"Traditional marketing no longer works. The most important marketing vehicle right now is the consumer."
--Mark Jarvis, Chief Marketing Officer, Dell Computers
Nothing defines your brand more than the consumer's experience. Nothing.
On November 18th I went to Green Bay with friends to see the Packers play the Panthers. We stayed at a Hampton Inn. The rooms were clean, the beds were comfortable, and the staff was friendly. The front desk workers wore Green Bay jerseys. Another staff person gave us boxes of mints. Overall it was a very pleasant experience.
Three days later I drove from Nashville to Michigan for Thanksgiving. We decided to leave Tuesday night, drive as far as southern Indiana, spend the night, and finish the trip to northern Michigan the next day. We stayed at a Super 8 motel in Scottsburg, Indiana. It was awful. The front desk worker had a cold and kept wiping her nose with her hands and sleeve while she labored to complete the reams of paperwork associated with checking in ("...car make and model? License plate number? Could you repeat that?...").
Our "non-smoking" room smelled like an ashtray. There was a hole in the bathroom door where a previous guest had punched it. The toilet wouldn't flush. The room was so dirty and smelly that my kids slept in their clothes on top of the covers. I have never seen my family vacate a hotel faster than they abandoned that room the next morning at six.
So now in my mind, based on my experience, Hampton Inns are all nice and Super 8's are all nasty. Is that really true? Probably not, but you can't convince me otherwise. Given the choice I'll pick a Hampton Inn every time and no amount of advertising will convince me otherwise.
Branding, then, begins with perfecting your product or service. With that accomplished, advertising is simply using media or other means to provide an honest representation of the consumer's experience.
Spread the fire. GS
New technologies are connecting consumers to each other as never before. This means that consumers are so much more than the target for your advertising; they are also a conduit through which promotional messages travel.
In PyroMarketing, fanning the flames means equipping consumers to spread your message to their social network. Now a new website called www.whrrl.com has automated the word-of-mouth process by blending social networks, mobile phones, and personal recommendations.
Whrrl is a sort of search engine that responds to queries with recommendations from a network of approved contacts comprised of your family, friends, business associates, and others.
As whrrl users visit restaurants, night clubs, and shops they can upload reviews and recommendations from their phone or PDA. Their "take" is added to a database accessible to other members of that community group. Then, when you find yourself trying to decide between dinner at The Texas Roadhouse and Logan's Roadhouse, you can check whrrl from your phone, see which one your friends prefer, and let their recommendation help guide your choice.
Whrrl also has a GPS feature that maps users' locations so you can know, for example, if any of your friends are also at the mall. It can even alert you when an approved contact is near. It doesn't say whether that is so you can find or avoid them (Warning, warning! Ex girlfriend approaching). Users can turn the GPS off, of course, to protect their privacy.
The web is currently clogged with sites whose business model depends on traditional advertising where companies pay to reach consumers with their messages, but I expect the future of the web belongs to companies like Whrrl who figure out how to advertise by facilitating word-of-mouth exchanges between consumers.
Spread the fire. GS
MySpace recently introduced a new advertising program called HyperTargeting that displays ads to MySpace users based on their self-expressed passions and interests rather than demographic data. Movie ads are shown to self-described movie fans, etc. Phase I testing in July showed that interest-based targeting improved results by up to 300% over traditional demographic segmentation. Specific interest outperforms general interest. The driest tinder do light faster.
Phase II will narrow interest categories even further making it possible to precisely target "horror movie fans," for example. MySpace is also building a self-serve web interface so that anyone can buy and manage their own campaign.
Oh the irony. The portion of the MySpace site that promotes this intelligent, highly-targeted marketing service has been co-opted by indescriminate advertising from an online toy retailer and a street poet.
I've contacted MySpace to request more information and will report additional, interesting findings here. Spread the fire. GS
You can tell times are changing when traditional media companies recognize and even promote the value of word-of-mouth. I received the following promotion from MSNBC today. The logic goes something like this:
Well, almost. Engaged consumers are the best for launching word-of-mouth (duh!) but I believe that engagement is directly related to a program's relevance. Since MSNBC programming is diverse, it's difficult to claim that viewers are universally more engaged.
Still, I love the fact that a major media company acknowledges the importance of WOM. Furthermore, MSNBC seems to understand that, in addition to purchase potential, consumers also have promotional potential. Rather than touting the usual age demographics and household income as a reason to communicate with its audience. MSNBC is saying, "Talk to our audience because they are more likely to spread your message to their social network."
This is a profound change and long overdue. The consumer is no longer simply the target of an advertiser's message. They are also the conduit through which it flows. Consumers are a media channel.
Kudos to MSNBC for recognizing this. Let's hope more media follow. Spread the fire. GS
The Smart car is coming but it won't arrive with traditional advertising. Instead Smart USA's president Dave Schembri had the idea for a traveling road show because the car "has to be experienced."
Nice PyroMarketing Dave. You are touching people with the match (give them an experience with your product or service). It appears to be working. Smart has already taken 30,000 online reservations for its cars which means the only thing big about the Smart car is its sales.
I spoke at the Rejuvenate Conference in Houston today. Thanks to Collinson Publishing for bringing me in and to the 400 attendees for the warm reception. I also have a Go Pack Go for www.thinkwisconsin.com for sponsoring my talk. See you this Sunday at Lambeau for Packers/Panthers.
Spread the fire. GS
"Nothing influences a person more than a recommendation from a trusted friend," said Mark Zuckerberg, chief of Facebook, when commenting on Facebook Ads that display photos and profiles of subscribers next to promotional messages about products they bought. Those ads are shown to their network of Facebook "friends" as a sort-of automatic electronic word-of-mouth system.
Zuckerberg is right, of course, a personal recommendation from a friend is incredibly persuasive. Facebook Ads are a brilliant example of fanning the flames (equipping customer evangelists to spread your message throughout their social network.
For now many are criticizing Facebook-- complaining about privacy concerns. But those are unfounded as far as I'm concerned since users opt into the program. Soon enough Facebook's critics will be copying them, if they can, as social network enabled word-of-mouth gains favor among consumers.
I've asked Facebook to contact me so I can learn more, apply it for my clients, and report on it right here.
I am in Houston tomorrow to speak at the Rejuvenate Conference, a gathering of 400 church meeting and conference planners. Watch for a report tomorrow.
Spread the fire. GS
I recently accepted a new job as EVP, Director of Integrated Delivery with The Buntin Group, the largest ad agency in Tennessee and one of the top 150 agencies in the country. Read the press release here Download greg_stielstra_release_10.07.doc .
I am very excited about this new opportunity. I am joining a wonderful group of smart, talented, forward-thinking people who are determined to change the face of marketing in order to deliver real results for clients. My role is to help design a process that more effectively delivers relevant messages/experiences to the right consumers, helps them tell others, and keeps a record of who they are. In other words, I get to apply PyroMarketing.
TBG was one of my clients and has, in effect, hired me away from myself. Accepting this job means that I will no longer accept consulting work through PyroMarketing. I will, however, continue to write and speak. I will also retain my ownership stake in SneezeCast, the viral video marketing company that I own with Internet expert Bob Hutchins and my brother, film director Adam Stielstra.
I fully expect that my experience at Buntin will provide marketing insights I can share on this blog. I hope you find them helpful. Spread the fire. GS