Category Archives: Social Media

Give Up Brand Control?

Major League Soccer logoEver feel like your business is spinning out of control? Too busy, not busy enough, competition pressures, government red tape, taxes, employee issues, the list can go on and on. We love the concept of control because it gives us predictability, something we can count on, something to calm our fears. Yet control can be elusive.

Take, for example, your brand. We marketers refer frequently to the importance of trying to control your brand. Obviously, social media has made this effort much more difficult but consider something as simple as your identity (including the logo). We generally recommend that in your strategic marketing plan, you include a style book which dictates exactly how your logo will be portrayed in various kinds of media. The style book governs how and where your logo can appear and specifies the exact color or colors (generally no more than two) that are allowed. It is how you control that branding element. Consider brands like A.T.&T., Coca-Cola, Microsoft, and UPS. No one is allowed to change the presentation of these logos or their colors. Yet…maybe that has all changed.

Major League Soccer (MLS) announced a new identity and branding with the commencement of its 2015 season this spring. Not to be outdone by other sports like Major League Baseball, the NCAA basketball tournament, or the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the launch of the new campaign came replete with a shiny new logo. The logo comprises a shield outlined with blue, a blue diagonal line extending outside the shield, and the top left half with three stars, the letters MLS and seated in a field of red. Whether you like this logo or not is not what is curious. What blows the mind this marketer is that the MLS has allowed each one of the teams to alter the colors of the logo to match their respective uniforms! This even extends to the goalkeepers’ uniforms that are even different colors than the team colors!

Unheard of, I say. Can you imagine the NFL doing this? What about the NBA or Major League Baseball? These organizations don’t care what color your uniforms are, their logo must be presented exactly the same, even if that color clashes with your team colors.

I would say this is revolutionary, especially for a brand as young as the MLS.

So, is giving up control of your brand and logo the wrong thing to do? I would imagine that the MLS has not given up complete control, but stipulates the options each team has in using the league logo. It will be an interesting study to see how this turns out. No one can deny that the MLS is successful, having two new expansion teams this year and showing every sign of drawing larger and larger viewership and fan base.

Yet, it will be interesting to see if this is a trend that will extend to other industries, associations and non-profits.

I would love to know your thoughts.

Is Facebook Too Big To Fail?

Oh that’s just not possible you say. Facebook fail, no way. Just let your imagination go for a minute.

I don’t think any of us could have imagined the possibility of General Motors failing, or AIG, or Citigroup for that matter, all of whom benefited through the combination of The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 and the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). In all of these cases, it was deemed appropriate to step in with financial help because these companies were “too big to fail.” The great economic domino effect of their failures would have lead to catastrophic consequences.

Let’s face facts, humans make mistakes, and so do CEO’s. It’s not beyond the realm of “possible” to imagine a world without Facebook, where enough mistakes, bad investments, scandals, questionable IPO’s et cetera, cause this social institution to fail. Do you suppose the government would step in and help?

I don’t want you to get confused here, I’m not trying to be political as I’m really going in another direction which I hope to reveal shortly.

Millions of people spend hours and hours documenting, sharing, responding, ranting, posting, joking, pontificating, preaching, questioning, bragging and lecturing on Facebook. The number of personal images and videos put there is staggering. Some would say that this is a giant waste of time. Regardless, when you think about the fact that whole lives are being stored on FB’s massive server farms and that this may be the only place where those lives are documented, you can begin to wonder – If that’s true, a Facebook failure could in fact cause catastrophic consequences for some. Unless of course, they have a backup plan.

I was reading recently in the “AARP Bulletin” (yes, I am old enough to read this) about the need for Baby Boomers to embrace social media, especially if they are interested in looking for a job. They talk about a “digital footprint” which I thought was a great term, because it encompasses several social media properties, including your own personal website. The article suggests that this website have your name as the URL, like And let’s face it, if you’re not out there socially, you look out of touch.

What does your financial advisor always suggest when investing your money, diversify? By doing so, you spread risk across multiple investment strategies and therefore reduce your exposure to the failure of one. I think the same applies to how you document your life experiences on the web.

There are many ways to memorialize the important events in your life and it doesn’t have to be all in one place, i.e. Facebook. Social media sites exist that cater to all kinds of interests and life styles. If your interested in a list, has an exhaustive list and even describes what they are about. Check it out even though there are some obvious omissions like Reddit, Stumble Upon, Vimeo and YouTube to name a few.

If the leadership of Facebook pulls off something really stupid and the company fails, and the government chooses not to “bail out” the social behemoth, by having your life documented across multiple online properties, you can reduce the risk that your life’s experiences could vanish with the unplugging of a server. Or, you could gamble that Facebook really is too big to fail.

I’d love to know your thoughts.


Live by the Data or Die by the Data


I know that there are hardly enough hours in the day to take care of your customers and run the business, let alone, study and correlate all the customer-centric information which is now available at your fingertips. But, it’s never been more important than now. As Mr. Dave Frankland, an analyst with Forrester espoused, 2010 and beyond is the “age of the customer.” Customers are in more control than ever, and they are wielding that power by responding to companies that understand them and their needs.


Natalie Zmuda, with Ad Age talks about the obsession with “understanding, delighting, connecting with, and serving customers,” as the only real differentiator that many companies have. I would add to that, the intelligence to predict behavior as well.


Never in history have business owners had such a vast amount of information available to them about their customers’ behavior, which can be a strong predictor of a “potential” customer’s behavior.


