Friday, January 4

Partnering With Consumers: Brand Evangelists

According to PQ Media's word-of-mouth marketing forecast and reported by Adweek, consumer marketing is expected to top $1 billion in 2007, up from $980 million in 2006. It is expected to expand by $4 billion by 2011.

“Technology has leveled the marketing playing field for brands. In the new world of marketing, customer evangelists are the key influence on what consumers buy." — Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba, Creating Customer Evangelists (cited by Adweek).

Izea in one of several companies that seems to be moving right in step with the trend. Their newest social media marketing program, Social Spark, hopes to bridge the gap between blogger networks and brand advocates. You can catch a platform preview video here. The presentation is interesting enough that we've added Social Spark to our watch list.

Combined, all of this is adding up to an increased emphasis on integrated marketing and public relations. Companies are looking to support traditional advertising with aggressive website strategies and early ad pre-releases on the Internet in order to boost conversations and buzz about their message and brand.

For example, Nielsen BuzzMetrics applied a Brand Association Map (BAM), which plots how consumers naturally think and talk about brands across billions of unaided conversations online, last October. They found that over 33 million messages were posted to 457 automotive CGM sites from January 1 through September 10, 2007. These conversations revealed:

• Shoppers actively discuss current automotive dealer and manufacturer incentive programs available.
• Full-size trucks were referenced most often in relation to incentives during this period, fueled by the introduction of the Toyota Tundra.
• Consumers frequently reference when seeking vehicle pricing and incentives, reflecting shared dealer experiences among peers.

A few days ago, I mentioned that companies are engaged in social media whether they realize it our not. In the Vehicle Transaction Price study release, Bill Stephenson, VP and Practice Lead, Automotive, for Nielsen BuzzMetrics, a service of the Nielsen Company, punctuated this point:

“Shoppers are going online to learn what other buyers have paid for the car they are interested in. This trend is driving transparency among automakers and dealers because now, all of a sudden, shoppers are privy to the best deals that others received.”

This isn’t exclusive to the automotive industry. Consumers are seeking online information to influence their decisions on just about everything, including the President of the United States.

Remember last year when I mentioned the number of voters who consider the Internet their number one source for election coverage would double? It did. And then some.



maybei on 1/4/08, 1:10 PM said...

"Consumers are seeking online information to influence their decisions on just about everything"

lol, very true! One of the first things I do if I have a question about any kind of product or service - I Google these words:

-- insert name of whatever -- sucks

lol, I know sounds funny but if you want the skinny on a company, if there is something bad - that will bring it up for sure!

Rich on 1/4/08, 2:07 PM said...

Wow Maybei,

Talk about influence, I had to Google myself to see.

I only hope you take the time to read the context and consider not all of those peeps are this Richard Becker. :)

Anyway, I agree with you. Very often, companies are not defined by what they do right, but how they handle what they do wrong.

Great comment. All my best,

Anonymous said...

Nightbird says:

Doctor's are also finding that patients have spent the time to research their medicines and sometimes know more about them than the doctor. One at a clinic I go to refused to see me anymore when I disagreed with him.

Not only do consumers check the prices of things online to see what someone else is charging, but more and more people are buying online as well. Which should impact the way they promote themselves to the public with easy to navigate sites and competitive prices.

Over Christmas, overall sales were down, but online there was a jump in those who let their fingers do the shopping. A lesson that should be noted.

Rich on 1/4/08, 4:54 PM said...

Hey Nightbird,

As someone who lives in Las Vegas, I can assure that it always pays to second guess doctors. :) We have some good ones now, but if we did everything the old ones said ... well, it would not be pretty.

In general, businesses might want to jump up and down about consumer-to-consumer research because they can see it. Consumers have always talked about products and companies. Businesses just didn't know what they were saying.

I do believe most of them will be implementing some new media tactics this year. Some are just struggling with the right mix.


Sweet Tea on 1/4/08, 5:23 PM said...

Rich, as a consumer I recently blasted Charter Communications for their poor customer service. I went to Google and found the name and contact info of one of the corporate suits. I have tried for months to get my account corrected and he did it in 2 days.I guess it pays to go to the top sometimes. He did it right.

Rich on 1/4/08, 11:34 PM said...


Sometimes that works best. Often times, the only solution is to find someone with authority beyond their take on procedure.

Personally, I have a different take on customer service because I covered concierge professionals for almost five years. It's much easier to say thank you very much than it is to say "no" or "I can't."

Good tip. Best,

Your PR Guy on 1/6/08, 6:55 PM said...

This is very interesting and indicative to our business in fee-only financial planning. I've been telling my CEO for months that if he wants to create a family office business model to include financial planning for multiple generations, that the younger generations are online.

I've stressed developing a social media strategy to address this issue and begin reaching out to this group.

Unfortunately, developing this type of strategy will be long in coming. We're still working on the basics with this company.

What's interesting, however, is the pressure I think the CEO is feeling from me and others. Every week in our communication meeting, not only do I brief him on other efforts we are engaged in, but I bring up social media ALL the time and show him example of others in his profession that are marching forward into social media.

We'll get there eventually.

Rich on 1/7/08, 7:39 AM said...


I agree with you. I have a few more models that are starting to help companies see the benefits of adding new media to their communication mix.

The demographics have changed significantly in the last two years. It's not just youth, but a vibrant mix of professionals, depending on where you look.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience. Based on some answers I received from professionals on Linkedin, it seems the most pressing challenge at the moment is demonstrating the ROI, especially to small and medium-sized businesses. But isn't that the same with any communication tactic?

Keep up the good work.



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