"How do we engage customers while effectively controlling brand reputation?" asked the company's SVP and CMO, Mike Mendenhall, who left Disney a year ago to join HP, during a presentation on Friday at the Association of National Advertisers' annual Masters of Marketing conference in Orlando, Fla.
Answer: Marketers must not only monitor blogs and news sites constantly, he says--they need to go one step further. "You want to look at building your own forums to engage customers and critics who are one and the same. You can't afford to miss it."
Mendenhall used the current presidential campaign as a case in point, noting that the video "I've got a crush on Obama," which was not made by the Obama campaign, has garnered some 9.5 million views. "Thirty-five percent of all Americans have watched political ads and videos online," he says. "That's three times more than in 2004."
He says that according to Forrester Research, GenY is spending 30% more time online than watching TV. "This digital conversation never stops, and we need to update organizations and operations accordingly. The questions are: When do you think you are going to see new syndication models? And when do you think we will see the network environment change? As marketers, we have the opportunity to drive change within our companies because all public touchpoints impact our brands, reputation and revenue. Brands aren't defined by campaigns, but by consumer ecosystems."
Mendenhall made social network Twitter the poster child for how individuals can shape perception on a massive scale, and how that is shaping marketing.
"In less than two years using just 148 characters, Twitter has moved from a novel idea to a global presence: CNN uses Twitter for hurricane updates, political campaigns use it to activate grassroots support. Think of that: we are living in a world where a 22-employee company is at the center of global media."
He noted that Facebook and MySpace reach more than 200 million active users per month. YouTube in 2007 consumed as much bandwidth as the entire Internet in 2000, he said.
"The digital conversation is a global phenomenon," he says. "Last quarter, 70% of our revenue came from outside the U.S. with 10% from Brazil, India and China. The global population is now 6.6 billion, and only 1.3 billion have Internet access. That will grow fast, and as new users come online, they are leap-frogging into Web 2.0.
"Seventy-six percent of Brazilian Internet users are on social media, and 50% of them have their own blogs. China is the largest blogging community in the world with 42 million bloggers. The amount of digital info online is doubling every 18 months," he says, adding that the information is overwhelming for customers. "It's useless if you can't get the right info to the right person at the right time."
HP promoted its online contest to design a new entertainment notebook in 13 countries. Social media made it a viral campaign, "and in one month we got more than 8,000 design entries," he says.
"We got more than five million hits, and we project sales of the winning design to be five times the original estimate." And, he noted, the campaign also trailed a wake of parody videos.
"We made the conscious decision to give the brand to consumers to interact and engage with, and it was all made possible through digital channels--a very efficient way to engage consumers and drive incremental revenue."