Posts Tagged ‘brand community


“People don’t trust big companies, they trust their friends”

This quote comes from Jim Farley, Group VP of Marketing at Ford, who this year moved 25% of his marketing budget out of traditional media and into digital marketing and social media.  According to Jim, when new products like the Ford Fiesta are pivotal to company growth,  “the company must rely on others to tell the story.”  That’s Jim’s company up in the left and his constituents on the right.  Who would you trust?  For Ann Handley’s full interview with Jim, go to

In a related move,  Pepsi, for the first time in 23 years, did not have commercials on the Super Bowl. Instead, the company is spending $20 million on a social media campaign called, The Pepsi Refresh Project, where users give ideas to Pepsi for ways to refresh their communities.

Maybe these moves reflect the facts that:

  • 90% of all purchase decisions begin online
  • 75% of people shop online before they buy offline
  • 85% are looking for an independent review
  • They have an average of 130 friends on Facebook; an average of 127 followers on Twitter
  • Positive perceptions of a company increase by 36% if there’s a blog on their website
  • 14% of people trust advertising
  • Only 18% of TV ad campaign ever generate a positive return on investment

I think Pepsi’s Super Bowl commercials are some of the most iconic advertising, ever, and believe their effectiveness was probably much greater than average.  I was sorry and sad to see them exit the Super Bowl, altogether.

But, for those 86% who don’t trust advertising, now they hear about Pepsi from who they do trust, their friends.


Thank you Warren Buffet and YouTube

In November, Warren Buffet bought Texas-based Burlington Northern Santa Fe for $26.3 billion dollars.  His analysis shows in our lifetimes trains are going to be the most effective, fuel-efficient and green means available to transport cargo from point A to point B.  For anyone investing in railroads, trains are going to be a source of “steady and certain” growth.

“Steady and certain” is more than an economic valuation for trains.  Their familiar sound is one of purpose and flow.

I’ve always lived in towns where trains pass through.  In Croton-on-Hudson NY, where I once lived, their sound was particularly melodious.  Trains travelled right alongside the Hudson River and the hills on both sides brought out a deep, rich sound.

If you search YouTube for Croton-0n-Hudson, what appears is an entire page of videos devoted to trains.  Apparently, from the comments, I’m not the only one to find something comforting and reassuring in their sight and sound.  Here’s one of those videos.  See if it has the same effect on you it has for many of us.

Thank you Warren Buffet and YouTube for something steady and certain.


Men are from mars and women are all over social media

If the differences between men and women are widely acknowledged in best-selling books, is it time to stop thinking about social media as a unisex voice?

It’s already well-known that women make 85% of the buying decisions in this country but did you know:

  • 65% of people using social media are women
  • 60% are boomer women
  • 55+ is the fastest growing segment on Facebook
  • 52% of searches women do are for someone else
  • 85% are looking for an independent review by another woman

The numbers get even higher on the subject of health care where virtually all health care buying decisions are made by women, not just for themselves and their families but as caregivers to parents, relatives and extended family.

A woman named Kelley Connors is doing something about it.  Kelley started an online community called Real Women on Health; a place for Baby Boomer women featuring candid conversations and expert commentary about health and wellness.  Kelley started the community, after she learned from study after study, women who talk with other women about the same health interests or conditions actually have better outcomes.

As proof women want to share their collective wisdom in social media, in just a few months, Kelley has built a multi-channel community with over 10,000 members on her top-rated community web-site, blog-talk radio show, Facebook Fan Page, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and received a content sponsorship grant from the National Women’s Health Resource Center, the largest clearing house for women’s health care information.  When linked to affiliates partners, Real Women on Health reaches 5,000,000 women.

Kelley is using Real Women on Health for moderated conversations with advocates about health and wellness products and services this high value group really wants.  She tries to listen with questions to her community like “what are the health topics you’re most passionate about?”

Listening skills are important because women believe they are misunderstood by:

  • 59% of food marketers
  • 66% in health care
  • 77% in automotive
  • 84% in investing

According to the Harvard Business Review, their primary sentiment with marketers is frustration.  If you don’t believe me, ask the woman up top.

Do you believe marketers listen and understand you?

