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2011 - the year of people power!


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During the last month of every year, I think about highlights of the past year and my goals for the new year. On the marketing side of things, people power emerges as a theme for me. I can also think of it as a major factor in some of the world events of this year as well. For the purposes of this post, I'll focus on social media.

Remember when Google+ was introduced? People were excited to see how it would change behavior. Companies wanted to join in early, along with consumers and create their own pages. To their dismay, Google dismantled their pages until they were ready to create a separate, formal company experience.  Then there are sites like Pinterest which I like to call a visual manifestation of all things aesthetically pleasing. It took a while, but now people and brands (check out Nordstrom) are all over it.

The social media landscape empowers each one of us to share our thoughts, opinions, and feelings through a plethora of outlets or websites. As such, companies are making more of an effort to connect to consumers and empower them through these sites. How can we tell? 

  • Testimonials appear on websites more often, along with social markers (those cute little social media icons which appear within the header, footer, or sidebar of pages) to share information with consumers via a variety of sites.
  • Brands are actively reading what consumers are sharing about their brands and experiences.  In fact, they even encourage us to share our thoughts using Yelp, other online review sites, and social media to share our experiences.
  • Commercials are adopting a vignette style to relate to consumers and encourage their messages to go viral. For instance, you remember Mayhem, the ever troublesome insurance causality brought to us by State Farm, or Peggy, the not so helpful financial services customer service person introduced to us by Discover. Both of these of are a few examples of companies trying to demonstrate their understanding of customer pain points.

Nonetheless, in this era of noticeable people power, there were some folks who didn't get the memo.  Recently, David Pogue from the NY Times discussed a few examples in his blog post,  The Year of CEO Failures Explained. I've noted a few highlights below for you of CEO missteps.

  • HP's former CEO Leo Apotheker and his decision to yank the HP TouchPad. Consumers struggled to understand HP's rapid exodus from the consumer market. Before we knew it, the people were heard and the Touchpad returned to the market. Unfortunately, people power could not help Mr. Apotheker. He was asked to depart from his post.     
  • How can we discuss missteps and not bring up Netflix's Reed Hastings? Recall his decision to raise prices and separate his company into two entities. He actually named the other company Qwikster. Where oh where was the marketing staff?? Nonetheless, after some damage, he brought both pieces of Netflix back together again. By some damage, I mean the one million customers that were lost.
  • Last but not least is Cisco's CEO John Chambers.  He abruptly shut down the extremely well performing Flip camcorder product, purchased only a couple of years earlier.

Hastings and Chambers still hold their roles, but they damaged the consumer perception of their firms by removing the products and experiences they actively enjoyed with no real explanation.


Here are a few tips for the rest of 2011 and beyond.

  • First, let's all make it a point to remember the CEO missteps of this year and put your customers first. Remember, people power is alive and strong. You want it working for you, not against you.
  • Second, as the year wraps, take a look at your business goals and ask yourself what's in it for your customers? If you can't readily find something, take another look. Whether it be responding to customer feedback, creating a product or service to fill an unmet need, or even increase awareness of customer behavior, make sure there are a few goals that put your customer first.
  • Third, there more social sites will be released next year. Instead of immediately jumping on the bandwagon keep in mind the following questions to determine if they will help you with your goals of reaching your target customer.
  1. Are your customers there? If so, do they go there for information? Or is it more amusement for them? Can you learn anything about what they want or need?
  2. Can you keep a regular presence on the site? In other words, will you actively participate?
  3. Does the site provide information or access you don't currently have? For example, think Google+ and how it provides an advantage with search! Pretty powerful!
  4. Can you measure the results of your interaction with the site? Does it help you meet your marketing and customer goals?

Keep those questions in mind because business predictions for 2012 are already out. I'll share my thoughts on a few soon and they all revolve around the customer! Till then enjoy the rest of 2011 and don't forget to thank your customers! Happy Almost New Year!

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