How are you conversing with your customers? Are you letting them do all the talking or are you engaging them seriously about their concerns? As marketing practitioners ourselves, Microsoft Advertising was firmly in agreement with the points raised by Publicis and Contagious in their session yesterday that talked about how contagious ideas should be married with healthy customer conversation.
In their 45-minute Cannes slot, Richard Pinder, COO of Publicis Worldwide, Paul Kemp-Robertson, co-founder of Contagious Communications, and Jess Greenwood, Director of Contagious Insider, explored the many ways that savvy brands are igniting, owning, confronting and subverting the conversations they are having with their customers.
How would a brand even begin to enkindle the conversation? It was argued that engagement is now becoming a lot more important than reach, and Jess Greenwood’s mantra that it’s better to have 100 engaged people than 1,000 who simply don’t care resonated with every member of the packed Debussy theatre (nothing to do with the fact that Ben Stiller was taking to the stage afterwards, I’m sure!). That’s certainly what Pepsi will have achieved when they look back at their Refresh Project. Instead of spending big on Superbowl ads, Pepsi have set aside $20m to give back to the community. Rather than donating to existing charities, they are asking the public to vote on ideas for worthy community causes.
Once the conversation has started, do you own the conversation or let is drift away? Many brands are starting the conversation but also guiding it to a resolution. Put simply, advertisers only own the conversation if people answer back. This conversation can just be online, or better still, it can be woven into the real world. Take what Nike and Livestrong have done. Fans of the Tour de France can send their message of hope via the Chalkbot Twitter page and those lucky enough will have their message chalked somewhere on the race route. In addition, a photo and GPS co-ordinates are emailed back to the fan. A fantastic example of starting the conversation, owning the conversation and finishing the conversation.
The two other pieces of advice from the Contagious and Publicis folks were to confront potentially negative conversations and to change the discussion by subverting it. My favourite case studies here were from Marmite and Charmin. Marmite confronted the love it or hate it perception of its product by creating a secret society of Marmite lovers – called the Marmarati – that would help it launch a new product.
The final contagious idea of the day was also the funniest. Charmin created an app called Sit or Squat for discerning public bathroom users to be able to quickly find one locally. It also allows the public to rate the actual toilet as one which they feel is safe to sit on or squat over!
For those of you who couldn’t make the session, the entire discussion was interpreted by a sketch artist backstage and it looked something like this …
If you attended the talk and want to receive a copy of the presentation, go to www.publiciscontagiousconversations.com and register your details.