Listen to a live blog talk radio show, How Social Media Gains Trust and Advocacy in Marketing with Women, on March 9th at 6:30.  Here’s your invitation from Kelley to join the conversation:


Harley, human behavior and Saab

Believe it or not, in the mid 1980’s, Harley-Davidson was on the brink of bankruptcy.

Founded in 1917, Harley flourished during World War I as the first motorcycle to be broadly adopted for combat services.  By the 1970’s, the design had remained basically unchanged. The bikes were expensive and far inferior in performance, handling, and quality to Japanese motorcycles.  The brand name was mocked as “Hardly Able.”

But, as the Harvard Business Review tells it, after examining every aspect of their business, “Harley management recognized the brand had developed as a ‘community-based phenomenon.’  The ‘brotherhood’ of riders, united by a shared ethos, offered Harley the basis for a strategic repositioning as the one motorcycle manufacturer that understood bikers on their own terms.”

Executives were required to spend time in the field with customers and bring their insights back to the firm.  What they discovered, after looking at everything, was the company’s most valuable asset and future was its advocates.

In the early 2000’s, with their landmark study on brand communities, Thomas O’Guinn and Alfred Muniz concluded it’s part of our DNA as human beings to share our brand experiences with others, especially if they’re favorable.  Maybe that’s why 4 out of 5 people write positive reviews online (source: Groundswell).

Today, one of the more visible manifestations of Harley’s comeback is a brand community called  Here, Harley owners share pictures, their vacations, jokes, where to get hard to find parts, buy and sell Harleys and 7 Harley mechanics are online.

It’s a community of over 26,500 built by Harley loyalists, not the company, and maintained entirely with user-generated content.  And they welcome every new member by name, including their newest, SpyDer Monkey.  The brand community is a negligible marketing expense and a major source of business vitality.

Do you think Saab could have concluded the same thing?  And, if they had taken similar steps at the right time, might things have been different? Do you know the value of your advocates and steps you could be taking to nurture and show appreciation for the backbone of your brand?


What a picture tells

The best presentations always have the least amount of words.

Because pictures tell a much more interesting story.  It’s easy to dispute words; it’s hard to ignore what a picture or graph says.

Like the one below, a graph of people who queried Google about “social media” over the last six years. It tells me just how social media crossed a lot more people’s minds a lot more often this year and, although I can’t know if the rate will increase like this in 2010, it tells me it’s about to get a whole lot more interesting. What does it tell you?

You may already know about Google Trends and what a great resource it is. But, if you don’t, you can examine trends on any topic you could possibly imagine for free at Think about it for your presentations next year. All the best in 2010.


What came first, strategy or technology?

82770182[1]Imagine your product or service was the first chicken and you were bringing it to market using social media.  What would you pursue first, strategy or technology?

I only ask this question because my partner, Mike Rogers, and I spoke at the University of Connecticut last night on the topic, “Social Media and Your Business Strategy.”  It was a sell-out crowd due obviously to the timeliness of the topic, not the presenters.  It turned out to be a great event, but, right before beginning, we had our doubts.

For one thing, one of our sponsors said just before introducing us, “guys, I briefly looked at your presentation and didn’t see a slide on LinkedIn.  This audience is going to want to know about LinkedIn.”  As people were taking their seats, a women came to us with a concern, “I have too many people following me on Twitter.  I hope you’re going to tell me what to do about it.”  Another said, “I’m launching a new product in a month but I can’t get anyone from Yahoo and Facebook to call me back.  Will your talk tell me how to get through?”

I do understand these are important concerns and our talk discussed all these social technologies.  But it was with a point of view.  It was with case studies and examples, some our clients, who began the social journey with a clear business strategy and performance goals where the role and expectations of social media was defined.  With this foundation, the most relevant social networks naturally surfaced, strong tactical executions were created and business results often exceeding expectations occurred.

After the presentation, one business owner told us, “I’ve been to a number of these ‘how to’ social media seminar but, for the first time, I know how to monetize it.”

Seth Godin, who is my partner’s old boss, says “any sufficiently overheated industry will eventually resemble high school. High school is filled with insecurity, social-climbing, backbiting, high drama and not much content.  As in high school, the winners are the ones who don’t take it too seriously and understand what they’re trying to accomplish. ”

Below is our presentation.  Hope it’s of help with what you’re trying to accomplish.

June 2018
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