Tag: WOM

Resolution Inspiration from Maker’s Mark

Resolution Inspiration from Maker’s Mark

Last month, I met Bill Samuels, Jr. in the flesh. That name may not ring a bell for you, but for me and thousands of Maker’s Mark ambassadors, meeting the master distiller, current company president, and son of the founder of a truly beloved brand is a very big deal. Perhaps more importantly to me, this company’s philosophy and deep respect for their customers was one of the first to get me excited about the power of Word of Mouth Marketing when I heard Jackie Huba tell their ambassador story (check out her podcast interview with Bill Samuels, Jr here) almost 5 years ago.

Bill was in attendance at the December 16 WOM Supergenius conference in Chicago where I along with some other old WOMMA friends including Jake McKee, Spike Jones, and John Moore was speaking at the invitation of Andy Sernovitz and his team from Gaspedal.  While all the sessions were great, Bill’s was the only one where I broke out a pen and started trying to capture what was being said word for word.

What better way to kick off 2010 than remembering why we care about WOM in the first place from a brand that is most certainly worthy of a weekend (or a 6 year ambassadorship)?   Thus, enjoy the paraphrased quotes from Bill Samuels, Jr  – some of which originated with from his dad.  I hope they can inspire us all to a 2010 of meaningful marketing resolutions…

bill samuels jr<our target audience is…> Anyone with an above average interest in taste and taste distinctiveness that we would enjoy having home for dinner.

<how will we reach them?> We will not enter the airspace of anyone who has not invited us to enter it.

We will talk to the people who want to talk to us.

Wherever we travel, we blow the whistle at 5 and they all come running.

We send Ambassadors text emails from Bill, because your friends don’t send you Flash emails.

Surprise and delight is more powerful than a reward triggered by taking an action.

Every gift we send is a tool to help you introduce your friends to your brand, Maker’s Mark.

Thanks for the reminders, Bill.  And for the reminder to specify brands when ordering a bourbon & ginger.

The WOM It Is

The WOM It Is

bruceonpiano3I like to think of myself as Bruce Hornsby Superfan #1, but I know it to not be true (that would be Si Twining of Bruuuce.com).  That being said, you can comfortably place me in the next tier of fandom down the line.  Through the years I have seen Bruce in many different type of configurations – solo, with an orchestra, with the Range, etc, but there is no party like seeing him with the Noisemakers.  This is why I happily schlepped to Red Bank, New Jersey to see the full band at the Count Basie Theater (site of my first live Steve Winwood at the tender age of 20) last week.  What struck me about the show was not just how musically remarkable it was, but how many best practices of word of mouth marketing the Noisemakers experience exemplifies.  Its part of the magic that makes folks like me come back show after show, year after year.  Here they are:

Co-Creation – 5 minutes after the theater doors opened, the stage was covered with cards, letters and notes with heartfelt requests of favorites, standards and covers for Bruce & the band.  He read some of the notes on stage and, while he jokingly responded to someone yelling an arcane request “we’ll play what we like”, he definitely made a point of letting the audience shape the show.  The fact that every show is different drives nerds like me to research setlists and hit multiple tourstops.

Transparency – There is no rockstar or even jazz virtuoso posturing.  Bruce chose to play the highly-requested Harbor Lights solo and explained that it was because the band hadn’t played it fully orchestrated in so long that they would be rusty.  He also apologized in advance for 1 tune that wasn’t good in sound check, but they needed to get used to playing it live (still sounded great).  And for the first time I’ve ever heard, he ended the show saying “I know times are tight and I really appreciate you all coming out”.

Surprises, Mashups, Inside Jokes – Bruce performed a live debut, played the dulcimer (which I had never seen him do), and pulled off a couple of song mashups that were headscratchers even for me.  The encore was technically 1 song – Mandolin Rain – but jammed through pieces of the lesser known Shadow Hand, Halcyon Days and the Dead song Black Muddy River for those hardcore fans hanging on every note.  Another little fun shoutout was a Sopranos nod with “Got Yourself a Gun” during an earlier tune.  Newcomers may not even notice, but there is an element of discovery makes repeat customers feel lke insiders.

