Monday, October 27, 2008

"I have three packages to give you over the next 40 mins"

This morning while I was trying to write up my MPDM recap and sound witty on Twitter, a courier knocks on my door and tells me he has a package for me.

Ok. He then explains that he has to deliver the package at approx. 10:00 am. No biggie, I'm still with him there. Then he gives me the clincher; he explains that he has two more packages, and that he has to wait till 10:20 am to give me the second one, and 10:40 to give me the final 'heavy' one.

A bit confused, I ask him if he can just give me all three now and he explains that he can't, he can't give me any of them before or after the set time. So he sits in my driveway for almost an hour, waiting to complete his deliveries, which he promptly and accurately did.

The materials came from a very large company, one that you have all heard of. And the included letter explains that 'You're part of a handful of digital and social influencers we're reaching out to regarding a multiyear, companywide transformation.'

Now obviously, this company did this because they want me to blog about the promotion itself. And I am torn on how to do that, because on one hand, I think that this company spent a LOT of money on this that could have been better spent elsewhere. But at the same time, this company is making their first steps into social media, and there will be growing pains for them, just as there were for us all.

So I applaud their effort, but am not sold on the execution. But that's ok, trying is the important part.

Here is what I would suggest for this company, and any big company that is thinking about spending a lot of money to connect with 'bloggers and social media influencers'.

1 - Don't. Sending bloggers stuff to get us to blog about it is soooo 2006. Sure it can lead to a ton of initial buzz, but if there's no followup and if the buzz doesn't lead to the start of creating connections with your customers, then it's still money wasted.

2 - Target your online evangelists before you target 'social media influencers'. I get totally wanting to reach out to bloggers to encourage them to write about your social media initiatives. But your online evangelists already have a built-in incentive to talk about you. They WANT to. And the size of their readership really doesn't matter, their wanting to promote you is what counts. If I had the choice between targetting 25 'social media influencers' that might blog about me, or 25 blogging evangelists that I *knew* would go gangbusters to promote me, I'm picking the latter every time and twice on Tuesday.

3 - Invest time over money. Don't just throw wads of cash at promotions that are designed to 'generate buzz' among bloggers. Instead, invest TIME in creating and strengthening connections and hopefully relationships with your online customers. There is a LOT of listening involved, especially at first. The conversation can happen later, after you have a better idea of what to say. Yes it will take time, and yes it will be a lot of work. And if done properly, will be worth every second.

Remember with social media you shouldn't 'focus on the tools, focus on the connections that the tools help facilitate'. You want to use social media as a channel to better connect with your customers, as a way for you to better understand them, and for them to better understand you.

And I should add the caveat that the materials I received today are the first wave of apparently an ongoing 'campaign' as the company wades into the social media waters. So their coming efforts could be much more in-line with what I have suggested here.

What do you think? What would be your advice for any major corporation that wanted to start using social media?


Anonymous said...

I have to admit, I am still stuck on the guy sitting in your driveway delivering you a package every 20 minutes! What was the point of that...was it his company policy or that of the sender?

Anonymous said...

I'd like to post my first comment now, if I may. Then, in about 20 minutes, I'll write in another one. Then, if you'll just hang on a little longer...

Mike Ashworth said...

Were the staggered deliveries designed to have you salivating over the next delivery in 20 minutes time?

You should have reached a private agreement with the driver to take all 3 at once, sign the sheets as though he delivered them staggered and he could have cut himself some slack and gone and got a coffee or smoothie!

If they have something worth talking about you'll talk about it. If it isn’t worthy of talking about you wont, that’s the bottom line, no matter how they try and "tap you up".

They'd do better to play the longer game, engage with you online via the thought leadership you already provide, you in turn may check out what they are are about, The beginnings of a conversation / relationship may form, you may come to know, like and trust what they are about and wish to talk about them with others.

That is when the relationship truly begins as well, not when it ends.

Mike Ashworth
Marketing Coach and Consultant
Brighton and Hove, Sussex UK

Donna Tocci said...

