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An Open Letter to Riccardo Webb

Dear Mr Webb,

In recent weeks it has become obvious to both of us that our prank war is escalating, escalation in a prank war of this type can get ugly, and so I have decided to insure myself against such ugliness. I do not intend to ever find my desk covered in llamas again.

Now Mr Webb, how do I insure myself against such actions? Well this is how: I used my GoDaddy account to buy your name all over the internet. I now own 14 different versions of RiccardoWebb.[whatever] or RiccWebb.[whatever]. I quite literally own your name.

Right now Mr Webb you are probably wondering what I might do with such ownership, well, should the need arise I might deploy this deterrent, using my skills as a digital marketer and attempt land these pages as #1 through #14 search results on Google, for example.

Now, this would all mean nothing without a demonstration so here is an example of what all these pages could look like, so here one is: Enjoy.

Please consider this purchase of your name as a deterrent, the nuclear option if you will. Should you choose to continue with the current escalation of this prank war, I will use this deterrent.

And before you get on GoDaddy yourself remember: I have covered all my own domains.

Oh, and for kicks I took @RiccardoWebb on Twitter as well.

Your move Mr Webb.


Marketing Deconstructed: Share A Coke With Friends

The second in my Marketing Deconstructed Series this one takes a look at Coke’s latest expression of their famous “happiness” brand essence:

Coke “share a Coke” campaign

To me this campaign is genius a feat of both great creative and great logistical skill:

What are they trying to do?

Coke have an enviable position as one of the worlds most valuable and well recognised brands with deep rooted recognition and associations including “Santa” – seriously, you ask people to say a word associated with Coke and many will say “Santa”! So the pressures off right? Marketing? Pah, just show up, phone it in, easy! NO WAY! The problem with being one of the worlds most iconic and valuable brands and market leader is shareholders expect you to not only stay there, they expect you to grow, no mean feat for a brand as big as Coke, sure they can diversify with new brands and products and expand into some markets (though they are pretty much everywhere now) but their success is still built on that big red cash cow brand “Coke” right in the middle, they gotta keep that one selling.

So this is about keeping the Coke brand fresh and fun, Coke want to be associated with happiness so as much as anything this is about making their consumers pick up a drink and smile. If that sounds vague it isn’t, Coke will have all sorts of sophisticated brand metrics tracking and survey data to measure their impact.

Have they Succeeded?

I think so, the reaction I’ve seen from friends and acquaintances across the web and in the real world show me a lot of consumers engaging heavily with this campaign and buying drinks for friends and colleagues. This is exactly the reaction Coke wanted, there are memes, pictures online and even GIF’s of people “finding their name”.

What could be better?

I am struggling to think of anything right now and here is why: Coke are a huge multinational, one of the biggest, with a huge brand, they’ve managed to not only execute a campaign that gets people to buy more Cola and talk about buying more cola but they’ve managed to do it in a totally integrated way, the experience and message is the same across all touchpoints, print, digital, retail and on the packet. This is a feat of activation and logistics. It’s also interesting to note that many companies would not have done this: the cost and logistics of redesigning all those labels for the Coke, Diet Coke and Zero brands then the extra costs of producing different labels in lower volume (maybe only a fraction of a penny per bottle or can but Coke product billions of these) this is a big campaign with big costs but it wasn’t a big risk: Coke clearly grounded their decisions on solid insight and when they decided what to do they went big, no half measures. Good stuff.

Scores on the doors!

10/10 here, it’s a great piece of work!

Manchester City vs QPR was a microcosm of all that is great and terrible about the Premiership

The 13th of May 2012 will go down as one of the most exciting days in Premiership history, if not footballing history. It had so many sub-plots I could barely keep up…

Man City with no top flight title since 1968 lead their greatest rivals Man U with a massive goal difference in their favour, all they have to do is not slip up against relegation fodder QPR, that is QPR managed by ex-Man U legend Steve Bruce, unceremoniously dumped from a management job at Man City after the money came in and he failed to deliver. Several of his key purchases from City starting against him.

But on the other end of the table there is the fight for survival between QPR and Bolton. QPR struggling to retain their premiership status after promotion last year and Bolton suffering from insane injury troubles this season including the shocking collapse of Muamba on the pitch against Tottenham earlier this year.

That is to say nothing of the fights for European places between Tottenham, Arsenal, Newcastle and Chelsea.

But that’s all by the by. Let’s focus on the Man City vs QPR game:

First off what was great about today at Man City:

Games like this always have the potential for poetry, matters of relegation and the championship are decided on the final day of the season in battles between those fighting to avoid the drop and those fighting for long-eluded glory. That is great. Today lived up to the hype, it was a great game of football, both sides fought to the end, both gave their all, as did the fans, there was real passion and that’s exciting.

