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Girl Scout Cookies and social media? It’s just not fair.

10 Jan

Girl Scout by Norman RockwellHave you heard the Girl Scouts are going to use social media to help peddle their product this year? It can only mean one thing: the apocalypse is upon us. Now I not only have to resist the temptation of filling my freezer with Thin Mints (about an eight day supply the way my wife and I plow through them) and my cupboard with peanut butter Do-Si-Dos® (two weeks worth, tops), now the little girl down the block will be able to stalk me online. Here’s their waistline-busting strategy, an innocent-sounding ploy called “The Cookie Club”:

“The Cookie Club” is an interactive, online cookie business for girls that teaches them about goals, tracks progress, and allows girls to send e-cards to friends and families. Using an online order form, customers are able to submit their “promised” cookie order that is automatically recorded on girls’ “Cookie Club”account order pages.

“Cookie Club,” indeed. It’s pure evil. My will already crumbles like a damaged Lemon Chalet Creme™ when I see my local peddler skipping up the walk, deadly order form in her wee hand. Now I might get e-cards. And I can order online, ANY TIME I GET THE URGE. Soon I’m sure she’ll discover my Twitter account (a simple search, any eleven year-old can do it). She’ll follow my tweets. I’ll feel obligated to follow her tweets. Ere long she’ll be tweeting me her sweet 140-character siren songs: “Have you tried the Dulce de Leches? They’re so-o-o delish! #mmmcookies.” Maybe she’ll begin responding to my blog posts: “Great post, Mr. Fiddler. Must have worked up an appetite for a fudgie Thanks-A-Lot™, yes? I can get a crate over to you tonight.” THERE IS NO ESCAPE!

And I guess that’s the point: no escape. It speaks to both the power and simplicity of social media and digital commerce that — no exaggeration — even an eleven year-old can manage it. In fact, I’d guess many eleven year-old girls will be much more capable than many 41 year-old marketing managers. And I have no doubt it will prove to be a productive addition to what is already a marketing juggernaut. What a wicked combination: personal contact, social media, beloved brand, online ordering, pre-teen energy and irresistible cookies. The future looks bright for Girl Scouts, terrifying for cookie addicts.

9 Brand Builder’s Resolutions for 2011

23 Dec

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. Usually my resolutions usually end up as just more fuel for guilt. So this year, I thought I’d spread the guilt by setting some resolutions I think all brand builders would do well to follow. Yes, even me. ESPECIALLY me. Heck, if we keep half of them, we’ll still be better off. Even if we keep one of them, we’ll be better off. And most are pretty easy. So here goes:

