Monday, July 31, 2006

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 15

Here's the standings for Week 15, and these will be updated again next Monday.

1 - Seth's Blog - 5,459 (LW - 1)(+39)
2 - Gaping Void - 17,115 (LW - 2)(-21)
3 - Creating Passionate Users - 17,781 (LW - 3)(+262)
4 - Duct Tape Marketing - 18,195 (LW - 4)(+3)
5 - Marketing Shift - 46,115 (LW - 5)(+221)
6 - HorsePigCow - 51,651 (LW - 6)(+148)
7 - Coolzor - 52,669 (LW - 7)(+531)
8 - The Viral Garden - 65,296 (LW - 8)(+1,197)
9 - Church of the Customer - 75,421 (LW - 9)(+2,467)
10 - What's Next - 78,482 (LW - 10)(+107)
11 - Emergence Marketing - 84,339 (LW - 11)(+295)
12 - Brand Autopsy - 88,530 (LW - 12)(+1,478)
13 - Diva Marketing - 107,232 (LW - 14)(+1,203)
14 - Jaffe Juice - 107,929 (LW - 13)(-374)
15 - Beyond Madison Avenue - 130,205 (LW - 15)(-4,321)
16 - New School of Network Marketing - 140,804 (LW - 16)(+4,427)
17 - Logic + Emotion - 162,230 (LW - 17)(+1,310)
18 - Pro Hip-Hip - Hip-Hop Marketing - 203,351 (LW- 18)(-2,126)
19 - Marketallica - 206,239 (LW - 20)(+5,995)
20 - What's Your Brand Mantra? - 213,083 (LW - 19)(-3,032)
21 - Marketing Headhunter - 233,304 (LW - 21)(-9,359)
22 - Daily Fix - 237,028 (LW - UR)
23 - Movie Marketing Madness - 241,737 (LW - 22)(+8,454)
24 - Experience Curve - 257,402 (LW - 25)(+11,529)
25 - WonderBranding - 262,884 (LW - 23)(-2,021)

Fairly quiet week, as 18 of the Top 25 were up. Coolz0r continues to inch closer to HorsePigCow and MarketingShift. Church of the Customer has had a nice run these past few weeks. For the longest time CoC, What's Next and Brand Autopsy were all 3 running as a pack. First What's Next made a move ahead, now CoC has taken the lead. And to be fair, Brand Autopsy is still doing well itself. Experience Curve and Movie Marketing Madness both had big weeks.

The week's sole debut was Daily Fix. DF has made huge leaps after moving to its own domain name a few weeks ago. Eventually DF should make a run at the Top 5.

Outside the Top 25, Studio UES and Marketing Nirvana again had nice moves.

As always, next update is next Monday.

Social Media Mavens Series

This series looks at what some of the top companies and organizations in the world are doing with social media. Every two weeks, I'll post an interview with a corporate leader in the social media space. These interviews will let you see how the top companies in the world are using social media, and hopefully give you some instruction on how you can craft your own social media efforts.

The entries in the series are:

Lindsay Lebresco - Social Media Manager, Graco:

"I work with these people to create quality content that we hopes connects with our readers and helps underscore the fact that the people behind the products at Graco are on the same journey our consumers are on or are headed on."

Bonin Bough - Director of Global Social Media, PepsiCo:

"Overall I think we need to stop focusing on the “either/or” approach to traditional versus online social media marketing. At Tropicana and PepsiCo we have an integrated marketing mix strategy. The Juice is a specific tactic that brings a different and deeper level of engagement and provides a platform for an open conversation, so we can actually engage directly with our consumers."

Tom Hoehn - Director of Interactive Marketing and Convergence Media, Kodak:

"It isn’t about the tools it is about connecting with our customers. This helps people within Kodak understand the opportunity at hand without getting caught up in jargon."

Kristie Rogers - Marketing Manager, and Cathy Mortensen, Blogger for HomeGoods:

"It was a conscious plan to keep the blog as organic as possible. We wanted to make it inviting just as if you were having guests over to your home. We give a lot of autonomy to the bloggers. There are very little restrictions. Referring to “commenters” by their first name makes it more of a dialog. We like to think of HG Openhouse as a sisterhood - girlfriends having a conversation with one another."

Gary Koelling - Director of Emerging Media Technology, Best Buy:

"When we first build BlueShirt Nation (BSN) it was an attempt to solve a specific problem. We wanted to get employee and customer insight that could lead to better, more relevant advertising. We never got a direct answer to that although you could argue it led to us to better advertising eventually. Any way, the users made it into a social network. Steve Bendt (the other founder of BSN) and I just happened to have the good sense to stick with it - whatever it became."

Terry O'Neil - Executive Vice President, Cit

"Social media requires a long-term approach and cohesive strategy. It’s about establishing and encouraging conversations with customers in order to strengthen and improve products and services. In doing so, companies need to embrace unfiltered dialog from customers, recognize they’re not going to be able to control the conversations and use this real time feedback to improve the overall customer experience."

New entries in this series will be posted every other week. If you have a corporation that's successfully using social media and would like to be interviewed for this series, please email me.

New post up at Daily Fix, and other cyber goodness

My latest post at Daily Fix is headlining, entitled 'Does the Best Marketing Go Unnoticed?'. The post talks about the excellent jobs Fiskars and Brains on Fire did in creating The Fiskateers, and how The Favorites created their online community of fans on MySpace. IMO, these are textbook examples of how to empower, and join your communities, respectively. Give it a read if you get a chance.

The Top 25 Marketing Blogs list for this week will be up sometime between now and this afternoon.

Also I'm going to call on The Viral Community today, if you have a minute, please use this link and add The Viral Garden to your Technorati Favorites. As you know, I'm not big on self-promotion, but if you make the Top 100, it does add some traffic to your blog, so if you haven't already, please add me to your favorites, and I'll happily do the same for your blog. In fact if you want, you can leave a comment saying you have added me to your list, and then I'll add you to mine. Thanks to Ann Ray, Chris, Bob, Rob and Ed for adding me to your lists, and I've already added each of you to mine. You need to have a free Technorati account to play (which you should have already anyway). With any luck we can lift The Viral Community up to take over the Top 100. Wouldn't THAT be something? ;)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

T-Mobile hosting free concerts to sell phones

From Church of the Customer comes an interesting promotion by T-Mobile. T-Mobile has started hosting free concerts in the UK for their customers. The concerts are by major brit acts, and in very small venues that will only hold a few hundred fans at most. There is little to no signage or promotion for T-Mobile at the concerts, and the idea is to give their customers a free concert, show them a great time, and hopefully by creating a great experience for them, they'll remember that and not only stick with T-Mobile, but encourage their friends to make the switch to the provider.

I'm not sure how I feel about this promotion, but I wanted to first highlight some quotes from Karen Harrison, a brand manager for T-Mobile in the UK:
"We're trying to put bands you wouldn't expect in really surprising venues"

"Music has become a little bit too corporate"

"It's not about us ramming T-Mobile down people's throats because there's no need.

"People know who we are."

"People are looking for spontaneity"

"Intimate events work, as long as you are credible and serious about it. There has got to be a reason for you being there.

"You go to a gig and what strikes you is the number of people with a phone in the air taking a picture or ringing a friend or leaving them a voicemail of the show.

"You have to give it context, otherwise it comes across as cynical. We have a role it terms of the network helping people to enjoy music."

Ok, first of all, the above quotes tell me that T-Mobile is realizing that traditional marketing doesn't really reach their target market, and that they need to try some new tactics. As Jackie says on CoC:
It's anti-marketing designed to spur word of mouth. Customers become VIPs at an exclusive event. That should be plenty to get people talking.

It should, but there's one area where I really think T-Mobile missed a golden opportunity here. You give your customers a free concert, you try to create a great time for them so they will tell others about it, so why not make it as easy as possible for them to spread the word? Why not also give these customers that were given the passes to the concert, a free month of text messages and unlimited minutes? That would encourage them to text and talk as much as possible, and I'm sure the fact that they were getting a free concert AND free text/calls would definitely be something they would want to tell their friends about.

