BWOW: Wow Bao

BWOW: Wow Bao

WowBaoIf you’re wondering who owns the eyebrow-lift-inducing Facebook vanity “hotasianbuns”, look no further than Chicago’s own Wow Bao.  Wow Bao is a concept of Lettuce Entertain You, but it has a social media voice and plan of action all its own.   Geoff Alexander, Wow Bao’s Managing Partner joined me on a panel at WOMMA’s School of WOM and shared enough of those elements to make me want to learn more.  The personality and choices that Wow Bao has made qualify it as a Brand Worthy of a Weekend (BWOW) – a brand for whom there is a passionate set of fans that would give up a weekend with their families to come “immerse” themselves in the brand – learn more, meet the people behind the brand, and want to have a hand in crafting the brand’s future.  So what’s Wow Bao’s recipe for a talkable, weekend-worthy brand?

Product Offering w/ Story, Ritual, & Explanation – Chicago is a food town, but steamed Asian Buns aren’t the most common offering by far.  The product itself provides the opportunity for Word of Mouth to be exchanged – in location or on their website in the “the Way of the Bao” video.

Sauce-Up Your Brand Voice – @BaoMouth – Their brand voice on Twitter is the disembodied Bao Mouth.  The spicy Bao Mouth’s location and identity remain a closely guarded trade secret (even when I pressed Mr. Alexander on stage).  It is interesting to note that this is usually counter to what we think of as a best practice in terms of building relationships through transparency, but here it truly adds to the Bao mystique.  What we do know is that he/she is not only listening for mentions of Wow Bao, but ready to comment on other seemingly irrelevant, but fun tweets.  My favorite today:

I’m gonna walk in through the out door all day today RT @CarolBlymire: Prince turns 52. How will YOU be celebrating his birthday?”

Surprise & Delight with Innovation – Despite (or maybe because?) Wow Bao is in Chicago and only rocking a handful of locations, they are innovating their marketing at light speed.  They know that young, digital, early adopters are their bun eaters, so they have experimented by being one of the first restaurants in Chicago to offer Foursquare deals (in fall 09), they have an iPhone app, remote ordering and shipping anywhere in the US, Facebook weekly “secret word” deals, Foursquare Mayor rituals that walk the walk in store (this talkability has to manifest IRL after all), and mobile single-use barcoded coupons with Mocapay.  Even if 75% of these fail, they’re worth remarking about and, while experimental, that probably justifies the ROI on its own.

What other brands are challenging their audiences by pushing their marketing bounds vs. being dragged into the future?  Or using the complexity of their product as a WOM advantage?

What Stuck from WOMM-U

What Stuck from WOMM-U

It’s been 3 weeks since the best WOMMA conference in years.  As I’ve been reflecting, one of the big things I’ve been trying to nail down is exactly WHY I am so sure it is the best conference in years and what ideas I have taken with me.  Here’s what’s stuck:

Content Buoyancy – There were a lot of great takeaways from YouTube’s Jeben Berg’s talk (captured here on the All Things WOM blog), but this is the concept I am still pondering some weeks later.  Given that no piece of content will stay at the top of the YouTube pile forever, content buoyance describes your content’s ability to rise back to the top of the heap.  Will it find new relevance what conditions change in the future?  Does the content have the ability to be evergreen and find new audiences over time?  The example used here was Nike’s Ronaldinho Touch of Gold video from 2005 that has garnered 28million views over the years:

In this case, its about great content that doesn’t grow stale.

Blowing ChunksBlowing Chunks with Ted & John is not just a compelling name for a breakout, but an invitation to great conversations.  Fizz Corp‘s Ted Wright & John Moore from Brand Autopsy not only brought beer, they brought a fun WOM construct – the “Nausea Avoidance Checklist”.  This invited participants to share their WOM mis-steps in a fun and safe environment.  It was like group therapy.

Pack Your Knives & Go
Pack Your Knives & Go

Location, Location, Location – This year’s WOMMA was just a few miles away from the previous one, but world’s away in terms of talkability.  The Ritz Carlton South Beach and its gorgeous beach setting was a breath of fresh air and WOMMA activities included lunch served by none other than Top Chef finalist Jeff McInnis.  Another divisive event element was the “naked” dessert spread on night 2.  Some people loved it, some hated it, but it gave everyone something to chew on which was, indeed, the point.

Positivity Reigns on Yelp – The conversational nugget that Goeff Donaker shared that Yelp reviews are 6:1 positive is something that I have already used in conversation multiple times.  People want to go out of the way to share POSITIVE experiences with others.  God bless altruism.

WOMMA not only knows how to throw a great conference, they also know how to host an online conversation.  If you have an opinion on where ethical boundaries should be drawn around “sponsored conversations”, please make your voice heard on the Living Ethics Blog.

Top 5 from WOMM-U

Top 5 from WOMM-U

There is an advantage in the tardiness to this wrap up post from WOMM-U in Miami: the following highlights have already stood the test of staying with me for a full week , these are observations that have at least held up through a full week of work, media consumption, deep thoughts and Twitter. As a tribute to WOMMA’s always-useful Daily Five newsletter, I thought I’d use that construct for the wrap up.

