Archive for the ‘Goddard College’ Tag

The Marketing Wisdom of Kung Fu Panda

My wife just took me on a study break field trip to watch Kung Fu Panda. It is a cute movie that is definitely worth seeing. Aside from enjoying a night out with my wife, I came away with three pieces of wisdom that most definitely apply to marketing in the age of social media. If you haven’t seen the movie and are really concerned about not having the plot spoiled, stop reading now. Everyone else, read on.

1. Let go of the illusion of control.

In the movie, Po’s master, Shifu, is taught by his master, Oogway, that he must give up the “illusion of control” when it comes to the Dragon Warrior. Master Oogway might as well have been talking to the marketing departments of corporations and non-profits alike who think that they can still control the message. Just as Shifu could not control who the Dragon Warrior would be, organizations can not control the message that people hear about their organizations. Sure, they can try, but with the rise of consumer generated content and the death of mass media looming on the horizon, what’s being said about the organization will carry far more weight than what the organization is saying. The much more sustainable approach in this social media environment will be for organizations to stop trying to control the message, and instead, join the conversation in a real, honest manner.

2. Be yourself. Following what seems to work for everyone else won’t work for you.

Po, the pudgy, seemingly inept Panda, couldn’t do the most remedial of the traditional training exercises the kung fu masters could. As a result, his master thought Po could never be the Dragon Warrior…that is until he discovered what motivated Po. As it turns out, Po was motivated by food. When Shifu realized that he would have to train Po differently than the others, Po’s training took off. Like in the movie, realizing what your organization’s “motivation” is will go a long way to making your marketing more effective–not to mention more fun. Too many organizations are adept at throwing around the latest buzz words when they are discussing their marketing plans. What they seem to be unpracticed at is being honest about who they are as an organization and what they really have to say. What I would suggest to those organizations is forget who you think you should be and be yourself!

3. Their is no secret ingredient.

Po finally became the Dragon Warrior when he realized that the dragon scroll held no secret and that being himself was enough. What, you ask, is the secret ingredient organizations seek after? Well, I’m glad you asked. I know I’ll get into some trouble for attacking this sacred cow, but, in my opinion, organizations spend way to much energy and effort thinking and talking about “brand.” “Brand” is a metaphysical construct that is increasingly loosing its relevance. I say good riddance to “brand.” The idea of forgetting about “brand” is almost directly related to letting go of the illusion of control. However, forgetting about “brand” goes a step further. Forgetting about “brand” means that an organization realizes that who they are perceived as varies from person to person and can change with each interaction they have with someone. Forgetting about “brand” can only happen when organizations start to realize that they themselves are citizens of the world that are on a level playing field with their customers/constituents. Forgetting about “brand” means organizations must come down from their ivory towers. To do this, they have to stop “communicating” and start “conversing” with their markets and constituencies. They must do so in a human voice, and, more importantly, they must listen.

Indeed, Viral Marketing is Bullsh*t. Adoptive marketing is the future of Socially Responsible Marketing.

I have had to take a few days to digest Sam Lawrence’s Go Big Always post on viral marketing.  Don’t get me wrong, I was in full agreement with what he was saying from the moment I read it.  However, it did take me a little bit to really understand what it means for social responsibility in marketing–especially when it comes to non-profits and social change organizations.

Viral marketing, as Sam points out, is manipulative. In short, it seeks to trick people into viewing an advertisement. In my opinion, this manipulation is inherently socially irresponsible. It stems from organizations viewing new media in the same way that they view television and print media–as nothing more than vehicles for the delivery of advertisements. This view of media is still heavily influenced by the broadcast model of media that is largely uni-directional. In the case of viral marketing, marketers see new media as nothing more than a TV with a forward button that allows consumers to pass along their ads for them.

Adoptive marketing, Lawrence points out, is focused on the product. In the case of non-profits and social change organizations, that product is, in fact, social change. Lets face it, if you are so unable to get people to feel strongly about your message as a non-profit that viral marketing is your best bet, you need to rethink your organization’s message and mission. It saddens me the number of non-profits and social change organizations that are throwing the “viral” buzzword around. Just use the word “viral” in a search of jobs on the website Idealist.org and see the results.

