In recent years, Web of Change has been the most important event I attend each year. It’s a gathering of really senior people in the social change space in a wilderness location. Most years, it’s an exceptionally well-run event with a real focus on building a trust network among attendees. I’ve made new friends and colleagues there, and gotten plenty of work through those connections.
For the past couple of years, I’ve wanted to convene a similar event for marketers. It wouldn’t be exactly Web of Change, because marketers wouldn’t share the same sense of common cause, but this new event would share a lot of the same goals.
Mid-level and senior marketers would attend.
The conversations would be about strategy, not WordPress plug-ins
We’d build a trust network amongst peers
Most importantly, it would be non-douchey
So, this summer, we’re launching Fireworks Factory. It’s an intimate, invite-only conference for smart web marketers. We’re holding it on Galiano Island, a ferry ride away from Vancouver. It’s going to be very small in this first year–there won’t be more than 50 people in attendance. We made this video to talk about what the conference will offer:
We lived in Malta for a year in 2007, on the small island of Gozo. Each town on Gozo has a week-long religious festival–Malta is the most Catholic nation outside of the Vatican–punctuated by fireworks and pyrotechnics. These explosives were all homegrown, crafted in a community-owned fireworks factory on the edge of town. Men from the village would spend time there building and testing fireworks, in the hopes of outdoing their rival towns. Occasionally, something horrible would happen.
Still, they were communal spaces where something risky and breathtaking gets imagined and created. That seemed like a good metaphor for the kind of conference we want to run.
Why is it invite-only?
I’ve always been conflicted about invitation-only events. Web of Change vets all of its attendees, as does TEDx Vancouver. We’re applying the same logic as Web of Change: because we want to ensure the right level of people are attending. We’re planning quite a conversational, two-way event, and as such we want attendees who have confronted complex, strategic issues. There are, after all, tons of events for a more general marketing audience. Even that makes me a bit leery, but it’s the simple reality of a small, targeted event. I can’t imagine what filter TEDx Vancouver uses.
According to Bell Canada, today is Bell Let’s Talk Day. The company launched an initiative that donates to Canadian mental health programs each time you make a long distance call or send a text (if you’re a Bell customer), and each time you tweet with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk.
This program is part of, according to the company, an “unprecedented multi-year charitable program dedicated to the promotion and support of mental health across Canada” amounting to $50 million. It’s a worthy, topical cause. And, of course, companies aren’t obligated to engage in this kind of corporate philanthropy.*
Bell has been very successful in promoting the project. As I write this, they’ve counted about 4.5 million texts, tweets and long distance calls. Promotion is easier, of course, when you own “one of Canada’s largest privately held media companies which owns the Canadian television networks, CTV and CTV Two, along with 30 speciality television channels, Bell Media Radio which operates 35 radio stations across Canada and sympatico.ca”. In any case, if you live in Canada and consume any media today, it’s going to be hard to avoid Bell’s message.
It’s important to be a thoughtful consumer, and to consider what Bell’s motives are for the Bell Let’s Talk program. Consider the following:
Today, Bell offers its customers extra incentives to use services like texting and long-distance calls, from which Bell generates revenue.
Bell is paying $0.05 a tweet for brand exposure, thanks to its cynical use of the hashtag #BellLetsTalk. This amounts extraordinarily cheap advertising.
That advertising is made cheaper by the fact that Bell can write off all of its corporate donations.
Bell’s charity partners aren’t exactly front-and-centre on their program site. They’re buried at the bottom of a couple of pages, and haven’t been featured on the program’s Twitter account at all.
Make no mistake–Bell Let’s Talk is first about promoting Bell, and secondarily about raising money for or awareness about mental illness. If my experience with similar projects is an indicator, Bell has a fixed amount of money to give, and they’re going to donate that money whether or not they generate an adequate number of tweets, texts and calls.
I’ve worked on projects similar to this, and am familiar with the tensions between corporate interests and charitable activities. Compromises are made, and strings are attached. But, if this is the way forward for corporate philanthropy, then we must play by the rules that the corporations set.
I do wish that Bell had, at the very least, done the following:
Instead of declaring their very own branded day, they could have run their campaign around the universally-recognized WHO’s World Mental Health Day, on October 13.
Instead of shoehorning their brand into the hashtag, they could have then used #worldmentalhealthday, like everybody else.
They could have chosen not to tie funding to services they want consumers to use, like texting and long distance calls.
They could have made their partner charities the heroes of the campaign, and prominently featured them on their site.
I applaud the other donations and support from Bell for the issue of mental health. They seem worthwhile and wise. Bell Let’s Talk Day is neither.
Nitobi, the Vancouver-based development shop, is one of our oldest clients. It’s been exciting to watch them grow from their origins as (gulp) eBusiness Applications, and see them take off with the world-class work that is PhoneGap. PhoneGap is an open-source development platform that’s been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times, and has a robust community around it.
It’s finally time for Nitobi to get some day-to-day marketing help in-house. We’re helping them hire for this position–a Marketing and PR Specialist.
I thought it’d be fun to set a slightly-higher-than-usual bar to submit your resume for this role. We really want to find the right person for Nitobi, after all. We’d also prefer not to wade through hundreds of unqualified resumes.
In order to apply for this job, applicants need to solve a skill-testing question. In fact, there are four questions they need to answer, but they need to get the first one right before they can access the rest of the application form.
It isn’t rocket science, but it will hopefully filter out some marketers who have never confronted, uh, math. Hopefully it’s also modestly unusual, so the posting might get spread around a bit.
Smart readers: please don’t post the answer in comments.
I was getting off the SkyTrain today, and I noticed this note stuck to the route map above the door. It simply says “Save $$, DealByDay.com“. I gather that it’s one of a bunch of these (slightly parasitical) daily deal site aggregators–another is OneSpout.
