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.

Why marketers need to create social media guidelines

If you are a marketing executive, you need to be actively involved in shaping your company’s employee social media guidelines.  I know from experience.  I’m the Razorfish vice president of marketing and keeper of the Razorfish social media guidelines, which we updated recently and made publicly available on September 24.  (We call them Social Influence Marketing guidelines in keeping with how our business views social media and influencers as intertwined.)  Here is what you will find out if you jump into the social media pool and start swimming:

  • You are highly qualified to have a leadership role.  Social media is about transparent communication among several communities.  Marketing & communications professionals understand better than anyone the intersection of community, communication, and your company’s reputation.
  • Your employees are going to talk about your company using social media with or without your participation.  That said, employees are open to your participation so long as you take a collaborative approach.  Employees appreciate guidance on matters such as company disclosure and what to do about flaming blog posts.  So take a leadership role or get out of the way.
  • You will learn more about your brand than you think you know. Your employees are your brand.  What they say about your company on Twitter and Facebook mirrors the conversations they have about you elsewhere.  Creating social media guidelines will force you to better understand your employees, their views, and their ideas.  Even better, you can make your brand a more authentic reflection of your company culture by learning from your employees’ Tweets, blog posts, and conversations that occur in the social world.
  • You’ll become a better marketer.  Who says social media is a threat to the marketing executive?  The development of Razorfish guidelines has made me better at my job.  I’ve become a blogger and a more active participant in the social world, which has made me more connected to the marketplace and Razorfish.  No longer do I feel like a coach dispensing advice from the sidelines; I’m an active participant.  It’s good for marketing executives to get your hands dirty.
  • You’ll make mistakes.  And sometimes embarrassing ones.  But you’ll learn that a dose of humility is good for you.  One of my biggest mistakes has been getting too hung up about criticisms made about Razorfish in the blogosphere — sometimes by Razorfish employees.  Yes, your employees are going to say some things you don’t like.  And they’re going to do so in a very transparent way.  I’ve learned to take a step back and ask “What can I learn from this criticism?”
  • You’ll become more valuable to your company.  Razorfish counsels our clients on Social Influence Marketing, or utilizing social influencers and social media to meet their business and marketing objectives.  Not surprisingly, our clients expect us to practice what we preach.  I’m helping Razorfish do just that, and it all started by the formulation of our social guidelines a few years ago (what we published today is simply the latest version).  I’m also finding that client teams are asking me for advice on development of clients’ social media guidelines and related issues.  Anytime a marketer does something that puts you more in touch with your clients’ needs directly, you’re heading down the right path.
  • You’ll become more collaborative.  The guidelines were created in collaboration with Amy Vickers, head of our Enterprise Solutions practice; Ray Velez, leader of our technology community; and Shiv Singh, in charge of our Social Influence Marketing practice; and with input from our Human Resources and Legal/Privacy teams.  And now the guidelines are getting improved with feedback from Razorfish employees.  (They have a way of keeping you honest.)

How about you?  What have you learned?  And speaking of collaboration, how can we make the Razorfish social media guidelines better?

Are consumers really in control?

A musician named Dave Carroll becomes a YouTube sensation by singing about how United Airlines broke his guitar. The Whole Foods brand suffers a blow amid a consumer boycott fueled by social media.  Just the usual signs that consumers are in control, right?

I don’t think so.  And I don’t believe consumers want to be “in control,” either.

We’ve all heard (and told) the same story.  Social media have empowered consumers.  With Twitter, we can publicly shame the restaurant that gives us bad service.  Through blogs and platforms like Facebook, we can rely on our friends and peers to learn about new products without involving the voice of the brand itself.

But I believe there’s a difference between consumers becoming empowered and consumers taking control.  And although word-of-mouth marketing remains the most powerful form of endorsement, I think it’s a stretch to say consumers want to shut out brands completely.  Consider the following:

  • If consumers were really in control, Dave Carroll would not be a news sensation.  His “United Breaks Guitars” YouTube video would be the norm.  But his experience is the exception to the rule.
  • If consumers were really in control, we’d see a huge improvement in notoriously customer-service challenged industries.  But we have not.
  • If consumers wanted to shut out brands, we would not so willingly allow consumer products like iPhones and Blackberries to turn us into a society of inveterate text messengers and screen tappers.  We would not happily participate in their marketing, like the fans at Comic-Con who engaged in a massive scavenger hunts to find teaser trailers for Warner Brothers’s The Dark Knight in 2007, and for Disney’s Tron Legacy in 2009.

