Maker’s Mark uses community engagement to turn the ordinary into extraordinary

October 17, 2008

Photo by DRP on Flickr

I’m a proud member of the Maker’s Mark Ambassador Program.  And as a new resident of Kentucky, its a good thing I am because they take their bourbon seriously around these parts.  In fact, I actually think love of bourbon is a requirement for living in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

But seriously, I’m happy to be a member of the Maker’s Mark Ambassador program because it is one of the sharpest relationship marketing programs out there.  First off, it’s the envy of the liquor industry.  Second, one of the perks of the program is that I get a bottle out of my very own barrel (which is pretty cool).  And third, the company has an amazing ability to treat their Ambassadors like they are part of the company with small, little perks.

I was reminded of that simple fact this week when the company posted on their Ambassador blog about an upcoming website redesign (side note: this great blog was spearheaded by Jason Falls of Social Media Explorer).   Now let’s face it.  A website redesign isn’t exactly sexy news.  In fact, most people probably wouldn’t even notice it.  But Maker’s was able to reach out to their Ambassador program and make the community feel special by giving them a peak inside.  Here is what they posted about the launch:

Just wanted to drop you a note on a cool sneak preview (sort of). Sometime between now and Monday, will look a little different. We’re launching a redesign but aren’t telling anyone but you for now. Certainly, anyone who goes there can see it, but we really want to get your feedback and let you have dibs on checking it out.

So, go to sometime over the weekend or early next week and check out the new digs. Keep in mind that moving a big ole website involves a lot of complicated technical stuff I couldn’t begin to pronounce, much less explain, so if you see the site is down or something, we’re in the middle of the move. Just be patient and come back later.

Though a simple gesture, it really says something special about Maker’s Mark.  It shows that they understand their community and more importantly they know how to talk to them.  By talking to the community in a real, authentic voice, they are able to turn the simple redesign of an ordinary website into what I perceive to be an extraordinary brand interaction.  Well done guys.

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4 Reasons Digital Matters to Your Brand

October 15, 2008
Courtesy of Will Lion on Flickr

Courtesy of Will Lion on Flickr

It continues to amaze me how many brands do not invest in digital, choosing instead to stay with the safety of traditional mass media (ie TV and print).  When asked why, you will hear a lot of different answers, but none that haven’t been proven wrong time and time again.  Digital is measurable.  Digital can provide solid ROI.  Digital can drive trial and awareness.

But if you are still struggling with justifying your digital investment, I think there are 4 important reasons digital should matter to your brand:

  1. Digital enables relationships and community
  2. Digital tells a story around your brand
  3. Digital is a key part of an integrated campaign
  4. Digital builds brand equities in new ways

Read the rest of this entry »

Paul Gillin unveils the Secrets of Social Media Marketing

October 13, 2008

Recently Paul Gillin, the author of The New Influencers, offered up 250 free galley copies of his latest book Secrets of Social Media Marketing.  The book arrived right before we left Arkansas and it turned out to be a great read for the road.  What I loved most was the honesty from Gillin upfront.  As he wrote in the beginning:

This book isn’t intended for the 10% of marketers who are on the leading edge.  It’s for the 90% who are still figuring out how to start.

Along these lines, Paul bluntly calls out the book as a “How To” guide for marketers to get into Social Media.  I think this step by step approach is exactly what most Brand Managers need and it is something that has been missing from most social media books out there.

Now with that in mind, here are my favorite quotes and facts from Secrets of Social Media Marketing:

“Embracing change is the only sure success strategy in a business world that is evolving faster than we have ever known.”

“[Marketers] spent decades refining tactics built around messages…they are now being told messages don’t matter.  They need to become Chief Conversation Officers.”

“It took 40 years for the TV to reach 2/3 of homes in the US.  The Internet did it less than 15 years.”

“47% of marketers cited ‘fear of loss of control’ as an impediment to social media adoption”

“Jupiter Research estimates that $12 billion dollars worth of TV advertising is blown away by TiVo and similar devices in 2007”

“Many marketers measure their importance and influence by the size of their budgets.  Social media campaigns are so cost-efficient that marketers may actually see their budgets – and their status – fall over time.  While this doesn’t make much sense, it is a fact of corporate life.”

And finally, I love this quote from my good friend and fellow P&G’er, Ted McConnell:

“How much control do you give up?  That’s like asking the person holding you up at gunpoint how much money to give them.” @ ad:tech 2006

Needless to say, this book has quickly gone to the top of my must read list for Brand Managers.

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Why the Digital Shopping Experience should matter to Brand Managers

October 9, 2008

Digital has emerged as a dramatic influence of both online AND offline purchases over the past year according to Resource Interactive.  In an extremely engaging and though provoking presentation on the importance of the Digital Shopping Experience, Resource outlines what brands needs to pay attention to in this channel.  They also go into deeper detail in the White Paper they wrote for that went along with this presentation.  Both are worth spending some time with.

