing the best of what social media culture has to offer, and smaller, community banks seem to be leading the charge when it comes to social media innovation. This post profiles some U.S. banks that have used social media in their marketing and communications plans in some interesting and successful ways. These banks have tapped into the root of what social media means to the community, enjoying success in the way of returning real value for their institutions.
Technology has united our professional and personal identities into one. You are no longer just the financial analyst, doctor, lawyer or “social media guru” during work hours. People all around you, sitting in cubicles, in offices and even the secretary can find out more personal information about you, with a single search in Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. There is no hiding anymore and our identities will fuse even more in the future, as we use social technologies more and more during work. Of course companies have concerns with how employees behave on the internet because it’s a reflection of their brand, as well as the employees. Smart companies understand that their employees are their greatest asset and they can harness their networks, which are visible online, to help support their initiatives.
These U.K. HSBC spots from JWT London that focus on "integrity" and "responsibility" are gorgeously filmed, but they're so achingly ironic and hypocritical, they make my head spin. Yes, HSBC has refused government bailout money, but the firm is now cutting 6,100 employees, yet still managed to find $1.67 billion to bid on ING's private banking business. Meanwhile, the bank holds forth on the topic of social justice in ads that show a paparazzo and fisherman who "do the right thing." It must be comforting for the C-suite suits to see their gold-tinted vision of reality reflected back at them during commercial breaks. Would they spike the photo of the year or toss back the first big catch in weeks, if it meant losing a ton of money? Of course not. Would you? Integrity and responsibility begin with honesty, something these ads sorely lack.
In the last couple of days I've had reasons to reflect on this dichotomy. Although things can happen really fast online, the process by which they tip is usually quite slow. And for good reason. Trust is something you build over time. Also, many confuse grabbing what is easy to grab for building a relationship, thinking that a fait accompli would let them get away with less than transparent business practices. With technology as an accelerator, it is easier to put the cart before the horse - to try and get what you want before you established a relationship of trust. When in doubt, ask first. It's easy to get excited with the possibilities and lose sight of the fact that there are humans on the receiving end. Wasn't that the promise of the social Web? Or has that already been forgotten in the need for a fast buck?
"We're sorry." That's what you say when a large number of your customers are upset with you. AT&T customers have been complaining for months about dropped calls, spotty service, delayed text and voice messages and slow download speeds for the iPhone. So, AT&T released this video on YouTube.
What's still one of the most important consumer trends out there? Transparency. Of prices, of opinions, of standards. So let’s look at what’s new, happening, upcoming and important, including the inevitable countertrend. There’s no hiding ;-)
There’s a blog post on MobileCrunch regarding a PR firm having their employees/interns put up fake product reviews on behalf of their clients. For the younger folk in the industry, let me make sure it’s clear that these techniques are nothing new. The difference is in today’s world the risks associated with such a move are so much higher, as you are more likely to get caught. For us to simply say “duh, don’t do it” just isn’t enough. The massive shift into self-publishing platforms (aka “the era of social media” – yawn) has radically enabled individuals to expose virtually every “truth” that’s out there.
GM is continuing to push ahead with a company reinvention and in an unprecedented move, has created The Lab blog to post concept work from the design studios online. Two concepts have just been added which are results of an ECOinitiative project aimed at understanding and developing greener transportation alternatives. The two concepts explore the theme of the ‘Bare Necessity’ which as GM Designer Therese Tant writes is a back-to basics approach, less is more, less cost, less complexity = efficiency.
Dawn Pabst hates the wait for a pizza delivery. So after she orders a pepperoni pizza from the Domino's website, she never waits. She tracks. The Air Force technician from Las Vegas tracks the second-by-second status of her pizza via colorful, thermometer-like gauges at Dominos.com. She's one of millions of customers who monitor everything from order accuracy to the moment their pizza is prepped, baked, boxed or sent for delivery. Pabst says she even tracks the name of the person who bakes her pizza.
