Does ‘Like’ Go Far Enough? – Rosa Parks’s Facebook Status

Someone I spoke to the other day made a the comment – “What would the Victorians or Tudors have made of social media?”

Got me thinking. And then I read this article by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker – an eloquent condemnation of the notion that it’s social media tools that have empowered people to make real change. He sure has a point.

Martin Luther King didn’t need Twitter to mobilise a movement. He didn’t say “I have a mission statement”, and Rosa Parks didn’t post on Facebook “Rode the bus today – some people got a bit angry when I wouldn’t give up my seat. Let’s start a revolution. Please ‘Like’ this”.

In fact when you consider relatively recent historical events of say the last 200 years, it’s quite humbling to see what has been achieved, all without social networks.

Think, William Cobbet’s pamphlets opposing the Corn Laws and support for Catholic Emancipation. Think, the Great Reform Acts, the Suffragettes, the Chartists, the Levellers, the overthrow of Ceaucescu and the Poll Tax riots. All examples of people power and mass mobilisation. The power of word of mouth and engagement. “Come down to Kennington Common – bring a friend” probably wasn’t exactly how the Chartists organised themselves, but you get the idea.

And so are we any more different or more powerful than these people in history, now that we have Facebook and Twitter?

Well, as I wrote about this week, a movement of people have persuaded Gap to change their logo inside a week of launching a new one,  by mobilising quickly and effectively on social media and scaring the bejeezus out of a major brand.

But now doesn’t that sound lame?

The best we can do through these channels is to persuade a business to change its logo because we don’t like it. I’m not disparaging this event. In the history of business and commerce I think it’s a massive one. One that will be written about for years.

But where are the flashmobs organised on Twitter and Facebook to protest against the travesty that is  young carers having their childhoods taken from them as they have to perform the tasks that their handicapped parents are unable to carry out for example?

Have we lost sight of what really matters and of what social tools could really do to help raise awareness and mobilise action? Has the nature of these tools themselves actually isolated and numbed people from what’s really happening in the world?

What if people had clicked ‘Like’ on Rosa Parks’s Facebook status? Would they have left it at that and gone back to their lives?

I’m not sure. What do you think?


Gap’s About Turn – Strength or Weakness?

Yesterday was a big day for the retailer Gap.

Having announced that they were to change their logo just a week ago, they have now reverted back to their traditional blue box.

And the reason for this change of heart is the huge outcry and anger amongst Gap’s customers that they have expressed through social media.

Here are a couple of quotes from Gap:

“Ok. We’ve heard loud and clear that you don’t like the new logo. We’ve learned a lot from the feedback. We only want what’s best for the brand and our customers. So instead of crowd sourcing, we’re bringing back the Blue Box tonight.”

“We’ve learned a lot in this process. And we are clear that we did not go about this in the right way. We recognize that we missed the opportunity to engage with the online community.”

As someone who has been involved in a rebranding process for two major high street brands, I know that a logo change is an 18 month process – minimum. For Gap, this must have included customer focus groups, test marketing and a whole host of other research activities before, firstly they decided to launch a new logo at all and secondly undertake all the work necessary to ensure a transition on the ground from old to new.

So for this process to have been turned into  a costly waste of time and money inside one week, is astonishing.

I can’t think of another example of ‘people power’ that comes close to this. The Gap logo episdoe will surely become case study worthy for all students of marketing in the future.

And yet the fantastic news for Gap in all of this is that they now know, beyond any doubt, that they have a rich vein of customers who love the brand deeply. Care about it passionatley enough to feel moved to mobilise so quickly and express their feelings. This episode proves Kevin Roberts’ great truth “Lovemarks are owned by the people who love them”.

Of course Facebook and Twitter were the main vehicles for this movement. But the speed at which people were able to organise and mobilise is jaw dropping.

There are now sites selling T-shirts with the words “Logo Fail’ across the chest. This story has become huge.

And if anyone doubted that they can afford to stand by and continue to believe that they don’t have to engage directly with customers, then here is the lesson  – Engage or Die.

Of course Gap could have stuck to their guns. They could have done so in a engaging way – “We hear you, but trust us.”

They chose not to.

Do you think they did the right thing?


I downloaded Apple’s iTunes 10 last night, with its new logo and funky new features, the most talked about of which, and the one I was looking forward to investigating the most, being Ping.

Ping is Apple’s ‘social network for music’.

“Now your music is more social. Join the conversation, and follow your favorite artists and find out what your friends are listening to with iTunes Ping”

“Follow your favourite artists and be part of their inner circle”.

“See what kind of music your friends and friends-to-be are into. Then follow them with a click.”

“Check out who your friends are following and who’s following them right back.”

“See what your friends are listening to, who they’re talking about, and what your favorite artists are up to — all on one page.”

I don’t get it.

None of this sounds in any way of interest to me. I don’t want to know what my friends are listening to. I’m not bothered about letting them know what I’m listening to. They don’t care.

