Nice little Fast Company article on storytelling.  

I'm fascinated by how many people (mostly younger, I find) are totally skeptical of storytelling. I think they misinterpret it as some kind of theatrical exercise.  Which it's clearly not (the performance aspect is part of it, but the furthest down stream).  Or maybe they've never spent time in an organization that values the skill ... reminds me how valuable my Ogilvy years were.

Particularly liked this point in the article ...

What is going on here? Why are we putty in a storyteller’s hands? The psychologists Melanie Green and Tim Brock argue that entering fictional worlds “radically alters the way information is processed.” Green and Brock’s studies shows that the more absorbed readers are in a story, the more the story changes them. Highly absorbed readers also detected significantly fewer “false notes” in stories--inaccuracies, missteps--than less transported readers. Importantly, it is not just that highly absorbed readers detected the false notes and didn’t care about them (as when we watch a pleasurably idiotic action film). They were unable to detect the false notes in the first place.

And the Trojan Horse idea...

Guber tells us that stories can also function as Trojan Horses. The audience accepts the story because, for a human, a good story always seems like a gift. But the story is actually just a delivery system for the teller’s agenda. A story is a trick for sneaking a message into the fortified citadel of the human mind.

False Scarcity, Scare Tactics, Handshakes

 Via ndh

I'm not a traditional sales guy.  Not really a sales guy at all.  Rather than being pushy I take a more consultative approach, whether I'm working with an existing client or trying to win a new piece of business.

Something I just don't get is when salespeople use false scarcity and/or scare tactics to make a sale.  I see it all the time ...

Only 2 remaining!

Limited time offer!

I've got people banging down my door for this widget.  Don't miss your chance.

If you don't get on Twitter right away someone is going to high-jack your reputation.

I'm actually in the market for a fairly big ticket item right now.  There are plenty of these widgets in the marketplace, some worth more than others based on their condition.  I recently met a guy selling one of these widgets that I'd rate on the higher end of the quality spectrum; but not so high that I can't find it somewhere else with a little bit of looking.

So this guy threw a line at me:  Oh man, I've got like 15 potential buyers.  If you are interested you should move fast.

False scarcity AND scare tactics.  

Because what he's really saying is: My item is so unique that everyone wants it, and you'd be a fool to miss the chance to have it.

Really?  Then why haven't you sold it yet?  And why would I waste my time competing with the other 15 buyers when I can go find another widget?  And how do you know I'm ready to buy?

Rather than kid a kidder, a much better tactic would have been to ask me a few questions to understand my mindset.  How knowledgeable am I about the widget market?  How urgent is my need?  What anxieties do I have about pulling the trigger?

If he listened intently he might have picked up on something to use on me.  Or maybe he'd realize I'm not buying this widget, but he's got another one arriving soon that would be perfect for me.

But no, he missed that chance.

Oh, and the handshake part of this post title ... Man, woman.  Young, old.  Get a grip.  Literally.  I'd much rather buy from someone with a solid handshake.

On Crowdsourcing

Some stream-of-consciousness thinking before the sun comes up today.

I haven't given all that much thought to crowdsourcing, which may be odd given my line of work.  

I haven't given all that much thought to Louis CK, which may be odd given my age and comedic sensibility.

Screen shot 2011-12-16 at 6.56.44 AMI was listening to Louis CK on Bill Simmons' most excellent podcast, and without meaning to they touched on an interesting point about the wisdom of the many versus the wisdom of the few.

As I understand it, Louis has a very successful show on FX.  What's interesting about it is that the network has zero control over it.  They wire him $200K per episode, and from that he creates the entire thing (including taking out his salary).  

This autonomy is very rare.  It's also a relatively paltry sum for an actor as successful as Louis.

But the show is hit, and growing an audience with every episode.

So why is it working?

Louis' position is this (paraphrasing):

The more people involved in making decisions (particularly creative ones) the more watered down an idea gets.  In essence, consensus-building breeds mediocrity.  

