MaryLee Sachs' Collective Conversation Blog » participation Sat, 08 Jan 2011 16:58:40 +0000 en hourly 1 Trending into 2011 – Part 2 Fri, 03 Dec 2010 15:23:04 +0000 MaryLee Sachs

The rise of influencers from all quarters continued in 2010 and will only become stronger in 2011.  As Guy Kawasaki says, rather than “sucking up” these days, it’s best to “suck across” and even “suck down”.

Influencers of all types will provide increasingly important routes to: connect meaningfully with niche and broader audiences; endorse and advocate for brands; participate with brands; and spread the word both on- and off-line.  However, some influencers will continue to act as brand “terrorists”, thwarting brand progression and creating barriers to brand acceptance.

In 2011, marketers will need to more fully understand the influence wielded by both their brand fans and foes, and in order to do so, they will need to get a better grasp of the movement of word-of-mouth and the relative level of influence individuals and groups have on others.  As a result, there will be a greater need to subscribe to services that can map and analyze the movement of influence with a brand and/or category.

Additionally, new services and approaches for identifying and harnessing these influencers are likely to spring up from all quarters, but beware!  The human “listening” element will be absolutely key to understanding nuances and truly making the most of influencer marketing.

Guy also was quoted in the November issue of Fast Company: “The nobodies are the new somebodies” – from YouTube Stars to chief social media officers.  But it’s important to understand the level of influence they hold and with which audience, “one click at a time”.

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The Perfect Storm for PR? Thu, 28 Oct 2010 18:48:17 +0000 MaryLee Sachs

Closing the perfect storm of conferences including the ANA, the PRSA international conference and the Council for Public Relations Firms Critical Issues Forum, I’m wondering about the health of my profession.  P&G global marketing and brand building officer Marc Pritchard talked about purpose-inspired brand building at both the ANA conference and Critical Issues Forum, which became a theme of the former and elaborated on in the latter as he extolled the power of public relations.  But he also said that PR has to step up and make it clear what PR can do, and in order to do so, we need to get brand-building expertise, stake our claim in digital, and create and be adept at delivering big ideas. 

In a Socratic debate panel at the Critical Issues Forum, Heineken USA CMO Christian McMahan claimed that he was “shocked that the ATL agencies are coming to me to do the community management online, and not the PR firms.”  IKEA USA CMO Leontyne Green said that PR firms are passive when we need to be the experts, coming to the table prepared to bring the big idea.  And Monster Worldwide CMO Ted Gilvar claimed that PR hasn’t done a good enough job at connecting what we do to ROI. 

We’re clearly missing a trick here.  If this is PR’s time, as Pritchard reflected, why aren’t we stepping up?

Long ago, PR executives fought for a seat at the top table, and reporting directly to the CEO remains a coveted position.  I know that PR, together with HR, finance and operations, can play a broader role than contributing to the marketing mix.  And I realize that it’s akin to blasphemy to many PR folks to suggest that PR should report to marketing.  But there’s a middle ground to be found where integration and collaboration are key to the success of a brand, the company and indeed the health of the overall business.  And I worry that PR practitioners may be getting so wrapped up in historical theory and turf protection that they are losing sight of the practicality currently required to grow business.

Most if not all of the ANA presentations from CMOs featured PR-inspired activations and amplification by earned media and word-of-mouth.  But the presence of PR folks there was scarce.  Are we surrendering our claim on what is becoming the most important aspect of marketing to other disciplines?  Digital agencies are hiring the odd PR expert to build legs around their campaigns, and likewise advertising agencies.  Ad agencies are entering PR campaigns at Cannes – and winning.

So, are we just going to roll over like lapdogs and let “our” time pass us by?  Or are we going to rise to the occasion and bask in the glory?