Ok, he seriously sat there for all that time? That would have creeped me out a bit. If there was an order to opening the boxes, then just label them as such. Talk about a waste of time and money!

But, that aside, your last question was about large corporations starting to use social media. What do you do? Coming from a big company, here's my take...just jump in! Don't stress it. Find where the majority of your customers are and...(gasp)...start interacting with them! Listen. Comment. Listen some more. Create relationships and...(gasp, again)...have a little fun. The results will be priceless.

Anonymous said...

Don't you ever wonder how many bad decisions we, as companies, and just as humans, could avoid by listening first? Finding out where people are talking about you is a much easier first step than aspirationally targeting where you want to be talked about. Good points Mack!

Anonymous said...

Hi Mack,

I think I know who the company is, and although everyone has to be aware of "being used" in the blogosphere, I think you might want to cut them some slack. When a large company like that tentatively tests the blogging waters, I think it's a positive step.


Beth Harte said...

I would love to know what marketing/PR genius thought up that idea.

Goes to show you that they don't know you or read your blog. If they did, I am sure that they would think twice after your posts on Sergeant Swat.

And the poor driver, that's insane. The irony is you were probably hammering away at the keyboard, not frothing at the mouth in anticipation.

Great post these insights!

Anonymous said...

Is this the same company?

Mack Collier said...

Keli I am in a pretty rural area so there wasn't really anywhere else for him to go. And he was determined to make sure that the items were delivered on time, I tried to sign for all of them and let him go, he wouldn't do it, said he was paid to wait.

Steve, I am waiting on those other two comments ;)

Mike I tried to get him to do that, he wouldn't. I'll give the guy credit, he did indeed deliver all three right on the spot every 20 mins.

Donna I think that many big cos are just used to throwing big money, and then measuriing results. SM requires a different approach, as you are well aware.

Right Pamela! But at least the company is now trying, and I can tell from checking Twitter that they are getting a lot of feedback, so hopefully they can act on it and learn from it!

John it IS a positive step, and I think I did cut them some slack, by not calling them out by name, and acknowledged that they would have growing pains. I also emailed the people in charge of this promotion to express my opinions and offer to help them moving forward, if I can.

Beth the way it was staggered out, it was really setting up for a big payoff. Now here's the kicker, if I had actually been an evangelist for this company, then the payoff would have been HUGE! But since I wasn't, it seemed pretty anti-climatic.

Ann, sounds similar, doesn't it? ;)

Anonymous said...

Pretty creative idea. I think you nailed it with:

a. great they are reaching out to the social media crowd

b. they should have reached out to their brand ambassadors. Just as musicians reach out to their super fans to hand out promo materials, brands should connect with their hyper fans.

Nice analysis. And I'm pretty sure it is Pepsi from Shankman's blog post...?

Amber Naslund said...

A for effort in my book. But yep, listening is paramount. I really wish I had a dollar for every company/person/consultant/entrepreneur/brand wanting to jump into social media but not having a clue what to say or do. The truth is that your audience will tell you, and in this case, Pepsi (*cough*, sorry) "that company" would have done well to simply ask these folks "Hey, what do you know about us? We're rebranding - what do you think?"

Starting the dialogue and listening is often harder, but far more rewarding.

Anonymous said...

I liked the idea better in Hitch. They should've sent a walkie-talkie and had a choose your own adventure/package set up.

By you not mentioning the company, do you think that in itself creates more buzz amongst your readership. It perked my interest and I sought how who this mystery company the promotion and the re-branding will stay in my head that much longer and it has the potential to be shared with friends/colleagues.

Of course, I am going to change it to a Dr Pepper promotion and put the walkie talkie into the mix.

Warren said...

Great advice for large companies with new directors of social media to follow. :) I agree with you in that connecting to their core fans would have had much more impact. And of course, approaching bloggers needs to be done with tact. This company take a few pointers from Scott Monty at Ford, don't you think?

As Ann said, a few others have blogged about a similar experience today. Here is Chris Brogan's post,

Jay Baer said...