By the time Bob from legal, Mary from finance, John from ad sales and Lisa from PR have all given their input, the essence of the idea is lost.  And this is nothing against Bob, Mary, John and Lisa - I'm sure they are good at what they do.  But they are not comedians. 

So you've hired an incredibly successful creative (in this case Louis) for his talent but essentially said to him, "we only trust your sensibility to a certain point."  

The disconnect is that by the time Bob, Mary, John and Lisa have stamped the idea, it's not Louis' sensibility any more.  So why hire him in the first place?

Bringing it back to my world, I do have to wonder out loud: Is the wisdom of the crowd all that wise, or is the real value that it make us (me, you, brands, agencies) feel safer about any given decision simply because it's based on consensus?  And as a result, are we breeding mediocrity?  What constitutes authority on any given topic - deep knowledge, a proven track record and passion?  Or simply a point-of-view, no matter how uniformed or unformed, and an Internet connection?

I genuinely don't know.

But I think of some of the great creative and marketing talents of our time, and how they would view the wisdom of the crowd.  Three immediately come to mind.  Clive Davis - he didn't do any market research before signing a scrawny young singer who eventually became Whitney Houston.  Steve Jobs once famously said, "It's really hard to design products by focus groups.  A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."  And finally, Alex Bogusky (always a polarizing character) - Crispin is (in)famous for retaining creative control over their clients' work.  And love or hate the agency, you can't deny they've had a pretty killer run.

That's all for now.

Crossing The Conversation Chasm

I was talking to my newest colleague (and likeminded thinker) Alan Kercinik the other day about the missed communications opportunities between when new products are announced and they are actually available for purchase.

I call it the Conversation Chasm.  And yes, I'm sure I'm not the first person to use the phrase.

Just thinking out loud over morning coffee ...

In my own very crude way, I tried to chart it out below.  

The X axis is time:

  1. Pre-sell:  Where very early meetings take place between manufacturer and retailer.  Usually a dark period for manufacturer due to competitive fears.
  2. Launch:  A moment in time.  A press conference.  A stunt.  A trade show. Hope is to make a big splash with buyers, media and consumers. 
  3. Road to sales:  More sell-in to retail, but not much focus on the consumer if we're being honest.  All the big $ is chambered for ...
  4. Sales start: Another big splash moment.  Where media kicks in and everyone tries to out-scream the competition.
  5. Sell-through: Focused on getting products off the shelves.

The Y axis is marcom effectiveness.  I haven't given much thought to what that means for the purposes of this post.  But essentially it's just how well you are doing against your goals. UPDATE: After thinking more about it, the Y axis should be "Conversations."

The purple line represents the way many industries - consumer electronics jumps to mind - approach things.  Big launch splash - timing usually pegged to an industry trade show or a reaction to a competitor.  This activity is usually led by communications.  Followed by a pretty dark period where the marketing folks ready the campaign.  Then sales start - boom!  And finally, sell-through which normally falls to shopper marketing teams.

The green line is a more optimal way of approaching it.  The big difference being the relative plateau (rather than huge valley) between the launch moment and sales start.  I have to think that's the period where social media can shine like no other channel.  And because there's more conversation happening during the road to sales, I'd propose your media dollars will be even more effective once sales do start (since you haven't lost touch with people over the last few months).

The space between the purple and green is missed opportunity ... the Conversation Chasm.

Why is the purple way of doing things so common?  Three things come to mind ...

  1. Communications and marketing still operate in silos.  Communications normally handles product announcements; marketing kicks in for actual sales start.  At times very different messages. Very different agendas.  Not ideal.  How to solve it?  CMO builds a bridge and everyone gets over it.
  2. Retail dependence.  To me the real genius of Apple Stores is not the design and experience control the company has; but rather the timing control.  They don't need to sell in.  They are on their own timeline.  They can avoid the Chasm altogether by virtually eliminating the road to sales phase.  Apple is like Ali compared to everyone else's George Foreman.
  3. Old school thinking. Paradigms are paradigms because thinking otherwise is threatening and scary.  I wrote about the descructivness of this behavior a few days ago.  That's how I feel.