Highlights from WOMMA’s WOMM-University in Miami:

1. New Format: WOMMU was the trial run of a new event format that John Bell and I were part of hatching from previous event feedback. There were 3 types of sessions: Mainstage keynotes/case studies, 12-person working group sessions with experts, and large working groups tasked to complete a Word of Mouth Marketing plan for 1 of 3 charitable projects. Most of the feedback I heard was very positive (balanced with the fact that participating in discussions and workgroups is more tiring than being fed Powerpoint presentations), but I also had lively discussions with someone who vehemently disliked the new format. What I learned is that by enacting a radical change, we began a dialogue that no amount of theoretical “how can we improve?” questions could have elicited. Go ahead and build that strawman to get people talking.

2. Word of Mouth is “marketing’s butt crack”. Jeffrey Graham from the New York Times chose to use this particularly colorful metaphor as a tribute to the appearance of the sliver of WOMM spend as a part of the total marketing spend pie. Graham shared great data surrounding the increased return of WOMM as part of an integrated program – brands require both relationships and impressions to achieve communications goals.

3. Dell’s social media transformation story continues to grow and evolve very swiftly. An amazing 120 ideas from Ideastorm have already been put into production. Check out the very light touch of Regeneration.org. My favorite quote from Dell’s VP of Community was “Beware of Content Pushers“.

4. Carnival Cruise Lines has come a long way since Kathie Lee sang “Ain’t We Got Fun?”. The blog of Senior Cruise Director John Heald takes brand personality to the next level as does their enthusiast club named for an on-board drink specialty “The Monkey Head Wasters”. Carnival noticed that a group had formed and built them their own forum to keep in touch. Bringing customers together is powerful marketing.

5. OPI proves names contribute to WOMM. Technically, this wasn’t the point of their case study, but it was demonstrated by the women who asked questions afterwards – all of whom identified themselves by the fun OPI color they were wearing. The effort put into hatching names like “I’m Not Really a Waitress” certainly creates some brand preference.

If you missed it, check out the live blog for all the details. Hope to see you at the next WOMMA event in November!

New in Events? WOMM-U and nTag

New in Events? WOMM-U and nTag

What’s new in the world of conferences, you say? 2 things particularly spring to mind.

WOMMU BadgeI just finished all of my plans to attend the upcoming WOMM-U Conference in Miami, FL. There is a great list of mainstage attractions, but what makes this event different is that the 2 days will be peppered with small group working conversations with experts from various arenas – including some focused on putting WOMM to use for good.

  • Keynotes include would-be-Blogger-Socialite Joseph Jaffe, Ogilvy’s Carla Hendra and Dell’s Andy Lark.
  • Faculty include my Ogilvy PR 360 Digital Influence colleague (& newly minted author) Rohit Bhargava as well as my former manager from Dell (& dominator of all things digital marketing) – Liana Frey.
  • “WOMM in Action” sessions will bring together attendees from various different background to create a Word of Mouth action plan for the Wilderness Society and the Overton Youth Foundation.

And now, for something completely different, I want to share a casual interview that I had the pleasure of conducting with Rahul Bhargava of nTag. (Still getting used to my FLIP cam)

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/yQrOX2ju9Wg" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]Rahul is a technologist who really does spend his days thinking about the future of events as we know them. I have been to a couple of events recently that have done away with the printed conference book – putting materials online. Good progress, but a baby step compared to the future that nTag is envisioning. Enjoy the video and let me know if you ever get to experience one of these in person – I clearly don’t get invited to enough sales conventions!!

The Costly Weight of Marketing Clutter

The Costly Weight of Marketing Clutter

Today, pastor Ben over at the Church of the Customer shared the weigh-in of his unwanted direct mail for the holiday season: a whopping 21.5 pounds. That’s for one household. Let’s pretend we’re being interviewed by a management consulting firm and do some “back of the envelope” estimation.

There are around 100 million households in the US, but based on household income, let’s assume 40 million of those wouldn’t be considered attractive enough to be targeted with this type of weighty marketing (the heavier the paper, the more it costs to mail, etc. A lot of high end modeling goes into whether you receive a catalog, how frequently you get mailed, and how many pages get mailed to different types of households). So that’s 60M mailed addresses.

Let’s also be conservative and assume that the Church is on the particularly high end of the spectrum and discount the weight they received by 25% to get a number that we feel more comfortable extrapolating over the rest of the population, so that would be a household poundage of 16.125 lbs.

Based on these above numbers our (conservative) estimate of the holiday direct mail that cluttered homes is just under 1 billion pounds (967,500,000) or 483750 tons.

treestI’ll also use a low-ball estimate of number of trees per ton of paper (7.68 trees) to offset the fact that while folks like Neiman’s are using close to 15 trees per ton of their catalogs, some marketers (including Dell, Patagonia, and Williams Sonoma) are using more and more recycled paper. This brings us to a grand total of 3,715,200 trees.

I have no idea how to estimate the brainpower used to create the catalogs, the gas burned to bring these gems to my mailbox, and the gas burned to take them from my recycling bin to a recycle center, I’m guessing that it would be enough to make starting a conversation with your customers not look quite so expensive after all.

(If you want to stop receiving unwanted catalogs, visit Catalog Choice. If you’d like to plant some trees to offset the onslaught, visit Plantit2020. If you’d like to know more about opening a dialogue with your customers, visit WOMMA.)