As some of you know, I’ve really started to wonder how we can possibly ingest the fire hose of information that comes at us every day. The obvious answer is that we can’t. Brits know it, tweens know it, experts know it.  And yet… on it comes, leading one to either eliminate it – unsubscribe to an email newsletter, sign off Facebook, stop watching Real Housewives of New Jersey (oops, sorry – that’s mine) – or somehow filter out what we don’t want.  Some call this phenomenon the “attention economy.” 

In the attention economy, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that finite amount of attention over a rising level of noise.  In other words, it becomes increasingly important to make choices, to become more discriminating, to understand the value of our thoughts and our time.  So while I may watch reality TV because I like it, it would never dawn on me to voluntarily invite a continuous information stream into my skull that I neither want nor need. I recently wrote a post on this topic as it pertains to Twitter, arguably the Web’s newest, most popular time suck.

Well here’s another upside-down concept from the Twuniverse:  Twitter Karma.  If you’re not on Twitter, you don’t have a clue what this would be. But if you are, you may know what’s coming…


On Twitter, you follow people whose thoughts interest you, and others may follow you for the same reason.  Twitter Karma refers to those whom you follow who do not follow you back. This means that you’ve elected to see every tweet of theirs and they have not reciprocated. Some people find this to be rude: so rude, in fact that they unfollow individuals who – after a respectable amount of time – didn’t follow them back.

stephanie-fierman-twitter-cartoon1.jpg

Wait – what? This is a problem? Did I go to sleep and wake up back in the 3rd grade?

We’re grown-ups. Each of us has her own unique interests, profession and curiosities. Each of us has goals of expanding his knowledge in different directions. So if I follow you on Twitter because you have a point of view I find valuable, why would I expect you to reciprocate (and consider it a compliment) if you don’t need what I have to say? Maybe someday you’ll be interested… but not now.

I do not take offense, but make no mistake: I’m supposed to.  By implication, those who do not reciprocate are ingrates and creeps.


Twitter karma feels precisely like one of those mean little games children play. Move on.


Look, here’s my point of view: if you’re on Twitter, chances are you’re a reasonably confident person who has something to say. I doubt you need or want an insincere slap on the back from someone who felt pressured to offer it.


This is the only life we get, people. You only have so many brain cells: use them wisely. Be choosy. Mandatory school books or work stuff aside… take in the information you need and want. Leave the rest. By doing so, we not only grow… but maybe we do increase the likelihood that we’ll have something to say that others will want to “follow.”


But, hey. If you’re squeamish about unfollowing a “mean girl” (or guy) on Twitter, sort folks on TweetDeck.  It’ll change your Twexistence.

So I was sitting in a meeting just a few days ago, and someone I like and respect said something about “the long tail.”  A couple people sort of nodded, and I thought, “Oh my, are people still talking about that?”

You see, I am and always have been… a long tail doubter.  It’s true.  I’ve never said it out loud because the book was so very popular and the concept was picked up everywhere and it spread like wildfire, so I just kept my doubts to myself.  For two years.  Until now.

But first, a bit of history to catch us up to the present day.

Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine, made a huge splash with The Long Tail, which was first published by the magazine in 2004 and then as a book in 2006.  In a nutshell, the long tail theory says that the abundance and ease of choice on the Internet has shifted sales potential from a small number of mainstream “hits” (at the front of the demand curve) toward a near-endless number of lesser-known choices at the tail.  The term refers to the orange section of the demand curve shown here:

stephanie-fierman-long-tail-curve.jpg

Furthermore, because retail economics restrict stores to carrying only the best-selling products, items that have already been created and have either lost their mojo or were never popular in the mainstream in the first place are pushed out – along with their sunk costs.  But lo the Internet, with its infinite “shelf space” makes every product discoverable and ready to be purchased.  The book has become something of a holy document in the Internet community where companies (“from Amazon to iTunes,” says Anderson on his website) want to find a way to sell old songs, movies, videos, ringtones, on-demand books and television shows from their infinite Web warehouses.  Case studies flew up everywhere. 

Personally, I thought it was bunk.  Or rather, I thought the concept vastly overdramatized the effect of a small minority of “committed seekers” dedicated enough to something (comic books, that lost Marvin Gaye song, Civil War spoons…) to search for and purchase a category’s flotsam and jetsam.