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Good Old-Fashioned Male Dominance Mon, 08 Feb 2010 14:39:00 +0000 MaryLee Sachs

There was a nasty rumor going around that this year’s Super Bowl ads would be far more targeted to men than last year’s rise of female-targeted commercials.  You can’t get much more macho than kicking off the first ad break with Rogaine, Callaway, Bud Light and Nike Basketball.  Well, maybe “macho” is the wrong word – more “new man”. 

It was all there last night:  man cave humor, gorgeous girls, cheesy drama, adultery (E*Trade’s Girlfriend), and, for the more tender chap, Dove’s Manthem.  Even the animals were more suitable to a male audience – less of the cuddly variety that appeal so well to women, and more robust animals featured by Bridgestone in its Whale of a Tale, and in Coke’s Sleepwalker.  The only cutesy animal was Monster’s Fiddling Beaver, and he got the girl in the end.  And let’s not forget the parade of the tighty-whities featured by both Career Builder’s Casual Fridays and Dockers’ Men Without Pants with a call to action that it’s “Time to wear the pants”. 

Why is that women were virtually ignored this year… when women have more purchasing power than ever before?  Did advertisers think women would take a bye on this year’s Super Bowl (perhaps working over the weekend)?  Or have marketers realized that it takes more than the traditional push-marketing approach to appeal to the feminine senses?  Women are much more “surround sound”  – they want to hear about brands and products from their friends, they want to have conversations about them, to touch and feel them, try and sample them, and generally engage more.  That can still be sparked by a Super Bowl ad, but needs to be followed up by more participative marketing engagement.

I will look forward to next year when perhaps we’ll see more of a mix.  For the time being, I’ll console myself with my favorite ads of the evening – Doritos’ Underdog - because the dog wins over man, and I love dogs!…and the short Late Night ad featuring David Letterman, Oprah and Jay Leno all sitting together on a couch.  You won’t find that one featured by Advertising Age, but all of the others are there.

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CMOs must drive greater collaboration internally for their brands Mon, 16 Nov 2009 16:56:27 +0000 MaryLee Sachs

We’ve long recognized the shift of control from the brand to the consumer or customer, who is more empowered than ever to comment, engage and be heard, both positively and negatively.  To further understand how this movement is affecting CMOs, we (Hill & Knowlton) worked with Pete Krainik, founder & CEO of the CMO Club, to field a survey  in September/October among members, and we discussed the findings late last week with a panel of leading marketers at the bi-annual CMO Club summit in San Francisco.  We’re releasing the results today.

One of the most surprising findings was the lack of social media policies within companies.  Only 3 out of 10 (29%) of CMOs reported having a social media policy that is widely adhered to within their company, with a further 31% currently developing a policy.  And implementing these policies is proving to be a challenge, with just over a quarter (26%) of CMOs stating that they have a policy but compliance is an issue within their organizations.  Given the perceived level of risk in this space by marketers, with the inherent lack of control in social media channels, I’m particularly surprised that more brands don’t have clearly stated and enforced guidelines for outreach to bloggers and non-traditional media outlets – a social technologies rule-book.  We’ve long had one at H&K, which continues to be updated and which I’m happy to share.

Even with the lack of policy in place for employees, two-thirds (66%) of CMOs who responded encourage open discussion about their brands, with only one third (34%) still reticent to do so – even though today’s consumers and customers don’t need an invitation. 

Another surprising finding, though, was the proportion of resources/budget being spent on experimentation with social media.  More than 4 out of 5 (84%) of CMOs allocate less than 10% of their budgets on experimenting through social media and non-traditional channels, with more than half (55%) allocating just 5%.  According to the survey, 7 out of 10 CMOs say they have medium or high levels of comfort in dealing with non-traditional media, yet few are adopting these strategies for their own brands, missing out on learning from and contributing to the conversations that are taking place online.  That said, given what our panelists said as the survey results were revealed, it would appear that CMOs are spending a disproportionate amount of time (certainly more than 10%) in watching this space.

