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Social creativity

Messaging in the stream. Not a new Kenny Rogers / Dolly Parton collaboration, rather the aspiration of marketers wishing to bathe in the warmth of earned media. The idea goes like this. The brand creates a social home that people can join, like or check in to and as a consequence allow the brand to join their news feed and the streams of those they know. This feels good. “N” people take an action and “N x friends of N” are potentially exposed to the resultant flow of comments or messages. This makes for a fine CPM calculation and thus one rather “media like” basis for valuing a friend or a follower.

Am I alone in finding this a little unsatisfying? It pays to spend a little while in brand sponsored social environments, before gifting your client virtual Kool Aid, simply to follow the type and volume of exchanges that take place. The sad fact is that most of it is somewhere between lame and prosaic and its disemmination is unlikely to be of any real value.

The wise Miles Young CEO of Ogilvy has taken to quoting Abraham Lincoln on the subject of social media. Lincoln posited that “character is like a tree, reputation is like its shadow”. This is a useful reference and pushes one towards the necessary question “what does your tree look like?”.

If you are Pepsi (Refresh Everything) or American Express (Members Project) you have a pretty good answer to the tree question. You have created participation with purpose. The same is not true for everyone and suggests that more time and energy needs to be devoted to developing a real social strategy in which participation in the stream creates value for the participant and the interlocking streams of their social graph.

This brings us to the question of “what is social creativity?” put simply it’s  creativity that people want to keep and share. It does not have to be social as in socially responsible but that’s as good a space to start as any. It can also be socially valuable; inside information that it’s worth being on the inside of (Bergdorf Goodman for example) or service / experience enhancing (Best Buy, Dell, Jet Blue, Macy’s, Starbucks). All these cases are ones where the value exchange between the brand and its friends are clear.

The attraction of these strategies is also that they support long term marketing effect objectives in a channel that has been dominated by short term strategies and the pursuit of the last click. The good thing about trees is that they live long lives and cast long shadows.

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Filed under The world we work in, Uncategorized

‘Not bad’ is the new great

US retail sales announced last week read like a field guide to the apocalypse from upscale merchants like Nieman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. There was an almost straight line correlation between average price point and the decline in sales with only WalMart (the best value of all) showing a same store sales increase. Macy’s (our client) fell 6.6% which was like tripping on a step in comparison with their fancier competitors who were hurled of a cliff. In this case ‘not bad’ was indeed the new great.

An odder stat for the week was that new car sales in Canada were flat October over October while in the US, more predictably, they resembled the final frame of Thelma and Louise. Coincidentally October also saw gas prices 40% of their high earlier in the year.

Two stories emerge from this. Firstly Americans are in lock down and looking to avoid almost any commitment especially one that involves a continuing liability. Second, Canadians are incredibly fortunate that their banks did not engage in the serial misadventures of their counterparts to the south and as a result see business pretty much as usual. Up there at least it may not be great but it’s not bad.

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Filed under Things worth thinking about