When I looked around, in fact, it seemed that the rest of us were doing quite the opposite.  The New York Times’ Most Blogged, Most Emailed and Most Searched lists.  Top TV Shows, Top Music, Top Movies on iTunes.   Amazon.com’s influential Sales Rank, and its Bestsellers list (updated hourly).  The Netflix Top 10.  To me, the Internet appeared to be herding users more aggressively toward blockbusters, not away from them.

Like I said:  I kept this then un-hip and un-scientific opinion to myself.

Now there’s a professor at Harvard Business School who has researched the long tail. Based on sales data for online video rentals and songs, Professor Anita Elberse verifies my gut: not only do hits continue to be just as important online as they are online, but the Web is actually magnifying attention on the winners.

Elberse also discusses what she and others view as an incorrect subjective assumption that Anderson made when building the long tail, which is the idea that people want to go their own way.  They don’t want to listen/watch/read what everyone else does, and would rather wander down an untrodden hallway of the Web and find an otherwise discarded gem.  Who is he kidding?  Elberse cites additional research showing how intensely social people really are: how we like sharing experiences with others and that the mere fact that others like something makes us like it even more. 

And confirmation has come from another interesting source, as well.  Neil Howe, widely considered to be the expert on Millenials, draws a broad distinction between Gen X and this new influential group – the generation driving the most development and change on the Web. Among other things, while Boomers and Gen X “individuated,” born-in-the-80s Millenials gravitate toward the social:  chat rooms, instant messaging, Facebook.  They enjoy being with each other, forming friendships and shared preferences.  Rather than acting independently, Millenials who spend time customizing content on the Web do so for the purpose of sharing it with others (hello, YouTube). 

stephanie-fierman-millenials-wom.jpg
                                         (Click on the graphic for a larger view)

Howe says it is and will be “the most connected generation in world history,” and that their preferences will only solidify the popularity of mainstream, popular brands and products.
Finally, Elberse and The Wall Street Journal‘s Lee Gomes also believe that the Internet/tech community unconsciously may have wanted to back the theory because it flattered its citizenry.  Long tail strength would fortify the value of new digital assets created outside the walls of institutional, cultural power (let’s build a pet robot in my garage, shoot a video for YouTube and get rich!).  And bloggers drank the Kool-Aid, they say, because the long tail promises an audience for just about any goofy comment out there.  This is all probably true, but it’s a little sketchy so I’m not going to dwell here.

But I am very, very happy that some respectable people with significant research refute the long tail theory.  Because – while I may not be a Millenial – I do like company.


If you enjoyed this post and wish there was so much more… Check out my daily blog at www.stephaniefiermanmarketingdaily.com. Thank you!


BlogHer and Compass Partners have just released what may be the first significant study of women and social media.  FYI, in case you are not aware, BlogHer is a network founded by three female bloggers in 2005. Today, it is backed by Venrock and boasts 1,500 contextual ad-targeted blogs created by women. Yours truly posts pieces from this blog as well as http://www.stephaniefiermanmarketingdaily.blogspot.com to BlogHer on an increasingly-regular basis.

So back to the study…


BlogHer/Compass Partners surveyed a nationally-representative sample of 1,250 female Internet users plus 5,000 visitors to BlogHer. What they found is notable in sheer numbers, passion and experience:


* 36.2 million women actively participate in the blogsophere every week. 15.1 million do so by publishing (and reading/commenting) and 21.1 million (just) read and comment on blogs.


* 44% of female blog publishers maintain one blog and the remaining 56% write two or more. 56% have been writing for 2 years or less – I was surprised that this number was so low.  27% have been writing at least one blog for more than 3 years. Was “blog” even in my daily vocabulary 3 years ago?


* Women are so passionate about blogging that many say they would give something up rather than surrender their blogs, with 50% saying they would sacrifice their PDAs and 43% willing to stop reading newspapers or magazines to maintain their bloggy existences. They’d have to give up something, for sure, because 55% of blog publishers write and 56% of readers do so on 2 or more days each week. It helped to discover that only 20% are willing to give up chocolate (so at least we’re not all crazy…).

In the general Internet sample, 24% say they are watching less television, 25% are reading fewer magazines and 22% are reading fewer newspapers because they are so absorbed by the blog world. As would be expected, these numbers are higher for BlogHer members because they are significantly younger than those in the general sample (68% to 42% concentrated in the 25-41 age group, respectively). More than 50% consider blogs a reliable source of advice and information and claim that blogs influence their purchase decisions.


