What am I doing, right here, at this moment?
I’m thinking and reflecting upon the experience I’ve had attending the Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association’s conference that took place in Chicago this week.
And, of course, the very act of typing out my reflections about my experience to share through my network is what this is all about. Fundamentally, I had an experience worth sharing.
And providing a compelling experience is one of several key takeaways I got from the day and a half that I attended the conference. Here’s my impressions:
It’s Time to Get Real
Author and consultant Brian Solis (@BrianSolis) was the keynote speaker. Brian started by pointing out that consumers are people who are exceedingly pragmatic when it comes to social media.
To that end, Brian asked, should marketers think that people want a “relationship” with a brand through social media?
Hardly, he said. What people want are discounts and special offers. They want tangibles. And people will drift from the social networks of brands that don’t get this, a trend that he stated has already began.
Brian went on to suggest that as marketers, we only need to look at our own experiences, our own ways of engaging on the Internet, to understand this.
I think it was telling that someone as steeped in research and analysis as Brian would invoke the call to think of ourselves, of our own actions when we make a purchase decision, as the key to unlocking the mystery of how and why people interact with brands through social media.
So, it is time to get real and recognize that the group formally known as the audience is people. Show empathy with the people you’re trying to market or sell to and provide them with something tangible. Maybe it’s a compelling story. Maybe it’s useful, relevant information. Maybe it’s a special offer. Whatever it is, wrap it up in either an online or offline experience, and it gets even better.
Which brings me to my next key takeaway …
It’s All About The Memorable and Shareable Experience … and Having Fun!
Years ago I was inspired by Seth Godin’s charge, in his book titled The Purple Cow, to strive to be remarkable, exceptional. Essentially, Seth is saying in his book “go exceptional, or go home.” That was almost 10 years ago.
This week, I found this exact same sentiment echoed by John Moore of @BrandAutopsy, and Geno Church of @BrainsonFire in their presentation called Bringing Sexy Back to Offline Marketing Using Customer Touchpoints as Talking Points.
Using examples such as Which Wich, and Mini Cooper, they demonstrated how the combination of exceptional and memorable experiences were intensely shareable – the very essence of word-of-mouth marketing. And, as Geno pointed out about the Mini Cooper story, these experiences were an elegant blend of both online and offline activities.
At the end of a podcast interview I did earlier this year with David Meerman Scott about content marketing and corporate websites I asked David for some final thoughts about our discussion.
He said the important thing is “to have fun.” He said for too long, marketers haven’t been having fun.
I was reminded of this as I listened to John and Geno. They were clearly having fun. Fun is contagious. Spreadable. Shareable.
I believe that marketing communications as a profession is on the cusp of an era in which providing fun, compelling and engaging experiences, coupled with tangibles, will be the rule, rather than the exception.
Let Me Tell You a Story
Story, lately, is getting a lot of attention in the marketing and public relations blogosphere.
But, let’s be real. When the average CFO or CEO, small business owner, non-profit board chair, etc., hears “it’s all about story” they immediately go to some place like Disney animations in their minds.
This is why I enjoyed the Story Discovery Workshop by Jon Thomas (@Story_Jon), of Story Worldwide.
The significance of what Jon demonstrated in his presentation is that the telling of a brand’s story should be based upon a repeatable, strategic process. Using worksheets, Jon walked the group through exercises that included looking at brands through metaphor and persona archetype as a process for defining a brand’s story. These intentional aspects of defining the brand’s story are important.
Whenever I discuss story with clients, I like to point out that brand storytelling is not content for content’s sake. It’s content – in this case, stories – carefully planned and tailored to achieve specific organizational desired outcomes (i.e. changing a brand perception, increasing conversions) by reaching specific groups of people, in order to drive specific responses. Jon’s use of metaphor and archetypes to help a brand understand it’s story is an idea worth stealing!
Circling back to the Day 1 keynote by Brian Solis …
At the end of Brian’s presentation, he mentioned two areas he recommended the WOMMA audience pay attention to: Brand Journalism and Transmedia Storytelling. Remarkably, at least as indicated by the #WOMMA Twitter stream, this picked up very little traction with the audience.
I’d like to suggest that that’s too bad.
Inherent in both are important approaches and tactics for engaging with people through story, and we’re going to be seeing a lot more about both of these areas in the very near future as more brands explore these topics.
Brian touches upon brand journalism a bit more in his recent blog post, The End of the Destination Web.
My Final Thoughts
While Day 2’s keynote speaker Duncan Watts (@DuncanJWatts) tells a cautionary tale about basing marketing strategy on “common sense,” I found the Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association’s focus to be … well, common sense.
The age old adage of sales is that “we buy from our friends.” This was true before the Internet. It’s hyper true today in a world where people are the hyperlinks between a purchase consideration, and a purchase.
If we treat “audiences” like people, give them content and/or experiences that are engaging and tangible, and tell our stories in ways that are not just authentic, but strategic, we will get people talking about our products, services and causes.
And that’s something worth talking about.