Cluetrain vs. Madison Avenue

Madison Avenue I'll make it really simple for you to see the difference.

Fundamentally, this is a conversation about putting the human being first or putting the brand/idea first.

Are you designing an experience that is inherently social? Or are you taking a creative concept, one that could even be totally cool, and spreading that into social media?

The difference in not just in execution, although that has a role.

It's in the very fabric of how the experience is conceived and developed — who participates, why they do it, what motivates them, how it is sustainable over the long run and where it goes or moves to as it changes when influenced by the connections with other ideas and through interactions with people.

Think iterative process that starts from a core purpose and follows a direction and prepares the ground for behavioral action.

This conversation is about connecting ideas and people to make something happeninformed by social behavior. By putting people first, and understanding what are the ideas that are relevant to them, right now, you co-create meaning.

Which cannot possibly be brand-centered, although the process can be brand-driven. When we talked about a good social media execution being your best PR, we talked about turning the pitch concept on its head. It had nothing to do with sells through, and even less to do with relationships.

“Going viral is diametrically opposed to building that
trust and relationship between a media property and an audience. 
Brands spend all this time thinking about how to make something go
viral when they ought to think about how to create a meaningful relationship.” – Jim Louderback in the New York Times [hat tip Dave Knox]

Customer or brand. Pick one?

Beth Harte said it well in a recent post, dear marketing & PR pros: you're still pushing. Being people/customer-centered is still a challenge for many organizations. In fact, many think that marketing in 2010 means, well, doing something viral.

You could always use the "bored at work" networkmillions of bored office workers [who] blog, Tweet, Facebook and IM all day, according to Jonah Peretti, CEO of BuzzFeed and co-founder of The Huffington Post. Timing is everything in life, isn't it? People do enjoy watching a train wreck as well.

You may notice there was a conversation about targeting in the comments to Beth's post. The valid point is to remember that getting to know who equals getting a clue — or a series of clues. You start with an idea of who that person/those people are, and learn more about them as you interact and experience the relationship.

Branding. It's not what you think

You probably learned mathematics in the same way I did — with the symbols, and not the quantities. If you can't tell the difference, let's run a little test. Twelve, what do you see? Maybe you do see the number 12, maybe you see twelve flowers (do send white roses).

How about two hundred and thirty four? What do you see now? That's what I thought. A curtain comes down in your mind and it has the number painted on it.

It happens the same when I say branding. A curtain comes down and all you see is logos and colors, and spiffs, you know, that stuff imprinted with the logo, choice of fonts — all those things that dress up company xyz. The term has been so misused that some would rather not use it at all.

Branding defines what you stand for — that core purpose, the ethos, which shares a root with ethics. It can drive preference, why we call parts of marketing demand generation, and it creates culture.


Ask not what your brand can do for you…

But what makes what you do a meaningful social experience. True, not all customers are looking to have a relationship with you to buy from you. All customers are social creatures and behave that way. Guess what customers expect of a brand?

I've been researching many examples of social interactions, online and off line. Whether they want a relationship with you or not to buy, what customers expect from your organization and brand in social is that you are listening and responding. A behavior. Look at that, markets are indeed conversations.

Mark Earls clarifies what are social networks for? Social networks are not channels for advertisers or for the
adverts/memes you, your clients or any of your so-called "influentials"
create, social networks are for all of the people who participate in the network.

BTW, if you want to see the difference in what the mindsets look like, do glance at the comments to Mark's post. Even bots need to make sense to fit in a conversation.

If you think this is interesting but of no commercial value, think again.


This is a post packed with information about social. Hopefully it connects some dots for you. Think about it, ask questions, test and examine it. It's part of a master conversation we will have at SxSW next year (yes, my solo proposal was accepted on September 20).

[images by battsimon and Dave Duarte]


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0 responses to “Cluetrain vs. Madison Avenue”

  1. I enjoyed this post, it frames pretty good what’s in my mind for a while.
    I’m running a project called Choqoa (it’s about my chocolate obessions) and it does all of the above. It’s my cluetrain playground as a marketeer to test all this, and to launch a business through social patterns and those other buzz words. And hey really? It works great so far.
    However, after years of being into ‘social’, I’ve started to grab the importance of brand centric thinking. All these social experiences linked to brands only work if… the brand has a clear culture around it. At least, that’s what my experience and gut feeling tell me.
    It goes beyond the visual identity, sure. Still if I had to choose for putting the money in social, I would only do so if the brand knows what is it is by itself.
    In the end, it’s the only way to create relevance.

