What Marketers Can Learn from Singer Leann Rimes

This post originally appeared on Social Media Marketing Magazine on 11/1/2010.

I have always been a music enthusiast, but I’ve never been that interested in country music. And while I’m not ready to race out and fill my iTunes account with the likes of Kenny Chesney and Garth Brooks, I recently purchased a few songs by the lovely and talented Leann Rimes. Why the sudden change of heart? If you must know, it was because of a single tweet. Well, it was actually two tweets… and the fact that during a show I saw at the ANA’s Masters of Marketing event, she was authentic and genuinely made an attempt to connect with the crowd of 1,500 senior marketers.

As someone that embraced Twitter back in 2007, I regularly use it to learn, engage, and build relationships. To that end, I often make a point of acknowledging people, companies, and organizations when I feel like they are doing a good job. This may or may not mean anything to them, but it’s my style, and so far, it’s borne a lot of goodwill and business value for me.

Getting back to Leann Rimes and her performance at the ANA conference last week: as she was wrapping up her set, I took the time to look her up on Twitter and send her a thank you tweet. Imagine my surprise when she actually tweeted me back (twice)!

The reason I’m sharing this experience is not to show off—although who doesn’t love having a successful female country singer tweet them back—but rather to point out a lesson that big brands could learn from this experience. For starters, it doesn’t hurt to follow Ms. Rimes’ lead and ensure that your brand is perceived as credible and authentic. That was the thing about Leann that got me to tweet her in the first place. But more importantly, the fact that someone as busy as she must be took the time to tweet back to a potential fan was huge.

Did she do it because she knew that I was on the fence about liking her? I don’t think so. Looking back in her tweet stream, it appears she does that with a lot of people. It’s just who she is. What I can guarantee is that while she is a very talented singer, one of the main reasons she has become so successful is because she engages her “customers.”

Now would I have been as excited if a brand like Lexus or Starbucks tweeted me back? Probably not. But I do appreciate it when a brand takes the time to acknowledge me, and it has made me more likely to stick with that brand. For example, in the case of WiFi provider Boingo, I’ve actually become one of its biggest fans, primarily because Boingo regularly engages me in conversation on Twitter. Now Boingo only earns $120 per year from me, but I tell everyone I know about Boingo, have mentioned it in blog posts, and have even gone so far as to be interviewed in an article about Boingo and the “network effect of super fans” on the FASTforward blog.

So is your company engaging its customers? It doesn’t take a lot to get started—just a good listening tool and an internal and/or external resource that can help reach out to customers (or prospective customers) who are mentioning you. You’ll be surprised how far a tweet, a blog comment, or even a Facebook “like” will go in turning people’s heads.

Notes from the Desert: 5 Key Take Aways from ANA’s Masters of Marketing

Prior to last week, I had not had the pleasure of attending the ANA’s Masters of Marketing Conference. That was a mistake as this is obviously where the creme de la creme of the marketing/advertising world comes together for four and a half days to learn, network and golf (not necessarily in that order). In case there is any doubt, this is the list of speakers from the event:

  • Mark Addicks, SVP, CMO, General Mills
  • Frances Allen, Brand Marketing Officer, Dunkin’ Brands
  • Cynthia Ashworth, VP, Consumer Engagement, Dunkin’ Brands
  • Diane Brink, VP, Marketing, Global Technology Services, IBM
  • Brad Casper, President and CEO, The Dial Corporation
  • Joan Chow, EVP and CMO, ConAgra
  • Andy England, CMO, MillerCoors
  • Neil Golden, SVP, CMO, McDonald’s USA
  • Jeffrey Hayzlett, CMO and VP, Eastman Kodak
  • David Jones, Global CEO, Euro RSCG Worldwide
  • Barry Judge, CMO, Best Buy
  • Michael Keller, Chief Brand Officer, Dairy Queen
  • Richard McDonald, SVP, Global Marketing, Fender Musical Instrument Corp.
  • Stephen Quinn, EVP and CMO, Walmart U.S., Walmart Stores
  • Eric Ryan, Chief Brand Architect, Co-Founder, Method
  • Jonah Bloom, Editor, AdAge

Over the course of the three days that I was there, I had the opportunity to find out what was on the minds of the chief marketing officers (CMOs) and CEOs at some of the world’s preeminent brands. I captured these learnings via video (using my newly purchased Zi8), Twitter and hand written notes. Obviously it’s not easy distilling all the pearls of wisdom from such a smart group of people into one readable blog post so I’m breaking these learnings into three sections:

  • Ten Twenty of my favorite quotes as captured via my (and others’) Twitter streams
  • Video and audio interviews with several industry luminaries.
  • My five key take aways from the event

There were literally hundreds of tweets from the event so picking just ten is not an easy task. Fortunately, you can look back in the stream yourself at all the updates that were tagged with the #ANAMarketers hashtag from the event. I also went in and “favorited” about 50 of the best tweets so you can see that longer list of good tweets here. If there are tweets that you liked that I missed, feel free to add them in the comments below:

  1. dwied 2.5% of shoppers make up 80% of most CPG volume. Note the 80/20 rule… no longer rules. #anamarketers (quoting Jeff Hayzlett, CMO of Kodak)
  2. irinaskaya RT @ANAmarketers: DQ has built an online consumer following with its Blizzard Fan Club, Facebook page, Twitter & DQ blog #ANAmarketers
  3. Hillary_Ashton @Fidelity CMO James Speros: set aside a portion of budget to experiment: [i say: this is just so key to innovation] #ANA #ANAmarketers
  4. AaronStrout @BestBuyCMO says that employees are the differentiator. Products/prices are relatively equal. It’s why they use ‘em in ads. #ANAMarketers
  5. nancyleibig #Fidelity’s Speros-economic tsunami has fundamentally changed way that mktrs need to execute-fast & insight-driven #anamarketers
  6. evantlevy Forget the 4 or 5Ps. I like this better: RT @melindabluett Kodak 4E’s: Engage. Educate. Excite. Evangelize. #anamarketers
  7. nancyleibig 1/2 of #kodak biggest products are new in the last 2 yrs. All are top 3 in their category. Biggest business turnaround. #anamarketers
  8. AaronStrout Love it. Eric Ryan @MethodTweets jokes that the way businesses can manage “Twitter Effect” ala movie Bruno is “to make a better product” #ANAMarketers
  9. dwied Competitors spent $15MM on toilet paper. Method spends $5.1MM on advertising. Brilliant assessment. #anamarketers
  10. AaronStrout Schwab is sitting w/ SEC to figure out how to ease themselves into social media (still great hesitancy based on regulation) #ANAMarketers
  11. MarthaAYoung David Jones, CEO of Havas Worldwide: The new world of marketing is open source. #ANAmarketers
  12. MWellsatForbes #ANAMarketers Miss the ANA conference? Read about today’s discussions here on Forbes.com. http://tiny.cc/Evr1Q
  13. maadman123 Wow! From Google: 5 exabytes is the amount of ALL info we produced from pre-history to 2003. Today, we produce this in 2 days. #ANAmarketers
  14. Hillary_Ashton Google CEO Eric Schmidt realtime feedback / openness creates a constant battle AND an opportunity #ANAmarketers
  15. prnaylor @JonahBloom from advertising age says crowdsourcing displays that brands are owned by consumers. #anamarketers
  16. Hillary_Ashton @JonahBloom, Advertising Age editor says trend in marketing – radical transparency see social media #anamarketers
  17. AaronStrout Andy England, CMO of Miller Coors talks RE what sells beer. It’s not sex but 1) segmentation 2) positioning 3) Execution #ANAMarketers
  18. melindabluett RT @bwiener: Mc’D’s guiding principle “Market what we serve rather than execute what we market”.. authenticity is big theme #ANAmarketers
  19. bwiener Verizon CMO “Brand marketing needs to reflect fundamental truth about brand”….can’t hide behind advertising anymore #ANAmarketers
  20. AaronStrout Walmart CMO’s parting thought: Marketer’s job is to get our company focused on creating true value for customers. #ana

Now for the multimedia portion of this blog post. Below you’ll find interviews with AOL CEO, Tim Armstrong, Kodak CMO, Jeff Hayzlett and Method co-founder, Eric Ryan.

VIDEO Tim Armstrong, CEO and chairman, AOL

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TClMS0TBpA]



VIDEO Jeff Hayzlett, CMO, Eastman Kodak Company

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSjHHdjC070]

SIDEBAR: As promised, I mentioned to a few of the folks following my tweets from the event that I would share the Zi8/video tips that Jeff offered up prior to our interview. He uses his Zi8 quite a bit so I trust that he knows of which
he speaks.

  • Get an external mic (one of the best features of this camera). He said that you can get a wired boom mic, a wired lav or wireless lav. I think I’m leaning toward the last as it will be the least intrusive.
  • If you do get a wired mic, that you get one with batteries so that it doesn’t drain the rechargeable battery on the camera.
  • Definitely use a tripod if shooting interviews. Although the Zi8 has an anti-jitter feature, it can pick up hand/arm movement, especially if the interview is longer than just a few minutes.

AUDIO Eric Ryan, co-founder and chief brand architect, Method (from a guest interview I did with Eric on Susan Bratton’s Dishy Mix podcast show)

Last but not least, here are my five key take aways:

  1. While the social web appears to be gaining in importance, it’s still not one of the top three things that most CMOs are focusing on.
  2. In spite of many pundits (myself included) declaring that the world of advertising is dying a slow but painful death, the heads of marketing from the companies represented at this conference all show no signs of slowing down their ad spending. In fact, many mentioned that they plan to spend more next year.
  3. Segmentation and a “back to basics” approach to marketing ruled the day. I heard several CMO’s mention that their advice to other companies was to “simplify” and and “focus on what they did well.”
  4. I heard a lot less about measurement and ROI than I anticipated.
  5. The speakers that did mention “social” spent more time focused things like Youtube videos, Facebook Fan pages and more campaign-oriented approaches than longer lasting, programmatic approaches (a mistake in this marketer’s humble opinion).
All in all, I was encouraged by the positive tone of the conference and heartened that at least some of the marketers at the event (Kodak, BestBuy, Fidelity, Method, Dunkin Brands and Schwab to name a few), have “social” on their radar. I do predict that next year’s conference will be much more “socially aware” and fortunately I plan to be there — hopefully with Powered Inc. as a sponsor.
Have you been to a “marketing” conference recently? If so, what were some of your key learnings?