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Social Media: Creating a Voice and Personality for Your Brand

Gilbane Conference Workshop: Social Media: Creating a Voice and Personality for Your Brand

Instructor: AJ Gerritson, Founding Partner & Social Media Strategist, 451 Marketing
November 27th, 2012 at the InterContinental Boston Waterfront

For consumers, brand interaction on social media platforms is no longer the exception, it’s the expectation. In order to stay relevant, companies must develop digital tactics that boost the brand’s overall communications strategies and marketing campaigns. When utilized effectively, social media marketing enhances your brand’s voice and personality, making you more approachable and transparent to your target audience. But, how can your company devise a social media strategy that entices audiences and encourages interaction? Which platforms make sense for your brand? How can you monitor the effectiveness of a social media campaign?

In this interactive session, 451 Marketing founding Partner and Social Media Strategist, AJ Gerritson, will outline the major social media platforms, strategic approaches, best practices, time commitment, and measurement tools and techniques necessary as part of an effective social media strategy. Using industry statistics and case studies, AJ will teach attendees how to structure a successful social media strategy that can be easily integrated into your brand’s existing communications campaigns.

Forecasting Software Product Abandonment

Given the announcement from Microsoft that it would make 2010 releases of Fast on Linux and UNIX the last for these operating systems, a lot of related comments have appeared over the past few weeks. For those of us who listened intently to early commentary on the Fast acquisition by Microsoft about its high level of commitment to dual development tracks, it only confirms what many analysts suspected would happen. Buyers rarely embrace their technology acquisitions solely (or even primarily) for the technology.

While these 2010 releases of Fast ESP on UNIX and Linux will continue to be supported for ten years, and repositories are projected to be indexable on these two platforms by future Fast releases, some customers will opt out of continuing with Fast. As newer and more advanced search technologies support preferred operating systems, they will choose to move. Microsoft probably expects to retain most current customers for the time being – inertia and long evaluation and selection processes by enterprises are on their side.

This recent announcement did include a small aside questioning whether Microsoft would continue to offer a standalone search engine outside of its SharePoint environment where the Fast product has been embedded and leveraged first. It sounds like the short term plan is to continue with standalone ESP, but certainly no long term commitment is made.

So, whatever stasis/constancy pre-Microsoft Fast customers were feeling sanguine about, it is surely being shaken around. Let’s take a look at some reasons that vendors abandon their acquisitions. First we need to consider why companies add products through acquisition in the first place. A simple list looks like this:

  1. Flat sales
  2. Need to penetrate a growth market or industry
  3. Desire to demonstrate strength to its existing customer base by acquiring a high-end brand name
  4. Need for technology, IP, and expertise
  5. Desire to expand the customer base, quickly

While item 1 probably was not a contributor to the Microsoft Fast acquisition, 2 and 3 certainly factored into their plan. Fast was “the” brand and had become synonymous in the marketplace with “enterprise search leader.” Surely Microsoft considered the technology IP and key employees that they would be acquiring, and having a ready-made customer-base and maintenance revenue stream would be considerations, too.
Customers do have reasons to be nervous in any of these big acquisitions, however. Here is what often get exposed and revealed once the onion is peeled:

  • Game changing technology is playing havoc in the marketplace; in search there are numerous smaller players with terrific technologies, more nimble and innovative development teams with rigorous code control mentalities, and the experience of having looked at gaps in older search technologies.
  • Cost of supporting multiple code bases is enormous, so the effort of developing native support on multiple platforms becomes onerous.
  • For any technology, loss of technical gurus (particularly when there has been a culture of loose IP control, poor capture of know-how, and limited documentation) will quickly drive a serious reality check as the acquirer strives to understand what it has bought.
  • Brand name customers may not stick around to find out what is going to happen, particularly if the product was on the path to being replaced anyway. Legacy software may be in place because it is irreplaceable or simply due to the neglect of enterprises using it. It may be very hard for the acquiring buyer to determine which situation is the case. A change of product ownership may be just the excuse that some customers need to seek something better. Customers understand the small probability of having a quick and smooth integration of a just-acquired product into the product mix of a large, mature organization.
  • A highly diverse customer base, in many vertical markets, with numerous license configuration requirements for hardware and operating system infrastructures will be a nightmare to support for a company that has always standardized on one platform. Providing customer support for a variety of installation, tuning and on-going administration differences is just not sustainable without a lot of advance planning and staffing.

