I wrote earlier about getting into the headspace of modern business leaders to get the message of Social Media to them. To show the business leaders today the power of getting a real conversation with their customers via New Media and the Social Web as opposed to old, outdated advertising models. To show the power of becoming more transparent and part of the dialog rather than dictating the message.
This is not going to be a necessarily easy task, but history has shown a few forward thinkers over the years that may have been open to the phenomena. Now, we just have to find the modern thinkers in this vein.
Remember when the once untouchable Chrysler got mired in trouble back in the 70’s during the gas crisis? The car maker was in real trouble as the fleet it offered was mainly big gas guzzlers in a world where people needed economic cars that were miserly with gas consumption. A certain visionary that cut his teeth with Ford took the lead and made Chrysler a brand to be reckoned with yet again. That man was Lee Iaccoca. The thing that makes this story relevant is the way Lee brought Chrysler to the forefront again.
In the Iaccoca age, the cars did improve, but not so much that it drove the turn around. At the time, imports were still eating into U.S. automakers by providing a superior product. What drove the turn-around was Iaccoca’s business mastery(Iaccoca made use of government loan guarantees and the redesign of the Chrysler fleet), and his ability to get his ideas out by talking to the people, not at them. Lee made the buyers feel like a part of the solution and instilled pride in those buying his products.
Iaccoca addressed the public directly in his ads and spoke from the heart, or at least appeared to speak from the heart. We actually will never know if this was totally real or just a great campaign, but it worked.
This form of advertising, conversing instead of speaking at, or down to, the public was a new concept at the time, at least on that scale. The thing is, it sounds kind of funny to call it a conversation as it was still one way communication. Still, it felt conversational. That advertising campaign was missing only one element that can now be provided via Social Media. That was the response of the consumer to make it a “real” conversation.
We may never know for sure, but Iaccoca may have been one of those forward thinkers that would “get” what we are trying to create today. Maybe Lee will see this and chime in.
That brings us to Burgers, and a girl named Wendy, which just happened to the nickname of Dave Thomas’ daughter, Melinda Lou.
Wendy’s was not a failure by any means, but it was also not near the top tier of fast food in the late 70’s and 80’s. Dave Thomas left the day to day operations of Wendy’s in 1982, and mishandling by the then president would hurt Wendy’s as a brand.
In the mid to late 80’s, Dave Thomas was urged back and in 1989, became the “face” of Wendy’s. Someone came up with a great marketing plan, borrowing heavily from the Iaccoca game plan, and Wendy’s is now to this day near the top of the fast food hierarchy. (Still, no fast food chain in the near future looks to supplant Burger King and Macdonald’s, but Wendy’s is still a top brand)
Wendy’s made a great call by bringing out Dave Thomas as the star of the chain’s ads. Dave not only spoke to the people, but created an awe shucks type of likable character with whom the consumers could relate.
Again, this seems, on the surface, as being close to what we in the New Media world are trying to create. Again, the only piece missing is the publics ability to return the conversation. Unfortunately, Dave Thomas passed away in 2002, so we will never know what he would think of the new business model of Social Media.
The world of entertainment recently has actually touched on the power of Social Networking. Think of the campaigns for the films “The Blair Witch Project” and “Snakes on a Plane”.
Blair Witch, although not a good movie in my opinion, did generate enough buzz through the placement of false “urban legends” and folklore, and the grassroots campaign that followed by those that fell for it all, to become one of, if not the biggest indie movie successes of all time.
Even though Blair Witch used techniques that could be considered grassroots and also used the internet in a creative way, the fact that the campaign was based on deception was a bit off-putting. We have not seen this model duplicated exactly, and that to me is a good thing. But the power of what is now called Social Media in it’s early forms cannot be denied.
Snakes on a Plane is completely different. The studio and producers knew they had a standard popcorn movie with little relative value on their hands. They took the unusual tact of creating huge buzz through social networking sites and other internet strategies to create a near cult before anyone had even screened the film. This somewhat formulaic non-masterpiece was destined for success before anyone realized the movie was not very good.
Even then, the marketing was only using a portion of the tools that we have at our disposal now. And although the marketing was not deceptive as was Blair Witch’s campaign, it still lacked transparency and real input from the consumer that New Media and Social Networking can offer the businesses of today.
My point is, by looking back at some real successes of the past that adopted some of the tools we have in New Media and the Social Web, we can see the potential success of well run, transparent, social advertising and dialog models that we can bring to the brick and mortar world today. I still stand by the claim that the first business in every niche to adapt to the Social Networking and Media of Web 2.0 will gain a tremendous lead over their competitors.
So, come on people, let’s build this thing.