AniBlurbs (Column)

Anibal's thoughts on Online Marketing Strategy, Service Design, Tech, Innovation, Business and more…

Brand Utilities: The End of Advertising Magic?

Consider this. By 2010, Best Buy’s Twelpforce had responded to over 29,000 questions and accumulated 26,837 followers on Twitter. But consider this too. It was the largest electronic retailer in the country – it takes a lot of shoppers to generate revenues of $4.4 billion in the month of December 2010. Consider too the sheer breadth of its offering, and that there are 245,267,292 people aged 15 years and over in the United States many of whom will presumably be in the market for some kind of electrical goods. And remember that the service was promoted through TV advertising as well as in-store-messaging. Suddenly it begins to feel as if that utility was actually delivered to and experienced directly by a relatively small population.

So, it is worth considering whether the mere availability of this service worked to elevate the brand’s reputation as being knowledgeable and responsive amongst a much broader population. Even though they never took advantage of this piece of utility. So was Twelpforce really a piece of utility?

One of the most eloquent and thought provoking essays on Advertising, Brand Utilities and Tech hypes I’ve read in quite some time. If like me you’re craving for some food for thought and sharp analysis Re the intersection of / hype surrounding the (much vaunted death) of Advertising and the rise of Brand Utilities, this is it.

Read the whole essay by Martin Weigel (@mweigel) here » The Enduring Power Of Stuff That Isn’t Useful And Why ‘Utility’ Will Not Overthrow Magic.

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Tech-Optimism Debunked by Evgeny Morozov? (VIDEO)

In this excellent, thought-provoking documentary Evgeny Morozov (@EvgenyMorozov, author of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom) punctures the Utopian idea that Internet is somehow by default and inherently a Freedom- & Democracy Enabler. Mr. Morozov is placed inside a digital Panopticon and reacts to the short video’s and sound bites projected there-on.

The questions Evgeny Morozov poses, his critical stance regarding Tech-Optimism and the issues he rises are very legitimate: Is Social Media really bringing us together? Or is the Filter Bubble merely strengthening our (narrow) visions, thoughts and opinions? Is the internet a free floating island, isolated from politics?

One of his gripes against the Tech-Optimists is that they seem to leave out of their equation any political, cultural and economic aspects needed for / impairing societal change and progress, as if all our problems and challenges are somehow fixed by becoming a cyborg or as if a distant regime can be overthrown by collectively changing the colour of our social media avatar. (His stance is even more interesting if we take into consideration the UK Governments’ plans to censorize twitter and Blackberry Messaging “Pinging” in case of riots or public demonstrations.)

Evgeny’s is a fresh and different philosophy, going straight against the current online, real-time “social” Echo Chamber and one that merits further thought and debate. A (lone?) voice of dissent that needs to be heard.

If you happen to have some spare time I really recommend watching and sharing this documentary – of special note are his takes on Ray Kurzweil (Singularity / Cyber-Optimism), WikiLeaks and Google vs Baidu –
as it will challenge your assumptions about where society and tech(nology) are heading and how they (should or should not) influence one another.

Evgeny Morozov: The End of the Internet-Utopia

This documentary aired last week on Dutch Public Television, for background information please check here »

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Social Business Hierarchy of Needs

Inspired by / based on Maslow’s work on our individual hierarchy of needs, the folks over at Altimeter Group noticed a pattern than companies undergo a similar growth with regards to Social Business Maturity (see the image below):

Companies Must Ascend the Social Business Hierarchy of Needs

Companies must fulfill the requirements at the bottom of the pyramid and then layer on top of success, building each layer. To date, they’ve found only a few companies that are getting near “enlightenment”.

According to Jeremiah Owjang there’s a pattern to be found from those advanced companies:

  1. Foundation: First, develop a business plan and put governance in place.
  2. Safety: Then, get organized by anointing a team and process to deal with crises.
  3. Formation: Next, connect business units to increase coordination and reduce duplication.
  4. Enablement: Grow by letting them prosper – give business units the support and flexibility to reach goals.
  5. Enlightenment: Finally, weave real-time market response into business processes and planning.

Source: Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang – (Report) Social Media Crises On Rise: Be Prepared by Climbing the Social Business Hierarchy of Needs
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Coca Cola Shares Social Media Strategy deck (Case)

I’ve discussed Coca Cola’s Social Media Policy in a column not too long ago. Now there’s an excellent slide deck on Coca Cola’s complementing Social Media Marketing strategy.

The only thing missing in this presentation is the way they handled the unofficial Facebook fan page. Coca Cola’s Facebook fan page had a staggering 3.3 million fans making it the biggest fan page second only to POTUS Barack Obama (until Michael Jackson’s tragic death, now almost a year ago which resulted in the superstar entertainer taking top spot for a while, see Page Data).

What Coca Cola did back there was quite remarkable; instead of the usual corporate Pavlov reaction of shutting the non-official grassroots initiative down (Apple anyone?), they reached out to the two fan page moderators instead, gave them a tour, full support, the works; effectively making them even more engaged as brand ambassadors.

To my eye it is clear that one of the biggest brands in the universe is more than ready for the new realities of the next decade. Are You?


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Billion Dollar Customer Loyalty Lessons by Zappos?

“Our Customer Loyalty Team is not scripted and is not measured on Time of Calls.” -Aaron Magness Zappos, director for Brand Marketing & Business Development. The review for the Zappos account … was one of the strangest that Madison Avenue has witnessed recently. It began with 16 agencies, but after word leaked out about the review, “we ended up getting 190” requests to take part, Mr. Magness said.

Source: New York Times – Tireless Employees Get Their Tribute, Even if It’s in Felt and Polyester


With regards to Customer Retention and Customer Intimacy, perhaps the following is evidence that there are no such things as “costs” involved, rather we should think in terms of investments: Zappos last year was acquired by internet giant Amazon for no less than $1.2 billion. The main reason? Their offbeat company culture of putting the customer first, which makes Zappos (founded in 1999) roughly $1 billion per year.

Zappos became famed for their Customer Intimacy: If, for example, you can’t find a specific shoe on their web shop, or it happens to be out of stock; the Zappos Call Centre Rep. happily guides you over to a competitors site and co-surfs their shop with you as long as needed to help you find the item for the right price.

Please note: The above is not an exception, it’s their official company policy.

Read that last sentence again and know it still equals heresy for most corporates out there.

It’s really sad how Call Centres (and the organizations hiring them) to this date still believe that call scripts, lowly paid Call Centre Representatives and a strict focus on Time On Call are defining factors of success, while Zappos clearly has shown otherwise on every conceivable level.

(On a similar note GetSatisfaction recently made some revisions to their Company-Customer Pact.)

Zappos understands that Marketing starts at the core -the experience you deliver- first, and advertising last. No wonder Madison Avenue went the extra mile to acquire the Zappos account: working with a brand with a stature and Customer centred culture like Zappos’ is any Agency’s wet dream…


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