Rather than viral marketing, organizations need to be spending their resources engaging their constituents with their mission. An example would be creating opportunities for people to be involved with issues on a personal level, such as asking them to create videos about the subject or take a hands on role in the movement. This type of “adoptive” approach is the intersection of socially responsible marketing and social media marketing. If organizations will be willing to forgo the seemingly quick and easy allure of viral marketing and embrace the more organic adoptive marketing approach, they will ultimately be more successful in building constituencies that are engaged and enthusiastic about their causes without having to trick them.

Social Media and Non-Profits: How can organizations find their human voice?

I had the opportunity to meet with an outstanding organization yesterday to talk about social media.  This organization is a faith-based group that is focused on social justice and eliminating poverty.  They already have a rather large presence in the world of traditional print media and are looking to expand into the world of social media.  The group has a lot of great ideas to use social media to affect social change while simultaneously accomplishing their marketing goals.

While the ideas shared in the meeting for user-generated content and social media organizing were great, I did walk away from the meeting with a concern for how organizations such as theirs can learn to, well, forget they are organizations.  I agree whole heartedly with the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto that, if you want your communications to succeed, they must be spoken in a human voice. And, according to the book, “They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.” This is definitely a hard thing for organizations to do when they have so much concern about brand management and message control. Unfortunately, the time is here when message control and brand management can no longer be done through top-down mechanisms—that is as long as the organization wishes to remain relevant. Organizations must let their people be people and be heard.

So, how does an organization empower its people to speak to the world? First, it must give more than permission to speak…it must encourage it. An organization with members that are fully engaged in the mission is a much more attractive organization than one that appears to be no more than an institution with employees. If you want active constituents, you had better start in your own office.

Second, the organization must forget about controlling what is said and concentrate on authentically living out its mission. Authenticity should take care of the messiness of open communication. If this seems unreasonable, the problem is with authenticity and transparency, not with communication or message.

Finally, the organization has to forget about how this communication will fit into its business plan or how it will be measured. It has to trust that authentic communication will benefit the organization in ways that can not be measured. Organizations that continue conducting their marketing and PR in the new networked world as if the old rules of marketing still apply are going to be in for a healthy dose of irrelevancy really soon.

I am hopeful that the organization that I met with will do great things with their social media ventures. I am sure they will experience a lot of successes along with the obligatory educational failures that come with such experimentation. My hope is that some of those successes will come in the form of open, human communication from the organization.

Social Media Marketing – Are you an “Animateur” for your brand?

No, that is not a typo for “amateur”.  

The word “Animateur” is certainly a new one on me.  I barely got through two years of high school Spanish and, quite frankly, don’t remember my first two years of college.  So, needless to say, my French is completely non existent outside of being able to order a filet mignon.  The word is one that my school advisor put me on to and I think it deserves a lot of attention from us social media types.  

Animateur: to animate, to bring to life, to enliven, to spark, to create, to produce

This is the definition according to an article on the orchestra musician’s website Polyphonic.org.  The article, entitled An Animateur’s Journey: A report from the field, describes the work that the Philadelphia Orchestra does to bridge the gap between the orchestra and its audience. Each experiment in bridging that gap described in the article is nothing more than social media marketing.

I have witnessed a great deal of discussion as of late on Twitter about “community managers” and what their roles should or shouldn’t be within organizations. Social Media Marketing rockstar Jeremiah Owyang even lays out what he feels to be The Four Tenets of the Community Manager. As I observe the twitter discussions and read Mr. Owyang’s blog post, I am tempted to say that social media marketing types need to abandon the term “community manager” in favor of the term “Animateur”.

I say this for two reasons. First, the word “Animateur” seems to better capture the essence of what everyone seems to want in a “community manager.” Secondly, “Animateur” carries with it more passion and zest than the term “community manager”. Ultimately, I believe it will be easier to inspire a CEO, Board of Directors, Executive Director, VP of Marketing, etc., to fully buy into the benefits of social media marketing with a position that doesn’t sound as sterile as “community manager”.

If you are looking for an example of an “Animateur”, look to Stacey Monk of Epic Change. From the standpoint of social networking and social media marketing, Stacey is doing far more “animating” and “bringing to life” than “managing”. As a result of her role as “Animateur”, her organization has hit the radar of a huge number of people in a short amount of time.

For more info on Stacey and Epic Change, click here to listen to episode 2 of the Marketing 4 Change podcast.

The Gospel of Consumption

I’ve been doing a lot of posting about how sustainability should go beyond just ecological sustainability and into every part of our society — including marketing and public relations.  Here is an article that I think everyone should read (http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/2962). I’ll leave you with the article’s parting words, let me know what you think of it.

