Category Archives: Marketing News & Insights

Let It Never Be

As I posted in my last post, at the July 2012 CCT conference in Oxford I presented a few of my poems, which are now collected and published in a volume called “Clarence Clobbers Tenderly.”

One of the poetry readings was captured on mobile phone video by my friend and colleague Ingeborg Kleppe, who generously shared it with me. I recently posted it to Youtube and link to it here.

Because the background sounds are a bit loud, and the recording begins partway into the reading, it is difficult to make out some of the poem. Following is the written version of poem, which is called:

Let It Never Be

And it is said

by those

who find philosophy

in the smashing

of strange

quarks, hadrons, and baryons

with even stranger consciousness

that the mind is

the world’s author

that awareness surgically bifurcates

and every decision we make

cuts a fork into reality

splitting spacetime

like a ribbon.

 

And so with each choice

we make

we break

apart

and leave

behind living

shards shadow

beings who did not

so choose.

 

And through our life

times of choosing

these twin beings

grow to crowds

to villages and cities

whole worlds perhaps

of yous and mes

built of decisions

created of collisions and in

some automatic

and undecided way

they still exist

continuing

following roads

we long abandoned.

 

Let them have them.

 

Let us never feel that urge

to gaze out

across this sea of broken paths and pasts

to peer into the eyes

of all the relinquished yous and mes.

 

And let us never wander to that shore

and never feel compelled to call out

a reminder across this vast ocean

of forsaken lives

whose remainder in sum is life

our life still living not lived yet

and never ever have to say

let it go

let it go

let it go.

 

And let it never be said

that together we did not

create universes.

 

Blog in the Air after Boğaziçi

To [mis]quote one of my all-time favorite bands, Pink Floyd:

Blog
Blog in the air
Don’t be afraid to care.

Yes, I’m blogging in the air. Turkish Airlines has a great new wifi service on some of their flights, and I am currently flying back to Toronto from Istanbul, Turkey on flight 0017. Right now I am over the Atlantic Ocean, somewhere south of Godthab, Greenland (do you love those inflight map monitors as much as I do?). The Turkish Airlines login page says something like “we are temporarily offering this new service free to customers.” Temporarily free. Which is sort of like offering crack in the schoolyard as “temporarily free.”

When you accept the terms of service they make you explicitly swear you will not use voice over IP protocols, so forget your dreams of Skype calling from the air. Ain’t gonna happen, it seems. Smoking, and VoIP—the two last frontiers of no-nos in the air. And surprising the Captain with a little hello visit. And, so I hear, using the bathroom to (re)assert your membership in the Mile High Club still tends to be frowned upon as well. So four no-nos in all.

Remember when long air flights were a chance to relax, or read a book? Not any more. Now you can return email and catch up on work instead. Of my entire row of 8 people, 7 of us are currently sitting with iPads and open laptops, clearly online. Wifi is provided in an alliance with T-mobile, so I’d expect this is going to be very commonplace on most flights soon.

Kozinets at Bogazici University IstanbulA couple of words might be in order about my presentation yesterday at the beautiful and historic Boğaziçi University in Istanbul (it is pronounced “bo-oz-uh-ji”). It was in a beautiful, wood-lined, seriously academic room with some very important executives from some of Turkey’s top businesses, retailers, agencies, HR firms, and other companies, as well as PhD, Master’s and undergrad students.

I presented an entirely new talk about social media, technology use, and the directions companies must follow. The room was a beautiful old room, and the hosting by  Boğaziçi U’s Dean, Aysegul Toker, a social media and mobile scholar who published a terrific book along with professors Kaan Varnali and Cengiz Yilmaz, was immaculate and eminently Turkish (in case you didn’t know it, Turkish people are world famous for their hospitality and warmth—and yes, I am biased).

Mobile Marketing bookI recommend their book—Mobile Marketing: Fundamentals and Strategy– as a very interesting, empirically-based and thorough scientific look not only at the Turkish mobile market, but also as at how mobile is permeating all sorts of new markets and raising fascinating strategic management and marketing issues. This is one of the most important frontiers of the marketing world, and this book contributes much-needed knowledge and know-how to our understanding. And yes, just in case you were wondering, social media and mobile marketing Professor Kaan Varnali himself was present at my presentation!