Remember Your Roots – 10 – 15 years ago, Bruce regularly also had a live feature where he invited women on stage to dance to Rainbow’s Cadillac.  I even found a video of this happening at his show on millenium eve – memorable because the weight of the women broke the revolving stage (and yes, I was there).  Listen for the chorus of “Women are Smarter” in the song.   I hadn’t seen him do it in a while, and as the picture at the head of this post shows, he brought it back because “they finally got the stank back on it”.  That’s Bruce on top of the piano playing the accordian.   Another example of honoring roots is Bruce always playing The Way It Is, End of The Innocence, and Mandolin Rain.  This is that moment of recall for those who may be less familiar with his work and a chance for him to really push the envelope on how he twists and turns 20+ year old tunes.

Give it Away Now – If you love something set it free.  Bruce’s new record company has just put up a complete livestream of his new album – 5 weeks before release.  Will it stop me from buying the real thing?  Far from it.  It gets me excited now and has me making more concert plans.

All of the above principles give me a real, multidimensional story to tell about Bruce.  Are you feeding your customers’ hunger for conversational capital?

Compassion Core for Fan Brands

Compassion Core for Fan Brands


**Image Pier Madonia for the International Red Cross**

One topic that I have written about extensively in this blog is consumer relationships with brands and, in special cases, Brands Worthy of a Weekend (BWOW).  When I started writing about BWOW, it was still a relatively lofty  bar – a brand for which you care so deeply that you would spend a weekend away from your family to connect with other people who feel the same way about this brand, learn more about the “inside” of the business, meet the people who make the magic happen, etc.   With the seismic shift in the blogosphere, however, brand “weekends” have become more and more common, but with a major difference – they are largely designed for influential voices versus passionate fans.   In the mom blogger space in particular, these events are happening in rapid fire succession with some players covering  multiple per month.  While these executions absolutely hold water as communications strategies – at least for the time being – they are no longer about “passion”.  I would argue it is very difficult to be truly passionate about more than a handful of things.

Enter compassion.  I’d never stopped to give compassion much thought, but having begun work on a project that centers on compassion, I am now hyperconscious of it in the world around me and there are a lot of business applications.  While we expect compassion in/from our fellow human beings, we don’t expect companies – with their one-size-fits-all policies and protocols for front line reps – to want or choose to show compassion.    But upon further reflection,  a lot of brand fan creation stories have an act of compassion at their core.  A couple of examples:

  • This weekend, the waitress at Inside Park at St. Barts who came outside (where I was exiled with my toddler-gone-wild) to chat with me, suggest some places where I could entertain him, and take my order on the go made me a fan.
  • My St. John Knit fan creation story is ALL about a VP of Customer Service reading my letter and breaking the rules to help a desperate bride (now customer for life).
  • Every Twitter/online customer redemption listening story – from @comcastcares to the Dell outreach team or non-tech areas like the Vermont Teddy Bear Company reading a complaint I had made about some spam affiliate marketing and correcting the problem (that turned me into a supporter of their sister venture Pajamagram).

The first step in codifying compassion into your business or brand as witnessed above is listening.  You can not understand “the other” or “walk in their shoes” unless you pause to try to understand and consider an issue, opportunity or problem from their point of view.  In the examples above, “listening” took the forms of watching a situation visually, reading a letter from a customer, and blogosphere monitoring respectively (note: great post on active listening from John Bell here).

The second element is trusting those human beings who do represent your brand with the power to act.  Ritz Carlton famously gives front line reps a budget from which they can do whatever they need to do to correct any problems in a customer’s stay and send them away happy.  That not only creates customer evangelists, it proves that the brand trusts the human beings that they have selected to embody the brand.

So, next time something happens that turns you into a positive-WOM machine for a company or a brand, think about the role compassion plays and whether or not you are in turn entrusting your team with the power to pass it along to your own customers.