So what does it all mean?  Here are some conclusions and tips, plus what I see as a few gaps in the data:


* Me being me, I need to first point out the riskiness in considering blogs to be reliable sources of advice and information. Since I know that you’ve giving up everything else to read my blog… one need only point to my own experiences, the Obama-as-terrorist tale and the JuicyCampus disaster. What I would like to know: what percentage of readers seek to confirm a piece of information they’ve read on a blog from additional news sources (blogs and non-blogs)? How do you determine that a blog is trustworthy?


* This study would certainly imply that any party with a message to disseminate should consider blogging. What I would like to know: how closely do these opinions align to those of men? And does this trust extend only to blogs written by women “like me,” or does it extend to corporate/institutional blogs, as well?

* The time-shifting aspect of the study is fascinating and enough to get anyone’s attention. What I would like to know: what kinds of television programming, magazines and newspapers are women willing to swap out? Are they giving up hard news, or are blogs replacing pop culture information sources?


* 38% of blog publishers and 29% of blog readers say that blogs have influenced their decision to purchase goods or services. What I’d like to know: are there particular goods or services that appear to be discussed more/most on blogs? Are there any patterns we can discern as to the characteristics (e.g. complexity) of goods and services most discussed on blogs? If I’m the CMO of one of these widget companies, what is it about non-blog sources of information that I might be able to improve, and how can I build credibility in the blog universe?


* By design, the study specifically confirms that women trust blogs at a fairly high rate so, as a marketer, I’d think hard about how to leverage this phenomenon in other ways. For example, I’d consider companies that recruit female consumers to personally talk up products to other girls/women (such as Mr. Youth, Alloy and P&G’s Tremor).

And lastly, the #1 reason that female bloggers (65%) say they blog is for fun. 60% say they do so to express themselves and 40% to connect with “others like me.” In other words – even in this new and blogerrific world – it’s about them, not us. Marketers who make a connection that feels personal relevant for a female consumer are the ones that succeed. Those that don’t? We’ll be reading about them in the blogosphere…

If I’m just not writing enough to suit you, please check out my new *daily* blog at http://www.stephaniefiermanmarketingdaily.com.

“A growing cultural vulnerability to rumor.”

That’s how The New York Times describes a phenomenon that appears to be engulfing the U.S. The impetus for the article, Rumor’s Reasons, is the ceaseless momentum surrounding the claim that Barack Obama is a Muslim.

The rumor was ignited in 2004 by a vituperative web columnist. While mainstream news sources ignored him, the story took root in blogs, email, message boards and the like. Even after Snopes de-bunked the claim, it rolled on.

There are several plausible conclusions to be drawn from both this situation as well as the Times article – some of which have been discussed previously (Parts 1, 2 and 3) on this blog, as well as www.stephaniefiermanmarketingdaily.com :

* The Web lets rumors travel around the world and hang there forever.

* Repeating a claim, even if to refute it, increases its apparent acceptance. It’s the no-win situation of “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” The problem is that sometimes smoke is just smoke.

* A point related to “Where there’s smoke”: when an individual attempts to determine whether or not a statement is true, she will often look to society for signals. Do others believe it’s true? This takes on new import when one realizes that the mechanics of the Web reward volume, not truth. So in the upside-down world of the Internet, more does not mean better/more true. In fact – if the subject strenuously objects – the result may be the opposite. Obama denies being a Muslim: websites write about the denial itself and the story duplicates exponentially. Personally, I think the fact that a story is read on the Web only adds to its petri-dish-like effect. Didn’t our parents always teach us to “get it in writing?” If it’s in writing it must be true…

* Rumors mutate. Remember the game of telephone when you were a kid? A recent version of the Obama-is-a-Muslim story includes the line “I checked this out on Snopes, and it’s true.” This line will satisfy many listeners.

Here are some fresh take-aways on the topics of online rumors and reputation management:

1. Actively manage your online reputation. Consider shortcutting the process by hiring an SEO specialist – some work by the hour and will give you invaluable tips.

2. On the whole, spend your time building positive, truthful content. Work with your SEO specialist to build a plan for improving your search results. Tenure, volume and linkability are what count.