There are not many sporting events in the world that can, organically, produce such amazing tension and so many BIG personalities (ahem, Tevez) and throw them all together with such skill to produce something awesome that also means so much to so many people (whatever else you can’t take anything away from the fans of Man City, they wanted it!)


And it’s a big but. This match up should never have been the title decider, whatever we say about the passion of Man City, the players and the management no one can argue with the fact that the title really belongs to Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. He paid for it.

That makes me sad, teams get good, they make money out of being good, but that money and that success comes from developing young talent, from great management, coaching and everything else that goes with it. They are built over time. Look at Manchester Utd and Arsenal, even Tottenham (2,3 and 4 respectively this season) all have been built, long term. Yes Man U’s team is “worth” more than Man City’s (169m to 162m, I think) but it doesn’t matter, they didn’t have a single investor come in and buy all that in the last 3 years like City did.

The problem here is it’s unsustainable, teams owned by oligarchs and monarchs don’t put down roots, they pick off the best talent, pay obsene money and further the insane levels of unsustainable economics that exist in modern football, they drive smaller clubs salaries up, they drive the expectations of young players up, they create a vacuum that uses large amounts of money to substitute everything else, it sucks… (excuse the pun)

And then there is Mr Barton.

A troubled young man to say the least, probably to be subject to one of the longest violent conduct bans ever seen, but he will probably play again, somewhere. This is the kind of person being created by the modern game, we’re taking people with well co-ordinated feet, who love a sport, we’e throwing literally £100,ooo’s a week at them, then putting them up on a huge pedestal and scrutinising their every move as they are mollycoddled by a team of people who take care of everything for them. We then wonder why some of them are nuts.

Today was a great day

Full of drama, passion and goals, but I wonder how, in the long term, football will continue to produce such spectacles.

Is community management a bad idea?

I had an interesting conversation on Friday with a marketing agency called Qube from Brighton, we sat on the roof terrace at Nokia’s Soho office and began by discussing the state of the industry, a point I made in that meeting and a point I fully planned to carry through into a blog post was that community management is, to an extent, becoming a commoditized offer, as the scale of online communities grow managing the 100’s, 1,000’s or even 100,000’s of engagements every day with large brands social accounts, on key networks, Twitter, Facebook and blogs to name a few becomes a huge scaling challenge. So how do brands solve that challenge? They look at technologies and outsourced or in-house solutions (people) to solve the scale issue, to deal with these queries efficiently.

The problem we have at the moment are that most of those solutions are driven from comms and marketing, but these are not comms or marketing problems, many brands still look to marketing or comms agencies (be they social media specialists of not) to run their social presences and engage on their behalf. Agree or disagree with this approach scale makes doing this for much longer untenable, in the same way that you don’t pay marketing agencies to staff your inbound call centres you don’t pay them  to engage with customer service queries in social.

So we begin to look to the same technological and outsourcing solutions we looked at for our customer care (read: call centres), we implement systems to find, batch, and present these Facebook or Twitter queries to lower-skilled and (crucially) lower priced customer care representatives who duly answer from their digital call centre, or “social media hub”, “war room”, “control centre” or whatever you want to call it. Even back in my days at 6Consulting (Now Radian6 UK) selling monitoring software I pitched, and sold, to call centre operations looking to get in on this game…

So that’s it, as these brand social presences evolve then the CS teams come in and take on the reactive elements, leaving marketing to get on with using the “reach” and “engagement” to generate “buzz” and sell stuff while CS clean up the mess, everyone is back in their box and we all move on.

No way! The problem is that as we look to engage at real scale we industrialise the process and it loses the point. Sure you can tick your hypothetical “social business” box and tell your CMO or CEO “we’re engaging X people per day” but you’re missing the point. Why did customers come to bitch on your Facebook page (for example) in the first place? They lacked a voice, they felt like a number stuck on hold to a call centre to talk to someone who didn’t care, didn’t understand and read a script, so they found a new place to go. If you turn this new place into a microcosm of the old place (marketing broadcasting messages and a cost-managed “social call centre” team dealing with complaints) then you have failed and missed the point: Customers are complaining for a reason.

