Friday, July 6, 2012

Why Facebook has to make such a compelling case for the monetization of social Media

There has been so much buzz from marketing, finance & social media pundits in the past month following Facebook's IPO that as things have not settled but still open for future prediction, I thought I might bring my own take & forecast:
Even if FB is overvalued & overhyped, it has 3 fundamental assets that many other social media or even traditional media don't always have: critical mass/captive audience, major brand recongition/equity. buzz /influence power.
  1. critical mass/reach: with more than more than 800 millions users worldwide, whilst 200 million accounts were added in 2011 , even if FB was churning more than Telco, Credit card or Media companies, this captive audience will still have prominence for the next decades over the still overpriced SuperBowl or Olympics TV iconic platforms...More importantly, it has become an integral part of a day in a life for hundreds of millions of teen agers, head of household/parents, opinion leaders or marketers who spent an average 700 mins per month actively engaging with their peers , family and friends: no other less than 5 years old medium can boast that kind of captive/regular , involved & deeply interconnected audience.
  2. major brand recognition/equity: even before the iconic Social network movie & cool J. Timberlake acting , FB had already reached  household name status that even LinkedIn or Twitter were not able to achieve , a brand that now ranks in the top 20 global brands (BrandZ 2012) among the Google, Coca-Cola, Apple, right behind WallMart & ahead of is the top riser (74%) in brand equity in 2012 -stay tuned in the next years!
  3. buzz / influence power: what people read on FB, either real, accurate facts or not, just counts: like oe not, as on Twitter or YouTube, messages, it amplifies & make any information become a public opinion trend or potential social wave.As Twitter starts flinching under a few blunders from celebrities or politicians who showed how tricky it can get to manage public opinion at global scale and from a 10 words billboard, FB still remains the trusted source where people go check the accuracy or details of a story: either a celebrity's daily life or a job seeker crosschecked by its future employers, it stands as a credible & true picture of what happens in everyday life.That's where FB still seems to hold a more trustworthy power than glossy spreads stories on E.T. or traditional print magazines or decidedly scripted "reality-shows" on Bravo.
So the key question is now: how will FB be able to monetize this in the best way without alienating its main asset: its members ?
The answer to this question has nothing to do with any behavioral vs attitudinal data are more relevant, any Display vs Search debate, nor how many or which brands should preempt it...

It is a case of HOW to: how to reinvent a new marketing game or way of subtle, interactive branding in storytelling:  more inspiration and service or deal driven than classic product show & tell: and that's exactly why old advertising patterns won't work: what only counts is that FB designs its monetization model and develop its commercial policies to advertisers, in real game-changing ways that both:
  1. bring a legitimate and relevant value: either in terms of interest, knowledge access, community building or activities: be a club, a forum, a polling or expression platform, bring real concrete benefits & advantages attached to a given community of interests or values... 
  2.  don't invade our privacy or comfort zone to a point that it would become intolerable like today's telemarketing or email Spam...sharing personal data with third party marketers might be fine as long it's then utilized in a way consistent with FB founding philosophy and values and not all over the map: that's where it would see the crumble of its very own initial asset & value at the very same incredible rate of that we saw in its growth...
We are being told that revenue stream will primarily stem from selling behavioral & attitudinal data to marketers & agencies: provided it is done in a way that brings value & relevance to the audience segment it targets and in a mature, intelligent manner, it might actually reinforce the strength & reach of the social network and finally seal its 100 billion market valorization and fate as THE most powerful media of the 21st century.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Why the "CMO extinction" theme is a tired climate change cliché:

This Fast Company published blog is once again the same old song: that one being taunted by all sorts of new age marketing experts, trying so hard to look & sound oh so avant-garde by displaying a  breakthrough headline to sell their next episode:  as for those who invented the Internet or decided to dress cool by blaming global warming on modern industrialization for the past 50 years rather than considering the bigger picture, the data & the documented global temperature cycles that existed well before human CO2 contribution, the CMO’s extinction is an easy-sell theme, a popular urban legend in tabloid marketing circles…

