A few weeks ago, I attended a seminar focused on how social media can be used to amplify marketing messages. As someone who’s looking to fly brand flags on as many vehicles as possible that make sense to use, I welcome these resources. But I’ve also always been wary of how technologies can dehumanize the interaction between sellers and buyers. During my career, marketers have learned to track “digital behavior” to “profile” our customers. We pump lead-gen data into spreadsheets, so we can identify MROI (marketing return on investment), and get a 30,000-foot view of market preferences when it comes to assets and content messages. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for measuring, segmenting, and building content that resonates with the highest number of people possible.
But then, there’s social media. Twitter, Facebook and the like allow a single voice to be heard and an enterprise to do what’s right to correct a problem for that one person (not customer, client, or account). An anecdote of how a single tweet turned a bad experience around was part of almost every discussion during the seminar. Plus, there were numerous examples of how a good idea that went viral led to commercial (think Kickstarter) or philanthropic success, like contributions that help feed hungry people.
Sitting in that seminar, it dawned on me that finally a technology had evolved to the point where it was re-humanizing the relationship between enterprise and the people, instead of reducing it to multiple charts on a dashboard. I believe this is a critical tipping point. Why? Because as much as data floods our lives and shapes our behavior, relationships between people — that handshake across the table and signature on a contract, the ability to talk through a problem or praise the person who made things easy — is what grows a business. As someone who spent eight years in retail, a few more in “business development” and a decade in the music business in addition to a career in marketing, I’ve learned that successful business relationships aren’t just about price, they’re about performing with excellence, delivering on your commitments, sharing risk, finding solutions and jointly celebrating success.
Rust Never Sleeps, Old Man
The first time I saw Neil Young in concert was during the Rust Never Sleeps tour. To give you historical context, Star Wars had been released a couple years prior. Just before the lights went down, roadies dressed as Jawas scurried about the stage, prepping it. He started the show solo, on acoustic guitar, and then his backing band, Crazy Horse, came on in support for the second set that began with an all-electric instrument version of Cinnamon Girl.
The next time I saw Neil live was during the 1982 Trans tour. What was remarkable about that show was that he used a lot of processing on his voice (using a Vocorder), played a synthesizer called a Synclavier (very cutting edge synth at the time) and hung a massive projector screen on stage so you could see him at a distance.So, a smile crept across my face this morning when I read that Neil will be streaming the Bridge School Benefit concert (Saturday and Sunday, October 26 and 27), on YouTube. Neil gets technology. He’s very clever at using it, whether that’s to shape his music, raise money or support his brand. With this broadcast, he’ll reach millions of people that he otherwise wouldn’t, trend hot in the socialverse, and make available an archived, on-demand broadcast that might just inspire you to put some cash into a PayPal account to support a good cause.
All that, and more, is happening over a global fiber optic network empowering enterprises to do more, be more available, and grow. This is the modern face of the Internet. And for us, it’s these moments, happening in all corners of the globe, millions of times each day that not only make us proud and excited for what’s coming next, they inspire us to also step up our game – to deliver on our promises and help build a reliable, trusted global connection to the people, places, businesses, moments, ideas, and things that inspire us all.
I’ve been involved in a few branding initiatives for enterprises, some companies that were just being launched and some that were determined to redefine themselves after years of business. In the most recent effort, I started asking colleagues about an idea that I wish I had come up with, but didn’t. I was inspired by Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk, in which he discusses how great leaders inspire action. Sinek boils down marketing to one simple question: Why does the company exist? Not “what do we do” or “how do we do it,” but “why?” He points to successful companies (Apple) and great leaders (Martin Luther King) and makes what I think is a very accurate observation, that each had a very clear picture of why they exist (or existed) and, with that vision in mind, were able to have their purpose resonate with the people they wanted to reach. Or, better put, the people that wanted to reach them.
You see, I’m in the midst of a personal branding initiative. I’ve been networking for content development projects and to explore new career opportunities. Two recent conversations have made particularly lasting impact on me. One is with Sticker Giant CEO John Fisher. He said that one of the most important things I could do is to write about everything and anything, whether it was technology, art or fishing (to clarify, I fished at Pella Ponds in Hygiene, Colorado, near where Sticker Giant is located, at least twice a week last summer. Sadly, those ponds were heavily damaged by the recent flooding). I left that conversation with a nagging sense that he was dead-on correct. The other conversation was with Steve Herrmann, Executive Vice President, Marketing & Alliances of Oniqua, in which he said, “On LinkedIn, you position yourself as..." It drove home how important that profile is and how critical online messaging is, in building my personal brand or your company’s.
Of course, it’s not enough to know why. You have to act with that belief in everything you do. When you do that, the vast majority of relationships in your personal and professional life will be rewarding for everyone involved. I say “vast majority” because sometimes you will fail. Onward, then.
I'm still defining my personal brand, and here are three thoughts I’m stirring around in my evolving formula:
The Internet is the best technology and tool we’ve ever had to show people why your enterprise exists and let them decide if there’s a reason to start a deeper conversation.
The arts keep the wheels of civilization turning, and it's not all about money.
Fishing teaches you to keep your work in front of you and do one thing at a time, in the best order, with full intent.
Do I have my answer to “why” yet? I’m getting there and would love to have that conversation with you. Please let me know your thoughts.