RENEGADE THINKING from the Founder/CEO of Renegade AND the author of "The CMO’s Periodic Table: A Renegade’s Guide to Marketing."

Positive Leadership, Elisabeth Charles, CMO of Athleta



As this is my first blog post of the year, I’d like to focus your attention on the power of positivity.  Don’t gag! Seriously, the first step to getting something big (or little) accomplished is believing that you can.  Conversely, if you harbor negative thoughts about a particular challenge chances are you will outright fail and then fall back on the easy out, “I knew that wasn’t going to work.”  So, let’s be positive people.  Positive about setting a few really big goals and positively committed to achieving them.

Which is a perfect segue into my conversation with Elisabeth Charles, the CMO of Athleta.  I’ve known Elisabeth for at least 4 years having met her at a CMO Club Summit. At that time, she was CMO at Petco and part of cabal of indomitable San Diego-based women CMOs that rivaled any group in the country for smarts and talent but were distinguished more by their gregarious positivity.  Amazingly, within a few months of each other, each of these ladies found themselves looking for their next opportunity, not with a “woe is me, how could this happen?” attitude but instead excited about facing new challenges and stretching their wings.

Since then, all have gotten one step closer to their dream jobs, especially Elisabeth. As CMO of Athleta, which is based in Northern California, Elisabeth can rarely be seen not wearing her new brand.  This is not an affectation.  Elisabeth has always been athletic and committed.  Wearing Athleta serves multiple purposes. It shows she’s proud of her employer.  It helps her experience the brand and be better prepared to talk with the designers especially since she gets a lot of feedback from other women about her attire.  And perhaps most importantly it sets an example for her team–don’t just market the brand, be the brand.  That’s the kind of positive message that made Elisabeth an easy choice for the CMO Club‘s Leadership Award.  (And of course, I’m quite positive you’ll enjoy our interview below.)

Drew: How would you describe / or how have others described your leadership style?

I am a leader who supports and drives change. It’s important to not be afraid to ask tough questions and be willing to challenge the status quo in order to move companies forward.  In order to do this, I try to be extremely diplomatic, collaborative and respectful of the past as I look towards the future.  I have very high standards and am extremely results driven, but also seen as compassionate and fair.

Drew: Do you have any role models that you’ve admired over the years and if so, what did you pick up from him/her?  
I admire visionaries who are purpose driven and able to build a vibrant business with strong company culture, while also doing good in the world.  Some of my role models in this regard are Howard Schultz, John Mackey, Kip Tindell and most recently Jessica Alba.

Drew: Can you talk about some of the actions you took as a leader in the last couple of years that were particularly challenging?  
Leading change at brands is always challenging.  You are asking employees to take a hard look at their business and acknowledge that they have to change what they’ve been doing to redefine where they are going.  It’s especially hard to do this with successful companies who may not fully accept the need to change.  But as they say, “change or die.”

Drew: How important is your peer to peer network to your on-going success?  What are the biggest benefits of having a peer network?
My peer to peer network is invaluable to my on-going success.  I rely on my peers, especially at The CMO Club, to help share best practices as well as challenges they are facing and how they are addressing them.  It’s great to tap into approaches that you would not have thought of on your own, as well as gain confidence that you can solve difficult issues with peer advice.

Drew: What’s the best advice you’ve been given to guide personal / career success?
Do what you love and work where you are rewarded for your natural strengths. Many of us chase the ultimate job or that next promotion or higher salary without really exploring how strong a fit the company’s culture is with our own values.  Don’t stay in a role where you are undervalued or unhappy – life is too short!

Drew: Looking ahead to 2016, what is the single biggest challenge that you¹d like to overcome?
The biggest challenge I’d like to overcome is driving greater brand differentiation for Athleta in a very crowded and competitive atleisure space.  But I love challenges, so I am looking forward to an exciting year of change and taking some risks.

