Category Archives: Economy and General Business Management

Making Triangles: Marketing Positioning for the Social Media Age

ValknutA lot has changed about marketing  in the last decade. And therefore a lot has changed about marketing strategy in the last decade.

But our theories of  marketing strategy have stayed strangely the same.

I have been waiting for a reasonable solution the these challenges for over a decade. And while I have been waiting, I have also been working on a solution of my own.

I have cobbled together what I consider to be the best of existing theory and thinking, and tested it through MBA classrooms around the world with some of the best students in the world. And now I have tried to unify it into one theory, a theory that balances accuracy with elegance to try to answer the following question:

How Should We Analyze Marketing Positioning in this New, Complex, and Multifaceted Age of Many Media (traditional, new, and social)?

The Answer, It Turns out, Is In The Interlacing Tri-Triangular Shape of an Ancient Norse Symbol: The Valknut.

Target is Coming to Town

target2.jpgThe retail consumer in Canada is finally going to catch a break. After putting up with a dreary, outdated, ho-hum retail market for decades, in which retailing has consistently been about 20 years behind its US neighbors, there are changes afoot.

First came Costco. Great success.

Then Wal-Mart. Big success.

Then came the Apple store. Monster success.

Then Victoria’s Secret. Looking gooooood.

Now, Target. Minneapolis, MN-based Target Corp has just announced a deal to acquire the leasehold sites for up to 220 locations from Zeller’s Canada.  They plan to open 100 to 150 Target locations across Canada during 2013 and 2014, after investing about $1 billion in improvements and upgrades. And hiring a load of happy Canadians.

I have been using Target as an example of excellence in branding, target.jpgcustomer service, and retail delivery in my marketing classes for years. They have been outstanding competitors in a tough marketplace, and they have managed to maintain a lower-price higher-quality positioning that has proven nearly impossible for Wal-Mart to beat. As a consumer, I always felt that Target provided a far superior shopping experience to most other retailers, including Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart was about price, Target was about the experience.

I believe that Target has likely come to Canada for a few reasons:

  1. Slowing growth in the domestic US retail market
  2. Fierce competition in the domestic US retail market
  3. Saturation with Target stores in the US (they always stated they were going to saturate the US first before going international)
  4. Lots of cross-border shopping, which would have shown up on their radar
  5. The Canadian economy and consumer market’s resistance to recent economic dips
  6. Stronger than ever Canadian dollar (at par)
  7. Long-term prospects for strong Canadian dollar (petro bucks and the fact that all retail has an arbitrage element)
  8. Canadian dissatisfaction with retail service and choice levels
  9. Weak Canadian retail brands (Zellers? The Bay? Canadian Tire? come on….)target3.jpg
  10. Great brand recognition, awareness, and positive attitude among Canadian consumers towards Target already (who travel frequently to the US)
  11. Target’s convenient format: one-stop shopping for food, clothes (decent ones at that), sports equipment, electronics, toys, small appliances, bedding, kitchenware, linen, furniture, pharmacy and health care
  12. Target is clean. It’s customer service is outstanding.The format of the store, with wide spacious aisles and clear signage, is best in class. The experience–as I said before, and have written about already in some of my retail work–is what Target is all about.
  13. The French pronounciation may or may not have been a deciding element. Repeat after me…Tar GHAY est tres Canadian, eh?

My wife puts it this way: “I feel happy when I shop there.” We have missed the Target retail experience ever since moving to Toronto from Madison. I think that the Canadian consumer is going to richly reward Target for this decision, and the warm and wonderful feelings are going to be mutual. I know in my house we can hardly wait. The slow countdown to 2013 begins. When will they open already? And, oh…

When is The Cheesecake Factory opening in Yorkdale for goodness sake?

Journal of Marketing Appointment Announcement

jm_cover.jpgThis blog is getting some “red hot” editorial news about the State of Marketing Scholarship these days. My last post broke the news about the new editorial team at the Journal of Consumer Research (“JCR”).

And here is a very fresh one about the #1 Journal in the Marketing field.

As many of you are aware Gary Frazier is the editor elect of the Journal of Marketing (or “JM”) and will be taking over in July of 2011 from Ajay Kohli. For a while, Ajay, Gary, and Bob Leone have acted as co-editors of the journal. As with JCR, the manuscripts flows in the main journals in our field have been increasing dramatically, necessitating some editorial action to share the workload.

Gary has decided to change the structure of the Journal of Marketing to one that includes Associate Editors (or “AEs”). I think this is a very smart move. AEs at JM will have considerable latitude to make recommendations, but the final decision will always lie with the Editor-in-Chief, that is, Gary. Gary has appointed 16 AEs, some truly excellent people, and I believe he is looking for a couple more.

marketing_journals_411×211.jpgGary has asked me to be an Associate Editor of JM for his term and I have happily accepted. Thank you for the vote of confidence, Gary.