The main problem I see with this promotion is that the main focus of the excitement and talk will likely be the band at the concert, and not T-Mobile. And it's a fine-line for T-Mobile to walk, because from the quotes above, you can tell that their thinking was that they wanted the promotion to be very subtle, almost sublime. They realize that pushing T-Mobile in the concert-goers faces smacks of traditional marketing, and would turn their customers off.

But the trade-off is, you risk the band getting the majority of attention and buzz, and not T-Mobile. Let's be honest, if you get a free concert with your favorite artist where you are only 3 feet away from them for 2 hours, that experience will likely impress you more than T-Mobile sponsoring this event.

Having said that, I do think this is a step in the right direction. I think the key is to create a promotion where the customers have a high incentive to spread positive WOM about the product, and are also empowered to communicate that positive WOM to as many people as possible. As I said earlier, I think adding free text messages and calls for at least a month around the time the concert is held, would be a big plus.

Of course, I can think of another promotion that creates a high incentive to spread positive WOM about the product, AND also reaches the community members that are the most empowered to spread that positive WOM to as many other community members as possible.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Awesome! We F*ckin' Shot That!

I've said this before, but moving forward, I believe the marketing landscape belongs to the companies and people that are willing to join and empower their communities. This is a big reason why music marketing has always intrigued me, because artists are extremely close to their communities of fans. By default, a music artist is also a member of his or her community, since they are also fans of their own music. The greater the level of interaction with their fans, the greater the level of devotion to the artist.

Take The Beastie Boys. They've been around for literally decades, but haven't been in the mainstream music consciousness in years. To many in the industry, being out of sight, out of mind would represent a career in decline. But the Beasties are smart enough to know that appealing to their core fans is the key to sustaining a career (Paying attention, Jewel?). A classic example of the Beasties embracing their community came in 2004 when the Beasties decided that they wanted to shoot a concert documentary.

The Beasties ended their 2004 World Tour in their hometown at Madison Square Garden. Seemed like the perfect place to film the group's concert documentary, but the Boys didn't. Their fans did. Prior to the concert, the Beasties walked out into the crowd and handed out 50 camcorders, with the simple instructions for their fans to film anything they wanted as long as they filmed it with passion.

The result is the current DVD 'Awesome; I F*ckin' Shot That'. The title came from producer Joe Doran, who explained that in 20 years when fans that were at this show see this DVD, they'll be able to say "Awesome! I F*ckin' Shot That!".

So is this a documentary about the Beasties, or their community of fans? Or is it all of the above?


This is again, the new marketing reality. You don't have total control of your marketing message, you share control with your community. You can fight this reality, or you can embrace it as the Beasties did here, and create something magical. I'm not a big Beastie Boys fan, but I don't have to be to know that this DVD is going to be a hit. Why? Because it is aimed at the people that made it.

Want to create some marketing magic of your own? Then you'll have to do what the Beasties did, you'll have to leave the stage and get out in the crowd.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Theory is good. Theory being put into action and proven is even better.

Add Cinematical to the list of blogs that have picked up 'The Miami Vice Story' as I've started calling it when I talk to other bloggers. And the amazing thing is, I spent most of yesterday doing just that, talking to other bloggers about this story. Between contacting bloggers to get them up to speed on what was happening, and fielding comments from bloggers that read my post on Daily Fix, everyone was excited about one rep at one company reaching out to one blogger.

Am I getting a little geeked out by all of this? Yeah....I guess I am.

This excites the hell out of me for 3 reasons:

1 - It brings more exposure to Chris, and Movie Marketing Madness. Nuff said.
2 - It brings more exposure to Universal, who was smart enough to contact Chris to begin with to help promote Miami Vice. Nuff said.
3 - It proves that this 'empowering your community' marketing theory that we like to talk about, actually works.

And yes, the bigger this story gets, the more exciting #3 gets for me.

A couple of months ago after I posted my '100 CDs for 100 Bloggers' idea on Daily Fix, I started hearing from labels that wanted me to explain to them exactly how the promotion would work. It was terribly exciting and frustrating at the same time. Exciting, because the labels I talked realized that there was something to this idea of empowering bloggers to promote their music for them, but frustrating because I got the sense that they didn't want to commit to this promotion because 'no one has done it before'. I remember one guy in particular, he started out with a list of reasons why this couldn't work, but as I explained my idea to him, he realized it would work, and by the end of the conversation he had almost adopted a 'defeated' stance. He knew the idea was great, he knew it would work, but he also knew he could never sell it to his label because, 'no one's ever done anything like this before'.

Now they have. And again, all this hype has originated from ONE post on ONE blog by ONE blogger.

That's it. Multiply that buzz by 100, and what do you get? In the case of '100 CDs for 100 Bloggers', one very happy record label selling a great deal of music for very little cost. Sounds like a win-win to me.

And it works for other products just as well. All you have to do, as Chris said, is 'talk to your advocates'. Find the people in your community that WANT to tell your story, and give them a megaphone. That's it.

The future belongs to the companies that are smart enough to empower their communities to market for them.

PS: Chris now has his Movie Marketing Madness column up for Miami Vice, and he goes into even more detail on the 'word of mouth/mouse' campaign for the movie. All of Chris' MMM columns are must-read, and this is one of his best.

Pic via Flickr user DannyG

Monday, July 24, 2006

The birth of the Spontanous Marketing Campaign

Add Daily Fix and Church of the Customer to the list of blogs chiming in on Universal's contacting Chris. As Ben says:
Pick up the phone and CALL A BLOGGER today. It's so simple but yet so novel that the phone call alone can generate some word of mouth.

My latest post on Daily Fix also goes into how one company contacting one blogger has evolved into a 'Spontaneous Marketing Campaign' for Miami Vice. Adding Daily Fix and Church of the Customer likely gets the combined daily reach for all the blogs that so far linked to this story to well over 10,000 readers A DAY. As I told Ben, what would happen if Universal had decided to contact as many bloggers as possible today? Just spend one day talking to bloggers.

If talking to one blogger is netting over 10,000 daily exposures for Miami Vice, wouldn't talking to 10 bloggers get you up to 100,000 daily exposures? Actually, it would likely be much more than that, since the more bloggers linking to a story, the more quickly it spreads.

So if Universal were to spend today talking to 10 bloggers, and those 10 bloggers and all the other blogs picking up on this story led to total daily exposures of over 100,000, it's not impossible to envision today's efforts netting them a half a MILLION total positive exposures for Miami Vice by the time it's released this weekend. How many companies would be willing to spend a day executing an online promotion that would get them 500,000 positive exposures in 5 days? FOR FREE.

And that's from just 10 bloggers. Imagine what would happen if you included 100 bloggers in such a promotion? No wait....someone's already thought of that.

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 14

Here's the standings for Week 14, and these will be updated again next Monday.

1 - Seth's Blog - 5,498 (LW - 1)(+181)
2 - Gaping Void - 17,094 (LW - 2)(-97)
3 - Creating Passionate Users - 18,133 (LW - 4)(+148)
4 - Duct Tape Marketing - 18,198 (LW - 3)(-116)
5 - Marketing Shift - 46,336 (LW - 5)(-1,250)
6 - HorsePigCow - 51,799 (LW - 6)(-1,784)
7 - Coolzor - 53,200 (LW - 7)(+2,753)
8 - The Viral Garden - 66,493 (LW - 8)(+2,183)
9 - Church of the Customer - 77,888 (LW - 10)(+3,626)
10 - What's Next - 78,589 (LW - 9)(+1,980)
11 - Emergence Marketing - 84,634 (LW - 11)(+6,488)
12 - Brand Autopsy - 90,008 (LW - 12)(+3,500)
13 - Jaffe Juice - 107,555 (LW - 13)(-2,905)
14 - Diva Marketing - 108,435 (LW - 14)(-876)
15 - Beyond Madison Avenue - 125,884 (LW - 15)(-10,539)
16 - New School of Network Marketing - 145,231 (LW - 16)(+6,653)
17 - Logic + Emotion - 163,540 (LW - 17)(+12,681)
18 - Pro Hip-Hip - Hip-Hop Marketing - 201,225 (LW- 20)(+845)
19 - What's Your Brand Mantra? - 210,051 (LW - 19)(-12,549)
20 - Marketallica - 212,234 (LW - 21)(+14,578)
21 - Marketing Headhunter - 223,945 (LW - 18)(-28,388)
22 - Movie Marketing Madness - 250,191 (LW - 24)(+10,541)
23 - WonderBranding - 260,863 (LW - 22)(-11,685)
24 - Marketing Roadmaps - 263,149 (LW - 23)(-3,330)
25 - Experience Curve - 268,931 (LW - UR)

Normally the bottom half of the Top 25 seems to surge the most, but this week the Top 12 blogs had a nice push. Marketing Shift and HorsePigCow again slipped a bit, but 7-12 all had nice jumps, and CoolZ0r inches ever so closer to the 2 blogs in front of him. The Top 4 continue to enjoy a large gap over the rest of the countdown, but that may be about to change in the coming weeks.