That's as far as I can take it this Saturday morning.  Feel free to chime in.

Bowling v Pinball

Nice point made yesterday at a private event thrown by Facebook to support their Facebook Studio initiative.  Paraphrasing a speaker from Facebook (and adding a bit of my own take) ...

Traditionally, marketers have played a game of bowling:  Take a heavy, well-crafted message and throw it as hard as you can down the media lane, with the goal of knocking over as many customers as possible.  

But today's marketer needs to think more like a pinball wizard: You take a slightly lighter projectile, and still thrust it in the field of play.  But unlike bowling, in pinball the message stays in the play-of-field much longer, taking twists, turns and lucky bounces as it goes.  There's a flow.  A continuity.  A viral element that never existed at scale.

I like the imagery. And let's be real ... do you really want to be like this guy?


The Personality Paradox

[cross-posted on the Ogilvy Fresh Influence blog]

I’ve noticed something lately I can only describe as the Personality Paradox (mostly because I’m a big fan of alliteration).

It’s simple:  When it comes to engaging in social media, bigger brands (alliteration! OK, I’ll stop pointing it out.) tend to have smaller personalities.  This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.

In the case of a big brand there are myriad factors that can cause this Paradox.  First off, having a big personality takes a ton of effort and focus.  Add to that regulatory/compliance issues, organizational challenges, multiple marcom agencies, new management and a million other things, big and small.  Or worse, simply losing sight of the customers who got you there in the first place.

The perfect parallel is a rock band.  The unsigned band playing half-filled clubs is going to cherish every fan – no autograph unsigned, no photo request denied, no interview not granted, no Tweet unanswered.  But as that band gains a following and eventually breaks, the demands on their time and attention increase, forcing them to (1) triage inbound requests and (2) start speaking to their fanbase as a whole, rather than as individuals.  Oh, and as their egos inflate, they often quickly forget their most loyal base.


(photo courtesy of Arne Hendriks)

As with anything of this sort, there are always exceptions.

Vans is a brand that immediately comes to mind.  And lest you think Vans is a little skate punk operation, they are owned by a holding company (bought for nearly $400mm a few years ago) that owns Nautica, North Face and Wrangler to name a few.  So it’s pretty cool that whether it’s their Twitter handle, blog, Facebook page or any other social profile,  Vans stays true to their skater beginnings – everything from the imagery to the language and content they feature feels totally authentic.  And their community manager, “Nikki S,” is in my opinion one of the best in the business.  Responsive, helpful and funny, all with a little bad-ass attitude.

Vans not big enough for you?  How about Ogilvy client, Ford Motor Company?  Just take a look at how they enthusiastically jumped into Google+, or the delightful and highly personalized way they invited bloggers to an event earlier this year.  I’m biased, of course, but don’t you think this is a great example of a huge enterprise acting like that unsigned band trying to make it to the top?

What are some quick takeaways for big brands?

  • Put a face and name to your social efforts.  Logos are good, people are great.
  • Put as much effort into developing your voice as you do your content.  It’s not just what you say, but how you say it.
  • Always keep an eye on experimentation.  Try new things.  We all fail – it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and might engender even more admiration.

What are other big brands (or bands, while we’re at it) that buck the paradox?  What’s their secret sauce?

Why Are We Doing Social Well?

A client recently asked me what factors I thought contributed to their success in social media.  The answers came to me immediately - it's a client I work closely with, care deeply about and have thought about a lot this year.

As I jotted down my response on my white board [aside: my common practice which might appear to be an unnecessary step to answering an email, but helps me think things out] I realized  these factors are common to every client I work with who has made progress in social media.

What am I missing?  Wold love to add to the list. 

Support from Leadership

We know innovation bubbles up from the bottom; culture cascades from the top.  Without a supportive leadership team, social initiatives will never find the funding and resources needed to have a demonstrable impact. 

