3 examples of well researched & defined business problems to be solved.

Very often a brand's business problems are described in a fuzzy, unspecific way. Lots of planners even believe, "real problems to be solved" arise rather on communication or "customer perceptions" level. So one level "after" business problems. The reason for this thinking is mostly not laziness but rather the lack of time, money & tools to asses & nail down concrete, distinct business problems. (Though I must admit that young people are just not taught to think in terms of business problems beyond - or rather beneath - "The brand needs more awareness" or "The brand needs to engage the target group".) Bain & Co show us how this could be done in a more skillful way. I wish, planners in agencies had access to such insights.

Example quoted from Bain & Co's paper:

"The insight:
The Bain Brand Accelerator process revealed a series of surprising insights that helped explain why the brand's growth had slowed and why past efforts had not gained traction.

First, the team found that the company needed to reassess its strategy for where to play. Fully two-thirds of Delicious Co.'s actual sales were coming from usage occasions that were flat or shrinking due to changes in consumer behaviors that were unlikely to reverse. The behaviors that had driven growth for decades were now in decline. In the past, the majority of advertising spend and innovation activity had been aimed at breathing new life into these core occasions. Now, a deep understanding of why the occasions were shrinking made it clear to Delicious Co. that this strategy was unlikely to be successful.

But there was good news. The decline in the core was being mostly offset by organic growth and momentum in emerging occasions where loyalists and younger users were using the brand in new ways, such as in recipe ingredients and ready-to-eat snacking. It was especially surprising to see growth of the brand as a recipe ingredient—which had not been formally developed at all. Delicious Co. realized it had an opportunity to capitalize on these emerging pockets of momentum.

The team also found that despite conventional wisdom, the recipe ingredient occasion was the right place to focus—not ready-to-eat snacking. When the Delicious Co. team rigorously evaluated Snacking—for example, by studying the true competitive set, occasion by occasion—it became clear that the winnable portion of the ready-to-eat snacking option for Delicious Co. was much smaller than the company anticipated. Further, the economics were less attractive, and the operational investments to be made would be substantial.

In contrast, the recipe ingredient market was very large, the behavior was growing and it presented attractive margins. More important, Delicious Co. had distinct assets in this occasion, as its product had unique advantages over the competition. But the existing product portfolio was wrong for recipe ingredients—there were significant barriers in taste, consistency, education and packaging. A deep dive into consumer behavior in these areas, using such techniques as statistical cluster analysis and ethnographies, identified the key dishes to focus on and precise issues to address with innovation and advertising."

Read the whole article here:
Also read my short text about setting communication objectives - which deals rather with issues AFTER real business problems have been nailed down. But it still talks about being specific and knowing your main lever. Read it here:

Social Media vs Social Influencers.

The following research report from Ogilvy on "social media" effectiveness is rather impressive. Methodically impressive - because it works with pre-/post-exposure comparisons and contrasts them simultaneously with other channels' influences. Quantitatively impressive - because the effects of what is called "social media" seem to be huge. And very fast (thus maybe even less sustaining). And can go in both directions (positive & negative, which other channels tend not to do). And... have rather low reach.

You can read the report here: but that's not exactly what I want to talk about. What made me think is the slightly misleading understanding of what actually is effective about "social media" that often guides our thinking. So read my thoughts beneath the report if you like.

I do believe in what the study tells us because a) it appears quite smart & trustworthy, b) I myself have been strongly influenced by what happens around me on facebook and even more so on twitter.
But frankly, I do not believe that what we usually discuss as a companies social media "presence"/"engagement" produces these marketing effects. The reverese arguments apply: a) most of the social campaigns from companies are stupid & not trustworthy, b) I myself never participate in commercial attempts to "engage me with their brand" - I also don't know anyone who frequently and actively participates in such campaigns.

How can that be?

What is corrupt about the common concept of "doing social media" is the notion of people wanting to have conversations with a brand and being involved. To be precise - even if this was the case - the result would not be "social". This still would be something like an in-bound and out-bound call-center. Social is when people talk among themselves. And that's a major difference.

When we read a study like the one above and have an understanding of "social media" as the "owned media" & "stuff" a company has implemented we are probably mislead about what is at work here. My guess is - it's the social influence from people to people that works for brands & products - it's not so much the "social media stuff" a company produces. They might have to produce something from time to time to legitimate their presence in the social spaces - but very often they even don't have to. It is even possible to "do social media" without having any owned media or even content in place - if you have to say something of real substance for example. But then they wouldn't win any awards and couldn't have fun screenshots of their "cool stuff" that "engaged the target group".
I believe the effects occur not so much between a brand's content and its so called "fans" (are you a real fan of any single brand?) but between them and other people plus (!!!) between people the brand never reached with its "social media activity" and other people it never reached. So "Social Influence" is actually when the "Socium" influences. The huge effects of "social media" must come from social influence between people. That's at least what seems plausible to me. In so far the title of the report is a bit misleading because it tries to link a firms investments in "social media" to marketing effects which gently implies that it's the stuff the firm does that has impact. - The more WE do the more effective IT is. - But it should rather be: - The more people out there do for us the more positive effects we will have from their connectedness -.

It is helpful for me to see it this way:

If we can get people to expose & mention our offerings to other people in a positive way more often this will sell more of those offerings. If we can prevent them from doing so in a negative way we will at least hedge your brand and sales (see Taco Bell example in the report above). That's it.

But we should let go of the whole ideology of "engagement", "whole new understanding of what a brand is", "storytelling", "participation", "new marketing age" (it's rather "New Age Marketing", actually) etc. It makes everybody feel dizzy and sweat a lot.

Don't ask why, ask "why +"

Asking consumers (or yourself) why something happens or why they do something seems to be a legitimate question. It's your approach to the question behind it: "what shall we do?"

However, you probably will not get insightful answers. I suggest the question should be slightly tweaked to make it work better. I call it "why +". (I could have called it somehow less disgusting, but it helps me remember the technique.)

Why+ works like this: you put another meaningful word behind "why", that points somewhere and guides the respondent's attention.

Why now?
Why him?
Why not at the airport?

Isn't this magic?

I love this kind of things...