My own presentation used some concepts from recent analyses of “Arab Spring” to introduce and develop five new trends to explain where businesses need to go in their use of the Internet and technology. To give you a bit of the flavor of the talk, I opened it up by asking the audience how many of them believe that social media is currently in a “bubble” phase, with a lot of overblown hype about how they need to be out there investing their dollars in social media marketing campaigns.

What do you think? I would like to hear your opinions. And I will be happy to share some of my own thinking and to continue developing my ideas through this blog and in my other social media communications.

Hmmmm. Now the baby behind me is screaming its head off. This actually is not my office after all. Well, at least it’s not like the last flight back from Istanbul, where I was seated next to a guy who was having a 10-hour long gas attack. But this is definitely verging on sonic warfare.

Stay tuned. Everything in the world of social media marketing right now is, like me, up. And up in the air.

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.

We Don’t Need No Steenkin’ Social Media Gurus

social-media-guru_callout.pngA couple of days ago, as I wrote in my last blog posting, I spoke at a Social Media Day gathering in an interesting, concert-like downtown Queen West Toronto venue, to an interesting and varied crowd.

After I had left the stage and assumed a position within the audience, beer in hand, a woman began talking to me in the crowd. Lets call her Jennifer. Jennifer told me that she knew nothing about social media even a few weeks ago, but that her husband had bought her an iPad for their anniversary and now she was devoting all sorts of time to learning it. She had driven up from Niagara Fallsabout a 2-hour drivein order to see the Social Media Day event.

I want to become a social media guru, she said to me, with a big, winning, business-y smile.

Gotta tell ya, Jennifer. Thats just about the last thing the world needs. That, another horndog politician, and four bucks will get you a Starbucks latte.

love-guru.jpgosho_rajneesh_photo.jpgI keep hearing this term social media guru everywhere, usually in puffed-up self-proclamations (which my mom always taught me were faint praise, anyhow) as in Hi, Im George, and Im an alcoholic–and a Social Media guru.

Now, give me a big fat molten chocolate-covered break.

Yes, I know the word guru officially and originally meant “wise teacher? in Hindi. Even so, if you say you are a social media teacher, what are your designations, where is your accreditation, who certifies you to teach about it? It is supposed to mean one with great knowledge and/or wisdom, who uses that wisdom to teach and guide others on a spiritual path. What the heck does it mean to be a self-realized and Fully Ascended Social Media Master, anyways? Is there supposed to be something Intensely Spiritual about the Like Button?

And, here’s the gist. Doesn’t anyone using that honorific realize that, since the days of Bhagwan Shree Rhagneesh, EST, and the whole weird 1970s ESALEN California spirituality vibe thing, the use of the designation guru” in the West always contains with it more than a salt shakers worth of irony, as well a distinctly greenish tinge of worldly avarice lying just underneath spiritual rhetoric, and leading, almost inexorably, to fleets of Rolls Royces?

I mean, come on. Guru? Guru? Really? In the West? In 2011? Without irony?

social_media_experts_as_real_as_unicorns_tshirt-p235421643853038531q08p_400.jpgMe, I am a Ph.D who studied social media in my dissertation and a Full Professor now, and I have had a strong social media component to my classes since 1999. That’s twelves years ago, for those who are counting. I began teaching the first social media course in Canada, and one of the first in the world, in 2007, calling it Word of Mouth Marketing. I have developed multiple courses at undergraduate, graduate, and PhD levels to teach Social Media Marketing and Management. Those course outlines are being used by dozens of other professors around the world right now.

And I am definitely no “Social Media Guru.” No thanks.

I much prefer to be known as a Still-Learning Social Media Expert-in-Progress. Or a Social Media Researcher. Social Media Pioneer? I think I have probably earned that one. I have been researching and writing in this area since 1995, with multiple publications in top peer-reviewed scientific journals. That is legitimacy. I pioneered a social media research approach and method. I have consulted to industry on these matters since before there were blogs. I was one of the first researchers to clearly specify the importance of social media to marketing. I have been in this space for 16 years. Like the few true experts in this area, I can give specific examples of what I have accomplished, rather than writing yet another book with some trendy title that is also subtitled How Your Company Can Profit From Facebook and Twitter” and calling myself by some ridiculously inapplicable Indian honorific.

social_media_guru-f918bc5.jpgSo please forgive me for being more than a little ticked off at the gathering of Social Media Guruslike ants at the proverbial picnic. While this boom is still booming, they will keep swarming. And I feel entitled to spray a little Raid.

