The face of a great brand


The best-selling album of the decade?  Not Eminem.  Not Usher.  But The Beatles 1, a collection of Beatles Number One singles that has sold 11.4 million units since its release in November 2000.  Pretty astonishing for a group that broke up decades ago.

One can argue that the lack of Beatles music in digital format contributed to the sale of the physical CD. But I think there’s a lot more to the popularity of The Beatles 1: quite simply, the Beatles created an enduring brand.  I’m not talking about successful marketing (although the band has been well marketed over the years).  No, the Beatles created a great brand by creating a great experience — the songs and albums that delight us over and over each time we hear them.  Without compelling music, the Beatles might have enjoyed success initially but not this kind of long-term loyalty from one generation to the next.

Sound obvious?  I hope it sounds so obvious that all of us aspire to create something great.  I’m not saying we can all be Beatles, but we can follow their example — by trying to create something memorable for others, whether you are publishing content, providing a service, or marketing a product.

It’s worth pointing out that the Beatles enjoyed wild success during its 1964 invasion of the States after the band’s music began to take hold. The music (specifically the song “I Want to Hold Your Hand”) ignited the interest among American consumers.  The promotion of the band built off that interest, in turn.

To build a great brand, don’t get obsessed with generating buzz or influencing the influencers.  Create something great first.

Word-of-mouth supergeniuses


I walked away from the 2009 Word of Mouth Supergenius event with many ideas and impressions, a fraction of which made their way to my Twitter stream in real-time.  The event, hosted by Gaspedal, brought together leading word-of-mouth practitioners who shared tips for marketers seeking to build their brands in authentic ways.  Some take-aways:

  • Coca-Cola empowers its employees and associates to become brand ambassadors through social media instead of trying to control them.  Adam Brown, Coca-Cola’s group director for digital communications, discussed how Coca-Cola is revising and disseminating its own guidelines, not just for employees but for bottlers.  It’s encouraging to see a major brand like Coca-Cola realizing the power of its own employees and business partners to create word of mouth.
  • Starbucks isn’t afraid to fight back when unfairly attacked by rumors that spread via word of mouth, as discussed by Matthew Guiste, Starbucks digital strategist.  When Starbucks notices a nasty rumor like the false story about its attitude toward military personnel, the company uses word-of-mouth tools like Facebook to push back — and hard.  The brand is not afraid of looking like a “corporate big brother.”  And when Starbucks fans notice Starbucks speaking up, they join in to defend the company.  I found Matthew’s points to be inspiring to any major brand in the public light.  If your critics are using word-of-mouth unfairly to attack, it’s OK to fight back.
  • Too many brands worry about transparency.  Brands should not participate in word of mouth to be transparent.  They should use word of mouth to build credibility, with transparency being a means to doing that.  Transparency was one of the many topics discussed during a free-wheeling discussion hosted by Mitch Joel, author of Six Pixels of Separation.
  • I also appreciated what Mitch had to say about “in praise of slow.”  The digital world is fast-moving, obviously.  But it takes time — and a lot of patience — to build a true community especially through word of mouth.  Mitch challenged bloggers in the audience to focus on creating meaningful content over a period of time instead of worrying about how frequently blog posts are written.
  • Buzz does not create evangelists; evangelists create buzz.  And the key to inspiring evangelists is creating a great experience, a key take-away from a discussion by John Moore.

Creating experiences, not one-way messages, resonates with my employer Razorfish.  We’ve placed a heavy emphasis on helping clients like Mercedes-Benz USA bring their brands to life through compelling experiences, mostly in the digital world.  In 2010, you can expect to hear more from Razorfish about the importance of experiences that build businesses — in commentary from executives like our chairman Clark Kokich, in thought leadership, and, of course, in the work we do for clients, to name a few ways.   Meantime there are many lessons to be learned from the supergeniuses who spoke on December 16.

Escaping the social media echo chamber


Embracing social media is like speaking in public.  Technically any company can do it.  But doing it well is a different story.  On December 8, my employer Razorfish announced the development of new offerings for those marketers who want to employ social media and influencers effectively.

The Razorfish Social Influence Marketing strategy offerings help clients create approaches for employing social media and influencers to meet their business and marketing needs.  The offerings build on experiences gained during the past several years with clients ranging from Carnival Cruise Lines to Levi Strauss & Co.

Although Razorfish helps companies employ social in many ways, our latest set of offerings focus on formulating strategies to use social in a measurable manner.  Why?  Because too many companies have told us they have been pushed into building Facebook pages and Twitter accounts without even knowing why or to what benefit.  They tell us they wish they had created a coherent strategy for linking social to their real business needs instead of implementing a bunch of tactics and asking questions later.