What this means, I believe, is that the Journal of Marketing is institutionalizing a role and a place for Consumer Culture Theory, cultural, or “qualitative” approaches to practical marketing issues in the field. This is big news. It is something that many of us in the CCT field have been working towards for many years. More top tier options for our publications is important to continuing the institutionalization of CCT work as an important and necessary (albeit minority) component of all Marketing Scholarship, Marketing Education, and Marketing Departments.

At the #1 journal in the Marketing field, we now have, perhaps more than ever before, the promise of a real presence and solidified representation at the top of the field.

I think that a look at the past 7 years of cultural work in JM will show that CCT work is getting more and more applied, and offering increasingly powerful pragmatic insights to the marketing industry.

The move is also presenting  a natural place for all types of social media and social media marketing research. One of my personal goals is to raise the quality and profile of research on social media and social media marketing research.

Officially, these will be the areas of the Journal of Marketing that I will have Associate Editor authority over:

Primary (substantive) content area

Internet and social media marketing

Secondary content areas

  1. Word-of-mouth marketing;
  2. entertainment marketing;
  3. brand and product management;
  4. retailing

Methods: 

  • Qualitative/ethnographic (e.g., discourse analysis, semiotics, phenomenological interviews, metaphor analysis),
  • Other methodological orientations as necessary (I am trained and versed in a variety of different methods)

If you do social media research using qualitative methods, you can pretty much guess who is going to be shepherding your work though JM.

So starting in July I will be looking forward to seeing all your best managerially-oriented work sent to us at the Journal of Marketing. I will do my very best to make sure it gets treated fairly or even better, and to publish the best work to keep our field of Marketing moving steadily forward.

People-Centered Marketing: An Introduction

people_kozinets.gifThe latest phase of my career is taking an interesting new direction. I am trying to get a more holistic look at “marketing” as a discipline and a practice, and analyze how all the elements of “marketing”, such as marketing research and brand management, fit together with management as a field. I’ve been thinking about this for over a year, and last year wrote an editorial for Canada’s national business newspaper, The National Post, on the topic. I originally titled it rather dramatically as “The End of Marketing” but they published it more positively as “Marketing’s Evolution.” Here is the original article, if you are interested.

Talking with the brilliant and insightful marketing researcher, consultant, professor, and author Shira Nayman about some mutual interests about six weeks ago, I was struggling with a term for what I was trying to say. “Consumer-centered marketing” was clumsy, but it was all I had. Wordsmith that she is, she suggested the term “People-Centered Marketing” and it really fit.

So when Ruth Bolton and the Marketing Science Institute came calling and asked me to present to their Annual Trustee’s meeting in San Francisco, this topic of “People-Centered Marketing” came to mind immediately as something I definitely wanted to introduce to their high-level group of academics and practitioners, in order to get their feedback and have them help me develop it.

The presentation was great, and the comments I received were extremely helpful. I thought I would share the introduction to the presentation with you, my beloved blog audience, in order to give you a flavor of this work and share some of what is to come.

consumer_knowledge.jpgFollowing is the introduction to the presentation, where I lay out the idea of People-Centered Marketing in basic form, and give the essential outline of the talk.

As an anthropologist, I am drawn to the history of marketing-which likes in face-to-face, interpersonal exchange. It’s an aspect that lives on in service encounters and in marketing throughout much of the developing world, accounting for perhaps eighty percent of all exchanges.

Modern marketing, marketing as we know it, has moved away from face-to-face encounters, of course. That has happened for very good reasons of scale. But in this move away from the face of the consumer, something has been lost. Something vitally important. Marketing as a field has become increasing distanced form the consumer and her world.

The consumer has become less and less of a person, and more and more of an abstraction. An object, if you will.

In this presentation, I will propose that marketing as a field is in a state of slow decline. I will speculate that an important reason for this deterioration is because we have been following almost exclusively one somewhat limited model of understanding the consumer. This is a model which abstract, distances, and objectifies not only the consumer, but the marketer and the very act of marketing.

Acting as a bit of an agent provacateur, I will provoke more questions rather than propose answers to this dilemma.

Overall, I will suggest that we need to rethink how we think about consumer understanding. How will we seek to know our consumers? In our difficult and dynamic environment, that intensely philosophical examination is actually an extremely urgent question with immensely practical ramifications for how we do marketing and how we do business.