3. I do not discourage people from asking publishers to remove untruthful, damaging content, but keep this effort in perspective – and bear in mind the interests of the opposing party. Consider the possibility that a site passing an online rumor may be pleased to fan the flame by broadcasting your objection. And not to go all new-agey on you, but you’re talking about seriously bad karma. Toxicity. No one needs that.

4. I’ve spent nearly all of my time on this blog counseling you, the reader, on how to build your own/your company’s reputation. And maybe this goes without saying, but – when you are judging others – apply the Golden Rule. A graduate school would do well to put JuicyCampus posts into perspective when considering an applicant. Better still, everyone should ignore them entirely.

Many of us are most likely to study an individual’s online “persona” when we are considering the person for a job. There’s no question that it’s tempting to move on if you see unfavorable (albeit unsubstantiated) online content about a candidate, especially when there are many others from which to choose.

Don’t do it. If the Golden Rule isn’t enough of a deterrent, ask yourself whether it’s worth getting sued. While it’s not illegal to look someone up on the Web, there may be legal liability if you (a) do not give the candidate an opportunity to address the offending content, and subsequently (b) decide not to hire the individual. If you haven’t documented a work-related reason for rejecting the candidate, you may be liable. Read this thought-provoking FinancialWeek article, and note that both the legal and background check communities are beginning to counsel employers to eschew the Web (social networks, in particular) when gathering information on candidates.

Farhad Manjoo, a staff writer at Salon.com who penned Rumor’s Reasons for the New York Times, concludes by saying “There’s an arms race between truth and fiction, and at the moment, the truth doesn’t appear to be winning.”

Let’s decide that this is unacceptable.


And, friends: Check out my new daily blog at www.stephaniefiermanmarketingdaily.com, offering shorter takes on news and trends of the day.

An article posted today on CNN is horrifying – but not surprising, at least not to readers of this blog.

Juicycampus.com (which at the time of this writing is at the URL of the same name) is a well-trafficked online destination on the campuses of nearly 60 colleges in the US.  A little digging reveals that a number of posts have been viewed “hundreds and even thousands” of times.

Juicycampus.com is a site where anyone can say anything about anyone anonymously, and they do. Boy do they ever. Racism, sexism, religious discrimination and homophobia run rampant on the site, as do specific anonymous accusations targeting individual students regarding their behavior in and out of class, their sexual habits, etc. A Loyola student openly threatened to shoot up the campus, encouraged by the site’s free-for-all environment. The site has proven so “poisonous” there have been calls to have it taken down.

Others have tried to take legal action. Two Yale Law students are pursuing autoAdmit.com – an online discussion forum for those applying to law school – for what they say are libelous comments added to the site in 2006 and 2007.

Good luck. Under U.S. law, sites generally bear no responsibility for what users post, and content is protected as free speech. Juicycampus.com goes so far as to direct users to free online services that cloak IP addresses, so one’s comments can never be tracked back. Its privacy policy explains that the site logs users’ IP addresses but does not associate them with specific posts. This policy is out of the mainstream but perfectly permissable and legal.

In other words: if you write a letter or sue – and therefore are willing to draw even more attention to a problematic situation than the original content did – a Court may be literally unable to force a site to reveal the identity of a poster even if it wanted to do so.

The article says that many schools consider the site to be “poisonous” and that students are worried about the effect the site might have on their job prospects. They should be. According to Execunet, 77% of recruiters use search engines to find out about job candidates, and 35% have eliminated a candidate based on information found on the web. And a useful working assumption is that – unless the content is removed from the site – it will be searchable (and findable) forever.

This topic gets Marketing Mojo worked up, as readers well know – particularly because there are things every person can do to proactively build his or her own “personal brand” reputation online. Doing so not only communicates your authentic story to the world, but – if negative content should appear – will act as a crucial counterpoint that, nurtured properly and over a long period of time, can and will prevail.

I was recently invited by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC.com) to write a piece on this topic. The article is available only to IABC members. Below is the article in its entirety, available outside the IABC only to Marketing Mojo readers.


BUILDING YOUR PERSONAL BRAND ONLINE
by Stephanie Fierman

Low Trust Sets The Stage
It would not surprise you to know that we are operating in a low-trust world, and that both companies and individual executives are vulnerable. In 2005, a worldwide Gallup poll found that 40% of people believe company leaders are “largely dishonest,” and a 2006 WatsonWyatt study says that only 56% of company employees believe their top management acts with honesty and integrity.

