Category Archives: Word of Mouth Marketing

Is Star Trek Better Than Star Wars? Is J. J. Abrams The Saviour?

Yoda shows disrespect to Star Trek

Yoda shows disrespect to Star Trek

In this month’s GQ magazine (May 2013 issue, p. 68 in my print copy) John Ritter has an article about J. J. Abrams, the Lost creator-director whose speciality has becoming reviving old franchises like Mission Impossible and Star Trek. About Star Trek, he opines–with an opiate reference–in relation to J.J. taking on the challenges of building the new Star Wars Disney franchise:

  • “The idea that the same man can mainline both Gene Roddenberry and the Force is mildly alarming. Think of what opposite Star Trek and Star Wars are. We’ve been defined since childhood by which we prefer: rationality vs. mysticism, robust and morally complex characters vs. good-and-evil archetypes. A guy who can reunite the two halves of the Great Sci-Fi Schism shouldn’t be making movies, folks–he should be our envoy to the Middle East.”

This is an incredibly rich paragraph. A veritable treasure trove.

Let me first offer my opinion on whether Star Trek and Star Wars are actually opposites or, more accurately, oppositional poles. Although I know many fans will choose one franchise over another, or that fans often say that they are “Star Trek people” or “Star Wars people” like they say they are cat people or dog people, I also know that there are many people who, like me, have worshiped at the altars dedicated to both Spock and Yoda since they were children (and yes, I am also both a cat person and a dog person—jeez, I wonder if there is a correlation).

But I think the dichotomy that Ritter sets up in this paragraph is incorrect, particularly on the Star Trek side. Star Trek is “rationality” devoid of “mysticism”. Um, not so fast. Have you seen what’s inside Mr. Spock? Like, telepathy and mind control. How many times has a false god been mistaken for the real thing: Apollo, Vaal, Q, Trelane, the Metrons, and on and on?

As numerous authors have written (for three strong examples, see Porter, Jennifer E. and Darcee L. McLaren (1999), ed., Star Trek and Sacred Ground: Explorations of Star Trek, Religion, and American Culture, Albany, NY: SUNY Press; Wagner, Jon and Jan Lundeen (1998), Deep Space and Sacred Time: Star Trek in the American Mythos, Westport, CN: Praeger; Jindra, Michael (1994), “Star Trek fandom as a religious phenomenon,” Sociology of Religion, 55 (Spring), 27-51), Star Trek in all of its vainglorious iterations is chock-full of mysticism and spirituality. Many, many episodes in the original series could, for example, be seen as symbolizing humanity’s ongoing quest for God, or gods, and an overturning or ambivalence towards this seemingly inescapable yearning in modern times. And as Wagner and Lundeen’s book demonstrates, Star Trek has plenty to do with mythology and archetype. As has any great story.

Which franchise do you think Ritter favors? My bet is that he sees himself more as a rational type than a mystic, and prefers “morally complex” characters to “archetypes” (or is that fictional stereotypes?).

But comparing fan debates in the fictional space to long-standing territorial and religious conflicts in the Middle East is particularly revealing. The fact that a writer can devise and a publication can publish such comparisons can only point to some deep resonance of belief, belonging and identity that comes from fan identity, particularly this, one of the core fan identities of our time.

J.J. Abrams is a master director who plays with mysticism and ambivalence to science. Like creator Chris Carter of The X-Files, his works often peer into the (small v and plural) existential voids, they look at the holes and gaps in technoscientific rationality and human society (even its sciencefictional reflection) and find there the ever-unfulfilled need for certainly and belief, and even spirituality and mysticism.

His works vividly portray this ambivalence and fear and hope and desire, which burns at the very heart of our society. And that is exactly why he is such a good choice to continue to tell these precious modern myths which so many of us hold so dear.

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.

Personal Brands and the Next Thing in Social Media Marketing

In January I started my MBA class in social media marketing and management at the Schulich School of Business and it really feels great to be teaching again. If you’re interested in the class, you can join our open to the public Facebook page, which is simply titled Social Media Marketing.

In today’s class we had an interesting discussion about positioning your personal brand. Of course, because it’s a social media marketing class filled with aspiring marketers, a number of people in the class were considering positioning themselves as social media experts (no, I don’t mean social media”gurus”, eek). So whatever the category they were interested in, whether it was a category manager, a brand manager, sales manager, advertising account manager, or even a financial professional, they were thinking about using “social media savvy” something like that as their point of difference that help them to stand out from the crowd in a way that would help them to be noticed and found relevant.

As we were discussing this topical an important point difference in class, it dawned on me that social media marketer as a descriptive term is becoming increasingly less unique and therefore less meaningful.

Gather round, children, for a tale from the origins of Web Age.

You see, when I began researching in this area, I was known as “an Internet guy.” Then I was a “virtual community guy.” And then “online community guy.” Then I was a blogging guy. And all the time, I guess I was a netnography guy. In the last few years, I’ve obviously been a social media guy.

And I guess that’s at the crux of my problem with all this. Because in the example that I gave to the class, I positioned myself as a social media marketing professor, and my point of difference was social media marketing expertise. However, when I think about it, that’s now a much more crowded space than it was a decade ago. And it’s getting more crowded all the time.

I think we are already at the stage, then, where social media and social media marketing are fragmenting into various specialties and subspecialties. First you could be an Internet person, then a Web person, a browser person, a new media person, a social media person, and so on.What will be the next phase of social media? Being a web analytics person. A community management person? A brand community designer? And online research community specialist. A co-creation and User-Generated Media specialist. A PR response person. A transmedia brand narrative storytelling specialist.

In other words, just as “Internet marketer” is a meaningless term because the Internet has become so diverse and complex, exactly the same thing is happening to social media. And that means that each day “social media marketer” is becoming less ad less meaningful.

The takeaway for smart marketers and marketing students concerned about their personal brand? If you are interested in this space, get knowledgeable and get specific. Find a cutting edge area, get skilled in it, and lead.

That’s the way to brand yourself. With a point of difference that is actually different. And that matters. And that will make you matter.

And what do you really think you can deliver on anyways: being “the social media person” or the “online research community specialist”? If you think the former, especially because it sounds vaguer and thus easier, I think you have an even bigger lesson to learn.

My advice? Social media marketers–Go Forth and Specialize.

Netnography in Turkish

Last SummTurkish_Flager I traveled to Turkey and had the time of my life there. It is a beautiful country filled with wonderful people and I cannot say enough about the hospitality, intelligence, and culture of the Turkish people. And of course they are a people of exquisite taste…which is why they are obviously so interested in Netnography.

I have had a number of brilliant Turkish students and colleagues who have been eager early adopters of the netnographic method and are already making big contributions to our global understanding of social media and social media marketing. Before my travels there, a very kind academic translated one of my white papers about Netnography into the Turkish language. I present it in a link here for everyone in Turkey, to hopefully help to bring Netnography to Turkey in even greater and more accessible fashion. Thank you so much for the translation!  I really appreciate it. Here it is

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.

Talking Netnography in Toronto

social media day 2011If you are in Toronto, and we haven’t met, here’s a last minute chance.

I will be talking tomorrow at the Social Media Day 2011 Mashup, as organized by Michael  Nussbacher.

I will be giving an introduction and overview of netnography. Some new stuff, mostly familiar stuff. It is intended for an audience unfamiliar with the virtues of cultural research using social media.

Here’s the link: http://www.meetup.com/Mashable/Toronto-CA/103816/

If you can make it, please introduce yourself. I enjoy meeting the readers of this blog, and thanking you in person for your support and readership.

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.