As a consumer, I love the fact that I can complain about my Comcast bill on Twitter and receive a rapid response from Comcast Cares.  But you know what?  Although consumers like empowerment, I believe we do not want the responsibility of being in control.  We want a relationship with brands, which means we accept the fact that both the brand and consumer exert influence.  We want companies to delight us with new products and services, and we will gladly pay them to do that.  We want to watch new ads on the Super Bowl.  We want to have fun with in-store and digital experiences.  Nearly 3.5 million of us have become fans of Dell, JetBlue, and Zappos on Twitter.  (Whole Foods, boycott or not, has 1.2 million Twitter followers and has done many things to impress consumers.)  Another 1.4 million consumers have become members of the Victoria’s Secret PINK Page (and are proud to post pictures of their favorite PINK clothing).

The difference between empowerment and control is more than a matter of semantics.  In a world of consumer empowerment, marketers still matter very much, and so do the “old” forms of brand building.  In fact, a recently released report by my employer Razorfish (Fluent: The Razorfish Social Influence Marketing Report) says that when making purchasing decisions, consumers are more likely to trust television ads than online friends.

But on the other hand, consumer empowerment is real, and woe to the marketer who fails to understand that reality.  As Fluent also points out, marketers could help themselves by more effectively employing the same social media and user-generated content tools that consumers are using — hard to pull off, but, according to Forrester Research, worth trying.  Forrester says that 73 percent of online Americans are consuming social media, which Forrester cites as a harbinger for marketers.  Writes Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff, “Marketers, if you’re not doing social technology applications now, you’re officially behind.”

Well put.  There’s a reason why my Razorfish colleague Shiv Singh coined the term “Social Influence Marketing” as opposed to “social media.”  Social Influence Marketing says that marketers can and should employ social influencers and social media to meet their marketing and business objectives.  In other words, marketers can be empowered by social media and influencers, too.  Marketers just need to act wisely by incorporating social into broader forms of marketing, not tossing out the playbook completely — and by creating enjoyable consumer experiences and products that are as compelling as their advertisements.

Consumers will cede “control” to a brand that delights them in an authentic way.

PS: Dave Carroll has become something of a Social Influence Marketer himself. He now has versions of his “United Breaks Guitars” songs and video available for purchase online.

Razorfish report dispels social myths

If you’re trying to build a brand through social media or influencers, chances are you’ve experienced a steep learning curve.  Well, don’t feel so bad — you have plenty of company according to a new report launched by my employer Razorfish.

According to Fluent: The Razorfish Social Influence Marketing Report, companies still have a long way to go in order to build their brands effectively through social.  Consumers surveyed by Razorfish report widespread indifference to brands in the social world.  For instance, about 60 percent of consumers don’t bother to seek out opinions of brands via social media.

The notion that brands are finally learning the social ropes is among the Social Influence Marketing myths that Fluent dispels, as discussed by my colleague Shiv Singh, the report’s principal author and editor.  Another interesting finding: consumers believe television is more trustworthy than social media advertising when purchase decisions are made:

So what gives?

The problem is actually not all that complicated: marketers are treating social just like TV, as a broadcast mechanism.  So actually we should not be surprised that consumers trust TV more than social ads.  TV has been around for decades.  Consumers are more comfortable with TV in many respects.

We believe the answer is for companies to take advantage of the participatory nature of social and to develop an authentic social voice built on humility and genuine interest in consumers.  Comcast is trying to do so through its responsive Comcast Cares account in Twitter.  (Speaking as a consumer, I’ve used Comcast Cares to address problems with my bill, and Comcast really does care.)  Comcast doesn’t use Twitter to tell you how great it is but to participate in the conversation we’re having about Comcast. Comcast is acting like a brand that does instead of a brand that just talks.

