Make your brand sing through Social Media

This is my first post in 607 days!! I will keep it brief.

Intel, Mcdonalds, Lotto 649 (for Ontario folks) – what do you think these brands also have in common? It is the 2-3 second soundbite that accompanies their media messages!!! Why haven’t more brands consciously invested in identifying themselves through soundbites?

Here is an idea I have had for about a year now,  and am compelled to give away for free . Twitter – are you listening?? This can be monetized. No, this is NOT spam.

Invent an app that plays a 2-3 second sound bite every time the @brand is mentioned, re-tweeted, etc. There are over 1 billion tweets every day (Mar 14, 2011)!!  Adapt it for FB, YouTube…..etc.

Are there other brands you know who get this kind of instant brand recall through sound bites?

Are you suffering from the Boiling Frog syndrome?

The fact Blockbuster may file for bankruptcy protection ( http://ow.ly/1nxZH) was the impetus I needed to finally write this post.

I was introduced to the concept of Boiling Frog syndrome at a conference I attended in early March 2k10. The premise is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. For more details on the Boiling Frog syndrome, refer to this wiki link : http://ow.ly/1ny8y

While I am using this as a metaphor only, there are some useful analogies that can be drawn.

With Moore’s law incessantly driving increases in computing power, the rapid evolution & adoption of a real time web enabled/ mobile ecosystem is galvanizing, and coalescing around the human networks afforded by Twitter, FB, LI, Youtube, Myspace, blogs, and Location sharing apps (like Gowalla, Foursquare, Yelp, etc). Augmented reality, and instances of nanobots stopping your own neurons from firing in the brain, and firing their own to transport you into virtual reality is also, only a matter of time :) Cloud computing will make things even more interesting, once they figure out privacy, security, and other legal issues that will surely multiply due to the impending “privacy by demand” scenario. The bottom-line : “time to react” has been exponentially reduced due to this accelerated rate of change.

Companies like Blockbuster, United Airlines,  and every other company/individual who is complacent enough to wait for others to make a move,  fail to look to the future, and is hesitant to lose apparent control of brand image, is essentially exhibiting the boiling frog syndrome, and will eventually die.

Survival in this constantly shifting, and evolving landscape will hinge on who is “most sensitive” to the environment, listens & learns, reacts quicker,  and more efficiently, while providing genuine value to consumers, customers, or employees. Failure is inevitable, it is how you react that will be the key discriminating variable.

For that, you will need processes, and policies in place that address Enterprise2.0, Web2.0, SMO, sCRM, Collaboration & other integration initiatives – the tools that let you design, and deliver the ultimate consumer experience. Somehow, it always boils (no pun intended) down to the  consumer experience.

That being said, all of the processes, and policies in the world will be for naught, unless the culture within companies become more inclusive, more participatory, more open, and more embracing of change.

I find it hard to believe that current systems can be adapted to address complex office dynamics, and cross-functional collaboration efforts, in this brave new world, without a change in mindset. That, definitely, is easier said than done.

What do you think? Which companies do you think are adapting to the new reality better? Would welcome your thoughts.

Cheers,

Social Media & Supply Chain Strategy

Disclosure : I am no logistics expert!

I was lucky enough to get a free pass to the Strategic Supply Chain Management Forum http://ow.ly/1dtXa organized by the Conference Board of Canada, in Toronto March 2-3, 2K10. Thanks to @JeffAshcroft, and the power of social media, I was able to gain some global perspectives, which I wanted to share with you. So, here is what I learned today, and these are my interpretations only, and do not represent those of the speakers :)

Top 2 Supply Chain priorities:

  • Secure Supply
  • Cost-effective Supply

Three Supply Chain risks:

  • Economy – tighter credit markets, frugal consumers
  • Social Unrest/Natural disasters – Iran/Nigeria (Oil), Chile (Copper)
  • Technology – ability to keep up with the rate of change to maintain competitive edge

Ken Bradley, Lytica Inc. (one of the two speakers on this plenary session. James W. Lawton from Dun & Bradstreet was the other) was also of the opinion Environmental and Green Movement did not constitute as threats to the Supply Chain per se (based on restrictions imposed on CEOs on allocating investments – they’d rather not put money in initiatives that dont have an immediate impact on shareholder value…). He thought they were risks that will be incurred through legislation (like Ross Alliance in Europe), and once in place, all companies would be on a level playing field in terms of complying, and not lose their competitive edge…so not really a Supply Chain risk.

And here is what I enjoyed the most…. he talked about the accelerated rate of change, and the simultaneous reduction in reaction times to address (problems), through a nifty little curve – essentially an inverted half parabola (for golfers, think of it as a high draw), with time on the x-axis, and the “rate of change” on the y-axis. As the curve gets steeper (which it will, led by technology & computing power increases), the time to react is reduced exponentially, and hence the need to be ever agile in reacting, or better still, having predictive algorithms in place, for preventing disruptions in the Supply Chain, need to become standard practices.