These are worrisome figures, given that senior executives worry a great deal about their companies’ reputations but may spend little time on their own. I, for one, am a highly-educated and successful Chief Marketing Officer, known for delivering stellar results for Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase, Time Warner and others. I figured my “rep” would take care of itself, and this non-strategy worked for nearly 20 years. Then an industry gossip blogger decided to make me his latest meal, and turned lies and innuendo into what became the top Google search results for my name. For months, I took what I thought was the high road and did nothing. Everyone who knew me said to ignore the Internet’s equivalent of “graffiti on a bathroom wall.” So I did. But when I began to get questions about this “graffiti,” I realized I was wrong.

The New High Road
The Internet has changed reputation management forever. Where information used to flow slowly and in one direction (that is, from “us” to “them”), we now live in an age where anyone with an Internet connection can post anything they like, and that information will be available on millions of screens in an instant. And not only can truth be a mere afterthought, but the Google algorithm actually rewards popularity – so the more sensational the information, the better.

Changed rules means a changed game. Anyone with an interested constituency – whether it be shareholders, employers, competitors, an exclusive pre-school you’re just dying to get your toddler into or a even potential date – must take control of his or her own reputation online. Because if you’re not offering up honest, straight-forward information about yourself, you not only do yourself a disservice but you’re also depriving these audiences of an authentic picture of who you are and what you stand for. Speaking out IS “the new high road.”

10 Tips for Building Your Reputation Online
Like any blood sport, building your online reputation is a combination of offense and defense. Offense is the best way to go: build up content about yourself before you are put in a position to have to respond to negative and/or untrue information. Here are some key steps you can take now:

1. Monitor your online reputation. Create alerts at Google and Yahoo so the search engines will send you an email whenever new content has appeared that includes your name. Additionally, use RSS to sign up for subscriptions to sites that are most likely to mention you.

2. Create a blog (or a frequently updated and optimized website). Post to the blog religiously: at least once a week.

3. Videos get high search engine rankings. If you speak at an event, or can make a presentation, have it filmed and posted on YouTube. Make sure your name is part of the video’s title.

4. Ask allies and partners to post content about you on their own websites, and consider becoming a regular contributor to someone else’s website (e.g. an industry news site). Your byline will be picked up by the search engines.

5. Consider creating multiple sites if you have enough information to divide into several topics.

6. Maintain a friendly and frequent presence on industry blogs and message boards: you most certainly have something to add that will enrich the conversation. Plus, you are more likely to be welcomed into such a forum if there comes a time when you do wish to respond to something that’s been posted about you.

If inaccurate or troublesome information is posted to the Web and you or your representatives are free to respond (e.g. you are not in an SEC quiet period or your counsel advises restraint), here’s how:

7. Analyze the content and its source. Make a determination as to whether you feel the need to respond immediately or prefer to monitor the situation.

8. Build up content. Proactively create or add content to your own website and make sure it is search-engine-friendly: consumers are more likely to use search engines first in a crisis, before they go to your website for “your” side of the story.

9. Assuming you’ve maintained a positive presence on key blogs and message boards, these communities are likely to be open to listening to you. Post information there. Let others be your ambassadors.

10. Where possible and appropriate, post a notice that you are more than willing to attempt to resolve the crisis personally and without delay. Then try to take the first phase of the conversations offline.

Life (On The Internet) Is Unfair. Get Over It.
If any part of your brain is thinking (a) this won’t happen to me, and/or (b) it’s ludicrous to respond to malicious or false information I empathize, but can offer only my own experience – and those of the executives and companies I now advise on the art and science of Online Reputation Management.

It does happen, and your life will be infinitely more comfortable if you have already taken the simple steps toward creating your own authentic presence online. In a world where you are whatever comes up on the first page of Google, you’ve got to take charge – don’t leave the telling of your own story to any blogger, writer or media outlet having a slow news day.

NB: As of June 2009, Juicycampus is out of business.  Unfortunately, its URL boasts a farewell message that redirects to yet another site that supports anonymous college posting. 


