The Non Popular Question About The P&G Digital Night

Long story short:

  1. P&G hosted an event called Digital Hack Night.
  2. The event was designed to immerse, educate, and demonstrate the power of digital marketing to it’s marketing directors
  3. The brought in sharp minds like David Armano, Peter Kim, Kelly Mooney and leaders form Google, MySpace, Facebook also attended. Note, Twitter did not attend.
  4. The backbone to the event was a contest to raise money for charity by selling t-shirts. The combination of P&G Marketing Directors, famous peeps, and leaders were split into 4 teams. Each team competed to see who could rake in the most cash.

That’s all I’m going to cover about the event. Other people have given it better and more thorough coverage. You can read about it here, here, here, and here.

I’ve found most “leaders” to rarely establish a serious position, rock the boat, or be controversial.  Instead they focus on being “politically correct.”  By politically correct, I mean not choosing a side – instead opting to find pros and cons with both sides.  Since no one else will ask the difficult questions, I felt I should.  That’s my style.

What I want to focus on is this quote from Peter Kim

At the end of the evening, P&G’s CMO Marc Pritchard remarked that in the future, all employees should get involved in activating connections similar to what had just been witnessed.

I posted the following on Peter’s site:

Peter-
Nice recap. If the future is that all employees should be involved in activating their connections 3 things must happen:

  1. Employees should be rewarded for the impact they make – this changes compensation structures
  2. Personal brands must be embraced and supported; with rules needing relaxation so that employees aren’t being stifled – can a corporate company really embrace this?
  3. Partners will need to be held accountable as well. – If employees are expected to do this, shouldn’t their agencies, packaging suppliers, etc.

At the and of the day the question I want to pose to the community (though few will actually answer) is at what point does this simply become just a very large pyramid scheme, that’s backed by one of the largest and most powerful companies in the world? Is this the future of marketing?

There’s been a lot of debate lately about personal brands. Specifically, the question has been raised about how important they are and if people should put their name (aka their brand) first or their companies. Make no mistake, the digital experts that were brought to Cincinnati for the event leveraged their personal brands big time.

P&G in effect is asking for people (albeit indirectly) to establish personal brands, grow the size of their virtual and real rolodexes, and leverage their personal brand in combination with their network size for the GREATER good of the company.

One part of me says, right on, EXACTLY. After all shouldn’t you support the company you work for? When I worked at ConAgra Foods, I traded Heinz Ketchup for Hunts and Nathan’s for Hebrew National. In general I embrace the brands I work on. I now work on Rite-Aid. You can be sure I’ll be getting my prescriptions there and not anyone else.

Here’s the million dollar question. Should employees, vendors, and partners be compensated for doing this or should it simply be part of the job?

Think about it. You are leveraging your personal network and brand for the greater good of your client and company. That’s not exactly in the job description :) It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, but it begs the question, no?

Let’s say I work for BMW and I convince 10 of my friends who were leaning towards Lexus to buy a BMW.  Let’s take a round number like $50,000 and call that the value of each car.  In effect, didn’t I generate $500,000 in sales for BMW?  Didn’t I do the job of the dealer, the ad agency, the TV spot, the web site, etc.?  Yet, in most cultures I’d never be compensated for extending myself.  What happens if person #2’s BMW has a boat load of problems.  It’s my reputation that gets sullied.  Remember, I convinced him to go BMW over Lexus.

This isn’t that far fetched.  Do you know how many people I got to switch to Peter Pan peanut-butter (subsequently people were pissed at me after Peter Pan announced it had salmonella) or choose Nikon over Canon when I worked on those brands?  100s if not 1000s.  If companies are going to want people to become brand advocates that establish brands, grow personal networks, and ultimately tap that network for the good of the company, there needs to be a change in how we compensate our employees.  At least that’s what I think.

Where do you stand?

