Guest Blogger Chas Edwards of Federated Media
Every marketer these days wants the kids at My Space befriending their corporate mascots, producing fun-yet-favorable YouTube videos that feature their products and writing blog posts on that fresh, revitalized feeling that comes from using their brand of soap.
But here’s the catch. Most of us – the My Space kids included – don’t want to talk about most companies’ products. We want to talk about ourselves! So what’s an aspiring “conversational marketer” to do?
Find a way to associate your brand and products with a conversation that your customers are already having or would like to have.
For example, IT jobs-board company Dice.com recognized that its customers don’t really want to engage in a conversation about various sites that allow them to upload resumes and the UI features of each. But invite those customers to talk about how frustrated they are by a dumb boss, and – whoa! – they won’t shut up. So Dice created the “rant banner.” At the top of the ad unit, Dice asked “Does your job suck?” The rest of the ad unit looked (and functioned) like an instant-message window that allowed IT pros to vent in real time. Once Dice got them talking about their current state of professional unhappiness, Dice’s more literal brand proposition – a job site dedicated to IT and software jobs – was a natural payoff. (More on Dice’s rant banner, including how they avoided inappropriate language, etc., here)
Another example is the pre-launch program leading up to Cisco’s “Welcome to the Human Network” campaign. Before the TV spots and side-of-bus billboards hit the market, they hoped that the phrase “human network” would mean something – would resonate at some level -- among business and IT influencers. So they ran ad banners on business and IT thought-leader blogs. But instead of ad copy telling the influencer community what Cisco means by “human network,” they asked leading blog authors to write their own definitions of the phrase.
Importantly, these authors were not coached to talk about routers or Cisco or any particular thing at all. Each author’s definition became the “ad copy” for the Cisco banner on his or her site. The ads drove higher-than-average click-through. Of course – die-hard readers of Glenn Fleishman’s Wi-Fi Networking News are more likely to click to read Glenn’s definition of “human networking” than they are to click on a traditional banner. But the campaign did so much more than that in terms of engaging business and IT leaders in a conversation about what networking means to each of them (more on how this campaign scored PR wins and search engine optimization for Cisco’s marketing site here).
Cisco and Dice succeeded in spawning a conversation associated with their brands – not because they have sexy products that lend themselves to viral marketing – but because they had the courage to admit that their “products” are about servicing their customers’ needs (and we all love to talk about our own needs), not widgets they're selling in order to make this quarter’s revenue target.