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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Reframing the conversation

It's 2006 planning time and the marketing frustration is beginning to boil. "How do we set ourselves apart?" "How do we get more of a "big bang"? "How can we make a difference with no budget increases?"

First, throw away the "brand voice" definitions and marketing "messaging" documents that haven't worked. Try something different this year. Create strategies around what your company really passionately believes in. Get your customers thinking in new ways. Reframe how they think about the industry and you. Create programs around ideas abd beliefs. Let your people talk. Use more video and podcasting and fewer words.

Beliefs and ideas are very powerful stuff and difficult for your competitors to copy.

A good way to learn more about reframing market conversations around beliefs is to read linguist George Lakoff's book, "Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate." While the book focuses on how to change the political conversation, there are many lessons for marketers who are trying to figure out how to communicate their competitive difference, and their value to customers.

Lakoff provides a lot of guidelines, but says these four are the most important:

  1. Show respect.
  2. Respond by reframing.
  3. Think and talk at the level of values.
  4. Say what you believe.


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Friday, October 21, 2005

BIF-1 Innovation Summit: Seeing new possibilities


My head is still spinning (in a good way) from the stories from 25 business, entertainment, education, arts and government leaders at this week’s Business Innovation Factory Summit in Providence, RI. Hosted by Richard Saul Wurman of TED fame and Xerox PARC’s former chief scientist John Seely Brown, the conference challenged the way most of us think about innovation.

After digesting the stories, lessons and advice of some remarkably diverse and successful people, here are some patterns I took away:

Have a dream. Reframe. These game changers had an idea – a vision – that turned them and their people on to do what many might have thought was impossible. The “dream” was almost always a bigger purpose than anything financial. Stuart Moore, co-founder and co-CEO of Sapient, told the story of three stone masons. They first one said he was cutting rocks. The second said he was working to feed his family. The third said he was building the world’s biggest cathedral. They were all doing the same work, but the third one loved his work because it connected to a bigger vision, an important piece of work.

The conversations around creating a higher purpose and dream reminded me of this illustration from Hugh MacLeod.



5x Ask "why" and "why not." Innovators ask why, and then they ask why again, and again and again, and again. Ask “why” 5 times and you’ll begin to get into possibilities and obstacles. John Seely Brown suggested that we also asked “Why Not?” five times as we explore possibilities.

Dennis Littkey, founder of the Met School, recipient of multiple Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grants, fundamentally changed the success of largely high-risk inner city high school kids, by asking the question, “Why is school so boring for kids? What’s really best for kids? How do they want to learn?’ Rather than looking at how to change schools, he looked at what the kids wanted, and then designed education around that. The graduation rates are in the high 90% while graduation rates from conventional inner city schools is around 50%.


Get out of your world. Larry Huston of Procter and Gamble talked about how tapping into the world of 1.5 million “experts” for new product ideas – vs. relying on an internal 7,500 person R&D team – has helped this consumer packaged goods company add $3billion in revenue a year. Rather than a typical “research & development” approach P&G now uses a “connect & develop” approach, with more than 30% of new product ideas coming from outside the company; the goal is to get to 50 percent.

Work has to be fun and engage people on intellectual, emotional and visceral levels. “Innovating and change isn’t “hard” work; if it’s framed within a context of the “dream” and an exciting purpose, work takes on a new meaning. Jim Lavoie, CEO of RiteSolutions, and Stuart Moore, dissed the idea that change is hard. “Today’s knowledge workers want to have fun. If it’s not fun, why get out of bed in the morning?”

Innovation comes from the opposite of expectation.. The future his here, ripe with possibilities. We need to be more intellectual curious, inquisitive, brave, see – truly see – what’s going on, shun accepted “wisdom,” challenge the norm, and explore radical alternatives.

Sounds like fun to me.


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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Advocates & Identity

One particualry interesting piece of research about what makes people evangelists and advocates for an organization, comes from the University of Queensland, and was presented by Sam Friend of Wotif.com at last week's International Word-of-Mouth Marketing Conference.