Social ROI: Debate Continues w Ted Rubin


Ted ROILike the proverbial dog with a bone, I’m not letting go of my obsessive search for an answer to the question, “is there a formula for measuring the ROI of social media?” This journey led to a dinner last week with a dozen marketing professionals where we debated the topic of Social ROI at length.  For the most the part, the group could be divided into two camps, those who believed that measurement was just a matter of isolating variables AND those who believed there were too many intervening factors to show direct cause and effect.

It was a spirited discussion to say the least. Among those leading the charge for measurability was Ted Rubin, the author of Return on Relationship, a book with the subtitle “Relationships are the new currency: honor them, invest in them, and start measuring your ROR.”  Clearly Ted has a lot to say on this subject and he was kind enough to agree to the interview below during which he identifies what I’d call directional indicators of ROI like Lifetime Value of a Customer and the relative value of connected versus non-connected customers.  More importantly in my mind at least, Ted also offers some excellent advice on how build these relationships, without which there is no hope of ROI or RonR.

Drew Neisser: How is RonR different than a company’s “goodwill” in accounting terms?

Ted Rubin: Good will cannot be measured, but factors of RonR can. Lifetime Value of a Customer, Average Order Value, and Frequency of Purchase.

Drew Neisser: How would a brand use ROI metrics to measure RonR? Are there any data trends that would indicate the brand relationships are taking a positive trajectory?
Ted Rubin:At this time, looking at customer lifetime value is a really attractive way to measure both ROI and ROR when it comes to Social Media.  Syncapse’s recent study shows a significant and positive difference in customer value, when comparing non-followers vs followers in Social Media.  Not only do they purchase more, but their advocacy creates new Word of Mouth value for the brand.  An ongoing measurement comparing average non-connected customers to connected customers will help any brand gain a great understanding into just how valuable those online relationships are.

Drew Neisser: Would you ever advocate for artificial intervention if the response to a campaign is lukewarm, even after a company takes the steps you recommend to build meaningful relationships (listening, making it “the channel of me,” etc.). For example, buying Twitter followers or internally commissioning positive reviews/comments

Ted Rubin: Never, ever buy Twitter followers. They are worthless. Now… paying someone who knows how to properly aggressively grow your Twitter following, that is incredibly worthwhile if they know how to do it properly and add value at the same time. But that cannot happen overnight to jumpstart a campaign.

Drew Neisser: What were some of the brand relationship issues you encountered at the companies you’ve managed, and how did you employ your theory of RonR to ameliorate them?

Ted Rubin: For the most part it has been about the feeling that companies are not listen… so listen, and take actions that make it incredibly obvious you are doing so… then make sure that is easily shared. In addition the very best thing you can do to add RonR is bringing the marketing silo in line with the customer svc silo. Since it is incredibly rare that the CMO has jurisdiction over cust svc, important to reach out to person running it and work closely together. Amazing the RonR that is achieved by simply replacing product, and aligning the two. Also when a CMO actually interacts with with customers via social has an incredible impact in customer relations and with social that word is spread incredibly fast. Be real, authentic, and engaging and the results with affect your bottom line. Actively look for and engage critics. I LOVE critics… first if there is one there are hundreds more. Engage them publicly and you can resolve issues for many at once and show your willingness to do so. Most critics are incredibly easy to turn into Dynamic Advocates… simply BE NICE and replace their product.

Drew Neisser: At what point do you think consumers “break up” with a brand, and, if possible, how do you build up a relationship with consumers who are on the brink of abandoning it?

Ted Rubin: Consumers break up when they are not being heard… simple.  So… LISTEN, HEAR, and let then know you do. I know this seems like common sense, but unfortunately, or fortunately for those brands who DO get it, common sense (and using good Judgement) is not very common. Also the pervading fear of such interactions make them a goldmine for those who recognize the value.

Drew Neisser: If a small company has managed to build a meaningful, loyal customer base but doesn’t have the manpower to adequately handle these relationships at the same level over time, what are some effective steps the brand can take to prevent defection?