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Ypulse Youth Marketing Mashup East with special discount for Hard Knox Life readers

October 8, 2008

On November 6 & 7, the Ypulse Youth Marketing Mashup East will be “where today’s top brand, corporate and social marketers, media professionals, educators and others gather to share successful strategies on marketing to youth with technology.”  The conference is put on by my friend Anastasia Goodstein and should be a great event that I highly recommend.  Hard Knox Life readers can use the special code KNOX to save 10% on registration.

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October 3, 2008

Today’s guest post comes courtesy of Jared Meisel, Management Director, Shopper Marketing at DraftFCB.  Jared is an old friend who I worked closely with while on P&G’s Walmart Customer Team and one of the biggest proponent’s of putting the consumer first.

Earlier this month, Brian Reich spoke at the New York Media Information Exchange Group and argued that ad agencies needed to disappear. (A three-minute clip of his speech is available here). Brian’s point was that media companies (experts in connection) and product companies (experts in products) no longer need a middle man (ad agencies) to reach consumers. They can partner and develop advertising programs by combining their knowledge of products and media.

In principle, this seems to be a sound argument. We all want to eliminate the middle man—for cost savings, simplicity and efficiency. It is certainly true that product companies know the most about their products, and media companies about media. I would even agree that the old ad agency model is no longer relevant—if an agency is not bringing its clients creative ways to reach consumers, the agency is not doing its job.

Brian claimed that a media-centric and product-centric approach would reach consumers. But as I thought about this, a question stuck in my head: Who represents the consumer? There is plenty of new media available, and yet most is not effective in reaching consumers. There are plenty of new products being launched in the market, and yet many are not successfully resonating with consumers.

Media-centric and product-centric approaches are no longer effective. Marketers must take a more consumer-centric approach. Here are three specific ways in which we as marketers are failing to represent the consumer in our approach to marketing:

  1. We are not clearly defining the true business issues or problems: Of course we want to increase sales, build awareness, and drive trial. But why isn’t that currently working?  What about the product, target, or marketplace (competition, retailers, etc.) is keeping us from delivering the results we need? We all agree that it is important to define the business issue, and yet it is amazing to me just how little time is actually put toward this. Looking at the data, knowing the product, and understanding the target can enable marketers to take a very creative approach to framing up a business challenge. This will not only help us and our partners think differently about the issue, but it will also result in a creative approach to solving the problem. Be warned—to do this right, you need to take an honest, consumer-centric look at your product. More on that point later.
  2. We are incrementalizing on the incremental: In an effort to continue delivering new products and product news, companies have begun to drive in the well worn ruts of the incrementialized road. This happens with products and it happens with marketing. By simply applying the Logic of More—one is good, two is better and three is best—we have created an environment in which we are handcuffed into force-feeding more and more products into the market, creating more noise for consumers to ignore. And not so ironically, the percentage of new products that succeed continues to decline.
  3. We take the wrong approach to delivering products: Said another way, we are letting the tail wag the dog. Forgive the pun, but if success for all products ultimately means getting it into consumers’ hands, how do we not let those who use and buy our products drive our plans? Said another way, why do we take such an R&D (or existing technology-centric) approach to developing new products instead of letting the need or consumer drive our approach?  The answer is a complicated one, filled with corporate structure and departments, but then again, how many times must we fail before we start to question the approaches that lead us to creating the wrong products?

So, who will be bold enough to take a more consumer-centric approach to do this?  It is a challenge to us as marketers to be more creative—not just in our output, but in our input and in our approach.

Disclaimer:  This posting reflects my own thoughts and opinions and do not necessarily represent the positions, strategies or opinions of my employer or its clients.

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Is it a digital revolution…or just an evolution?

August 31, 2008

Photo credit - Badger.20It’s going to be a crazy week up in Cincinnati.  I’m trying to find a house before our move back, taking part in a P&G digital training, drafting two Fantasy Football teams, and attending a Tweet-up on Wednesday. 

So this week I wanted to turn the conversation to you on something I’ve been pondering lately.  It is a broad question, but I’ve been wondering how the Digital “Revolution” is going to change the way we do business?  It’s a question that many of my favorite marketing bloggers have been asking as well: 

Alan Wolk of The Toad Stool summed up the Real Digital Revolution as being:

…about consumer empowerment, the ability to research and learn about products and services and make decisions independently from, and in spite of, any sort of marketing and advertising messages.

Brian Morrissey wrote in AdWeek that Brands Need a New Kind of Leader to navigate the new media landscape:

The hiring of dedicated teams reflect the rising importance of social media in companies. Once thought of as an interesting new media channel, social media is increasingly seen as a catalyst for changing how companies operate. It points to a new corporate structure that favors open over closed, dialogue over monologue, and decentralized power over command and control.

And of course, Pete Blackshaw has talked about the importance of digital brand advocates for a while now:

Brand advocacy matters today because it precipitates an indelible digital trail of commentary that publicly rewards or indicts brand performance or the fulfillment of brand promises. This digital trail acts like media in both intimate and incidental ways, consistently affecting awareness, trail, and ultimately purchase of products — or the defection from them. And yes, this has everything to do with business growth and health.

So, how do you think the Digital Revolution is going to change the way Brand Managers work?  And is it really a revolution or just an evolution about connecting with consumers in new ways?