Razorfish works with a number of companies that also demonstrate the right way to build a brand in the social world. I’ve blogged about a number of them, such as Intel, Levi’s, and Mattel.  For instance, to build brand awareness among gamers and designers, in 2008 Intel worked with Razorfish to launch the Digital Drag Race.  The Digital Drag Race challenged designers to create short films using the Intel Core i7 microprocessor.  Intel employed social media influencers (including Intel’s own Michael Brito) and media (including contest entries posted on YouTube) to generate buzz among the design and gaming community.

Fluent is also significant for introducing the SIM Score, designed to help marketers measure the effectiveness of your brand in a world where social influencers hold sway.  The SIM Score, created with the help of TNS Cymfony and The Keller Group, measures how much consumers talk about your brand and how positive or negative those discussions are.  In Fluent, Razorfish applies the SIM Score to companies ranging from GM to Capital One.  Although the SIM Score focuses on the online world, in two industries we correlate the SIM score to the offline world, too.

Check out what Advertising Age says about the SIM Score.  For other outside perspectives, blog posts from Guy Kawasaki and Dave Knox are also informative.

Let me know what you think of Fluent.  Please also visit Shiv Singh’s blog, Going Social Now, where periodically Shiv will provide deeper commentary on Fluent.

Amnesia Razorfish builds its brand by doing

In January, my Razorfish colleagues Garrick Schmitt and Malia Supe wrote an insightful blog post, “Brands Do.”  They asserted that in the era of consumer participation, brands must spend more time doing things than saying things.  Amnesia Razorfish (part of the Razorfish global network) just provided an example of the “Brands Do” ethos.

For three consecutive years, Amnesia Razorfish has won the Adnews interactive agency of the year award, and its embrace of Social Influence Marketing is one of the reasons.  Amnesia Razorfish doesn’t tell the world, “We understand social!”  The agency shows everyone through its actions.

For instance, on June 30, Iain McDonald, an Amnesia Razorfish founder, conducted an experiment to test the power of Twitter.  He publicly challenged Coke and Pepsi to say hello to each other on Twitter and then asked others to retweet his challenge — no small task given the rivalry between the two brands:

But within hours, Coke gave Pepsi a hello on Twitter and even started to follow Pepsi:

Not long thereafter, Pepsi responded in kind:

It’s not the first time rivals have said hello on Twitter.  Yahoo famously welcomed Google to Twitter.  What’s different about the Coke/Pepsi story is how Iain collaborated with the Twitter universe to inspire the two brands to play nice — a real application of one of today’s hottest buzzwords, crowd-sourcing.

The experiment worked because the idea was irresistible and because Iain leveraged the many influential followers he has built on Twitter.  Those followers, in turn, influenced their followers.  The story has generated attention in publications like Advertising Age and Brand Republic — a boon for the Amnesia Razorfish brand attributable to Iain’s actions as opposed to anything he overtly said about Amnesia Razorfish.  For those of us trying to live the social values, Amnesia Razorfish offers a lesson in building a brand through action.

Zappos, Shaq, Whole Foods, Twitter, and you

On June 15 I was privileged to be a speaker at the O’Reilly Twitter Boot Camp (#OTBC) along with luminaries such as Tony Hsieh, Steve Rubel, Tim O’Reilly and Eric T. Peterson.  The purpose of the event was to swap insights on employing Twitter for business use.  Topics ranged from measuring Twitter’s value to integrating Twitter into a marketing and PR program.  Here are some ideas that resonated for me:

  • Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, described Zappos’s employee Twitter policy this way: “Just be real and use your best judgment.”  Incidentally, Tony also dangled the possibility that 20 years from now, Zappos could diversify into more businesses — even airlines — because Zappos is about obsessive customer service, not just shoes and other consumer goods.
  • Eric T. Peterson and Mike Volpe covered Twitter measurement tools. Mike shared the HubSpot Twitter Grader, which you can use to measure your reach in the Twitter universe.  Eric shared the Twitalyzer for assessing your Twitter influence.  These tools are easy to use.  Check them out.  Eric T. Peterson: “Measure your return on influence, not your ROI.”
  • Amy Martin gave a peek inside the world of Shaquille O’Neal’s justly famous the_real_shaq Twitter account, which has 1.3 million followers (Amy herself has nearly 500,000 followers).  If you enjoy following Shaq on Twitter, thank Amy — she got him to do it.  And how hard was it?  Getting started was not that difficult, as it turns out.  Amy just needed to get Shaq plugged into Twitter and set him loose.  He quickly gathered a following because of his authenticity. (Amy: “Shaq has zero ability to fake anything.  He’s transparent and genuine.”)  After a few months, Amy collaborated with Shaq on an idea: what if he used Twitter to give the world more than his ideas and random observations?  The result: “random acts of Shaqness,” in which Shaq uses Twitter to do good deeds for fans such as offering free tickets to basketball games.   At a time when celebrities are carefully protected from the public, the concept is quite stunning, actually. If you’re lucky enough to catch the right tweet from Shaq at the right time, you stand a good chance of meeting him at, say, a food court, where you can pick up a free ticket.  We can learn a lot from this example.  Per Amy: “Don’t ask what Twitter can do for you.  Ask what you can do for Twitter.”  Amen.
  • Marla Erwin of Whole Foods discussed how Whole Foods uses Twitter to be responsive to customers and build the Whole Foods brand.  She also cleverly demonstrated her point by offering Whole Foods gift cards to boot camp attendees who could generate the most retweets about Whole Foods during the event — a nice way to generate consumer enthusiasm.  Marla also dispelled the notion that consumers just want to talk to each other about your brand on Twitter rather than talk with you.  She asked, “If people don’t want to interact with a brand, then why are 786,000 people following Whole Foods on Twitter?”

Marketers: even in an era of consumer-generated content, your message does matter and consumers do care about you. It’s just that marketers need to share their messages in a different way.  To cite a popular — but true — cliche, we must join the conversation that consumers are having about us. And we need to empower our brands to do things, not just say things.  Marla’s nifty contest during the O’Reilly Twitter Boot Camp was a case in point.

One of the benefits of appearing at the event was receiving the recently published The Twitter Book by Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein.  The book is like Strunk & White for Twitter: a summation of practical tips for communicating clearly and effectively in the Twitter universe.  I highly recommend it even if you consider yourself an experienced pro. Brushing up on your Twitter etiquette never hurts.

Incidentally, you can find my O’Reilly Boot Camp presentation, “Twitter: The Two-Edged Sword,” here.

Jimmy Page, the Hardy Boys & Razorfish

In the Marketing Hitch Ad Industry Innovator series, David Wiggs was kind enough to profile Razorfish and my role as vice president of marketing.  David indicates that Razorfish has “helped reshape marketing conversations by leading public, transparent discussions on how digital touches all aspects of the marketing enterprise.”  In my conversation with David, I discuss a few examples of how Razorfish helps reshape marketing conversations through thought leadership like the social influence research that my colleague Andrea Harrison has been developing.  I also touch upon how Razorfish lives the social values through employee blogging, among other activities.  David’s profile also mentions aspects of my personal life, such as personal inspirations (Jimmy Page), and books I’m reading (Hardy Boys along with my daughter).  The personal touch is not only fun but relevant.  At the 2009 Razorfish Client Summit, Matthew Weiner, the genius behind Mad Men, provided several examples of how Mad Men episodes reflect his personal life and experiences.  You might say Jimmy Page is working hard at Razorfish.

Give Them Hope Now

How would you like to make a difference in the lives of at-risk youth?

All you need to do is take a moment to contribute to the Give Them Hope Now campaign, launched by Levi’s®, a client of my employer Razorfish.

By participating in Give Them Hope Now, you’ll be supporting the Hetrick-Martin Institute, which provides services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.  The institute, home of the Harvey Milk School, provides a safe haven (including counseling and many other services) for LGBTQ youth who have suffered abuse and violence because of their sexual orientation.  The goal of the Give Them Hope Now campaign is to raise $500,000 for the institute.  Here is how you can help:


Donating is easy. Go here:

Spread the word

Follow @givethemhopenow on Twitter and mention the cause (please use the #gthn hashtag).

Pass along the site to your friends and colleagues.