Outside the Top 12, Logic+Emotion and MMM again had nice weeks, and Pro Hip-Hop jumped 2 spots to #18, I think that's the highest that Clyde's blog has gotten so far.

Karl Long's Experience Curve does a cannonball to land in the Top 25 at the last spot. Huge move for EC this week. Studio UES, Marketing Nirvana, and DailyFix(with its own domain name now), all narrowly missed the Top 25, and any or all of them could be in the mix next week.

As always, next update is next Monday.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Comment Policy

First, let me state upfront that I definitely do want you to comment here. Please. But I also reserve the right to remove any comment for any reason. Some of the reasons that will almost positively get your comment removed include:

1 - Harrassing other commenters or myself. You can disagree but don't be disagreeable.

2 - Profanity, almost zero tolerance here.

3 - Anonymous comments. I don't allow them, and if you try to post as a moniker, that will probably be removed, even if your comment itself wasn't out of line.

4 - Comments left to posts older than 14 day are moderated and will have to be manually approved. I have this set up because these are the ones that are more likely to get spam comments.

5 - If your comment is clearly an attempt to simply promote your own site, it will probably get deleted. If you leave 'Great post, thanks for sharing!', then five links to your site, it's gone.

The bottom line is if you are respectful of others and leave comments that are valuable to the rest of us, you will be fine. And 99.9% of the comments left here fall into this category. But if you are attempting to attack/flame others, or promote your site, there's almost a 100% chance your comment will be gone immediately. If you have any questions about these guidelines, feel free to email me.

Friday, July 21, 2006

What's your answer?

Add The Media Drop, Converstations, One Reader at a Time, and Burbanked to the increasingly long list of blogs that are chiming in their support of Universal's move to approach MMM. I did a Technorati search for 'Universal and Miami Vice' and quickly found that it is The Viral Community that's driving the buzz for both terms.

I also noted that NONE of the A-List bloggers that were so upset over Dell's first blog last week, have chimed in on Universal's move to CONTACT Chris.

The question I have is: Why not?

UPDATE: Add Musical Ramblings to the list.

Nother UPDATE: Add Marketing Nirvana to the list.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Your 24-hour guide to creating buzz with blogs

Let's revisit what has happened in the last 24 hours concerning Chris' post on MMM about Universal contacting him about the marketing efforts for the movie Miami Vice.

Since this time yesterday, the following blogs and websites have linked to Chris' post:

The Viral Garden
Studio UES
CK's Blog
Tell Ten Friends
Beyond Madison Avenue

And then Clay even went so far as to comment on David's blog linking back HERE.

This is why we call it 'social' media. We talk. We spread ideas. Quickly. One guy at Universal taking 30 minutes to talk to a blogger has so far netted Universal and Miami Vice exposure on (currently) 8 blogs and websites within the first 24 hours, including 3 of the Top 25 Marketing Blogs.

Not a bad tradeoff. How many people were exposed to Universal and Miami Vice in the last 24 hours as a result of these sites? Well I can say that over 2,000 people visited BMA and here in the last day, so right now Universal is batting a thousand people a blog. Again, a 30-minute chat with one blogger has now blossomed into an online marketing campaign for Universal and Miami Vice. Which didn't cost Universal a penny.

Like I said, we talk, we spread ideas, and enjoy doing so. We especially love to talk about companies that are smart enough to talk to us.

The question your company needs to ask itself is: Why didn't you give us a reason to talk about you?

UPDATE: Karl Long just emailed me to let me know he's joined in praising Universal's reaching out to MMM.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Tell me, so I can tell the world

Today's pat on the back goes to Universal Studios. A representative from the studio was smart enough to contact Chris at Movie Marketing Madness, and give him all the information he needed on how Universal is marketing the upcoming release Miami Vice.

First of all, what impressed me the most is that Universal contacted Chris. Normally bloggers have to bend over backwards to even get companies to give them the CHANCE to contact THEM. Now because one rep at Universal took 30 minutes out of his day, a movie that Universal is banking on being a summer blockbuster, will get primo exposure on the internet's most influential movie marketing blog, and one of the Top 25 Marketing Blogs.

But as it always seems to be in the blogosphere, that's hardly the end of the story.

Now as I type this, Universal's move is being featured on one of the Top 10 Marketing blogs. Chris also writes for AdJab, and if he finds something from his interview with Universal that he can use there, Miami Vice will also get exposure on one of the Top 10 Advertising Blogs.

Many companies simply don't feel that it's worth their time, from a promotional standpoint at least, to talk to bloggers. I get that. This is a space that unless you are interacting within every day, you truly can't comprehend how easily thoughts and ideas spread. And again, based on the actions of certain bloggers complaining about how Dell listened to them, many companies want to understandably distance themselves from bloggers as much as possible.

Again, I get that.

That's why I think it's our responsibility to ourselves, and companies that are smart enough to embrace bloggers, to reward their efforts. I think we need to send a clear message to Universal that their 30 minutes spent talking to Chris was the best promotional move they will make this week. We all need to link to Universal Studios, and tell the story of how they were smart enough to embrace bloggers. A few sour bloggers last week made Dell's new blog the talk of the blogosphere by raking them over the coals for daring to listen to them. In the process they did considerable damage to the progress of getting companies to communicate with bloggers. We can undo much of that damage THIS week by making Universal's move to reach out to Chris and his readers at MMM the story of THIS week.

So that's my call to the Viral Community today. If you have a case of writer's block this week, and you need a post for your blog, just mention how Universal was smart enough to talk to bloggers. If all of the members of just the Viral Community posted about Universal's move to interact with Chris, the studio's actions could be literally brought to tens of thousands of people by day's end. The A-Listers had their fun and sent their message to companies last week, this week it's our turn to let companies know that bloggers DO want to talk to them, and that we WILL reward their efforts.

Here again are the links to Chris's post, to Universal, and to the website for Miami Vice. Use all of them early and often ;)

Pic via Flickr user Datamax

Monday, July 17, 2006

Are bloggers sending companies the wrong message?

Micro Persuasion recently had an interesting post about how quickly big vs. small companies are adopting blogging as a marketing communication strategy. This post says that 5.8% of the Fortune 500 companies are blogging, while only 1.5% of the 200 companies on Forbes' Best Small Company list are blogging.

The big wildcard in this and similar studies is determining WHY these companies are blogging. Are they using their blog(s) as a tool to better communicate with their communities, or as a tool to counteract potentially negative comments from existing and future bloggers?

On paper, it would seem to me that smaller companies would be quicker to adopt blogs as a tool to better reach their customers. Smaller companies are 'closer' to their communities, and at the same time, have less resources for marketing, and blogging is pretty damned cheap. But according to the study above, larger companies are almost 4 times as likely to blog as are smaller companies.

But on the flipside, larger companies are larger targets for 'angry bloggers'. It's widely known that up till recently that Dell had a 'no blogging' policy of totally ignoring bloggers. Many other much smaller companies likely still have such a policy, but there little to no talk about them.

So to me at least, the above numbers suggest that most companies are looking at blogging as another PR tool, and not as a way to have more effective communicate with their customers.

The big question is, can we blame them? Last week there was no shortage of 'A-List' bloggers that were up in arms over Dell's initial foray into blogging, after many of these same bloggers spent months being up in arms over the fact that Dell WASN'T blogging.

