20th November 2007

Co-created Soft Drink…Join the "DEWmocracy"! (?)

Hmmm.  I’m not really a Mountain Dew guy, but why not, everyone seems to be experimenting with co-creation concepts, let’s see how it goes.  (updated: this is the link, but a error on the page tonight)

Help create the new Mountain Dew, complete with game oriented Back Story:

Help create the next Mountain Dew.

Starting November 2007, you are invited to join the movement to create the next Mountain Dew. Your journey will give you the power to select the flavor, color, name, logo, label, and tagline for the next Mountain Dew.

Your journey will take you through seven Chambers, where you will meet mythical characters, answer questions, and play games.

  • Upon entering each Chamber, you will be tasked to create a specific feature of the next Mountain Dew. For example, in the first Chamber, you will select your Drink’s flavor.
  • Creating the individual features of your Drink will be the first task of each Chamber. Once completed, you can wait for the next Chamber to open or can continue exploring the world of DEWmocracy by playing a series of games.
  • Your decisions in the first three Chambers will lead you to join 1 of the 3 Teams that will ultimately create the next Mountain Dew. After the 3 most popular combinations of features are determined, you’ll be aligned with the Team whose drink most closely matches your own.
  • Once aligned with a Team, you will be responsible for creating the logo, label, and ultimately the tag-line of the next Mountain Dew. Each Team will vote on which Drink candidate from those submitted by all Team members will be put forth for a national vote.
  • Points earned in the game get you higher visibility for your drink, increasing its chances of being selected as your Team’s candidate. Accruing the most points does not directly result in your drink being one of the 3 final selections.
  • In the final Chamber, your team will vote to determine the Drink candidate that you collectively would like to bring into the real world.

Ok, I’m not really sure this is all that good an idea, but I’ll bite for awhile. 

Note:  Some things they could have done to make this easier to blog about.


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18th November 2007

Influencer Marketing: An Oxymoron?

I recently found myself in a roomful of Brand marketers, Agencies and Boutique consultancies discussing the growing authority of influencers.  As social media has amped and marketing eyes a mixshift of investments to new media and Word of Mouth, the importance and debate around the role of Influencers has exploded. 

Just last week, Ad Age reported on research by PQ media that Word of Mouth Marketing crossed $1B in 2006…up from $76M 5 years earlier, in route to $3.7B by 2011. 

…in 2006, according to an independent research report on the field that will be unveiled during a session at the annual Word Of Mouth Marketing Association conference in Las Vegas today. The analysis, believed to be first in-depth look at word of mouth, reports that spending on the emerging discipline has increased from $76 million in 2001 to $981 million in 2006 and is expected to grow to approximately $3.7 billion by 2011.

These influencer conversations generally fall into a couple of buckets:

  • Data and examples designed to convince you that Influencers matter
  • How to find and "activate" them in the brand conversation
  • How to measure

I find myself invited to participate in a lot of these discussions as I have pretty strong views on the topic after 5 years of building one of the largest Influencer programs (www.microsoft.com/mvp).  Probably more important than the strong views, is the practical lessons learned from operationalizing a global program designed to find, thank and engage influencers both online and offline.  Like most things, the best way to learn about something is to go and personally engage in it.  I estimate that I’ve talked to over 3000 influencers of our brands from over 50 countries during the past few years. 

So, back to the conversation at the conference…As we sat in the room having the discussion, several people used the term "Influencer Marketing."  Each time I heard it, I cringed.  Something about this phrase seemed wrong.  In the moment, I couldn’t articulate why this phrase dug so deep, but by my afternoon presentation I had to discuss this topic.  I like to keep the following core assumption in mind:  Influencers don’t do what they do in order to help you (the brand)…they do what they do to help other users.  Forgetting this core point is probably the fastest path to a failed influencer initiative.  The term "Influencer Marketing" to me feels like it is attempting to get a direct response from an influencer.  Find the right people, tell them about "A" and they will go tell everyone about "A."  In my experience, it just doesn’t work this way.  There are a few "influencers" with whom this works - but they rarely influence much or sustain over the long term - they may just be loud.  Perhaps my issue with this is that most marketing feels very one way.  If you really want to get influencers talking, it’s about a two way, trust based conversation. 

Wrong model (marketing dream):  I tell you about "A," you tell everyone you know about "A"

Right model:  I tell you about "A," you tell me about "A1, B and C."  I listen, I make some changes or I don’t make changes but I tell you why.  This creates outbound conversation - but it’s a by-product of a relationship, not a channel for push communications.

In truth there probably isn’t anything wrong with the term itself.  There are influencers and brands will invariably market to them - and that’s not evil.  What might be "evil" is thinking there is a shortcut here - forgetting that this really only works when social media is creating a conversation between a brand and the users…and remember, "listening is not just waiting for your turn to talk!"

And finally, the right model makes another strong point - that the conversation isn’t just between your influencers and the marketing department - it’s the influencers and your company - cross functions.


Popularity: 100% [?]

posted in Business Strategy, Influencers, MVP, Microsoft, Social Media, Voice of Customer, web 2.0 | 7 Comments

16th November 2007

A new look and feel for this blog…

If you’re new to this blog…welcome, likely the only thing new you see is this post. If you’ve been with me for awhile, welcome to the “new look” Community Group Therapy. If you blog, you may be like me and just get visually tired of the same look and feel after awhile. Not to mention that I frankly didn’t give it a lot of thought the first time around. I still have a fair amount of work to clean up some of my older content and get things appropriately categorized.

