Monday, October 25, 2010

Why Not?

Ralph Waldo Emerson warned, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen, philosophers and divines."

As children, immersed in the golden light of curiosity, we embrace life without question or prejudice. However, as adults, we are weighed down by our histories and past narratives. That baggage limits our ability to be open, to be truly and honestly alive, and to see things with the freshness that once came so naturally.

Professionally, I spend countless hours moving clients to view their brands with honest and unabashed realities. Personally, I spend a few hours each week engaged in activities to get that freshness back and once a year I spend a full week shedding the mental tartar build-up of life.

Children are always asking "why not?" in a effort to take forward action. Adults are often pronouncing "why not?" in effort to renounce forward action. And, one wonders why I will never grow up.

For years I've heard people say, "one's truth is staring them in the mirror." The flaw in the argument is that the reflection in the mirror is a one sided perception of the truth. We are limited creatures with difficulties looking beyond the fa├žade.

In order to find and thus make change to one's truth, we must view a new mirror, one that enables us to liberate our inner reality. Sure, these optics can be painful, however, the truth is not always easy and you must face it without recoil.

People and businesses are scared much of the time. Being scared is one of the central constraints in our lives and imaginations. We are afraid to reveal our fragility and our weaknesses. We refuse to do anything that would expose ourselves or make ourselves vulnerable. So we hide out, tucked in our shells, and keep our different personalities or selves under wraps. We prefer to describe our weaknesses with mere captions. The unarticulated or the unimagined is easier to live with. In fact, we consider such silence to be a virtue. We think of it as a mature way to act or respond seeing ourselves as quiet, unflappable professionals or partners.

I have found the reverse to be true. When people and companies unlock greater emotional truth, one experiences life through a deeper palette of colors and gain a truer sense of life and work.

"Why not?" a child asks happily never imposing limits to their imagination, ignorant of potential consequences and armed with focus of wonder gained from an untethered, fearless soul waiting to be released.

"Why not?" I often ask adults running businesses and families. We love heroes, buy the products they endorse, follow the sport they play, read their biography, wait in long queue to watch their film or eat at the restaurant. We do this because instinctively we admire their courage and heroism and these glimpses temporarily transport us. But "why not?" do these things yourself?

I'm told often by the VP of STIR-Communications that my thoughts live in the grandiose or the future. I counter with, I'm confident she has the present under control, allowing me to dream loudly, pushing the envelope moving forward. I mean, "why not?" If it doesn't work or come to fruition, just replace it with "so what?," then move on to the next "why not?"

That's how innovation, success and life happens.

"If we all worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true is really true, there would be little hope of advance," said Orville Wright.

Examine your life and business and determine what perceived truths can be altered. What new directions can you apply, sparking a fresh outlook to even the most mundane tasks? How can just freeing yourself to say "why not?" more often make life exciting?

All my best,
Greg

Greg Salsburg
The Big STIR
STIR-Communications
Miami | New York | London
c: (561) 386-8064
o: (305) 407-1723
e: Greg@STIR-Communications.com

Monday, October 18, 2010

Circular Brand Communications

Since so many commented on last week's blog, I am continuing topic and provide an example of a company that is following our advice.

Hasbro is a company we enjoy for their willingness to embrace new communication vehicles. More to the point, they have given control of its brand directly to customers.

As noted last week, brand strategy is evolving as control shifts from companies to customers.

Traditionally, most companies have used advertising, sponsorships, and other mass communication outlets as their primary branding platforms. But to truly differentiate, more brands are incorporating the customer experience into their branding efforts, particularly online.

Hasbro, for example, is transforming itself from a toy and game company to a "branded play company," according to President and CEO Brian Goldner. Many of Hasbro's more than 1,500 brands, including Monopoly, G.I. Joe, and Transformers, are already well-known to consumers. But Goldner wants to grow even more. "We are driving our brands to understand how consumers behave," he told the audience at last week's World Business Forum in New York. " Our company has created a new mantra for its brand strategy: ‘re-imagine, reinvent, reignite,’" he exclaimed.

(Hello, see my blog dated Aug., 16, 2010. Our many followers and influence is growing. Thanks for being one of our dedicated STIR’ers and feel free to use any of the thoughts as well.)

Goldner points to Monopoly as one example. "We bring to bear all the forms and formats that a Monopoly user would be interested in," he says. The 75-year-old board game has added mobile apps, electronic versions, video games, online games, a customizable version, and continues its game partnership with McDonald's. "The more they play our games in all these other spaces, the more they come back to our [board] games. It does not cannibalize." As a result, Monopoly's brand grew by 12 percent from 2005 to 2009. He adds that each Hasbro brand has its own customer experience strategy relevant to its consumer base.

Goldner also touted a partnership with Discovery Channel to launch an online community called the "Hub" this week that features top brands. Its goal is to mix cartoons, game shows, user-generated content, and other information with online and television delivery platforms to enhance Hasbro's brands. "That allows us to create immersive brand experiences for consumers of all ages with any brand, anytime," said Goldner.

