Posts on B2C

100% of Plans Are Wrong

Posted on 06/08/2013

Yes it’s true. 100% of the plans you make whether at work, planning your career or anything else are wrong. Why? Because no one can foresee the future with 100% accuracy and since all plans are forward looking they are always wrong. The question is how wrong and how right and how will you know which is which?

I was fortunate to learn this lesson very early in my career. I was working at GE on a very large project that would land in front of the CEO (Jack Welch at the time). After a few 80 hour weeks, my manager and I were going through the last review prior to sending it up the chain. We went through it and all seemed good. Then I’ll never forget what my manager did next. He pushed the project summary back across the table at me and said “Katrina, what is the one thing you know is always true about every plan?” Being entirely too tired for riddles, I said I wasn’t sure and was frankly a little too tired to guess well. My manager replied “They are all wrong – every single one.” Snapshot the first moment in my career that I nearly burst into tears – I’d worked my you-know-what off for weeks and now the plan is WRONG?!?

Keeping my calm, I asked what exactly was wrong. The answer was this – “Nothing is wrong with the plan itself. But plans are forward looking and no one can predict the future with 100% certainty. Some of the most successful business endeavors occur because people are watching in real time; keeping an eye on the market, on customers, on the competition, on the world. So tell me how you will provide a radar to the world in this plan and what are the sign posts that will trigger a shift in the plan and then you can call the plan both complete and well done.”

So I did and the plan went up the chain to very positive feedback and impact. And I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my career. You only know what you know in this moment. The world is not a static place. So if you don’t have a radar to adjust to the world around you, prepare yourself to either achieve success through luck or make your own good fortune by moving in tandem with and sometimes ahead of the world around you.

Yes the radar matters. It matters a lot. A good radar is a mix of data analytics, qualitative experience, related experience from other industries, sectors or customer segments and good old fashioned gut-feel. This combination has served me very well over my career – it is some of that rare, timeless advice. I’m very thankful to my manager at the time at GE as he taught me this and many other things about business on a global scale.

So the next time you’re building a plan remember that it is wrong, not because you don’t know what you’re doing, but because all plans are wrong. So build your radar and don’t rest on your laurels. Enjoy the success that results – it will be amazing!

So You Say You’re A Chief Digital Officer…

Posted on 03/09/2013

I recently attended a first-of-its-kind conference for Chief Digital Officers. It was a very worthwhile event and if they do another, I will definitely attend and recommend it to others as well. This post includes some observations I made during the event. I hope you enjoy it. 

So what is a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) anyway?

While a rare few hold the actual CDO title, many of us have roles that are essentially that – being the strategists, stewards, champions, educators and just-get-it-done leaders of all that is digital in business. It was an enlightening and funny conversation around the room as to what exactly each of our jobs entailed.

The mix of focus in the CDO roles of those attending was quite varied, but seemed to align with the progression of digital understanding and adoption of the company where each of us worked. All the companies represented were over the initial fear of digital and at least recognized the need to adapt. From there it was a wide open array of what the job was and how well the company embraced and empowered the CDO as a change agent.

Who are these rare creatures, CDOs, and where are they?

From research by David Mathison of @BeTheMedia and Chadick Ellig, 54% of CDOs are 40-49 years old and 80% of them are men. Most commonly cited qualities of a CDO include: strategic, committed, do-er, relationship-builder, leader, entrepreneurial, and innovative. Essentially the most successful CDOs were mentally elastic – thinking big picture, operational execution and building relationships inside their company and outside to get things done.

Not surprisingly most CDOs are on the east coast with a center of gravity around NYC and the west coast, primarily in various hubs of California. Since much of US business is coastal and the need for people with a technology understanding in the CDO job, the locations made sense. 90% of CDOs were hired into their role in the last 2-5 years and trends show that over 25% of enterprises will have a CDO by 2015. Similar to the rapid growth of CMOs, the CDO role seems poised to be the next executive career path opportunity for people and companies looking to take a leadership position in their industry.

