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Archive for May 22nd, 2006

Heads-up: Two very important conferences are coming up next month (that’s June… if you’ve been so busy that you don’t remember what month this is).

The first is Corante’s Innovative Marketing Conference (June 8-9) in New York (at Columbia Business School). Scroll down for details, or just hang out for a sec while I tell you what the second conference is.

The second is WOMMA’s WOMBAT #2 in San Francisco (June 20-21).

Due to scheduling issues and circumstances beyond my control, it still looks like I will be unable to attend Corante’s IMC (ugh…), but I will at least be able to make WOMBAT this time around. (One out of two is better than none, I guess.)

Update – I’m still working on trying to free myself for Corante’s IMC, so there’s still hope.

Transparency notes:
Conference #1 – I am Corante’s Marketing Hub editor.
Conference #2 – WOMMA graciously invited me to be one of four bloggers who will cover WOMBAT #2, and I have accepted.

Here are the details (from Corante’s site):

Corante’s Innovative Marketing Conference:

The theme of the conference: innovation. Companies today are facing increasing pain points as marketing struggles to keep up with innovations in the marketplace. Media proliferation, product choice, consumer networks, “the TiVO effect” — all are posing immense challenges to the old ways of building brands.

At the same time, radical innovations in the practice of marketing are turning the field on its head. Search marketing, viral marketing, customer experience, word of mouth, mobile communications, customer involvement – each has shown promise for building incredible value. But can these cutting-edge new tactics really work for any brand? And should we really throw out the ad agencies—when the best campaigns are still generating incredible buzz, brand awareness, and bottom-line growth?

The 2006 Innovative Marketing Conference will tackle head-on the question of the future of marketing — drawing on the best practices from the past, and the real promise of the future. The conference will comprise a CMO Summit, and a larger Marketers Forum. Both days will assess the painful challenges and exciting new possibilities facing marketing today. Participants will gain practical tools, real world case studies, and the chance to network and share best practices with peers in a non-competitive environment.

How can we build the foundation for a new marketing that will deliver value in a new marketplace? We hope you will join the conversation.

Join Corante and Columbia for this intense 1-2 day conference and workshop (see below) that is designed to offer implementable insights and actionable learnings for companies and individuals looking to get a grasp of the forces that are remaking the marketing industry. We are convening many of the field’s leading thinkers and doers for a series of lively panels, interviews, talks, and informal events that will help marketers understand where things are headed and how to get there.

Day One: The CMO Summit

The first day of the conference will be open to a limited number of CMO’s and VP’s of Marketing from a range of industries. A select group of non-competitive peers will focus on the most critical issues facing marketing leaders today and the best practices for innovative marketing. Participants will share their challenges, lessons learned, and most effective strategies, with colleagues in other industries who face similar issues. (Again, space is very limited for this exclusive event: we urge you to sign up for this event quickly. Please proceed to this page to apply and register – you’ll hear back from us promptly.)

Day Two: The Marketers Forum

The second day of the conference will provide a large forum for marketing practitioners from a wide range of industries. Cutting edge thinkers and business leaders will present new models for innovative marketing and lessons from companies that are leading the way towards a new marketing foundation. Key learnings and case studies that emerged from the CMO Summit the day before will be incorporated in the Forum’s speeches and panels.

Among the companies and organizations that have attended the conferences:

* McCann-Erickson, Weber Shandwick, Interbrand, Avon, Estée Lauder, Adidas, American Express, Citigroup, Absolut Vodka, Coca-Cola, Unilever, HP, eBay, Microsoft, IBM, BMW, McKinsey & Company, AOL, BusinessWeek, The Economist, The New York Times, UNICEF, Bell Atlantic

Find out more.


WOMMA’s WOMBAT #2
(from WOMMA’s site):

Smart marketers have always known that word of mouth marketing is the secret weapon of the greatest companies. Satisfied customers telling their friends are your most powerful advocates.

Word of Mouth Basic Training 2 is the forum to share what we’ve learned and how to do it better.

What you’ll learn:

* Learn from real case studies and how-to lessons.
* Meet the world’s leading word of mouth experts.
* Master the core skills to succeed with word of mouth.
* Discover how to implement word of mouth at your company.
* Network like crazy at the biggest word of mouth conference ever.
* Understand critical issues around ethics and honesty.
* Measure and track the ROI of word of mouth.
* Enjoy an official WOMMA event, the association that brings together the amazing people who are building this fantastic industry.

Who’s going to be there:

The best minds in the business, all connecting and participating. WOM marketing experts from major brand marketers. Viral marketing masters. Bloggers. Grassroots organizers. Researchers, tacticians, professors, and pioneers. And lots of smart people who have developed unique ways to reach out and understand their customers.
A focused agenda featuring diverse speakers

We’ve created a focused agenda with an unusual diversity of speakers and panelists. You’ll meet the experts who have mastered word of mouth and get a chance to ask questions up close and personal. No aloof speakers who walk out the door when they’re done — just the right people getting together to learn and share.
You need to know this!

Word of mouth marketing is rapidly becoming a core part of the marketing mix. It’s amazingly powerful – and it’s easy to make mistakes. If you are actively using word of mouth marketing, you’ll learn the strategies and tactics to make your campaigns more effective. If you’re just starting out, you’ll learn what you need to know to be successful in this exciting new industry.

Right. So there you go. Mark your calendars, book your flights and hotels, and attend what I think will be by far two of the best conferences you’ll attend all year. (I wouldn’t recommend them if I didn’t think they were worth your hard-earned cash.)

