Tag Archive: BMW

As A Brand, What You Say And Do Matters

In 2009 it was time to leave Colle+McVoy and Minneapolis, all together. After looking over several options, I had things down to 2 choices:

1. MARC USA: The agency I ultimately ended up joining

and

2. Factory Design Labs: A great shop, based on Colorado, that had recently been awarded digital agency of record status for Audi USA.

Both, were great fits. I had made it all the way to the “final round” of the Factory Design Labs process. The final round was a visit to Audi North America’s headquarters in Virginia to meet the team, including CMO Scott Keogh. I would have been working on site at Audi’s headquarters, alongside Scott.

When you talk with Scott, you can’t help but be impressed. He’s the type of leader that attracts great talent, if only because people hope they can work hand-in-hand with Scott. In our interview we talked about a great number things. But, one specific topic of interest dominated a good 30 minutes of a 45 minute interview: BMW vs. Audi.

Scott and the Factory Design Labs team knew I was a BMW guy through and through. My love affair with BMW started when I was 9. It grew stronger every year and hit an all-time high when I started working for BMW USA’s agency of record Fallon McElligott, in Minneapolis, MN. Talk about a dream come true, I was given the opportunity to work on 2 of the brands that I had the biggest emotional connections to: Nikon and BMW.

The work done with BMW, pre-Publicis’ acquisition (still the biggest mistake IMHO, that Pat Fallon ever made), is some of the most beloved, honored, admired and revered work in the industry, ever. People in the industry often reference BMW FIlms as the type of work they want to do. Why? Because, it was bold, daring and changed the industry forever. It also helped me open many doors in the future, including the opportunity at Factory Design Labs.

It was clear to Scott, that I was a BMW guy. In the interview, we eventually got to a moment, where Scott, justifiably said, he wanted raving fans of the brand working on the brand. As a client, I want the same thing. He wanted people, for whom, Audi wasn’t a choice, but a lifestyle. He very pointedly said to me, it’s clear you have a tremendous amount of love and respect for the BMW brand; are you really willing to trade that in Audi. And by trade it in, he meant figuratively and literally; Audi/Factor Design Labs had a program that made owning an Audi very attainable and the idea you would drive a competitor’s car on to campus, was unheard of. So when Scott said “trade” he was also asking me, would I trade my BMW in for an Audi.

The answer was no. BMW was a brand for whom my emotional connection was so great, you couldn’t simply swap it out for another brand. Think about that? I essentially talked a CMO out of giving me a job. I could have lied. I could have talked about Audi’s racing heritage and philosophy of All Wheel Drive as the best way to have a great “ride.” But, that’s not me. Scott said to me, the type of love you have for BMW is the type of love we want from the people working on our brands and the type of love we want our owners to have. We parted ways and I ended up joining MARC USA.

Every creative brief, every business assessment, every analysis of a “category” eventually leads to a discussion about how to create an emotional connection. Why? Because emotional connections are generally very difficult to break. It’s very tough to break someone’s emotional connection with a brand and switch them to a competitor. It’s the emotional connection that drives consumers to make irrational decisions. Those irrational decisions generate consumer loyalty.

In the car buying business, the average consumer purchases 10 cars over their life time. That data point is based on the fact, we as car buyers purchase new cars every 5 years. I’m 33. I plan on driving til I’m 80. That means I’ll be in the market for 9 cars. That’s some serious cash, in the way of not only the car, but in services, maintenance, accessories, etc. In the luxury segment, driving this brand loyalty is even more important and much more fiercely competitive. Why? In the luxury category, there are less options and owners generally purchase a manufacturer for several years. Switching, simply, isn’t as prevalent. It’s also why there’s such a heavy emphasis on services. The services are designed to bolster retention.

That last paragraph could easily be summed up as, net-net, gaining new customers/owners is tough and people who own cars are worth a lot of money to companies. Think about it, besides a house, a car is the 2nd most expensive thing you’ll ever buy. Well, in 2007 I purchased my first BMW, a 530i. In 2009, I purchased my second, a 328i. Loved both cars. To go from admiring a brand, to working on a brand to finally owning something from that brand is a hell of an emotional experience.