Nokia is trying hard to be seen as an open organization. This website is a good example of a company that's opening its people and process up for public view. If you happen to be interested in working for the company, a huge fan of Nokia or work in a related field, this can be good stuff to see. In essence, it's material for a very limited core audience.
The following post was written by a well known executive at one of the largest sites on the Internet. The author has requested to remain anonymous - not for dramatic effect, but because of the backlash he would receive from the SEO industry and possibly Google itself. He also doesn’t want his company associated with the post. He is starting a discussion on the need for government regulation of the organic and paid search policies of Google, which maintains a commanding lead in search market share today. Or at least transparency in how search results are determined. There is clearly growing frustration on the constantly changing “border policies” that are created and enforced by Google and other search engines. It is a fascinating read.
I started my ad career working on an airline account – American. So like my first love, my first kiss and a host of other firsts in my life, American and the airline industry will always be special to me. Guess that is why it really irks me to watch them making such tragic mistakes. You can’t nickel and dime your way to profits.
If information is power, the first step to gaining power is to get the right data. The Obama administration is a big proponent of opening up government data and making it digitally available. Today at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York City, the government’s new chief information officer Vivek Kundra announced USAspending.gov, a new site which launched today that tracks government spending with charts and lists ranking the largest government contractors (Lockheed, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, etc.) and assistance recipients (Department of Healthcare Services, New York State Dept. of Health, Texas Health & Human Services Commission, etc.). There is also the Data.gov project, which is attempting to digitize government data and make it available in its raw form for citizens and companies to sift through.
There's a growing school of thought that unfettered information about the environmental impacts of our world will smoke out the bad guys and help the good guys win. I wish it were that simple.
While supermarkets have been urging customers to think greener by buying local produce for years, in a sign of the times, Safeway says it is launching a new initiative that also promotes locally grown produce as a way to boost California's sputtering economy. What's more, in order to do so, the Pleasanton, Calif.-based grocery giant is taking a swipe at fast-growing farmer's markets.
GoodGuide, a Web site and iPhone application that lets consumers dig past the package’s marketing spiel by entering a product’s name and discovering its health, environmental and social impacts. “What we’re trying to do is flip the whole marketing world on its head,” said Mr. O’Rourke. “Instead of companies telling you what to believe, customers are making the statements to the marketers about what they care about.”
Vendors of T-shirts, jewellery and wool clothing—not to mention bananas, coffee and spinach—have been using product life stories for some time now to demonstrate their efforts at sustainability. Whereas most such efforts have been individual ones, however, Made-By offers a more central approach to transparency by tracking and documenting the efforts of all participating fashion brands.
Today's marketplace challenges are not driven simply by the global recession and its affect on people's perception of "value." This new, new economy has been building for the past ten years. Evolving marketplace conditions have created a very particular consumer mindset; one which most marketers are woefully unprepared to deal with. Make no mistake; the economy is not the problem. It has simply exposed the problem, like melting snow exposes the mud beneath. Here are the five conditions that have inured today's consumer and confounded scores of organizations:
Could proposed sweeping changes in Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines shipwreck social media marketing and alter the common practice of using third-party spokespeople to deliver brand messages?
Modern Public Relations was born in the early 1900s, although history traces the its roots and origins of practice back to the 17th century. Two years ago, the press release celebrated its 100-year anniversary. While the communications industry has iterated with every new technological advancement over the last century, including broadcast mediums and Web 1.0, none however, have forced complete transparency prior to the proliferation of the Read/Write Web aka The Social Web aka Web 2.0.
Until recently, the yardstick used to evaluate the performance of American corporate leaders was relatively simple: the extent to which they created wealth for investors. But that was then. Now the forces of globalization and technology have conspired to complicate the competitive arena, creating a need for leaders who can manage rapid innovation. Expectations about the corporation’s role in social issues such as environmental degradation, domestic job creation, and even poverty in the developing world have risen sharply as well. And the expedient, short-term thinking that Wall Street rewarded only yesterday has fallen out of fashion in the wake of the latest round of business busts and scandals.