Finally, it’s clear that more advanced brands realize that they need to listen and engage a variety of audiences including customers, employees, local communities, NGOs and the investor community among others, as the growing participation of these audiences in the dialogue influences reputation and ultimately brand strength.  Generally CMOs have adopted a strong connection internally with their HR community and employees, but beyond this internal audience, the interaction with other key audiences is patchy.  Nearly half of CMOs surveyed (48%) said they have no interaction with the department responsible for NGOs.  More than one third (38%) do not liaise with their investor relations department, and just over one fifth (22%) work with those departments working with financial analysts.  And yet, external AND internal communications seem to be increasingly important to be integrated and leveraged. 

From a tracking perspective, not surprisingly, the majority of CMOs (95%) track the attitudes or opinions of their customers or consumers, falling to 7 out of 10 (69%) among potential customers.  Other non-revenue generating audiences take a clear second priority – 4 out of 5 CMOs (84%) do not gauge the opinions of NGOs; 59% to not survey the general public; and just less than one third (32%) do not gauge sentiment among their employees.

What does this all mean?  Marketing used to be a linear process, with a discussion flowing from the CMO to the target audience.  In today’s digital age, communication has evolved into a new model that requires active listening and engaging in numerous conversations.  And we heard that CMOs are finding the additions to the job more challenging and the need to lead beyond the marketing department is increasingly critical for their success.  Thanks to my panelists last week:  Chris Moloney, CMO and Executive Director of Customer Intelligence, Scottrade; Erin Hintz, VP Worldwide Consumer Marketing, Symantec Corporation; and Kent Huffman, CMO, BearCom Wireless.

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The next 6 months?… Mon, 17 Aug 2009 22:26:03 +0000 MaryLee Sachs

AdAge reported last week that the advertising industry won’t recover in the second half of the year.  It’s not shocking news given the recent article in The New York Times reporting that while consumers spent more in June, they did so because prices of food and energy were rising, and not because they were ready to spend freely again.  Personal incomes continued to sag as employers continued to cut wages and reduce working hours.  And the personal saving rate, which had been rising, dropped sharply from a month earlier as one-time transfer payments from the government stopped arriving in people’s bank accounts.

I personally don’t think the business will be considerably better – or worse for that matter – in the second half of the year.  It’s likely to be fairly flat, and all indications are that retail will remain in the doldrums through the back-to-school season and the holidays.

What does that mean for the agency business?  There probably won’t be a significant up-tick in agency spend in Q3-4 since consumer spending won’t be fuelling investment.  That said, hope still exists for 2010, and some CMOs will understand that they need to start planning (and spending) now in order to leverage change when it happens.  And they will continue to look for new avenues and means with which to connect with their core consumers most cost-effectively.  This puts digital, earned media opportunities, and niche-targeted initiatives at the forefront of some marketers’ thinking. While we’ve heard a lot of talk about “switch spending”, we haven’t see much action yet, but I believe that will change in the coming months because even if the economy does begin to turn around, continued pressure on budgets will encourage marketers to explore alternative routes.  Additionally, some consumer values and buying habits may have changed irrevocably, so it will become increasingly important to foster brand relationships – ideally loyalty and advocacy – and this is more difficult to achieve through traditional TV push marketing.

In Jon Fine’s Media Centric column in last week’s Business Week, he commented on the marketing discipline’s shift away from media (he’s talking paid media) and an increased attraction to “below-the-line” channels.  Why not?!  “Below-the-line” channels – some of which are still media-based by the way (it’s just not paid media) can provide a far greater opportunity to really connect and “participate” with the consumer in a way that no mainstream advertising route can.

Fine also points out that “experimenting decouples the success of the marketer from the success of the media they once relied on more exclusively.”  I don’t see a problem with that – we can’t be held to a traditional model when our environment has completely changed.  Besides, it’s healthy to change and to be challenged.  After all, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result!

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PR Blackout? Sun, 02 Aug 2009 14:04:36 +0000 MaryLee Sachs

Will it really happen in a week’s time?  It’s scheduled for August 10-16, but there has been little written about the call for a PR Blackout since the middle of July when MomDot issued the challenge to mom bloggers across America, which also seems to be echoed by certain mummy bloggers in Great Britain.