Tappening Continues To Draw Attention With Its Message
Readers of this blog enjoyed an exclusive interview with the creators of the tap water movement, Tappening. 
Eric Yaverbaum and Mark Dimassimo continue to pick up steam, selling 39,000 bottles in the first 36 hours of the campaign.  Good thing they’ve restocked, because Tappening was featured for the second time this year on Good Morning America just yesterday. The first GMA segment in January featured the Tappening reusable bottle in a segment on hot trends.

Tappening is a great lesson in the power of hipness.  The power of cool – of latching onto something positive and giving consumers a device – a bracelet, a ribbon, a red iPod, a bottle – that lets the owner show everyone that she’s “with it” without her saying anything at all.   Consider how much more attention your cause or brand could get if you could think of a way to make it cool.  Which only prompts this blogger to ask:  How can we get Americans to believe that saving money is uber-chic??


Even Presidential Candidates Have Trouble On The Web
How could Presidential candidates still not get the power of the #1 tool on the Web – search? With the new shiny objects being YouTube and Facebook and blah blah, those wishing to be the leader of the free world are missing out on the #1 way to reach voters. Don’t make the same mistake with your business, your brand or yourself.  The building blocks of any sound digital marketing plan is search.


A Blog At Just The Right Time (On Wall Street)
This week, I stumbled on Hedonic Adjustment (www.hedonicadjustment.com), a blog about personal finance.  I like it:  it’s smart, but doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Check it out.


Social Networks Are Gaining, But The News Is Messy
There are several surveys out right now in which a high percentage of CMOs say their companies are going to spend money on social networks in 2008.  A much smaller percentage of those same respondents say they actually understand the subject.  Little wonder.  There are big social networks and small ones.  Ski social networks and Greg Brady social networks.  They are also “slowing down” and “gaining big.”  Simultaneously.  What is phenomenally different is that (a) these sites aggregate masses of people who may share certain interests, and (b) you should wade in only if you’re willing to have customers actually talk back to or at you.  Don’t try this alone.  But beyond these specific insights, the principles of authentic communication, a better mousetrap and compelling creative still apply.


Everything You Wanted To Know About Online Video
This is a wonderful white paper from our friends at the IAB:  the first in a series about the online video space.  14 pages sounds like a lot, but it’s a painless read and will make you sound like you know what you’re talking about.  Quick:  what’s the difference between in-banner, in-stream and in-text online video?  Like I said…


Whom Do You Trust?
Jarvis Cromwell is a great friend to Marketing Mojo  and his own blog, Reputation Garage, is a must read for those interested in the critical topic of building institutional reputation.   Readers get a real bonus by reading a post from guest blogger Paul Dunay on this very topic.   For the first time, Edelman’s annual survey on trust included 25- to 34-year-old “opinion elites” in 12 countries who appear to put more trust in business than do their older colleagues.


The Tipping Point is Fine, Even If We Can’t Prove It
This is a very interesting article about a scientist named Duncan Watts who believes that influentials – the individuals or small groups in society that market puersrsue for their power to spread ideas and trends quickly – is bunk. I’m posting this article because it smells fishy to me. The experiments ring false, and it feels very much like an academic trying to prove the unprovable and almost poking fun (why?) at all of us who believe in the “tipping point” concept. What’s his (or Fast Company’s) angle?  Human behavior – and the spark that ignites or extinguishes a new idea or product – is sometimes unpredictable magic. Marketers know this. Academics, not so much.


“Oh, Yeah?? Well Go Elf Yourself!”
And finally – just in case you were living under a Christmas tree and missed it – no marketing blog would be complete without a shout-out to the Office Max “Go Elf Yourself” viral campaign that allowed users to paste images of their own faces onto the bodies of dancing elves. 26.4 million – NEARLY ONE IN EVERY 10 AMERICANS – visited the company’s holiday site in 4 weeks. Blog mentions were ginormous. So it’s a major bummer that the company’s head of marketing and advertising said that the initiative wasn’t intended to drive sales. “We are third-place players in our industry, so we are trying to differentiate ourselves through humor and humanization.” Geez, that’s embarrassing: an attitude like that just may contribute to the company being satisfied coming in 3rd in a field of 3. And it’s a shame, really, because he’s wrong: if the Mojo was in charge, the value Office Max would derive from that email list of “friendlies” would be bigger and more long-lasting than the campaign itself. 