Recently BMW and I had an exchange…an experience, that honestly left such a bad taste in my mouth, I ended up buying a new Audi. Yes, you read that right. To sum up the situation, last month, I sent BMW a tweet, that offered to trade a pallet of soup (that I would have purchased out of pocket) for a new 135. Now, to be clear, I didn’t expect a response. I was being cheeky. But, when BMW responded with a foursquare check-in at my office, with a picture of a 135 and the words “Yep. Now where’s the soup?” I was blown away. I was amazed. I know how difficult it is to be amazing in social. Knowing the automotive industry, like I do, I was amazed how quickly BMW was able to pull it off. I tweeted them back; no response. I direct messaged them; no response. I contacted their agency; no response.

Eventually a few weeks later a 135 model (yes a model) showed up at my office with a note thanking me for being a fan. Talk about a let down. To go from being teased with a real car to receiving a model replica was a pretty big emotional roller coaster. I was bummed. Not bummed that they didn’t fulfill on a trade. I was bummed because my expectations for the brand are high. I was bummed because there were so many other positive ways to handle the situation. I was bummed, because their team acted like they were playing in the bush leagues, not the majors.

Anyhow, a few weeks late I stumbled on to a program Audi was running called #wantanr8. It was a program birthed via a tweet from a passionate Audi fan. The link included in the last sentence gives the full overview, but to summarize, Audi grants people the ability to get behind an R8 for a day. Pretty cool. I tweeted how impressed I was with the program; especially given my first hand experience with how hard it is to scale to social. Andy White, the lead in social at Audi, reached out to me personally, to offer a thanks. From there a dialogue between the two of us started. He had read about my BMW experience and was bummed for me; it was also clear that Audi would never have played it out the way BMW did.

Candidly, I was going to be in the market for a new car next Summer. My 2007 328i was going to be out of extended warranty. The situation with BMW and the white glove treatment Andy was providing, had me considering a new car, even sooner. Once Andy knew I was in the market for a new car, he sent me a direct message asking me to sit tight and that he was working on something. I had no idea what “something” meant, but Andy had proven his credibility with me, so I knew it had to be something great. Roughly 2 weeks from receiving that tweet, I received a follow-up saying he’d been in touch with a specific dealership and a specific sales person and they were ready to provide me a VIP treatment. I had no idea what “VIP treatment” meant, but I was intrigued. Two days later I visited the Audi dealership in Cherry Hill, NJ, met with Kathleen and was blown away by the experience.

Let me cut to the chase, there was no free R8 :) there was no free car. But, there was a sales person and a dealership that understood my love for BMW, skepticism for any other manufacturer and realized I felt a bit burned. Inside of 30 minutes I knew the car I wanted (an A4) and the features I wanted. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the right combination of model and features at the dealership. But, they believed they could procure one from another dealer. 72 hours later, Kathleen followed up with me on her day off to tell me they found the car, secured it and if I wanted to go through with the sale, we could be ready in 48 hours. Wow. Well, I was sold. The trade-in value on my 328i was better than expected. The price they offered me for the A4 was more than fair. The incentives and bonus discounts were exceptional. It was a no-brainer.

So, last Friday, I drove my 328i for the last time. We took a drive up to the Cherry  Hill Audi dealership, where I filled out a bunch of paperwork and left the proud owner of a 2013 Audi A4. Would I have thought about purchasing an Audi next Spring/Summer when I was going to be in the market for a new car, had the situation with BMW’s social/digital team not happened? No! Would I have thought Audi, had it not been for Andy White and his tireless communication? No!

As a brand, what you say and do matters. Every touch point matters. When you connect with a consumer, you have the ability to delight and amaze or underwhelm. Audi’s understanding of this concept and BMW’s lack of understanding, have me sitting behind an A4, instead of a new 135i. If the lifetime value models are true and I’m set to buy another 9 cars between now and when I’m done driving. How much $$$ did BMW give up by simply ignoring one of their most passionate fans? Perhaps a better question, how much future $$$ did Audi earn, buy Andy simply taking a few hours to connect with me? Today, more than ever, as a brand, what you say and do matters.