The issue? Apparently mom bloggers have gotten a bit carried away with the allure of give-aways, reviews and blog trips.  The challenge?  Get back to basics and “talk about your kids, your marriage, your college, your hopes, your dreams, your house and whatever you can come up with for one week”.

BlogHer, the leading participatory news, entertainment and information network for women online, seems to be taking a more practical and balanced view in “The good, the bad, and the completely puzzling”.

Is this about having a go at PR folks who don’t approach the blogosphere professionally and intelligently?  They are probably the same PR people who don’t earn the trust of traditional journalists either, and whose PR prose ends up in the trash bin countless times.  It’s no different – just a group of PR hacks who don’t take the time to learn about the people doing the writing, the media channel they write for, and the interests of their readers.

Or is this about a group of bloggers who got carried away with the freebies and/or pay-for-play that the PR profession can offer the blogosphere?

When I heard Jory Des Jardins, co-founder and president of strategic alliances for BlogHer, speak at the CMO Club’s May summit, I was encouraged to hear how BlogHer has put some structure around how bloggers can work more effectively with brands and their partners.  There are ethics and guidelines; there is transparency; and there is a a publishing network of more than 2,500 qualified, contextually targeted blog affiliates.

BlogHer just completed its 5th annual conference last weekend.  Nearly 1,500 women bloggers descended on Chicago to attend meet-ups, sponsored sessions, events, and more.  One of my colleagues who attended suggested that there is a clear break between a small group of top bloggers, “purists”, who are creating guidelines and dealing with sponsors in a very professional manner, and a middle group that is willing to cross lines for sponsorship or some free products.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the Blackout and how the community may morph over the coming months.  Monetization will undoubtedly continue to be a contentious issue, as well as the Federal Trade Commission’s targeting of parenting bloggers’ informal product endorsements.

With an active US female Internet population hovering around 42 million – 43 percent of whom visiting blogs for advice or recommendations, there’s a lot at play.

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Digi consumers have stronger relationships with brands…no duh! Wed, 22 Jul 2009 22:48:08 +0000 MaryLee Sachs

Those clever folks at our WPP sister company Millward Brown conducted an additional study on WPP’s BrandZ global equity database to specifically examine “digital” consumers, i.e. those who have bought from or searched for information about an individual category online.  Findings show that, on average, digital consumers have a 15 percent stronger relationship with brands than non-digital consumers.

The strongest brand relationships were found with airline brands where digital consumers’ brand relationships were nearly twice as strong (93%) as those of their offline counterparts.  That makes complete sense.  As a frequent traveler myself, I often check my frequent flyer mileage, schedules and bookings online, and I have my favorite websites (Virgin Atlantic) and Tweeters (JetBlue).

Other key categories where digital consumers had stronger relationships than non-digi folks were, not surprisingly, IT hardware and software (48% stronger), credit cards (33% stronger) and fragrances (29% stronger).  Talk about the importance of image!

There seems to be no hard-fast rule about complexity or simplicity of purchase either.  Cars, a relatively complex purchase, have stronger relationships with digi consumers (17% stronger), but body care – a much easier and quicker purchase I would proffer – has an even stronger pull (at 22% stronger).

And the digital advantage was found throughout the world, with correlations to internet penetration (Japan and Taiwan scoring the highest average digital relationships differences).

Why then, do so many leading brands not demonstrate a truly well-rounded digital engagement with consumers and other important influencers?  This is not just about Web design and development, banner ads, widgets or iPhone apps, but a more thorough social participation in the online environment.

Interestingly, even Millward Brown is going more digital.  I couldn’t find a Face Book page, but I’m now following them on Twitter and just downloaded their iPhone app.  It’s kinda cool too – a quick reference to the strength of brands by category, region, top risers and newcomers (available at the app store; look for BrandZ 100).

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