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The Telephone Hour

Posted by David Polakoff on April 5, 2010

The Windmills of My Immediate Mind

Media Business Strategies – David Polakoff

The Telephone Hour

This posting stands on its own, but is a continuation of the prior post, Screen Pass.

The stage musical Bye, Bye Birdie was set in and premiered in 1958 and featured a musical number, The Telephone Hour, where teenagers swap information and gossip by calling each other, one-by-one (on landlines).  If written and conceived today, I wonder how those teenagers would have communicated the news about Hugo and Kim getting pinned?  Social networking has changed human interaction and communication and it also has woven itself into the marketing and advertising formula and into the product/service lifecycle.  Social networking works for you when the ad campaign, the product/service, and the brand management strategies astutely incorporate it.

The product/service, the ads in which it appears, the placement of those ads, the impact on the brand, and how a company reacts to its successes and challenges are all on-going fodder for consumers’ social engagement.  Piercing consumer’s media filters and having consumers work for the company is part of a successful social media strategy.

The sustenance of theatrical movie runs historically has two key components:  heavy, advance marketing and then consumer word-of-mouth.  Once those first attendees view a film, nothing can make/break the continued run more than friends’ trusted opinions recommending or panning the experience.  This same traditional consumer development for a theatrical movie release extends now to all product/service advertising and marketing in today’s socially networked global community.  A key element in successful message penetration is social connectivity, which unlike 1958, now occurs via voice, text, Email, and on a bevy of destination websites that facilitate user interaction; for a film, this is the film’s website, a film’s review postings, the theatrical ticket purchasing website, celebrity gossip sites, and social networking sites where viewers post their film opinions.

While we’ve not reached the message exposure saturation point, we have maxed out the ability to efficiently manage the messages jostling around us.  The ability to focus and attain effective awareness is through the assistance of the trusted sources – friends, family, colleagues, and these groups’ contacts.  Not every message, though, can find critical mass; it is thus so crucial that the content be creative and relevant to gain the viral effect through the social network.  Content has to be of intriguing value to have social interactive traction.

Well conceived advertisements push further than traditional ad reach through consumers’ social commentary and their viral interchanges.  Because advertisements are now everywhere, blanketing consumers’ every eye movement, social networking increases their noise and catapults a message through the filter with the assistance provided by friends who critique media and a product/service and then share it.  The ad’s message, content, placement, plus everything about the product/service, can be enhanced from virtual social interaction.

Consumers commented on, linked to, and circulated television ads appearing in Super Bowl 2010.  Audience levels for the 2010 Olympics reached viewing levels not seen since 1994’s Olympics; the Super Bowl 2010 television viewership surpassed 1983’s “M*A*S*H” finale; and the 2010 Grammy broadcast earned its biggest audience in years.  The internet is partially being credited by television executives for this resurrection.   Office water-cooler talk is now taking place over social media sites.

How products are launched and ads are placed has become a more dynamic process as brands use social connectivity to interact with the consumer (for those who know me, whether you’re my consulting client or as my regular reader, again, I heavily focus on the needs and anticipated reactions of the consumer) and thus engage and adapt.  The consumer owns the message.  Social buzz should prove exuberant for your product, but could also bash an ad campaign, a product, a spokesperson, the ad placement, or even product availability.  Great – adjust, adjust, adjust; react and respond to the consumer, not only by word through the social network, but in the reconfiguration of the product, delivery, or campaign.

I don’t Tweet.  As it is, I can’t stand the instant updates of friends/colleagues telling me they bought a coffee; they’ve added the milk; they spilled some coffee; they finished the coffee; and now they’re on their way.  However, Twitter and other such tools have great value to engage consumers.  Perhaps you’ve previewed your product before a trade-show audience, gaining publicity of the forthcoming release/launch.  Now the consumer has curiosities and needs to instantly know about planning their purchase decisions.  The consumer will engage you; leverage that opportunity through social connectivity – let the consumer be part of your development process and product validation (the ultimate focus group).  You’ve then successfully pierced the media filter and bobbed above the crowd.

Be smart.  Hold true to the traditional foundations of producing a quality product/service, creating effective content and smart media placement. Be customer centric.  Understand what motivates consumers to share.  Value the currency of social communication.

Whether it was a rotary phone or now a text, what’s true in 1958 is true today; not every message will prompt the phone device to be picked-up.  The product or service still has to solve a consumer’s problem; and the marketing message still needs to be useful and relevant. Social networking is an element within that overall mix; make sure the other ingredients are tasty, desirable, and eager to be shared.


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