Ted Rubin: Simple… empower your employees to do the work.  Allow them to interact and engage… encourage it. Also encourage and empower them all to build their own personal brands and social media influence/connection/following. Especially in a small company, your employees should be your strongest and most valuable advocates.

The Non-Linear ROI of Social


I’ve spent a lot of time recently obsessing about the ROI of Social Media.  Not just because current and prospective clients want to see some kind of a return on the services Renegade provides (although that’s a damn good reason in and of itself) but also because it’s a fabulously complex Kobayashi Maru-like challenge.

Consider for a moment all the roles that social media can perform for a company including customer service, recruitment, research, product development, awareness building, crowd sourcing content, referral/lead generation, and yes, even direct sales in a few cases.  Now try to unbundle those roles and show straight line ROI for any of them with the exception of the last one.  Good luck to you.  (By the way, smarter minds that mine like Lux Narayan of Unmetric have concluded  it’s just not possible.)

Thinking that social media could be my route to the answer, I sent out this tweet:

Screen Shot 2013-07-19 at 9.23.13 AM



Rob Moore, CEO of Internet Media Labs and a fellow IBM #SmarterCommerce VIP Influencer (which has become an invaluable micro-social network!) was kind enough to respond leading to the conversation below. Rob offered a terrific example of “Non-Linear ROI” which brought us both some comfort that all the social networking stuff we do actually does pay out!  If you have similar tales to share, let me know.

Drew Neisser: First, can you provide a short description of Internet Media Lab?
Rob Moore: Internet Media Labs is a NYC based new media & technology company.  We build technology to help businesses and brands build and manage social relationships more effectively.  We also run a cool co-working space and produce a web show, #InTheLab.

Drew Neisser: Talk to me about how you measure social ROI in terms of your own business?
Rob Moore: Social ROI for us takes many forms, and it is important for businesses to recognize that there are many forms of Social ROI that can be quantified and measured.  Of course, there is the obvious – we make a social connection that becomes a buyer of one of our products or services.  But there is also tangible ROI that comes in different forms: from connectors – people that introduce you to others that ultimately buy – and amplifiers, people that share our message about our products.

It has to be noted, however, that none of this happens without a significant investment in relationship building.  We have amazing social relationships and networks that will have significant impact on our bottom line for years to come.

Drew Neisser: ROI in your case seems like a very non-linear non-direct marketing process. Is that a fair assessment?
Rob Moore: Absolutely.  Up to this point, I would say that most of our ROI would qualify as originating from non-linear connections, i.e. someone that introduced you to someone else, that invited you to speak at a conference, that resulted in a business opportunity.  That is pretty non-linear!

One important thing to recognize as well is that many of those originating relationships happen as the result of seemingly “random” intersections – the serendipity of social.

Drew Neisser: So you met Linda Bernstein (@wordwhacker), who is clearly an influencer and she has been evangelizing on your behalf which lead to various leads which you will close at some point. That sounds like ROI to me. Do you think it’s possible to actually create a model that puts a value on your nurturing of people like Linda?
Rob Moore: First of all, I need to state for the record that it would be impossible for me to put a “value” on my relationship with Linda, she falls into the PRICELESS category!  But that said, you can absolutely model and attribute value to your social relationships, especially when you apply what I call “social forensics” to the analysis: mapping and identifying the true origin of that revenue you just booked.

When you are able to do that, every social relationship can be assigned a potential future value.

I want to be clear that I don’t look every person I meet on Twitter with dollar signs in my eyes.  Rather, I look every new social relationship as an opportunity for mutual discovery, networking and advocacy.  By being authentic and agenda free, trust is formed and friendships are created, the by-product of which is magic!!!

This works both ways for IML, by the way.  We have sponsored many an event, used services, or paid commissions to people and businesses that we have met through social media.  As a matter of fact, our social media ROI balance sheet is a little in the red right now – we need to do something about that!

