What happened to the “Great Idea”?

By Sam at January 6, 2011 | 2:47 pm | Print

What happened to the “Great Idea”?

What happened to the “Great Idea”?

I’m alarmed at the trend this past year, which saw business leaders focusing their marketing plans around tactical executions instead of good marketing ideas.

Frankly, I’m just as guilty as most in my fixation to blog, chat and discuss all things social media. From the best way to leverage Twitter conversations to the benefits of integrating Facebook’s Like feature to how to increase comments on your blog – it’s all tactics, all the time.

Experienced marketers may think this is too obvious to dedicate a blog post to; however, the multitude of failed social media and interactive campaigns in 2011 would suggest it’s not so obvious. Especially for small and medium sized businesses.

What happened to the “Great Idea”?

It used to be a requirement in marketing circles that you first develop a great idea and then brainstorm the tactical execution. Yet, I don’t see many online chats and blogs discussing this anymore?

A recent blog post by the firm: The Internet Vision is a perfect example. The post, titled: The Anatomy of a Landing Page, creatively and colourfully outlines best practices for building the perfect landing page.

To their credit, they highlight some excellent principles such as “keep it above the fold” and “use a strong call to action”. When I discussed this outline with a creative director, his first comment was: “I LOVE how there is NO mention of a good idea in this idea of perfection!”

And that’s when it hit me. With all the Web 2.0, mobile and social technologies available to us, too many marketers have focused on “proceeduralizing” marketing and forgot about the one item that will drive results: the idea.

I’ve witnessed this most often in Social Media marketing where many businesses still believe that by simply creating a YouTube video, you’ll drive millions in sales or that by creating a Facebook page you’ll earn thousands of loyal followers who will throw money at you. If you take a good look, you’ll notice how many corporate Facebook pages have little-to-no user or corporate activity. The same can be said for their LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. That speaks louder about the value of the business than not having a Facebook page at all.

Social Networks are not yellow page listings. They are living, breathing communities that must be planned and frequently engaged with, in order to keep them viable and driving any kind of return for its host.

Social Media will not make your business.

Social Media has proven to be an excellent medium to leverage the power of the “wisdom of crowds”. It can drive positive goodwill and recommendations about for your product. In addition, it has been very successful at increasing customer satisfaction and even lowering customer service costs through Wikis, Twitter and other networking technologies. However, in each case, successes were not driven because of the medium. Success was driven by the skill of the communicator, the marketing plan. The idea or the person drives the interaction, not the medium.

Social Media will not fix a bad product.

Similarly, Social Media will not fix a bad product. You can tweet your perceptions of what your product is and the value it delivers all you want; but if the market doesn’t think it’s a good product, your Social Media efforts will back fire with a torrent of negative reviews.

Instead, use Social Media to listen to your audience and customers. Or use Wikis and discussion forums to ask them directly: What do you think about my product? What do you think about my competitor’s product? Then use that data, if needed, to improve your product, your service and your branding to better align them with your customer’s feedback and needs.

The Anatomy of a Great Idea

Consider the anatomy of a great idea before you consider the anatomy of a great landing page or social campaign for that matter.

Not every social media network is right for every business. It’s not marketing sacrilege to consider not having a Facebook page or a Twitter account.

Understand your customer’s needs and opinions first. By listening to them, you may realize that what you planned as your product’s unique differentiator does not resonate with the audience at all. With this information, your marketing team can consider how – and where – to best promote the product.

Product innovation and good marketing ideas develop from listening to, and engaging with customers, not from creating a great landing page or social networking page. Without a great product and an equally great marketing idea, no landing page will drive business, regardless of how well it’s crafted.

Here is next part:

In a previous post: What Happened to the Great Idea, I suggested that many business owners are too focused on scientifically analyzing the best practices of social media tactics or landing pages, which has caused them to forget that you first need a great idea. Without the great idea, no landing page nor social network will drive consumer engagement.

Consider Ford Motor Company’s social media presence as an example. With so many Ford owners in North America, you’d expect their Facebook profile to have many fans. And it does. However, their actual consumer engagement was far less that the numbers would lead you to believe; until recently that is when their marketing team started to leveraging the medium to promote great ideas instead of relying on the network to the engagement.

The Ford Fiesta North American Launch.

The Fiesta has been one of Ford’s most successful new auto launches in North America, mainly because of their aggressive use of social media technologies to augment their campaigns. The social networks (Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr) were simply tools used to execute great planning and strategy, developed from customer feedback and needs.

By first listening, they understood that Rally Racing has captured the imagination of the auto’s target group: Gen-Yers. So for the launch of the Fiesta, they planned to develop an early association between the burgeoning sport of Rally Racing and the Ford Fiesta. Once the idea was developed, they allowed their teams to addressed how offline and online tactics would be used to drive the concept, not the other way around.

Offline: Ford rolled out the Fiesta R2 rally package for aspiring rally drivers interested in souping up their Fiestas.
With all the parts installed, Ford reports that the Fiesta will be ready to compete in RallyCar’s Rally America National Championship series.

“The spirit of Ford is making it possible for us to bring the best of European rally racing to competitors in the U.S.,” said Jamie Allison, director, Ford North America Motorsport. “The Fiesta R2 has already proven itself in Europe as a great platform for aspiring rally drivers.”

Online: Ford then took that “great idea” and considered which medium is best suited to drive online engagement, awareness and branding for another one of their products: the Ford Focus. And so a new “interactive Rally” was created.

They chose Facebook as the rallying point (pun intended) for the campaign. It allowed racing teams of 2 people to apply to be one of the 6 teams that would eventually participate in the race. Teams chosen would be given a free Focus for 1 month in order to participate in the Rally.

While there was only 6 teams of 2 participating, by leveraging the social media platform and the Facebook network, the entire nation was able to be involved.

Clues were required by the racing teams in order to navigate to each destination. Navigators and drivers had to rely on family and friends to help find the clues online and post them on Facebook. To encourage participation, up to $100,000 in prizes and 10 Ford Focuses were given away to a few supporters who helped their favourite team by finding and sharing clues.

Next, Ford engaged the producers of the Amazing Race to create and broadcast mini-episodes of the team’s experiences 5 times per week on http://www.hulu.com/.

The lessons to be learned:

1. Don’t forget basic marketing principles: understand your audience’s needs, behaviours and opinions before engaging in any online activity.

2. True to the theme of this blog, building a social roadmap that connects your offline and online tactics so each builds up on the other, is still critical to any campaign’s success.

We can learn a lot from Ford, who has become quite adept at listening to the marketplace in order to better understand how to position their products and how to leverage their audience’s preferred social channels to drive engagement and sales.

This article is reproduced by writer’s consent.

Bio of author:

Sam Fiorella is seasoned Web strategist working with marketers and agencies to drive online success.

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