Politics: What South Africa can learn from North Africa

Are South African political parties learning the lessons of Egypt and Tunisia and for that matter Libya? 

It struck me on sunday evening as I stumbled upon a discussion session on twitter (you can follow it on hashtag #daqa it should still be up for a while) that although this was an engagement it was still part of a campaign, the DA talking to its supporters on the eve of elections. It also struck me that very few black voters were engaging. Obviously they may have been many agreeing and listening but really on the whole it was a bunch of DA supporters making each other feel good.

In my last post I wrote about the most important conversation in marketing, the conversation between your customer and your potential customer. I suspect that increasingly the most important conversation in politics will be between your current supporter and your potential supporter. I am suggesting that as well as the DA is doing talking with its own supporters this is not the vital conversation.

The clue is in this TedX talk by Wael Ghonim: Inside the Egyptian revolution in it he speaks, although not in those words, about the media being a site of coordination instead of merely a source of information, about online meeting places that spontaneously sprung up and coordinated the revolutionary efforts. In an article I wrote earlier this year Information will always defeat authoritarian states I pointed out that both Eqypt and Tunisia had relatively high mobile phone penetration BUT neither have as high as South Africa, in the whole scheme of things South Africans are pretty connected.

I am not suggesting that South Africa will descend into violent revolution, but when there is a general dissatisfaction amongst ordinary people, when they see a system plundered by greed and avarice, where service delivery is a real problem there is sure to be dissatisfaction. If people are dissatisfied and have a place to do so they will talk about it.

If any party really wants to fix the mess, they need to facilitate this discussion, find a place for it to take place, engage with it and contribute to it but not try and control it. This is the essence of organic marketing – getting ideas to spread. No different in politics. If they are providing hope and solutions and the tools to spread them they will get votes.

The only scary thing – once this cat has escaped from the bag it will never be recaptured. Scary for politicians – but not to citizens, this ecosystem will force delivery.

Well DA are you brave enough to stop campaigning and to facilitate this discussion?


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Posted on May 16, 2011 at 8:08 am by Walter Pike · Permalink · Leave a comment
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The killer conversation in marketing.

Broadcast media gives you the one to many, one way method of spreading ideas. The telephone gives you the one to one two way or interactive model. The person with whom you are talking can talk back. The Internet gives you the many to many and interactive model.

The most important conversation for your brand and your business is the conversation between your current customer and your potential customer. It’s important because it’s authentic and so it’s trusted. It’s also scary because you aren’t involved.

Marketing including digital and social media is still obsessed with producing communications to tell it’s story in whatever medium it uses one to many or interactive that they lose sight of this vital conversation. Purchasing remember is not a percentages thing, you can’t buy 67.2% of a car. It’s binary, on or off 100% or zero.

What would happen if instead of trying to tell the brand’s story you focussed on helping those willing to tell their own story about your stuff so that in telling that story they can do it more convincingly?

If they are telling their friends about your stuff – maybe that friend’s decision will change to on instead of off.

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Posted on May 13, 2011 at 4:31 pm by Walter Pike · Permalink · 4 Comments
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Marketing sucks say Thought Leader commentators

Sarah Britten, who is @anatinus on twitter wrote on the Thought Leader blog about her mothers day experience at boutique hotel Marion on Nicol in summary she felt ripped off because in spite of paying a top price for high tea the venue didn’t deliver what was promised. So she told her closest friends on a very well read blog and her friends told their friends like I am doing here.

Everyone should do this.

For me the really interesting bits are the comments left by the readers – read the article here

The comments give a very jaundiced view of marketing, advertising and delivering value. In effect saying that she should have expected to be ripped off. Some even saying that the complaint should have been more appropriately dealt with by a quiet word with management.

What a lot of total horse.

Maybe those marketers still stuck in a time warp think that they can do this stuff without considering the power of word of mouth in an always on always connected world.

Marketing is about delivery, about the delivery of value to customers and then the word spreading. What has changed is that the idea, which used to be spread by advertising is now being spread by people telling each other.

Because they can and now instead of telling their 10 closest friends they are telling 10 000.

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Imagine the ASA getting hold of this – Blackberry insults iPad

Handbags at 20 paces probably describes the Vodacom complaint against CellC. This is a bit more spicy. Blackberry has decided to insult all of the millions of iPad fans.

I suppose that the intention was to get people to talk about the advertising which is fine because the PlayBook itself is not much to talk about.


Oh by the way this post was made on my iPad.

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Posted on May 6, 2011 at 12:13 pm by Walter Pike · Permalink · One Comment
In: Marketing, Uncategorized

You just don’t do branding the same way.

Positive brand equity are associations that lead to preference. These associations are a combination of feelings and judgements in other words emotion and facts. The process of branding is how these meanings become attached.
Brands are actually any collection of meanings be they positive or negative and anything that you have these feelings about is a brand. Sports teams, people, restaurants, tubes of toothpaste, cars – really anything.
PastedGraphic-1.pdf Download this file

In legacy marketing, strategic brand management was concerned about how brand equity was created by the attaching these associations to the brand. When you control the flow of information this is relatively easy, if expensive. You teach people, you give them an idea and you keep on repeating that idea over and over again in different ways and using different media until people learn the linkage and believe that for example that no one actually does makes better tea than you and five roses.

