“If It’s Being Discussed, It’s Marketing” & Case Studies from ad:tech

Josh Chambers, Former Viget

Article Category: #Strategy

Posted on

Ryan and I recently returned from ad:tech Chicago, and I thought I'd add my two cents to Ryan's summation. As a warning, this post has two parts which, although related, could be completely separate posts. Accordingly, I'll save you the pain of attempting to create a lame analogy in an effort to connect the two topics and just split it up.

Part 1) Clay Shirky Was Awesome.

Part 2) Case Studies.

Part 1.

Clay Shirky is the author of the book "Here Comes Everyone" and was the keynote at ad:tech Chicago. It was Clay's comment that inspired the title for this blog post: "If it's a conversation in the market, it's marketing -- regardless of whether or not there are any professionals involved."

I've been chewing on that for awhile. Think about it, regardless of who built it or who is talking; if they're talking about a product or service, it's marketing. Like when I stop Andy in the hallway and ask him about his iPhone, or when Ryan get's hosed by United Airlines (twice). This has implications for just about everyone in the online space. If you build a poor product, that means poor marketing. If you create a site with lousy user experience, that's lousy marketing. If you shoot a lame video, that's lame marketing. I'm not suggesting everything comes back to marketing; but I am suggesting that everyone has a part to play in ensuring those "conversations" Shirky is referring to are indeed "good" for your product or service--and in turn "good" marketing.

Part 2. Some of these case studies are directly relevant to the above quote, some are more indirectly related. However, they're all worth checking out.

  1. Heinz Ketchup - Top This TV on YouTube: Heinz built a microsite called Top This TV and corresponding Top This TV YouTube channel to allow ketchup lovers to shoot the next Heinz Ketchup video commercial. It turned out to be quite the success receiving nealry 4,000 submissions (and roughly 1.2 million views) , and some pretty cool videos to boot. Heinz opened up the conversation and built a tool that allowed people to interact with, and share, a product they love. One might argue this was selfish marketing even though it does have prizes for the winner; however, people jumped right on board and were more than willing to promote a product they love. If they're already talking about it (and they are, check out how many people search for ketchup), why not give them a better outlet to do so? It was so successful, they're doing it again.
  2. Scrabulous vs. Hasbro:  We all know this disaster. However, what you might not know is that Hasbro responded to the angry fans with a letter which opened with, "We understand your love for the Hasbro brand." Seriously? Missing the point. It's not a love for the brand, it's a love for the product. Hasbro had to do something about their intellectual property--we get it. But, rather than leveraging the overwhelming love for the product, they chose to belittle the importance of "unprofessional" conversations by ignoring their significance and pretending fans had no part to play in their marketing.
  3.  HSBC vs. College Students: HSBC used to offer free checking to college students. Suddenly, one summer vacation they decided to charge college students without really telling them. Then Facebook arrived on the scene. Soon enough an entire group had organized on Facebook andHSBC was faced with an overwhelming unity of organized people who were talking about HSBC in a very poor light. As a result of this unified conversation, HSBC decided it might be a good idea to reverse their decision and re-institute free checking.
  4. Johnson & Jonson: Check out their blog, J&J BTW. If you notice the lack of comments, that's because this is their comment policy: "Since this blog is about Johnson & Johnson, comments that don’t directly relate to the Company or to topics covered on this blog won’t be posted.... We generally won’t post comments about products that are sold by the Johnson & Johnson operating companies." Translation: Comments aren't allowed. However, did you know that J&J owns babycenter.com (they bought it)? A robust, thriving social community for parents with infants and young children. As Shirky asked, "How could they get it so wrong, and so right at the same time?"
  5. Dollhouse and Dollverse: Why is it that so manyy cult followed TV shows get cancelled? Family Guy...Arrested Development...Well, the creators of Dollverse.com decided to pre-empt the cancelling of FOX's Dollhouse by creating an online community all about the show, and all about how much they don't want it to be cancelled. Talk about some great marketing for the show! The interesting thing is, these people want to market the show. They care about it's well being because they like watching it. They want to talk about it.

I hope these case studies are useuful in inspiring you into new ideas, and new ways to engender "good" marketing. And, I hope we can begin to see all conversations as marketing, not for the sake of "infecting" those conversations; but for an improved understanding of how to create products and services that are truly valuable, and truly help people.

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