I find that not only the reasons given in this paper for the theory of extinction of the CMO are distorted, redundant & incomplete but that, on the contrary, we are indeed living a defining time of evolutionary stage for marketers that should eventually see us regain more leadership in the C suite of more & more corporations; here’s why:

1)        If it is true that "....budgets are shifting..."  marketers have however been from the start at the forefront of the development of new  analytics , budget allocation tools & metrics of success beyond overall corporate performance & top line results; from marketing & media statistical modeling, new digital engagement metrics or web analytics, CRM data mining and customer segmentation or Customer Dialogue Management platforms are all tools & know how that marketers have created & mastered in adapting to a more complex landscape of consumers & channels; that means that the evaluation, dashboards & resource allocation process are more & more strategically driven by a more informed & analytics savy marketer rather than I.T transformation implementers or sales forces: marketers are the architects & designers of demand generation or systems that power the customer strategy that other functional teams help implement.

2)        If "...Social media exacerbates one thing..." it is the call for the real customer centricity order. The cacophony is an old (pre-digital) challenge that marketers already learned to address through real multichannel, integrated marketing strategies .If the consumer is now more empowered and an active co-writer of the brand story, the CMO always had, by sitting at the intersection of all Medium, to inspire, channel & harness that constant dialogue/relationship between the brand & its audience segments: has anyone seen customer feed-back, consumer research /opinions, ad testing  or CRM data being gathered & interpreted by other talents than those who are supposed to engage, respond & adapt to the markets every day…? Even call centers or Retail employees get their cue from marketing when it comes to the script & directions behind customer dialogue management or revenue optimization…
3)        "...The democratized web spawns confusion and trust issues…" and it’s precisely because everybody claims to be an expert in marketing that a C-suite relies on the CMO to sort out business intelligence , make determinations or present informed arbitrations; the P.R. crisis doesn’t dictate marketing, the sales people are way to entrenched into field management & too partial to analysis of success or failure and  web analytics still  tend to give a bias section view of the full customer base & patterns…Hundreds of TJMax "Maxinistas" or American idol contestants don’t replace a few dozens prominent rocks stars or gifted  fashion designers who actually know how to abosrb market trends whilst also monetizing them so effectively. It’s funny how the ultimate democracy or twit doesn’t automatically make everybody the best natural born communicator , buzz expert or leader !

4)        "...Pressure to demonstrate a return on investment with marketing has reached a fever pitch..." But it is hardly a new phenomenon. I have worked with most top CMOs in past 10 years  who in the mid-90’s started , under  the pressure to demonstrate their accountability in the C-suite, to hire an array  of powerful vendors & experts to help them make the case for their marketing MROI, budget sizing & allocation: from the management consulting or I.T. strategists , the top digital agencies to media marketing mix modeling divisions, CRM software Business Intelligence modules or Central Decisoning, they all cater their expertise to the CMO and feed his own decision making & dashboards: if there certainly  is pressure and stronger accountability , there is no cluelessness nor shortage of new science available; find me a single sales officer or CIO who can speak to MROI analytics & interpret the results of market research in front of a board !

5)        "...Lines of responsibility across marketing and sales are disintegrating..": again nothing new here: BtB or Btc marketers have long worked with sales force, customer services , call centers or customer facing agents…Marketing has always been all about top line revenue growth and extracting more value from every customer. I would argue that there is a danger in the GE solutions example as far as the artificial dichotomy between upstream and downstream: as any good marketer knows, product development is a key element of demand generation & can be informed & refined by downstream practices & experience. This is where integration stemming from a sharp understanding of consumer’s evolving needs & expectations can drive the product development or inspire go-to-market strategies: that what marketing genius Steve Jobs so beautifully embodied as the ultimate integrated marketer from corporate vision to technical execution, brand building or Retail strategy; I say the new generation of CMO is the Stve Jobs type, the best customer reader & advocate, the one who understand all pieces of the complex puzzle , dynamics & dimensions of what a brand is at heart and can nurture through a in-tune relationship with consumers & markets.