Drew Neisser: Is this kind of networking / relationship building with influencers scalable?  If so, any thoughts on how?
Rob Moore: It is scalable, but it doesn’t happen without a plan and significant commitment. My friend Angela Maiers (@AngleaMaiers) coined the phrase “Tactical Serendipity”, which I love.  Tactical Serendipity means putting your self in position to take advantage of the random intersections that happen every second in social.  If you can identify where you best social relationships have come from, put yourself in a position to attract more of them – you can scale great relationships if you know where to find them.

Drew Neisser: Also, you’re a seasoned vet with a proven track record which makes it a lot easier for you to network with other influencers like Linda.  Could a junior person at your company have done this? Is this sort of networking something you can teach people?
Rob Moore: Yes I believe this type of networking can be taught to and mastered by almost anyone.  Surely my depth of business experience has been an advantage to me as I have engaged in social, but there was a massive learning curve for me as well.  I think that learning curve can be compressed, though, to accelerate success and positive outcomes.  For junior people, this can be achieved through coaching and mentoring, for senior people new to social it is often just a matter applying existing skills sets and knowledge to well defined social relationship building strategy.

FINAL NOTE: This is just my opening salvo on Social ROI.  Expect a lot more on this subject in the near future.  There are folks out there (like Syncapse) working of formulas to calculate Social ROI and I can’t wait to dig into those…

Nice Companies Finish First: Q+A w Peter Shankman


PeterShankman TVThe proper German pronunciation of my last name is actually “nicer” as is in “nicer than the other guy.”  It is little wonder then that I have a natural predisposition towards nicer people, especially people like Peter Shankman who is championing the cause of being nicer on a global scale.  I was lucky enough to have a video interview with Peter at the IBM Smarter Commerce Summit from which I pulled the Q&A below.

I think Peter makes a really compelling case for why niceness is not a ‘nice to have’ component of your go-to-market strategy but instead could become a ‘must have’ element to gain competitive advantage.  Importantly, Peter says niceness needs to start with the CEO and then permeate the organization.  Let me know if you think there’s a seat in the boardroom of your company for a Mr. Nicer.

Drew Neisser:  Tell me about your new book, Nice Companies Finish First: Why Cutthroat Management Is Over.
Peter Shankman: I realized when I sold my last company that the reason the company did so well and was purchased was not because I had an e-mail newsletter, an e-mail mailing list but it was because I was nice and I had a personal relationship with all 250,000 people on this list.  It sounds crazy but I realize that nice was actually the reason the company did so well.

Drew Neisser: Wait, you had a personal relationship with 250,000 thousand people?
Peter Shankman: It sounds crazy but you know when was the last time you were on a newsletter mailing list that came from a person?  You know every corporate mailing newsletter comes from “do not reply”, mine came from from the day I started to the day I sold it.

Drew Neisser: I got some of those [HARO] e-mails. So then what?
And so people would reply to me, “I know this won’t go to the owner but…” and I’d reply, “Oh, actually it did, how can I help you?”  [Seeing the power of being nice] I spent the next two years really studying and interviewing companies from Fortune100s all the way down to mom-and-pop’s. We found out that the companies that focused on nice, focused on treating their employees nice, the customers nice and their clients nice, treating the environment nice, actually wind up doing anywhere from 10 percent to 30 percent higher revenue than companies that had that sort of 1980s Gordon Gecko mentality.

Drew Neisser:  When it comes to being nice is this something that companies can systematize or is this more about random acts of kindness?
Peter Shankman: It’s a little bit of both; it has to start from the CEO.  CEO has to understand that being nice for the sake of being nice is the greatest thing in the world, that’s what people want to do, but let’s face it, that doesn’t necessarily generate revenue.  The concept of being nice for a company really comes in two parts.  You want to be thought of as nice, no question about it, you want to do nice things, because this is a good thing to do, good karma and all that.  But what we found in the book is that the more you do nice things the more consumers actually look at it, and say “okay you know what, as a customer I was treated really well by this company, I want to tell my friends to use this company as well.”  And so what we found out is that when you combine being nice for the sake of being nice with being nice because it is profitable, you wind up making your stockholders happy as well as the customers, the [vendors] and the employees.