On the Supply Chain financing side, there seemed to be 4 main drivers (considerations) :

  • Reducing Cost, and Working Capital requirements
  • Accelerated Cash flows
  • Reducing Supply Chain risk AND
  • Technology (which makes it scalable, visible)

Fergus B. Groundwater from Export Development Canada, and Philippa Fitzsimon from BMO were the speakers on the financing portion.

In both these sessions, there was a common theme with what we see in Social Media. Immediacy & Collaboration – the imperative to respond in real-time, and also to use a more inclusive approach in designing outcomes that fill a particular need – in this case making  sure the assembly line does not shut down because of a custom built screw that your sole supplier could not deliver on time, or avoid a 7 day or $68 million delay due to shopping carts not being there for simultaneous multiple retail store openings.

From what I gathered, SM is by far non-existent in the realms of Strategic Supply Chain Management. It seems they do not have the TIME, which again is a common refrain among hesitant adopters of  SM. However, successful companies will be those that have processes, and policies in place, to harness the power of the diverse web population as part of their overall early warning signal system.

What do you think? Are there any other factors that may impact Supply Chain & Enterprise Risk Management?

Cheers,

Prince

Why Personal branding is your Social Media Hub!!

I stumbled upon an engaging post by Jay Baer @ http://ow.ly/10GdQ
on whether blogs should be at the epicenter of your SM strategy.  He argues yes, and makes some excellent points, but I have a slightly different view.

The real time web/mobile enabled, and various SM channels are exponential reach multipliers. It will be myopic to discard one over the other. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Corporate sites and microsites – all of them need to work in conjunction, but which is the most critical among them?

I say, Personal branding trumps everything else. Whether you are starting your blogging career,  or are an established one, want to create the next big enterprise,  or indeed lucky enough to work on a “national” brand, it all starts with Personal branding.  Engagement, and Dialogue on a one to one basis is at the bottom end of the Influence propagation funnel. It culminates in Trust, and it is easier to trust people than a corporation!!

While personal branding without wide reach is ineffective, so is having a personal brand without influence.  I think Brian Solis makes a great point when he says we are all “brand managers” in this new media.  http://ow.ly/10FgL

So, here is how I would use the following SM channels:

Twitter: For Personal brand building, Influence Propagation, and Driving traffic to blog or web site. Here are the ten commandments of Twitter :) http://johnantonios.com/

Blogs:  For Personal brand building, Influence Reinforcement, Driving traffic to corporate sites, micro sites

Facebook – Good for retention initiatives. It is a closed system, with little scope for exponential influence propagation.

Home page – The moment of truth for a brand. This is where you have brought the “party” to your place (to quote Trey Pennington, in this article http://ow.ly/10FRB). It is your time to bring out the fine china, and impress them.You (homepage) should be so captivating that your audience does not want to leave, or wants to come back every chance they get. In my mind, it is very important to include some “game” or “competition” elements to engage your audience even more, once they are there.  Easy navigation would be the other obvious element to have.

In summary, personal brand building is the foundation, and you have to use a combination of Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and Corporate or Brand site (if applicable) to reinforce and capitalize on the trust that your personal brand has built.

Agree? Disagree? Ambivalent? Would love to know what you think. If nothing else, just a thumbs up or a thumbs down would be appreciated.

Cheers,

How Social Media & Technology may help Obama

Okay, So I got this very intriguing tweet asking what I thought about the stock market’s third straight loss, and also its worst single-session percentage drop in more than two months?  http://bit.ly/4puRdt

Here is what I think…

It is murphys law, revisited. Most economists predicted a slower second half of 2K10 anyway, but not from Q1! Apart from the dogging domestic  healthcare reforms, foreclosures, unemployment, foreign policy issues like Iran, Yemen, Afghanistan/Pakistan, China is not making things any easier. Couple that with Haiti, you may think even fate is conspiring against Obama.  We cannot even turn to TW for some catharsis in this complicated world (hope Ricky and/or Rory Mc light it up right away!!).

In short, people are spooked at the prospect of another March 2009. Is it  conceivable? Think about this- while none of the indicators of economic recovery are positive, the stock market rebounded quite remarkably well in the last 9-10 months. Did the infusion/printing of a trillion dollars help. Of course, it did. But that lift may be wearing out its welcome. I am no economist, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was another government intervention. At that point, I would be rendered clueless, and scrambling to take every penny out of the stock market!!

This is where the true innovative spirit, technology, and the unbelievable cauldron of social media, may all come together, to Obama’s rescue. Based on  never seen before levels of collaboration, individuals, and small-medium businesses will come alive, create jobs, one at a time.  Once the security, privacy, and legalese  is out of the way, cloud computing, advances in mobile technology, and others, that I am not smart enough to comprehend, will enable people to be more connected, and more empowered. There will be safety in numbers for the little guys, as folks from almost every walk of life, will be on their team.