Critical Skills and Challenges Faced by CDOs:

Many of the panel speakers alluded to both the skills they found critical for success as a CDO and the biggest challenges faced in the role.  Needless to say these are connected. The biggest challenges faced by those in the CDO role included:

  • Culture Change – all across their organizations. Often cited as an ongoing endeavor.
  • Constant Education – helping people inside and outside their organization understand the digital realm and opportunities. A big part of this involved understanding where various people were in their understanding and comfort level with digital, then helping them take steps or leaps forward.
  • Effectiveness – demonstrating meaningful impact or effectiveness in the role. This was viewed as a challenge as many companies thought they wanted more change, only to realize they weren’t quite ready for all that. Being effective in role meant creating new performance indicators that were often a blend of hardcore metrics and milestones involving change management.
  • Change Management – being disruptive while staying true to the roots of the company or brand. Since many CDOs were new to the company they joined as a CDO, understanding decision-making and appetite for change was critical to success. For in-house hires, they understood the decision making process but often faced some “why on earth would you want this job?!?” thinking and push back on their strategies and plans.

Critical skills mentioned by the various panelists centered on things needed to overcome these challenges effectively, efficiently and in a way that sill allowed them to enjoy their jobs. Loosely summarized these skills came down to:

  • Diplomacy
  • A good BS filter
  • Adaptability to deal with a whole variety of people, situations and personalities throughout a day
  • Love of the business they were in. Being great at digital requires a deep appreciation for what makes the company great overall and bringing that to light through digital opportunities.
  • Comfort with technology, data and qualitative information all at the same time. Many CDOs seem to be very left-brain / right-brain balanced people and thrive in situations that let them use that talent.


That’s the high level view of a day that was packed with great information, interesting people and fantastic networking. Many thanks to David Mathison, Janice Ellig, Thomson Reuters for hosting the event and Deanna Zandt and the Lux Digital team for the digital coverage.


No Mindshare Taxation without Brand Representation!

Posted on 07/02/2012

I guess you can tell from this blog entry title, I have been following too much political news lately. So dust off your American history and hang with me. The consumers have spoken… no mindshare taxation without brand representation!

We see information about brands all day long – some put together by the brand itself; some by loyal fans; some by consumers-done-wrong. But with the proliferation of social media and Web 3.0, brands have little to no say over what they stand for any longer. People discuss your brand, their experiences with your products, their friends’ experiences with your products, competitive product experiences, what this all means to them etc. at any time with nearly anyone. While this has always been true to a certain extent, the wide spread acceptance of social and mobile media has added a layer of visibility to these trends that brands had been blind to in the past.

Your brand stands for exactly what people say it stands for – period. Social media has democratized your brand whether you wanted it to or not.  

Forget the traditional branding briefs, value pillars and so on. All this is well and good for ideas, but if you do not allow people to participate in your brand identity and help shape it, do not expect to get mindshare or loyalty from them.

People want to have a relationship with a brand or product. To create a relationship with your customers your brand has to have things in common with them, create a lasting and evolving emotional connection and deliver value over time as well as receive value back to your brand. In short, your brand has to have a community relationship where your customers experience your brand in a unique way that is memorable to them. So embrace the community and enlist a little help from the New Hampshire state motto by adopting a “live free or die” approach to your brand. Let your brand be free from the confines of traditional marketing and the mindshare you garner may just surprise you.

For those of you that live in the land of metrics, scorecards and an infinite fear of the color red, this can all be very scary. But in reality people have always been this way. For all time, people have wanted connection with others for some reason or another. Now, however, people can connect seamlessly, constantly and universally if they choose. Whether your brand gets any of this connection opportunity or mindshare is entirely up to how your brand chooses to participate. Mindshare is a human characteristic. Thought, reasoning, perspective, feelings and emotional connection are what make us human so why shouldn’t your branding be human as well?

One of the best recent articles on the emerging view of human-centric marketing comes from the team at One to One Global. I recently came across an article Jeremi Karnell posted on MarketingProfs and was intrigued. He partnered with David LaPlante to produce a short presentation on the evolution of marketing from brand centric to customer centric to now human centric marketing. I have to say, the presentation is inspiring and well worth a look. Here are some of my favorite points (paraphrased)…

  • To create a human approach (and therefore garner mindshare) your brand must have purpose. This goes beyond the traditional value pillars of a brand to include a variety of senses of purpose that your customers can experience in their own way.
  • Be improvisational. Brands that are in the moment of a customer’s experience, sharing with the customer and receiving meaning back in return from the customer create the most lasting and valuable human connections.
  • Be contextually relevant to create a human connection. Rather than build mounds and mounds of content, choose simple insights and examples that are delivered in a contextually relevant way to your customers so their experience is truly delightful. And remember to enlist help from your customers as to what these insights are and the context that is most memorable, from their point of view.