Share these testimonials from the Give Them Hope Now YouTube channel

The Give Them Hope Now campaign includes a fundraiser hosted by Dustin Lance Black, the Academy Award® winning screenwriter for Milk; actress Heather Matarazzo  (The L Word), and Paul Colichman, CEO of Regent Media, owner of The Advocate and Out MagazineRazorfish support includes creation of the Give Them Hope Now donation site, YouTube channel, media buying, and Social Influence Marketing.

Let’s see how quickly we can raise $500,000 to help at-risk youth.

What’s the big idea? Razorfish hosts annual Client Summit

The 9th Annual Razorfish Client Summit, held April 21-23 in Las Vegas, asked a simple question: how do great ideas flourish?

In context of the summit’s theme — “Art of the Idea” — companies like Mattel discussed how they’re working with Razorfish to devise innovative marketing ideas and launch new products right in the middle of a recession.  Keynotes like Dave Stewart and Matthew Weiner gave us a peek inside the often chaotic (and very nonlinear) process of creating brilliant, commercially successful ideas.  And Razorfish thought leaders such as Strategy Executive Andrea Harrison and Royce Lee showed us “big ideas” for approaching digital marketing in a different way, whether you’re researching consumer behavior or preparing to launch a product in China.

So what did I get out of the experience?  Three themes stand out:

Innovation is a social act

Shiv Singh, Social Influence Marketing Lead at Razorfish, put it best: “innovate with others or die a slow death.”  Shiv was among the speakers who discussed the relationship between collaboration and innovation.  Shiv went so far as to suggest that employees need to collaborate more aggressively with thinkers outside their organizations (not just with each other) in developing new products and services.   Meantime Andrea Harrison provided a different take on the social nature of ideation when she unveiled a new Razorfish consumer research approach: Social Graph Analysis.  Andrea contended that to really understand one’s customers, you need to research their behaviors in social settings to see who informs their decision making and how.  And yet, many companies remain stuck in the mindset of creating user personas in isolation.  Andrea delivered a compelling case for reinventing consumer insight.

Shiv Singh looking dapper and sounding smart

All photos courtesy of Ray Velez, Razorfish

And then there was keynote Dave Stewart.

In an unbelievably mind-blowing presentation that had the audience gasping at times, Dave helped us understand where he finds ideas and how he develops them into profitable ventures.  And given that he’s a successful musician and counselor to Nokia, he knows what he’s talking about.  The highlight of his appearance occurred when, joined by a singer onstage, he collaborated with the Client Summit audience to write a song in real time.  He asked the audience to shout lyrics and phrases, which he either rejected outright or turned into melodies.  In other words, he didn’t tell us about collaboration — he got us involved.  And he pushed us beyond our comfort zones, just as creative collaboration can do in real life.  Some audience members volunteered ham-handed lyrics while others were too shy to try.  But eventually we got better at working with Dave.  After he left the Client Summit, he flew back to Los Angeles, mixed the song, “500 Minds,” and made it available on his website,

Collaboration: sometimes ugly, sometimes awkward, but ultimately fascinating and (I think with Dave Stewart’s song) successful.

I can truly say I’ve never done that before.

Dave Stewart rocks the house

Big ideas deliver value.  Now.

We’ve been hearing a lot about how innovating during a recession helps prepare you for an economic turnaround.  But the Client Summit client case studies showed that a big idea can deliver business value now, smack dab in the middle of a bruising recession.  For instance, Chuck Scothon and Betsy Burkett of Mattel, and Jill Druschke of Razorfish, discussed how Mattel has worked with Razorfish to celebrate Barbie’s 50th anniversary through a digital experience that encompasses a Twitter identity, Barbie blog, content posted on YouTube, a microsite, and a successful Facebook page.  The big idea: instead of doing a massive TV buy, create a digital lifestyle for Barbie to reposition her with grown-up women.  According to Mattel, the Barbie brand has enjoyed 18 percent domestic sales growth (reversing a decline in sales) since undertaking the effort.

Barbie: All Doll’d Up

Matthieu de Lesseux of Duke Razorfish shared a witty case study about how McDonald’s France wanted to make 66 million French food lovers also love fast food at McDonald’s.  The big idea: create a series of viral videos in which a self-appointed official hassles unsuspecting diners attempting to enter a McDonald’s restaurant (and rejecting them for a variety of ridiculous reasons). The “punk’d” style video series was not only hilarious but rewarding: McDonald’s France has realized a 7.7 percent increase in sales during the launch of the campaign.