Much of the country still sees bloggers as people with too much time on their hands, that like to bitch. Last week's episode over Dell's blog launch did nothing but solidify those opinions. Karl had an interesting post about how Digg has come to favor 'sensationized' posts and news. I think there's a good bit of truth to that. Last week on TechMeme, Dell's new blog was one of the hottest stories. But the blog posts that were getting picked up were mainly the ones from the bloggers that were bitching and complaining about how Dell should have their butts kicked....for apparently being stupid enough to listen to them. And these 'A-List' bloggers know how this game is played, they know that posting about how 'Dell is finally listening to us, well done', won't draw as much traffic as posting that 'Well Dell is blogging, but guess what, they still suck!', will be on the front page of TechMeme within minutes.

As always, controversy sells. And bitching usually gets more links than giving a pat on the back does.

I think at the end of the day, we bloggers need to think about where our priorities are. Do we want to send a clear and consistent message to companies about why they should start blogging? Do we want to see companies move more toward better serving their communities by having more efficient communication with them, or do we want to try to get more traffic to our blogs by saying outrageous things?

We all need to carefully consider our actions, because I can promise you that other companies ARE watching how we are treating companies that start blogging, such as Dell. Are we giving these companies a reason to re-think their marketing strategies, or are we confirming the stereotypes about bloggers that they already hold?

Or perhaps we should let this question be our guide: Will our actions lead to the ultimate benefit of our communities?

Pic via Flickr user zene

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 13

Here's the standings for Week 13, and these will be updated again next Monday.

1 - Seth's Blog - 5,679 (LW - 1)(+231)
2 - Gaping Void - 16,997 (LW - 2)(+245)
3 - Duct Tape Marketing - 18,082 (LW - 3)(+4)
4 - Creating Passionate Users - 18,281 (LW - 4)(+163)
5 - Marketing Shift - 45,086 (LW - 5)(-1,074)
6 - HorsePigCow - 50,015 (LW - 6)(-1,571)
7 - Coolzor - 55,953 (LW - 7)(+8,340)
8 - The Viral Garden - 68,676 (LW - 8)(+4,365)
9 - What's Next - 80,569 (LW - 10)(+1,828)
10 - Church of the Customer - 81,514 (LW - 9)(+418)
11 - Emergence Marketing - 91,122 (LW - 11)(-1,594)
12 - Brand Autopsy - 93,508 (LW - 12)(-3,389)
13 - Jaffe Juice - 104,650 (LW - 13)(+87)
14 - Diva Marketing - 107,559 (LW - 14)(+4,747)
15 - Beyond Madison Avenue - 115,345 (LW - 15)(-307)
16 - New School of Network Marketing - 151,884 (LW - 16)(+3,787)
17 - Logic + Emotion - 176,221 (LW - 18)(+12,373)
18 - Marketing Headhunter - 195,557 (LW - 17)(-24,088)
19 - What's Your Brand Mantra? - 197,502 (LW - 19)(-3,173)
20 - Pro Hip-Hip - Hip-Hop Marketing - 202,070 (LW- 20)(+15,217)
21 - Marketallica - 226,812 (LW - UR)
22 - WonderBranding - 249,178 (LW - 22)(-84)
23 - Marketing Roadmaps - 259,819 (LW - 21)(-24,280)
24 - Movie Marketing Madness - 260,732 (LW - 24)(+16,285)
25 - The Origin of Brands - 263,396 (LW - 23)(-3,164)

Seth's Blog continues to surge. Seth may not want to talk to anyone, but apparently everyone wants to talk, and link, to him. Guess controversy still sells. After that, Coolz0r has also quietly continued its march to the top. The Belgian marketing blog has sliced its Alexa score in half since the first Top 25 list back in April, and at this point is on the verge of cracking the Top 5. Diva Marketing has continued its hot streak and Toby appears to be a week or 2 away from cracking Alexa's Top 100,000, and perhaps the Top 10 as well.

Outside the Top 10, Logic + Emotion, Pro Hip-Hop Marketing, and Movie Marketing Madness all had nice weeks. Marketallica is the lone new entry, and makes a nice debut at #21. Outside the Top 25, any other week I would say Studio UES is again the story, as Tricia's blog jumps almost another 100,000 Alexa spots. But Marketing Nirvana is literally on fire, I believe it rose about 300,000 spots this week. One or BOTH blogs could crack the Top 25 by the end of the MONTH at this rate. We hear a lot of talk about how it's 'too late' in the blogging game to start a new blog and have it be successful. These two blog proves that's not the case.

As always, next update is next Monday.

Friday, July 14, 2006

You Tube Trends Report #1

This happens every time. As soon as I finish a 'Viral Community News', I see some great stuff that should have been included.

Asi just emailed me about an interesting study he did of the 100 most popular videos on YouTube. He does a nice breakdown of how many were UGC(User-Generated Content), and how many were commercially-created, and he then further breaks down each category into specific type. The UGC category was still the clear leader, with Asi putting 58 out of 100 videos in this category.

Very interesting marketing information here. Give it a look.

Viral Community News

Andrea is back. She's come back and hit the ground running, check out NMPR 2.0.

Chris gives a great account of how The Long Tail applies to the movie industry.

Jeremy Pepper welcomes Dell to the blogosphere, and reminds them that the 'A' in 'A-Lister' stands for 'asshole'. Classic. Let's see....Dell ignores bloggers, we bitch about it. Dell pays attention to bloggers, we bitch about it.

Companies say that all bloggers do is complain and bitch...and we bitch about it.

Congrats to Mario for making Marketing Nirvana the 3rd-Fastest Growing WordPress blog! Doesn't suprise any of us, as Mario has started blogging like a house-of-fire.

Eric has a very interesting post about Peru's blogging community. For example, 5% of the population owns a PC, but 50% of the population has internet access, due to the growth of internet cafes in the country. Great read and a new viewpoint.

Apparently, TypePad was down for a day or so earlier this week. David was having such serious withdrawals that he had to go post about it on DF(which, ironically, is now down itself). Anyway David created his list of Top 10 Things You Can Do During A “Blogout”, and he contacted a TypePad representative about his blog being down. The rep answered, said she enjoyed the post, and added that since TypePad was by that time back up and running, she encouraged David to post the list on his blog, which he did. Pretty cool response from a company that realized it had goofed. BTW you guys crying over TypePad being down need to switch to Blogger, we don't bat an eye when our blogs go down ;)

This is why I love blogging. My newest blogging friend is CK. CK emails me, I find her AMAZING new blog, where she's interviewing Al and Laura Ries. Check out her blog, the next interview in her series will come from a blogger in Baghdad. Should be interesting! Give CK's Blog a look, it's great!

Paul got jumped, and his blog has never been better. He has about 4 posts in a row that I started to link to, just go read the whole damned blog, because it's all great!

Doc linked to me. Actually he linked to me, but once again, called me 'MaRk'. No biggie, as everyone knows, almost everyone does this the first time. This is the second time Doc has done it. I decided to just leave a quick comment thanking him for the link, and correcting him.

That's when the trouble started. Apparently, it is easier to find an A-Lister that's never been to a blogging conference, than it is to figure out how to comment on Doc's blog. After literally 5 mins of searching for a cyber needle in a haystack, I figured out that you COULD leave comments on Doc's blog. Unfortunately, after another 5 mins or so I realized that you apparently have to be a member of the 'Doc Searls Fan Club' in order to comment there. Since I've never been granted membership, I left.

Doc if you happen to read this, please either turn off comments on your blog, or at least make it a tad bit easier for people to give you feedback. All I wanted to do was send you a quick comment, and after 10 mins of fruitless effort, I left frustrated with no comment left. Not a good blogging experience for me.

JD and Tricia, you will definitely want to check this one out. Kathy Sierra has a great post about how attending a concert makes the CD sound so much better. She's exactly right, and in the comments, she tells me that she HATES Jewel's music, but that she heard her in concert, and she was amazing.