As far as I am concerned, if someone comes up and tells you they are a social media guru, they are telling you, essentially, that they have a Facebook and Twitter account, talk about it to their friends and family, and hope to one day cash in on their spiffy mailing list of 406 friends and 217 followers. Maybe they have even written one of the 968 popular business press books about social media you can find lying around the shelves of your local bookstore like old remaindered copies of The Celestine Prophesy or The Coming Stock Market Crash of 2003.

If they come up and tell you they are a Social Media Guru, here is what I think you should say to them. Because it is probably just as true. Dont ask them for their credentials (I will write more about some interested efforts at WOMMA, at Universities, and at NetBase soon to tap in this market need soon). Dont ask them what is new or original about their approach. Certainly dont ask them if they know more about social media itself, or about its application to real marketing or business strategy needs (that might really confuse them). No, you just look them right in the eye nice and steady and say:

“Wow. Me too.

The Shocking Truth About Business Schools

Bill Clinton at NYU CommencementIn his address to NYU’s graduating class at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, former President Bill Clinton took square aim against one of the great evils of our time: business schools.  Here is a quote from his speech (the entire speech can be found on YouTube):

“I was probably the last generation of Americans until the present day who could have gotten an MBA, if I went to business school instead of law school, with the prevailing theory being that American corporations had obligations primarily to their stakeholders. Ever since then we’ve been teaching our young people that your primary obligation is only to the shareholder. The problem is that if you do that you ignore the other stakeholders.”

It sounds plausible to blame business schools. After all, we know that business and the financial industry are to blame for the major economic meltdown of the last several years. And we know that those businesses had to learn their bad economic and management theory from somewhere. When there is a lack of morality and integrity in the practitioners of management, why not blame the places that teach managers to manage. Blame the b-schools.

What I find so startling about this statement is that the 42nd President of the United States is speaking in such totalizing terms that he is actually ignoring a fundamental shift in business schools. In fact, the “stakeholder” model that he talks about as an inspired solution is a product of the very business schools that he is pointing towards as the problem. This stakeholder model has been taught as a part of understanding management issues since the mid-1980s at the Schulich School of Business where I work which, according to Dean Horvath, our long-standing Dean, was one of the first schools to implement it.

“Ever since then we’ve been teaching our young people that your primary obligation is only to the shareholder,” said Clinton. But reading his speech, I cannot help but wonder if President Clinton has heard of the “triple bottom line” approach that has become a common element of many business school’s curricula. The triple bottom line concretizes stakeholder theory by providing a system of measuring the 3 Ps of people, planet and profit, and managing by measuring how well each are being accounted for in the management of an organization. The system has not been perfected, but it is widespread and widely taught. As a marketing professor, I have always used stakeholder theory to discuss marketing ethics in my classes at Kellogg, University of Wisconsin, and of course at Schulich.

Clinton said that this profit-above-all viewpoint of MBAs and business schools “could be why wages have been virtually stagnant for the past 30 years”  because it misses the fact that “workers are stakeholders.” That bad b-school perspective could be behind communal stagnation, “because communities are stakeholders” and behind consumer apathy.

Humbug, I say.

I would like to invite Bill Clinton to learn more about (and perhaps even participate in) the work of the Aspen Institute, a foundation that is dedicated to fostering values-based leadership, encouraging individuals to reflect on the ideals and ideas that define a good society, and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues. Every 2 years, the institute gives out an award called “Beyond Grey Pinstripes” to business schools. It ranks the top 100 MBA programs in the world for how well they are equipping future business leaders with a comprehensive and integrated understanding of social and environmental issues impacting business – everything from increased consumer activism and climate change to corporate social responsibility. Here are the current top 10 global business schools, according to this important ranking.

  1. York University (Schulich School of Business)
  2. U. of Michigan (Ross)
  3. Yale School of Management
  4. Stanford Graduate School of Business
  5. Notre Dame (Mendoza)
  6. UC Berkeley (Haas)
  7. RSM Erasmus
  8. NYU (Stern)
  9. IE Business
  10. Columbia Business School

Seven of the top 10 business schools in this ranking are in the USA. Who is on top? It happens to be my own (shameless plug here…) Schulich School. Oh, and Mr. Former President, you were actually addressing the graduating class from the 8th ranked  business school in the world on these stakeholder matters. The MBA class, to be exact. Is it just me, or does anyone else find that fact that he overlooked that incredible fact incredibly ignorant?