Drew Neisser:  Who are some of the companies that you found doing nice things?
Peter Shankman: We found a food truck out there where one day a week for an hour, they give away the food to the homeless people, just because it is the right thing to do.  There is a dry cleaner that if you are homeless and you have a job interview, you can bring [your clothes] and they will dry clean it for this job interview for free. My favorite example is when Morton’s steakhouse jokingly met me at the airport because I jokingly tweeted, “I want a steak” and they showed up at the airport and that generated double-digit revenue for them.

Drew Neisser: Amazing. Tell me more about the Morton’s example.
[After seeing my tweet Morton’s social team realized] he comes here a lot, he eats a lot of steak and so let’s do something nice for him.  And I was so blown away [that they showed up at the airport with a free steak dinner that] I told my friends and two days later I’m on the ‘Today’ Show, and they had double-digit revenue, six months after that.  It is incredible –double digit revenue growth, from showing up at the airport because some guy jokingly tweeted about it.

Drew Neisser: So let me play CMO for a moment and ask how do you scale that?
Peter Shankman: You don’t have to scale that, not everyone needs a steak at the airport.  You can do something that when you show up, when you make a reservation, at Morton’s they say hey, it is a special occasion?  And if it yes, it is my mother’s birthday, oh what’s her name?  Nancy.  They walk in, “Happy Birthday Nancy”, on the menu.  It’s this little, tiny things that really make you come back.

Drew Neisser: So we have this logo behind us from the IBM logo, Smarter Commerce Conference, so how does nice and data, and big data come together?
Peter Shankman: That’s my favorite part, we have so many tools now and you can know everything about your customer before they walk in the door.  But it is not enough just to know everything about the customer; you have to learn how to take advantage of that. We’ve worked with hotels to do this.  You can determine when a person’s walking in to check in, are they frazzled?  You know, are they tired?  If they’ve had a long flight, you can see things in their body language. You can look at what they are saying online, look at what they are talking about, what are they posting–Are they angry? Are they happy? Are they sad?  And if they are happy make them happier; if they are upset, make them happy.  The greatest thing in the world is when you go to a hotel that you don’t expect to be treated [royally] and they do something out of the ordinary like they have a hot towel, anything like that, it really is amazing.

Drew Neisser:Now this phenomenon of niceness certainly probably parallels the rise of the service economy, what are you — how does an auto manufacturer — they make hard goods, how do they do nice?
Peter Shankman: When I worked at America Online, that was my first job out of college and it was also my first job in a big company.  At that point I think they had 1800 employees and everyone had to work, in the tech-support or sales & marketing, because you know sales customer service group once for a full week before they start at their job, that’s how they learnt about the customer and things like that.  And my first thought was, “Oh God, I have to work at customer service, this is going to suck.”  You know what they did every Friday night, they backed up a beer truck, to the front door of the building, and they give out beer, and they give out soda and you can have whatever you wanted and the concept of treating the customer nice translated.  You know if you are a big company, if you are an auto-manufacturer, well, are you treating your employees better than GM or Ford? You make [employees] want to take pride in their work because they love what they do.

Drew Neisser: So niceness starts at home.
Peter Shankman: It really doesn’t — it has to start with the CEO, if it doesn’t start with the CEO, there’s no point.

Drew Neisser: Got it.  So I’ve got a group of CMOs here; do I get them to put a new line item on their marketing plan called Being Nice?
Peter Shankman: You’d be amazed; you can drop 30 percent of your marketing budget, simply being nicer. Here’s a perfect example — I was staying at a hotel in Dubai, three months ago.  I get to the hotel at 6:00 pm, I’ve been out at meetings all day, I get back to my room, it’s been cleaned and there’s note, “Mr. Shankman we noticed that your toothpaste is running low, we went to the store and replaced it with the same kind you use, we thought it would make your day easier because we know how busy your schedule is.”

