Friday, June 08, 2007

Live from New York, It's Friday Morning at the New Media Academic Summit

Blogging today from the Harvard Club on 44th street in the Big Apple at the Edelman New Media Academic Summit. The first panel was about engaging consumers through social networks. Panelists include Scott Donaton (Publisher of Advertising Age), Babs Rangaiah (Director, Media & Entertainment, Unilever USA), Scott Heiferman (co-founder and CEO of Meetup), and moderated by Pam Talbot (President and CEO, Edelman US).

Babs talked about the Axe, Dove, and Whisk initiatives. For the Whisk laundry detergent campaign he talked about where people were able to upload their own photos of kids being dirty and place them on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Then people had the ability to print this picture as well as forward an e-version to other people. A key take-away for me from what he had to say was the following quotation: "Build the brand in a way that makes customers want to play." This is a key point because it's about providing tools and resources that give people sufficient flexibility to do things that are relevant to their lives.

Scott Donaton from Advertising Age talked about how he sees the challenge as moving from an intrusion model to an invitational model for marketing and advertising. A key point here is figuring out what elicits the invitation. A first answer to this question that he provided was "relevancy". The invitational model forces companies to come up with something useful and relevant to people's lives that make those people want to invite the brand in.

Scott Heiferman from Meetup anticipates a backlash from people living their lives too much in front of screens and feels there is tremendous power of offline networks of people who can use Meetup to help "organize people" (as distinct from Google's motto of "organizing information"). He explained how Meetup groups are locally organized and are built around shared interests. For example, in New York City dog lovers are organized by sections of New York and by dog breeds (for example, doxon lovers on the upper East side). On their own, the organizers of each of these Meetup groups banded together and went to retailers who specialized in dog products and services (like Doggie Day Care) and made a proposal. They basically said that if the retailers would provide a discount for their Meetup members, then the Meetup members would promote those retailers among their social networks. I found this to be an interesting idea of people initiating interactions and inviting companies in based on what was relevant to themselves (and, coincidentally, mutually beneficial to the company as well).