Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Building a Brand Online

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Moderator: Stuart MacDonald (SM)


Jonathan Ehrlich(JE), senior vice-president of Chapters Online
Bruce Philp (BP), president and managing partner of GWP Brandengineering
Jim Coudal (JC), Coudal Partners

JE: the business models today are worse because anyone with a credit card can start a business. Segments are emerging into each other.

Consumers feel they have a right to say something and say it loud. Marketers can no longer gloss over problems with a product; they are now forced to spend money on delivering a great experience.

SM: Are we creating a great experience?

JC: People are creating a market and companies without accessing the mass market. We will see more of that.

SM: “Follow the money” – originally he did mostly traditional placement for Expedia, and a little to web advertising; by the time he left, most of his marketing budget was going to paid search ads.

SM: What happened to having a great campaign and running it for two years?

BP: a lot of his industry is doing 30 second video. If people laugh at the video then it is considered to be influential.

JE: the tools available to them for managing the money is much greater. From a marketing perspective it is great, but reaching customers is tougher.

SM: We are standing at the end of something or the beginning of something, depending on how you look at it. Can’t we just do this for free? Can’t we just connect directly with some woman in MySpace? Where is this headed? Marketers still have a job to do building a brand.

JC: I don’t know how you take a multi-million dollar brand and translate that into a consumer marketing campaign. When something works they do more of it, and when it doesn’t they do less of it. They are coming closer to having to develop a better product. If you create a product and branding together, there is a lot of possibility.

JE: It is all about investing in the experience. If you aren’t delivering on the experience, you are dead.

BP: a brand is a cultural phenomenon that allows you to charge more for something; that is disappearing.

JE: No, brands stand out in the environment.

BP: The whole model has been democratic. The underlying assumption has been that if you hear me over and over and over again in exchange for watching Ed Sullivan, you will buy my product. Television programming being on TV has been a democratic process.

Rob Hyndman: Thus far marketing has been one-way, marketers talking to the audience. What happens when the audience can talk back? What happens to the model?

BP: Example: Tylenol fiasco when there was tampering with the bottles and people died. It was handled well with a PR puppet – you liked the fellow who spoke and trusted him. Ten years later the brand is stronger than ever.

SM: Bullshit can be called faster with a brand. People will say you are right or you are wrong.

BP: A brand was never created in a boardroom. It is an election campaign that never ends.

JC: Some of the messages have started coming from underneath. The ads his company writes are conversational. Tylonel incident is like the first blog entry.

Audience question: Everyone is saying it is a conversation, but no one is saying what to do with this. Doesn’t it make sense to find those who love your brand and turn them into bloggers?

JE: People participating on the web have overarching influence on where things go, how things are done.

SM: This conference is an example – came up with what they thought was a consumer insight; they asked on their blog what people would like to see and listened to them. Don’t underestimate the value of just asking.

JC: Coudal Partners do a lot of things that don’t seem to have a purpose – movies, contests, etc. They have created products they want e.g. jewelboxing shows such as Dead Can Dance tour; the people who go to the shows want to see the same thing. How do you do this for a big consumer brand?

Audience question: You can’t talk about iPod branding without talking about their advertising campaign. YouTube – ugly website, quality of video is bad. Google is a search box with a button to click. These things have nothing to brand.

BP: Stop thinking like a marketer. Marketers are frequently wrong about this stuff. Apple brand has, from the beginning, been an advocate for its customers. They have stood for computers serving people, not people serving computers.

JE: Search was dead until Google came along. Brand is a collection of experiences; brand is not just what something looks like. The experience that everyone had when they first used Google was positive. They started with a great experience.

JC: You would think Google Video would outstrip YouTube, but uploading video with YouTube a lot easier.

Audience question: How do you engage the blogosphere?

JC: Coudal does monitor the blogosphere. Jewelboxing brand has a blog detailing how they built the business including what went wrong. Maybe the concept shouldn’t be whether our business should have a blog, but whether a blog should have a business. Build your audience first and then find what business they would like to see.

Blogging is just all about writing. This is nothing new.

SM: One of the first serious applications of consumers taking part has been TripAdvisor – the first and biggest application of what people like me think about stuff – it is a referral model.

Audience comment: Everyone defines quality different. YouTube video quality is not necessarily important.

Audience question: If we are move from mass to micro communication model, don’t we need the data to know how to target the message. How do we use the analytics?

SM: Marketing is no longer about putting something into an email box. It is all about the data.

BP: It is not just about data; it is about imagination, or we all wouldn’t be here. Segmentations may or may not be the way to determine value and how to spend my money.

JC: JE, do you target wildly different people on your website?

JE: we are just getting started on the personalization front. It is all about data. Amazon has figured out how to do this. Looking at their customers' data and their book buying habits.

JC: Personalizing can be dangerous. For example, see the blog post: “My TiVo thinks I’m gay.” [Connie's note: I believe he is referring to the classic Jeffrey Zaslow article in "The Wall Street Journal" from December 2002, "Oh No! My TiVo Thinks I'm Gay." Subscription probably needed.]

SM: Don’t get too caught up if you aren’t crunching the data mining because nobody is.

JE: Privacy and personal issues around things. If someone put something into a cart and then decides against buying the item, do they have the right to send them a coupon to encourage them to buy it.

Audience question: Unleash the blogger within. What about engineers, internal people who love the brand and are blogging about it?

BP: His organization does a tremendous amount of internal marketing before selling it to the consumers. To do this it has to be a mission-driven organization.

Audience question: I hear more fear than anticipation. Is it because big companies are represented on the panel? In terms of the brand and the whole brand experience, will the brand be created by the consumer, and the consumer decides whether the brand stands?

BP: How does this differ from the past? The strongest brands are benevolent dictatorships.

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