Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Is anybody listening?

Three years ago while speaking on an Ad:Tech panel, I coined the term wikibranding to convey an observation that brands are in fact wikis, entities that are increasingly defined by the crowd and less so by the manufacturer.

Given the disruptive forces in social media that have taken hold since then – YouTube and Facebook weren't yet the mass forces they are today, and Twitter hadn't yet tweeted – I believe this to be even more true today.

So the question is not whether customers are talking, it's whether marketers are listening.  What are marketers doing with the flood of peer-to-peer likes and dislikes that travel around the world at light speed?

I've grown tired of traditional dashboards.  They provide heat but little light.  They report but don't inspire ideas.  That's because most analytics are a dizzying blur of data that are disconnected from the building blocks of brand equity; disconnected from product innovation; disconnected from the CEO's line-of-sight on what's actually happening in the marketplace.

Infographics is a start.  Sure to get more senior management attention on what the data are saying.

The chatter about the emerging role of Chief Listening Officers is another step, but one that will add value only if the CLO is given a mandate to make things happen.  (Shouldn't the CMO be the CLO?)

Another way is to begin aligning analytics with the key principles of how brands build equity and value. (A project that's already underway at BD'M.)

Whatever the solution turns out to be, it's sure to require an equal balance of lateral thinking to find insights within disparate data points, as well as patience to make sure we don't react to every opinion that passes as fact on the Internet.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The economic value of crisis management.

Interbrand just released its annual ranking of the Top 100 most valuable global brands.  The usual suspects made the Top 10 – e.g., Coke, IBM, McDonalds, GE, Microsoft and Disney.

This year, while looking at how Toyota and BP fared, the study made me think about the value of crisis management.  Both brands faced a major crisis of consumer confidence.  Toyota suffered through problems with sudden acceleration and customer fatalities, made even worse by the company's slow and confused response.  BP created an epic environmental disaster, and then had its CEO make matters worse by having us feel as though we were inconveniencing his summer holidays.

So how did each do in this year's ranking? Toyota dropped from the Top 10 to the #11 position, while BP dropped off the list all together.

Why did Toyota's brand value hold up better than that of BP?  Certainly years spent building brand equity and consumer trust worked in Toyota's favor.   And despite Toyota's halting initial response, it did something smart by deciding to offer its advanced STAR safety system as a standard no-cost feature on all models.  This showed great insight because, even though Toyota's problem was one of sudden acceleration, the emotional issue in play was a feeling of being vulnerable and unsafe.

And BP?  It ran ads.

If ever there was a case to be made why we need to consistently invest in brand equity – through a mix of product, service and advertising – this is it; particularly when we see how quickly a brand's economic value can evaporate.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Announcing the echo chamber app.

We live in a world where we can access the entire knowledge base of the human race within two clicks.  Why, then, do we increasingly find ourselves in an echo chamber?

The echo chamber happens when we tune in only to the cable news channels or blogs that reinforce our political points of views; when we use Twitter to hear ourselves speak but not to listen; when we only absorb topics within our comfort zone of daily water cooler chatter.  It's human nature to hunker down during a storm, and the interweb is a virtual tsunami of information.

Today, Christopher Taylor and I riffed a solution:  An app that monitors our daily intake of media, web searches, entertainment, appointments, tweets, social network interaction, etc. (which largely exist on our computer or smartphone) and provides a daily infographic illustrating whether or not we made it out of the chamber.
(My DV% to avoid the Echo Chamber.)
The app would require us to establish desired pre-sets – similar to the % Daily Value nutrition labels – that seek a balance between topics and people we know versus time spent exploring new subjects and voices.

Maybe the app could ping us at regular intervals during the day to let us know if we need to increase our intake of the new and unfamiliar.

Chris added that we could make this into a game.  Everyone loves badges, after all.  But unlike Foursquare, where you become a mayor by visiting the same place over and over (geo-echochamberism), we'd give out badges for visiting a place for the first time.

By the way, I just met Mr Taylor today for about 30 minutes, so I think I hit my DV% of New Opinions.

Now where's my badge?