Today, companies must allow the brand to be defined by the customer. Companies now participate in, not control, the direction of the brand.

At STIR-Communications, we are regularly reminding companies that in the past brands pulled the strings – they had all the information that was to be had, and so they were able to manage consumer expectations and impressions. Today, any one individual has a megaphone that reaches literally millions of people in real time. The message is whatever each person wishes it to be.

The engaged customer wants to be involved in the direction a brand takes. A recent Alterian report, Your Brand: At Risk or Ready for Growth, surveyed 2,000 consumers in the U.S. and UK, finding that 75 percent of individuals believe there would be a positive impact from companies taking more time to find out about their needs and interests. In addition, 82 percent of those surveyed are willing to get involved in product and service development with a brand, and the same percentage says such involvement would make them more likely to promote the company to others. That's some heady statistics.

How are you currently embracing communications? What areas are showing positive returns? Where do you think the next area of penetration will be directed?

All my best,
Greg

Greg Salsburg
The Big STIR
STIR-Communications
Miami | New York | London
c: (561) 386-8064
o: (305) 407-1723
e: Greg@STIR-Communications.com

Monday, October 11, 2010

Public Relations, Advertising, and Social Media, OH MY!

(Deviating from my prior posts as your marketing Dalai Lama weaving business and life messages with poetic prose, today I offer wisdom on a business topic clients have been seeking my lofted opinion. Don't worry, I'm still clothed in robe.)

You've most likely heard the prophecy, "The meek shall inherent the Earth." As a man who is 5’5” and a buck thirty-five soaking wet, I would run daily to the window hoping the apocalypse had arrived. Films have portrayed this as scorched land inhabited by technologically advanced robots.

However, instead of a thunderous roar, the seismic shift occurred with far more subtleties. As far as the technology is concerned, Hollywood had it spot on.

Traditional advertising and communications are not dead. They simply are on a life support with a DNR tag on the toe. For years, "The Man" ran big business and big business ran us, the little guy, a.k.a. the consumer. We were thought of as a Lemming with a lobotomy, steered from one thought to the next at their nefarious will.

We were forced-fed a take it or leave it, one size fits all, approach. Since we had little outlet to voice our regal position and limited influence, we were in a quagmire of mute. Meanwhile the heads of these firms appeared "Hawkiness," even though they had zero to little general knowledge of their consumers and an even lesser desire to learn their targeted proclivity. How did they survive? Limited choices provided myopic monopolies.

However, the playing field has flip flopped. Social media and the Web have given consumers a puissant voice and influence. Small- and medium-size business owners have been afforded a competitive advantage in an ever fractionalized world, where now everyone can become a media mogul.

Businesses are taking heed realizing the very tangible outcome for a far lower cost and more direct outlet. Overall this is still a fungible highway but the results cannot be denied.

One big brand example is Ford Motor Company for its Ford Fiesta social media campaign. Through social media, Ford Fiesta received 10 million impressions with 100,000 people confirming their interest for a test drive, and 60% awareness for a car that had not even hit the market. That's consumer power. They also received valuable feedback that they applied to their design, marketing material and overall sales approach. Add in the fact all the personal information they received from the visits and you can understand why "traditional media" is in its current state.

My favorite olive oil company, FIORE Artisan Olive Oils & Balsamics, is a great example of how direct and targeted communications can help a business succeed. In spite of competing with consumer’s local and big brand grocery stores, FIORE has been able to gain market share but not only selling a FAR BETTER product (don't believe me? order the Myer lemon oil!) but they stay connected to the consumer post-sale. They send me recipes, tips, news on new products and when I posted something on their Facebook account, they responded directly. Home run!

However, there is a flip side to this new way of open communications and that is communications preparedness. In a recent New York Times article, “We got a mention! Now let’s panic,” the author referenced a few young entrepreneurs who got a mention in Oprah magazine and, as a direct result, saw their company website have a spike in sales – so much so that their server actually crashed, and “orders quintupled overnight.”

Another small company saw a similar bump from a New York Times article, as they sold 1,000 shirts in two days. Within a week, the company had quadrupled its total sales to date.

The piece is a great mention for those of us in the communications business who like to always like to read success as a result of placing stories within the media. Public Relations is genuinely one of the least expensive forms of marketing which exists.

Tradition media will survive and actually it will become a suitable and viable medium again, but this time connected to these new tools and with far more metrics applied. Cross Commerce founded by the former owners of LinkShare are out to prove just that.

Overall, we tell businesses that they need to incorporate the refined science and powerful tools at hand and create a comprehensive approach. A small media "hit" in a local outlet if you know how to capitalize on it can have the same impact as being on national TV. Just be prepared for the effect of positive campaigns and be able to support positive results.

All my best,
Greg

Greg Salsburg
The Big STIR
STIR-Communications
Miami | New York | London
c: (561) 386-8064
o: (305) 407-1723
e: Greg@STIR-Communications.com