Your mindshare after all is highly valuable so why would you share it with a brand that did not value it?  So take a break from all the political debate, fire up your favorite browser, grab your favorite summer beverage and be inspired.

IF to IS

Posted on 05/05/2012

How do you build a culture that embraces Intelligent Failure (IF) to drive Increasing Success (IS)? Well, last week I attended The CMO Club Innovation Summit in NYC to speak on a panel about digital marketing – great event and great conversations. Innovation was top of mind which led to a lot of discussion about Intelligent Failure or IF and how that can lead to Increasing Success or IS. Here is my view on how to create a culture of IF to IS.

Intelligent Failure or IF means enabling your organization to “fail” in an acceptable manner. IF requires you to culturally embrace that the only real failure is a failure to learn and/or a failure to apply what you learned to other ideas. Iteration is a key component of IF. Iterating in smaller ways lets you quickly find blind spots, potential failure points as well as potential points of increased success. Whether you have an answer to these things or not is less important in IF than that you welcome the possibility to see them and work out a revised approach to your idea.

Increasing Success or IS occurs when your organization makes the concept of IF part of its DNA. IS happens because it becomes acceptable to share what was learned to save others from learning the same things the hard way. By embracing a culture of IF to IS, you empower people to come up with the best answers to things that would have otherwise led to failure or decreased success. IS is a result of faster innovation through leveraged learning and a culture of teamwork. This innovation also tends to cost less over time since you don’t have to spend money over and over for project teams to learn the same things the hard way.

A culture of IF to IS does not mean you cannot take on a “big bet” it just means you should break that big bet down into smaller pieces and apply the concepts of IF to the smaller pieces as well as the whole. IF to IS scales to everything from a personal project to a small company to a global organization.

As a leader, you have to set the tone of IF to IS for this to work. Putting IF to IS into your organizational culture means that as a leader you have to make a habit of asking people:

“What did you learn?”

“What would you do differently now that you know more?”

“What would you recommend to others facing similar situations?”

“What other projects do you think would benefit from what you’ve learned?”

Get in the habit of asking these questions for every project whether it met the original goals or not. Beginning with these simple questions and getting your organization in the habit of thinking this way and sharing the outcomes relieves the fear of failure. Fear of failure, which is really a fear of the consequences of failure, is the biggest deterrent to leveraging IF to get to Increasing Success or IS. So make these questions a habit, embrace the change and enjoy the success of IF to IS.

Relevance is Relative

Posted on 04/22/2012

Warning… this post is a bit of a tongue twister. Is your brand relatively reliably relevant? Say that 5 times fast – LOL.

Each day you wake up and have the opportunity to earn a spot on the relevance radar of your customers (or prospective customers). In the digital realm, however, relevance is relative. It’s relative to:

  • Where a person is in the conversation lifecycle: Have they heard of your products? Have they purchased from you? Are they a fan? With a little encouragement would they be an influencer for your brand? The contact lifecycle in digital doesn’t end with a purchase. Instead that begins a new series of conversations.
  • Where someone physically is during the day:  Are they always on the go so you only have a few moments to grab their attention between activities – if yes, mobile is a good way to go. Do they work with a laptop or tablet – if yes, then a great website is a must. If they tend to be a highly connected consumer during the whole day, social media is critical.
  • The source:  Information coming from a reliable source like a friend or trusted authority is more relevant than the same information coming from a random or unknown source. Better still is a group of related messages coming from a group of reliable sources – now that is relevant! 

When building a campaign or conversation plan, think through what a day in your target customer’s life looks like. Understand where they are relative to the conversation lifecycle. Remember when trying to drive repeat purchases that your goal is usually a combination of emotional connection and reinforcement that choosing your brand again is a wise and valuable choice. Never tell a customer they are out of date or behind the times – seriously, who would want to hear that even if it were true?