So, here are a few things Razorfish is not doing through our offerings:

  • Promising to increase your Twitter followers by 900 percent.
  • Using stories about Motrin moms to scare you into adopting Social Influence Marketing.

Rather, we are:

  • Helping clients formulate sustainable and measurable approaches to social.
  • Ensuring that our clients’ social strategies break free of the vast social media echo chamber.  Razorfish helps clients connect social to their larger marketing and business needs.

To be clear, Razorfish has been actively involved in Social Influence Marketing for quite some time.  What we are doing now is formally packaging our intellectual property around social strategy in a more repeatable way.  My colleagues such as Shiv Singh can tell you even more about our new offerings.

The Tiger Woods brand will be just fine

Tiger Woods might be in a world of hurt, but his brand is going to be just fine.  For a famous athlete, he has a bland, anonymous public persona.  His image is built purely on sports performance and not much else.  His self-described “transgression” has not tarnished his image because, well, he lacks one.

It would have been a different story if:

  • He had done something to tarnish his image as an athlete, like, say, smoke crack or take steroids.  Putting his health at risk would have been in greater conflict with his brand as an athlete than cheating on his wife because his entire public persona is wrapped up in his success as a golfer.
  • His behavior had alienated the middle-class Americans that corporate sponsors worry about.  But marital infidelity is too common among mainstream society to tarnish his appeal.  Contrast his situation with the scandal that resulted from Michael Vick’s involvement in illegal dog fighting.  It’s not so much the illegality of dog fighting that turned Vick into a pariah to corporate sponsors — but rather middle-class America’s perception of dog fighting as repulsive, fringe behavior.  Chances are the target demographic for Accenture (a former employer of mine) or Nike know someone personally who has had an affair.  I doubt that few, if anyone, in that demographic know someone personally involved in dog fighting.
  • He was a female athlete.  An unspoken “boys will be boys” attitude prevails when it comes to celebrities misbehaving, a standard that does not apply to women.  How marketable do you think the married Danica Patrick would be if a story broke that she was cheating on her husband, replete with saucy texts to guys and hush-hush voice mails to alleged lovers? Do you think Dara Torres, a mom and successful Olympic swimmer, could have survived a revelation about marital infidelity during the 2008 Summer Olympics?

Bottom line: Tiger Woods the brand will be just fine because Tiger Woods did nothing to hurt Tiger Woods the athlete.

A clever product for clever (digital) moms

How do you discuss diaper pails in the digital world?

My employer Razorfish helped Munchkin Inc. address this challenge by involving social influencers (moms) through the new Diaperpail microsite that launched in November.  The work is a good example of how Social Influence Marketing can help a company roll out a new product.

Munchkin designs and manufactures infant and toddler products, relying mostly on print ads to raise awareness with consumers.  Munchkin asked Razorfish to figure out how to use digital to launch a new product, the Arm & Hammer Diaper Pail by Munchkin.  The Razorfish project team did its homework and knew that Munchkin would need to tap into expectant moms’ natural concerns about making the right decision when it comes to products they trust for their newborns.  The Munchkin/Razorfish approach: involve the voices of independent mommy bloggers.  (TwitterMoms helped.)

“A Clever Product for a Clever Mom” (a theme Razorfish devised for the product launch) celebrates clever tips that moms share for their nurseries.  The first phase of the campaign, the Diaperpail site, features tips from mom bloggers on how to keep one’s nursery clean and fresh.  For instance, Missy W ( discusses how adding a few drops of lavender to baking soda can make your nursery smelling more fresh when you are cleaning a diaper pail.

The tips reveal themselves as you explore a nursery:

The moms do not hawk the diaper pail in any explicit way; they help create an atmosphere of trust and usefulness through their tips for nursery maintenance, thus helping the brand connect emotionally to moms in a more subtle way.

The next step is for Munchkin and Razorfish to launch a digital advertising campaign that will increase product awareness and drive traffic to the microsite.  In January, print advertisements created by Razorfish for American Baby and Fit Pregnancy magazines will also raise awareness and drive site traffic. (Lisa Sugar, founder of the Pop Sugar network, will appear in the ads.)

Arm & Hammer Diaper Pail by Munchkin is also an example of how an agency can help a client launch a new product, as Razorfish in November 2008 with the Intel Core i7 microprocessor and earlier this year by supporting the launch of the Mercedes-Benz USA E-class sedan and the Coors Light cold activated can.  In all those cases, the clients are making digital (and a digital agency) an essential part of the launch.  With Munchkin, digital takes the lead.

To be sure, Munchkin and Razorfish have their work cut out for themselves.  The leading diaper pail product, Diaper Genie, enjoys a 90-percent market share according to Brandweek.  Since the effort launched only weeks ago, results are still forthcoming.  We’ll follow up down the road with results.