What are you doing to secure that support from your leadership? 

Training is one way.  Not [necessarily] training on how to do social, but rather why [i.e. the business impact].

Benchmarking is another.  Show your leaders [not in a the sky is falling way] what the industry best-practices are and how your organization compares.

And finally, listening is so important.  Use the myriad free tools out there to monitor for your brand or issue. Package those mentions and analysis in an executive summary.  Show them the conversation is taking place, and suggest ways you can join it.

Demonstrated Appetite from the Foot Soldiers

If leaders enable, it's the foot soldiers who do [and often innovate].  Without an army of willing social media participants within an organization, it'll be all talk and no action.  And remember, your employees are your greatest advocates!

What can you do to facilitate this behavior?

Training is a no-brainer.  Show people the right way to do things.

Policy is another.  Make the organization's policy clear and concise.  Give people guardrails - they usually find it comforting.

Finally - and I realize this is tough - give your people some freedom to experiment.  Not everything they do in social should be super tight-in on your product, brand or cause.  The more comfortable people are, the more likely they are to do so, and effectively.

Passionate and Knowledgeable Customers

I don't care if your business is cleaning supplies or a professional association, you have to find those customers who are smart on your business, and passionate about what you do [I guess that's what we call a fan these days].  Without passionate and knowledgeable customers speaking on your behalf, you're just talking to yourself.

A Spirit of Cross-Functional Collaboration

Are the right people willing to take the right steps towards collaborating across functions [or geographies or business units]?  Have you formed your center of excellence?  Have you defined a common measurement model?  Have you even talked to each other?  Start.  Today.

Willingness to Take Counsel

I don't have all the answers.  Neither do you.  No one does.  But I can tell you that in every successful case I've seen in social [scaled cases], the client has collaborated with talented external partners.  That doesn't mean off-shoring your social media to an agency.  What it does mean is taking counsel from external partners who have been there before.

Lessons From The Threadless Crew @ PSFK Salon

FireShot capture #007 - 'Threadless catalog of tees classic t-shirts_ Unique, cool and funny tees_ Browsing graphic tees' - www_threadless_com_catalog_style,tees_group,classicA brief recap of the lessons imparted by the awesome crew from Threadless at yesterday's PSFK Salon in Chicago.  It's all so simple, yet so evasive to many businesses.

I was originally planning on commenting on each lesson, but they are so self-explanatory.

Lesson 1:  We do it with friends.

Lesson 2: Bring the fun. Fun = fearless.  And fearless = exploration.

Lesson 3: Honesty buys you goodwill.

Lesson 4: Act like a human, because you are.

[I tend not to wear T-shirts with images/logos/words, but if I did this would so be it].

The BeanCast

6a00d8341c54ec53ef0115723b4970970b-200wi Last night I was fortunate enough to make my second appearance on The BeanCast - one of the most entertaining marketing podcasts around.

In addition to the great host, Bob Knorpp, my fellow guests included Ben Malbon (BBH NY), Carri Bugbee (Big Deal PR) and Rupal Parekh (AdAge).

It was a spirited discussion, covering everything from Jet Blue to austerity, marketing to Muslims and the efficacy of email.  The show notes can be found here: Episode 115 of The BeanCast Marketing Podcast

You can listen to Episode 115 or go to iTunes to subscribe to the BeanCast podcast.

Bravo to Bob for the effort he puts against this week in and week out - truly impressive.

Old Spice, Chalkbot and the Hidden Value of the Echo Chamber

Just a few days ago conventional wisdom was something along the lines of, if you haven't heard of Old Spice's Twitter/YouTube thing or Nike/Livestrong Chalkbot, you must be living under a rock

But what's emerging - mostly anecdotally to be fair - are stories of blank stares at the mention of either of these ... even amongst professional marketers.  Both projects have played well within the digital echo chamber, but perhaps haven't permeated the marketing mainstream (let alone the mainstream mainstream).