And on that note: Sales from Jewel's latest album, which was released just 2 months ago, were only 7K last week, and at this pace the album, Goodbye Alice in Wonderland, will be the worst-selling of her career. But there's good news! Next month Jewel starts her tour for this album, and since she gives such a great concert, I'm sure her marketing team will take advantage of this! I'm sure they will be blogging the tour from the road, having Jewel appear in podcasts and videos from the road. I bet they'll even be seeding videos of some of her songs from her concerts on YouTube and at her MySpace page. They'll also be offering prizes to their fans that post the best concert reviews. I'm sure they will. Because any smart marketing team realizes that if Jewel does her best performing live, that they need to do everything in their power to bring that experience to her fans. And Jewel's marketing team has been all over promoting this new album!

After all, she launched her first album's single by performing it at a NASCAR race, so you know they 'get it'!

Quick shouts to: SunDog, Diva Marketing, Experience Curve

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Lesson in How to Empower Your Community: Fiskateers

As you know, I am huge on marketers joining their communities. But it's also incredibly important for marketers to empower their communities.

Fiskars makes scissors. Scissors that are pretty popular with scrapbookers. So Fiskars and Brains on Fire decided to go into the scrapbooking community, and find members that were using Fiskars scissors in their scrapbooking. After identifying these community members, they then created the 'Fiskateers', a group of brand ambassadors for Fiskars. Then Fiskars set these four Fiskateers, Stephenie, Holly, Cheryl, and May up with a website and their own blog. There the Fiskateers blog about their crafting and scrapbooking projects, how Fiskars products are helping them complete their projects, and life in general. And they blog quite often, in fact Holly posted an entry while I was creating this post!

Why does this work? Spike from Brains on Fire explains:
I’m blown away. Sure, when we first set out to create a community/movement for kindred spirits for one of our clients, we knew – that with a lot of hard work that involved rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty (in a great way) – that something special would happen. And the key part of the movement was to find those passionate people, give them the online and offline tools and opportunities to talk to one another (and also reach out to potential kindred spirits) and then get out of the way. Sure, we expected a lot of things to happen. But even in its infancy, it’s gone far beyond what I ever imagined.

Now – unprompted – these passionate advocates are creating their own marketing tools. They are stepping up and taking ownership in an international brand. They are personalizing something that used to be institutionalized. And they are coming up with ideas that the brand – or even (gasp!) Brains on Fire wouldn’t have thought of.

And I’m in awe.

It started with a company that was willing to gain more power in its industry by giving it away.

And this is just the beginning for them.

Two words stood out for me as I was reading the above, 'passionate' and 'community'. Who are the marketers here? The Fiskateers. Not Fiskars.

Why does that matter? Because the Fiskateers are marketing to the same community that they are members of, and that they are passionate about. This means their wants and needs are the same as the people they are marketing to.

That's incredibly powerful. As Spike said, all it took was Fiskars being smart enough to find these passionate community members, then empowering them to market for them.

That's it. As the title of Spike's post says 'Want Power? Then Give it Away'.

Bonus: Brand Autopsy has more background info on the Fiskateers.

Dell's new hell: Listening to bloggers

Dell caught hell from Jeff Jarvis and other bloggers for not listening to them. Now Dell has started a blog, and they are still catching hell from Jeff Jarvis and other bloggers, this time apparently because they DID listen to them.

What's an 800-pound corporate gorilla to do?

When you look at Dell's blog, you'll quickly notice that it looks like a blog from a company that just started blogging. Great guess, because that's exactly what it is. It looks clunky, the posts are infrequent, and there seems to be a bit of a lack of focus. It has little personality.

But again, this is what happens when companies enter a completely new space for them, they look a bit lost at first. Why did we expect Dell's initial foray into blogging to be any different?

We shouldn't have, but again, plenty of bloggers are slamming Dell mightily for taking the exact step that these same bloggers slammed them for NOT taking, up till now. Virginia (who is a former Dell employee) had a great take on how you just can't please some bloggers:
Jeff Jarvis’s post seems particularly snarky, but you know he must have been thrilled to have any reason to reference his troubles with Dell from last summer that he leveraged not to help other customers, but to intensify his own fame. Steve Rubel comments that maybe Dell should have stayed silent. Is that the message we want to send to corporations interested in engaging in conversation with their customers? If you aren’t going to be perfect at launch, don’t try? That’s certainly not the message I want them to hear. I would be willing to wager that Jarvis and Rubel improved iteratively and Dell will too.

As Virginia also pointed out, Dell has gone in a few months time from having a policy of not responding to bloggers, to having a blog and LINKING to people like Jarvis and Rubel, that are slamming them. That's progress, any way you look at it.

I'm all for slamming companies that deserve it, as my recent tirades against Coke and Paramount prove. But this is a case where a company is making a move that bloggers have pushed for since at least last year. And as soon as they make that move, we slam them out of the gate for not being perfect in their execution? So Jarvis has learned nothing about blogging since he started? Neither has Rubel or Ochman? All hit the ground running with perfect knowledge, because they 'studied' the blogosphere first? Please. All these bloggers had their growning pains, and Dell will have their's as well.

Now if they don't LEARN from those growing pains, THEN they'll deserve some criticism. But let's first give them a chance to earn that opportunity.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Sony has found its foot, but will it pull the trigger?

Apparently Gap is having a clearance on 'Bad Idea' jeans, because everyone seems to be strapping them on. The on-again-off-again rumor that the Playstation 3 will NOT play used/pirated games, appears to be back on.

First of all, Sony has patented technology that would prevent used or 'pirated' copies of video games from being played on the PS3. The million dollar question is, will they include such technology in the PS3 to keep used games from being played in the unit? Sony has said that such talk is 'false speculation'.

That's great, but it's not a denial, is it?

If Sony does employ this technology, that could mean that the copy you buy of a PS3 game would only work on YOUR machine. This move would effectively kill the secondary/used market for these games(which experts estimate as being worth around 900 million.), which would be a blow for retail chains as well as eBay.

And such talk has video gamers, who are already worried over how high the price of PS3 games could go, very concerned. Which is why Sony needs to come out and put these rumors to rest, because their lack of a definite denial is only fanning the flames. At this point their continued refusal to squelch the rumors is eroding the Playstation's brand equity.

The only other alternative is that Sony is actually planning on using this technology, thus their lack of putting the rumors to rest. The brute stupidity behind such a move literally boggles the mind.

Normally it wouldn't be a serious consideration that Sony might actually use this technology, but after the numbskull moves that Coke and Paramount have made recently, you have to wonder.

Pic via Flickr user kraddrol

First comes the infrastructure, now comes the community

I was originally going to leave a comment on this post from GapingVoid(that I only noticed cause Hugh linked to me, sue me), but realized that I would probably post a 2-pager, and I've done that enough there lately, so thought I'd talk about it here.

Hugh says that 'Web 1.0' was about the monetization of the internet, and adds that 'Web 2.0' is about the 'humanification' of the internet. He adds:
"Funny, imagine if Web 2.0 had happened first, before Dotcom. Humanification before Corporatisation. Imagine all the pain we would've been spared."
I think the internet has progressed in the only manner in which it could have. In order for 'Web 1.0' to happen, we needed the tools in place to let everyone get on board. It took big money to develop an infrastructure to allow mass access to the internet. Big business had that big money, and was willing to spend it in getting people on the internet, so they could make money off them.

So Web 1.0 was motivated by business having their wants and needs (making money) met. But as more and more people became part of the online community, they joined with different wants and needs than big business. Sure some ALSO wanted to make money off the web, but people are still people. We want interaction. That's why you saw the rise of online services, of message boards, alt groups, and now blogs. Just in the last year or so, MySpace, Flickr, and YouTube have taken off.

The problem we are seeing is, big business is having difficulty trying to figure out how to let their community enjoy that interaction that they want, while still making money of it. For every New Line that's embracing the community's actions, there is a Paramount trying to stifle them. For every Mentos that's encouraging the community to be themselves, there's a Coke that's still not comfortable with giving up control.

The best way that big business can meet their wants and needs (making money), is by realizing that the community could give a damned less about their wants and needs, and are only concerned with their own.

This is why I preach the need for businesses to join their communities, because when you satisfy my wants and needs, in turn, you satisfy your own. And if you don't know what I am talking about, don't worry, soon a competitor will come along that does.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Coke boldly goes where every other clueless control-hungry company has gone before

Well it seems that Coke pulled a fast one on us. After first saying that they didn't approve of the Mentos-Diet Coke experiments, they are now telling their community that it's ok to enjoy their product.

