Friday, July 13, 2012

Interview With Marketing Author Scott Goodson

Scott Goodson wrote How to Build a Brand and Change the World by Sparking Cultural Movements (McGraw-Hill). He is the founder of the marketing and advertising agency, He has helped build several iconic brands and has worked with people like Guy Kawasaki. He was interviewed online recently.

Scott, you explore how different movements get started. What do movements have to do with business? For those of us in business, it may seem as if all of the movements that are happening around us - all the uprisings happening in the middle East or just down the street from StrawberryFrog's offices in NYC on Wall Street are happening in a bubble. That this is transpiring in a separate realm, well outside the corporate bubble. Unless the protesters are specifically targeting your business, it’s natural to think, “This new era of protest makes for lively news, but has nothing to do with my company or brand.”

If that’s what you’re thinking, here’s a bullhorn alert: The new social unrest is everybody’s business, including yours and mine.

We all know about the mini-uprisings in recent months against brands like Bank of America and the Susan Komen Foundation. And you might say, “Well, they made a bad decision”. But part of their mistake was in not realizing that the world had changed around them. In this new world, their “customers” could easily become activists—either for or against them.

So how does a smart business respond in a time of heightened passions and greater activism? Rather than becoming more cautious (in hopes of avoiding any kind of backlash), I believe brands must connect with that passion and activism somehow.  If you fail to respond to this shift in the culture, you run the risk of being out of step with your customers. Your company could end up looking like a “status quo” brand in a revolutionary world.

Better to join in the march. If uprisings and movements are happening all around, then your business needs to somehow become involved in movements—or better yet, start one of your own.

What sparks a movement? We’re living in a time of uprisings—you just have to pick up the newspaper to know that. Depending on what day it is, you’re apt to find front-page stories of folks taking to the streets in Russia, Syria, Greece, India, you name it. Even in the US, we’ve seen the Occupy Wall Street movement (which, at the moment, may seem like yesterday’s news—but it’s likely to resurface as the weather warms and the political season heats up). Small wonder that when Time magazine chose their “Person of the Year” two months ago, it wasn’t a business or political leader that made the cover—it was a masked rabble-rouser known as “The Protester.”What sparks a movement? Something has changed in the culture over the past couple of years. Blame it on global economic pressures, general restlessness, or the new hyper-connectivity that enables people to instantly organize around causes and hot-topics. It’s probably some combination of all of these factors, but the net result is that we, as business leaders, are now dealing with a populace that is more socially engaged, more aware of what’s going on in the world, and more hungry to get involved and be heard on various issues. Brands can spark mass movements. In today's fragmented media environment, once you have a cultural movement you can do anything. Brands can identify, crystallize, curate and sponsor a mass movement and accelerate their growth in the market. Brands spark a movement by not focusing on their products but rather by focusing on the culture as a whole. What is an idea on the rise in culture?

This is the first question and then once you have found this tie it back to your brand benefit or brand purpose. Brands need to define the change they want to make in the world and include what kind of behavior brands want to have with their consumers. Of course this needs to be relevant to your business objective.  To start a movement you also need to fundamentally understand your target "people". Ole our head of strategy at StrawberryFrog always says you need to dig deeply in ethnographic and anthropological research with the consumer and ask “Why do they behave as they do? What is important to them - in the category and more importantly in life?" What are the fundamental human truths and insights? This will enable you to develop a movement strategy that is purpose-inspired, highly relevant and benefit driven. People long to be part of something bigger than them.  As such, a movement idea that is true to your brand has a strong potential to become a movement.  Equally, any brand movement needs to ultimately serve a benefit the company or brand and drive your market share harder. The closer you get to a cultural movement in your marketing the more explicit your purpose is likely to be in the communications. 

What are the steps to communicating a movement idea?

1. Identify an idea on the rise in culture.
2. Manifest your idea in a movement. Create tools, actions and contents that bring people into this idea. Inspire them to rally around this idea
3. Go to where the people already are and align with them to stoke movement lust and engagement
4. Be provocative to create fans and demonstrate to them that you are the movement that you want to be in the world.
5. Amplify this idea to a wider audience in mass communications. Go massive.
6. Create your own media channels
7. Use PR and content placement
8. Use an ecommerce strategy. Give people something to buy to remember you and to showcase their alignment with the movement. 
9. Evaluate and make changes that stoke the movement beyond the spark for the long-term./

Why do people start and join movements? The fragmenting media environment make it impossible to manage a brand today without a movement strategy. People want to be a part of a movement because they fundamentally want to be engaged in a brand in a cause in life. A successful brand movement is dramatic and draws them into the movement because at the center it has the power to drive positive change. BUT...a brand movement needn’t be political. For our client the Mahindra Group in India, we helped launch a movement called RISE whose mission is to inspire more innovation throughout the country. For other clients, we’ve launched movements that tried to bring about change in schools or encourage more responsible consumption. And as I worked on my book about brand movements, I encountered everything from a pet food company that launched an animal welfare initiative to a shoemaker that began a worldwide movement to put shoes on poor kids’ feet. In each case, the company helped people to rally around an idea that mattered, enabling those customers to become activists. In the process, the brand demonstrated that it was engaged in people’s lives—that it cared about something more than just profits.

This isn’t just a new spin on old CSR programs, wherein companies give to a laundry list of charities. To lead a brand movement, you must do more than just make donations. The company itself must become an activist, on behalf of something that it believes in—and that matters deeply to its customers.

How do you sustain a movement? You sustain a movement by being very clear about the values, philosophy and destination of your movement and ensuring that you stick to this but at the same time continually surprise your base with the goal of stoking movement lust and generating content that will be shared. You must create  Your movement must also come with memorable language that the culture can adopt. Cultural Movements need a place to form, so it’s critical that your social media channels are open and readily available for engagement.  Content development and placement as well as PR plays a big role in getting your conversation into pop culture. Think Jack Bauer in 24. Nurture your movement ongoing in real time. It requires watching where the sparks start and engaging in the conversation there.  You need to actively stoke the fire, adding bursts of fuel to make the flames jump ever higher. Keep in mind that traditional advertising has an on and off button. You invest money you create awareness. You stop investing and awareness drops. Movements are sustainable. They have the potential to save you tons of money while helping you be highly relevant and timely.

Why does the future belong to movements? Because it works. How was Obama elected? How was Egypt changed? How is it that Tom's shoes are taking over the world? There is no other option. Advertising is ineffective. The marketing systems of the past aren't the systems of tomorrow. As companies do this, there are lessons to be learned from all those uprisings we’re reading about in the papers. Here are four to keep in mind:

-       Listen to what “your people” are crying out for. With many social uprisings, leaders failed to pay attention to the restless rumblings that were out there. Don’t make that mistake with consumers: Find out what they’re passionate about, what they’re talking to each other about. If you listen closely, you may detect the rumble of an “idea on the rise”—and it might be one you can build a movement around.
-       Invite your customers into the “public square.” Governments often try to break up rallies, but if you want to facilitate a movement, do the opposite—create platforms where people can connect and join forces. Social media has made it easier to do this, but “real” gatherings are also important.
-       Fly your banner proudly. Once you’ve decided to get behind an idea or initiative, make a bold statement. Create a logo, a flag—think of the iconic yellow wristband that fueled the Nike/Livestrong movement.
-       Don’t fake it. People can sense whether you’re sincere about an idea or issue—or if you’re just exploiting it. You can’t lead a movement if you don’t believe in it yourself.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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