BMW – The Ultimate Tease

Social media is a complex thing. There’s no doubt about it. I’ve lead social at several organizations and have seen up close how challenging it can be to make social something that transforms your business. Regardless of the industry you’re in (auto, financial services, CPG, travel, etc.) there has always been one consistent ingredient for driving social success: surprise and delight.

Now, surprise and delight can mean a wide variety of things. There are small things, like watching the fun exchange between Taco Bell and Old Spice. There are also big things like when JetBlue, recently fulfilled a NY Jets Fan’s request to fly on the plane. Yes, I’m serious. In a span of 24 hours JetBlue organizationally aligned to full on a request by a Jets fan’s crazy request.

Here’s the official word from JetBlue, on the situation:

We saw his tweet and it wasn’t hard to schedule the plane to fly him home,” Johnston said. “Now we obviously can’t have our customers dictating their routes all the time, but when we can listen to our customers, react quickly and do something cool, we obviously make the effort to do so.

That’s pretty powerful stuff. It’s the stuff that gets remembered. It goes beyond the cost of the actual cost to make that flight happen. That’s real surprise and delight.

Again…let me preface what comes next, by saying…I know how hard it can be to make even small things happen in social. You’ll hear things like risk mitigation, ROI or scale as reasons to only do the bare minimum.

I’ve been a life-long BMW fan. One of the first accounts I worked on, early in my career, at Fallon, was BMW. From their partnerships with the James Bond to the famous BMW Films initiative, I was blessed to work on some amazing projects with BMW. Post Fallon, I still remained a fan and eventually an owner, when I purchased a 2002 530i and eventually, my current ride a 2007 328i. I bleed “Ultimate Driving Machine.”

A few days I go, tweeted the official BMW USA account, “any interest in trading a 135 for a palette of soup?” I wasn’t expecting a response. But, when BMW replied 3 days later, via twitter, saying “Yep. Now where’s the soup?” I was blown away. Check out the full exchange here:

I was blown away for a few reasons.

  1. This was completely out of character for BMW
  2. They didn’t just respond via twitter…the used a foursquare check-in at Campbell Soup HQ, complete with a photo, to respond. That’s crazy creative and it definitely made things feel “legit.”
  3. This was MY “surprise and delight” moment. It was cool to be on the receiving end.

I immediately replied with “Well played. DM address” – I was giddy and shared my surprise and delight experience with friends on Facebook and twitter, in addition to a few media outlets. Why the media outlets? Well, like I said, I work in social…and a moment like this, deserves to be covered so that the team behind it could be given proper credit.

After hearing nothing from BMW for a while I then responded with “I’m partial to Chicken Noodle, but it’s your call for flavor. Thanks.” Still nothing. A day went by. Then another, but still no response.

It’s been a long week, for a lot of reasons. When BMW responded to my first tweet…in the way they did, I was taken to the highest of highs. To have no follow-up…to feel like this was the simply, The Ultimate Tease, was deflating…to say the least.

I know social is tough. I know delivering on surprise and delight is tough. But, you know what’s tougher? Trying to retain a life-long advocate, after you’ve publicly teased them. There aren’t many things BMW does poorly. This, was one of them.

Let this be a valuable lesson to all of you working in social media for companies/clients – don’t promise, what you can’t or won’t deliver. Take a page from JetBlue and if you’re going to promise something, follow thru and make it happen.

Crash

Got into two car accidents in a span of 20 minutes. Bad night tonight.

Heads Up Display

Kind of a strange day today.  That might be putting it mildly.  On my way home…well technically on my way to McDonald’s…my center console display struck me.  I was driving to a song called “Crash Into Me,” with the next song being “If Today Was Your Last Day.”  Kinda freaky.

The Gap Between Brand Promises And Reality

When a brand advertises, markets, or otherwise communicates a message to you it’s in fact making a promise. That company isn’t creating a campaign, website, print ad, or tv spot. Nope, they’re creating promises with their consumers/customers. Lately, I’ve been in several meetings and have take stock of several brand interactions I’ve had where there’s a clear gap between the promise being made and the ability to live up to that promise.