Now, of course, they are some of us who are not as talented as others or simply unable to adapt, wherever they sit, in marketing or somewhere else in the organization. Old media types , tired sales man or new digital wunderkinds are not necessarily cut for the greatest job of marketing leadership…I laugh at that underlying accepted cliche that puts any social media blogger or web designer at the pinnacle of marketing instinct & vision.

All in all, it is well known that the CMO role has been constantly reshaped & had to re-invent itself for the past 15 years with an incredible acceleration since digital reached a critical mass,radically changing the center of gravity of the relationship between consumers, channels & brands.The good marketers is te the one who understands & embodyies best the essence of the brand , both from the corporate and consumer’s perspective.He is the only one  who possesses the necessary subtle balance between art & science, creative, analytics & optimum mix across all available touchpoints, both strategically & operationally. They have their feet in the market, incredible sense of smell & hearing for the “air du temps” , have developed wings & acute long term vision to foresee future  markets shift... and the memory of an elephant when it comes to the roots of the brand.

The CMO role might be redefined or rebranded Chief Brand Officer, Chief Experience Officer or Chief Customer Officers etc… but the fact of the matter is that while the contours & areas of responsibility evolve constantly under more & more pressure or scrutiny from the board, they are the most multi-skilled  & adaptable of species and the customer centricity agenda that they naturally lead has become more than ever before a central strategy to full scale corporate transformation that many CEO’s are now embracing.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The nature of True Innovation for a brand

As Taco Bell is launching its Doritos Taco shell, I was reflecting on how the importance of true Innovation is essential to the equity & sustainability of a brand. They are a few notable dimensions to Innovation that this initiative is bringing to life:

Ø  Dimension 1: it makes perfect sense for the brands involved: it’s a perfect alliance in terms of product but also in terms of brand psyche: by touching on the Taco shell, a founding block of Mexican food, and transforming its blend, basic function into being part of the taste of a menu, it actually renews the core of the value proposition around taste & experience: it’s much more than packaging, it’s much more than Image; it puts the innovation in the heart of the Taco Bell around taste, indulgence beyond the fundamental of value for price or other commodity features that are hygiene factors  but not so differentiating ; it also brings the Doritos snack into a wider food experience, it gives it a more versatile dimension than chips with a beer.
Ø  Dimension 2: it makes perfect sense as a call to action: while it focuses on a product centered value proposition, it actually boils down to a strong “come try it” proposition and stands to generate traffic to the point of sale…and this is exactly what ANY innovation should trigger: it’s the sampling, the real life experience , as Apple so neatly did it with the “come play freely with the device” experience in the Apple store...Any Innovation that doesn’t carry that is a failure and this goes as much for consumers as for the company’s staff for it should galvanize goodwill around a new, clearly outlined & exciting narrative
Ø  Dimension 3: it makes sense from a supply chain /corporate synergy perspective: the brands who used to be both part of the same Pepsico company -before Pepsi spun Taco Bell to Yum brands- shared a natural common ground industry, marketing & product innovation culture: re-igniting this kind of mutually natural & profitable synergy is what breeds a Customer centric culture of Innovation beyond vertically integrated frameworks…

Now, from this rich example, I was reflecting on REAL Innovation: either groundbreaking product Innovation (Revolutions ?) such as the Ipad, the Google search engine or Tivo...or new marketing concepts such as Starbucks coffee, Dyson vacuum cleaners, at-home teeth whitening strips or Activia yogurts… Innovation these days has been so diluted by marketers, from the latest moisturizing lipstick or anti aging cream”Innovation” that’s been on the market for years to the “new” Tide that’s only as new as the primary color of the box.Even if it doesn’t mean that sometimes the genius of marketing Innovation can’t reside mostly in the go-to- market originality: that’s what Old Spice's “the man your man could smell like”, the  Jay-Z ‘s “Decoded” book launch or Burger King’s subservient chicken campaigns did so well…

