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20/11/2007

Overheard: Marketing Society delegate: "Tell us what brands should do!"

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Taking the roof off: The Marketing Society conference today was held at the stunning Royal Opera House.

Look at me blogging about a conference on the same day as attending it - almost like a proper blogger!

Anyhow, couple of things following the Marketing Society panel discussion, first off: here's Adriana's dissident marketer t-shirt: Brands are for cattle...

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Second, there were a couple of very good presentations before the panel session, the first a view from Nikesh Arora, VP European Operations of Google Europe on the evolution of marketing, the second an analysis of how the "networks era" is completely changing all aspects of business and marketing from Venkat Venkatraman from Boston University of Management.

Venkat's presentation resonated particularly well with me as it focused not just on marketing but the fundamental changes to business models that happen when you are operating in networks.

But a lot of what was said was probably not helpful to everyone. One delegate I overheard in the coffee break directly after the panel session I was on complained "Why does everyone keep pussyfooting around and not just tell us what brands should do?"

It's a fair request. But an incredibly complex one on the other hand. Here's a lit of things I think brands should be doing now. In no particular order (in fact some should be simultaneous):

  • Understand the idea and reality of what networks are. Start by reading Linked, or Six Degrees for starters. OK, it is hard maths, but you need to have some kind of idea of what people mean when they say network effect in order to figure out anything at all here.

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  • Find out where the networks are that are significant for your organisation or brands. Start with Google, move on out through Facebook, MySpace, Technorati, YouTube and see what's going on. Develop some benchmarking / evaluation approaches (yes, Spannerworks can help with this). Look for conversations and content about you, competitors, and topics related to you and your brands. 
  • Develop a listening habit. You need someone, be it agency or in-house social media whizz, to be telling you what's going on out there and what it means. Sorry, but knowing that there are 100 mentions of your brand a week on Technorati is just not enough information.
  • Start to show that you are listening. There are lots of ways of doing this, but you could start by adapting products / business decisions based on the real-world feedback you get from customers (for once and for all, was that Wispa thing for real or was the groundswell of Wispa fans engineered in any way?). Check out the stories of LEGO's innovation programme or Dell's communties for the best examples yet of listening actively and adapting your products as a result.  

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  • Try out some innovation in your communications. I'm committing to write up a case study from the brilliant digital team at E.ON in the next couple of days which shows how simply and brilliantly effective this can be). But regardless, have a think about how RSS, search, blogs, Twitter, YouTube might playa  role in making your next communications or marketing programme a little more interesting. Any of them got a role to play?

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  • Help your organisation to define context and principles. Look, you have to have a strategy and a point of view for all of this. Things are moving too fast for you to bee reacting to every new fad or web-craze du jour - you need to be clear about what the fundamentals are and how you are going to cope with constant, rapidly evolving complexity.
  • Start learning fast, or make sure you know someone who is. How do you do that? Read some blogs. Get Techcrunch UK, Buzzmachine, Marketing Strategy & Innovation and Guardian PDA for starters and you'll be mostly in the loop on wha's going on. If you have a long commute or spend a lot of time on the road get yourself subscribed to the For Immediate Release podcast (scroll down and press the iTunes button on the right handside if you already have an ipod) - there's more practical ideas and case studies per minute in that than most conferences - and it's free.

And that's all before you even ask "Should we have a blog?" or think about starting a sponsored group on Facebook.

I'm thinking there is probably a ready market for events where people share their experiments, success and failures if they're brave enough) in practical  workshop sessions. Event organisers take note!

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