Understanding the flow of a person’s day and what marketing moments you have as a result can let you make powerful emotional connections and drive action as a result. Delivering these messages through media that they will see or use during these moments makes all the difference in being relevant.

Lastly, recruiting reliable sources to reinforce your message adds relevance. Today anyone can validate facts you present with a simple web search. To be personally relevant, your message needs to come through a reliable and known source with social media and blogs being an excellent route to personal relevance.

Each day your brand has the opportunity to be relevant. Plan accordingly and you will be relatively reliably relevant and that is very reassuring.

Meet the Happily Connected Consumer

Posted on 04/12/2012

The idea of the connected consumer is all the rage in the marketing world today. But what does this really mean? And, equally important, what should a brand do? The connected consumer has a few facets including:

  • Anywhere, anytime access to information: This is the device part. More than 80% of consumers watch TV with a phone or tablet in hand (Gartner). Mobile phone penetration worldwide is 77% and climbing (Mashable). More people worldwide will access the Internet through a mobile device than through a desktop by 2014 (Morgan Stanley). People have more access points than ever to the Internet which opens the world’s information to them anytime, anywhere they want.
  • Rapid validation of facts: Because consumers can get to information anytime, anywhere, they can validate it in real time. Is the price they see in the store the best around? Is there a promotion going on in this store or someplace else? Does the product really perform as the marketing materials say or do online customer reviews differ?
  • Social recommendations: SEO and PPC are the cornerstones of access to the connected consumer. These two tactics will get your brand in front of them but that’s just the beginning. From here, consumers will access their favorite social media sites – usually Facebook, Twitter and possibly some blogs – to ask for recommendations and opinions from people they know and who know them. This adds a personal relevance to the validation of the facts.
  • They are ageless: While many people have written great articles on Millennials or Generation C for connected, like this post from Brian Solis; the fact is the connected consumer can be anyone of any age. They may choose different devices and apps to be connected by, but they are all connected in some way.

Fantastic you’re thinking… so now what? Gaining interaction with connected consumers is mostly a content strategy followed by a multi-media execution strategy. How does this work?

Content must focus on the relevant threads of your brand for each consumer. It’s no longer about your whole brand everywhere all the time. Instead it is about that one thread of your brand that will form an emotional connection with a consumer. To do this, audience segmentation of all forms is critical – who are they; where are they; what makes them happy/sad/motivated-to-action; what do they care about; what could they care less about… somewhere in these answers are the threads of your brand that will make the connection.

Visibility of the brand thread is the app connection. Using the term “app” very loosely… this could mean everything from your company website to YouTube videos to Facebook to Four Square to Twitter to a custom brand app. Where will your targeted consumers most likely be online when they expect or want to see this brand thread? Most often it is multiple places or they want to connect threads across places so this is not a decision of a single place online – rather the range of places online these consumers will go.

Emotional connection is dependent on the device. How your brand thread shows up in the app of your choice is completely dependent on the device a consumer is using when they have this experience. Want the consumer to immediately share their excitement about your product? Well, you’d better have a great connection in Facebook and Twitter that works via mobile phones. Want people to enter a contest because they can’t wait to win your prize? Again, if they are entering after seeing a TV commercial, the contest website must be tablet-optimized and mobile phone optimized since those are the devices people have with them while watching TV. Or better yet, have an app that connects via the consumer’s TV directly. If a consumer gets frustrated with your brand experience because of the device they are having the experience on, you’re sunk.

Connected consumers bring fascinating new marketing opportunities for brands. You can now engage with them in more ways, in more places and most importantly in more relevant ways. Just remember to think about the brand thread, the app and the device so you create a full, rich experience for these consumers.

Happy Connecting and I’ll see you online!

Welcome to the Social Media Cocktail Party!

Posted on 02/25/2012

What kind of party guest is your brand? Most companies discuss their brand’s social media plan in terms of information distributed, leads generated, likes, follows, and re-tweets. But the real discussion should be about your brand’s personality, content and targeting that content in real time with a variety of audiences – much like being at a cocktail party.

Let’s review the stereotypical party guests and see which one your brand compares to:

The “Buy My Stuff” Guest: This person only talks about work. They tell you what they do and why you should buy their products. Rarely do they ask you anything other than some very basic profiling questions and they will shove a business card in your face whether you want one or not.