Real Innovation  requires 3 essential ingredients :Talent , Cult (ure?)  of Innovation ,  Disruption.
First, they are the creative, idea-driven and entrepreneurial profiles that you need to have (find) to achieve true Innovation: a Johnatan Ive (Apple) , a Facebook team of students, a poised Martha Stewart, a media darling Tom Ford (Gucci) or a celebrity pet Armani , an unapologetic Jack Welsh or ubiquitous Philippe Stark....Of course, you have to recognize their next generation version in your everyday staff : there are others out there as these where when they were still undisicovered  !
Then, there’s the ecosystem that you create for these talents to be nurtured & drive the corporate (not only R&D) agenda: that’s where the genius of Steve Jobs came into play when as a CEO , he became the demanding, relentless dynamo of Innovation. This eco system doesn’t have to be confortable nor all lovey dovey, it’s not about the number of tennis courts or juice bars available on the HQ campus: it is about the focus on business value & results, customer centric attractiveness, profitability, constant self-improvement, non compromising excellence delivery in execution…
And then , there is the questioning (deconstructing ?) of the way you approach your usual business model every day: questioning the status quo from a market standpoint rather than the traditional paths in which things have been done or seen: in marketing, that chiefly means starting from a needs-based, consumer centric market research and segmentation, a wide ranging Customer Lifetime Value , cross-selling , beyond -category strategic planning..; it is unfortunate that it is also where many CEOs task their headhunter with finding the guy from competition who has marketed the same exact business model for years and is already formatted into it…a problem starting with the right culture profile of leasdership  & talent !

Lastly, Innovation is all about the magic “tour de main” or alchemy in which you prepare & combine these ingredients Keeping in mind like good chefs do, that as food is more about social & sensorial experience than just filling stomachs, Innovation is not an end in itself, it is the best way for a business to connect with its consumers , to stay RELEVANT: and relevance IS here the KEY objective for a CEO or CMO to keep top of mind throughout strategy AND project execution rather than Go-to-Market processes.
Then the good side effects of Innovation as a means is that it also naturally feeds many essential business assets such as brand brand equity, customer awareness & preference, transformational attitude and attracts the best talents in the industry…
I have learned  while working across a wide range of companies of different sizes & industries, that INNOVATION is a quality derived from a spirit, a CULTURE: setting that culture, infusing it through all employees, customer facing, sales people, I.T., design, manufacturing, control teams etc.., is what allows a company to grow innovation: that’s what Steve Jobs in his own autocratic/rough yet effective style was so good at; that’s what Jack Welch unapologetically accomplished for GE in the 90’s , Sir Branson infused so well into his ever stretching Virgin brand portfolio or what Samsung is now doing in their own Korean way. Nothing, none of the best brightest minds without that spirit, encouraged & organized INNOVATION culture can bring innovation into corporate life & success.Innovation is NOT a POPULARITY contest.

So ask yourself as a manager, employee or CEO not what you can do for Innovation not what innovation can do for you…Start contributing to nurturing , safeguarding the mind set together with the best people around the ideation of Innovation and then it’s tedious but necessary transformation process from nurturing curiosity & questioning to capturing suggestions and experimental  project or prototype task force…and don’t leave it only to R&D but have it championed by a business oriented officer who can has clout in the C-Suite…And that person should be the CMO –other name for Champion Innovation Officer J

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The right talents for 21st marketing: H.R. industry missing in action
Keith is right BUT:
As a critical agent of change/transformation, the selection of the right talents is key; they all say that but nothing changes in the talent acquisition PROCESS & M.O.: headhunters are less & less focused on quality, affinity & long term interest of their clients, they hardly manage reading and understanding the specifics of the assets they are supposed to manage. And HR departments -even at Unilever- don't have the skills, time nor power to do better...
Until the talents that are integrated (both digital & "old media") as well as having the right balance between art & science are recognized & nurtured by a truly professional H.R.industry, marketing will not achieve this so needed revolution that Keith is desribing..