The Short Life of the Chief Marketing Officer
This blog would be remiss if it did not provide a link to the most recently quoted article focused on the plight of the CMO.  This piece does not cover a lot of new ground, but I do give it credit for circling around what I’ve always said is the heart of the matter:  that is, fuzzy, mismatched expectations between the CEO, the organization, its stakeholders and the CMO him/herself.

 If I had to explain what I mean in one (two?) sentences, I would say that some equate marketing and, by extension, the role of the CMO, to “branding” and advertising.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, many understand the CMO to be a senior business person first, with a core expertise in the entire marketing mix:  one that should be at the CEO’s senior management table when matters concerning the customer are discussed.

If I sound like I have a bias, I do:  I am in the latter camp, not the former.  I do not mean to say, however, that either one is “right.”  Any point along this spectrum can be perfectly fine if it is mutually-agreed and adhered to by the CEO, the board, the organization and the CMO in question.  In good times, and bad.  And there lies the rub.


The New Corporate Intranet, Web 2.0 Style

Serena Software, a vendor of enterprise change management software, is replacing its existing intranet with Facebook on the front-end, attached to a CMS on the back-end.  The implications of this are pretty interesting.  I just hope that Serena eliminates Facebook’s “Change status” function, lest the company get a lot of “In meeting”  “On phone” “In meeting” “On phone” “On phone in bathroom…”



Tiffany Goes Into Business With Swatch
Swatch is setting up a company that will use Tiffany branding and designs to sell watches that will be made and distributed through its global distribution network.  Hopefully, this is a genius move that reflects the melding of mass affluent and luxury purchasing trends around the world.



Newspapers Still Wield Some Influencing Power – Online
Newspapers are still powerful, or are at least still read by those who are:  Mediamark Research reports that readers of newspaper sites are 52% more likely to be categorized as “influencers” than non-newspaper Web site readers.  Good info, for those planning media budgets for ’08 who may think that newspapers are on their way out.



Nielsen Releases 10 Most Popular Lists of 2007
GoViral Ranks Top 5 Viral Advertisements of 2007

I guess I’d vote for the RayBan spot (3.2M YouTube views since May) but ONLY because the Blendtec ad (2.7M views since July) to me is, well, royalty and should be on a list all its own…



I Really Hope My Brain Does NOT Always Work Like Google
As has been previously reported in this blog, Google tends to report popularity.  NB: If what’s popular is also truthful, I’m all for it.


Companies Should Keep and Forward Old Phone Numbers
This is a great tip that seems so simple, but we all know that companies do not always follow this advice.  If a customer pulls out a dusty old catalog and is ready to order a Christmas gift, be sure she can find you.

 

  

Check out the WGA’s YouTube video about the writers’ strike.  

A few observations:

 
(1) Re. the actual reason for the strike… I think that media companies are going to have a hard time having it both ways. The video goes out of its way to make a point of this, just in case anyone has forgotten how much dough these same companies have claimed that new media content is worth.

(2) There were several articles this week claiming that the WGA members were beginning to win over the public.  How best to reach, first off, The Daily Show’s existing audience and, secondly, the millions of others who want to see something funny (and will listen to your message as a side bonus?).    Plus you don’t have the eternal recall problem of remembering whether that caveman ad was for Geico or Aflac… You’re the whole game!

The best marketing possible is authentic, endemic and real:  and the bar is only raised for social media efforts.   For me, this may be the most spot-on use of social media/YouTube/UGM. Huzzah!

(3) I have a blinding admiration for creative talent and this was just too good not to post.

Or perhaps we could call this post, “Stephanie Fierman Meets The Future” or “It’s Hard To Keep Up When You’re Over 40.”  Whatever. 

The upshot, I suspect, is to introduce my audience to Tara Hunt, otherwise known as Miss Rogue. Tara is pretty famous in the increasingly important Web 2.0 – I’d say even Web 3.0 – environment of building authentic customer relationships. Tara’s blog made her Canadian phone ring one day, which got her a job in San Francisco, which led her and her partner Chris Messina to start a company, Citizen Agency, which is now turning down clients.  Big clients.  Big Fortune 50 clients. 

Maybe they won’t turn down business forever, but Citizen Agency is currently focusing on smaller technology companies where Chris and Tara think they have the best chance of actually helping the client execute customer-centric strategies around product research, design, development and marketing.  If that’s not clear, Citizen Agency’s blog post of October 2 is from Chris, humorously relaying the explanation of Citizen Agency’s reason for being during a hot stone massage.   