“If we want to save the Earth, we must also save ourselves from ourselves. We can start by sharing the work and the wealth. We may just find that there is plenty of both to go around. ”

Can organizations truly be sustainable in a capitalist system?

Question: Can organizations truly be sustainable in a free-market capitalist system?

Thought: As I read through many of the conversations about sustainability happening in blogs and articles, I see a lot of discussion about how companies can be sustainable while also fulfilling their obligations to their shareholders to be as profitable as possible. This is a valid concern if you consider the current economic system as an unchangeable given. However, to truly delve into the topic of sustainability, I feel you must move past the discussion of the topic on an organization-by-organization basis. To truly discuss the topic, shouldn’t you examine the sustainability of the economic system as a whole? How can we create sustainable organizations within a system that worships at the altar of infinite growth? I think the deeper, more difficult question we as a society must answer is, not “how sustainable are our organizations,” but “how sustainable is our way of life?”

Non-Profit Marketing placing a bet on social media?

A couple of days ago, Wailin Wong of The Chicago Tribune wrote an article describing how non-profits are beginning to enter the world of social media. While the article and the marketers quoted in the article make a lot of good points, the biggest benefit of social media to non-profits was missed.

Today, we find ourselves in a world of increasingly decentralized media that makes mass communication a bit of a challenge. (There are more podcasts today than radio stations in the world) Marketing in the social media space is now more about “pull” than “push.” Individuals can consume whatever they want whenever they want. With this challenge of how to reach mass audiences in mind, it will be difficult for non-profits to maintain the traditional posture of using marketing to gain new donors.

While gaining new donors will always be important, the role of marketing and PR in a highly niched world will be more about strengthening the ties you have with your stakeholders and transforming them into organizational evangelists and zealots. While the article touched on the engagement and relationship building aspects of social media marketing, when Wailin Wong describes non-profits as “betting that the Internet’s viral nature,” it is a bit like the guy showing up to the party in a Members Only jacket. “Viral” is so 2005. Social media, today, is about building smaller, niched communities that are passionate and committed to the cause. In terms of “viral”, any strange guy with a goofy song can be “viral,” however, it is the real, lasting connections that will pay off for non-profits in the long run.

Is Responsible Marketing the same as Socially Responsible Marketing?

I just finished listening to a podcast from ResponsibleMarketing.com in which Bill Boyd (no relation) interviewed the President and CEO of Outsource Marketing, Patrick Byers. The podcast is entitled The Seven Keys to Responsible Marketing. Those seven keys, according to Byers, are listed below:
1. strategic responsibility
2. casting responsibility
3. execution responsibility
4. message responsibility
5. ROI responsibility
6. environmental responsibility
7 social responsibility
(for definitions of these keys you can listen to the interview here.)

I really appreciate what Byers said in the interview and the way he included social responsibility and message responsibility in the list above, but I feel that he left out an important point that his organization does well. That point is that an organization that seeks to operate in a responsible manner (socially or otherwise) can not necessarily play with everyone. One of the core values that Byers’ organization lists on their website is “We work only with clients who share our values.” I think Byers needs to add an Eighth key to responsible marketing — relational responsibility.

Social Media and Brand Identity – Can you control the message?

I just read a blog entry by Dana Theus of Magus Consulting called “Organizational Identity in the Age of Social Media”. In the entry, Theus discusses the possible negative implications that can arise out of an organizations inability to control its message.

I think Theus hits the nail on the head when she says, “But here’s the catch: Marketers don’t run most of the parts of the organization that will be carrying the organizational identity forward in the new world…”. The thought that I had when reading the post was this: If organizations continue to look to the marketing and PR department to craft and maintain an image for the organization, they are going to face a tremendous struggle in the increasingly uncontrollable world of social media PR. However, if an organization views the real work of brand maintenance as an organization-wide priority and responsibility, the lack of control will be, while not a non-issue, at least less of an issue.

Episode 1 of the Marketing 4 Change podcast – An introduction

I just posted episode 1 of the Marketing 4 Change podcast. It is a short introductory episode. However, I do pose the question, “What do you think about sustainability in marketing and public relations?” I would love your thoughts. You can leave them as comments or email me at marketing4change@gmail.com.

To download the episode, right click and “save as” this link.