Facebook can tell you how many people in your area have expressed interest in what you do based upon specific terms? Google has reams of information available on what people are searching for. There are software companies that have created social media dashboards that provide the ability to see what conversations are taking place about you, whether you “follow” them or not. And just as important, there are your own sales statistics that you keep.


It is not only important to track sales, but also to be able to know the source of the sales lead. Those lead sources should be broken down sufficiently to understand what action the interested party initially took to become a lead. What products were purchased from what lead sources? As an example, if you only track that a sale of product A came from the Internet, what you don’t know is what action was taken. Did the lead fill out a “contact me” form or did they pick up the phone and call you? Did they ask a question through Facebook or were they referred by one of their LinkedIn contacts? Did they click on a QR code that you had on a print advertisement or did they come to you from your YouTube video?


Being able to tie sales back to a very specific lead source allows you to calculate which kind of lead results in the highest likelihood of a sale. Where should you spend precious sales resources to get the highest return? Where should marketing dollars go to stimulate these high value leads? What kind of message is successful in generating quality leads? Would extending that message to other sources for leads generate the same kind of quality lead there? Would it be better to focus on those products that generate the highest margins?


So, your business can prosper by paying attention to the data that’s available or not, it’s up to you. And, if you need some help with this, let us know.


All my best in your “data mining”




Expertise at Being an Expert

You hear it all the time, “Why John, he’s an expert,” or “You can get expert advice from Acme Insect Control.” And what exactly does that mean?

According to Wikepedia, an expert is defined as, “someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technical skill, whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by their peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain.”

I think the key here is “accorded authority…by their peers” because I sure see this word used a lot in the first person, especially when it comes to marketing and social media.

For the life of me, I’m not sure how anyone can claim to be an “expert” in social media, when most everyone is still figuring out the best way to use it in advancing their marketing objectives. There’s some good ideas out there for measuring and applying analytic tools and we’re all pretty sure we should be doing if we’re not, but I don’t buy “social media expertise” since we’re still in the very early stages of the medium. I don’t think anyone has really had enough experience to call themselves “experts.”

What’s more, even an expert sharpshooter will miss the bull’s eye occasionally.

I have never claimed to be a marketing expert. I have years of experience working with many size companies across many industries as well as seeing how different marketing media can be used cooperatively to achieve sales goals, but I sure can’t say I’m an expert. Every client’s situation is unique, and therefore requires a different approach.

I think most very wise people will say that the more you do something, the more you study it, the more you experience with it, the more you realize how much you don’t know. Sure, you can demonstrate moments of expertise, but this world changes so quickly that it becomes extremely difficult to remain an expert.

What do you think? I’d love to know.


The CMO Outsource

You’re Really Not Ready for Social Media, Are You?

The social media pig

There’s an old saying in the opera business, “Never teach a pig to sing because it will frustrate you and irritate the pig!”

I bring this up as I recently had the pleasure of talking with a company that provides professional services, specifically architecture, which has enjoyed a long history of providing innovative, functional designs and building planning for their clients.  They have enjoyed the luxury of great word of mouth referrals that have meant a continuing stream of business, which has fueled growth and provided good salaries for many employees.

This firm is now at a crossroads.  There is a concern that there are many opportunities, for which they are well qualified, that they are simply not hearing about.  There are deals happening that they aren’t aware of until an RFP goes out and they’re in the situation of bidding for low profit work, and as we all know, you can starve to death answering RFP’s.  They are significantly more successful when they can get involved in the early stages of planning, to be able to influence design and staging decisions in their favor.  What’s more, their pool of referred leads from existing clients is either not providing a sufficient number of high quality leads or that well may be starting to dry up.

Into this situation I introduce their website that is some number of years old, is primarily a static online brochure, is hard to navigate within and doesn’t provide easy ways to capture leads nor to encourage any visitor interaction.  Any efforts at search optimization are minimal at best.

Does any of this sound familiar?

In preparation for meeting with this firm, I was curious to see what kind of conversations from the architectural industry existed in the blogosphere.  Having looked at a number of aggregator sites, and doing some simple keyword search, I was able to conclude that there are ample opportunities for this firm to begin to become engaged in a dialog about their industry and for which they have a passion.  There are questions being raised and design theories being discussed that would enable this firm to present themselves as not only experts, but also as concerned professionals in the advancement of their art.

My biggest mistake was to use the words, social media.  The immediate response was, “Well, we’re not big believers in Twitter and Facebook, we just don’t see how those apply to our clients, what’s more, those involve so much time that the payoff is hardly worth the effort.”  It didn’t surprise me to then hear that the principals of the firm thought their website was just fine, that it was not really all that important and no money needed to be spent there.

I had one of two choices: try to teach the pig to sing or simply walk away.  I chose the latter.

I have found an interesting series of seven B2B case studies put into a well organized ebook by the good folks at MarketSherpa and available at Hubspot.  If you go to page 56 of this ebook, you’ll find a case study of a professional services firm, an accounting firm, who used social media and SEO to build a lead generation machine that drove direct sales.  In fact, they saw their website traffic increase by 68% and generate 10 to 15 leads per month!  The old website generated no leads at all.

You can choose to ignore what is happening in marketing right now.  You can say that it’s just not for you, and maybe it’s not.  But if there is a conversation taking place out there in your industry, and you’re not part of it, then you’ve lost a big chance to stand out.  You’ve also probably missed a great opportunity to grow your business.

Well, are you ready?

All my best,


The CMO Outsource