So, using and proposing the term “People-Centered Marketing” for the very first time, here, I will propose a more relational, conversational, lifeworld-centered style of both understanding and interacting with consumers as we go forward in these changing, challenging times.

dehumanized_2.jpgHere is how I will frame this view:

  1. I will begin with a high-level look at the field of marketing as it currently stands
  2. Then, drawing on my own experiences as the founder of a new marketing research approach, I will reflect on why I think marketing must deal with these issues
  3. Then, the presentation takes a turn into philosophical terrains—into phenomenology and the “conservative wing of Heideggerian hermeneutics” to be exact—in order to unpack the meaning of understanding in relation to “understanding the consumer”
  4. From there, I explain three ways of understanding consumers which show how we need to refucos and balance what we do as marketers and marketing researchers
  5. Finally, I offer a few examples and some very cursory ideas about first steps towards strategically implementing these changes in the practice of day-to-day marketing and management.

 And, yes, I did it all in a 35 minute presentation! I can’t quite believe that myself.

And if you want more, as *they* say, “Ya gotta buy the book.” Except it isn’t written yet… Comments from you, Gentle Readers, are always welcome. Thanks for listening, and for “understanding”….(see how subtle my patented fractal-segue-conclusions can be?….).

 

 

 

Social Media Changes Everything: An Open Letter to President Obama about Wikileaks

Wikileaks Logo interpreted by KozinetsDear President Obama:

It was really nice when social media was your special friend, wasn’t it? When you had your Facebook page and everyone lauded it, you were the social media President, the social media guy. People saidf you had “cracked the code” on using social media for politics, people wrote books and reports about how you had won the Presidency by “getting” social media when very few people and companies go it, and everything was great.

But now social media is not your special friend any more, is it?

As the major media have been ceaselessly reporting, “a cache of a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables, most of them from the past three years, provides an unprecedented look at back-room bargaining by embassies around the world, brutally candid views of foreign leaders and frank assessments of nuclear and terrorist threats” (NY Times, Nov 28, Shane and Lehren article).

Social media changes everything.

Social media isn’t just about fan pages, Mr. President. It isn’t just about organizing your supporters. It most certainly isn’t like chain mail, that can just “amplify” a social (“Change”) or campaign (“Vote”) message. Not in the big picture analysis. It isn’t just about marketing. Not really. Where you did get it right, President Obama, and where there is still lots of hope, I believe, is that the key to your campaign’s use of social media-although it has disappointingly dropped off in your years in the Oval Office-is that it was always about Empowerment.

Edelman wrote a nice report about the Obama campaign’s use of social media that hammered home how it used social media to empower its supporters. Here are its principles:

  1. Laddering support through tiers of engagement
  2. Empowering super users
  3. Providing source materials for user-generated content
  4. Going where the people are
  5. Using tools people are familiar with
  6. Ensuring that people can find your content
  7. Mobilizing supporters through mobile devices
  8. Harnessing analytics to constantly improve engagement activities
  9. Building the online operation to scale

Those are good solid marketing lessons, good social media marketing lessons, too. But here’s a new lesson for the books, Mr. President: Empowerment cuts both ways. Wikileaks is doing this, too. And here is another one: social media changes everything.

wikileaks-graphics_1084331a.jpgWhat I mean is that, for you, and for others in power like corporate executives and heads of nonprofit companies, and leaders of all shapes and sizes, social media is like someone coming and peeling a wall from your house and one from your office, replacing them with two panes of glass, setting up deckchairs on your lawn, and inviting everyone to come take turns watching you. The same ability to get into people’s living rooms means they are peering into your living room, too.

You want “Transparency”? In the social media world, you’ve got it. “Control of the message”? Well, that’s a whole other thing.

Here is the dilemma. What Wikileaks did and keeps doing is a major headache and a major embarrassment. You, Hilary, and your State Department staff must be apologizing like jostled Canadians at this point. Maybe it is more than a headache. Almost certainly the site is breaking some laws by “publishing” such private governmental information. Should it be shut down? Crushed like Napster or Pirate Bay (sorry).

wikileaks_censored.gifI don’t think so. What the major press has also picked up is that this gargantuan leak is also an incredible opportunity for anyone to take a peek, as deep a peek as they like, into the way American diplomacy is done. It is a window thrown open onto something that was previously backdoor. And in a real democracy, that is incredibly value, because it spurs examination, self-examination, and real “Change” (remember that word, Mr. President? It used to be your friend, too).

According to Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, the site will release a treasure trove of documents early next year that will show a big US bank engaging in “flagrant violations” and “unethical practices” and trigger all sorts of regulatory examination. And as the finance industry goes, it is no doubt that other industries will follow. A parade of companies will follow, their leaders hung out to dry, naked and vulnerable with their expletives undeleted, their decision-making  and moral stances fully exposed (anyone remember the Ford Pinto? How about the Toyota scandal?)