  1. Stop complaining about “the economy.” It is what it is. Deal with it.
  2. Listen to at least 20 customers or clients. Notice I didn’t say “talk” to them. Nor did I say “do research.” I didn’t even say “pay attention to your Facebook wall,” though those are all good things. We all get shut up in our offices and it’s easy to hide behind our laptops and smart phones, assuming we’re getting the full picture. We’re not. Hard to believe that anything can be more important than digital communication, I know, but sometimes face-to-face — or even phone-to-phone — communication can be quite refreshing. Try it. Ask a few customers what they think about your company or product; what they expect; whether you fulfill their expectations; then shut up and listen. Couldn’t hurt, right? Well, maybe it could. But not as much as not listening.
  3. Look at your marketing communications and delete all BS. Get rid of all the gobbledygook — please! Your customers and clients will thank you (see Resolution nos. 1, 5 and 6). If you’re not sure what’s gobbledygook and what’s not, download David Meerman Scott’s wonderful little eBook, The Gobbledygook Manifesto. Then, after you’ve cleansed your communications of gobbledygook, get rid of all the stuff that you’ve been saying all these years but that just plain isn’t true. Go ahead, be honest. Are you really “cutting edge” or “best of breed”? REALLY? Note: If after deleting the gobbledygook and untruths there’s nothing left to say about your brand, you need more than a few resolutions. Shameless plug: If that’s the case, you’re welcome to give The Fiddler Group a holler.
  4. If you can’t delete the BS, turn it into truth. See resolution #3. You know all that stuff that just isn’t entirely true? Maybe your brand would be better off if it WERE be true. This is your year to make it so.
  5. Question your brand delivery daily. When you wake up (or — if you need to shower and have a cup of coffee first —  you can leave it for first thing in the office) do two things. First, recite your brand promise with conviction (“We WILL give every customer the best burger s/he’s ever eaten.”). Then ask, “How can I make that more true today than yesterday?” You have the rest of the day to make it happen.
  6. Answer your questions daily. Some time before the night-night hour, answer these questions 1) “Did I keep our brand’s promises today?” and 2) “Did we make more customers happy?” Imagine how deeply you will sleep if the answers are “yes.”
  7. Let your brand breathe a little. It’s not bad to be a little bit of a control freak when it comes to your brand. But even brands have to have a little fun sometimes. Dabble with marketing to a different customer. Have an online birthday party for your brand. Do a video that makes fun of your brand. Lighten up a little. What’s the worst that could happen? Not much. The best? A lot.
  8. Stop talking about social media as if it were on a different planet than everything else. OK, this may be a hard one, what with all the “gurus” and “evangelists” running around loose in the Twitto-blogo-Facebooko-sphere. But seriously, it’s all connected in your customers’ heads: traditional media, digital media, the stuff they hear in the supermarket, writing on the bathroom wall. This year, instead of focusing on your social media strategy, focus on a customer strategy. Better yet, go back to the principles of Integrated Marketing Communications and fold in a little push and a little pull, inbound and outbound. Talk with your customers; but don’t be afraid to talk TO them, either. They don’t ALWAYS want a dialogue.
  9. Clean up your office and clear off your desktop. If it’s anything like mine, it’s a damn mess.

There, that’s nine. I’m certain I’ll think of more as soon as I publish. But this is a start. You have others? It would be great to hear about them.

In Brand Building, the Tactic is Father to the Strategy

21 Dec

There’s a lot of talk and confusion about strategy and tactics. Most people like to think strategy is Really Important Stuff (e.g. divide and conquer), while tactics are, well, just details (e.g. pay some of the Taliban to leave the fold). In some senses, it’s true. You can miss the boat on some tactics and still win the war if your strategy holds up. But if your strategy sucks, it doesn’t matter how good your tactics are — you lose.

One of the classic examples of this are the Alka Seltzer campaigns of the 60s. The first two ads (read: tactics) below were made to fulfill one strategy; the last one was built to fulfill another. The first two are some of the more memorable ads of the era. They won a bunch of awards. The last one, not so much. The first two didn’t increase sales. The last one, featuring our friend Speedy, did. The strategy it represented — of hammering home an easily remembered mnemonic — was followed successfully by Alka Seltzer for many years. (Note: If you think I’m using this as an example because the old Alka Seltzer commercials are awesome, you’re right. But it’s still a good example.)

OK, so this was an example in which strategy drove tactics. But recently, in one of the now-too-frequent social media discussions I find myself engaged in, someone pointed out that social media isn’t such a big deal, because it’s merely what used to be called “word-of-mouth” — that is, it’s just new tactics for an old strategy. While it’s true social media simply takes word-of-mouth to a new level, you can’t deny that the new tactics enable a whole new set of brand building strategies. Once upon a time, word-of-mouth was something that happened over backyard fences and water coolers, virtually invisible to the brand marketer. Not much strategy was really possible. Now that it’s out in plain view, everyone’s clamoring to develop strategies that put social media tactics to effective use.

I don’t want to get hung up on social media. This same principle is true for online video, product placement, SEO, and lots of other tactics that make new strategies possible. That’s why the business of building brands is undergoing such huge change — because the available tactics are morphing so rapidly. For someone involved in developing brand strategies to assume tactics are for other people is to miss the fact that — while strategies are what make tactics useful — tactics are what make strategies possible. Before architecture can be possible, we have to learn how to turn mud into bricks and bricks into buildings. It starts with the most tactical activity: playing in the mud.