An answer to Jonas Söderström and 15 things to think of when getting into conversational brand marketing.

Blogger and planner Jonas Söderström a nice guy who’s running his own company – Planning STHLM posted a question the other day. I started to write an answer to Jonas in his commentators field but then felt I needed to elaborate a little bit more. On top of that I think my thoughts might be of value for you guys as well. Hopefully it’s caught up in Jonas trackbacks.

Jonas post is in Swedish but I’ve translated his main question (the best I can):

“What I don’t get is what all these companies and marketing directors should speak about. Could it be that their non differentiated products suddenly becomes interesting because their being broadcasted in a new medium? Or do the consumers fall in love with their products due to the fact that the companies open up a conversation with them and therefor run straight to the shops and buy everything they can get their hands on? Or is conversation all about listening to consumers in order to produce better stuff?”

Conversation as defined by wikipedia: A conversation is communication by two, three, or more people, or by one’s self. A conversations is the ideal form of communication in some respects, since they allow people with different views on a topic to learn from each other. A speech, on the other hand, is an oral presentation by one person directed at a group.

Herein lies the answer.

“since they allow people with different views on a topic to learn from each other”

Most companies seems to think that social media enables yet another speech platform for them when in fact a conversation is about sharing different point of views, ideas, thoughts, praise and critique. Modern companies have understood this. They’re building their brands on conversation, becoming a part of the community, listening, learning, adapting and showing your brand fans that you listen to their thoughts.

Jonas also talks about blogs and microblogs and how companies talks about establishing these platforms to talk about their products. My personal opinion is that corporate blogs are good but first and foremost corporate sites should be the optimum platform for product showcasing and then the actual sharing should consist of mashing up the conversation from other platforms than your own. Just like in real life you should get into the hot clubs, cool events and beautiful places instead of trying to bring everything to your home turf.

So, to sum up. What should companies and marketing directions talk about? They should listen, learn and give answers. Talking is secondary – at least on other platforms than their own.

15 things to think of when getting into conversational brand marketing. (in no specific order)

  1. Listen, learn and adapt
  2. Involve your target group in your product development (Dell Ideastorm)
  3. Create dashboards to keep track of the entire social conversation and get involved in conversation that are relative to your brand
  4. Share competence not about your brand & products but how you actually develop and market your product
  5. Create at least one open presence online where you mashup all conversations you’ve been involved in online
  6. Let people from every department in the company get involved in conversations but make sure you establish a code of conduct first
  7. Establish a global conversation even if your company only sells product locally. If a conversation might be relevant in Portugal and you’re selling products in Sweden, get in there and talk.
  8. Steer media budget away from paid media to conversations. It’s free to talk but someone has to be good at it
  9. Establish your company early in every new social tool. Social profile napping is not that common but tomorrow you can be sure someone has stolen your brand nick if you’re not fast enough.
  10. Implement conversational tools in your own campaigns where possible (CNN & Facebook)
  11. Always link to blogs and microbloggers when referring to their input. It’s what builds the conversation.
  12. Don’t get caught in longer negative discussions. When you’re at a stand still, offer a phone call, personal meeting or at least an email.
  13. Broadcast everything you do. Video, photography, blogs and microblogs. When Obama was waiting for the final results in the Presidential election he published personal photos on Flickr. These gave a fantastic resonation all over the web due to their openness and honesty.
  14. It’s never to late to get started. Many companies seems to think that they’ve missed the train, but this train will go on for ever so come aboard and try what fits your company the best.
  15. Start now. Before the day is over. Start a profile on YouTube, Ustream, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, Bambuser and GetSatisfaction. Launch and host your own WordPress blog. Set up an RSS based dashboard based on Twingly, Icerocket and Social Mention and track the 10 most common words associated with your brand. Then continue with one for each and every product you host.

So, what are you waiting for?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Curiosity. My greatest asset. Born 1971 and Raised in the suburbs of style city Stockholm, creativity was always a part of growing up. With a background as a former snowboard professional (with among others Greger Hagelin from WE and Per Holknekt from Odd Molly as sponsors) and one of the few in the world who nailed a 1440° spin, I started my career on the buyer side. Marketing exclusive golf brands such as Mizuno, King Cobra and Goldwin gave me insight into the demands of advertisers and consumers but foremost the complexity behind how products actually make it into the stores. Always full of ideas, I felt I needed to move on to the creative side of the business. Internet, on the rise in Sweden drew me into the digital revolution already in 1994. In 1998 however I joined Framfab, one of the late 90’s fast-moving companies. As a concept developer and key account manager I parted in creating award winning projects for clients like Vattenfall , Bredbandsbolaget, Nike Europe and Volvo Cars. I also held a position within Framfab Innovation. The incubator of new ideas within Framfab. After Framfab had grown in just two years from 130 employees to 3400, I felt I needed to move to a smaller organization. Abel & Baker - in 2001 the worlds most awarded digital advertising company attracted me. At A&B I tool part in winning the global account for adidas, but I also worked with MTV, Nokia, Toyota, Årets Kock, ICA and the Red Cross. In 2002 I left Abel & Baker to found something of my own - Foreign. Foreign - an ideas creator with focus on the communication of tomorrow - based in Stockholm, Sweden. Foreign quickly grew to 27 employees and was awarded in the Cannes Lions, D&AD, New York Festivals, London International Advertising Awards, Epica, Clio, Cresta and other award shows every year since start up. Foreign launched both digital and integrated global campaigns for BMW Motorrad, MTV, H&M, IKEA, Omega, Beckers, Com Hem, Intersport, Kosta Boda, adidas International and many more. In September 2008 I took the decision to close Foreign down after almost 7 years. I’m now consulting within the same business on my own. Apart from Foreign I’ve also founded WhiskyGrotto.com and Co-Founded PremierGoals.com. Thru the years, leadership and success has been important, but enjoying life, loyalty and sincerity is what drives me further. I consider my part in motivating adidas to let fairly small Foreign handle adidas global digital World Cup campaigns my proudest moment in business. The birth of my two daughters Ebba & Linn is my proudest moment in life.