What are the strategies we can use to deal with unrelenting transparency? Fight it. Accept it. Deceive it.
Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the utility of ad placement on social media sites, and whether it's the most enlightened way to monetize services like Facebook or Twitter. I'd posit that there are two broad, and somewhat mutually-exclusive schools of thought on the subject: one looking forward, and the other back.
In the days of old: circa 2007, social-media marketing meant monitoring the blogosphere and managing forums, but today marketers are jumping in by actively creating and managing brand communities. Dave Balter is the founder and CEO of BzzAgent, a word-of-mouth media network headquartered in Boston. His company recently launched BzzScapes, a network of brand-centric communities, created by advocates and dedicated to the collection and ranking of the most relevant digital content for each brand. I asked him what it takes to create a truly exceptional brand community, and these are his top ten tips:
Here's proof-positive that more shoppers must seriously want to know where their food comes from: Frito-Lay, the world's biggest snack-food maker, is getting into the locally-made act. On Tuesday, Frito-Lay will unveil an unlikely marketing strategy for its Lay's brand chips that focuses on the 80 "local" farmers from 27 states who grow the potatoes used to make its chips. In a new world of better-for-you food concerns, it's not about chips being fun to eat. It's about chips being local.
It takes a while for changes to sink in—for the full ramifications of market shifts to impact how we actually do business, what we plan to achieve and how we communicate our intentions. Up to now, what I’ve heard from clients has had mostly to do with money…budgets have tightened and spending decisions have slowed. But now clients are realizing that today’s market is reshaping not just what they spend but what they say. They are starting to look at their brand messages and ask themselves, what do we talk about now?
As our social lives, business, and government become more transparent via the Internet, there are benefits for anyone who wants to create and connect.
The more transparent a market, economic theory holds, the healthier it will be. Information asymmetry — where sellers know crucial information that buyers cannot access — pollutes the market. Think toxic assets. The movement toward fuller transparency in the financial markets has a direct parallel in the ecological impacts of consumer goods. Signs suggest a trend toward greater marketplace openness about the environmental and health consequences of products — a trend with strong marketing implications.
A television commercial for the Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio presents Austin, who is 14 and bald from chemotherapy, wearing a blue varsity jacket while seated in a rocking chair. “I don’t really see like how this all happened — the whole cancer situation,” says Austin, over footage of his playing basketball in his school gym, and walking down a hallway in a hospital gown. “It just blows my mind that I end up getting it. I knew as soon as the doctor told me, I was like, ‘I’m going to beat it, no matter what. It’s just a disease.’ ” It is emblematic of a new approach to advertising by hospitals — an industry that, despite the recession, is not slashing ad spending.
The question many marketers are trying to answer now, is “Who do people trust?” I’ve been spending more and more time pouring over data, medium usage, behavioral and preference data for clients, and am learning more and more about how humans behave on the web. So who do people trust? Three research studies indicate it’s peers, or people they know. And social clout from bloggers, or those with a lot of online friends ain’t it.
As public relations, communications, and new media marketing professionals, it's our job to identify the communities where our customers, peers, and also influencers communicate with each other in a way that's transparent and frictionless. It's how we build relationships and how we establish our personal and corporate social capital while simultaneously increasing intellectual equity.
If I believed everything I saw in ads, I'd believe that oil companies are dedicated to protecting the environment, tobacco companies want to help me quit smoking and the Sham Wow is the second coming of sliced bread. Yeah, right. The whole "say-whatever-they-want-to-hear-and-we'll-sell-'em" mentality that still rules some corners of the marketing and ad industries just doesn't play anymore. Consumers are smart. They know when you're gaming them, when you're using a snake oil ploy just to make a sale. And, guess what, they're not buying it.
Last October, Gartner unveiled a study that stated that by 2010, 60 percent of the Fortune 1000 companies with a web site will be involved in some form of online community that is utilized for customer relationship purposes. What the research also goes on to state is that 50 percent of those that set out and establish or become involved in these communities will fail in their efforts. That's about 300 Fortune 1000 companies that will fail at social media: a striking number, especially in light of recent economic pitfalls.