In the immortal words of Rusty Longshanks, “These things are going to rock!”

I couldn’t agree with him more. ;D

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Note: I just wrote this piece as an editorial for Corante, but since it applies to this blog, I decided to post it here as well. Enjoy:

Hail the one-percenters. The rabid fans. The most hardcore users. Apple has them. Harley Davidson has them. Porsche. VW. BMW. Ford. Corvette. Marlboro. Cartier watches. Yves St. Laurent. Weston shoes. Pinarello bikes. Speedo (no, really). Rudy Project. Calvin Klein. Tommy Hilfiger. The New York Times. Fox News. Canon. Nikon. Michelin tires. John Deere. Hincapie Sportswear. Mavic wheels. The New York Yankees. The Atlanta Braves. Turin’s Juventus.

If your company has rabid fans, you’re already on the right track. If you learn how to listen to them, you’ll stay on the right track for years – and decades – to come.

Via Johnnie Moore, Ben McConnell (co-author of the well-read Church Of The Customer blog points us to a great piece on the importance of the “One Percenters”:

“It would appear that small groups of people often turn out to be the principal value creators of a democratized community. Over time, their work fuels widespread interaction that engages the non-participating community and attracts new ones. If continually nurtured, the community can become a self-sustaining generator of content and value.” – Ben McConnell.

That being said, here’s what’s really going on in most organizations:

“It’s easy for organisations to stigmatise the one-percenters. Marketing types often sneer at fanatical customers for their lunacy in being more passionate about the organisations’ product or service than the professionals are. Focus groups exercises tend to average out the views of a wide customer base rather than looking at the core enthusiasts. New business drives focus on acquisition of the new rather than enthusing with the existing customers.

“Seems to me that this is a mindset worth reviewing.” – Johnnie Moore.

Yep.

To illustrate his point, Johnnie points us to the case of how Harley Davidson (arguably one of the most widely recognized and iconic brands in the world) turned its fortunes around by embracing – rather than marhinalizing – its one percenters:

“On our trip to New York we met Richard Wise, Chief Strategic Officer at Agency 16, modern marketeer and a very saucy fellow to boot. He has paid close attention to that great US company Harley Davidson and the history of its brand. He explained that at one point the bikers that are so closely associated to the epic motorcycles were quite reviled by the company’s management. So much so that they were referred to as the one-percenters – as in the one percent who spoil it for everyone else. HD’s mindset was that it was best placed to decide what its customers wanted. The management were shocked when…

“…tattooed-hooligans started taking their beloved bikes apart – or chopping them – to meet their own warped ‘hog’ desires. It was only when the company’s worth hit rock-bottom and a younger member of the HD clan took control of the business that that view changed. The company embraced the one percenters and reframed their destructive tendencies as a guide to what their most hardcore and loyal customers wanted. As a result, the company’s fortunes were reversed and its value soared. This struck me as a great example of open source marketing and the value of a co-creative approach. Hells Angels as lead-users – what a great notion.” – from the Modern Marketing Blog‘s January 16, 2006 “Why Hells Angels Know Best”, by James Cherkoff.

Not to put any limits on the concept of co-creation, but perhaps a good place to start for most companies is to focus on the one-percenters first… and then, after a while, graduate to full-on co-creation. By focusing on customers and users who already understand your product as well as (and in some cases better than) you do, you can keep customer-generated input manageable and focused. You can learn how to integrate co-creation into your product development process without drowning in “noise”.

Perhaps more importantly, by learning to listen to the one-percenters first, it’s pretty unlikely that you will be tempted to gravitate towards the seemingly safe, boring, soft, generic middle. This is a topic often covered by one of my favorite bloggers, Kathy Sierra, who routinely reminds us to stay away from the boring “middle” in favor of the edgy… well, “edges” of design. The worst thing a company can do when it comes to building a powerful brand is to try to be all things to all people. It just doesn’t work that way. Looking for the fat middle is a sure-fire way of becoming instantaneously “generic.” (Not that there’s anything wrong with being generic, but when the object of the maneuver is to create a strong – or I’ll say it again – “iconic” brand (is there any other kind?), being “generic” is the complete opposite of what you are shooting for.

Per Johnnie:

“To some marketers, the polar opposite of the 1% Rule — the Law of Big Numbers– might doom any decision to dedicate resources toward a democratized community. Should it? Not necessarily, although any community organizer should be prepared to accept the reality of slow, incremental growth, not a big, Hollywood-style opening.” – Ben McConnell.

The fear in many executives’ minds is this: We know the 80/20 rule works. Will listening to the one-percenters really pay off? Will the other 99% of our customers adopt changes made by our 1% of insanely loyal and passionate users?

If your business is based on producing generic products or on simply providing a quality-light substitute for other products at a lower pricepoint, no. If, however, your goal is to differentiate yourself from would-be competitors, to develop a strong brand, to lead your company into a market leadership position or to help it become as iconic as Apple, Harley Davidson, Nike and Canon, yes.

Remember we’re talking about listening, here. What you choose to do with what you see and hear is entirely your business. You don’t have to act on every suggestion. But when it comes to focusing your attention on a particular segment of your customer base, you could do far worse than starting with the one-percenters. It seems counter-intuitive and yes, it’s a bit of a leap of faith when you’ve been told for decades to follow the big numbers, but these are the people who hold the key to your brand. Listen to them. Learn what makes them tick. Let them help you stay relevant. It worked for Harley Davidson. It worked for Apple. There is no reason why it won’t work for you.

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