Bill Clinton, in his speech, seems to be missing all the wonderful work done by business schools, business school Deans, business school leaders, devoted b-school professors, alumni, and students. Instead, painting with a broad and stereotyping brush, they are villainized as The Source and Fount of The Great Evil: the Spreaders of Bad Ideology. How absurd. How negative. Charging $100,000 per speech, Mr. President, you really need to be more careful to do your homework.

I’d give that part of your speech an F.

The astonishing and surprising truth that former President Clinton’s speech ignores is that, although some business schools may have at one time been a part of the problem, many of them today are building the solutions to social and organizational problems. They are far from perfect. But they are definitely not the unidimensional Profit-as-Monotheistic Religion institutions that Bill Clinton’s speech makes them out to be. 

And that is something not only to be surprised about, but to celebrate.

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?

Social Media in 2011: A New Class

Robert Kozinets teaching at Schulich SchoolFirst things first. Happy New Year to all my faithful blog readers, students, friends, SEO victims, and curious bystanders. May it be a fascinating, enriching, and wonder-filled year for each and every one of you. Now, to the King: content.

Welcome to my new extended classroom (cue not-so-sinister laugh here….).

Yes, for the next few weeks, I am going to be using this blog as part of my two new classes at the Schulich School of Business. Although I have been teaching courses in Word of Mouth Marketing and Social Media marketing as Independent Study courses since 2007, this year I launch full undergrad (BBA) and master’s program (MBA) courses in Social Media Marketing and Management.

The thing I am most excited about with these courses is that they are going to take place both in the classrooms at the heart of our gorgeous and glamorous (not, and definitely not) Keele and Finch campus but also in the public space of the social mediasphere (your loud applause here, please).

Yes, you deduced that correctly, Sherlock. Important class assignments throughout the course will have to be posted, cross-posted, and linked up to a variety of social media tools, such as this blog, and, most especially the new Facebook page for the class.

As such a public venture, and, again, as a little experiment, I am keeping the FB page open to everyone (yes, even you), and this blog is open, and I’ll be Tweeting the progress of the page. As well, I’m hoping the student makes liberal use of video formats, and that will probably mean YouTube, perhaps Flickr and other different kinds of sharing sites will be involved. I am hoping for a large range of different materials, shared in different ways.

The preparation begins with today’s BBA class, and builds next week with the MBA class. Then, in a week, student presentations begin, and those presentations must be shared through social media, using the Facebook page as a sort of hub to guide students and interested onlookers to the materials.

To give you a quick preview of what is to come, here are some of the potential (and likely) topics my eager and amazing social media students will be covering over the coming three months or so:

  • Word of mouth marketing
  • Word of mouth theory
  • Brand community (various aspects to consider)
  • Social media marketing associations and resources (e.g., WOMMA, CMA, AMA)
  • Understanding Social Media Collectives (e.g., etribes; tribes; subcultures)
  • Market segments in Social Media
  • Market Positioning with social media
  • Transmedia 101
  • Understanding the basics of brand narratives,
  • Storytelling and Social Media Management
  • A Company Campaign that uses Transmedia and/or Brand Narrative
  • Book Review: Convergence Culture
  • Book Review: Enterprise 2.0
  • Metrics in SMM campaigns
  • ROI and SMM
  • Looking at past campaign(s) and how they have measured the value of SMM (positive and negatives of approaches?)
  • Book reviews of books on metrics and SMMHow to get an ad to go viral: example
  • A SMM Research Method: Social network analysis
  • The analysis of influence
  • Online Forums and social media marketing
  • Online Research for Social Media Insight
  •  Netnography
  • Web analytics
  • Social media marketing research companies and products
  • Using SNS and Microblogs—principles and guidelines
  • Lessons from Facebook marketing campaigns
  • Other SNS (MySpace) campaigns and strategies
  • Lessons from Twitter campaigns
  • SMM uses of YouTube and Flickr“
  • Wikinomics” and innovation 
  • Eric von Hippel and lead users
  • “prosumers”
  • User-generated media
  • Book Review: Wikinomics
  • Book Review: Wikibrands
  • Wikis and SMM
  • Virtuals worlds and SMM
  • Mobile
  • Social marketing and SMM
  • Of course, there may be plenty of surprises in store as well….stay tuned. I think this is going to be a great start to the year for this blog, and for everyone who enjoys thinking about and learning about social media marketing and management.