And that emerging realization has added an interesting wrinkle to the conversation about these two campaigns ... if a viral video plays in a forest and no men 18-34 are around, does it make a noise?

Thinking about it, I still believe there are four points of value in both these efforts, even if they never make it beyond the echo: 

  1. The success of these - success defined in a number of ways, including brand lift, sales, etc. - arms marketing communications agencies with a case study for how to do it right.  The only downside is that some agencies will inevitably misappropriate it, promising I can do for you what W+K did for Old Spice!
  2. Marketers on the client side - those who have "social" or "digital" in their title or are fighting to give digital more share of spend - will have something to point to when confronting skeptical executives.
  3. The Old Spice example in particular shows that traditional ad shops are not as incompetent in social as some of the social media elite would have you believe.  In fact they can be pretty damn clever.  This is a good thing for the entire industry.
  4. Both programs are creative, delightful, well-executed.  They force the entire marketing ecosystem  to step up its game.

There are probably more, so feel free to add via a comment.

Storytelling With a Music Business Vet (Dan Beck)

I've known Dan Beck since 2002.  By my calculations Dan has worked and lived in the upper echelons of the music business for four decades.  He recently started one of the most entertaining blogs around, called Music Bizz Fizz - a collection of nearly unbelievable stories about his run-ins with some of music's greatest legends.

Dan-Beck-Elisa-Perry-Joe- Dan is a born storyteller.  Since I've known him he's dazzled me with personal [and mostly, touching] stories about Ozzie(Osbourne), Michael (Jackson), Cyndi (Lauper), Richard (Branson) and others.

I asked him if he'd answer a few questions on storytelling, which seems to be on the tip of every marketer's tongue these days.  Here's what he had to say.

I'm almost certain he'd answer more questions if you leave them as a comment. Go for it ... this guy has been there, done that.

Ian Sohn:  'Storytelling' is a red hot topic these days in marketing circles.  I hear brand managers and agency types talk all the time about how brands need to mine interesting stories from inside the organization, and then bring them to life for external audiences.  Why do you suppose there's such a deliberate emphasis on storytelling these days - is there something happening culturally right now that makes it more important than a few years ago? 

Dan Beck:  We are so connected today and so in touch.  I believe that this re-awakening to storytelling is the realization that storytelling is a way to texture and validate an idea or more warmly position a relationship.  All of our advancements in 24/7 communication are two dimensional and storytelling is a humanistic tool to add depth, history, and perspective. 

IS: Your blog,, is a collection of great stories from your four decades in the music business.  Why did you now choose to start sharing those memories publicly? 

DB: I started my career as a writer and my passion was to be a lyricist/songwriter.  As an editor for a music trade magazine in Nashville , I was writing stories back in the ‘70’s, about the storytellers in country music; people like Tom T. Hall and Charlie Daniels.  Then, as a marketing execuRichard-Sanders-Steven-Tyltive, I was given an enormous gift to work with so many extraordinarily talented recording artists in country, rock, pop, and soul, over the years that were so fascinating to me.  I feel a certain obligation to share those experiences that were given to me, from working with Pearl Jam and Michael Jackson to the many  artists who never made it.  I know 50 other people who have better stories than mine, but their not telling them!  It has always been an extremely difficult business for creative people to survive.  I believe there are lessons in their experiences, in their courage, and in the hallucination of chasing fame and celebrity with ones talents.  The breakthroughs, the mistakes, even the naïve perspective we might have had back then were all a part of trying to figure out how to succeed.  Maybe there is something in that a new mind can advance.  Maybe I have never figured some of these things out, but if I share them, maybe someone else can gain something from these extraordinary experiences.     

IS: What makes a good storyteller?  Is it the story or the teller?  If both, what elements are critical for each? 

DB: I think the story has to be relatable.  People have to be able to apply it in some way to their own life.  I think there has to be a good conclusion… or at least a conclusion that makes you think or ponder it.  The best storytellers love the story they are telling.  I grew up listening to storytellers and what I remember most was their joy in remembering and telling their stories.   

