How McDonald’s Turned Bad PR Into Good Strategy

By Communications, Corporate Strategy, Crisis Communications, Marketing, Social Media

You all may have read in the New York Times this week about how McDonald’s has been experiencing a strong resurgence. I won’t recap it all here, I’ll just provide the link so you can read it yourself.

The gist was that they listened. They absorbed all the negative criticism, most notably re-energized in their ill-fated #McDStories Twitter campaign, and they took stock. They then methodically went about answering these criticisms one by one. They updated their stores. They changed the menu to add more healthy choices. They reached out to mom bloggers and engaged them. They provided amenities like WiFi, couches, TV and high-end coffee. Then they told the world about it through social channels and massive advertising campaigns. As a result, McDonald’s revenue is up almost 13% year over year while their competitors–Burger King, Starbuck’s, Wendy’s–are losing market share.

It’s a simple lesson in how social media and marketing is supposed to work. When the public, your customer, speaks, LISTEN and ACT on what it tells you. It pays!

Advertising is Dead. Long Live Advertising?

By Communications, Corporate Strategy, Marketing, Social Media

I had a fascinating breakfast meeting this morning with a new friend and the central topic of conversation was the latest death of advertising as we know it. I know this is not a new topic for those of us in the digital space. This article from Wired Magazine is eight years old now, and it’s already largely outdated. Every new technological breakthrough claims to be the only way forward, and usually they are partially right.

Thanks, Social Media Today!

We are now at the time of total, ubiquitous mobility, social integration, and digital video. The notion of how people consume “advertising” is shifting rapidly as platforms change. But that’s only part of the story. What else is contributing to this amazing decompensation of the media industry and its ad-supported business model?

What we decided was a true shift in thinking this time was that the 20th-century notion of media-controlled messaging, the kind that pitches features and benefits in some forced-upon format (print ads, video-pre-roll, banner ads, sponsorships, etc.), was truly collapsing now. Advertisers are running away from print-based campaigns. Digital click-through rates are abysmal. Pre-roll and mobile ads don’t seem to be penetrating as quickly as the growth rates for their media are. Why is this? It can’t just be platforms–they change all the time. What else has changed that keeps advertisers from adjusting appropriately this time?

We decided that in the age of true social media adoption, where the tools to share with our peers are almost completely integrated with the platforms we use to communicate, advertisers are now seen as true interlopers, charlatans, and carnival barkers. What little trusted-source credibility they may have still had has now been almost completely eradicated. If a marketing department wrote it, we don’t trust it. If they put their logo next to it, it feels cheaper now, somehow more desperate. We are too busy asking each others’ advice and checking things out ourselves to spend any time listening to advertising marketing-speak, concocted value propositions, and false promises. We want proof. Validated, peer-reviewed proof. These advertisers have largely failed to see this coming. Campaigns are still oriented around brands talking and selling, not listening and engaging. We just don’t believe any of it anymore.

What we DO believe is real people, sharing real stories, real looks into businesses, and things that resonate. Do I feel better after having watched/read/listened to that story? Do I trust that person more after hearing their story? Have they SHOWN me why what they do is better? Do I see myself participating in what they have to offer? If the answer is yes, than the company just successfully advertised to me, without having to lie, “create a call to action,” “close the deal,” “improve their click-through rate,” or interrupt me.

The future belongs to the consumer. The mobile, socially-connected, trusting-but-opinionated, engaged, impressed, enchanted consumer.  Why can’t companies see this?

Good Community is a Timeless Social Media Value

By Communications, Corporate Strategy, Marketing, Social Media, Uncategorized

We were at a client meeting last week presenting social media strategy, and Marijean was kind enough to mention my past history as founder of a company called Rowdy was known as a “social network” and was focused on NASCAR racing. We built a platform to blog, share photos, video, comments, and observations on racing. Facebook wasn’t out yet, so we had to build it ourselves.

We produced award-winning podcasts, video, and content on our own to get the conversation started, but our primary goal was to create a place where real fans could get to know each other and get closer to their favorite sport and those involved in it. Rowdy grew very quickly primarily because we gave the fans something they could not get on their own–a singular voice that was about the real sport, not corporate spin. Our tagline was “Rowdy: Tell It Like It Is” and that’s exactly what we did. It was truly cutting edge and and was one the best examples of online community available, regardless of the topic.

One of the participants at our meeting remembered the site and was truly complimentary. I think it enhanced our reputation and credibility just a little and I was flattered to have had a positive impact on a race fan through that effort.

Cool, you say. So what? That stuff is old hat now! The takeaway is that even though that site was shut down earlier this year (after a two-year stint as a property of The Sporting News), folks still remember the quality of the content and the friendships they had there. Many fans are still offline friends–one couple who met there are actually getting married! Fans remember fondly meeting IRL at the races after friending one another at Rowdy. It was a true bonding experience because it was real people, useful and engaging content and a friendly, open forum for sharing and celebrating a passion.

So…are you creating that environment for your customers? Are you providing an open, engaging resource full of good content, friendly people, and social connective tissue? Are you using the tools currently available to maximize connection and interaction? If not, why not? Quit acting like this doesn’t matter. It does.

Your Product IS Your Marketing; 3 Simple Ways to Enchant Your Customers

By Corporate Strategy, Marketing

I just finished reading a really great post on Gen Y Marketing by Patrick Evans I found at a site called YPulse. You can read it here, but the gist is this: “brands need to be clear about their offerings and find ways to entice consumers. After all, having a focused message and providing value, happiness, and good products are what matter most to Millennials.”

Um, DUH? Shouldn’t that be the premise behind ALL products, ALL the time, no matter the audience? Why do companies continue to try and find shortcuts? Why do they lie, obfuscate, cheat, sue, steal and hide rather than just do the one or two things they can actually control that will make the biggest difference in their long-term success?

What are those, you ask?

Make something really, really good. Strive to enchant your customer by exceeding their expectations in every area. Reward their loyalty and their trust with transparency and commitment. That’s it. If you do those simple things, none of the other crap will be necessary, and your customers will reward your with loyalty you cannot imagine. Apple and H&M have nailed it, says Evans. They understand that value and exceeded expectations are what works in a world where distractions abound and loyalty can be fleeting.

No, it’s not always easy. It takes commitment, focus on details, and courage to retain integrity when so many of your competitors don’t have the guts to stick it out and cave to the cheap, easy way to market. But if you want to still be around when these Millenials finally get some cash, you’d better starting planning for excellence. Because that’s what they expect.