The Microsoft/Fast circumstance is just an illustration. You might take a look at what is also going on with SAP after its acquisition of Business Objects (BO) in this lengthy analysis at Information Week. In this unfortunate upheaval, BO’s prior acquisition of Inxight has been a particular loss to those who had embraced that fine analytics and visualization engine.

The bottom line is that customers who depend on technology of any kind, for keeping their own businesses running effectively and efficiently, must be aware of what is transpiring with their most valued vendor/suppliers. When there is any changing of the guardians of best-of-breed software tools, be prepared by becoming knowledgeable about what is really under the skin of the newly harvested onion. Then, make your own plans accordingly.

On Global Brand Management: An Interview with Translation.com’s Candy Moss

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Candy Moss, Creative Director with Translations.com, to discuss the importance of multilingual global brand management as a success criterion for global organizations.

LC: What role does a creative team play within Translations.com?
CM: Our Creative Team operates as a resource to our corporate clients’ marketing and advertising teams. Our Multicultural Marketing Department provides cross-cultural branding research, copy transcreation, and image consulting services as part of Translations.com’s core service offering.
LC: What is your background?
CM: 20 years in multicultural marketing consulting, with a background in content and creative design; my experience at Translations.com has increased my expertise in Hispanic markets in the U.S. as well as global markets considerably.
LC: How large is the Creative Team and what kinds of tasks are they involved with?
CM: We have close to 20 full time staff across multiple, global production centers. We also contract copy writers, graphic designers, and linguists. Our tasks include researching the impact of brand names, package design, website layout and content; any elements that impact of the global products nuances such as tone, style, design, content, format, color and illustrations.
LC: So that means your team does both transadaptation and transcreation work, correct? For global branding projects, which skill set is needed most?
CM: Both are important. However, adapting marketing messages has more to do preserving the concept (of the message) and changing the execution than with word for word translations. The example on “The Lighter Side” of our Web site demonstrates the challenge of dealing with the intricacies of culture.
LC: What kinds of research does the creative team rely on?
CM: We have extensive qualitative data based on 10 years of proprietary research. We develop customized survey tools based on each client’s needs. Once we get feedback from the target market, we work closely with the client’s creative team. This is also essential because they are the subject matter experts in their company’s product, positioning goals, and target customers. Generally, we function as an extension of a company’s brand champion team: the advertising agency is, in my experience, the group that is the first to recognize the need for our services. In the end, we team up with the agency and the company’s internal staff, serving as a general resource to the group.
LC: What are some of the best practices you have seen in global branding efforts?
CM: Understanding the need for due diligence in obtaining, understanding, and incorporating the voice of the local customer. And then, having the skills to distinguish between individual opinions and reactions to those of the larger culture. Overall? Understand your goals: why are you making these localization efforts and how effectively do they convey your company’s goals.
LC: And the worst?
CM: The idea that one person can assume what a culture will or will not bear. You really have to be open minded so that you are receptive to what impact a phrase or image will have in each cultural setting. A single line of copy or image can have a lasting impact — you want to do everything you can to be sure that impact is positive. Even after 20 years in the industry, and evaluating more survey responses than I can count, I learn something new every day.
LC: What is your advice for those striving to communicate the importance of the local in globalization?
CM: Ask your team to put themselves in the target market’s shoes. If that market receives only x percentage of localized content, the perception may be that they are only as important as the effort put into communicating with them. In terms of marketing and global branding efforts, think of the effort put into the taglines or slogans in the source language, usually English. When adapting the message to a different culture, give the effort the same level of respect.

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