IS: How much does accuracy matter in storytelling?  I noticed some of the comments you receive on your blog posts are people correcting little things (it was a 747 not a prop plane) to more significant ones (I was not on that trip when The Clash ...).  To me it makes very little difference since some of your tales are 30+ years old, and little inaccuracies don't fundamentally change the story (or perhaps because my wife tells me I tend to make up historical 'facts').  But think about a brand telling a story to its stakeholders ... can inaccuracies or creative liberties be tolerated? 

SADE DB: One of the best experiences I have had has been the responses to correct my version of history.  I wrote a story about being backstage at the first Clash concert in the US .  I was with 6-8 people from the record company.  I got half the people wrong who were there.  Within a couple of hours of posting it, I had heard from several people who were there 31 years ago and we pieced together the entire backstage scene.  It was stunning to realize the speed of connection today and also how warm that connection is between people who experienced something very special way back when.  Storytelling doesn’t make the storyteller the authority.  To me, it is just bringing information forward… accurate or inaccurate.  We share stories; which means we can share our evaluation of them.  Stories do not have to be believable to be good.  We have all heard tall tales that were a lot of fun to hear and they seem to all contain some incredible morsel of truth.  Some of the best storytellers are the biggest BSers.  We still enjoy them.  With that said, silver-tongued devils can lead a brand astray.  The story is just the illustration of a point.  You have to have a point that needs to be made or a value in your brand or product that needs to be illustrated.  Usually, if you’re BSing someone, you actually don’t have a point.  What is the agenda of the storyteller?  Whenever I write a story, I ask myself, “What is my agenda?”  I then try to make sure that agenda is going to pass muster with my readers.  If I put forward a personal accomplishment in a story, it better have some basis of believability.  People accept imperfection when it is delivered with honestly.  Imperfection when combined with an agenda is the breeding ground for dishonesty.          

IS: The requisite social media question ... do you think brands or people can tell stories in 140 character installments, or does a good story require a longer form? 

DB: The reality is that most stories need to be short.  I’m not sure I will ever learn that in my lifetime!  However, I’ve realized through writing the blog that there is always a battle between all the facts or issues of a story and getting it across succinctly.  I actually enjoy the editing process, because you really work toward simplifying and shortening the story.  Sometimes the best stories are simply a photo.  How often have you seen a long, enthusiastic thread of comments on Facebook that all started with a photo?  Every story is a child/parent to several other stories.  The best stories I’ve told get interrupted midstream by people who are so enthusiastic about adding their experience.  Which reminds me of a great story…  

Who "Owns" Strategy [Hint: No One] | Yogi Berra

Didn’t really have a plan when I wrote this post, which is evident upon review.  It meanders quite a bit, but I’m going with it in the interest of getting it out there.  Thoughts appreciated ...

I have a sign hanging on my bulletin board.  It’s a quote from the great Yogi BerraIf you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else.


To me it beautifully represents a fundamental idea behind the word strategy.  Yogi was a simple man of short stature and a workman mentality.  Sadly if he worked in the marketing communications world today he would be defined as a great doer who should stay out of the heady world of strategy. [before you get all nuts about Yogi’s sub-par record as a big-league manager, recognize that he’s one of the greatest catchers of all time, and that catcher is the most strategic position on the field]

From where I sit, strategy should not be proprietary to a specific group.  I know plenty of strategists in title [disclosure: including me], and we're no different from the rest of the world in terms of where we fall on spectrums like lame --> awesome; selfish --> selfless; dumb --> smart; blind --> aware.  This is not empty self-deprecation – some of us are kind, gracious, smart and culturally aware beings; others, not so much.

And what the heck does strategy even mean any more?  It’s been so convoluted and misappropriated by big picture thinkers [who Amber absurdly and hysterically points out tend to type with two fingers].  It’s debated endlessly.  It causes eyes to roll [you just don’t get it].  It’s the subject of intensive training courses.  It’s silly.