I was floored by that; took a picture of it and then posted on Facebook. I’m leaving two days later, the head of PR for the hotel, comes out to me, ‘Mr. Shankman just want to introduce myself, we were able to trace back in the last three days, three reservations that came in from your photo.’  And I’m thinking to myself, okay, and how much I paid for my room?  Three reservations, freaking average of three days, that 39 cent tube of toothpaste netted them probably $12,000 to $15,000 in reservations.  That is your line item.

Drew Neisser:  Is every hotel in the world now asking you to come visit them?
Peter Shankman: You know what it is, it’s not even about — it’s about treating every employee — every customer not like they are me, but like they are anyone.  The people in the back of the bus on an airline, don’t expect to board first or have their luggage come out first, what if once in a while you do?

Drew Neisser:  So how does a CMO look a CEO in the eye and say, you know what, we are going to stop talking about “Price”, we need to start talking about “Nice.”
Peter Shankman: Well, you don’t have to stop talking about price, but you can start being nice.  At the end of the day, what the CMO has to look at the CEO and say, ‘You know what; we’re going to do this, because it is going to generate more money and is it the right thing to do.’ Maybe you want to hear that as a CEO, maybe you don’t, but I’m telling you it’s is going to generate more money, and I’ve never met a CEO in my life who believes that cool trumps revenue.  So if you come back with the concept of this is going to make more revenue, they’ll listen.

Drew Neisser: And are there tools to measure nice?
Peter Shankman: No question about it, I mean the simplest thing to measure nice — and IBM does this phenomenally is just measuring sentiment. As a customer service society, we expected to be treated like crap.  Treat your customers one level above crap, doesn’t even have to be good, just one level above crap and they’ll talk about it.  Go out of your way to do something amazing, they’ll share it with the world.

Final Note: this isn’t the first time I’ve discussed the power of being nice.  In this blog post from 2008, I reference being nice on a list of 5 characteristics that make for great client / agency relationships.  That post also mentions Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval’s book called The Power of Nice that discusses this topic way back in the pre-social media epoch! 

7 Crazy Ways to Increase Your Followers on Twitter


In the more-the-merrier world of Twitter, follower count is an obsession for some brands, whether personal or corporate.  Rightly or wrongly, increasing this count has become an industry in itself, with tools and gurus whistling new promises like the Pied Piper of olde.  There’s even a ranking of the most followed CMO’s that has become a coveted bio item, bestowing instant credibility in the new social order.

A recent survey (see highlights on Slideshare) among Twitter users reinforces the urgency behind the growing obsession with follower counts. Conducted by Renegade with the Business Development Institute, the study identified a huge gap between the have’s and have not’s, finding that over 85% of Twitter users have fewer than 5,000 followers.  While a whopping 75% expressed a desire to substantially increase their follower counts, less than half actually had a strategy in place to do just that.

Troubled by this situation especially in light of Charlie Sheen’s highly publicized Guinness Book of World Record setting achievement last week, it seems to me that we tweeters need to find new character in 140 characters and we need to have all those wonderful twits out there find us.  So yes indeed, now is the perfect time for this cynics guide to increasing your follower count.

1. Be a celebrity
Honestly, there really is no easier way to increase your follower count than to be famous and already have lots of obsessive fans.  Whether you’re Justin Beiber or Lady Gaga, Shaquille O’Neal or Ashton Kutcher, your minions will simply fall all over your every tweet.  Say something nearly clever or almost worth reading and millions more will find you in a click of a mouse.  Not famous, yet?  Well, keep reading.

2. Be a notorious celebrity
When Charlie Sheen added 1.3 million followers in just over 24 hours this was big news, and he suddenly had another place to share his miraculously self-destructive behavior that he describes as “winning.”  Lest you think he’s totally insane, with endorsement deals from Broguiere’s Dairy and Naked Juice hanging on his every tweet, Sheen indeed may end up having the last laugh on Twitter.

3. Buy your followers
If celebrity is out of the question, then maybe it is time to get out the cash and simply buy your friends.  The remarkably reputable guarantees they can get you or your brand more followers in no time.  Want 10,000 more followers? This enterprising start-up will get them for you in 1-4 weeks for only $999.99.  And for just another 25%, they’ll even find you followers you would consider in your target!

