Integration Is 'Moot' Without The Core Of Conversation

Comcast technician sleeping on couchIf conversation is the thing by which marketers should catch the conscience of the king--and the consumer is, so we hear, king--the Internet is the means. 

Unfortunately, says Joseph Jaffe, president and "chief interrupter" of strategic advisory firm Crayon, companies have largely missed that lesson, although they have spent the past few years moving media dollars online. What they have done, he said, is recreate online precisely the kind of interruptive advertising that they went online to avoid in the first place.

Speaking at Thursday's Association of National Advertisers conference on integrated marketing at New York's Grand Central Hyatt, Jaffe said that the very definition of integrated is moot if it doesn't make interactive "conversational" marketing the core of a campaign. "I made a case two years ago [when he last spoke at ANA] that if the Internet was not at the heart of it, you weren't integrated. What has happened? Interactive has taken a slide downhill."



Jaffe began by demonstrating how interactive media has become--in his words--"Grand Central Station" in his own life: he's got a blog ( a Twitter page, a Second Life avatar, a Facebook page, and several other Web identities. A diligent reporter would have also copied his Social Security number and bank account identification, which he flashed on a PowerPoint screen, daring the audience to use them.

Jaffe, who said the marketing lexicon itself is a blockade between marketers and consumers because the terms are technical and arcane ("We should be seeking community, dialog and conversation"), showed a then-and-now list of marketing buzzwords.

If "Top of page" should replace "Top of mind" as a measure of awareness, then instead of impressions, marketers should focus on relationships. He asked the assemblage which they would now prefer, five million impressions, or ten quality relationships. Most preferred the five million impressions, but quite a few opted for the quality relationships.

Jaffe offered five do's and don'ts, all low-tech suggestions. Do listen, respond, join, or be invited to join the conversation, catalyze and start conversations. When Kodak created a humorous online video mocking its white-haired staid image with an actor who was white-haired, staid and standing at a podium touting Kodak, and then made fun of the company, it had, said Jaffe, obviously listened to criticism. "But they should have used the CEO, not an actor."

The video of a Comcast technician fast asleep on a Comcast customer's couch, while on hold ... with Comcast, became a giant online hit and propelled the customer who surreptitiously videotaped the sleeping tech into the The Wall Street Journal and onto CNN and elsewhere. Jaffe said the video is also an emblem for the importance of relationships, listening and responding to consumers.

"You can't afford for this kind of stain to almost obliterate your brand equity, and it's happening and there's proof. To this day, if you Google Comcast, you get the Comcast technician asleep on the couch on the first page of responses."

Wal-Mart's "Wal-Mart Hub"--an attempt to appeal to younger consumers with social media--was, said Jaffe, a failure because "you can't buy community; you earn it. Nike also started a group on Facebook, and what they got were 700 fans. As a brand you can try to reinvent the wheel or clear the way for the cart: There are already dozens of Nike pages on Facebook. You have to join them, catalyze them, and give them information, knowledge and collateral."

Jaffe showed two videos that AOL launched in the UK--one extolling the virtues of the Internet, one lambasting it as dangerous. "They took two extremes and meshed them and said 'talk among yourselves.' What a great way to demonstrate that you have world's largest community. The campaign ended, but the idea lived on."

Don't fake it. Jaffe's example was a Sprint campaign in which consumers could email the CEO (dan@sprint). Consumers emailed him, and the response was a "thank you" form letter ensuring them that they would be sent to the right person.

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