I’m not going to try explaining how this happened – I don’t claim to have enough historical knowledge to make that analysis [though if I ventured to guess, these things tend to be driven by fear].

So because of all this I’m proposing we kill strategy. Not the concept, but the word.  And not because of how badly it’s misused.  But because as long as we keep calling it strategy a certain subset will feel exclusive ownership of it, and I’m not real long on that.

So what do we do?  There are plenty of acceptable options ...

Just call it a plan to achieve a goal (per Ben Kunz).  Works for me.

You could also go the Jim Mitchem route and call it a box. Liberally [very, but I believe this is what he was tweeting about the other day] paraphrasing Jim, the box we continually try to think outside of is actually the strategy upon which solid creative is built.

I suppose we could make up a word.  I quite like the sound of Bokywoo [seems to be available].  The meaning of this new word will really be no different than how Yogi, Ben or Jim define strategy, but gets us over the semantical arguments [at least until we all have time to change our business cards].

Whatever we land on, let’s get over the discussion about who owns strategy.  Lofty concepts, fancy charts, clever turns of phrases be damned.  The person who owns strategy will be the one who can best articulate the finish line and a solid way of getting there.

So, do you think there should continue to be an assigned group of people who own strategy? 

Do you agree that the argument over the definition of the word has eclipsed the importance of actually developing a good plan?  If so, why?  What can we do to fix it?

Social Media Is Not A Moment In Time

I was thinking today how hit and miss social media can be if you base your approach on reaching people at a specific moment of time. 

It simply doesn't work to say, let's Tweet this on Thursday to coincide with our widget launch


What if President Obama stubs his toe on Thursday ... no one will care about your widget launch.  Less dramatically, what if your most influential brand fans happen to miss your Tweet [which in the fast-paced world of Twitter streams and Facebook updates is likely to happen]? 

If your approach doesn't account for these scenarios, you'll almost certainly miss chances to engage the people most likely to champion your message.

It comes back to the mantra we're all familiar with by this point ... social media is a conversation not a campaign.

Marketers interested in capturing a moment in time should buy the Super Bowl or Oscars.  And to be clear, I do think in some cases this is a smart approach.  But barring that kind of budget, you better think about a calendar of conversations over a period of time.

Though I suppose a few marketers in Cupertino would tell you that all it takes is a few years of speculation and a bunch of Apple loyalists to make a single press conference a massive social media happening.

I just wouldn't count on it for your widget launch.

We Must Do Away With "Social Media"

We've got to kill the term social media as a way of describing what we do.  

Picture 1

You suffer from serious lack of situational awareness if you haven't noticed the eye-rolling at the mere mention of the phrase.

How dare you Ian??

Really?  Watch the videos and visit the websites.  I'm not making this up.  This is happening.  It's funny, right?  Hopefully it makes you a bit uncomfortable [it did for me]. 

I know I'm not the first to raise this concern.  And I sense the drumbeat getting stronger.  

I realize it's been widely socialized, and thus won't go awayovernight.  But I'm encouraged that some other really annoying terms that were once popular are rarely used these days [e.g. "dandy" and "slacks"].

Rather than crowd-sourcing a new catch-all and beating it into the ground, I propose we develop our own lexicons ... our own way of describing the discipline.  And that might involve a more nuanced approach than a convenient phrase like social media.

Hi, I'm Ian Sohn.  I'm a communications specialist, counseling brands on how digital conversations in online communities drive business results.

Not quite there, but better.

ROI is a #, not an Essay

This will be quick.  Was on a solid panel the other day with Amber Naslund discussing measurement in social media. 

Amber said something so obvious, yet so important for every social media marketer to hear.  Paraphrasing ...

Anyone who's read a business book or gone to college should know ROI is a number derived from a simple mathematical formula. 

Nailed it.  Her point [or my take on her point] is very simple:  If you want to be taken seriously by your management, your clients or your colleagues, understand what ROI actually is and figure out how to calculate it. 