Personal & Professional in Social Media

Personal & Professional in Social Media

WHO IS THIS WOMAN? BLOGGER? MOM?  WOM ADVOCATE?  WIFE?  STRATEGIST? She’s not confused, just multi-dimensional like you.

This week, I was honored to be asked to participate in IBM’s Social Media Marketing Summit.  The first speaker of the day was a social media standard, but someone whom I had not previously met: Frank Eliason, the man behind @comcastcares.  Frank has not only become a poster child for his company, he has become a go-to case study for traditional media getting value out of Twitter.  Frank had a lot of great nuggets of wisdom to pass along through sharing his journey, but there was one aspect that I got some additional questions on later: his very open, brave take on how personal and professional worlds fit together in social media.

Frank’s profile page not only bears his own photo, but links to his family’s personal websites.  This is Frank’s interpretation of a critical principle: people don’t create relationships with a company, they create relationships with people. He shares these links to personalize both himself and his employer.  While I agree with the underlying concept, my interpretation of what it means to bring this principle to life is different.  While my tweets, this blog, and my entries on the Ogilvy blog are all written in a very conversational style that reflects my personality, I do not have digital links up to family or (non-business-relevant) friends.  I am also pretty sensitive to the topics of what I cover and try to stay close to my mission of discussion social media & WOM-relevant topics with an appropriate slice of life on the side.  For the purely personal or “venting”, I usually use Facebook.

I truly don’t think there’s any right or wrong or black or white on this issue.  Over the last few days, I’ve been trying to figure out why I have consciously and unconsciously made these decisions.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:
I have clients – there is already a certain level of professional self-censorship on the stories I share as much of what I am exposed to is proprietary or sensitive for my clients.  Someone who is the face of a brand might feel a bit more comfortable sharing a larger percentage of their days and nights.

I’m female – I started blogging in the age of the mommyblogger explosion, but was not blogging about anything personal.   Because I am a mom who blogs, but am not a mommyblogger, I have probably veered a little dramatically to stay out of that category and pay proper respect to those who truly excel at sharing about their personal lives.  And like Rock and Roll Mama says: I’ve still got it.  Even when I am up to my elbows in Elmo and goldfish.

Virginia Miracle is a Professional Construct (or: Dad Ate My Google Results) – Virginia Miracle was born in 2004 when I married into an awesome last name.  Prior to that, I had a different, somewhat complex and very southern name that is extremely close to that of my Dad – my fabulous and extremely prolific writer father.  For a guy who just got broadband last year, he has a shockingly robust digital footprint.  Getting a new name coincided with the year that I found WOMMA and my career changed.   Thus, everything public that is associated with the name “Virginia Miracle” has stayed relatively professional and been highly correlated to Word of Mouth Marketing.

I don’t think there is a “best practice” here, but it is important to be conscious of your choices as you start that Twitter feed, create a YouTube video of your friends in Vegas, or blog about your parenting style.  Depending on how and where you share, it could follow you to your next job interview, background check, or family reunion.  Best of luck and happy social media sorting…

The JFK Principle

The JFK Principle

In my WeMedia talk this afternoon, I will be mentioning the JFK principle.

I am often asked – in and out of work – about how to get fans, customers, ambassadors, bloggers to do something FOR US.  This very approach is why most communities and outreach efforts never get off the ground and the disconnect that Mack Collier discussed in this blog post.  Most community building efforts fail because they are created in order to be monetized, yet communities will not grow and thrive around the concept of monetization.

In order for you to grow a community, you need find a core set of people who will find disproportionate value from what you can provide.  This could be information, a space to gather, entertainment, or a willing ear.  That audience will be the ones to offer you feedback and guidance on how to build a community (or any sort of engagement program) and the ones who will talk about it, help you recruit, etc.  So how do you find ask your core audience?  By asking (with apologies to JFK):

Ask not what your audience can do for you, but what you can do for your audience.

This is similar to the advice that we as a community offered to Recipecomparison.com here, but it is applicable in any number of social media strategies where you are trying to find your talkers.

Try taking this audience-centric approach and find the people for whom you can do the most.  They just might be the ones who can do the most for you regardless of their “influence levels”.