More specifically, I was in a meeting recently, where the brand architecture was essentially pointed to as being “optimistic” and not reality. However, even though it’s not reality yet, we should be leveraging it as the foundation for communication. In other words, even though they knew the product could not live up to how the product was going to be marketed, they wanted to do it anyway.

Huh? That’s like gas on a fire. If I send a blogger product X for review and in the communication to the blogger I describe the product as amazing, remarkable, the best, the gold standard, and sure to please – it better do all of those things. Because if it doesn’t, not only is my reputation tarnished with the blogger, the company/brand/product is going to get ripped to shreds.

BMW promises the consumer that when you buy one of their cars, you are getting the “Ultimate Driving Machine.” The foundation for that claim is “Independent. Unmistakable. Unique. Admittedly, we’re not the typical car company.” As a two time BMW owner and someone who worked on their business for 3 years, I can tell you two things about those statements:

  1. When it comes to “driving” their is no substitute in their category. Audi, Porsche, Mercedes, etc. are all very nice cars, but they could never claim (well they shouldn’t) they are the “Ultimate Driving Machine.”
  2. My expectations for customer service and mechanical service have always been underwhelming. When I see and hear that they aren’t the typical car company, my expectations are that ever facet of their business will be different than the norm.  The reality is, it isn’t.

Often I hear clients that operate a franchise model bemoan the inability to ensure consistency at each franchise location.  This often leaves me perplexed for several reasons.  But, primarily, it leaves me perplexed because I don’t understand why you’d spend millions of dollars to advertise one type of experience to generate millions of people coming to your store – only – to under-deliver on those messages and leave the consumer with a negative take on your brand.

Look, this is simple folks. In today’s rapidly evolving interactive world, if you break that promise people will know quickly. That’s a recipe for product, brand, and relationship disaster.  Please don’t try and pass off cat food as caviar, no matter how much the smell a like.

Trading Your Personal Information

Every day we trade our personal information for something. Our grocery “loyalty” cards provide companies access to our purchase behavior. The email newsletter from All Recipes gets your name, email address, physical address, and cooking habits. Heck when you buy dinner with a credit card you’re trading away your personal information.

Companies want more of your information. They’ve always wanted more of your information. More data and better data leads to smarter business decisions, more precise targeting, and of course a better return on investment. Simply put, without your data, companies would be guessing about who’s buying, what they’re buying, and would be blindly guessing about where to put their money. Come to think of it, aren’t lots of companies doing that right now :)

But seriously, you are valuable. Well, actually, your data is valuable. As budgets shrink and accountability rises your data becomes even more valuable. If something is valuable, it often means it’s worth paying for. Which begs the question, at what point will we be able to trade our information like commodity or stock exchange?

At the iMedia Agency Summit in Austin, Texas a gentleman from Blue Kai speculated that in the near future you’ll be able to trade your personal information for a trip to Hawaii. The term personal information is loose. You won’t be trading basic information like name, date of birth, and email address for that trip. Nope, you’ll be trading information about where you ate, what you saw, what you bought, why you bought, how many fruity drinks you drank, what music you listened to, and why you ordered octopus when according to what they already know about you, you’re allergic to seafood.

Some people will find sharing that information a fair even exchange. Others will balk at the concept. Me, I’m game. I’d gladly trade a bunch of my personal information for a new BMW M3.

Are you game? What would you trade for a new car or a trip to Hawaii? Would you sell your information? Your middle name might have little value on the exchange, but…allowing someone to monitor your web surfing habits for a year could be worth thousands. Along those lines, would trade your web surfing behavior for free internet? What about your tv viewing habits for free cable?

As consumers become smarter and realize that their personal information is quite valuable they’ll do one of two things:

  1. Protect that information, making it harder for companies to learn about customers
  2. Demand compensation for access to the information

That’s going to change the entire dynamic of the company-customer relationship. It’s going to be fun. BMW, I eagerly await my new M3.