  • Johan Hagelin

    Well said! Is there a specific ordering in the 15 things, or are they just as-is?

  • Johan Hagelin

    Well said! Is there a specific ordering in the 15 things, or are they just as-is?

  • http://www.ronnestam.com/ ronnestam

    Nope, no specific order expect for the nr 15 motivational one. So I changed the intro to the bullets based on your feedback :)

  • http://www.ronnestam.com ronnestam

    Nope, no specific order expect for the nr 15 motivational one. So I changed the intro to the bullets based on your feedback :)

  • http://www.minegoestoeleven.com/ Per Robert Öhlin

    Sympathize. Good advice. Distinctly written. Perfect.

  • http://www.minegoestoeleven.com Per Robert Öhlin

    Sympathize. Good advice. Distinctly written. Perfect.

  • http://www.planning.se/ Jonas

    Over all, I agree with you, Johan.

    And brands are co-authored á la Holt (http://tinyurl.com/dogge-holt), absolutely. The producer is just on of several authors and the other authors are consumers, media and so on. The meaning of brands is developed and negotiated in conversations. No doubt.

    But the producer still wants to control, at least their opinion about the meaning of the brand. And that’s why many producers wont let their employees be their “spokespersons” in social media. They have to many bad defined and poorly implemented brands and therefore to few employees living the brand. They don’t need a bunch of employees messing around with the brand; they leave that job to the consumers the other authors. And they do that gig pretty well.

    But the producer can and should use social media to listen, learn and adapt, to get involved in the consumers lives and to involve them in NPD and other stuff. Doing that is a qualified job and they need special trained people to make it happen.

    Finally, I think it’s important to remember that it all starts with a well defined and implemented brand, or actually, its starts off with some excellent research (off- and on-line), then comes the brand. That kind of solid platform makes the producers free to all kind of stuff, using social media and/or other media.

  • http://www.planning.se Jonas

    Over all, I agree with you, Johan.

    And brands are co-authored á la Holt (http://tinyurl.com/dogge-holt), absolutely. The producer is just on of several authors and the other authors are consumers, media and so on. The meaning of brands is developed and negotiated in conversations. No doubt.

    But the producer still wants to control, at least their opinion about the meaning of the brand. And that’s why many producers wont let their employees be their “spokespersons” in social media. They have to many bad defined and poorly implemented brands and therefore to few employees living the brand. They don’t need a bunch of employees messing around with the brand; they leave that job to the consumers the other authors. And they do that gig pretty well.

    But the producer can and should use social media to listen, learn and adapt, to get involved in the consumers lives and to involve them in NPD and other stuff. Doing that is a qualified job and they need special trained people to make it happen.

    Finally, I think it’s important to remember that it all starts with a well defined and implemented brand, or actually, its starts off with some excellent research (off- and on-line), then comes the brand. That kind of solid platform makes the producers free to all kind of stuff, using social media and/or other media.

  • Janne

    It´s interesting to follow your thoughts and you sure have valid points both of you (I actually think you generally agree on most things when you’re not trying to create some tension in order to keep things interesting).
    As a boring grumpy old man (at 37) I do think Jonas has a point (that I was quite surprised to read on his blog yesterday) isn’t it so that the 15 tips are valid mainly for companies that are of some general interest. If you are a company producing some very boring product in a low-price segment don´t you want the world to just pass you by, and don´t dig to deep into your product- and brandstory (that might not be a 100% suited for insight). Isn’t it better that your consumers just pick your tins of tomatoes or whatever it might be of the shelf out of habit/price/brandstrength/shelfspace or whatever reason it might be? Do they really need (or want) to have a conversation about it (if your particular tinned tomatoes are not some high fashion organically grown ones of course). (I guess you could invite people to write recipes and such but dose it actually lead any where?)
    How big percentage of company’s actually has “brand fans” (or a realistic shot of getting any)(even though they still might be perfectly healthy and productive?) Do all companies have to “strive for excellence? (Even if the ones that do are more fun to do strategies and planning for…)