Social media changes business in more ways that marketing. It is a painful transition. It is going to be wrenching. We are just feeling the first death thrashes of the old, secretive system. But in the long run, truth and consistency are good things.

obama_thinks.jpgMr. President, please be careful as you consider the question of whether to shut Wikileaks down, or limit its ability to reveal.

Let’s be honest. It isn’t like this is the first time you have tried to control social media, President Obama. Most people have already forgotten how you got into a public argument with Joe Anthony, an early supporter of you. Mr. Anthony was advanced enough in social media to start a MySpace page with your name on it, to support your bid to become a candidate for President, before you did. He gathered 130,000 friends for you. You then went straight to the authorities at MySpace and had them turn the page over to your campaign so you could take control of it. Oops. No thank you, no apology, just “that’s mine-I control that.”

 That old school, heavy handed technique did not work. The followers rebelled. It got nasty. It took a real, personal apology and a lot of effort to get people back and on board.

You learned your lesson that time. Please remember it this time. Let the secrets keep flowing until you learn how to manage them. Let the information get out until frontstage and backstage are consistent. Let the people know how you really govern, not just how you say you govern. Please don’t just be a politician. It is clearly not what the people want from you. Learn from the mistakes to lead with inspiring integrity and truly empower.

And let social media change everything.

 

Spreading the Word: Netnography is 网络志 in Mandarin Chinese

From Word-of-mouth marketing to spreading the word on the method or approach of netnography. I was surprised that there were no comments yet on the marketing versus PR post. Actually, people seem to comment more on my Facebook page postings about these blog postings than they do on the blog itself, which is interesting. Because I know you’re out there…you keep coming up to me, and emailing me, and you show up on my Google Analytics radar pretty clear. And I thank you for your loyalty and interest, and hope to keep on writing for you for a long, long time.

Last post was my 400th blog post, by the way. That’s pretty exciting. To me at least. A bit. Maybe not so much to you. Probably not, actually.

In this post, I wanted to come back to the topic of Netnography that has been a major area of interest lately. I’ll blog more about how I have been presenting the topic in my next post, but for this one I wanted to share an exciting initiative.

Because (1) we have such a global culture, (2) the Internet has attained such global impact, and (3) because my work as an educator makes me very aware of what is happening outside my little North American bubble, it has become obvious to me that Netnography has been written about by me exclusively in the English language. And although English is important, it is certainly not the only game in town (at least, not any more).

And if spreading the word around the world is important, then keeping netnography texts as mainly “English-only” is not only counterproductive and Anglo-centric, it’s downright stupid.

I’ve been seeing a lot of non-English texts written about netnography showing up in Google searches of the term netnography. For the most part, I have no idea what those texts say. I do know that I didn’t write them.

So for the last year or so I have been very “subtly” floating the idea of offering translated versions of some of my writing of Netnography for non-English speakers over the Internet. A few of the languages I’ve considered are  Japanese, German, Spanish, and Portugese.

But the first one to come through is Mandarin Chinese. Did you know that about 23% of all Internet use takes place in Chinese (versus about 28% in English) according to recent stats by the excellent and helpful Internet World Stats?

A smart and kind Ph.D. student at our school, Yikun Zhao, generously offered to translate my work into Chinese. We decided to use the White Paper I recently wrote for NetBase, as that document is clearly written, accessible, aimed at academics and business audiences, and it is current and not yet outdated.

I’d like to thank NetBase for agreeing to allow us to do this with that paper. They asked me to note that the NetBase semantic search engine does not read and analyze Chinese at this point. It is currently an English-only search and analysis tool.

So here, without further ado, is the Mandarin Chinese version of the Netnography: The Marketer’s Secret Weapon White Paper. Netnography White Paper in Mandarin Chinese. It is presented as a pdf file. I hope that our Chinese readers and those who are interested in Netnography find it useful. Thank you once again, Yikun and Michael O.

Netnography White Paper in Mandarin Chinese

New Netnography White Paper Available

netnography_whitepaper_cover.jpgNetBase asked me to write a white paper to explain netnography to business people and marketers. It is titled: Netnography: The Marketer’s Secret Weapon – How Social Media Understanding Drives Innovation.

I will be presenting the white paper tomorrow in New York at the Advertising Research Foundations’ re:think conference, at 11am.

NetBase just posted the White Paper download link online on their web-site, and here is the link:

http://www.netbase.com/landing_pages/netnography_paper/

Looks like you will need to fill out a form and get into their database as the price of admission.

I enjoyed and learned a lot writing a paper that is directed to a purely managerial audience. I hope you enjoy it.