Personality Not Included Interview with Rohit

March 31, 2008

I participated in Rohit Bhargava’s Personality Not Included interview series. I think Rohit is one of the most insightful commentators on this whole social computing space – so I jumped at the chance to participate.

My 5 questions for Rohit are below – to see the whole series – click on the image.

1. Why is it so hard for companies to have a “human” voice?

I think in part because it has become rare to do so and the legal ties to business have become so strong that many marketers have begun to write like lawyers … and are taught to do this in business school

2. What are the keys to success in (corporations) “connecting” with people?

Not sure that I can single just a few ways for companies to connect with customers because it does tend to vary, but the premise of the book is that personality is a key ingredient and this comes partially from the employees and partially from the story that describes a business.

3. Why do companies think that blogging is the bulk of what consumers do online?

I’m not sure that most companies think that. I would have to say that for many companies, they actually believe the opposite … that a relatively small number of people are blogging and they underestimate how influential this channel really is. Either way, I think the point is that a company may feel one way or another, but the only smart way to look at this is to actually view some research on usage or data about a particular site.

4. Who inside the company needs to be onboard?

Again, this tends to differ from company to company, but on a high level, it is obviously two parties … the people who need to implement and the bosses who need to approve. For both, I wrote Chapter 5 in the book to help individuals conquer the roadblocks to using personality, which are mostly based on fear.

5. How is this different from ‘Marketing”?

I am not sure that this is different from marketing at all. In fact, I would say the ideas of the book probably fit into the category of marketing or branding.


The Open Brand

March 20, 2008

Because I am friends with Resource Interactive, I got an advance copy of The Open Brand.

I have read a lot of books about marketing in the new world – but I think this book nails it. Kelly Mooney and Nita Rollins have written a well organized, quick, smart, strategic and accessible book.

Somehow it cuts through all the social media clutter and talks to the brand owner about how to be open in the new world. Good Stuff!

The Open Brand – Home


Why We Surf

March 19, 2008

Fascinating bit of reporting by Lee Gomes over at the WSJ:

Why We’re Powerless To Resist Grazing On Endless Web Data

He nails the answer to a question I have never really considered – but often been subject to – what is it about browsing the web that is so d*mn addicting.

“In other words, coming across what Dr. Biederman calls new and richly interpretable information triggers a chemical reaction that makes us feel good, which in turn causes us to seek out even more of it. The reverse is true as well: We want to avoid not getting those hits because, for one, we are so averse to boredom.

It is something we seem hard-wired to do, says Dr. Biederman. When you find new information, you get an opioid hit, and we are junkies for those. You might call us ‘infovores.'”

We’re programmed for scarcity of information – and when there is no limit to how much information we can get – except hours in the day and work and families – well you know the rest.


Purists vs. Corporatists: Round 2

March 13, 2008

Shel Israel and Josh Bernhoff are facing off on this important question this morning over on Shel’s blog – Global Neighborhoods:

Josh Bernhoff and the purists

I think this is an interesting and important discussion. I guess I find myself in the Purist camp. But I don’t like that label because it implies dogmatic adherence to principle regardless of outcome.

Perhaps a better label would be conversationalists. Because the gist of the argument is that corporations cannot have conversations – only people have conversations. And that is an eternal truth.


Purists vs. Corporatists

March 11, 2008

There is a long simmering debate going on about corporations and conversations. Josh Bernhoff re-caps it nicely in this post:

Purists, and Corporatists — why companies CAN participate

After re-reading it several times, I think that Josh and the Cluetrain Purists are essentially arguing about different things.

The Purists have a fairly simple position. Only people can participate in conversations. Corporations or brands cannot participate in conversations.

The Corporatists insist that companies can participate in social media.

Depends how you define social media. If you define it like Shel Israel:

“The essence of social media is that it is humans. Humans connect to humans and they form communities. They own their communities, brands don’t. The perspective of traditional marketing is to take a message and find delivery channels to inseminate into people’s foreheads. This is not social. Social is for a marketing executive to start a blog and ask people why they hate his marketing efforts–then listen–really listen to what people say the way Dell has done and a few others are trying to do.”

then corporations cannot participate.

PEOPLE representing corporations can participate. I think it is as simple as that.

Josh’s formulation suggests that corporations have various tactics available WRT social media. These are Listening, Talking, Energizing, Supporting and Embracing. I think all of these are viable, except for Talking.

Josh defines talking as “using conversations with customers to promote products or services”.

This is where it breaks down. To be successful in Shel’s definition of social media you have to make a positive contribution to the community over time.

Maybe if Josh’s definition for Talking was: “having someone (representing the corporation openly) participate in our key communities over time to build trust and add value to the communities” then we could close this very open loophole.

Is your goal to add value to the community (and also derive value for yourself – by having a greater understanding and building relationships) or to add value to the company? If you start with the first, you can achieve the second. But if you start with the second – forget it.

Tom O’B

Cellphones + Emotions

March 7, 2008

Coming to this story a little late, but I have weighed in on this subject before – and while some think emotions have no place in business software or cellphones – they are just wrong.

Hoping to Make Phone Buyers Flip – New York Times

Even though Motorola didn’t know it, the RAZR was a huge hit because it connected with customers on an emotional level. The RAZR was Cool. People loved the RAZR and many still do. Unfortunately for MOTO the meaning of cool in cellphones has moved on. Cool used to be about form factor, now it’s about what the phone lets me do. The iPhone now owns “Cool” in cellphones. Just look at market share.

Emotions matter in cellphones. One of my friends put it best when trying to explain to me his never ending quest for the latest, greatest cellphone. “It isn’t just a cell phone, it’s all my hopes, dreams and aspirations riding around in my pocket.” And he wasn’t kidding. When I started to think about it that way, it all makes sense.

I have sat in a room full of cellphone engineers and listened to them tell me all the reasons why the iPhone will flop. How none of the technology in the iPhone is anything new. If only consumers were smart enough to figure that out – then they wouldn’t be duped into buying them. Guess they weren’t smart enough.

Interesting tidbit about Nokia focus group testing of cellphones:

“Participants can call a toll-free number to share their emotions about the phone they are testing.”

Don’t get me started on this one – but how far removed from observation of a natural emotion. (Get recruited, join the focus group, call the 800 number, punch in your code, express your emotion, thankyou.)

Money quote from the article? This one from a Motorola executive:

“The world has changed,” said Jeremy Dale, who is in charge of marketing for mobile devices at Motorola, where fortunes tumbled with the decline of its once popular Razr. “There is more relevance in what other consumers say than what the company is saying.”

“The strongest marketing tool is the first 20,000 people who buy the device,” Mr. Dale of Motorola said. “If they like it, they will tell their friends.”

He hits the nail on the head. In cellphones, the online conversation is what matters most. Within days of launch the mavens over at Howard Forums will have torn your new phone apart and passed judgment. If they deem it “not good” then all the marketing in the world won’t make It a hit. In today’s world, consumers are talking to each other – and trust each other – when making purchase decisions. Word of mouth – online or off – is much more trustworthy than marketing.

The good news? Since much of the conversation about cellphones is happening online, we can use it for research purposes. In a recent cellphone project, we had 6.0 MM messages from consumers in the US and 10 MM messages from consumers in China. That represents a sample of 12 months online conversation about cellphones. Using our (MotiveQuest) advanced tools and strategists we can help our clients understand consumers’ underlying motivations and drivers as well as category dynamics.

This is a powerful way to bring the voice of the consumer into the innovation process. And beats focus groups on most dimensions.