But there's a catch, and it's a biggie: While they don't approve of you playing with Mentos and Coke and posting videos on YouTube or pics on Flickr, they DO approve of you doing this on their NEW WEBSITE to hype 'The Coke Show'.

Thaaaaaaat's right! Seems that Coke loves the buzz from the Mentos-Coke deal after all, as long as they are CONTROLING how it occurs!


From Adweek(via Logic + Emotion):
“as of this week, visitors to can take part in "The Coke Show," monthly "challenges" testing their creativity.

In the first challenge, set to run through August, users are invited to submit short videos, but they're not limited to creating ads or odes to the brand. Instead, Coke is asking for 45-second video expressions of "the essence of you." Visitors will rate submissions, culling them down to 10, which will be judged by a group of professional filmmakers.

Of course, this 'The Coke Show' debuts just as Mentos is about to start their Mentos Geyser Video Contest. So look at how Mentos and Coke responded to this episode:

Mentos: Hey we LOVE this! You guys are giving us a TON of free publicity! Please keep it up! In fact, we are going to create a contest that will reward you with prizes for doing what you are doing anyway! Rock on!

Coke: Well honestly, we'd rather you DRINK our product, and stop playing with it, this IS after all a LIQUID, not a toy! But....if you must play with it, we'd rather you do it in a manner and form that we have some say over, so please confine your enjoyment of our product to our officially-endorsed website for 'The Coke Show'. There you will be able to play with your Coke as much as you like. But please.....don't try this at home.

That update for you sports fans is Mentos - 2, Coke - 0.

This is yet another instance of a big company that's scared to death of letting their customers run with their product in a manner which they didn't intend. Remember when NBC did the same thing with the SNL clip of Lazy Sunday that popped up on YouTube? The video was wildly popular, yet NBC ordered YouTube to pull it, saying they didn't want the video available as a download. Then what did they turn around and do? Stick it on THEIR website for download.

Wanna bet it's only a matter of time before Coke comes out with a competing product to Mentos? Wanna bet that they'd have no problem with you shooting THEIR product out of your nose, as long as the dollars went in their back pockets?

Again guys, when you have your communitiy actually excited about your product, you find ways to make it EASIER to spread their excitement, you don't try to re-route or control that buzz, because that's the quickest way to stop it dead. A big reason why buzz and excitement like this is created and grows, is because the company behind the products have NOTHING to do with it. Customers relish the lack of control that Mentos and Coke had over their actions, which is the main reason why this phenomenon occurred, because customers were using the products the way THEY wanted to, and NOT the way that Mentos and Coke wanted them to.

Mentos embraced the buzz, Coke at first tried to discourage it, and now is saying that they don't mind it, as long as they have some control over it.

Ain't the way this game is played folks. Someone needs to send a wake-up call to Atlanta.

Pic via Flickr user Undrin

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 12

Here's the standings for Week 12, and these will be updated again next Monday.

1 - Seth's Blog - 5,910 (LW - 1)(+252)
2 - Gaping Void - 17,242 (LW - 2)(+239)
3 - Duct Tape Marketing - 18,086 (LW - 3)(+335)
4 - Creating Passionate Users - 18,444 (LW - 4)(+9)
5 - Marketing Shift - 44,012 (LW - 5)(-1,394)
6 - HorsePigCow - 48,444 (LW - 6)(+239)
7 - Coolzor - 64,293 (LW - 7)(+1,346)
8 - The Viral Garden - 73,041 (LW - 8)(+8,677)
9 - Church of the Customer - 81,932 (LW - 10)(+3,760)
10 - What's Next - 82,397 (LW - 9)(+209)
11 - Emergence Marketing - 89,528 (LW - 12)(+1,089)
12 - Brand Autopsy - 90,120 (LW - 11)(+280)
13 - Jaffe Juice - 104,737 (LW - 14)(+919)
14 - Diva Marketing - 112,306 (LW - 16)(+6,449)
15 - Beyond Madison Avenue - 115,038 (LW - 15)(-773)
16 - New School of Network Marketing - 155,671 (LW - 18)(+20,656)
17 - Marketing Headhunter - 171,469 (LW - 17)(-6,540)
18 - Logic + Emotion - 188,594 (LW - 22)(+36,194)
19 - What's Your Brand Mantra? - 194,329 (LW - 19)(-3,679)
20 - Pro Hip-Hip - Hip-Hop Marketing - 217,287 (LW- 20)(-3,711)
21 - Marketing Roadmaps - 235,539 (LW - 21)(-16,068)
22 - WonderBranding - 249,094 (LW - 24)(+4,956)
23 - The Origin of Brands - 260,232 (LW - UR)
24 - Movie Marketing Madness - 277,017 (LW - UR)
25 - Johnnie Moore's Weblog - 306,175 (LW - UR)

First of all, I've decided to pull FutureLab from the rankings. This is something I've been thinking about for a while, but the main reason why, is I don't it's fair to have individual bloggers that are posting original material, competing against a group blog that's cross-posting entries that were originally posted on its member blogs. If FutureLab wants to start featuring original material from its contributors, I'll be happy to add them back, but until that happens, we don't really have a 'level' playing field if they are allowed to stay in. Looking back, I probably should have made this rule up front, but you blog and learn.

In the Top 8, the first 8 spots stayed put, with Church of the Customer having a nice week to move up to #9. Coolz0r and The Viral Garden also had good weeks. Outside the Top 10, Logic + Emotion scored the biggest move of the week, shooting up over 36,000 spots in the Alexa rankings, and 3 spots in the Top 25. Kim Klaver's newly-named New School of Network Marketing had a big week, as did Diva Marketing and WonderBranding.

Attack of the niche blogs! Movie Marketing Madness, IMO the best niche marketing blog on the internet, has FINALLY cracked the Top 25. Long overdue, and I'm sure this is just the start of a nice run for MMM. But another niche marketing blog is making big waves outside the Top 25. Studio UES, the music marketing blog that has only been live for a few weeks, has already seen its Alexa ranking shoot up to almost 500,000. At this rate Tricia could be in the Top 25 by the end of the summer, if not sooner.

Keep in mind that in order to be included, or remain in the Top 25 Marketing blogs, a significant portion of your blog's content must deal with traditional marketing commentary. You can focus on selling, on customer service, on network marketing, even on advertising, but if I have to hunt back through 2-3 weeks of postings before I find anything directly related to marketing, you're probably not going to make the cut.

As always, next update is next Monday.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Viral Garden hits the mainstream

The Viral Garden got a couple of nice plugs in the MSM in the last few days. First, the Top 25 Marketing Blogs list was mentioned in the Boston Globe last Friday. Thanks again to Maura for the mention!

Then in today's Atlanta-Journal Constitution, I was profiled in an article about using a blog in your job search. I talked about ways to grow a blog, the importance of community, and making sure to pick a blogging topic that you are passionate about. One area that I wanted to focus on, that I really think will help other job seekers, is how posting on a blog will boost your Google rankings. As I told Laura, when I first started blogging at BMA, there were around 450 search results for the term "Mack Collier". Today there are over 22,000. Almost all of these new results are either from my posts, or people linking to my posts. One of the first things a potential employer will do is Google your name, and if you post on a blog, that ensures that they'll get some results when they search for you. It's a good article, and hopefully the ideas presented can help other job-seekers. Thanks again to Laura for interviewing me!

Check out both links if you get a chance.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Best of The Viral Garden

Here's some of my favorite posts from The Viral Garden. If this is your first time here, these will bring you up to speed on my marketing philosophies, and where the focus of this blog lies.

Marketing With Your Community:
Part 1 - This All Makes Sense...
Part 2 - Walking with the Consumer
Part 3 - Joining the Community
Part 4 - I Don't WANT to Listen to the Consumer
Part 5 - Empowering Your Community
Part 6 - Empowering Your Marketing

A Lesson in How to Empower Your Community: Fiskateers

Word to Marketers: When You Screw With Your Community, You Screw Yourself

Coke gets geyser of community-based publicity, but doesn't want it

100 CDs For 100 Bloggers

I'll tell the whole wide world...