Smart Responsive Outdoor Marketing

The person who buys and places BMW’s regional ads should win a medal for tracking down all the Audi billboards and quickly getting up this BMW ad in response.  As usual it shows that everyone is playing catchup to BMW.

More examples of the media buy can be found here.

Why Isn’t The Car Buying Experience Better?

I recently got into the market for a new car. It was time to trade in my wife’s 2002 Jaguar X-Type. But, for what? Getting from the requirements to completing the purchase was a harrowing experience. The short story is we ended up with an Infiniti G37X. You can skip down to the bottom of this post for the lessons learned.

Here’s the long version. It took us roughly 45 days to go from the beginning of the process to the end. It was painful. We’ve purchased 3 houses and I can tell you that buying a car was a much worse process. Here’s why.

Requirements
It wasn’t too hard to figure out the requirements. This was probably the easiest part of the process. We wanted All Wheel Drive, Built In Navigation, Heated Seats, 4 Doors (not a coupe), Automatic Transmission, Seating for 5 (ideally 7), and a set budget. We wanted either a new car or a certified preowned.

Research
Wow! There were too many options to choose from. Do you look at Edmunds? Car & Driver? Road & Track? Can you trust JD Power or customer reviews? Searches on Google don’t exactly help you out either. There’s too much noise out there on the web. Even if you start at sites that are supposed to help you compare, contrast, and choose cars that meet your requirements you’ll get different answers. Cars.com, AutoBuyTel.com, and the like all create muddy water. There’s no consistency in how you compare vehicles. They all seem to be basing their GUI off of different data. There’s really no data integrity or consistent repeatable model for evaluating cars. That said, using a hybrid of tools and sources we had a short list of vehicles to check out: Acura MDX, Acural RL, BMW 528xi, Ford Fusion, Cadillac CTS, Infniti FX35, Infiniti G37x, and Volvo XC90.

Try, Trial, and Error
OK, so you’ve got a short list based on primarily unemotional information. Pictures, spec sheets, reviews, and charts are only part of the equation. You have to actually touch the car, hear the engine, and of course experience the ride. You’d think this would be easy, however finding a dealer that’s has the car you want to test drive on the lot can be tougher than you’d imagine. There’s a noticeable gap between the inventory information contained on a dealer’s site and what’s actually there when you show up. On more than 1 occasion we showed up at the dealer only to find out they didn’t have the car we wanted. For example, we showed up at a Ford dealership to test drive the AWD version of the Fusion, but they didn’t have any on the lot. After test driving every car on the list we had it narrowed down to 4: Acura MDX, BMW 528xi, Infiniti FX35, and Infiniti G37x.

The Money Game
The cost of a car is really made up of several things: Base Price, Less Trade In, Less Incentives, Less Negotiating Room, Plus Tax, Plus Title, Plus Other Fees…and of course the financing options. I listed out all the items, but how each dealer approaches them is completely inconsistent. There’s even inconsistencies by car model from the same dealer. Trying to figure out the net-cost is quite difficult. Shouldn’t it be easier? Sites like Cars.com list the MSRP, Dealer Invoice Price, and even sometimes the average cost people are paying. A site like KBB.com even gives you an idea for what to expect for your trade-in. Armed with all that information it should be really easy to guess how much you should be paying. It’s not that easy though. For example, the amount of money I was being offered for my trade-in varied as much as 25%. The money game also generally involves 4 players: the salesman, finance guy, technician, and a more senior salesman. After figuring out the “out the door” price for each vehicle we decided on the Infiniti G37x.

Paperwork
Cool, you’ve picked the car. We even picked from a variety of G37x’s on the lot. That meant we could choose color and features. That’s very cool, but we were lucky. Not every dealership was as well stocked. For example the Acura dealership only had 3 options to pick from for the MDX. At this point in the experience things should go fast, right? Wrong. This is where things come to a screeching halt. The dealer has no incentive to move things along, because you’ve already agreed to buy the car. From the time we agreed on the specific car, net cost, and finance options it took nearly 3 hours to actually drive off the lot. The dealership had to get a bunch of paperwork put together and clean the car we wanted. I don’t mind the cleaning the car part, but given all the paperwork we’d already filled out it the “final” paperwork should have gone much faster. The salesman passes you off to to the finance guy. The finance guy has you sign some papers and then passes you off to the guy who will actually handle the “final” paperwork. This guy is also the guy that will also try to up-sell you on an extended warranty, clear shield protectant, and many other wonderful things. Rather than have all the paperwork ready to go, he had to print each form individually while we were there. Crazy.

