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Archive for January, 2012

Just (Don’t) Do It

January 26th, 2012 2 comments

Doing less is always difficult. There is a natural human tendency to do more.

To fill silences with words. To throw text on a page. To embellish a design with bells and whistles rather than just pull back. To use 10 words when one would do. To use five examples when the point was made after one.

In a media environment where communication channels and pathways have proliferated, brands are struggling with 1) understanding the changes to the new media marketing environment, 2) selecting / prioritizing which channel(s) to use, and 3) recognizing that they need to measure the return the channels give them.

Rush to create Facebook fan page, a Twitter handle, a Pinterest board, and start checking in on  foursquare. The thinking is that if consumers are using an online touchpoint, then a brand needs to be there also. But that’s not necessarily the case.

Different channels have different purposes and tones.

And those purposes and tones might not match up with your overall branding and marketing strategy. More importantly, this blanket approach might not even lead to conversations with the right segment of consumers.

Queue the tendency to fill empty spaces.

Sometimes, less is better. And this may seem counter-intuitive for marketers to say to clients, but it’s responsible and, more importantly, a better long-term strategy. Have your client focus on fewer channels with greater impact rather than being everything to everyone on every channel.

I’m reading “Buying In” by Rob Walker. The book is about the “dialogue between what we buy and who we are.” I think that means that the book is about what hidden motivations spur our purchase decisions and how branding plays a role in the process.

Walker discusses how logos are developed and that symbolic meaning for those logos can be invented – either by the logo’s creator or by its intended audience. He uses Hello Kitty as an example.

“I couldn’t express the mouth in a cute way,” Shimuza said, “so I decided not to use it.”

Shimuza, the woman who designed the Hello Kitty character could not figure out how to properly draw its mouth. So instead of forcing the issue and trying to make it fit, she pulled back and showed restraint.

Walker credits the lack of Hello Kitty’s defining features and characteristics (like a mouth) with increasing the “projectability” of the logo – allowing it to mean different things to a variety of people. A Hello Kitty spokesperson said that, “Without the mouth, it is easier for the person looking at Hello Kitty to project their feelings onto the character.” Hello Kitty became a cultural icon because it could mean so many things to so many different people.

This Hello Kitty example is instructive for many fields, social media included. And it’s a simple lesson. Don’t force it. Sometimes restraint is better and can create more possibilities.

Sometimes, doing less can lead to much more.

Categories: Entrepreneurs, Life, Marketing Tags:

Undefined Problems and Entrepreneurs

January 23rd, 2012 No comments

Law is a structured world. You have statutes, codes, and case law which provide an ordered way of thinking about problems down to their very elements. You are presented with a problem (a merger, a crime, a lawsuit) and you apply rules to the facts at hand to come to a solution.

Now, just because there are prescribed rules and an identified problems does not mean that this is an easy job. There’s a great deal of analytical thought, of wading through a myriad of facts and determining which ones are useful, which ones are harmful, and which ones are neither. It’s a job that requires judgment and skill.

But the problem solving is defined. You have an issue and you have a set of rules. And you pair the two together.

I’ve been reading about entrepreneurship a lot recently (seems to be the topic du jour on my Twitter feed). There’s a certain romanticism that has been attached to entrepreneurship. Some say that the best definition of entrepreneurship is this:

Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.

That’s interesting and concise. But I don’t think it gets to the root.

I think what sets good entrepreneurs apart is their ability to perceive a problem (an opportunity) and create a solution for it. Both parts are equally important but it is the ability to perceive a problem that is most challenging. It calls for keen observation of the world with an eye directed towards making things better. It requires looking at the world as it is and then looking at how it could be. It’s about seeing dots that exist in the present and future and drawing lines between them, seeing a path.

The best lawyers, like the best entrepreneurs and the best marketers, all have the ability to do this. Existing frameworks bend to their will and they reach something beyond (really trying to limit the hyperbole here…but it’s true).

Analytical thinking can be taught. Frameworks can be built. But vision is unteachable.

Global Social Media: There’s a Whole World Out There!

January 19th, 2012 4 comments

Cross-posted from the Attention blog.

I’m writing this post in New York City, but it does not live in New York City.

It lives in New York City and Chicago and San Francisco…and Mumbai and Capetown and Shanghai.

See, this post lives wherever someone reads it.

(And, yes, you may assume that I’m being generous in thinking that I have global readership…but my friend Google Analytics disagrees (ok, it’s only a few readers in those foreign lands)).

Social media is global. And cultural. In fact, everything you publish to the web can, with very few exceptions, be accessed by anyone in the world with internet access. It’s not called the World Wide Web for nothing.

Ignore this at your own peril.

Now, it’s not the case that your business will be ruined if you fail to optimize your social media planning to include global markets. But leaving this option untouched or not being sensitive to cultural differences foregoes a major opportunity to gain and engage fans throughout the world. It’s a mistake to assume the “social” globe ends at the United States’ borders.

An example might help clarify what I mean: Would Ford sell a Focus in Poland by advertising on a billboard in English at a busy intersection in Warsaw? Of course not. A Polish sign would be the only logical choice.

We tailor messages to cultural differences in marketing/advertising – so, why should social media marketing be any different?

It’s not. Just like in the off-line world, different cultures and markets engage with content differently online. Language is probably the easiest example. What’s the sense in speaking English on Facebook to a French fan base? Sure, it might not upset them (but then again, it might) – why risk it? And speaking to your French fans in French can be a point of differentiation between you and competitors.

Other examples abound. Teens in Mexico might be less likely to interact on Foursquare than those in the US (and, on a side note, US teens aren’t engaging with foursquare all that much in the first place). Videos might go over better in the US than they do in Germany.

Different demographics in different countries use different social channels…differently. There is no uniform answer. But there are plenty of tools to help you tailor your message – you just have to want to use them and think strategically.

The fact is, if a multinational company isn’t tailoring its social media strategy for global audiences, it risks turning off a user base and missing opportunities for engagement and, down the road, revenue and an in to the word-of-mouth referral market.

In today’s world, information travels in the form of a link. And in the attention economy, links are a currency that are traded all over the world.