The “I’m the Greatest” Guest: This is the egomaniac. They are perfect at everything and won’t stop talking until they’ve told you all their heroics. Perfection is boring and blind, but these people fail to understand that.

The “Wallflower” Guest: These people hang out on the edge of the room, drink in hand pretending to participate but really only being a voyeur of others’ fun. Trying to have a conversation with them is risky as you never really know what they will say. They are often inconsistent in their replies because they are nervous or socially awkward.

The “Loose Lips Sink Ships” Guest: These chatter boxes go overboard on the TMI scale in a nanosecond. They’ll tell you all kinds of things you really don’t want to know, and probably shouldn’t either. Brands without a social media plan and without an employee social media policy are most likely to fall in to this category.

The “All I Do is Vacation” Guest: They go everywhere and often have fascinating stories, but leave you wondering how they make a living and if they can focus on a theme or activity. Adventurous but one-dimensional conversations are typical with them.

The “I’m Too Sexy for This Party” Guest: These are the people who know a lot of people but seem to somehow gain extreme pleasure in letting everyone know who they know, but not sharing the connection opportunities.

The “Real Person” Guest: These are people who have a life. Their life includes work, people and fun. They can talk about what they do or their friends/family or recent vacations with ease. They usually have some great hobbies and are interesting to talk to.

The “Guardian Angel” Guest: These people love helping other people find people who are interesting to them or can help them. They are truly gracious with their time, knowlege and connections. Meeting them is a blessing and being able to return a favor to them is always a treat.

The “Quintessential” Guest: These people work the room with ease. They ask great questions and often listen more than they talk. They move between topics and people with grace and a sense of humor discussing personal adventures, business, current events, etc. These are the people we all want to be at a cocktail party and when we spot them, we’re fascinated.

Being a good party guest is all about being informed and having a plan and your brand’s presence in social media is exactly the same. You know the host (media type), who will be there (audience), the theme of the party (what is important to the audience), what to wear (style that resonates with the audience), etc. And you have a game plan for interesting stories to share; people you want to meet; and information you’d like to gather. But most importantly, you’re open to new ideas, conversations and viewpoints. Make sure your brand has some personality, isn’t too perfect, has a sense of humor and can laugh at itself. Engage and work your brand’s social media presence like a combo of the quintessential guest plus the guardian angel guest and you’ll have more likes, follows and invitations than you can count.

Loss and Learnings from Arthur Nielsen Jr. and Steve Jobs

Posted on 10/09/2011

Wow what a week it has been. The marketing world lost two great innovators this week and probably countless others with less universal name recognition.  This week we lost the amazing Steve Jobs and we also lost the amazing Arthur C. Nielsen Jr. Mr. Nielsen’s passing at the far more acceptable age of 92 was sad, but at 92 seemed ok with most of us.  Steve Jobs’ passing at the comparably young age of 56 felt unjust when he seemed to have so many more innovative ideas to come and as a result we felt ripped off by time.

So what do Arthur and Steve have in common and why is this post about both of them?  Well they both drove innovation that has forever changed the world and they touched your life whether you knew them or not.  And as a result, we have a lot to learn from their legacies.

Being a true data geek, I admit that the Nielsen Company and in particular Arthur C. Nielsen Jr. along with his father Arthur Nielsen Sr. forever changed market research and how we view, measure and plan media consumption.  The founders of the famous Nielsen Ratings, Arthur Jr. also pioneered the TV rating systems and other digital media measurement that most of the world’s companies use every day to plan their media buys.  The Nielsens turned measuring consumer behavior into a repeatable and scalable science but even more importantly from a marketing perspective, they made this service an integral part of both media providers’ and media buyers’ business models.  The analysis and sale of trends in consumer behavior was the cornerstone of the father-son Nielsen team legacy and it is brilliant in its simplicity and longevity.  Countless other data analysis and research companies now do similar work in a variety of fields and they have the Nielsens to thank for showing that it is both possible and valuable.  Arthur C. Nielsen Jr. pioneered the concept of a data-product company that would enable countless other companies to grow to a scale never before possible, simply because they now had the information to do  so.  His legacy forever changed what each of us sees on TV, hears on the radio and reads in various publications whether online or off.  So whether you know his name or not, he has in fact shaped your life.

