Recently in Consumer Trends Category

What Americans do online? Are you aligned?

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Very telling. Is your brand on top of this? It is no surprise everyone is panicking about social networking and online gaming but it is fascinating that online games have overtaken email as the second most heavily used sector accounting for 10% of all online time versus 8.3% for email. 

The question is are you worried about the "Other" category and do you even know what it is? What your consumers are doing with that time and whether your competitors are reaching them there? My guess is probably not.

For a deeper analysis visit the Nielsen blog.

Daring to Open your Brand to Consumers

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Brand logos

I've a confession to make, when I first wrote this best practice in Social Media Marketing for Dummies (Chapter 14, page 247) I hedged my bets. I really wanted to say that your consumers control your brand and the sooner you accept that the better you will be for it. But then I felt that I may face a backlash and resorted to the more cautious tone of simply encouraging companies to open up their brands to their consumers. So here's how it turned out.

This is difficult for many marketers. You've probably spent money and time building your brand only to have someone telling you to let go of it. This may sound absurd. The truth is that the more you let your consumers internalize your brand, talk about it in their own language, and manifest your story in their own way, the more success you will have with your SIM efforts.

Letting your consumers evolve your brand doesn't mean you're losing control of it completely. How you let consumers evolve your brand must be done in a fashion that is in sync with your company values, what your customers expect of you, the industry you operate in, and the appropriateness for your brand. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't let go at all. Brands that hold onto too much mystique run the risk of appearing cold, distant, and alienat- ing. Those risks are accentuated now with the social Web, so be careful, even if you're Chanel or Louis Vuitton.

Since the book came out, I've revised my opinion. I do believe that consumers are fundamentally shaping and reshaping brands through social influence marketing. The brands do not have a choice, the absolutely must allow consumers to shape their brands. The sooner they accept this and think about their marketing efforts through that lens, the better. Do you agree? And does this mantra apply to all brands in all industries?

10 Most Tweeted Brands of the Week. Love it

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I absolutely love the new Ad Age 10 Most Tweeted Brands of the Week list. Now of course, there are risks that some brands may try to game the system but I think that's unlikely. They're so focused on getting tweeted among their consumers that they probably won't try too hard to game the rankings itself. This week the Super Bowl and Google Buzz led the pack though I'm certain next week it'll be someone else. What's nice about this list is it not only tells us which brands are talked about the most but gives us a pop culture snapshot too in a similar fashion to Twitter Trends.

Ad Age Twitter Trends

The list uses a loose definition of brand to include Valentine's Day and movies like "MNIK" which stands for "My Name is Khan" (who knew!). For me most interesting would be the brands that do well even if they're not being launched that week whether as movies or products (Apple's iPad ranks high up there). Those are the brands that are succeeding on an ongoing basis. I suppose for them a deeper metric is the SIM Score which is the relative health of the brand versus its closest competitors across the social web. 

Does SIM mean big ideas matter less?

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ideascartoon1.jpgThere's a lot of talk in the advertising industry of how big idea advertising is losing its importance. Rather everyday ideas, small and nimble ones that can activate consumers and influencers alike across the Internet seem to be getting as important. On our own internal social media email list, we've been having a raging debate on this too.

We're certainly moving to a world where it is important to listen, inform, activate, entertain and respond to consumers in a more continuos fashion.  This requires the clustering of marketing activities in new ways, having a continuos low-burn marketing effort in place 365 days of the year. It also means deploying new strategies and campaigns in real time based on the engagement with the previous ones or any particular event. It is constantly in motion as advertisers chase consumers across the different digital platforms and channels and try to keep pace with their changing needs, preferences and locations of engagement. It is about speed and relevance. 

I think it is fair to say that the notion of 365 day marketing or continuos marketing in a SIM world is a necessity. More and more brands think in these terms for digital marketing and practically every marketer will need to have a baseline 365 component to all their marketing plans.

Social media is not enough in a downturn

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social_madness.gifNow before you start slamming me for selling out, let me explain what I mean (and yes, I was inspired by this cartoon). As I've been discussing on this blog and in a series of papers over the last two years, social influence marketing is going mainstream. It is becoming fundamentally intertwined with the core of all things digital. As such it is getting more difficult to separate social media and social influence marketing from other digital activities. 

That's a good thing for two important reasons. Firstly, social is increasingly becoming core to the web as it should be. And secondly, no digital strategy is complete without a social component. It would be akin evaluating whether you need to layoff employees in a factory plant without looking for operating efficiencies at the same time. 

In the last two years, I've done more social strategy engagements in more industries than I ever thought I would. From the auto industry to insurance, technology and consumer packaged goods, large brands are wondering how to tackle social influence marketing. Along with some really smart folks at Razorfish, I've been helping them. What has it taught me?

The Economist wrong on bling. I won't give it up

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I like The Economist magazine for a lot of different reasons. Insightful writing, balanced coverage, a global perspective and often a harbinger of trends to come. And then sometimes, it misses the point just a tad bit. Let me explain how.

The latest issue includes a thoughtful article on buyer psychology and how this downturn is resulting in a significant shift in how American consumers purchase and what they purchase. It's the whole post consumer world story and emphasizes that -

Few people seem consumed by a desire to consume, instead they are planning to live within their means, and there has been a backlash against bling.

Half of respondents to a survey from America and Europe say that the crisis has intensified their distrust of big business.

Brands must do!

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Brands need to stand for something but also do something says Garrick over at our Digital Design Blog. I like that notion and it jives with how I have been thinking about the evolution of brands in a social world. (Side note, Garrick and I have a lot of conversations so we often feed on each other's thinking). 

It really is time for brands to do more. Call it a desire for a better value exchange or building meaning for consumers or appvertising or think about in terms of brands doing more than forming emotional connections like supporting causes but the truth is that brands need to do more to become a part of our lives. We're tired of being a part of their worlds. That matters but our own worlds matter too and brands need to fit in more. 

The listening part is something that's very important to me. I still believe that brands don't listen enough. The Motrin episode is just the most recent example of what can happen if you don't listen. Some brand managers believe they own their brands and the consultants and brand gurus think that they know more about the brands than anyone else. They're in love with their brands. That used to be fine but not anymore.

A brand by virtue of its place in a consumer's social world is constantly evolved and in some cases even redefined because of consumer participation. The communities create and break the brand too. Its not just the property of the company behind the brand. This might sound strange but its true. Companies can and must do more to let go of their brands - to let consumers shape and influence it in the social web. When they do they will learn from their consumers how to become more actionable.

I believe the brands that let consumers co-create and co-evolve them are going to be the ones that win in the next decade. Now I wonder what Seth Godin, Jaffe Juice or Steve Rubel would think of this social media influenced perspective.

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