Isn’t that the point about music? It’s so personal.

The quotes above all sound as though they could have been written for the Bay City Rollers Fan Club members on an ad in ‘Look In’ magazine circa 1973.

Maybe that’s it! Ping could work for 12 year old Justin Bieber fans – but is that the demographic being targeted here by Apple? As they are also selling film rentals, I doubt it.

Maybe I’m completely wrong, but Ping sounds to me like Apple trying to shoehorn a square peg into a round hole. “We have to get in on this social thing. Come back to me some ideas”.

It’s not a natural fit in anyway.

If I was minded to tell my friends what I was listening to (Billy Bragg and Wilco’s Mermaid Avenue), I’ll do it on this blog thank you very much. Not that you care. I promise I’ll never tell you what I’m listening to again.

Am I completely wrong?

Tell me what you think.

Are you the owner of a yellow Reliant Robin?

Does your business resemble a modern day Trotters Independent Traders – T.I.T? Are you ‘Del Boy’ in disguise?

Will we see you down the market pushing out some clobber from ‘a mush in Shepherds Bush’?

I’ve just had a great call with a former colleague who told me stories of conversations he’s had with marketers in the UK over recent days about their view of social channels. Channels to market!

“Yes it’s great. We’re all buying into customer engagement”, they say. “But we’ve still got to get the marketing message out there.”

Of course, if you’re under pressure to deliver your numbers each week, the temptation to push, push, push more and more through these channels is understandable.

But the bigger picture is this: your preparedness to engage, to listen and respond above anything else, IS your marketing message. It’s what you will be known for. Indeed, very soon, your reluctance to listen and engage will be what you’re known for. And that will be the end of the line. Or Peckham!

We talked about brands with a mystique and their reticence to actually talk to people for fear the myth would be shattered. Again I understand this, but your customers are human beings. They know that there are other human beings behind the mask. Deciding on the voice and tone for your brand is one of the earliest decisions that needs to be taken. That’s why the Best Buy view of allowing thousands of ‘Blue Shirts’ to tweet isn’t appropriate for everyone. There is no manual!

But not engaging is the road to ruin.

Don’t be a ‘plonker’ all your lives….

Digging Your Heels In

Stubborn, intransigent, awkward and obstinate. We’ve all behaved like that at one time or another. Usually between the ages of 2 and 7. But for a “Professor of Marketing and an Expert on Branding” to continue to insist that social media is “…a new and relatively insignificant communications tool that has limited potential for a very small proportion of brands” as he did in the latest issue of Marketing Week, is astonishing.

At the Engaging Times Summit in Chicago last month, the great Stan Rapp announced his conversion to social media. Indeed one of his memorable quotes was “Stop advertisng, start dialoguing”.

Rapp’s conversion was based on the very numbers that the Professor rests his arguments on. Ritson says of Tesco’s Twitter page, “And what about Tesco? It’s arguably Britain’s biggest and best run brand and yet it has a grand total of 281 followers. Are you starting to see my point?” No Mark.

What this says to me is that Tesco have yet to grasp the potential that social engagement tools offer. In fact, having just checked their page, it appears Tesco are really confused! I’m not clear which Tesco Twitter account is the official one, but (which I suspect is the official version) last tweeted in April 2009! Do they promote it on their advertsing materials, their website or even their till receipts?


In fact the tell tale sign that brands haven’t grasped the potential of Twitter, is that it isn’t promoted at all on their ‘Contact Us page!

Well, if they’re not tweeting, the it’s a good job they don’t promote it!

Go figure Mark.

Mirror Mirror

Stan Rapp said recently, “This generation of consumers are the most narcissistic in history.”

Boy was he right. We all sit and polish our ‘Me’ brands with huge care and attention. Shall I change my profile picture (logo) for the umpteenth time? Sure we do.

It’s not a bad thing. That narcissism was always there, it’s just that now we all have channels through which to promote our ‘Me’ brands.

Firstly, isn’t it interesting what some people do with them? How many times do you see oblique status updates or tweets that are just begging for comments or re-tweets? I’ve been astonished how many times I’ve read a sad status update only to followed by “Aww hun. I’m here if you need to talk xxx”

Meaning, “I’d rather you kept it to yourself, but I want my brand to appear caring and concerned and I want to comment before the competition (I mean our other friends) do.”

Secondly, what does this narcissism mean for business?

Well, I believe it means that people (British people) are no longer shy about complaining. That quaint British trait. Their brands are protected by their screens and they no longer have to actually speak to people. Think about the work environment and that most poisonous development – cc’ing on email. A cowards charter to broadcast vitriol and blame! Screens insulate us and give us a shield behind which we can hide.

But, it’s not going away. To be successful in the future, businesses and organisations are going to have to accept the new reality and respond immediately to publicly broadcast complaints as well as positivity.

Social Media Campaign – an oxymoron?

Many many so called experts and social media agencies speak of the need for brands to launch a social media campaign.

