Category Archives: Strategy

Personas: Getting Imaginary People To Do Real Work For You

Triangle AMA members had the opportunity to hear Glen Drummond, Chief Innovation Officer of Quarry Integrated Communications explain the method of using “Personas” to look at our customers and our business differently.

Drummond began his presentation with a challenge for members of the audience to reconsider what constitutes “real” work. Using examples from the airline and telecommunications industry, he demonstrated how the frontier of value-adding activity changes as markets mature. While we habituate ourselves to the notion that “real” work involves material, science, and objective reasoning – it can be demonstrated that conceptual, imaginative activity creates consumer value and allows us to grow our business. This is especially the case in industries that have matured to the point where tangible differences between competitive offers have narrowed, and where customer experience becomes the strategic frontier of differentiation.

Drummond then proposed that the sum of our education and professional training tends to work at cross-purposes with the development of our capacity for this new “real work.”

For instance, in order to develop great customer experiences, Drummond drew upon the concept of “flow” – as illustrated in the context of successful and unsuccessful experiences with the set-up and configuration of a new purchase such as furniture, or home electronics. In order to anticipate properly how to make this experience flow for consumers, empathy and imagination are required. Yet the training we receive that biases our individual and collective thinking processes toward “objectivity” offers a barrier to this “subjective” skill.

Enter the “Persona” – imaginary people (or at least a narrative representation of customer insight) that can be used to stimulate individual ideation and can also be used as a form of evidence for group decision-making to make customer experience better.

As Drummond illustrated through thought-experiments conducted with the audience, people do have a remarkable, and deeply engrained capacity to project future outcomes– to make uncanny guesses – based on “character” and story. This is a fundamental reason why personas have proven to be so useful in designing experiences that flow well for customers.

The Apple iPod ads are a great example of how to communicate the value proposition through the experience and without using words.

Drummond did raise a concern however with the use of personas. If these constructions are imaginary – can they also be “fake? “ He went on to illustrate not only how that can be the case, but also provided a number of tips for members of the audience on how they can inoculate themselves against the risk of fake insight masquerading as personas.

The presentation wrapped with the observation that in times of unprecedented pressures on business, it may feel like an odd time for playful thinking. But for marketers, who want to focus on creating new value through better customer experience, this might be precisely the time to add new skills in playful thinking to their existing arsenal of professional talents.

Integration of Social Networks

LinkedIn has added applications that allow you to pull content from your blogs and Twitter feeds. This is a great time saving device and good way to promote your organization on LinkedIn.

Twitter has the ability to update your Facebook status. I really like this app since it allows a single updated point to update two of the largest social networks. Check out Twitter now.

Tested Keys to Small Business Marketing

This is the article I wrote about September Triangle AMA speaker.

Marketing to small business has several unique approaches and strategies for today’s marketing professionals. Our September 2008 luncheon speaker, Donald Mazzella, COO of Information Strategies, Inc., has advised major corporations and start-ups on ways of increasing their close rates in the small business market. For more than 10 years, Information Strategies, Inc. has been an information and advisory source for small business leaders. The company also works with major business publications as the online value-added advertising supplement to the small business market. It utilizes a proprietary marketing channel, offering a series of newsletters that share advice on improving profits through more efficient use of resources to reach millions of small business leaders.

Mazzella began his presentation with some basic principles about the audience and what he termed Small Business Leaders or SBL. SBL are small business owners. SBL are more likely to say “my company” instead of “the company,” as they have a deeper and stronger personal, financial and emotional investment in their brand. Keeping this in mind here are the Myths and strategies to adopt if SBL are key to your marketing success:

  • Myth 1: SBL are risk takers.
    Many SBL come into small business via inheritance, losing their job or other method. Therefore don’t assume you are marketing to high risk audience.
  • Myth 2: If you are a big technology leader small business with buy your product.
    This is not always the case as SBL may wait to see what sticks in the market. A good example is Microsoft Vista and its lack of acceptance in the small business market.
  • Myth 3: Small business makes buying decisions during the day.
    Most decisions are made at night when SBL have time to spend reviewing notes, documentations, marketing collateral, advertising and web research.
  • Myth 4: You should buy our product because of a big brand.
    Brand arrogance works against selling to SBL.
  • Myth 5: What’s good for General Motors is good for business.
    This famous misquote of former GM president Charles Wilson does not work for SBL. Downsizing and stripping quality or features from product is not desirable for SBL. The strategy should be to design your product or service specifically for the needs of small business.
  • Myth 6: SBL will spend money when they see something to help them do their work.
    SBL actually wan to see return on investment (ROI) with minimal operational impact more than another tool or application that may be more trouble than it’s worth.
  • Myth 7: The bigger the brand endorser the more potent the message.
    Big name pitch men are not the key to SBL as most SBL view their peers as the best endorsers of products.
  • Myth 8: Successful small business marketing has a national landscape.
    SBL are just down the street from where you work and live, they are local and subscribe to the same local media as you.
  • Myth 9: SBL will adapt their company to a product or service.
    Change is not a work that SBL want to hear, but something that is “good enough” works well.
  • Myth 10: National business publications are key to selling to SBL.
    Trade publications tend to work better along with local outlets. Public relations continue to be a good investment in promoting brand as well as opinion leaders in the talk radio markets.
  • Myth 11: Pricing is not as important as other factors in buying decision.
    Price is a deciding factor as SBL want finite costs and no surprises.
  • Myth 12: Credit cards do not fuel small business growth.
    The use of credit cards improves sales even if not used and proprietary cards can be a major source of funding.
  • Myth 13: Wal Mart does not affecting buying decision.
    SBL do comparison shopping with typically the employees doing it during the day and the owners at night.
  • Myth 14: SBL can be sold over the phone and via email and direct mail.
    Nothing substitutes for a personal visit. Know your customers and make sure the local UPS and FedEx delivery drivers know your product as they are the personal interaction consumers have with products being delivered.
  • Myth 15: A call center can sell product as well as a sales person.
    Personal, consistent contact is still a key sell tactic.
  • Myth 16: One size fits all response kit can be effective.
    Response kit is critical element in sales process. Promptness is key indicator so SBL as it lets them know you care about their business.

Mazzella concluded his presentation with some other strategies. The first was that marketing strategies need to avoid the Janus Principle and focus their organization on selling to small business. He followed up with the fact that typically it takes seven impressions or touches by a SBL to get noticed.

MySpace: Insider’s View of Social Networking

With the rapid growth of social networking it is difficult to understand what are some of the driving forces behind the fast pace as well as what are the myths. For today’s marketing professional this is more important than ever as consumers are driving the growth through their actions and ability to promote a brand within social networks. Jane Collins, the Director of Consumer Insights for, was the Triangle AMA’s August speaker, on the topic of, “MySpace: Insider’s View of Social Networking,” was a very informative analysis on social networking behavior and what media relationships and roles can be utilized to engage consumers.

In her presentation, Collins examined the results of The Never-ending Friending Research Study, commissioned by Fox Interactive Media, Isobar, and CaratUSA on consumer-focused qualitative and quantitative research to understand how and why consumers interact within social networks. Also Collins showed how and why social networking works for everyone, especially mothers.

As Director of Consumer Insights for, Jane Collins is responsible for providing core data analysis and research initiatives to enhance the advertising sales effort as well as to communicate audience trends to all departments within Fox Interactive including Corporate, PR, Marketing, Finance and Ad Solutions. Collins is a research professional who has 15+ years experience managing and implementing key marketing and research strategies for broadcast, cable, and most recently the Internet with Fox Interactive Media. In the course of her career, Jane has headed Prime time Primary Research for the Entertainment division of ABC television network and was also at the helm of the research effort for Nielsen’s local people meter rollout.

During the presentation, Collins referred to the recent research study commissioned by Key consumer research insights include:

  • Social Networking in an essential part of life across various user segments and life stages
  • Triggers Higher Media Consumption Levels
  • Revamps the Media Landscape
  • Social Networks enrich real life

The study had two phases. The first phase was conducted with ten focus groups of MySpace users, TRU’s TrendWatch Panel, high school Students (ages 16-18), college students (ages 20-22) and adults (ages 25-35). Also the study conducted 3000+ online interviews (ages 14-40): Social networkers, MySpace registered users, MySpace non-registered users, non-social networkers. The second phase was advertiser-focused case studies to gain insight into what kinds of campaigns are successful and how to quantify the Momentum Effect of consumer to consumer marketing. This phase utilized a series of control and exposed measurement using a combination of behavioral tracking and surveys. Also it measured key brand metrics such as intent to recommend, intent to purchase, positive brand image and unaided awareness and compared findings with similar ROI studies conducted by Marketing Evolutions to assess average value.