Obama’s appeal as a people person that inspired millions, may be his best hope. But, if the recent trends in the VC industry indicate, it may be an even more uphill climb. http://bit.ly/6Cm0zd

What do you think?
Cheers,

Darwinism & Social Media

I was reading an interesting article (http://bit.ly/66HdNo) on how to deal with the information overload that the new era of real time connectivity has wrought upon us. It is not only the volume of the info, but also the velocity with which information is being shared, that makes it seem so unmanageable. So, how do we sort through this clutter, and make sure we rank high on the “influence” scale in the “statusphere”. How can we achieve a high WOM (word of mouse)??

Enter Darwin, and the survival of the fittest –  only the most relevant, only the truly useful information will survive, in fact, excel. The owner of that information will rank high on the “influence” scale, and have the best shot at solving problems, addressing needs, and eventually, monetizing their wares.

Selective retention and absorption also explains how people process information, separate the wheat from the chaff, and ultimately impact influence levels.  We have all been conditioned, very early, to use the least amount of energy for a given task. So, we filter out information we think we don’t need. Hence, in order to be relevant,  you have to disseminate information that is consistent with your overall strategy and objectives, for being in this delightfully weird, wired and empowered world of today.

Finally, TIME. It takes time to  to fully realize the ROI of your efforts with social or civic or dynamic media, whatever you want to call it.  You need to find conversations of relevance, then listen, participate, contribute meaningfully, develop and nurture relationships, and if you have played your cards right, you would be TRUSTED, and  no doubt will generate significant ROI. Remember, it typically starts out with a one to one dialogue. A real human level connection. There is no substitute or shortcut to get you past that stage.

What do you think? Are there any other correlations you can point to?

Join the conversation. Wont you?

Cheers,

3 Mega trends in CPG for 2K10

The economic upheaval that started in late 2008, and which continued to deteriorate at a frenetic pace till the 3rd quarter of 2009,  spared no one. Consumers, Manufacturers, Retailers, all have had to come to grips with the current reality.

When you tack on technology advancements that enabled, and empowered ANYBODY (who cared) to use them, you are faced with the prospect of overwhelming change, one that is seemingly unmanageable, one that can re-shape your business, and you. Never before have we seen such mind boggling rates, and volumes of information sharing, and knowledge transfer Enter twitter, linkedin, facebook, and a million other apps to further enable and monetize these human network concepts (Foursquare, Gowalla come to mind). This is the age when network connectivity will finally evolve into “human connectivity” with far reaching business implications.

Here are some thoughts that I collated from the comments that were posted on the CPG Connects Super Group on LinkedIn. I have layered in my understanding on top. Feel free to post your comments below.

1. Consumer frugality, and price sensitivity continues to drive the trend towards channel fragmentation or cross-channel cherry picking, “simpler” and “fresh” food choices, cooking from scratch, smaller basket sizes, but more frequent trips.

Look for Retailers to:

a. Go “Local” with produce, and for innovative “local” farming to spring up in places you would least expect (urban areas, and downtown rooftops etc.)

b. Expand Private Label offerings to more categories, but they will need to be consistent with their branding messages, across the categories.

c.Improve shopper experience/loyalty programs in-store (innovative sampling, demos, featured aisles, optimized store layout based on adjacency,  interactive shelf talkers and other digital means).

d.Demand better prices, and leadership position from manufacturers, in order to stay listed.

Look for manufacturers to:

a. Increasingly explore e-commerce, like P&G did with theessentials.com, last week. Will be interesting to see how the retailers react.

b. Increase use of digital coupons (ConAgra is doing it), and increase reliance on Bonus/Special packs (better margin control)

b.Work on co-branding strategies with Private Label, especially if it is not the lead brand in category.

c.Focus on Shopper marketing, and location based intelligence to micro target shoppers, and increasingly use Social Media, and advances in mobile technology, & web analytics, to reach their target audience.

2. Going Green will continue to become mainstream, including Green Living, as reducing  carbon footprints become more of an accepted personal responsibility.

The group seemed to agree that this will impact CPG, most in terms of packaging, leading to reduced packaging, smaller packs, and more visually appealing packs. Some retailers like WalMart may mandate packaging requirements, as a part of societal marketing, and sustainability requirements.

3.Health & Safety Concerns, including a rapidly aging population will drive growth in anti-aging, all natural, gluten free, and personal fitness products.

I will update this post with the latest trends, as the year progresses. If there are any other mega trends that will impact the CPG industry in 2K10, please feel free to share them with all of us.

Here are few related links on trends.  Enjoy!

Cheers,

5 Ways Foursquare is Changing the World                                                                      http://ow.ly/16lW0p

6.7 Billion mobile subscribers by 2014                                                                             http://bit.ly/7VSCvs