No one wants the round-about, long-form, chock-full-of-caveats explanation of ROI.  They just want the #.  And if you can't measure return for something in particular, then just say so.

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Branded Entertaiment Innovation?

This is a deck I created in September of 2003, back in my entrepreneurial days.

Get past the horrific slides (a .PPT ninja I'm not).

Focus on the basic premise ... pretty close to what specialized branded entertainment agencies are pitching today (6 years later).

Since there's nothing I can do with this deck now, I figured I would share it for the benefit of any brand managers interested in getting into the branded entertainment game ... for one very specific reason:

When your big (and possibly expensive) agency pitches you on their big idea, show them this terrible ugly deck, created by one young guy in his NYC apartment nearly 6 years ago.

Is their big idea significantly more innovative than what's in here, or are they selling you the same pre-packaged programs that have been around forever?

And if their version of innovation is tossing around the term "webisode," tell them about all the awards BMW and Fallon won for that idea in 2002.

I'm not saying I ever had, or currently have the answers.  Just sharing ...

Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Conference

Had the pleasure of attending the Word of Mouth Marketing Association conference [WOMMA-U] this past week in Miami.

The prevalent themes were very clear:

  • "Campaign" is a four-letter-word.  It's all about conversation.
  • Brands cannot succeed in social media or WOMM without committing to listening.
  • WOMM measurement is still a work-in-progress, but strides are being made.

If you're interested in reading my posts from the conference, check them out on the Ogilvy PR Digital Influence blog.  More recapping than analysis, but perhaps a nugget or two you might find interesting.

Also, here's a link to my #WOMMA related Tweets.  I tried my best - with a few exceptions - to make them more than mindless noise.

Would love your feedback on any of the blog posts, or your perspective if you also attended WOMMA-U.

P&G's Tide Loads of Hope T-Shirt

You'll recall a couple of weeks ago the folks at P&G conducted a social media experiment, while raising money for charity.  My recap here

My shirt arrived the other day, and David Armano asked people to submit photos in exchange for some link love.  P&G digital brand manager, Dave Knox, promised me the T-shirt would be of good quality - and it is.  Pretty cool design, and not the typical stiff/ill-fitting corporate apparel. 

Using the Photo Lolz Polaroid emulator ...


If Twitter Were My Only Source Of Information


Thinking this afternoon about the Twitter echo chamber, and personally, what I'm getting out of it. 

For one, it's entertaining.  Very entertaining.  It's also quite useful for connecting with people in my industry.  And without a doubt, I have stumbled on some great content [related to previous points].  Finally, it's allowed me to keep in touch with some people from my past who might have otherwise fallen off my radar.

But as a simple exercise I thought about this question:  What would I think of the world if Twitter were my only source of information.  Here are few off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts - presented as "Myth" and "Reality." 

Of course my views are totally informed by who I follow.  So I'm wondering what YOU would think of the world if Twitter were YOUR only source of information?  Leave a comment.  Or Tweet me @iansohn.

Myth 1:
Austin, TX is where all important global decisions are made. [Reality: For some it is, but for my money I'll take New York]

Myth 2:
Brands, like Skittles, that don't get their first foray into social media right are failures [Reality:  I was always more of an M&Ms guy, but applaud Skittles for their exploration into the unknown. Furthermore, I dare anyone to claim they've never taken a step backward to take two forward]

Myth 3: FaceBook is horribly designed and the evil empire looking to steal all our intellectual capital [Reality: FaceBook remains a massive force in social media, and is quite useful for what it is.  Furthermore, their TOCs are really no different than anyone else - are they?  Finally, it's not THAT horrible of a design.]

Myth 4: President Obama enjoys a 100% approval rating [Reality: I do love the man, but don't forget there are a whole bunch of people out there who voted McCain-Palin.  This NASCAR blindness (I can't use that term enough, thank you @awolk for coining it) will get the Dems in trouble come 2012.]

Myth 5: Shaquille O'Neal is a poet [Reality: Shaquille O'Neal is a poet; and is having an epic comeback season]