4. Bribe them with prizes
Joel Comm, in his best-selling book Twitter Power, recommends among many other techniques, offering prizes or free gifts to attract new followers.  For example, one of his apostles, @fitbizwoman gave away a free ebook with 120 smoothie recipes to help increase her follower count from a few hundred to several thousand.  While this may seem a bit crass, worry not, if the shoe fitbizwoman, wear it!

5. Follow to be followed
If bribing seems a bit too primitive, then perhaps an aggressive follower campaign is in order.  Using power tools like TweetAdder and TweetBig, the idea is to identify likeminded tweeters who just might follow you back.  Searching their tweets, profiles and follow to follower ratios, you can suddenly follow hundreds of potential followers in a matter of minutes.  While testing TweetBig, without breaking a sweat, I myself added over 300 followers some of whom might actually care about what I have to say.

6. Unfollow the unfollowers
After you’ve aggressively followed hundreds if not thousands, you’ll then want to clean house, removing the ingrates who had the nerve not to reciprocate your follow. Again, by using tools like TweetAdder and TweetBig, unfollowing is as easy as following.  In fact, Tweetbig even has something called a “time bomb” that will auto-unfollow in a specified number of days. Since 75% of the surveyed Twitter users in our study said the follow/follower ratio was important to monitor, the “time bomb” feature should be an explosive hit!

7. Follow your new followers
During my same test of Tweetbig, while adding 300 new followers, I also lost 70 old ones.  Turns out, some of my old followers took it personally when I didn’t follow them back.  This led me to a tool called UnfollowMe, which helps assess why your sheep might leave the flock and hopefully fix the problem.  One thing is for certain, if you don’t want to take a follower for granted, follow them back post haste or risk their stealthy exit.

8. When all else fails, be interested and interesting!
Now comes the really hard part. Like chicks in the nest, your new followers will be hungry and must be fed.  A steady diet of highly digestible content should do the trick, although it wouldn’t hurt if you actually cared about the conversation at hand.  Try listening to relevant tweet streams and adding your POV with panache.  Turns out, just as in real life, it is as important to be interested as it is to be interesting in Twitterland.

Final note:
Despite my cynicism, try not to underestimate the value of a strong following on Twitter.  Reports Ted Rubin, Chief Social Marketing Officer at OpenSky, who has more than 43,000 followers, “Having thousands of followers has given me a broad audience of marketers, bloggers and social media enthusiasts.”  Rubin adds, “Follower counts are important [for brands] because that is what gives them access to the social graph of others and that is the true power of Twitter, the ability to spread a message. “  (For a deeper discussion on this same topic, join me at BDI’s The Social Consumer – Case Studies and Roundtables.)

How to Ice the Competition via Marketing as Service


With the Great Recession looming on the horizon, Catherine Davis, then the SVP of Marketing Services at Diageo, knew it was not a time for the usual, and called for an entire re-distillation of her online marketing program. Noting that, “In 2008, we saw a big shift to home consumption,” Catherine and her team at the world’s largest spirits company set the bar high, aspiring to “own cocktails” and to “preempt the competition” in order to gain share. When the program rolled out in the latter part of 2008, it soon achieved all its goals providing a “top-shelf” example of the power of Marketing as Service.

With the totally reconceived microsite at the core along with a paid search program and partnerships with leading recipe sites feeding it, Diageo effectively dominated the online cocktail recipe search and fulfillment during the all-important holiday seasons in both 2008 and 2009. Traffic to, according to, was four times that of any of the leading brand sites, peaking at a whopping 286,621 visitors in December 2009, thus allowing this punctilious author to outline for you seven key ingredients to icing your competition.