  2. I am a Conversation Agent convert/evangelist; truly. Few things seem more important than connecting people and ideas, in fact, my little Gearbox project is trying to do just that.
    Daniel Pink said (paraphrased):
    A picture is worth 1,000 words, but a metaphor is worth 1,000 pictures.
    IMHO, the best brands, then, are metaphors. All the work I’ve done to introduce Mitsubishi owners to each other across the globe (brand-centered, methinks?) has been done in the hopes that our similarities will help us overcome our differences, while showing everyone we are, indeed, part of a collaborative, global community.
    I’m not trying to start a fire. I’m trying to get flint, steel, and tinder to come together and find that spark together. If we do this right, Gearbox will become a metaphor – all the moving parts of the global community coming together to harness energy and convert it to forward motion. Hopefully, people will see the logo or hear the name and have their minds filled with stories of people coming together from all over the world to help each other live better lives and that they’re proud to be a part of that (wink) or want to be.
    And that makes me feel unstoppable. POW.
    We now return to our regularly scheduled boredom at work.

  3. Great post Valeria, grazie!
    Your very insightful words convey a message I’ve tried to get across to CMOs for years – brands can add value to existing conversations and relationships through co-created services, content and utilities. They should not try to create artificial relationships or experiences but they can make existing ones richer.
    We’ve spent 11 years building trust and creating relationships with people who play community sport, making their experiences better through technology. We are now giving brands the opportunity to partner with us, even “piggyback” off the trust and emotional relationships and conversations that exist.
    Would love to get your thoughts on whether you think we are on the right track.
    Thanks, Umberto

  4. I was just having a conversation today with someone – very tech oriented – about how we need to talk about what we do in the customer’s terms – what’s their story. Even when we get so excited about the new products and services we offer. It’s a hard thing for people very technology centric to wrap their heads around – to put themselves in the customers’ shoes.
    And sometimes salespeople get so excited about selling the new stuff that they, too, get caught up in the technology / features. And they want to shout about it.
    We all have to focus on being human and talking to humans. And not get caught up in the widgets, digits and latest super-cool creative idea.

  5. @Evert-Jan – dark chocolate is a favorite. The European brands though. In the U.S. chocolate is either too bitter, or too sweet. When you enter a conversation, you do with your point of view, or curiosity. Otherwise, you are merely listening without experiencing. Notice that I pointed out how brand-driven is helpful. It’s the control and manipulation people resent.
    @Brian – you know ore about branding than most marketers, I can tell you that. Metaphors work, as do stories — and we will talk about that in our chat tomorrow. I don;t see differences as needing to be overcome, just accepted. I do wonder about the regular boredom at work. It is a matter of control, of who controls the work that needs to get doe and how they define its narrow confines? why is it not possible to tell a different story at work? To create awesome and what’s next?
    @Jen – what is social for? Good question, as always.
    @Umberto – I should start a club for Italians in the world. We are so many! Good to meet you here, and thank you for the link. I’ll take a look.
    @Patrick – I was in tech, as you know, and I get where your colleagues are coming from. And sales is such a high stress job, dealing with rejection on a consistent basis, biding your time, following up, and all that. I wonder what would happen if our models weren’t the current economic markets.

  6. Viral is about taking what’s relevant about your brand to humans and making it easy to spread.
    If the brand isn’t relevant, that’s gonna be very hard. Fix the experience.

  7. Hi Valeria, yes I noticed. Like with all it’s about the balance, the truth is never on one side. And it’s also the chicken and egg story when it comes to brands, branding & conversations.
    One of my most used slides in the presentations I do is a typo I made once: “lose control vs. loose control”
    [PS: good news for you > do check e.g. Amano, Patric and Mast Brothers chocolate. As an ‘expert’ in chocolate (I’m from Belgium BTW) these are wonderful chocolate makers in the US]

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