To me, a campaign implies a start and a finish. In the old days, a campaign had a launch date and an end date. That was great – budgets could only go so far. But to speak of what is possible, or rather what should be more pressing for a brand today, by bracketing this activity as a ‘campaign’ surely misses the point.

The media is here to stay, we all agree about that. But remember, businesses don’t control the message anymore and so to imply that an activity can end once embarked upon is slightly confusing?

Once you dive in, you’re in to stay. The winners recognise this. They are resourcing up for this and have changed their organisations to account for it. You can’t dip in and out.

Amazingly, results from the Alterian Engaging Times Summit in Chicago last week show that ‘Less than one percent cited that the most important objective was to offer customer service.’

Let’s hope their customers don’t mind! Clearly the allure of what’s possible in this space is drawing marketers to expensive productions like moths to a flame. Maybe they are just paying lip service to saying they are prepared to engage?

But as was said at the Summit “Don’t bother wasting money on social media until your organization can competently handle a customer phone call or email.”

Customer care comes first and last. Never take your eye off it.

“Doing to is bad. Doing with is good. Doing for is great”

Is the most memorable quote from Stan Rapp at the ‘Engaging Times’ Summit held in Chicago this week:

Two more:

“Today’s consumers are the most narcissistic in history. We’re all looking after brand I.” another from Stan.

“Don’t bother wasting money on social media until your organization can competently handle a customer phone call or email.” Don Peppers

The first is a succinct observation on fact that millions of us now manage our own “I” brand, primarily through Facebook. The second, a warning to those who think this funky stuff looks too cool for school and want to jump straight in.

The link between the two is not just that they are from two of the most important thinkers in marketing in the last 25 years, it’s that those of us with “I’ brands are all too willing to trip companies up when they let us down, don’t deliver and disappoint us. And this negativity can be devastating. Just ask Tiscali Talk Talk and SouthWest Airlines.

Here’s another quote: “Customers wouldn’t feel the need to embarrass us en masse, if our customer service channels weren’t so completely broken.” Bob Knorpp, The Beancast

The marketing buzz in the US right now is about two things – listening and engaging. By connecting the two, businesses and organisations can respond to the conversations their customers and prospects are having. That’s great. But, the real winners are those who have taken an additional, crucial first step; accepting that the world has irrevocably changed forever and that they no longer control the message.

It’s not a comfortable thing for businesses and marketers to acknowledge. But those who think they are in control are doomed. Maggie thinks that by turning her toy steering wheel in the backseat while Marge is in the front, she is driving the car. Some marketers are labouring under the same illusion as little Maggie Simpson, and she never grows up!

The good news is that those who get it – really get it and are prepared to accept the letting go that this entails, can win and win big.

While @ThatKevinSmith and his 1.6m followers are destroying SouthWest Airlines because he was too fat, United are issuing extra airmiles to people tweeting about delayed flights from the departure lounge. By the way that’s ‘delayed’ not ‘adjusted’ as SouthWest refer to their changes in flight schedules!

The thousands of employees that make up Best Buy’s twelpforce are answering customer service issues minute by minute under some common sense and open ended guidelines – if you don’t know, don’t publish, never use the customers name etc. etc.

They have wiped out Circuit City and made Radioshack a virtual irrelevance. Best Buy are now in UK – be afraid!

So whilst there are huge opportunities to grow sales, increase web traffic, develop new products, carry out research, or whatever your objectives are through social channels, the first place to look is your own backyard.

Are all of your customers happy all of the time? Of course not. What aren’t they happy about? Address these things first. Turn negativity to positivity without asking for proof of purchase first!

Whilst the Old Spice campaign was brilliant in its design and execution, don’t get carried away. Make sure your house is in order before you dive in.

ROI – Return On Investment, Involvement or Ignorance?

Speaking with my Financial Director several years ago about my thoughts on an acceptable ROI for our paid search campaign, he thought we could probably go to 3.2:1 whereas I was more ambitious and having diced and sliced the numbers, felt we should push for 3.7:1.

I feel embarrassed recalling this now, but as someone brought up on direct marketing and crunching the data until the pips squeaked, it was (and is) in my DNA.

Social media experts I met back in the day used to shy away from my final question to them; “What is your projected ROI for this activity”. I was secretly sniggering as I asked, knowing that they’d struggle and squirm to avoid answering.

Recently however, I’ve heard some more experts talk about not even pretending they could measure this thing they were about to charge me the world for – felt refreshing.

But my DNA keeps nagging away at me. The bottom line is that, although you can’t measure ROI in the way you can a paid search campaign, a direct mail campaign or an email campaign, you can make some pretty good assumptions and track results from the impressive set of ‘listening tools’ available now that will report on spikes in discussions across the web.

For example, hotels can listen for people looking for stay in a particular city, offer them a discount and hey presto, a highly profitable Return on Involvement!

What gets measured, gets improved. Was always the case, will always be the case.

What do you think?