1. Turn Lemons into Lemonade

Catherine reflects upon her efforts at Diageo with a matter of fact tone that minimizes the true nature of her challenge, stating simply, “The economy had gone south and we needed to grow share.” Easier said than done. Many marketers saw the storm clouds but most just closed the windows on their efforts, choosing inactivity over new initiatives. Catherine, on the other hand, planned out a fully integrated online program that had real scale in the market in order to take advantage of the shift to home consumption. “We looked around and we saw a lot of programs, but they weren’t generating a lot of scale,” offered Catherine, whose three-pronged approach turned economic lemons into share-gaining lemonade.

2. Know Your Patrons

Prior to the re-concepting of, Diageo conducted extensive qualitative research to understand the needs of their target. “Our research showed that consumers lacked a lot of confidence about how to make a cocktail,” offered Catherine who used these and other insights to guide the makeover. Noting that “rum and Coke is the 9th most searched recipe,” Catherine and her team focused on content that was easy to grasp even for novices. Instructional videos and hundreds of simple recipes made it easy for “consumers to see what they really wanted,” added Catherine. “We understood the purchase decision process and what they needed to do to feel good serving cocktails,” thus insuring that fulfilled a real consumer need.

3. Shake Things Up

Marketing at its best is a mutually beneficial exchange of value between brand and consumer. The original sought that exchange as entertainment, trying to replicate a genuine bar experience complete with a chatty bartender named Jack. Turns out, even the hardiest of spirits lovers aren’t seeking that online experience and instead visit brand sites primarily for recipes. “We went from being a combination of entertainment and service to really being 100% focused on service that consumers wanted,” noted Catherine who also hired a new agency, Tribal DDB, to help with the transformation.

4. Find the Right Mix

Knowing the critical role of search in consumer’s quests to find recipes, Catherine and her team sought to “own search,” both of the organic and paid variety. By ditching the flash-based content in the old site, improving key word tagging and adding a lot more recipes, Diageo saw significant gains in organic search performance. Adds Catherine, “We developed a multifaceted search program around drink types, spirits categories and brands, particularly around the holiday season – our period of higher volume.” Without revealing any confidential information, Catherine assured me that these activities were among the most cost effective she’d ever seen, driving qualified traffic to the site by the caseload.

5. Flavor it with Partners

Wanting a program with true scale, Catherine told of partnering with “the top 4 recipes sites, which represented 70% of all recipe volume.” These were not typical ad buys, but rather true partnership deals in which sites like and focused on recipes that featured Diageo brands. “We know that about 1.6 million people search the word margarita each month,” offered Catherine as further evidence of the need to be everywhere the consumer searched. “The whole strategy was about going where people already were and intercepting them at the right point in the decision making process,” she concluded.

6. Measure the Right Things

Because spirits has a complex distribution system, it is very difficult to directly correlate marketing and sales. ‘Since we couldn’t tie it directly to sales, we had to develop proxies like number of page views and the number of brand views as a better proxy of success for cross sell and up sell.” As usual, this was grounded in a consumer insight as well. Offered Catherine, “When you’re planning a party you’re not thinking about a single brand or a single spirits category,” so monitoring page views and brand views by individual visitors along with number of recipes printed were simply the best means of measuring site performance.

7. Trust a Proven Recipe

Acknowledging that a recipe-focused program was hardly a new idea, Catherine laughed, chalking it up to the benefit of good training. “I worked on Pillsbury for 5 years at Leo Burnett and had seen the power of recipe campaigns and what they can do to drive a brand,” added Catherine. Knowing full well that “about 50% of people who are looking for drink recipes are looking for them online,” she pursued this approach with the clarity of purpose that only comes from experience. Catherine notes, “we knew what role we wanted to play and aimed to do so in a sophisticated and polished way that still enhanced all the Diageo brands.” Cheers to that.

Final Note: Though Catherine has since moved on, she considered this program to be one of the major highlights of her three years at Diageo. She also delighted in the fact that this premium example of Marketing as Service lives on, adding more content via a recent mobile edition and thus continuing to “fulfill a need and dominate the competition on recipe search.”

Older Posts »

Copyright © 2010 - Drew Neisser