Steve Jobs, having been born and lived his life in the age of TV and new media, is far more widely known.  Steve was an artist at the core.  An artist who could envision new products and new experiences that had the amazing combination of elegant simplicity of design combined with powerful emotional connection.  Just think about how many people you know who own an iPod, iPhone, or Mac and how much they truly love these products.  Think about how many movies from Pixar you have seen and the enduring characters they brought to life.  He believed both in his dreams and the seemingly crazy dreams of others.  In  case you missed it, the Pixar home page also paid tribute to Steve Jobs.  While the Apple home page is in the majority of the press, you can’t help but be touched by the heartfelt tribute from John Lasseter and Ed Catmull.

Steve Jobs innate ability to “hear the space between the words” and envision what could be rather than simply evolve what already was is a lesson for all of us.  Listen… envision… think different… never give up on your dreams.  Simple concepts yet, very difficult to live each day.

Those of you who know me well are probably smiling at my combination of tributes to these two great men. Having done Nielsen rating work and forecasting years ago at NBC and now using Nielsen data as a cornerstone of the digital strategy for Microsoft, Arthur Nielsen Jr. has been part of my career from the very beginning.  Nielsen products appeal to the data geek in me and have helped me design great business strategies that have made billions for the companies I’ve worked for.  Similarly, Steve Jobs has been an influence since my college days when the original Macintosh first became pervasive on college campuses.  Watching Steve Jobs innovate in totally new ways across the tech and entertainment worlds has been an inspiration.  I cannot help but admire the elegantly simple yet amazingly emotionally powerful products he brought to life.  Having been both a competitor and customer of the products Steve Jobs’ companies delivered, I have enormous respect for his vision and dedication to customer experience.

So often a time of loss is the only time we permit ourselves to pause and reflect.  Reflecting on the contributions of Arthur Nielsen Jr. and Steve Jobs is both fitting and educational.  Their approach to business includes countless lessons that surely will fill countless books before long.  While I never met either of these men in person, I would like to say thank you to both of them.

Thank you for not giving up when giving up seemed like the best option.  Thank you for seeing beyond today and “hearing the space between the words”.  Thank you for making amazing products that have enabled me to have a fantastically fun and profitable career.  Thank you for making me laugh and at times cry.  And lastly, thank you for changing the world and I hope the rest of us can keep your learnings going and create innovation for the next generation as well.

I prefer to think of their passings as an amazing gift of learning versus a loss.  And I think they would both like that idea as well.  Rest in peace to them both.

The Mixology of Digital Marketing – Shaken or Stirred?

Posted on 07/10/2011

Perhaps it was all barbeques and parties over the Independence Day weekend in the US that had me thinking about the mixology of marketing in general and digital marketing in particular. The holiday weekend brought lots of social gatherings of friends and family. And one thing kept coming up over and over… mixology.

At a party you would likely offer your friends a drink, as an example. You may offer them a drink in a can, in a bottle, in a fancy glass, in a mug, with a lime, with ice, with alcohol or juice or countless other ways. It is all the same basic ingredients, but the combination of them and delivery varies by your friends’ personal preferences in taste and consumption. In other words… mixology. defines a mixologist (the person doing mixology) this way:

“The mixologist tends to focus on the art and craft of mixing cocktails, studying the classics, concocting new and exotic drinks, experimenting with lesser known distilled spirits and mixers, and, overall, pushing the limits of classic bartending.”

Digital marketing is much the same in that it is the craft of marketing with the art of digital execution. You have a core message or set of messages as your ingredients, and you mix the blend your audience prefers and deliver it to them in a place they prefer. In digital marketing you also study successes of other traditional and digital marketing campaigns, getting inspiration for new and more creative ways to deliver your message thereby pushing the limits of marketing overall. You then craft your digital marketing execution to be as personally meaningful as possible to your audience.

To do this well you have to know who would benefit from your message, actually have something interesting to say to them and know where or how they like to hear your type of messages. You have to know their preferences so you can “mix” the ultimate blend of both message and delivery.

Fundamentals of marketing with a mixology of message and delivery are the essence of great digital marketing.