When you have lost their attention, when they have other sources of information when they can easily connect with their network to ask questions and get advice, when they can find the experts in seconds when they don’t trust what you say in your advertising then you have a different problem.

You now have to encourage people to discover their own meanings and attach them to the product and share them so that they become the opinion of first the opinion leaders and then the majority.

In legacy marketing you controlled this process, in organic marketing you encourage it. Its kind of like the difference between McDonalds and a top restaurant, McDonalds is a tightly controlled process and standardised Big Macs are churned out by unskilled workers the same at every McD’s in the world, in a top restaurant an artist creates meals from the best and in season ingredients. Tasting the food in the kitchen and shaping it to the result she wants.

They both have an idea as to where they want the brand to go, but the assumptions and process they use to get there are completely different

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Posted on May 5, 2011 at 9:42 am by Walter Pike · Permalink · Leave a comment
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What’s the point of popular?

“Seth Godin’s blog today asks the question “What’s the point of popular” he uses it in the sense of personal popularity, 

“Popular is almost never a measure of impact, or genius, or art. Popular rarely correlates with guts, hard work or a willingness to lead (and be willing to be wrong along the way).

I know that advertising agencies, PR companies and social media agencies have to satisfy their clients in order to get paid, but when they complain about the state of the industry and how they are not respected by their clients – they would do well to reflect on why.

Is it because instead of telling the client what he needs to know they are telling him what he wants to hear?

This new marketing world is too new to have ‘Rules” but somehow I think that the successful agencies and consultants in it will have genius, and will be artists and will have the guts not to worry too much about being popular.

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Posted on May 4, 2011 at 2:56 pm by Walter Pike · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Vodacom: This is what your brand is.

In an earlier rant I spoke about the Vodacom rebrand. In summary I said that brands are built by the customer experience and that because of the high involvement of customers in the Vodacom brand and how simple it would be to tell them about the logo change that the bulk of the money spent on the rebrand was wasted, since there are better ways to invest and get money, as for example using the best credit cards by Motley Fool, that have a low rate interest and are easy to get.

  • Over the weekend I went to get a microsim for the iPad I had passed on to my daughter, I went to Fourways to get one but there were no micro sims available in Fourways, according to the guy at the Vodashop at any store.
  • On Monday I drove to another shopping centre around a 20 minute drive, they had one but in order to get it activated the clerk needed to call Vodacom, after 10 or so minutes I decided to video him holding on.The video is below:

IMG_1650.MOV Watch on Posterous
This poor man has obviously to put up with this day after day, and the queue of customers in this store laid out as friendly as the post office would agree with me. Hopefully Vodacom will realise that this attitude is a reflection of Vodacom not this otherwise helpful chap.
Vodacom you can paint building tops red, make blue rugby teams play in red jersey’s you can even give away red cell phones or spend millions of rands in media. This is what your customers and staff experience day after day.
This is the Vodacom positioning and anything you say on TV, Radio and Billboards doesn’t matter, because in a real time always connected world.
Your Brand is what we (Your customers) say it is.

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Posted on May 3, 2011 at 11:08 am by Walter Pike · Permalink · Leave a comment
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You can’t measure everything.

Dan Zarrella says in his article on memeburn  Social Media Justification by Numbers that you can and should measure social media and pokes fun at those who say you cant.

Well Dan I am one of those.

I think that we often measure what we can measure and we get blinded by the numbers, because we become deluded into believing that what we are measuring is important because we are measuring it.

Clearly in a sales promotion sense that may be true – but in a marketing sense thats just not!

  • There is a huge emotional component in most decisions, in fact brands are made up of two main components; Feelings and judgements. 
  • How do you measure those feelings, or even those judgements.
  • So how do you measure the conversation around dinner between a current customer and a future customer.
  • How do you measure the importance of the person who is prepared to share those feelings, in the eyes of the person he or is sharing them with.
  • How do you measure the ROI of a logo on a rugby jersey.

As an analogy:

When you fall in love what is the cause of that, her smile, her laugher, the way she holds her head, her touch, her sense of humour her quick mind? No one would even think of measuring this, its too complex there are too many variables.

If you are using social media for sales promotions yes measure the sales that result from your promotion – but that shouldn’t be your main aim. Surely?

Surely you are looking for feelings and judgements that lead to preference. You don’t know where they come from, how can you? They come from every touch point and eventually they all feed into the idea, the myth that is the brand and then into the purchase decision. 

Be careful about measuring stuff, because the stuff you measure becomes important, and many times the stuff you cant measure  – the really important stuff is ignored.