Trust can remove the need for marketing

But what if your passion WAS the community?

Empowering Your Marketing

Part 6 in the 'Marketing With Your Community' series.

Knowledge and understanding leads to empowerment.

So far in this series, I've talked about the need for marketers to become as close as possible with the communities they sell to. Find them, communicate with them, join them, and finally, empower them. But while this may appear that all the marketing attention is being placed on the community, in fact as you carry out these steps, YOUR marketing is being transformed and empowered as well.

As you begin to communicate with your community, and understand them, you begin to better meet their wants and needs. If you take the process a step further and JOIN your community, then their wants and needs become your wants and needs. The end result is that your marketing becomes much more effective, and efficient. Less money is spend on wasted messages, because you KNOW what your customer wants, because you understand them. You aren't relying on 'market research' as your competitors are, you are relying on 'market interaction'.

And in the process, you are not only winning over new customers, you are creating an incredibly powerful barrier to entry for other competitors. Customers will be loyal to brands that are loyal to them. If you make the effort to communicate and understand exactly what your community wants and needs, they will reward you with their business. And as discussed in Part 5 of this series, they will tell others about you.

The marketing landscape is changing. People are hyper-connected, and have the ability to exchange information much more quickly than companies can send marketing messages to them. Ineffective marketing messages will quickly be the butt of jokes in these communities, while brand loyalty will quickly surround brands that 'get it' by attempting to communicate WITH their communities, instead of sending one-way messages TO them.

The marketers that see this change as an opportunity, will be the big winners. These will be the marketers that realize that relinquishing some control over their marketing message will actually lead to more efficient, and empowered marketing.

Friday, July 07, 2006


1 - So what exactly is 'The Viral Garden'?

The Viral Garden is my blog, where we discuss primarily marketing topics. Any and all, but I like to examine how 'social media' is changing the marketing landscape, and look at how companies are adjusting to this chaotic space. Some companies understand the importance of embracing and empowering their communities of customers, some do not. I make a point to look at examples of both.

2- You said 'we' like to discuss marketing topics, aren't you the only writer for The Viral Garden?

Yes. When I say 'we', I meant myself and the community of readers for this blog. A blog is only as good as its community, and you will find that the community of readers for The Viral Garden add invaluable insight into every post via comments. I am constantly writing about the need for companies to join and empower their community, and a blogger is no different.

3 - This is my first time here, what should I check out first?

This is a list of my favorite posts. These will give you a good idea of my marketing philosophies, and especially detail how important I feel it is for companies to embrace, join, and empower their communities.

4- Hey my company started a blog, and it's not doing as well as your's, what are we doing wrong?

Check out my Articles section, especially my article on 'Eight Ideas for Revitalizing Your Company Blog'. In that article I cover several common mistakes that companies make after launching a blog, and how to correct them. If you still need help, feel free to email me.

5 - Are you sure your name really isn't 'Mark Collier'?

Pretty damned sure.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Word to marketers: When you screw with your community, you screw yourself

Here we go again. Chris at Movie Marketing Madness has the latest tale of a company that hasn't come to grips with the new marketing reality that they are no longer the only source for their promotional messages.

John has a movie blog. A fairly popular movie blog, one that gets around a million visitors a month. John was pretty excited about the upcoming Transformers movie, so John posted plenty of pics from the movie's production, and did all he could to hype the movie to his readers.

Paramount gets wind of him posting pics from the movie, and tells him to remove 2 of them. John emails them back and asks them if they are SURE they want to do that, since the pics have been very popular with John's readers, which again, number over a million a month. Paramount says yes, take down the pics, so John promptly does just that.

Then the next morning, John wakes up to find out that his blog is down. Apparently, Paramount sent the company that hosts his blog a cease and desist order, based on a THIRD pic that John had on the blog, which they never mentioned to John as being a problem.

John addresses this episode today on his blog when he posts the same letter he sent Paramount. Here is the money part:
Is this how you treat your fans? Is this how you treat the people who are out here heaping loads upon loads of free positive fanboyish publicity and hype on your movie?!?! I am nothing short of disgusted by how you have chosen to deal with this.

You shut my site down. A fan who has been trying his best to make Transformers the most talked about film in production. A fan who has been praising your project almost daily. A fan who already once took down an image that you wanted down with just a simple request. And this is how you treat your fans? Shutting them down without so much as a 2 line email request or to at least let us know you were upset with something.

Fine. If this is how you treat people... then that is how you shall be treated. From now on The Movie Blog will not mention, reference or talk about anything to do with your movie or your project. Heavens forbid that I may say something that you don't like and wake up to find my site taken down again.

The Movie Blog is nothing. A small tiny site by most standards with only a million readers. I'm sure this won't effect you at all.

John's wrong, because it's already affecting Paramount. Chris, who happens to run the most influential and well-respected movie marketing blog on the internet, has joined in John's boycott. In fact this isn't the first time Paramount has acted like dunderheads to bloggers. A few months ago, Chris was discussing the Paramount film An Inconvenient Truth, and he noticed from checking his SiteMeter visitor logs that some reps from Paramount had visited MMM. He then posted that if the reps wanted to add anything about the movie on MMM, just let him know. Of course they did nothing.

But again, this is another instance of an old-school company clashing with its newly empowered community. What Paramount did, was fail to realize that they are no longer the only source for their marketing message. Their lack of understanding about the viral nature of blogs and the internet, made them believe that if they shut-down a blog, they shut-down the problem.

Instead, they have CREATED the problem. They have converted one blogger and his million-man audience, from one of their staunchest supporters, to now likely one of their staunchest opponents. Of course, a quick check of John's latest post shows over a 100 comments currently, and several links just in the last few hours from other blogs that are rallying their readers against Paramount because of this episode.

Paramount had a golden opportunity to further empower John to market Transformers for them. All Paramount had to do was tell John which pictures to pull, and then send him some promotional pictures/materials to use on the site instead. Maybe agree to give him an exclusive interview. This would have given John every incentive hype the movie even more than he already was. And this would have led to positive hype on other blogs after the blogosphere caught wind of how Paramount was embracing bloggers as marketing partners.

Instead, Paramount didn't see John as their marketing partner, they saw him as their enemy. And because of their actions, now that's exactly what he is.

UPDATE: Chris alerted me to the fact that John has spoken to Paramount, and he believes the shutdown of his blog was an accident, and both he and Chris will go back to blogging about the movie as usual. Good to see Paramount getting involved with their community to right a wrong.

Pic via Flickr user Radish King

Viral Community News

First of all, congrats to my man Geert, who has joined Microsoft as the Trade Marketing Manager in their Belgium office. Geert's a great guy, and he gave BMA one of our very first links way back last fall. You can pat him on the back at his new location, on MSN Spaces.

Eric Kintz has a great post on how we can bridge the blogging world, with the 'real' world. This is a very timely post, and I love this question: "So what do you think? What will it take to spread the “epidemic” to the other 99% marketers?".

My answer is, we have to put the message in their hands using the channels they interact with. Mainstream marketers aren't reading The Viral Garden, they are reading the NYTimes and the WSJ and Ad Age. This is where I think many bloggers that go to each and every blogging conference under the sun are doing themselves a bit of a disservice. IMO they need to be spending much of that time trying to get the 'real' world clued into what they already know. The 'real' world that has never heard of Doc Searls, or Robert Scoble, or Jason Calacanis (99.9% of the country really have no idea who these people are).

Eric also posted his entry on Daily Fix as well. Remember that Eric is the Vice President of Global Marketing Strategy & Excellence for HP, so he's coming from the mainstream side of the fence. We need to support the few 'corporate' bloggers such as Eric that are trying to embrace and join the blogging community.

David has a great take on Eric's post as well, with this quote:
"The Social Network is both viral and a community in the same breath. And it’s influential. But—it’s still a minority when you compare it to mainstream forces and the Forresters of the world. They still have the ear of the people we would love to reach. But that is definitely changing. Blogs are becoming a source of breaking news, refreshingly alternative thinking and of course community that entices active participation. But to Eric’s point—”what will it take to transform this emerging community into a viral marketing network beyond the blogosphere?”

