I was very flattered, yesterday, to have Stuart Henshall hold me, this blog, and iotum, up as an example of folks living a social strategy in marketing. Didn't know quite how to respond, which is why I waited until today to write anything. As hard as it is to believe, I am a little self conscious about public praise. I guess it's a Canadian thing.
When I began writing, almost five years ago and long before iotum existed, it was simply to have a voice in the conversation called the web. I wrote about politics (local, national and international), technology, and wine. When Howard and I started our company, it was a natural to have some of what I wrote about here be reflective of what we were doing in the work place. And along the way a small following (I get about 70,000 unique visitors per month) of people developed who read what's written here. Over the past 5 years the subject matter has become more industry focused than at the start… although you still get to hear about my vacations, political views and wine drinking occasionally. That's the voice of this blog.
Thank you for the recognition Stuart.
The genesis for Stuart's post was that a couple of days ago, writing about the negative response of bloggers to the Ooma launch, I said:
That's a failure of the company's marketing programs, and nothing more. An intelligent outreach program could have mitigated the negative sentiment which now has the potential to turn into an outright disaster for the company.
Andy Abramson added:
I don't think though its simply a matter of "a good outreach" program. A lot of it has to do with telling people about a product versus giving them the product to try. This is called Hype.
Stuart chimed in with:
Where I want to pick a bone is on your perceptions that the PR and Marketing failed to have the right blogger outreach. While it may have helped the real problem is still the product and the price point. Still I think it goes further than just the product and there are lessons for hardware / physical product launches everywhere.
In a 2.0 world marketing is reframed; the consumer is dead, and the users are people. Every product requires a social strategy. Products like the message are inherently social. All media is now social. I know you know this. Iotum has a presence and SOCIAL standing way beyond it's footprint. This traces to trust, transparency and a sense that "we" know and understand what you and your team are trying to do. Most importantly Iotum seems communications as social.
The Ooma marketing failed on all these fronts. They are not transparent about the technology. The product suggests security compromises. They brought in an Actor and and that's supposed to make it cool. They thought they were in control of the "message". That's an old school thought and thinking that too many companies are continuing to make. Ooma is not a social product.
The brand manager cannot own the message. We the "people" are the message and collectively "place" the product. In many ways it's always been that way. Just in this case — no one seemed to ask… "what will the WOM (word of mouth) be?". Andy perhaps characterises this very well describing it as "Hype".
I agree with both positions. What I casually called "marketing programs", and "outreach" is best exemplified by the kinds of programs that Andy Abramson's Comunicano runs, and it's the sort of thing that Stuart describes. At its best, PR is a series of engaged conversations with stakeholders in the market. The worst, and today most easily recognized and dismantled by commentators on the internet, is old-style command and control messaging. Hype and unsupportable statements are at most spin, and sometimes little more than bald-faced lies. How do you build a relationship and trust with your customer in that environment?