Are you building a totem pole for your brand?

I spend a significant amount of time in the Northwest where Totem Poles are a common sight.  When I was walking around West Seattle today, I stopped and looked at one that is at the Admiral Viewpoint and overlooks Elliott Bay and Downtown Seattle.

The purpose of totem poles (or in this case, story poles) are to document key people and events that had a significant impact on that settlement or region.

Story Pole

Alot of marketers do a poor job of creating their own version of totem poles.  Most of the time marketers are busy looking at the present or future to stop and think about the people that will come after them.  How many times have you stepped into a new job to find out that’s it your job to piece together the facts and learn about the history of your brand(s).

The past is important.  And I’m not talking about conducting a business review of the last 12 months or quantitative research to understand how A&U has changed over the last couple of years.  The past is everything from the founder of your brand to the people who played a role in building it to sales results, to advertising archives, media coverage and anything else that has shaped the brand.

Everyone is busy, but I challenge you to take a couple hours a month to build your brand’s story pole.  The people who follow you will appreciate it.



What is YOUR definition of Social Media?

I had an interesting conversation today.  The question posed to me was, “What is the definition of Social Media?”

Good question.

I probably think of social media in the same way you do.  Something along the lines of “the sharing of real thoughts, ideas and questions questions via online platforms like blogs, Twitter and Facebook.”  The executive that I was talking to considered all word-of-mouth to be part of social media.  Their point was, “consumers are talking, that’s social isn’t it?”

Yup, it sure is.  So IS word-of-mouth social media?  Or is social media word of mouth.

In my opinion, yes and yes.

In this age, for either to be effective they need to work together.  There are so many conversations happening online that if your word-of-mouth isn’t making it’s way into the social media space, it’s probably not working.  And if your online social media initiative isn’t jumping over to the real world, it’s probably not resulting in sales.

WOM/social media, it’s one and the same to me.

And by the way, it’s also a good idea to make sure everyone on your team is aligned to all of the buzz words everyone is throwing around the office.

Southwest Strikes Back

I don’t know the whole story, but apparently, Kevin Smith (you might know him as Silent Bob) was booted off of a Southwest flight last night because he was too fat for one seat and didn’t purchase two.  He immediately took to Twitter to demonstrate his frustration to all 1.6 million of his followers by telling @southwestair to “go fuck themselves.”

Who knows what’s trued and what’s screenplay worthy.   Honestly, I don’t really even care.  But what I do care about is  a belligerent b-list celeb who wants to make a scene and try to take a brand down with him.  Southwest’s Twitter team immediately responded to the issue via a public tweet and “@reply” to Kevin Smith.  That’s how I learned of the whole thing.

But how should Southwest handled the situation?  They were really screwed either way:

  • If they publicly respond, then they show consumers and followers of each side that they are connected, listening and working on a solution.  BUT, they also bring more exposure to the situation and start take on more of a defensive stance.
  • They might have responded via direct message, but Kevin Smith wasn’t following them back.
  • They also followed up with a well-written blog post explaining the situation to anyone who is interested.

It’s was quite the conundrum, but I think Southwest handled it just about as well as they could have.  What’s to learn here?

  • Respond fast, but be confident in your policies – although Southwest came across as a little desperate in their initial tweets responding to the problem, they resolved all of that in the blog post.
  • Put customer service first and it usually works out – anyone who reads both sides of the story can’t fault Southwest for their willingness to make the situation right.  In almost every example, they apologized and asked for an opportunity to make it right.
  • Apologize for the experience, not the policy – Southwest worded it perfectly when they said sorry for the experience.  If they would have cowered and said sorry for deeming him too fat for one seat, then a huge firestorm would have erupted.