Examples of this include the recent Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity which highlighted  Cyber Lions winners this year. Check out the Old Spice, Google and Innovative Thunder winning campaigns. The videos included on the site cover the fundamentals of what the message was and goals for the company, who needed to hear the message and how was the message delivered. The site has many other award winning examples of digital marketing mixology at its best.

I hope you found this post inspiring as you plan your next series of digital marketing campaigns. Remember marketing fundamentals come first and digital mixology can carry your product to new heights. Cheers!

Find a Little Digital Marketing Happiness, Coca-Cola Style

Posted on 06/27/2011

My day job is digital marketing with a decidedly channel pivot (versus end customer), but that does not mean I cannot learn a lot from companies who are amazing at consumer marketing. A community is a community after all, especially in the digital era so learnings from B2B and B2C are highly transferable. One company that is truly great at marketing innovation, and has been for decades, is Coca-Cola.

 Digital marketing and social media in particular have a natural gravitas for food and beverage companies. After all, sharing a Coke with a friend is one of life’s great social pleasures. Coca-Cola products are guests at most social functions in some capacity, so presence in the social media space is more than natural, it is absolutely required for Coca-Cola to get right. With a brand like Coca-Cola you simply cannot afford to be the “social” outcast.

 Wendy Clark, Senior VP of Integrated Marketing Communications and Capabilities at the Coca-Cola Company recently spoke at the AdAge Digital Conference about marketing innovation in the digital era. While you would expect someone with a job title like Ms. Clark to have lots of snazzy catch phrases, you might not expect them to be so universally relevant. Coca-Cola is a large, older company with an enviable market position in numerous products after all. But even with all the marketing budget and brand horsepower that the Coca-Cola Company brings, Ms. Clark gave an inspiring and enlightening presentation.

 The overarching theme of Ms. Clark’s presentation was… be gracious.

Yes, that’s right – be gracious. Being gracious with your communities, customers, indeed all your marketing activities has paid off substantially for the Coca-Cola family of products. Their internal research shows that as soon as they start to push in a community (translation, not being so gracious) the community backlashes either in small waves or large ones.

 This quote from Ms. Clark sums up why being gracious is so important:

 “The days of controlling the message are absolutely over.  At best you’ll be invited in and you’ll get to co-create and participate with consumers.”

 She went on to explain that marketing is “liquid and linked” in ways never before. Liquid because “everything communicates” as Ms. Clark says. And she is right – vending machines, trucks, even the cans themselves communicate to the consumer possibly long before they see one of your artistic print ads, or hear your new jingle on TV.

 My favorite part of her presentation was talking about creating an emotional experience connection with customers via art images on the Coca-Cola cans. Basically she turned a fixed cost of operations (producing the cans) into a marketing asset. She explains that Coca-Cola has to make the cans anyway, so why not have them communicate as well! Everything communicates in the same gracious way. And that is the linked component. All your marketing, messages, community engagement must be linked back to your core brand strategy.

 Why is linkage so important? Well here are some more interesting stats from Coca-Cola. On YouTube, there are 146 million pieces of content for Coca-Cola, but only 26 million, or 18% of the content was actually created by Coca-Cola. Their fans created their own content on top of the company-generated ideas, shared their content with their networks and extended Coca-Cola’s brand reach far beyond what the company could do alone. It is rather amazing when you think about it. 82% of Coca-Cola’s YouTube content was generated by their fans so this fan-generated content by definition resonates with the unique cultures of the various fan communities of Coca-Cola products. That’s right, it resonates with various cultures – allowing the Coca-Cola brands to be gracious yet again.

 Building great and gracious marketing in this liquid and linked world requires a new framework to think about digital marketing. I liked Ms. Clark’s spin on how to use the widely accepted Paid-Owned-Shared-Earned digital media model that most of us use each day. She’s put an action spin on it like this:

 Innovate Paid

Activate Owned

Integrate Shared

Engage Earned

Include storytelling content across all your media.

 To net it all out… Be gracious and celebrate the community in this very liquid and linked world. It’s a new age of marketing and Coca-Cola certainly is a leader. If you need some inspiration, watch the video of Wendy Clark’s AdAge keynote – the talk track is wonderful. And with that, I think it’s time for a Coke and a smile :-)