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Swag Happens: Stephen A. Burroughs Talks Marketing

“When Stephen A. Burroughs was in the womb
his mother could feel his beard kicking.”

The Knoxville chapter of the American Marketing Association hosted viral Internet sensation and local personal injury attorney, Stephen A. Burroughs at its October luncheon at The Orangery. KAMA’s theme this year is “Shift Happens,” because it’s not business as usual any more, due to changes in demographics, economics and technology. Burroughs was speaking to the change in his marketing strategy and the impact the recently launched Facebook memes page has had on his business.

The story about the University of Tennessee freshman who created the tongue-in-cheek Facebook page has been well documented by Carly Harrington in the Knoxville News Sentinel. The Stephen A. Burroughs Memes page gained 21,000 fans virtually overnight and led to Swagfest, a party at the Sunsphere attended by 14,000 members of Burroughs’ “swag posse.” Talk about a branding bonanza – you can’t buy that kind of awareness and exposure. Not to say Burroughs hasn’t been spending heavily on outdoor advertising and bus wraps over the past several years. He said he took advantage of a downturn in the economy that left billboards vacant to negotiate a sweet deal with Lamar Advertising.

The man himself, Stephen A. Burroughs

The man himself, Stephen A. Burroughs

This deal has made Burroughs omnipresent, or “top-of-mind” as we say in the biz, plastering his face on 31 outdoor boards and more than a dozen KAT buses. Burroughs had perfected his “Blue Steel” gaze and had become something of a Knoxville celebrity even before the memes page took off, catapulting him to viral marketing legend status. Now he’s Knoxville’s own “Old Spice Guy,” if you will. Or perhaps “The Most Interesting Lawyer in the World,” in a nod to the famous Dos Equis campaign.

Laura Bower and Dottie Ramsey

Laura Bower and Dottie Ramsey

Burroughs delighted KAMA’s audience of marketing professionals with anecdotes about Swagfest, like the one about the girl who tattooed “SAB” on her forearm. “The whole thing was pretty surreal,” he said. Burroughs is already planning Swagfest 2, but he’s eyeing corporate sponsors and considering a charitable slant for the event.

“Right now, I’m in the hole,” said Burroughs, when asked about the return on his six-figure investment in Swagfest. However, he believes he’s building brand recognition with future clients.  After all, his business model is driven by car wrecks; he’s ready to help “when the need arises.”

“It’s not like someone’s going to say ‘Stephen seems really cool. I think I’ll go get an injury,’” quipped Burroughs.

Just Desserts

Just Desserts

Burroughs described his evolution from radio to TV to outdoor advertising, which he thinks is the ideal channel for him. On TV you have to be outrageous – the guy in the giant monkey suit, according to Burroughs.  He aspires to a more professional image.

“The message has to fit the medium,” he said.

Who says this guy doesn’t know marketing?

*This post is used with permission. The original blog can be viewed at knoxify.com

The Art of Conversation: Social Media for B2B Communications

“Markets are conversations.”  –The Cluetrain Manifesto

Facebook has more than 800 million users.Twitter has 200 million users.  Google+ just hit the 50 million user mark, making it the fastest growing website ever. Moms and Millennials, Boomers and Tweens – everybody’s texting, tweeting, posting and blogging via desktops, laptops and mobile devices. And brands are falling all over themselves in the mad dash to reach consumers via social networks and join the conversation. But what about business-to-business communications? How are companies talking to each other?

In the B2B arena, the conversation is decidedly different. While B2B buyers have very high social participation, their primary goal in the social media space is to establish themselves as subject matter experts and then build relationships for future lead generation. Social media is based on relationships. Relationships help make B2B buying decisions. Word of mouth, whether online or offline, is still the most effective means of advertising. Particularly in the corporate world, personal endorsements and referrals validate business decisions.

As Ford CMO James Farley famously said, “You can’t just say it. You have to get other people to say it to each other.”

A primary concern of relationship marketers is migrating interactions to a lower-cost communications channel. That’s what makes social media so appealing: the prospect of building an audience of pre-qualified brand advocates on an owned media channel with minimal cost. The undisputed social media channel for B2B communication is LinkedIn.

Eighty percent of companies use LinkedIn for recruitment. Talking shop is expected on this platform, which boasts an advanced search option that allows users to sort by region, business category and other specifics. Setting up a company profile, establishing industry groups and encouraging employees to create personal profiles and “connect” with colleagues are all ways to build meaningful B2B relationships. LinkedIn is an online Rotary Club. It’s digital word of mouth.

According to Christine Moorman, senior professor of business administration at The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, while marketers, in general, expect to increase social media spending over the next five years, B2B product sector companies anticipate lower budgets going forward. Moorman hypothesized that CMOs don’t believe social media activities are appropriately integrated into their companies’ overall marketing strategies. In other words, there’s an urgency to utilize social media tools, even without a comprehensive plan in place.

