Is it time for “un-marketing”? Brand Manage Camp 1

I'm travelling back from Brand Manage Camp 2013 in Las Vegas, which has been a brilliant couple of days; definitely a cut above other marketing conferences I've attended. I have about three week's worth of blog posts to write on what I learnt, starting with this first one on "Un-marketing", by Scott Stratten.

Scott kicked off the whole gig, and he gave me my first taste of US-style keynote speakers: high octane, high energy and rather loud and shouty. His basic premise had a lot in common with the things I've been writing on here for the last few years, since the first post seven years ago: the need to cut through the bull**** of branding and have more substance; more product sausage, and less emotional sizzle. His focus, as with the majority of speakers, was of course on, you guessed it, social media.

Here are a few highlights.

1. No-one cares about your logo

Scott spent quite a while venting his anger at the time wasted by marketing people on logo re-designs. That of course got me nodding vigorously, as its something I've written about a lot, including Starbucks here and Yahoo! here.

However, while I agree that time shouldn't be wasted tweaking and twiddling logos, I don't agree that they are unimportant. A logo is an important and valuable brand asset, that can help create distinctive memory structure that helps a brand stand out, get noticed and get bought. Just don't spend millions of dollars tweaking it and then over-selling the change.

2. Remarkable service will get talked about

Scott used a nice example of great service from Ritz Carlton that had been amplified in social media.

Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 05.07.51The story was about a kid who left behind his much loved cuddly toy at a Ritz Carlton. On getting home and discovering that the Joshie the toy giraffe was missing, the dad calmed down his distraught son by saying that Joshie had stayed on vacation. Dad then called the Ritz Carlton, confirmed that the toy had been found in the laundry, and shared with them the white lie he had told his son. The hotel sent back the toy, but the cool bit is that they also sent photos of Joshie on his holidays (by the pool, getting a massage). They even created an employee ID card for Joshie. 

The dad did of course share his experience on social media. What Scott didn't say is that this wasn't your typical tell-your-friends-on-facebook post. The dad in questions is a financial services advisor who uses YouTube and the like to plug his business. The story was in fact in a branding case study in the Huffington Post, here, with the YouTube video here.

I love the great service, and I'm sure anyone who experienced it would have talked about it. However, I do think the social media exposure was helped by: i) the fact the dad was using social media to plug his business to an established audience, ii) it got picked up by the media. The cynical side of me wonders if in fact he set up the whole thing to create a nice case study!

3. Real-time response

In another rant, Scott made a valid point about the need for service businesses to have a rapid response team answering complaints on Twitter. As I posted on here, one of Twitter's main uses is a new-age consumer helpline (It still makes me laugh that most marketers were never interested in the telephone help line, nor bothered to read consumer letters, but now get very excited about Twitter.)

Scott got hustled and bustled by Delta Airlines staff while going through security at the airport, and was talked to rudely when he complained. Being a prolific Twitter user, Scott of course tweeted his anger. What was impressive was that within a few minutes, and before getting on the plane, Delta had apologised.  

Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 15.43.44
The caveat here is that most people who bother to tweet about this sort of experience have a handful of Twitter followers, not the 100,000+ that Scott has, so the impact is less. Also, I wonder if Delta would be quite as fast to respond if you had 100 followers, not 100,000.

In conclusion, Scott's and I share a view that branding needs more substance. And the need for rapid response for service businesses is a good point. However, in my view he over-plays the role of social media, especially given that 90%+ of word-of-mouth is offline, not online. More on that in later posts…