Another post describes it thusly (see picture and text below.  For you marketers out there, I dare you to say that you haven’t been in the room when one of these conversations has taken place… See if you can guess which comment is the client’s and which might come from the agency):

                               stephanie-fierman-citizen-agnecy-circles.jpg 

“Your slow performance is the number one reason your customers are leaving.”
“But we can’t afford to buy new servers.”
“Your slow performance is the number one reason your customers are leaving.”

“The reason your developer network is dead is because you put too many limitations on your API usage.”
“But our investors want us to keep it secure and tight track of who is using it.”
“The reason your developer network is dead is because you put too many limitations on your API usage.”

“Your user experience is horrendous. Bloggers all over the web are talking about it.”
“Well, that is just not priority right now. We have to get the next release of features out.”
“Your user experience is horrendous. Bloggers all over the web are talking about it.”

Their point is, of course, that losing customers makes these other concerns superfluous.  But why don’t we listen? And if that’s too much homework for today, let’s just try to figure out how we can use social media and community to help.  I think part of the struggle is that a lot of folks are trying to understand social media and its impact on brands and marketers as a trend, or the new “thing.”  Like… I don’t know, say, six sigma:  for most of us, if we kept our mouths shut and waited it out, six sigma went the way of the time and motion study.   

But social media is not going the way of the slide rule, because it’s not a trend but really the creation of an entirely new communication stream between customers and companies.   Sure, Bebo, Facebook and the like will be old news some day, but companies having to adapt to a constant 24/7 two-way conversation with their customers – where those customer comments may be on display for all the world to see – is here to stay. 

As marketers, it’s our responsibility to make this a good thing for our brands, no matter how foreign it may be.  It’s our job to help our CEOs understand that loosening the reins is, well, mandatory.  It’s our job to define what the new party phrase “the consumer is in control” actually means in our own spheres of influence.  After meeting Tara Hunt today, I was not only tremendously impressed but also very relieved to know that there’s such great help out there.

Have you heard of a virtual world  called Whyville?

SecondLife, Club Penguin (bought by Disney for $700 million if the owners hit their entire earn-out), There.com, Gaia, Barbie Girls, Webkinz… all of these I know.  And as a marketer, many of us have certainly looked at SecondLife in particular and said… do I have to?
 
But I somehow missed Whyville, even though it’s been around since 1999.  And more notable than its age  is its humility in the face of success:  the site has somewhere around 2.4 million active users age 8-15 (70% of whom are registered), and 60,000 new kids register each month.   As virtual worlds go, users can do all the standard things – you can chat with your friends, earn currency to buy stuff, etc. – but Whyville offers an amazing twist, a la Jerry Seinfeld’s wife hiding squash in chocolate chip cookies to get her kids to eat vegetables…

 Whyville members can play games that are actually educational – a strategy that the site’s COO calls “active brain advertising.”  Kids whose avatars don’t eat nutritionally might find their little fake selves’ faces pockmarked with scurvy; others had to clean up after the advertiser Penguin Books caused a devastating storm as part of a campaign for Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.”

So what is this place??  Whyville’s “About Us” section says that it was founded “to apply over 20 years of research in education and cooperative learning to develop new web-based tools for education,” and the company works with partners such as Getty, NASA and the School Nutrition Association to create and deliver fun content that is also educational.  Increasingly, Whyville is finding its way into the classroom, providing the ultimate endorsement.

 The site does work with advertisers and paying sponsors, like Penguin and Virgin Records, but I was impressed to learn that it also surveys members before and several times after a campaign as to the effectiveness of the advertising, possible purchase intent and other factor.  That’s good for the advertisers and the site as it works to refine its programming and adhere to its mission.  To the extent it can, I hope that Whyville continues to stay about reproach:  a Toyota campaign caught some flak – not a lot, but such an obvious play to get kids to influence their parents’ purchase of a car could have taken a chink out of the site’s educational armor.
 
And that’s not worth the risk because this is a pretty amazing site.  Luckily, just because I missed it doesn’t mean others have:  Whyville won the 2006 iParenting award for being the best kids Web site and best on the Web for its safety features.   And to me all this spells opportunity:  for kids, their parents and teachers, advertisers… and maybe a buyer in the future?secondlifesecond-life