The Grand Finale
The dealership didn’t have the second key FOB on hand. Another salesman apparently had it on him and he was not working on the day we purchased the car. This means we need to swing by and pick it up. We’ll also need to stop by to pick up the license plates.

Apologies for the length, but given how long this post is, you can only imagine how long the process was in real time :) After going through this process here’s my take-aways on how to make the experience better:

  1. Data Consistency: There’s just too many holes in the data. Everyone seems to be using a different source. This applies to even the dealer. The inventory being reported on the dealer’s website needs to represent what’s on the lot. It would also be fantastic if independent sites like Edmunds were leveraging the same data for their reviews and comparisons.
  2. Stop Killing The Trees: The amount of repetition in paperwork was staggering. I still can’t get over the number of times we provided our name, address, social security number, and date of birth. From the minute I walk through the door they should be collecting data, dumping it into a consumer profile, and leveraging it to accelerate the whole buying process.
  3. Transparency: I can’t believe I just typed that word. But, it’s true. Despite all the payment calculators, information on financing, advertising, and “free” honest information it’s impossible to figure out how much you’re going to pay. I should be able to have a damn good idea of how much the final cost is going to be. The haggling on price is one of the most time consuming parts of the process.

Shouldn’t it be easier? Why isn’t it?

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?

Stop Chasing “The Next”

Michael Leis dropped into Minneapolis this week to speak to our agency about interactive trends in 2009.  His presentation was fantastic.  My head was spinning and it’s still reeling a little bit.  He just operates on a different wavelength and thinks about things in a way that forces you to pause.  Often when people give a presentation about trends, they focus on telling you about things that you NEED to be on top of.  They point to tools, technologies, and places that you MUST check out, get involved in, invest in, or purchase.  The message comes across in a way that makes it seem if you don’t invest you will fail.

I remember listening to a vendor, called Wink, in 1999 explaining that 2000 was going to be the year of interactive television.  He explained how people would be able to interact in real time with the shows they were watching.  Like the shirt Rachel is wearing on Friends?  Awesome, with the flick of a finger you can learn more about it and even purchase it.  Folks, it’s 2009 and we still can’t do that :)  We’re getting closer to that experience, but it’s a long way off.  I guess that trend was wrong.  Can you imagine if we advised BMW, our client at the time, to invest in interactive television instead of funding BMW Films?

Michael really hit on the point that you need to stop chasing what’s next.  It’s not about the next Facebook.  Or the next YouTube.  Or even, the next iPhone.  Just stop.  The answers aren’t there.  If you are always chasing the next bright shiny object, you’ll never get any traction.  There’s an old line that’s been used and reused thousands of times by thousands of people: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” On many levels this is true. Nike wasn’t chasing the next thing when they created Nike+. Nike simply created the next thing. Think about it. Nike could have partnered with Facebook or Google directly. They could have worked with cell phone companies to make the technology work on existing hardware and the cellular networks. Instead, the decided that the next big trend was something they were going to create. It was bold. It was beautiful. And it’s successful.

This isn’t to say we should ignore trends. Trends are very important. We should monitor trends. We should evaluate them. We should invest in the RIGHT ones, not everyone. Just because your competitor is on Twitter, doesn’t mean you need to be. You don’t necessarily need a widget, iPhone app, or a presence on Tivo. You might. But, you shouldn’t invest in those places just because they’re new, under leveraged, and somewhat fertile ground.

2009 is feeling a lot like 2000 to me. It feels like everyone is dumping their money online and hoping for a big bang. While I applaud the companies that are finally realizing the power of the interactive medium, I also need to caution them that they need to be focused on their business problems and not what AdAge says they need to do.

This year stop looking for the next big thing and start focusing on results.

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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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