Remember the Heinz Ketchup commercial with Carly Simon touting the virtues of anticipation along with images of ketchup with the taste that’s worth the wait?
I’m reminded of that right now as I wait in a virtual line for the ultimate ioS app that promises to tame my inbox. The app is Mailbox—an app that helps you achieve “Mailbox Zero.” The service checks your email from the cloud and delivers it at super-fast speed to your phone. From there, you can decide whether to act on it now, later or never, all with the swipe of a finger. As of writing this blog, there are 105,619 nerds in front of me in a virtual line to get the app. (On the bright side, there are 193,917 people behind me.)
The buzz began back in December when Techfluentials got early Beta access and shortly proclaimed it “the next big thing.” Said TechCrunch’s Ryan Lawler, “Every now and then, I get my hands on an application or piece of technology that I can’t wait to tell the rest of the world about. Something that is a joy to use, tackles a major problem in a totally intuitive way and makes otherwise difficult tasks unfathomably easy. Something that has the potential to fundamentally change the way we do things.”
I wasn’t as lucky as Lawler. I never received early access. Or, perhaps, the invite got lost in my inbox.
In the months that followed, word of mouth continued to spread as the scrappy start-up did everything right to sustain the buzz:
· Provide early access to the media and other influencers. Check.
· Embrace social media to relentlessly tell your story. (The start-up’s trailer video alone generated more than 1.2 million views and more than 250,000 sign-ups). Check.
· Spur conversations at buzz-worthy events like SXSW. Check.
It also helps to have a killer Day Two story: the Cinderella start-up with just 13 employees had been acquired by Dropbox.
Just three weeks after launch, Mailbox revealed it was already delivering 50 million messages a day. (By comparison, it took Twitter three years before it had the infrastructure to process the same amount of messages). What’s more, the waiting list was more than 1.5 million people strong.
There was just one problem: the company didn’t have the infrastructure in place to keep up with demand and scale accordingly. To best serve customers with a good user experience, Mailbox introduced a waiting list. To get on the list, you download the Apple app to reserve your spot in line. Reservations are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. At any moment, you can tap on the app to see your progress. And, with just one touch, you can stay current on the latest developments and discussions.
At SXSW, Mailbox CEO Gentry Underwood explained that the waiting list is an honest and transparent solution. But I think it’s also brilliant in its simplicity: the ritualization of checking daily where you are in the queue keeps customers engaged and excited while the company does what it needs to do to ensure that when it’s your turn to partake, the experience is a good one.
The waiting game enables Mailbox.com to effectively sustain word of mouth as it rolls out the service to new customers. Think of all the attention Apple receives when its new iProduct finally hits the shelves and loyal consumers wait patiently—often for days—to be the first to get in.
I’m guessing I have at least a few weeks before I’ll be able to experience Mailbox firsthand. In the meantime, the company has orchestrated a brilliant campaign to keep me –wait for it — wa-a-aitin’.
By now, everyone has seen this Infographic. Yes, it is complex and confusing and it should give you a headache.
The tools to manage and measure activity on a socially enabled web today are growing at substantial rate. Today, you can track and measure virtually any activity you would want to or deploy a tool to help you manage social campaigns of virtually any type. A tool or an app has been built to address almost anything you might want to do.
This explosion of social tool development, while innovative and necessary, does little to solve the bigger problems of social engagement, which essentially boil down to understanding why people act the way they act in a social brand encounter and then helping to facilitate the right engagement and then understanding in simple clear terms the value and outcome of that encounter. That’s the bad news. The good news is this will change.
If you follow any innovation curve in virtually any industry, things tend to get harder and more complex before they get simpler and easier. Why? Because, during the early phases of innovation, the processes and rules and infrastructure that will later support new inventions are getting built right along with what’s being invented. Solving any one problem on its own is the goal. Later, problems get grouped together and a new smarter solution addresses them all.
Take the Model T automobile for example. Building the car on a mass scale was one thing. Tough enough to be sure, but what about manufacturing and distributing replacement parts as those cars began to break down? Sourcing, distributing and stocking virtually every part on the car separately was likely a daunting, painful and expensive exercise at the outset, for the supplier and the consumer.