Instead of thinking about how best to segment or manage your customers, promoters and detractors between different silos, cost centres and processes, why not put your customers at the heart of your business? I mean right in the middle, forget trying to “manage the community” and instead listen to them. No that doesn’t mean listen as in “I got me a monitoring tool and an analyst / agency to give me a monthly PowerPoint” I mean active listening, horizontally across the business. Democratise within the organisation and give your employees the power to listen, engage, learn and act, give them tools to help, tie bonuses to it, make it part of the contract that they have to spend 1 day a month responding on facebook or whatever it might be!

But what about managing the community? Is it really a bad idea? Well, as usual there is no easy answer, but my response would be to think about this differently: Manage your community by showing them you care, really care, not by @replying them and saying so, but by fixing the problems, by making better products and by making sure they get a first class experience at all touch points with social as a key feedback loop. 

In short, Community management is only a bad idea if it’s done badly. Find the problems and inefficiencies that lead to people coming onto your social properties and bitching, fix them. I have said this before and I will say it again:

Forget trying to be a social business, be a good business!

Some new thinking…

It has been a long time since I last blogged, 4 months in fact. Nokia has been busy, good busy, but it put personal blogging firmly on the back burner!

But, even though I haven’t been talking I haven’t stopped listening or stopped thinking, and the more I listen and think, and look at the way companies are approaching social media the more I think we are living in a bubble (yup, I know I have said that before) and the more I think that bubble will burst… I feel we (brands) are all doing it wrong, we are all talking about “thinking like editors”, like people fighting for attention in social media like we fight for attention in regular PR, ATL and digital media. I am speaking on 3 Social Media Week panels this week (‘Likeminds – Future of brand comms’, Monday, ‘Not just another Facebook page’ on Tuesday and ‘Me me me, the battle for attention’ on Wednesday). The common theme here is obvious – How do we get our message across in social, how do we gain people’s attention?

This is the wrong question, completely utterly wrong, I realised this last week, I was driving home and I began thinking about when I last engaged with a brand in social, which brands I (as a consumer) followed, which brands my friends (outside the industry) followed and interacted with and I had the realisation that outside of the industry I followed 1 brand (betfair on twitter, their hilarious), I didn’t want to follow any more, not really, I don’t care how interesting their content is, I don’t care how cool they are, I just don’t. Many consumers don’t. I then began thinking about where my information comes from, the information I trust, the information I use to make purchasing decisions. It comes from my friends, colleagues and acquaintances and from the internet, blogs and (surprisingly often) forums. And here is the thing that hit me – These people, all of them, the big ticket bloggers, the forum users, the mates I talk to, they all have passions, and I trust them on the subjects they are passionate about, I am then influenced by the brands they advocate.

Not a fully formed argument but something to think about: The future of social media marketing has nothing to do with your facebook page, your twitter account, your blog or any other owned property, it has nothing to do with viral videos… It is all about Advocate relationships – that is, relationships with those people who are passionate about your brand, your industry and the key sectors you want to penetrate / have stories to tell within. It is these people who spread your message, it is these people who sell your products and these people who you need to look after. That is where our focus should be.

We need to stop thinking about how we get other peoples attention to spend their down time focussed on us and our content, our facebook pages etc. and start thinking about how we get them to spend, even a small portion of their time, talking about us, online, offline and everywhere.

Perfect is the enemy of good

Nothing we ever do will be perfect, in anything, don’t try to be.

We use the term too loosely nowadays, we use it as a descriptor for almost anything, “oh that’s perfect” can mean anything from “yes that time works for me for that meeting” to “good coffee” to “good timing” but it is rarely ever used to mean  “completely free from faults or defects” – it’s dictionary definition

Anyway, my point is that in marketing, and in many industries too many people spend too much time criticizing, eg: telling each other why other peoples work isn’t perfect and too much time trying to make everything they do perfect.

The results of these 2 things are that one: We end up with a lot of negativity caused by putting down other peoples work, or holding it up to a lofty and un-achievable ideal. And two: We end up losing momentum on our own projects or over complicating them in the contrived pursuit of perfection.

I am not saying don’t do your best, or try to make everything you do awesome, and I am not saying don’t criticize, it is important for many reasons, I am saying: When you see a great piece of work appreciate it as great, don’t over think it or search for a fault straight away, just enjoy it… And when working on your own projects don’t seek perfection, seek the following:

  • Reliable
  • Fast
  • Cost effective (do not read as cheap)
  • Quick to market
  • Quick to improve
  • Disruptive
And so on…
All these things make something, be it a product, service or campaign good, not perfect, but that’s not what I am driving at, and yes those are very general categories but hey, this is a pretty general brain dump of a post!

Audi crash at Le Mans

It is amazing that this didn’t kill anyone:

Says something for Audi’s safety I guess.