You need to learn the rules of the playground first-hand

A few weeks ago, I was invited to give a talk to a large financial services firm that was having an off-site for one of their divisions.  The audience was a group of 60+ marketers that had gathered for a three-day meeting on a variety of topics.  I was there to talk about innovation and how a company could leverage digital as a key driver.  During the Q&A that followed, one of the marketers in the audience asked about keeping up with all the new digital platforms that are launching.  In particular, she wanted to know how important it is for marketers to have first-hand experience with things like Snapchat, ApplePay, etc.  Do marketers really need to try out everything new thing that comes on the market?

Well, the short answer is yes.

The thing is that marketing has changed quite a bit over the last decade.  If you think about the traditional marketing toolbox of a few years ago, just about everyone watched TV, read magazines, and drove by billboards.  So when we were making choices in the marketing mix, we were deciding between tools that we had first-hand experience with.  We knew the rules of the medium and could focus on the creative.

But today marketers are faced with more choices than ever before.  And for the first time ever, we are being forced to decide if a channel is right for our brand when we might not know what the channel is.  That is why marketers need to be prolific when it comes to experimenting with new platforms.  You need to download the new app that people are talking about.  You need to write a post on Medium or LinkedIn Pulse.  You need to support the latest project on Kickstarter.  And you need to buy that new FitBit, Nest, or Gear.  The goal is learning the rules of the playground first-hand.  You have to push yourself to experiment with everything that is new so you know what the boundaries are.  How do people behave on the platform?  What is appropriate and what is seen as shilling?

Before you can ever make that decision as a marketer, you have to be able to make the decision as a consumer.  And that means putting yourself out there and learn first-hand what all these new shiny objects are about.

Social Media Cannot Be Deleted

Yesterday I happened to catch a Facebook post by Ford’s Scott Monty that simply said. “Now THAT’s on brand!”.  Of course, I had to click through and what I landed on was a BuzzFeed article entitled “Charmin Tweeted, Then Deleted, This Spectacular “Thor” Pun.”   Apparently Charmin had posted the great ad below but then pulled it down when Marvel / Disney made a complaint (around trademark, etc).

Charmin Thor Asgardian


First and foremost, shame on Marvel if they really took this seriously enough to complain.  You are trying to build buzz leading up to opening weekend for your new movie and are spending tens of millions of dollars to do so.  Tell me just exactly how the above ad hurts in that mission?  Ironic that a comic book company is taking themselves this seriously, isn’t it?

Second, this is just another example of a brand forgetting that the Internet, and Social Media in particular, does not have a delete key.  You might delete your post but I can guarantee that someone has already saved it the second you posted.

The shame in all of this is that Charmin is actually one of the better brands when it comes to Social Media.  As Jason Falls conveniently pointed out in a post this morning, a lot of brands could learn something from how Charmin handles Social Engagement.  As Jason writes:

What Charmin teaches us is that engagement on social channels is absolutely worth while. Social marketing in this context is not about getting people to buy Charmin. That would be a direct response approach that would be awful in the social space.  Who wants to see tweets of, “Make sure you go out and buy some Charmin today!?  Social marketing in this context is about getting people to choose Charmin. Whenever it is they are faced with that choice.  Top of mind is worth millions of dollars to many brands. Social media engagement helps brands like Charmin get there.

Hopefully in the halls of P&G this morning, someone isn’t being blamed for this ad but being celebrated for the success they are having with making Charmin a darling of the Social Media landscape.  This ad was just as good as Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark” when it comes to tapping into pop culture.  After all, how often does a toilet paper brand end up with over 200K views on BuzzFeed?

Klout’s version of March Madness

Last week I got a fun invitation from the crew over at Klout asking me to participate in Agency Insanity, their version of March Madness.  Instead of college hoops though, this bracket is a match-up of marketers from different agencies.  In Agency Insanity, marketers compete head-to-head in a bracket on who has more influence. The bracket has 6 rounds of competition and people are seeded based on their Klout Scores.

Klout gets credit for some solid B2B marketing on this one for sure.  Agencies are a key target audience for them and what better way to get their attention than to throw a little competition into the mix.  After all, which agency wouldn’t want to be able to take home the title of Klout’s Most Influential Social Media Marketer?

I’m always up for a little competition and I could use your help.  In the first round of the Agency Insanity Tournament, I’m up against Maggie Ratigan, a Media Planner at AKQA.  My team name is ROC-DK.  You can help me advance to the 2nd Round by visiting the bracket matchup and giving me +K.  Our CEO/Founder of Rockfish, Kenny Tomlin, is also in the bracket as ROC-KT.  He’s faced with a tough first round match-up, going against my fellow VCU BrandCenter Board Member, Gareth Kay.

The tournament is taking place over the next two weeks with Round 1 today, Round 2 on March 21, Sweet 16 on March 22, Elite 8 on March 23 and then Final Four on March 26.    You can log-in daily to “Give +K’s”.  I appreciate the help!

Social Media is more rational than most brands think

Tom Bernthal from Kelton Research passed along an interesting study from IBM that shows the perception gap between consumers and businesses when it comes to the uses of social media. While brands hope that consumers follow them on social media for emotional reasons, it is more likely they are following for very practical reasons (to get a discount or make a purchase).

Social Media Perception Gap

“Play on, Players” – Rockfish gives you reasons to “like” Bicycle Playing Cards


As we started up the Cincinnati office of Rockfish last Fall, we had a “wish list” of brands that we hoped to work with.   At the top of that list was 143 year-old, Cincinnati-based US Playing Card, maker of Bicycle, Aviator, and Bee.  When you think about classic brands, you can’t do much better than their portfolio.

On the other hand, playing cards are the classic type of business that are being disrupted by digital.  On the heels of the poker craze of the 2000′s, card playing is still extremely popular.  But today, people are as likely to play cards on Facebook as they are to play around a table.  This fact was not lost on US Playing Card, which was one reason they named Rockfish as their Digital Agency of Record earlier this year.

Last week, we had a chance to bring our first work to market as part of our partnership with Bicycle and US Playing Card.  Under the new tagline of “Play on, Players”, we helped Bicycle relaunch their social presence including:

  • Newly redesigned Facebook Page: Exclusive limited edition cards (including this awesome Big Gun Military Deck), rules to play your favorite games, and great giveaways.
  • YouTube channel: The source for the best playing card videos…from magic to card games to cardistry
  • Relaunched Twitter: Featuring exclusive products, special videos, tips and discussions.

There is going to be even more exciting work coming from Bicycle and US Playing Card in the coming months.  If you want to be the first to hear about it, be sure to like Bicycle on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and subscribe over at YouTube.  I promise that you won’t be disappointed.