In the end, things improved. They had to for the fledgling automotive industry to remain viable. All the confusion, competing systems and supply chain gaps needed to be streamlined and refined and new smarter and more innovative solutions and options were layered on based on understanding and meeting customer needs.
Innovators moved from activity metrics (which parts are needed) to value metrics (when to make and distribute them so that inventories matched demand) as the industry evolved.
Making sure that the customer could get the parts they needed when they needed it AFTER they purchased the vehicle helped to ensure that that customer would buy another auto from that manufacturer rather than a competitor’s product.
Social Marketing today is going through the same innovation phase as the early auto industry (and every other one for that matter). It will get better. For the industry to survive and remain relevant to users, it has to! The focus will begin to move away from the tools and the activity to the experience and the value of the relationship we deliver.
As this innovation occurs over the next few years, look for consolidation to speed up and for tools become more expansive, robust…and simpler. Tomorrow’s Infographic will look drastically different than the one at the beginning of this post. It will be less about the tools available and more about content, relationship triggers and the decision journey. That’s what tomorrow’s tools will help to manage-relationships and decision journeys, not just data.
Remember, keep your eye on the prize of understanding what is driving your value metrics; what is moving your constituents through the decision process and what compels them to remain involved with your brand. The tools which help you manage your social marketing initiatives will get better, be more intuitive and easier to use, I guarantee it.
Knowing this, social marketing practitioners and their business peers need to start focusing hard on what makes good relationships work. You must now begin the process of blurring the lines between all of your brand experience channels and optimizing those channels for relevance and value.
Get ready, as the next few years will bring marketing innovation and opportunities you have never imagined were possible.
Repositioning a venerable brand needs to both honor its heritage and create a new reality that is credible and disruptive. The disruption breaks the schema that has previously defined the brand, but if the disruption is too far afield, the new positioning will lack believability and authenticity and ultimately will fail to connect.
When ComBlu was asked to be part of the team to reposition Encyclopaedia Britannica, we searched for a platform that blended the old with the new. Part of the process was learning both the brand’s history and grasping the vision of its future.
What surprised us most at the outset was what we didn’t know about the company. When we thought of Britannica, we thought of the multiple volumes of encyclopedias lined up on the shelf like toy soldiers. We all had fond memories of using the books during our own school days, but even those of us with kids and endless research projects (myself included), had no idea of all they had to offer today.
We learned that Britannica had spent the past two decades transforming the company into a thriving, global digital education and instruction company. Today, the firm is well-positioned to make an even greater contribution to education and gain a significant share of the $10 billion school curriculum and digital learning markets.
In addition to the encyclopedia—print and online—Britannica offers a diverse range of digital products and services, including instructional programs for the classroom, reference and education portals, language courses, and educator tutorials for knowledge seekers of any age.
With its audience-specific, segmented product line, Britannica is well-rounded and thriving. But who knew? We did not, and as we learned through the listening program we conducted, we were not alone. Our listening revealed that:
· Britannica was not included in much of the conversation about online access to information and research.
· Many mentions of Britannica were nostalgic in nature and not forward-looking.
· Conversations often reinforced a perception that the company is outdated.
So, we definitely had a challenge on our hands. We knew we needed to find the right news angle to reintroduce and reposition Britannica as a global digital brand.
The sunsetting of the print set of Britannica provided the perfect platform to present who Britannica is today, what differentiates them in the competitive online research arena, why now is the right time to go all digital, and showcase their plans for the future. We used this event as an opportunity to tell the story of the new Britannica to a mix of influencers who could tell the story and give it perspective, context and power.
It was a fully integrated social and traditional media campaign that used a variety of assets that collectively created “lightning in a bottle.” All of the elements we created to tell the story had distinct roles and made it “easy to care; easy to share.” People were very attached to the legacy print brand so we made sure they had plenty of images and stories that reignited a deep emotional connection to the brand. We also included assets that showcased the “new” Britannica as a powerful digital and social suite of products. The result? More than 2 billion impressions that told the story in a respectful yet disruptive way.