For those interested, I thought it might be worth explaining a little of what changed. Here goes:

  • New header image: Hopefully it captures the spirit of conversation. If you’re looking for images, I purchased the rights to this one on istockphoto.
  • Navigation bar: Added Upcoming Events. While most of my event activity I now track in Facebook, I wanted a place to start to capture where I’ve been and where I’m going. There’s nothing better than meeting people at events that I follow or who have followed me. I had more than one occasion at WOMMA this week where I “met” people and I literally could not remember if I knew them (had met them face to face before) or if I just know them “digitally.” It was both awkward and great to see this blurring.
  • Search…search :)
  • Find me at: I was looking for a way to bring together the disparate places I “live.” Wink seemed a good choice and I like the public profile I can manage at Wink. The widget seemed pretty flexible - check it out and tell me what you think.
  • Recent posts: Just for navigation alternatives - it’s particularly useful for me when I write as I can quickly find things I’ve been referencing lately.
  • Subscribe: I added A LOT of options
  • Categories: I’ve done a poor job in my history of writing here of consistently using categories, but I like this view on other blogs I read so I’ve committed myself to improve.
  • What others are reading: Another item I like from blogs I read - quickly see what is getting traffic right now! Unfortunately, since I moved my blog, my historical click data didn’t come with so this won’t reflect all time most read for now and will take a little time to be all that interesting.
  • Delicious cloud: I really liked this. As a fan of tag drafting, I wanted to bring back a cloud to my site of everything I’m tagging in delicious. You can of course just subscribe to my tags in delicious if you really want to read what I read, but hopefully this is another way to share what I’ve found most interesting on the web.
  • Share and Enjoy: I’ve added buttons at the end of every post to share via digg, reddit, delicious, stumbleupon, technorati and Facebook - as well as an option to just email it to others. As a fan of word of mouth, I wanted to make it easy to share.

Finally, a shout out for all the help on this to Heidi. I met Heidi through a friend in Facebook that I follow (thanks to you too Connie). Heidi did all the heavy lifting behind the scenes to move to a new host as well as re-design and migrate content. If you’re looking for similar help, I’d certainly endorse! (hey, that’s Word of Mouth!)


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7th November 2007

Where to begin - the idea of Social Ads is a really interesting by Facebook.  I guess Zuckerberg is as big a fan (or bigger) than me of the notion of Word of Mouth as the power tool in driving influence in the marketplace.  It’s been no big secret something significant was in the works to attempt to monetize the network effect and relationships across Facebook.  From a business, social and personal standpoint this is going to be really fascinating to watch.  Will it work?  I think it will, but there is a lot here to consider - here are some random thoughts about this as first impressions:

  • The Social Graph - without re-debating the concept, what is interesting to me about the social graph is researching the meta-data associated with the relationships between people in a network.  Add to that, mapping out a persona model in the network to identify conversation starters, stoppers, branchers, trolls, accelerators, inactives, etc.  Instantiating social ads on top of the network will be a very interesting way to study this meta-data and further develop the concept of social network personas.  From a business and academic standpoint this would greatly enlighten the approach to defining and executing on influencer programs.
  • Influencer effect - If you’ve followed this blog at all, you know I’m a strong advocate of the importance of influencer participation in innovation and brand advocacy.  Next week, I’ll be talking more about this at the WOMMA Summit in Vegas and co-chairing a WOMMA council focused on Influencers.  I’m a strong believer that real influencers are peer users, vs the spokesperson model.  Celebrities and athletes can drive brand awareness, but they don’t necessarily lead to brand purchase.  You see this transformation already taking place in the media.  Apple’s recent man on the street advertising is a great example of this.  And perhaps the mother of big endorsement deal makers, Nike, recently announced changes focused on adding more "authentic" influencers.
  • Privacy - This is the potential deal breaker here.  How much are people willing to share about buying behaviors for use as "food" for social ads.  Do I really want people to know what I’m buying.  Some things I research a lot before I buy and I would feel good about sharing the decision - other things I don’t and wouldn’t want to be seen endorsing.  Take the Travelocity example in the announcement.  Get real, I’m not endorsing Travelocity when I book a trip - I shop the big 3 online services and buy the cheapest.  Worse yet, maybe I don’t want everyone in my network to know I’m traveling!  Hey everyone, my house is empty!!  This will be great someday when I have teenagers and all their friends figure out when I’m out of town - party time!
  • Friend taxonomy - I and it relates heavily to the issue of privacy.  The fact that today all Facebook friends in my network are treated equally by the network is a usability issue I want solved.  The arrival of social ads makes resolving this even more important to me as a user.  I’m less likely to approve of using my data until I have greater control of my network. 
  • Influencer, stalker, voyeur - I couldn’t help but having this thought in a world where so much data is moving around about not just my network, but my patterns and behaviors.  Is this about the influencer effect or enabling digital stalking / voyeurism.  It just felt a little dirty.  That said, I have to admit I am interested in what my network is buying!!  I do want to know and I feel very certain that knowing what my network is buying will drive my buying patters.  Ack - personal conflict - let’s see how this plays out.
  • Personal Brand - As a blogger, tweeter, social bookmarker, facebook-er, linkedin-er user, etc, etc, etc…I can’t help but be a little focused on thinking about managing my personal brand online.  I’m not sure I want to dilute (or disrupt) my personal brand with advertising in this way or create implied affiliations with a brand.  This inherently feels like risk vs reward.

Ok, so there’s a first take.  Now I need to go read what others are saying.


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