The agency that I founded had a similar situation recently where Yahoo! Search Marketing sent us one of those Heineken mini-kegs and a bunch of glasses in the mail. Amazing.

Great post Mack. The key point I believe is the notion that social media requires TIME not MONEY. You simply cannot buy social media coverage.

If you believe that brand advocacy can only come from the heart, not the head or the wallet, then it's something that can't be bought, period. It has to be earned. And that takes a long time (longer than many big brands want to wait).

All the best,


Mack Collier said...

Anonymous, the main reason why I didn't mention the company in the post is because I didn't want to come out slamming them (because they ARE at least trying), and because Google Never Forgets. Six months from now, if I had named the company, that would still show up in their search results.

I tend to give most companies a break on their first blogging/social media efforts. I remember when Dell launched it's first blog (called One2One then), and while many of my fellow bloggers raked them over the coals, I said that let's not bash them too badly for finally doing what we had begged them to do. Dell learned from its first efforts, and I'm sure this company will. Growing pains happen for us all with blogging and social media. The key is to try.

Mack Collier said...

Warren, the approach was right, in targetting influencers, they just went after the wrong influencers, IMO. Evangelists for this company would have gone absolutely apeshit over the packages that I got yesterday. I'm talking bouncing off the ceiling wow! But since I'm not an evangelist, I had a pretty blah reaction.

But now this company has feedback. If they take that feedback into account, and adjust their ongoing efforts, then they can still have a home-run on their hands. We'll see how it plays out.

Amber and Jason, thanks for the comments. I agree, investing time with social media and making connections, trumps throwing cash at this space.

Warren said...

Any junior marketer knows that a successful campaign is comprised of offer, creative and target audience. Miss one and your results will be off. Thus, by targeting the wrong influencers, I would give them a C.

Anonymous said...

On one hand, it's pretty creative but on the other, it's sorta dumb. I personally like getting surprise physical packages but I do so prefer it when the gifts are from people I have a relationship with. When I review authors, I want to get an autographed copy of their book. But, I only want to use up that tree if it's an author whom I've met and am interested in.

Why does it seem so hard to keep it simple, keep it real? For so long companies have had to go extreme to get attention and they seem to be having a hard time going intimate. As our modern society becomes more and more automated, human relationships will only continue to become more important. I have had tremendous success just connecting. Asking. Listening. Talking.

Besides...Pepsi? Does a new fancy logo overcome a mediocre product? No, no matter how many media influencers you chat up. Now, if Coke had come to my door, different story...

Together we are stronger!
Vicki Flaugher, the original SmartWoman

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Anonymous said...

First, an interruption was caused by the ploy of staggering the shipment. High LAME factor there; wasted your time and cut into your morning. Anticipation is with food, not a damn shipment of stuff.

Second, without a solid relationship established, it's hard to see why you'd want to become an advocate for them, and isn't that what they're going for? We want good guys to succeed and will do whatever we can to see that happen. The flip side is if we feel it's some sort of gimmick, like we're being used in some way, we want them to secretly (or not so secretly) fail and be outed.

I give them a D --it was sort of clever, but poorly planned and executed and someone didn't do their homework.

TaraMetBlog said...

supposedly their will be followup from the company, per the enclosed letter, so it will be interesting to see if that is in fact the case. I had also wrote about the oddity of getting three packages, at set times, via courrier as well.

Steve Hall said...

First, I want to know why so many people comment on your post and hardly any do on mine;)

Second, it was Pepsi.

Third, I liked the approach. Granted, the driveway thing was weird. I was only here for the first delivery. I then left and didn't return until around until 3PM when the other two bozes were laying there. So I didn't get the full effect.

I didn't mind the approach. I think it's fine to send bloggers stuff. If they can't send product for people to sample, how else are they going to get it in front of so-called influencers?