  • Janne

    It´s interesting to follow your thoughts and you sure have valid points both of you (I actually think you generally agree on most things when you’re not trying to create some tension in order to keep things interesting).
    As a boring grumpy old man (at 37) I do think Jonas has a point (that I was quite surprised to read on his blog yesterday) isn’t it so that the 15 tips are valid mainly for companies that are of some general interest. If you are a company producing some very boring product in a low-price segment don´t you want the world to just pass you by, and don´t dig to deep into your product- and brandstory (that might not be a 100% suited for insight). Isn’t it better that your consumers just pick your tins of tomatoes or whatever it might be of the shelf out of habit/price/brandstrength/shelfspace or whatever reason it might be? Do they really need (or want) to have a conversation about it (if your particular tinned tomatoes are not some high fashion organically grown ones of course). (I guess you could invite people to write recipes and such but dose it actually lead any where?)
    How big percentage of company’s actually has “brand fans” (or a realistic shot of getting any)(even though they still might be perfectly healthy and productive?) Do all companies have to “strive for excellence? (Even if the ones that do are more fun to do strategies and planning for…)

  • http://www.ronnestam.com/ ronnestam

    @Janne – of course a brand like that hasn’t got the same purpose but they still need a social presence. Not in order to talk actively about their tins of tomatoes but instead listening. Once something goes wrong, someone raises hell around your product (even if it’s a boring product) they you should be aware of what’s going on and how to interact with the audience – and if you haven’t gotten yourselves used to these media in advance you might not stand the chance one you need to be there. On top of this I actually think social media is what can push boring products away from being boring to interesting.

    My personal opinion is that all companies should absolutely strive for excellence in everything they do but of course in line with their positioning.

    Who knows, suddenly the Naked Chef picks up that can and cooks a world famous tomato soup on it ;)

  • http://www.ronnestam.com ronnestam

    @Janne – of course a brand like that hasn’t got the same purpose but they still need a social presence. Not in order to talk actively about their tins of tomatoes but instead listening. Once something goes wrong, someone raises hell around your product (even if it’s a boring product) they you should be aware of what’s going on and how to interact with the audience – and if you haven’t gotten yourselves used to these media in advance you might not stand the chance one you need to be there. On top of this I actually think social media is what can push boring products away from being boring to interesting.

    My personal opinion is that all companies should absolutely strive for excellence in everything they do but of course in line with their positioning.

    Who knows, suddenly the Naked Chef picks up that can and cooks a world famous tomato soup on it ;)

  • Janne

    Obviously I absolutely agree that you need to keep track of what is happening in you line of business, with your brand and your competitors and the web is an excellent way of doing that (even if it actually is not the sole way that you should relay on for tracking opinions (as ten overactive people can both raise a lot of hell and a lot of praise which can give you an impression that might be quit far from your average customers opinion –compare that to people that actively call a company’s switchboard, they are rarely the average costumer but ten calls can give you the impression that “everybody” loves you, or more likely hates you..).
    But I´m not completely convicted that you’re average boring company has that many followers to have a conversation with (as you point out there´s got to be someone listening and responding for it to be a conversation)
    I do think the question of “striving for excellence” is interesting though, since almost all strategy and planning blogs has that as an assumption (and as I said before they do make better examples). But I would think that most companies, sadly, rather do things as close to “poorly” or at least “cheep” as they can get away with.

  • Janne

    Obviously I absolutely agree that you need to keep track of what is happening in you line of business, with your brand and your competitors and the web is an excellent way of doing that (even if it actually is not the sole way that you should relay on for tracking opinions (as ten overactive people can both raise a lot of hell and a lot of praise which can give you an impression that might be quit far from your average customers opinion –compare that to people that actively call a company’s switchboard, they are rarely the average costumer but ten calls can give you the impression that “everybody” loves you, or more likely hates you..).
    But I´m not completely convicted that you’re average boring company has that many followers to have a conversation with (as you point out there´s got to be someone listening and responding for it to be a conversation)
    I do think the question of “striving for excellence” is interesting though, since almost all strategy and planning blogs has that as an assumption (and as I said before they do make better examples). But I would think that most companies, sadly, rather do things as close to “poorly” or at least “cheep” as they can get away with.

  • http://www.ronnestam.com/ ronnestam

    Listen learn and adapt (whatever the adapt might be) then!

    If you haven’t ‘read’ it I can warmly recommend downloading Seth Godins Tribes that I wrote about a couple of post below this one. He’s got some great pints in terms of striving for excellence sort of.

    Thanks Janne for great points and eyeopeners!

  • http://www.ronnestam.com ronnestam

    Listen learn and adapt (whatever the adapt might be) then!

    If you haven’t ‘read’ it I can warmly recommend downloading Seth Godins Tribes that I wrote about a couple of post below this one. He’s got some great pints in terms of striving for excellence sort of.

    Thanks Janne for great points and eyeopeners!

  • Janne

    I´m sorry for bitching…
    I will check you Tribe tip.

  • Janne

    I´m sorry for bitching…
    I will check you Tribe tip.