That’s pretty much the cheapest advertising I can imagine. The creator was so economic, he didn’t bother to write out the word “money”.
I’m at the tenth (and last, as it happens) Gnomedex down in Seattle. I just watched Larry Wu, a kind of brand research and development guru (his bio is on this page) give a talk about trends. Among other things, he presented a list of current macro trends which I quite liked. I transcribed his slide, and added a few notes from his talk.
Artisan – The return to handcrafted one of a kind objects, services and activities that express personal style.
Cultural fusion – Proactive interest in experiencing multiple cultures and new culture hybrids grounded in popular and consumer culture. The simplest expressions are in music and food. See, for example, Bollywood or the Kogi trucks in Los Angeles.
Fingerprinting – Search for and articulation of one’s unique identity. Fingerprinting is expressed through an individuals’ collection of unique passion points.
Health monitor – The softer side of wellness is elbowed aside as people turn to science and medicine to answer health issues, from life-threatening to life-enhancing. Think self-treatment.
Hyperlife – Life as a multitasking, multi-sensory barrage. If you’re doing on thing at a time, you’re probably bored.
Memory marketing – Using history as an active resource to take a nostalgic trip through time, recoiling the stuff of our collective past. See, for example, the new 2010 Mustang that feels retro.
Merit badges – The shift in values to collect experiences rather than things; the recasting of social status from what one has to what one does.
Ready, set, go – Innovation plus convenience: the seamless combination is the ultimate answer to soothing the roaring demands of stressed-out. The SmartCup XPress lid is an interesting example of confined macro-trends.
Celbri-Me – Look at me, listen to me, but don’t get too close. It really is all about me. Watch this set of consumers create their own 15 minutes of fame.
Lately I’ve been enjoying The Next Stage, a Vancouver blog about the business and marketing of theatre. The other day Simon, the blogger behind The Next Stage, linked to a diverting interview with Jim McCarthy, CEO of Goldstar, which I gather is an American discount ticket seller.
I’m always interested in the business of local, live entertainment, and the interview covers plenty of ground. My favourite bit is McCarthy’s view of advertising:
I’ve literally heard people say they were about to send out 5000 postcards for their show and so they were going to wait to see what happened after those hit before they figured out the rest of their marketing plan. Well, let’s do the math on that: 5000 postcards get delivered, but maybe 20% get read. That’s 1000 postcards. If 10% of the people who read it are interested, that’s 100 postcards, and if 10% of those people actually remember how to buy the tickets and actually go through with a purchase, that’s 10 customers buying a couple tickets each.
The simple fact is that most traditional advertising is overwhelmingly ineffective now. Even “traditional” web advertising has dropped to levels of responsiveness (or unresponsiveness) that we would have been startled by back in ’98 or ’99. If you’re counting on some kind of media buy to solve your marketing problems, you’re going to have a hard time hitting your goals, so you have to do something else.
When I give talks, I do my best to disavow any social media marketing zealotry. I emphasize that, at best, this new webby stuff is just another tool in one’s marketing toolbox.
I am a zealot, however, about measuring. I tell whoever will listen that they need to precisely measure every marketing activity they undertake. If they do that, then they’ve got the answer to the frequently-asked question “how should I spend my time?” is simple. If, for example, their billboards and bus shelter ads prove to be a better spend than time spent on Facebook and Twitter, then get thee away from thy computer.
In the next couple of months, I’m giving three talks to different groups associated with post-secondary education. In preparing these speeches, I was doing research into Facebook’s market penetration among BC’s teens.
As you may know, Facebook’s advertising program lets you thin-slice your target audience in all sorts of interesting ways–gender, age, location even specific interests or workplaces. I created a query that indicated that I could reach 344,860 British Columbians between the age of 15 to 19. I take this to mean that there are 344,860 profiles matching that criteria on Facebook.
Curious to see what percentage of all BC teens this was, I checked the BC government’s stats for the current population of teens aged 15 to 19 in the province. They reported 287,444. I took screenshots of the two sources:
That means that there are 1.2 profiles on Facebook for every BC teen. Is that possible? Probably. After all, I recently read that 99% of the 2012 class at Amherst College had a Facebook profile. I suppose that if 20% of teens created two profiles, they’d generate these results.
And I remember reading some of danah boyd’s (lower case capitalization hers) research that indicates that teens discard unwanted profiles frequently, and often create several on a given social network.
In any case, isn’t this kind of false advertising from Facebook? The most teens an advertiser could possibly reach in BC is all of them: 287,444 in 2008, a few more in 2009.
James likes to say that advertising is an act of faith. That’s generally true, and it’s a concept that I rail against whenever I speak to marketers. The ad industry of the twentieth century was built on a house of sand: immeasurability. Most of the time, most marketers failed to measure most of their advertising spend.
How effective is that full page ad in that industry magazine? How many people actually see that billboard? How many people actually pick up and read your brochure? These are questions that, too often, assaulted the faith of ad buyers everywhere.
Of course, all of that changed with the web, where we can measure the cost of every click, every conversion, every customer. It makes the newspaper ads and movie posters seem hilariously antiquated. When we talk to ad reps on behalf of our clients, we’ve always got an exact cost-per-conversion in mind. If they can’t offer services below that cost, we don’t advertise with them.
If the local bank were offering a sale on dollar bills, ninety cents each, how many would you buy?
Most rational people would say, “I’ll take them all please.” Especially if you had thirty days to pay for them.
So, why, precisely, do you have an ad budget?
We always discourage our clients from undertaking any advertising that they can’t measure. If they’re running offline ad campaigns, we urge them to have a unique call to action (such as a specific URL) so that they can track a campaign’s effectiveness.