Those are just two obvious examples.  There were many more.

Fernando Madeira of Terra Latin America: “the reinvention of our web presences is synonymous with reinventing our company”

The experience is the big idea

Porter Gale, vice president of marketing for Virgin America, shared how Virgin has completely reinvented the meaning of an airline as an experience, not just a company that transports you from one place to another.  From providing one-of-a-kind mood lighting to on-demand movies, Virgin has done the inconceivable: made flying fun again.  Even the in-flight safety film is amusing.  She also shared the astounding details of how Virgin monitors Twitter traffic from its customers (she calls them guests).  If a guest tweets negatively about a Virgin experience while in-flight, he or she might find a company greeter waiting at the arrival gate prepared to respond.

Client Summit attendees also demonstrated the importance of the experience as and end unto itself — in their case, by inserting themselves more actively into the Client Summit through their use of Twitter.  Attendees used Twitter to share ideas, critique the presentations, and basically provide a real-time attendee feedback mechanism for the Client Summit team.  They became active content creators and in doing so became unofficial speakers on the agenda through their customer experience.  Throughout the event, the 475 attendees posted nearly 2,300 tweets and retweets using the event hashtag (#rzcs).  At one point, the Client Summit was trending as high as Number 5 in the Twitter universe.

Event emcee Iain McDonald of Amnesia Razorfish engaged the audience in a series of exercises to generate enthusiasm for Twitter, including promising to drop his pants if he could get MC Hammer to return a tweet.  Hammer did reply, and Iain fulfilled his promise — sort of.

In one fascinating exercise, event attendees were challenged to use Twitter to raise awareness for a nonsensical word created on the spot, “Razorfunfish.”  By tweeting the term “Razorfunfish,” attendees managed to generate about 18 pages of “Razorfunfish” results on Google.  We even saw paid search ads on Google.  As one client wrote, “This conference was the tweetiest.”

Razorfish CEO Bob Lord closes the 2009 Client Summit

Statements that resonated

Here are some especially pithy remarks from Client Summit speakers (you can find many more by searching for #rzcs on Twitter):

  • “My life is made out of cocktail napkins.  Got an idea?  Write it down before you forget it.” — Matthew Weiner, the genius behind Mad Men
  • “Don’t waste a good crisis.  Embrace a crisis — it can make you stronger.” — Fernando Madeira, CEO, Terra Latin America
  • “Who owns the Virgin Brand?  Richard Branson, our employees, and our guests.” — Porter Gale, marketing vice president, Virgin America
  • “The future is less about saying things to people and more about building experiences that are relevant.” — Clark Kokich, Razorfish chairman
  • “To succeed in China, build your brand quickly before a local company duplicates your product and extinguishes you brand’ — Royce Lee, Razorfish Greater China
  • “Focus groups are the enemy of innovation.  They help you do something better, not differently.” — Joe Crump, Razorfish Strategy executive
  • “Rebuilding our web presence is like rebuilding our company.”  — Fernando Madeira
  • “Don’t question where ideas come from.  People are saying inspiring things eery day right in front of you.” — Matthew Weiner
  • “User personas too often view people in isolation.  We need to understand people in context of their social behaviors.” — Andrea Harrison, Razorfish Strategy executive
  • “As children, we draw pictures of airplanes.  Then as grown-ups we dread dealing with airline service.” — Porter Gale
  • “The greatest enemy of innovation is associating innovation with creativity.” — Joe Crump
  • “Asking customers to do your marketing doesn’t excuse you from marketing, too.  Your customers will actually make you work harder.” — Shiv Singh
  • “I have 500,000 policeman following me on Twitter.” — Dave Stewart

Reactions from the blogosphere

I’m sure more blog coverage will unfold.  Please share yours with me.

Thank you to Razorfish clients who braved the recession and traveled to Las Vegas. I hope you found the experience worth your time.