The overriding reason people advocate for an organization or product is that they identify with the organization or share a sense of community with other people who support/buy from the organization. (62%)

I was truly surprised to hear that satisfaction and experience accounted for just 21%, and trust for 9% in comparison.

Here are the standardised “path estimates” for the model.

Advocacy à Loyalty (.88)
Identification à Advocacy (.62)
Satisfaction à Advocacy (.21)
Trust à Advocacy (.09)


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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Takeaways from the International Word of Mouth Conference

Last week two conferences about the future of marketing were held -- the giant annual Association of National Advertisers (ANA) conference in Phoenix, and the first International Word of Mouth Conference in Hamburg, Germany, which I attended and spoke at.

While the ANA conference sounded the alarms for new ways to connect with consumers amid an increasingly fragmented world, the WOM conference showed how to do just this.

Here are some highlights from the WOM conference.

WOM is a discipline with proven ways to research, plan, target, test and measure. Fergus Hampton of Millward Brown laid out the most cogent strategic approach to moving brands from “talk at me brands” to “talked about” brands. I especially liked Fergus’ example of religion as word-of-mouth at its most effective.

Content: WOM is about engaging the customer, and this can be done through experiences, ideas, and beliefs. “What starts WOM are ideas,” said Steven Erich from Crispin Porter. “Ideas also need to be killed to make room for new ideas. “ Jaap Favier of Forrester, noted that we remember 10% of what we read, 15% of what we hear, and 80% of what we experience.

Style: WOM must be authentic, truthful, provide value, and use a human voice. One of my presentations talked about the need to make meaning, not buzz, and that meaning making requires context, relevancy and honest emotion. Meaning making, done right, builds trust.

Influencers drive WOM: Alex Macris of The Themis Group, who presented with game producer Scott Foe of Nokia, explained the secrets to marketing to influencers, who he calls “superconductors”: respect their power, build relationships, accelerate their experience, and offer them status. Inus Hwang of Azooma Marketing Lab in South Korea showed how effectively engaging a community 200 women has accelerated the national adoption of new products at a fraction of the cost of TV advertising. (1/13th the cost in one of her cases.)

Internal WOM: Euan Semple of the BBC talked about the value of using blogs internally to more openly share ideas, problems and opinions. “When you get people talking internally you’re less likely to make mistakes and more likely to create better things,” he said. Added Hugh MacLeod, “How you talk internally affects how people talk externally.” Hugh thinks that you need to create an environment where internal people can have more open, frank real conversations before you can have genuine external conversations. He pointed to the example of how Robert Skoble of Microsoft has changed the internal conversations within the company and affected the company’s culture.


New Research: Several academics presented new research on WOM.
Today, just 3.4% of WOM conversations are stimulated by a company’s marketing efforts; and a whopping 77% is through face-to- face conversations. Walter Carl, Assistant Professor of Communications Studies, Northeastern University.

Netnography, with its ethnographic roots, can provide valuable insights in how to communicate with and influence consumers, and glean message themes, according to Kristine De Valck of HEC University in Paris.

Visualization of data can pinpoint influencers in WOM communities, according to Suresh Sood, University of Technology in Sydney. He presented a project where he was able to identify 25 influencers among 65,000 people through visualization of mobile phone calling patterns.

The value of positive and negative online consumer reviews differ based on the product type, said Shahana Sen of Farleigh Dickinson University. Her research shows that 61% people rate negative reviews as useful for utilitarian products. But for hedonic products (books. CD’s, etc.) just 28% rated negative reviews as useful

How do you establish consumer advocacy? A University of Queensland study presented by Sam Friend of Wotif.com showed that customer identification is the most important antecedent to consumer advocacy, more than consumer satisfaction or trust.

My favorite takeaway from the conference were two remarks by Hugh MacLeod:



“The market for something to believe in is infinite.”
“To control the conversation, improve the conversation."

Now there’s something for marketers to talk about as they plan next year's strategy.