The results of the focus groups showed engaged communication among current MySpace users. Social networking so important that it tops their preferred use of free time and users feel that life without MySpace is lonesome, out of touch and boring. By examining the role and relationship of media and humans, social network media bypasses the traditional practical (useful and pragmatic) and passive (relaxing, tuning out) media and interactions such as TV or using a search engine. Social networks fall into a “passion zone” whereby users are building bonds with their friends, groups, culture, music, and even romance.

Therefore it best suits today’s brands to have a presence in the social networks’ passion zone where the interaction is about attraction and connection. Social networks have allowed users to be thru to them selves and others. For instances social network sites can show a softer side of a macho guy and allow others to see sides not obvious in person. The study also found that 73% of users are never bored when using social networks. The myth that most social networkers are online for casual relationships with relative strangers show that virtual friends only make up 27% of their regular contacts. In fact most users are connecting with regular friends 69% of the time.

As social networks deepen existing relationships and allow users to rediscover old friends and sustain relationships, users now want brands to be their friends instead of advertising to them. This has led to a new trend of “Friending,” a new communication strategy between brands and consumers. It’s more than just offering special offers and coupons, brands can create a community and offer topics of discussion, tell friends about events sales and special offers.
Most users feel that advertising just gets in the way of surfing and slows down their site experience. However nearly all users described that having brands and companies as friends is entirely different and something they welcome. Sites like MySpace are all about self-expression and today’s consumer loves to wrap themselves in their brands, using them as extensions of themselves and clear statements of their interest and lifestyles and users have shown that they love these opportunities for affiliation.

When we have a brand as a friend we want the free stuff! But the relationship goes beyond that. For today’s brands and companies it’s about engaging beyond the discount. It’s a user wanting to support the brand they care about, associate and publicly align themselves with the brand or company. Also if the brand is recommended by a regular friend the viral effect can be exponential.

By comparing traditional business to consumer (B2C) model to consumer-to-consumer (C2C) models, friending and viral ads have created “the Momentum Effect.” This new model measures the pass along effect from consumer to consumer and each interaction is an impression. The momentum effect has demonstrated extraordinary ROI that dwarfs that of traditional campaigns. Outside of awareness which is chiefly driven by advertising, the phenomenon was seen in metrics of Purchase Intent, Intent to recommend and Average Brand Image Attributes.

Collins reviewed case studies of both Adidas and Electronic Arts and offered the following strategies for brands and companies when creating social network sites:

  • Offer tools to customize user sites and allow the brand to become part of user’s persona. Using skins, images and other graphics users can easily customize their site with brand’s look and feel.
  • Give users something to talks about with their friends; contests, sponsorships and other subjects where conversations and references lead user to brand’s online community.
  • Enable users to realize their dreams. A promise that the brand can help the consumer achieve a closely aligned dream. For instance, EA offered rock bands the opportunity to win a recording contract. The music dream tied in with EA’s burnout video game and its roots in high-powered music.

The presentation concluded with some quick notes about MySpace moms. Despite the typical assumption that moms get onto MySpace to check on their children, 78% joined MySpace to keep in touch with friends. Only 5% initially joined to keep an eye on their kids. The generation X and Y moms born between 1978 and 1992 are the first generation of moms who are able to seamlessly integrate technology into parenting. Typical online activities of MySpace moms include information (news, weather, phone number/yellow pages) parenting, home (meal planning and recipes, online bill pay) and interaction (email, posting photos, instant messaging, blogging). This captive audience is truly captive. Mothers with young children and toddlers are “stuck” at home with a child, household responsibilities and other tasks. Social networks give them an opportunity to connect with other mothers in their same situations without leaving the house. For savvy brands and companies wanting to capture this audience the opportunity is available with social networks.

Judy Collin’s presentation is linked at the triangle AMA site ( under the “Events” section or by clicking here.