“Firms are in a period of experimentation and observation about social media. Like television advertising in the 1950s, this period will define winners and losers of this generation’s firms,” Moorman said.

So whether your goal is lead generation, networking, brand management or establishing your company as the thought leader in your field, social media is where it all happens. While the physical handshake and business card exchange haven’t gone away, they are increasingly a precursor to or follow up after a digital dialogue. Get used to it.

“Transparency and conversation are to the Web 2.0 culture what ‘productivity’ and ‘innovation’ are to corporate culture.” – SAP

Slow down and think about it. Incorporate social media into a holistic, integrated marketing plan.  Don’t put tactics before strategies. B2B marketing traditionally lags B2C marketing in terms of innovation, so learn from other people’s mistakes and formulate a well-thought out approach to social media communications.

Things have changed.” – Bob Dylan

Indeed.

*This post is used with permission. The original blog can be viewed at talkstreetsmart.com

Angel Martinez discusses marketing to the Hispanic community at KAMA September 14th luncheon

We have officially kicked off the KAMA 2011-2012 season, and we started off with a bang! The featured speaker at our September 14th luncheon, Angel Martinez, was not only interesting, knowledgeable, and full of great ideas, he was entertaining and engaging as well. Before he could begin his presentation, he said he needed to get his “prop.” The “prop” turned out to be a beautiful black cowboy hat he perched atop his head. Combine that with his authentic bolo tie, and we all knew we were dealing with a true Texan.

Angel is a fifth generation Texan from the small town of Brownsville, TX which is about 98% Hispanic. The importance of this distinction came to light a bit later in the presentation, but he was pointing out that he is one of the 16 million “assimilated” Hispanics of the 50.5 million total comprising the largest minority of the current US population. Insightfully delivered, Angel grouped Hispanics into 3 segments: fully assimilated, bi-assimilated, and unassimilated. When considering marketing to a Hispanic community, age, gender, education, and English language fluency are not important. Their level of “sophistication” or experience with a product is more important. Meaning, if one has seen, used, experienced a particular product previously, when a new line, flavor, version comes to market, Hispanics are more likely to engage with that product over one they haven’t seen. He or she may not be educated or speak English extremely well, but he or she has experience and buying power based on that fact alone.

The “wow factor” of Angel’s presentation hit hard when he started firing off census data regarding the Hispanic population in the US. Currently 50.5 million over last year’s number of 35 million. Hispanics count for more than ½ of the nation’s growth over last year. For a more local view, currently there are 290,000 Hispanics in the state of Tennessee. In Knoxville, the number has tripled in the last year from about 2,700 to over 8,200. It is a trend that we all certainly can’t ignore.

Hispanics, like any group of people or culture, have their own way they liked to be marketed to or “loved on” as Angel put it. They are a very faith-based community that heavily responds to messages of hope and courage in marketing campaigns. Their communities are family centered and matriarchal in nature where women often make the household or buying decisions. In much contrast to the norms of US where mixing business with religion is shied away from, to the Hispanic community it is viewed holistically to the point that religion should be included in business decisions. There must be a symbiotic relationship between the two. Doing business without realizing how it will affect people and communities isn’t good, but you also can’t be all about purpose alone. To paraphrase Angel, “You can’t put ‘purpose’ in an envelope to pay your mortgage.” There has to be a good balance.

Angel closed his presentation with some very inspiring quotes, one of which I will leave with you which was said to have been spoken by Ghandi’s son.

“The US should be a really good salad. Let the tomato be the tomato. The cucumber be the cucumber. The lettuce be the lettuce. Then they all come together to make one really good salad.”

Beginning of the End of the Personal Computer?

It’s hard to believe I’m writing this article as I never thought I would see the day when the PC would become the senior citizen of our hardware community. Some PCs are enjoying their golden years such as the hip granddad known as the Apple Macintosh (he prefers being called “Mac”). He has such cute grandkids, too: iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Other PCs aren’t enjoying their twilight years as much. Old Hewlett-Packard (“HP” thank you very much) isn’t doing so well considering two of his grandkids, the rambunctious TouchPad and his little sister, the Pre smartphone, just got killed. Things are so sad with HP that he is considering suicide.

Well, suicide might be a little dramatic, but HP has been considering spinning off its PC division in light of declining profits.

What does this mean to you?

As the owner and/or operator of a website, the implications of this are pretty obvious and we’ve been hearing it for years: the web is going mobile. Face it, PCs are still too complicated and every website you visit you have to fumble around and figure out how to use it with some being easier to use than others. Ah, but mobile phones are so small and I can’t get my wonderful sexy brand through that tiny screen, you say. That’s why tablet computers are taking off. In fact, since HP announced the cancellation of the TouchPad (and lowered the price by $400) it is now a best seller on Amazon. Perhaps this is why HP is now considering aresurrection of the product. Interesting? Yes. Confusing? Totally.