  • http://twittermaven.blogspot.com warrenss

    Adam, provocative question and one that I think will become even more relevant as more companies focus on social media. But first, as illustrated by your examples, the expectations and needs for community outreach have existed for a long time, way before social media. However, as our personal networks/communities have grown dramatically beyond the Dunbar number due to social networks, the potential impact that an employee now has is far greater. One would hope that the goals of the company and employee are in alignment. But if they are not, then compensation is just one question that needs to be addressed. Other issues would be appropriate behavior/communication during working hours as well as the credibility issues of “influencing” your friends. Sounds like we could be headed down a slippery slope.

  • http://twittermaven.com Warren Sukernek

    Adam, provocative question and one that I think will become even more relevant as more companies focus on social media. But first, as illustrated by your examples, the expectations and needs for community outreach have existed for a long time, way before social media. However, as our personal networks/communities have grown dramatically beyond the Dunbar number due to social networks, the potential impact that an employee now has is far greater. One would hope that the goals of the company and employee are in alignment. But if they are not, then compensation is just one question that needs to be addressed. Other issues would be appropriate behavior/communication during working hours as well as the credibility issues of “influencing” your friends. Sounds like we could be headed down a slippery slope.

  • http://www.thekmiecs.com adamkmiec

    Excellent points. Compensation is just 1 piece. The “working hours” part is another. What about message control? Are there specific talking points we’d have to use? If we didn’t use them would we be fired? Can we talk negatively about a product? Many questions.

  • http://www.thekmiecs.com Adam

    Excellent points. Compensation is just 1 piece. The “working hours” part is another. What about message control? Are there specific talking points we’d have to use? If we didn’t use them would we be fired? Can we talk negatively about a product? Many questions.

  • http://www.beingpeterkim.com/ Peter Kim

    Adam – best comment I’ve gotten in a long time. I’m taking some time to consider what you’ve proposed before responding.

    To take your analogy one step further, it shouldn’t be sales and marketing that get all the direct credit. What about production? Design? G&A? Does compensation start looking more traditional when we divide it back up across contribution?

    To Warren’s point – reminds me of the early backlash vs. BzzAgent and similar issues tackled by WOMMA. Not so much focus there anymore. Wonder if the issue was settled then or just went dormant.

  • http://www.beingpeterkim.com Peter Kim

    Adam – best comment I’ve gotten in a long time. I’m taking some time to consider what you’ve proposed before responding.

    To take your analogy one step further, it shouldn’t be sales and marketing that get all the direct credit. What about production? Design? G&A? Does compensation start looking more traditional when we divide it back up across contribution?

    To Warren’s point – reminds me of the early backlash vs. BzzAgent and similar issues tackled by WOMMA. Not so much focus there anymore. Wonder if the issue was settled then or just went dormant.

  • http://www.thekmiecs.com adamkmiec

    Peter-

    Agree. This concept if applied correctly should be something everyone buys into; from the janitor to the CEO. Can’t wait to get your thoughts!

    Adam

  • http://www.thekmiecs.com Adam

    Peter-

    Agree. This concept if applied correctly should be something everyone buys into; from the janitor to the CEO. Can’t wait to get your thoughts!

    Adam

  • http://twittermaven.blogspot.com warrenss

    Peter & Adam, excellent points. It really is an enterprise wide issue, not just sales and marketing. And it is quite possible that departments like Finance or Production have stronger networks/ communities that make more of an impact.

    Peter, as far as the WOMMA conversation goes, BzzAgent is a leader in that association and has driven the conversation for strong ethical standards and full disclosure.

  • http://twittermaven.com Warren Sukernek

    Peter & Adam, excellent points. It really is an enterprise wide issue, not just sales and marketing. And it is quite possible that departments like Finance or Production have stronger networks/ communities that make more of an impact.

    Peter, as far as the WOMMA conversation goes, BzzAgent is a leader in that association and has driven the conversation for strong ethical standards and full disclosure.

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Digital dad to Cora and John. Love ironing, bourbon and BBQ; no necessarily in that order. Living life, like I stole it. I'm always up for a

spirited conversation. These are my thoughts and ramblings, not those of my employer.
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