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Posted on April 28, 2011 at 1:01 pm by Walter Pike · Permalink · Leave a comment
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The Vodacom relaunch – what an appalling waste

Once upon a time when I was the client services director at an ad agency in Cape Town I advised a client to reallocate the bulk of his advertising budget to solve the problem because as I said to him – “there is no advertising solution to this – we’ll spend your ad budget next financial year”.

Someone should have given the Vodacom marketing team similar advice.

Before I go on I must publically thank the Vodacom marketing team for paying my April account for me in recognition for being a “loyal” client for 17 years. I have to be quick because there are no terms and conditions and I have friends from Anchorage to Zurich to call.

We have all learned, or those who have done marketing that you don’t mess with the brand, mostly changes to brands have been subtle and almost indiscernible. By brand here I mean that small portion of the brand, which is the device.

The logic is inescapable; every time I go to the supermarket I buy the brand in the blue box. If I get there this trip and there is no blue box I would need to know that the colour has changed to red or I would be completely lost, as a rote purchase of something which I buy without thinking you would be ill advised to make such a move.

Vodacom is not a shopping product. Vodacom has millions of customers, each of whom have made a significant investment even if only only by getting their sim card through the RICA process. There are in other words some costs to switching and certainly contract customers are locked in. The point is that the change would have no effect whatsoever to my cell phone usage, the card is in my phone already.

Yes and there is something else reasonably significant about a cell phone. Yes you guessed it – it’s a communications device, and everyone with a Vodacom cell phone is Vodacom customer so if you sent them all a message on their cell phone there is zero wastage, there is also very little marginal cost.

I suspect that Vodacom would have saved around R190 million of their R200 plus million budget had they sent an SMS or an MMS to each of their customers to inform them of the change – and imagine the delirium and positive buzz if they gave each customer say R150 free airtime. Would that cannibalise usage – I doubt it, it would be seen as a windfall and instantly used. A weeks TV and a few full pages in the Sunday press and some billboards (and other than the CI) the job is done.

This approach would also not have afforded Cell C the opportunity to “catch the wave”, so to speak, with their campaign – recently banned by the ASA.

Oh, by the way, I am not going to call my friends in the Ukraine – I wouldn’t abuse this trust – but seriously Vodacom, when someone is sent an official sms from you please make sure that your call centre can confirm it and don’t make me wait for hours for an official confirmation.

(I wrote this first for bizcommunity)

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Posted on April 28, 2011 at 6:55 am by Walter Pike · Permalink · 2 Comments
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Losing the war

Although Vodacom has won the battle at the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), I think that it will lose the war. It’s fascinating how often the management of organisations get involved in their little skirmishes and lose total sight of the big picture.

It seems to me that Cell C has in the past pushed its advertising and claims too far and has, by doing so, lost credibility, the reality in this case is that the Cell C offering is the superior experience. I have been using a Cell C stick given to me by Lars Reichelt for some months and although I have been vocal where it fails in less than perfect coverage, where it is properly set up it flies and performs just as Cell C claims.

Although Lars Reichelt maintains that his campaign is not cheeky I disagree. I think it’s opportunistic and takes advantage of the massive and, in my mind, extremely extravagant spend of the Vodacom rebrand with humour and is certainly cheeky. I am sure that you remember the Nando’s campaign doing exactly the same to Cell C.

To its credit the Cell C marketing team took it in exactly the right spirit, and sent each of the key Nando’s players a speed stick.

I am not going to spend much effort on the ASA but they certainly seem to have “boobed” on this one by not properly considering the technical evidence.. But having said that isn’t the ASA a remnant of a soon to disappear, legacy marketing environment — an environment dominated by consumers fed information over broadcast media and not empowered as they are now by the power of connections in the always-on world? Cell C learned, to its detriment, the power of this world to voice its opinion when it astroturfed the Trevor Noah thing.

Is it possible that Cell C has struck a nerve in the Vodacom command complex? Is it just possible that Vodacom know that Cell C has a superior offering and Vodacom are in the process of trying to muddy the waters hoping that it can stall the move of the data customer to a product it can’t match? Why else run to the ASA?

My advice to the new marketer is to understand that the war is not won in the cobwebbed council chambers of the ASA. It’s won by the customer’s experience.

The way to win this war is with delivery — simply give the customer a superior experience and they will tell their friends. People trust their friends more than they do advertising and PR spin and in this real time world where thoughts travel around the globe in a wink, the word will spread.

Vodacom are busy turning Cell C into the underdog, and themselves into the playground bully a little too big for his boots. Steve Jobs managed to build Apple into the colossal success it is by casting Microsoft as the enemy. Perhaps this is exactly what Lars Reichelt has managed to do to Vodacom and it’s possible that, like Jobs turned Microsoft into a challenger and Apple the champion, that a similar thing is happening here.

My advice to Vodacom – get your act together – the consumer doesn’t care what the ASA says. They care about what you do.

Walter Pike

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Posted on April 27, 2011 at 11:14 pm by Walter Pike · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Advertising, Customer Service, social media, Uncategorized · Tagged with: , , , ,