Razorfish publishes 2009 Digital Outlook Report

The fifth annual Digital Outlook Report, published today by my employer Razorfish, feels more relevant than ever.  Razorfish issues the DOR to help marketers make smarter decisions about where to make their digital media spend.  And in a recession, marketers are under more pressure to justify how they spend those dollars. As I reviewed the contents of the 2009 DOR, I saw the following themes emerge.  Consider the rest of this blog post to be your executive summary of the 2009 DOR:

1. Portals continue to lose their grip.

When Razorfish first published the DOR five years ago, the question of where to allocate one’s online media spend wasn’t all that difficult in hindsight.  “Digital spend” pretty much meant an investment into the web as a single channel dominated by a handful of portals.  And no one had ever heard of social media.

But that exotic and sometimes confounding creature known as the consumer has a way of sneaking up on marketers and changing our understanding of digital.  Today, Razorfish’s media spend on behalf of our clients continues to scatter across the digital world like so many atomic particles. Why?  Because we’re reacting to a connected consumer who snacks on morsels of content on personal devices, social media sites, and niche video properties.  Today, portals’ share of our media spend has shrunk to 19 percent, while search accounts for 37 percent.  For more detail, please download your copy of the DOR and read the section, “Shifting Their Focus: A Look at 2008 Digital Ad  Spending by Razorfish Clients.”  (Please give your browser a minute to download this large file.  If you prefer reading a Flash version online, go here.  You can also get the report’s charts and graphs off flickr)

This chart depicts the Razorfish 2008 digital media spend

2.  Social media?  No — social influence.

And, of course, the consumer as social influencer has upset the apple cart, as Shiv Singh discusses in his DOR essay “Trends in Social Influence Marketing.”  Razorfish chooses the term “social influencer,” not social media, carefully.  While many marketers have obsessed over social media, the real disruptive power has come from the social influencers, and will continue to do so.  In fact, we see a third dimension of marketing emerging — Social Influence Marketing — in which the enterprise achieves its marketing and business goals through influencers.

Influencers and media are intertwined.  But it’s the influencers who have the ability to change one’s brand for better or worse.  The organizations that figure out how to listen to the voice of the influencer will build more organic and authentic brands as opposed to traditional brands created in top-down fashion.  We believe that more CEOs will become active in Twitter and Facebook as they respond to the pressure to understand how influencers are shaping their brands.  In fact, Razorfish has patented a tool, the Generational Tag, to help our clients track the value of social influence.  In the DOR, you’ll find more about the Generational Tag in an essay by Marc Sanford, “Social Media Measurement: What’s It Worth?”

This chart depicts the results of Razorfish research into the business value of social influence.  A widget obtained from a friend has a larger average order value and is downloaded more than a widget obtained organically through media.

Influencers underpin much of the DOR in other ways.  In the essay “Social Influence Research,” Andrea Harrison and Marcelo Marer ponder a new approach for involving social influencers in consumer research.  And Iain McDonald, founder of Amnesia Razorfish, offers an application of social object theory for marketing campaigns in his “Social Object Theory” essay.  (Incidentally, DOR authors were not asked to comment on social.  They were assigned the job of simply identifying their best ideas about the state of the art in digital marketing.  It’s interesting to note how much commentary on social bubbled up organically.)

3. The rise of the long tail of TV

TV is alive and well, but the viewing experience is morphing from individuals watching 57 channels on a box to experiencing even more finely sliced, interactive content across TV sets, mobile devices, gaming systems, and other platforms.  As viewership fragments, advertisers are challenged to adapt their messages to smaller, but potentially more valuable, audiences.  Terri Walter, Razorfish vice president of emerging media, discusses the fragmentation of TV in her essay, “The Digitalization of Television.”  She also discusses how social media and TV are converging (which reminds me of how fun it was to Tweet about the Oscars last month with fellow Tweeters while watching the telecast.  Wouldn’t it be great if ABC could have broadcast Tweets from our living rooms onscreen?).  By the way,  her points are corroborated by recent Nielsen numbers about fragmented TV viewership.

I invite you to explore the report and find ideas that resonate for you.  Want to get a sense of how agencies need to respond to the trends we discuss in the DOR?  Then read the essay by Razorfish CEO Clark Kokich, “From Breaking Campaigns to Building Client Businesses.”  Our in-house email guru David Baker examines the state of the art in email in his essay, “Email Marketing.”

Check it out.  And let me know what you think.