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What’s behind the rise of French brands on the global scene

The Artist’s historic triumph at the Oscars not only warmed my French pride and special love for French cinema but it also reminded me that many French brands still seem to have this Je-ne-sais-quoi and are actually very active / present in the global marketing landscape (many of them actually leading most of these big tickets advertising slots during that kind of annual iconic mass…)  From L’Oreal to Chanel, Danone, Vuitton or Michelin ,  I was wondering what makes these French brands stand tall against perennial, global American juggernauts such as Coca-Cola, Nike, McDonalds, Apple or Ford…

Maybe it is the universally sensitive & charming sides that transcend various cultures, the delicate balance between brainy & emotional, mindful of their connection with an audience know to be diverse and complex. Where the British brands are so good at standing for civilized wit in a  universal English language, la French touch thrive to convey refined yet exotic & skilled at tapping in something very universal in each of us: that something being “the soul”.
As much as American brands carry a unique sense of power & dominance (epitomized by Dodge’s Guts & Glory , bordering on arrogance & imperialism), it seems that French brands uniquely personify suave & opening us to new things: the US brand is aspirational & speaks of leadership, the French brand is inspiring, accessible, attractive & evocative without being too esoteric or spiritual as Oriental brands can be seen. Descartes (Reason) meets Beaudelaire (symbolism/lyrism) or Lafayette meets Scott Fitzgerald…
It seems to me that the lessons in the area of marketing /brand strategy are the qualities that most successful French identity icons or other non french brands understand so well:
  1. Remain true to your roots: you should stay true to yourself when you grow & reach out to the world, speak the universal language of your roots (no pun intended, L’Oreal) in a way that’s not afraid of being original, sounding different and minding the diversity of your audience: whilst the Chanel legend has been reinvented & exposed over & over again instead of being diluted whilst being reinvented by design (Chanel’s Lagerfeld, Guesquiere’s Balenciaga) , retail or aggressive brand extensions to multiple spokespersons /faces ; Chanel, Vuitton, Armani…
  2.  Embody Universal but multi-identity: it also tells us that once you found your voice (brand positioning, channels) you can be as flexible as to have variations around a central personality or theme (Vuitton or L’Oreal’s “You are worth it” could have looked a bit rigid but has been spun & played by many stars or multiple faces (also H&M, Zara, Orange, Petit bateau)
  3.  It's OK to be unapologetically Aspirational & stylish: Refinement & sophistication are OK even in Mass marketing: you don’t need to oversimplify to be effective, popular & recognizable; they are ways of making the average Joe feeling special & impacted/empowered by a challenging , non-Politically Correct idea (Dove natural beauty campaign) or a deliberately elitist branding (Stella Artois, Marc Jacobs, Air France … )
  4. Don’t be afraid of mystery, epic or drama::in love as in life, not everything needs to be explained, analyzed or demonstrated: nurture the mystique, play with the grandiose & symbolic, everybody loves a big saga;know how not to reveal too much too soon and keep your audience guessing or real life pain or doubt or open interpretation: that's what keeps it exciting/ entertaining or interactive  even overtime or overexposed...see Apple, British Airways, Les Miz, Edith Piaf, Catherine Deneuve…
  5. Stay relevant & connected:keep surprising by innovating, don’t be too predictable : you should show your main target groups that you understand  new modes of communication & love to connect with your consumers in new or diverse ways the Medium is the message: multichannel /multi mode of communications (Sponsorship, grassroots, online, social media etc…), your brand should be confident & consistent enough to diversify its touchpoints & medium of choice (HSBC, Michelin, Ikea, Perrier, Agnes B or Old Spice’s “the man your man could smell like” type campaigns)
  6. Use modern yet timeless know-how: renew the message & the narrative but cultivate the legend, the savoir-faire (Lacoste, Hermes, Evian, Laduree) and the love of the craft: quality will always be in Fashion, the story of the making is eternal
  7. Play from tasteful feelings and sensuality don’t hesitate to pack on subtle sex appeal or sentimental, naughty or emotional: as long as it’s not vulgar or too hard-sell, cute or racy is refreshing & impactful  (Orangina’s Sexy Jungle, Mugler, Amelie, The Smurfs,  Nespresso’s George Clooney)
Now, even in French branding, there is no miracle recipe, it's all about work, consitency, vision & art, the last thing boiling down to the right execution...but most importantly in the way these traits are relevant to your brand strategy & marketing objectives at a given point in time or on the long term...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Should we let marketers be just fame whores ?