In just a little over 10 years, Google has built a business that is impossible not to admire. In fact, its success begs the question -- what would Google do (WWGD)? Media pundit and thinker Jeff Jarvis tackles this question head on with a new book by the same title. In "What Would Google Do?," Jarvis breaks down Google's practices into 12 distinct rules and then applies them to aging industries like media and advertising.
Can transparency be a business model? Not, can it be good business, but can a business dedicated to transparency prosper?
The AP reports that Huffington Post is going to announce tomorrow the creation of a $1.75 million fund with various donors to pay for investigative reporting. First target: the economy. This, I’ve long held, is where foundation and public support will enter into the new ecosystem of journalism: not by taking over newspapers but by funding investigations and other slices of a new journalistic pie.
Over the last decade, Social Media has slowly evolved not only as a new content publishing, sharing, and discovery medium, but more importantly as a peer-to-peer looking glass into the real world conversations that affect the perception, engagement, and overall direction of the brands we represent. Socialized media didn't invent "conversations," it simply organized and amplified them.
The last year's worth of financial news nonsense has got me thinking again about the divergent roles individuals and groups play in our lives. I'm torn between what, or whom, I'm supposed to trust. It seems like the more broad and robust my access to the world gets, the less I know or believe. I rely more on what is immediate and personal, and the things that I know are true get more simple and basic...just as the credibility of larger, more complicated subjects becomes hazy and elusive.
I recently wrote the post, “Why big brands struggle with social media” right here on Mashable. Unsurprisingly, it prompted lots of debate about the role for brands in the social media space. There was, however, one line of thought that got me thinking. This was around the idea that big brands shouldn’t be active in social media, as the presence of big business will destroy the consumer driven spirit and purity of what the social revolution stands for.
The trends toward providing greater transparency in food and beverage labeling and making a product's origin background a marketing asset are gaining even greater momentum as a result of peanut product recalls and other recent scares, according to Margaret Kime, director of innovation with brand-building consultancy Fletcher Knight.
Barack Obama’s online presence drove his campaign’s early fund-raising and his primary victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton. His campaign’s use of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube proved that he was part of the Web 2.0 generation. In the run-up to November’s election, Senator Obama — or one of his staff members — typed more than 250 updates to his Twitter account at twitter.com/barackobama. So what happened? President Obama hasn’t tweeted once since being sworn into office.
"Giving is the new taking, and sharing is the new giving." That's the key assertion in this month's trend briefing, which describes the characteristics of Generation G (for generosity) and offers eight ways for brands to join: from Tryvertising to Brand Butlers to Random Acts of Kindness (RAK).”
Four weeks after coming to power on the back of what was widely dubbed the first internet election campaign, Barack Obama is establishing himself as the first truly multimedia president. The president's use of the full span of media - from network news to webcasts - has echoes of Franklin D. Roosevelt's "fireside chats" in the radio age and the mastery of television shown by John F. Kennedy. The White House this week launched a site called Recovery.gov to track where stimulus money will be spent, calling it an "unprecedented step to increase transparency in government"
With President Obama's signing of the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” better known as our national Hail Mary stimulus bill, billions will be ladled for infrastructure projects ranging from roads to mass transit to rural broadband. But the law also contains a measure promoting a less-noted type of economic infrastructure: government data. In the name of transparency, all the Fed’s stimulus-spending data will be posted at a new government site, Recovery.gov. That step may be more than a minor victory for the democracy. It could be a stimulus in and of itself.
The makers of Tide, Ajax and other common household cleansers are being asked to come clean about their ingredients. Environmental and health activists announced plans Tuesday for a lawsuit to make Procter & Gamble Co., Colgate-Palmolive Co. and two other major firms reveal the chemical ingredients of their cleaning products and their research on the products' effects.