Our infographics were shared wholesale and tidbits from them were used in various stories; segments of the B-roll footage were used in a number of broadcast and online pieces; the blogs and social posts were quoted, tweeted and retweeted; and the photos we provided appeared literally everywhere. Check out some of our favorite clips, articles and social posts that we consider highlights of the campaign.
When we started this phase of the rebranding program, almost 2,000 print editions were sitting in a warehouse—today, none remain. But more importantly, many people now know the story of a 244-year-old print publisher that has successfully repositioned itself for a long and successful future as a digital learning brand. This campaign was just the first step on a new journey for Britannica.
I have to admit that I did get a bit nostalgic about the end of the print era. The memory it evoked for me: I was cleaning the room that our set of Britannica’s lived in, dusting them off, and getting pleasantly distracted by perusing a page and seeing where it took me. Do you have a favorite memory of your own? We’d love to hear it.
Upon reflection, perhaps I shouldn’t have second guessed the significance of our encyclopedic announcement revealing the end of the publication’s iconic print set and the company’s pursuit of all things digital.
But I did.
True, everyone involved was passionate about our story. We believed in it. We prepared for it. Still, I worried (I’m a bit like Woody Allen that way). Will people care? Will they understand its significance and why it truly matters?
Turns out they did–beyond our wildest expectations. Breaking news from the front page of the most influential of newspapers (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Financial Times), the global news wires, and national and international news programs were liked, tweeted and commented on around the world. We were number one with a bullet on Google and Twitter. Stories popped up where least expected—on iPad apps, in elevator screens, even after an oh-so-fascinating conversation about Kathy Lee’s new hairdo on The Today Show. I knew we were part of the zeitgeist upon seeing us featured on the RidicuList segment of Anderson Cooper 360 and becoming the answer to a question on “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” I chuckled at the resulting banter:
“If you don’t understand why it’s a big deal that we’ll no longer be able to buy a whole shelf of leather-bound encyclopedias for more than a thousand dollars a set, go find your parents and ask them to ask their parents to find an Ouija board to commune with their grandparents, and they’ll tell you.”
While it’s true that this story was 244 years in the making, nostalgia for the iconic brand is only one reason why it has become one of the most talked about topics around the world. While I’m sure this list will grow as the news becomes a day eight, nine and 10 story (it’s like the Energizer bunny in that it keeps going and going), success secrets certainly would include:
· Be prepared—be very prepared. Telling a compelling story requires more than a press release. First and foremost, compelling messages must be developed that are accepted and internalized by anyone who communicates with customers, the media, analysts and influencers. Once in hand, these messages serve as the foundation for all of the assets developed to tell and share a story. Britannica did this quite well, as you can see from the videos, blogs, infographics and social assets leveraged for our announcement.
· Relentlessly tell the story you want to tell. Time and time again, the influencers we spoke with wanted us to express sadness for the end of the print set. We wouldn’t go there, no matter how hard they tried. Rather, we were passionate about using this milestone to effectively communicate that Britannica today is a very different company—it’s digital, mobile and social—and its reach and relevancy today is undeniable. In fact, our announcement is something to celebrate.
· Make time for the influencers. Critical to our success was the strategy to arrange one-on-one briefings with the people that ultimately shape what we talk and tweet about. We were quite successful in lining up nonstop meetings on the days prior to our announcement, yet ultimately it was up to Britannica’s president, Jorge Cauz, to bring it home for us. And bring it home he did by knocking it out of the park every time.
· Then, make time for everyone else. Once the news broke, the requests for interviews were fast and furious. And, we were ready. We kept at it, in fact, until the wee hours of the night, for three straight days. And we delivered responses to questions such as, “How much does a complete set weigh?” like it was the first time they were asked (129 pounds—more than my colleague Pam weighs, incidentally).
· Don’t take yourself too seriously. News like this takes on a life of its own as reporters and bloggers look for new ways to tell the story. Embracing the process and having fun will keep the news engine running—even when you are running on empty.
What did you think of Britannica’s announcement? Who knows, we might be able to share your story.