AMA Panel shines spotlight on Social Media

posted by Brendan Hodgson

This past Thursday, I sat on a panel titled: “The next Viral Marketing Revolution – when, what, how, who?” It was the latest in a regular series of events run by the Toronto Chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA).

Essentially, it was 5 guys (disclaimer: my understanding is that significant effort went in to find a female participant) having a chat around a table surrounded by about 50 or so attendees from various marketing and communications disciplines – agency and client-side – listening in.

Ambiguous titles aside, the conversation focused largely on how social media, blogs, and new trends in digital technology were changing the communications and marketing landscape.

It was both entertaining, and highly interactive.

David Crow, one of Toronto’s more prolific technology bloggers and instigator of Barcamp Toronto, had lots to say from the perspective of a blogger who has been repeatedly targeted by marketers but who also seems to get the marketing perspective as well – David’s primary message: make products that don’t suck and we won’t write bad things about them. I think sometimes we forget that. 

Providing the media perspective was Shane Schick, editor of, who courageously admitted to the fact that his entire industry is facing tumultuous times given the rise of non-traditional media. Although not a blogger himself, Shane provided some good insights into the new media dynamic.

Representing the client side was T.J. Kanaris, Brand Manager at Wrigley Canada. Having moved his brand aggressively into the online space, T.J provided some excellent perspectives on what’s required to justify the inclusion of ”untested” and often difficult-to-measure digital media strategies into the marketing mix. Based on his experience, it seems as much the willingness of the company to embrace a level of risk, and the benefits that flow from taking those risks – be it a viral campaign, online promotion, online ad campaign or the use of social media – as it does more traditional market research. One of T.J’s key takeaway’s: don’t try to pretend you’re something your not and don’t try to build a community around “fake” blogs. If the product is good, community and conversation will happen organically.

Representing the digital media agency side was Jason Chesebrough, Creative Director at Dashboard, a Toronto-based interactive experience agency. Jason highlighted a few of the online engagements his company has undertaken with various brands, including Wrigley and Axe, which are very impressive indeed.

Fortunately, our collective ruminations were kept to an hour, which allowed for a number of questions from those attending… the most interesting in my view being, if you’re a company or brand, and you notice a groundswell of activity online around your brand (which is positive), how do you capitalize on that? My response: you don’t. Attempting to take what develops organically and commercialize it will most likely backfire. It’s why I believe Logitech didn’t do it after Bowiechick posted this and why Mentos did nothing after all these. Sometimes we have to realize there are things we just can’t manipulate.



Niall Cook

I’m intrigued as to why you say companies shouldn’t do anything about positive conversation. I agree about not exploiting or trying to manipulate those discussions, but I can see a number of things companies could do with complete transparency:

1. Help with funds (particularly if it’s a community)

2. Thank the participants personally by commenting (if it’s on a blog)

3. Link to those conversations on their corporate blog (assuming they have one)

4. Build relationships with them

Companies that engage with those who support them will earn a huge amount in goodwill, which could come in handy the next time they’re under the kosh.



Brendan Hodgson

Niall, I agree with your comments under certain circumstances. And I could’ve probably been clearer in my post. The question was more targeted around the notion of "can we try to take that groundswell, and attempt to commercialize it?" For example, should Logitech have tried to create a TV or Print Ad from Bowiechick. I don’t believe so, as it would likely have resulted in lost credibility and a potential backlash. But as you suggest, complimenting or thanking that audience is certainly recommended, as would be building relationships by seeking their input or feedback. Knowing where to draw the line, however, is, I believe, the main point, and is critically important in order to avoid being seen to usurp that goodwill for commercial purposes, rather than to support those champions in deriving even greater value from your product/service/brand.

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