And, seeing the packaging close up made me change my mind a bit. At first, I didn't like it. Now I do. Still, I'm not going to drink the stuff. I can't stand any kind of sticky, sugar-water soda. Then again, with Pepsi and Coke, what's inside the can is hardly relevant.

Mack Collier said...

Steve here's the thing: Are you a Pepsi evangelist/fan? I'm betting you aren't. Maybe you like the drink better than Coke, but are you really a FAN of Pepsi?

Probably not. I'm not either.

But if I had been and if I had gotten this and found out that I was one of the 'first 25 people' to see the NEW Pepsi can, I would have gone tee-total apeshit. I would be all over this blog, over Twitter, over Plurk, over every socnet/social site I frequent, yammerin about how freakin' amazing this was.

But I didn't. Cause this promotion apparently wasn't targeted at Pepsi evangelists, but rather at social media 'influencers'. That's the key, and IMO it was the key mistake.

But Pepsi has time to learn from their mistakes. I applaud them for testing the waters, but I hope that they take the feedback they have gotten and apply it toward their future efforts.

Warren said...

Since they are trying to influence Pepsi fans and evangelists, it is just common sense to reach out to those people rather than Social Media and advertising elites. Social Media influentials are not going to advance the program very far. It has no legs for them. But evangelists, most definitely. And if the dialog is occurring here and at other blogs, shouldn't the Pepsi folks be here engaging with their audience. It seems like they will only discuss the campaign in the safe havens of the Pepsi cooler on Friend Feed.

Anonymous said...

It makes me think about the conversation that the marketing department had when they came up with the idea. I just wonder if they had a good idea that was spoilt in the execution. Imagine this...

Marketing exec: "Hey, how about if we delivered a package to our key bloggers every 20 minutes, bang on the dot. That would be way cool! There would be a surprise ring at the door and a package arrives, surprising them. When the second one arrives 20 minutes later, they'll be delighted, and the third will just cap it off."

What they didn't have was the voice of reason in the room too -

Voice of Reason: "Hmm, it's a great concept, but the execution will screw up. You see, the delivery company are not going to send a van 20 miles to deliver a package, then get him to drive away up the street and say nothing for 20 minutes. How about we give them a surprise every day for 3 days?"

I reckon it illustrates the danger of having a novel campaign that doesn't get the details right, then suffers as a consequence.

Anyway, I want to know what good stuff you got...



P.S. As a business just getting into social media myself, I can understand the conundrum. I guess a passion to participate in open conversation with your customers would be a good place to start - that's what I've been trying to do anyway, with mixed results!

Anonymous said...

Mack - Good discussion. We (@shannonpaul, @cdny and I) discussed this very topic yesterday while unveiling the contents on the packages. The overall consensus was that while Pepsi could have done some things differently to enhance the execution of the promotion, they are headed in the right direction. See the video of our conversation and package at Shannon's blog here:

I Can't Keep Up said...

Did anyone live blog or video blog their receipt of the packages? (And weren't you relieved when you opened them to not receive a "You-must-drink-this-Pepsi-in-20 seconds-before-it-self-destructs" message?

mdurwin said...

Sounds a bit Se7en to me.

Anonymous said...

Tons of wisdom my friend!

Anonymous said...

I think your point #2 is very relevant for both large and small companies. The thing is, if this is your first step into social media, how do you find those online evangelists in the first place?

Anonymous said...

You're missing the point: the company was Pepsi - a gigantic, worthless peddler of sugarwater. Actually, not *even* sugar... high frustose corn syrup. Who cares if their campaign is creative, or stupid? Its another dumb, unecessary product, from a souless global profit machine. "give them credit" for trying to break into the blogging world? Are you effing kidding me?

Mack Collier said...

Nala, my good friend Beth Harte found multiple sites devoted to Pepsi evangelists by doing a simple Google search:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mack!

Anonymous said...

It's so easy to become absorbed by the what and the how. It's good to pause sometimes and remember the...why ? Your line about focusing on the connections not the tools was timely.


freight philippines said...

Aw! I missed this event. Hope i read your blog earlier.

Daniel Roberts