In a time of crisitunity, you gotta have soul!

CM Summit New York
CM Summit New York

“Ad networks have scale and data, but they lack soul. Customers don’t join ad networks.”
John Battelle, Founder & CEO, Federated Media

Federated Media’s Conversational Marketing Summit earlier this week was an unconditional success by any measure, particularly with regards to acheiving their goal of presenting insightful and instructive case studies of conversational marketing programs that worked. I say that as someone who attended for my own personal edification, not representing any company and paying my own way as a result.

Standout presentations from Proctor & Gamble, Lenovo, Intel, American Express, RIM, and (by proxy) Microsoft and Federated Media highlighted two days of pure marketing nirvana that gave me a new identity — marketing technopologist — and offered some clear navigational guidelines for brands and publishers to successfully engage with consumers in an increasingly noisy world.

Battelle’s opening remarks set the right tone, and his identifying the need for “soul” struck an especially warm chord with me as it’s something many “old media” brands already possess but haven’t always successfully leveraged online. That slow response left a huge opening for personal brands to evolve exponentially, gain precious mindshare and become competitive with the established brands that once nurtured them (or their progenitors, at least); it also allowed savvy brand marketers to connect directly with consumers instead of having to go through traditional intermediaries.

The first day was arguably a bit stronger than the second, at least based on my notes and #cmsummit tweets, but excepting an oddly defensive Pepsi/YouTube presentation by Google’s Eileen Naughton, and an awkward interview with former Bush press secretary Dana Perino, it was all good and well worth the two vacation days I used to attend.

Here’s my highlights and takeaways from the event:

Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures

  • on Social Media: Four key social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, and blog comments. (He believes Disqus is poised to dominate the latter and is an investor.)
  • on Twitter: It’s Blogger 2.0 and bigger than he envisioned. “The internet is a disruptive force [that] goes through all industries,” and he sees Twitter becoming ingrained as part of its eco-system, the same way Google, Amazon and Craigslist have done.
  • on MySpace: “It’s an entertainment service, not a broad social media platform.”
  • on The New York Times: He thinks they should kill the paper; stop covering business news and sports; and focus on “what’s sustainable; the things they do better than anyone else,” primarily opinion and analysis of national events.

Lucas Watson, Proctor & Gamble

  • “Social Brand Building That Works” presentation centered on “India Votes: To Shave or Not To Shave?” campaign that resulted in 40% market share despite their razors costing 10x more than the generic leader.
  • Marketing Technopologist: Cites WSJ article: “brings together strengths in marketing, technology and social interaction.” Notes anthropologist piece is key; you can change people’s habits by letting them do what they love to do.
  • It all starts with listening; must understand social roles of voyeurs, creators and consumers. Traditional vs. social isn’t an either/or discussion.
  • In India, shaving isn’t a priority and people love a good debate. Their “India Votes” campaign sparked a debate on shaving — which do women and employers prefer? — mixing traditional research with paid mass media and social ads (not blogola; ads in social networks) to amplify/ignite the conversation.

Seth Goldstein,

  • “The best social media doesn’t expand with bandwidth.”

David Churbuck, Lenovo

  • Search: “Lenovo + sucks”.
  • Social media focus is on CRM; how do I make my fans and promoters happy?

Lou Paskalis, American Express

  • “How do you find the right balance between what intuitively works and what is proven? All media is a trailer for the internet; a dramatic sea change in organizational structure is required.”
  • Coined “crisitunity”. “Real-time data; it’s what we asked for.”

Magid Abraham, Comscore

  • While announcing Media Metrix 360 — measuring the web everywhere via server-side and panel data — he points out the notable weaknesses of the “most measurable media”:
  • Server-side analytics: 30% of users delete cookies, and many IP addresses are not static (particularly home users), so they’re counted multiple times, inflating metrics.
  • Panel measurement tracks real people and real usage, but small samples aren’t foolproof; totally unreliable on the niche level.

Frank Eliason, Comcast

  • “People blog because they want to be heard. Companies do not change based upon numbers; it happens based upon customer stories. Share the stories!”

Terence Kawaja, GCA Savvian Advisors

  • “What if low CPMs are the real ‘value’ of ad inventory? Technology forces reinvention.”
  • Me, on Kawaja, via Twitter: 17:30 #cmsummit Kawaja’s spoof music video, The Day the Media Died, ends day; hella funny, harsh. Great ROI!

Those are all from the first day, when I took 16 pages of handwritten notes and posted 33 tweets! The second day featured some interesting moments, too — including a great conversation with Intel’s Deborah Conrad and an impressive presentation by RIM’s Brian Wallace on Blackberry’s SocialSync program — but for some reason I took significantly fewer notes (2 pages) and only posted 11 tweets, four of which are worth reposting:

  • #cmsummit Hoefflinger/Facebook: “Media that is social.” Engagement pitch is really just Branding 2.0, no? Examples like good commercials.
  • #cmsummit Underlying theme: socialization of content, marketing is key part of big picture; engagement/affinity first, sales second.
  • #cmsummit RIM/Wallace: SocialSync connects Blackberry users to each other; not about injecting brand into middle of conversation.
  • #cmsummit RT @chasnote Mark Ruxin @ruxputin Start with marketing basics, use tech to execute them–don’t do shiny objects for shiny’s sake.

Overall, it was two great days of experiences, insights, innovations and optimism and I’m extremely glad that I was able to attend. I was particularly impressed with Federated Media, a new breed of publisher that I think is blazing a trail that others would be wise to examine and, if not follow, definitely learn from. I’d go work for them at the drop of a hat.

Most important takeaway: In a time of crisitunity, you gotta have soul if you want to survive!

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