Speaking of Daily Fix, my latest entry on the Mentos-Diet Coke bruhahahaha is up. BTW I totally slept on linking to my entry before that, The War For Marketing Control. Please check both out if you get a chance.

Tricia reviews Chris Anderson's new book, The Long Tail.

The first episode of Karl Long's new podcast, The Co-Creative Business Show is up. Congrats to Karl, I know he's excited about it. I'll try to give it a listen the next time I have the 5.3 days available to download it (damned dial-up).

Asi jumps on a topic that Karl started, viral videos. I agree with Asi that it is almost impossible to 'make' a viral video. You can follow the guidelines that Karl outlines for most successful viral videos, but in the end, the community will decide if they want to spread the video, or not. Your best bet is to let the community decide, and if they run with it, be thankful.

Paul offers the Marketer's Credo.

John at American Copywriter has an important reminder on the importance of refilling your creative juices.

Amy Gahran has a great post about how conversations online start, and how they are different from offline conversations. Marketers will want to grab a notepad before reading.

Mario is going to start interviewing other bloggers. I know I know, I thought the same thing at first, but Mario has a very interesting twist. He is going to accept questions from his community of readers for a month, then conduct the interview by asking his reader's questions. A great way to involve your community in the process! His first interview will be with Jeremiah Owyang.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Taking The Viral Community to the mainstream

Call me naive, but I have always seen marketing as something more than simply a 'necessary evil'. In fact, I believe marketing, if used properly, is a tool that can not only give customers what they want and need more efficiently, but in turn will benefit the companies that serve their communties, by lowering costs, and allowing companies to give customers exactly what they want, when they want it, which leads to greater goodwill between companies and the communities they serve.

Of course, this happens when companies are clued in enough to embrace and empower their communities.

But the problem is, for many companies, this is a total shift in mindset, that the customer is a person that has equal, or even greater control over the company's marketing message, than the company itself. For companies that have an entire corporate culture built around 'push' marketing, they can't switch gears overnight and move toward a 'pull' relationship with their communities. But the journey of a thousand miles....

Bloggers as a group, are seeing firsthand the power of joining and empowering their communities. But at the same time, I feel we need to find a way to move the principles of community-building and empowering to the mainstream. These are powerful ideas that could have a profound affect on how companies reach and service their communities. I have talked to Ann about this repeatedly, and she had a great post on Daily Fix recently about how companies need to find ways to become more 'conversational'.

As a group, I have always felt that we bloggers take ourselves entirely too seriously. And some of it is understandable, we are clued in to online communities that we have joined and created, that the 'mainstream' has overlooked, or flatly ignored. In doing so, we are seeing firsthand the awesome power of the community, while learning and creating invaluable marketing methods for reaching, empowering, and growing our communities.

But I think we also have a greater responsibility to 'the people' to find ways to bring the ideas of community building/embracing/empowering to the 'mainstream', so that all parties can benefit. Of course, the $64,000 question

I have a feeling there is no one 'right' answer. I think '100 CDs for 100 Bloggers' is an example of embracing and empowering communities. There are no doubt a universe of other examples, maybe even you have some?

As I told Ann on Daily Fix:"Here we have some of the smartest marketing minds in the world reading and writing for this blog, and instead of discussing how we can use this exciting media to better serve our communities, all we want to talk about is ourselves and our blogs.".

Again, maybe it's another sign of my bad self-promotional skills, but I'd rather talk about ways we can show companies how to embrace and empower their communities, and maybe even change the (marketing) world.

Wouldn't you? I thought I'd tap into the power of The Viral Community, and see what ideas you guys can come up with. If you have any thoughts, please add them in the comments.

Pic via Flickr user xeer.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Viral Community has infected BMA

This is just amazing. On Friday I left a post entitled 'Blogging 2.0' on BMA. The post highlighted several members of The Viral Community, that I thought BMA's audience might not know about.

I posted a quick summary of several blogs, including:

Studio UES
Pro Hip-Hop
Hee-Haw Marketing
Experience Curve
Own Your Brand
Brand is Language
Marketing Nirvana
Blending the Mix

Almost immediately, I noticed that I started getting traffic referrals here from that BMA post. Usually I don't get any from something I post on BMA, but I got about 40-50 visitors from the post just on Friday.

I decided to check out BMA's traffic stats. Normally, a popular post on BMA will get 30+ page views the first day, about 10-20 the second day, then a handful a day after that, till it goes away to nothing. As of midnight Monday, the Blogging 2.0 post had been viewed a staggering 1,060 times in 4 days.

Want more? On Friday, we set a record for the most visitors ever on a Friday, with 1,541. On Saturday, we set a record for the most visitors ever on a Saturday, with 1,233. On Sunday, we had 1,292 visitors, which was the second most ever on a Sunday. And finally, yesterday we had 1,668 visitors, the most ever on a Monday, and the 2nd best one-day total EVER for BMA.

Has to be because everyone is so excited about all the great blogs that help make up The Viral Community. Really you can't even argue that it's anything else, because all I did was list them, and give a quick blurb about what each blog covered.

Simply amazing. I think it's quite fitting that what will likely end up being the most popular post ever in the history of BMA, is completely about many of the great blogs and bloggers that I've met. As it should be, since a blog is nothing without its community.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 11

Here's the standings for Week 11, and these will be updated again next Monday.

1 - Seth's Blog - 6,162 (LW - 1)(+312)
2 - Gaping Void - 17,481 (LW - 3)(+1,704)
3- Duct Tape Marketing - 18,421 (LW - 4)(+1,098)
4 - Creating Passionate Users - 18,453 (LW - 2)(-466)
5 - Marketing Shift - 42,618 (LW - 6)(+2,701)
6 - HorsePigCow - 48,683 (LW - 5)(-3,631)
7 - Coolzor - 65,639 (LW - 7)(+8,769)
8 - The Viral Garden - 81,718 (LW - 11)(+7,532)
9 - What's Next - 82,606 (LW - 8)(+1,643)
10 - Church of the Customer - 85,692 (LW - 9)(+2,127)
11 - Brand Autopsy - 90,400 (LW - 10)(-1,177)
12 - Emergence Marketing - 90,617 (LW - 12)(+1,065)
13 - FutureLab's Blog - 93,824 (LW - 13)(+9,754)
14 - Jaffe Juice - 105,656 (LW - 14)(+3,721)
15 - Beyond Madison Avenue - 114,265 (LW - 15)(+1,604)
16 - Diva Marketing - 114,291 (LW - 16)(+6,449)
17 - Marketing Headhunter - 164,929 (LW - 17)(+3,571)
18 - Network Marketing for Women - 176,327 (LW - 18)(+3,266)
19 - What's Your Brand Mantra? - 190,650 (LW - 19)(-8,982)
20 - Pro Hip-Hip - Hip-Hop Marketing - 213,576 (LW- 21)(-2,048)
21 - Marketing Roadmaps - 219,471 (LW - 20)(-12,081)
22 - Logic + Emotion - 224,788 (LW - 23)(+29,167)
23 - Marketing Begins At Home - 232,336 (LW - 22)(-2,459)
24 - WonderBranding - 254,050 (LW - 24)(+16,403)
25 - B2Blog - 266,750 (LW - UR)

The big story seems to be the drops the women bloggers had, especially at the top. Kathy Sierra's CPU had a suprising slide down to #4, giving Gaping Void its highest finish so far in the history of the Top 25, at #2. HorsePigCow also stubbed its toe down a spot to #6, and BL became the 3rd female blogger to fall in the Top 10 as What's Next dipped a notch. The Viral Garden had another strong week to debut in the Top 10 at #8.

Want a perfect example of just how competitive the Top 25 has become? Diva Marketing was #16 in the very first Top 25 list back in April. 3 months later, the Alexa ranking for DM has moved up 40K spots, but Toby's still at #16. A score of 430K would have put you at #25 in the first Top 25 list, now you need a score of 265K to qualify.

Past the Top 10, the biggest moves came from Logic + Emotion, and WonderBranding, which both had nice jumps. And B2Blog re-enters the Top 25 at #25.

As always, next update is next Monday.