While tablet computers are cool, lightweight, and fun to use, the smartphone will reign supreme due to its portability and ubiquity. However, that small screen is making me go blind, hence the rise of the tablet computer. Tablets tend to stay on the bedside table and have taken over the function of magazines and  newspapers in the family room. PCs, on the other hand, are where the “serious” work gets done that is currently impossible to do on any other device (Photoshop on a smartphone, anyone?). The biggest problem that needs to be solved is making a device that handles the duties of all three devices. Some say it will never happen but I hope it does because every now and then I realize I just left the house with my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Pro in tow. Now, that’s just plain silly.

My advice for you is to make sure that all your interactive branding projects have a mobile strategy built in from the get go. Retrofitting is such a cumbersome, expensive, and ugly process but it can be done. We can help. Either way, mobile optimized websites and cross-apps that work on smartphones and tablets are the future, so you better improvise, adapt, and overcome. And, while you’re at it, don’t forget grandpa PC as he’ll probably live to be over one hundred years old and he is pretty nostalgic for his websites.

This article was originally posted on the In10sity Blog and is used with permission.

Healthcare Marketing: Making An Emotional Connection

When it comes to choosing hospitals and healthcare providers, consumers think with their hearts. Regardless of the research and statistics, the industry citations and even the insurance coverage, people consistently make life-and-death decisions based on the emotional connections they form with caregivers.

Patients don’t want to hear only about equipment and research, they also want to know how it affects them in a profoundly personal way.

 

The challenge for clients is to keep the message patient-centered and communicate the benefit in a clear and compelling way. All that really matters to patients is their ability to survive and get well. Kentucky’s Saint Joseph Health System Cancer Center’s “Survivors” campaign is an example of how one healthcare provider got the message right. The Tombras Group created a signature TV spot that is visceral and heart-wrenching, because it features real survivors and real stories. It’s authentic, genuine and focused on patients, not providers.

Eighty percent of healthcare decisions are made by women, who are also more likely to be caregivers when family members are sick or injured. But it’s not about gender, it’s about humanity. The disconnect for physicians, who often matriculate to senior management positions within the hospital administration, happens when they focus on the science of medicine instead of on bedside manner.

“One of the most sublime experiences we can ever have is to wake up feeling healthy after we have been sick.” – Rabbi Harold Kushner

Another example that gets it right is St. Thomas Health Services’ “More Survivors” campaign. Our creative strategy was based on the heightened awareness and sensitivity that heart attack survivors describe as the new outlook they gain on life. The time-lapsed photography emphasizes this concept, which Tombras executed across all of the screens that consumers interact with: mobile, computer desktop and television.

Often, hospitals are under internal pressure from administrators (who are not marketers) to deliver a message that is hospital-focused: “We do this; we do that. Ours is the biggest and best. We have the smartest physicians. We have the most cutting-edge equipment.” The challenge is to take these inward-facing attributes and position them is a manner that matters to patients.

Additionally, many consumers now expect hospitals to have great physicians and wonderful equipment. These attributes alone are no longer the compelling, unique propositions that they used to be.

Middle Tennessee Medical Center (MTMC) built a new facility, and the administration was understandably proud of the expanded infrastructure and services. Tombras worked closely with our client to ensure that the new hospital was not about what MTMC had built but about how it would benefit patients. The campaign’s consistent theme was “Built Around You.”

Allow us to leave you with a final thought: call your patients “customers.” The word “patient” implies someone who has a lack of choice and empowerment – someone who is simply on the receiving end of care and service. Customers have a choice. They shop; they choose, and they go somewhere else if they’re not completely satisfied with their overall experience.

This post is used with permission. The original blog can be viewed at talkstreetsmart.com

SHIFT Happens

It’s 2011. We’re three years into this economic slowdown and now the Fed is telling us to bunker down until mid-2013. With deficit ceilings being raised, US credit being downgraded, and the Dow Jones Average convulsing on a daily basis, we have to admit our business environment is challenging to say the least. Heck, its downright hard to get a new customer these days. What marketing has any measurable effectiveness anymore? It seems like we keep doing more of it with less resources and fewer returns.

At the Knoxville American Marketing Association, we’re not doing business as usual and neither are you. We’ve been working hard to keep our costs level while cutting other costs and not raising the prices of our luncheons or special events. With that in mind, we will be featuring a wide range of speakers this year and challenging them to answer the following questions and more:

  • How has your business or marketing department changed over the past few years to adapt to new economic times?
  • What kinds of marketing used to work in the past but doesn’t work now?
  • What is working now? How did you figure it out? What mistakes did you make?
  • From your vantage point, what does the future look like in the next 3 to 5 years and beyond?
What topics are you interested in and what questions do you want to ask? Please let us know by leaving your comments below.

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