I want to believe as much as Tom Sullivan  in long term brand generosity & substance...In fact I always work with my clients from that assumption & mindset.
However, the thing is Kardashians, the last GOP darling or Lin sensations are the brands that suddenly get billions of impressions and are repeatedly grabbing the public psyche across all kinds of consumer segments or categories, even over a few months ‘s span; in fact I would argue that the most successful brand builders are the one (like Sir Richard) who can sharply focus on a brand for a launch, an event, build momentum & then drop it, move on to another story, another market like it didn't happen. Is there proven longevity or better performance for long term consistency or long term loyalty ?  besides. consumers are fickle, getting more & more ADD, more quickly bored, the average attention span is that of a text message or tweet: they demand to be fed with a new, shorter show, a new story, a new profile every week, every month, every year. We are living in the "Dancing with the stars" or "American Idol" of the day lifecycle.Marketers just need to come to terms with that reality and do the best job instantly, ready-to-eat fast food marketing…the dinner can't wait and is not even convinced that long term balance nutrition helps live better & longer. Long term view is a plus for a talented marketer but long term impact hardly appears in any corporate review or the most widely used ROI modeling research, let alone in advertising award circles or the digital agency narrative.
So, as an old school integrated marketer, I would settle for pragmatic & fame whore whilst keeping a 3rd eye for the more sustainable layer if it's within reach for the same price: that’s the stuff that will make my clients come back to me vs the next guy for the next step…while I keep driving them in the same right direction !

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Starwood brand experience & socia media:great example of brand /customer equity waste

As every empowered consumer & traveler, I recently posted on TripAdvisor my latest horrendous experience with the W hotel in Montreal.
After kindly droping a note to Chief brand Officer for Starwood H.Q. where I was calling his attention to both bad customer delivery & associated bad buzz link that i had generated, here is what I received:
1) a generic response from a very kind yet uninvolved Public Affairs agent who refered me to the local general manager
2) a back-handed apology from an arrogant & defensive hotel general manager who felt sorry that I had a bad experience (heavily suggesting that it was nothing but my only perception...) and claimed that it would be much beter after their planned million dollar renovation...
3) a LAVISH 2 nights points equivalent as compensation (not even enough to stay in the same category but in the cheaper tier ! )

What this teaches us is:
1) management should ALWAYS be set up to keep the pulse via appropriate & natural channels for a clear and open dialogue that allows them to hear from customers; however globettrotting, a  BRAND leader SHOULD NEVER BE too BUSY for a dissatisfied customer; isnt it common sense that that same management would, after delegating response to local manager, monitor its nature and impact on the customer: isn't it why it's called MANAGEMENT ?
2) the result is that I felt more insulted by the G.M.'s response than before his intervention...insulting the customer's intelligence & making bad excuses is never a good thing, adding insult to injury ! As if refurbushing was to replace bad employee attitude, horrendous breakfast service or poor bar management !
3) I will NEVER give a second chance to the W franchise after that handling
4) the number of Tripadvisor members reading my review of  this single W  location has reached over 1 500 views in less than 1 week and keeps growing: that means that the BAD  BUZZ is still spreading through a 30+ millions community, with my recommendations for direct alternative competition hotels in the area: how's that for defusing a situation & making it a better outcome for the brand, especially in regards with my intial goodwill & opprtunity given to Starwood for redemption :)
5) this experience has cast a perennial doubt & serious limitation on my Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty towards ANY of the Starwood portfolio brands as  they share the same central policies, processes and officers in charge ! Good job on Customer  Lifetime Value across 10 brands !!!

In short, best example of multi level brand imposture:  not delivering in real life whilst too busy trying to play cool AND even worst MANAGING customer quality delivery /loyalty & social media  BUZZ...

What a very talented & multi-skill waste !