Monday, August 9, 2010

What’s your social media guru personality type?

Reflecting on many responses I received in regards to my previous blog post about being judged on social media expertise, It brings to my attention, all the different (yet ‘classifiable’) personality characteristics that are prevalent in some of the most recognizable social media gurus on the web. Now I’m not going to get as crazy with this to go as far as classifying a Myers-Briggs type, but I will make this enjoyable to read. Now get on and start sizing up your favorite social media guru’s.

What’s your social media guru personality type?

The Regurgitator – This type of social media guru lives for Twitter and posts, on average 42 Tweets per day, most of which are RTs, containing a slim to in-existent amount of original content (when they do, it is basically a link to a blog post where they regurgitate more information they’ve collected from other people). “Gurges”, as I like to refer to them, will attempt to drive traffic to their poorly arranged websites (usually ending in a .net because the .com version of their domain was unavailable and they were too unoriginal to come up with another one).

The Self Loving Douche – This can be both male and female (just to clarify, since I rarely hear chick’s referred to as douchebags). The characteristics of this social media guru are very one-sided, and by one-sided, I mean, all they care about is themselves. You can identify these types of gurus by looking at their Twitter profile pages (actually going to their url). On their profile pages you will most-likely find an incorrectly scaled, low-res background image (usually tiled) that shows action shots of them engaging in some type of cult inauguration public speaking event. These gurus are tweeting affirmations who love to thank each and every follower for RTing, but only looking at this as an opportunity to parlay the same message (that they initially posted) over, and over, and over again. Ex: “Thanks so much! RT @user1 @user2 RT @methedouchebag blah blah blah blah blah”. Remember, its not about you, its about them.

The Righteous Warrior- These social media guru personality types seem to be very well perceived and respected (perhaps in fear of being targeted). The Righteous Warrior scours the web in search of other social media gurus to inflict un-requested critique and opinion on other social media gurus. This guru doesn’t like to use the term “guru” and will cringe at the notion that anyone would ever consider themselves, (or social media at that) a defined industry profession. Righteous Warriors love to talk about their feelings and will frequently post tweets about how they’re dying for a hot shower or a beer. They also feed off of fellow warriors, posting what should be private conversations for their 50K followers to see, in hopes of drawing attention to the oh-so-important issues at hand. More than often referred to as a “consultant” or “strategist”, these gurus are usually too scared to list their client line-up or reference any previous campaigns that they may or may not have worked on.

The Hot Chick sans any other redeeming qualities - Twitter comes secondary to this social media guru, with most of the action happening on Facebook (because Twitter only lets you showcase one photo). Hot chick guru started in social media back in 2003 with MySpace and is master bulletin poster. Hot Chick is huge on YouTube with her channel containing everything from how to get that smoky eye look to a video-photo slide show of her most recent head shots. Since her transformation into a brunette, Hot Chick has discovered and because of her ridiculous hotness, has been signed on to star in her own reality show, where she tells you about all the awesome iphone apps Ashton Kutcher is downloading.

The Strategist with no Strategy – The SwnS. Going through a mid-life crisis, this guru is possibly a former creative, perhaps with an account or b2b background. “Principal” of super social media llc, this guru is great at talking, extremely articulate and has talked his way through scoring a second round of funding. Notorious plagiarizer, loves PowerPoint but has never touched Keynote. The Strategist with no Strategy gets your business by talking you through the “Social Media Marketing” wiki and re-branding real strategists’ white papers. This guru has 5 interns working for them, conjuring up bullet points on the top-level processes of navigation for social media tools. Loves to use acronyms and trend words like “2.0″ for everything; “BMW 2.0, iPhone 2.0, Vodka-Tonic 2.0″.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Managing brand performance in financial services

In recent years, corporate brands in financial services businesses, both retail-facing and B2B, have become a major factor in the attraction and retention of clients, talent, partners and capital. In this industry it has not always been so, but in today’s crowded, highly competitive global marketplace, a strong brand can be a major source of advantage. Corporate branding has become particularly important in service industries, where economic value is delivered through intangibles and offerings are often seen as interchangeable.
Why have corporate brands come to matter so much in financial services? Much of the answer to this question lies in the growing understanding among corporate executives of what brands actually are and how they add value.
Not so long ago “Brand” might have been defined as “An advertised ‘promise’ linked to a logo and a graphic/visual identity. Advertising makes your brand popular” This definition, while not entirely incorrect, misses the interplay between brand and business strategy, and the link to business economics.
Today, the meaning of “Brand” is linked more closely to value creation: “A Brand is an intangible asset yielding economic returns that is used to attain, over time, a targeted reputation. This is accomplished through management of both the actual experiences delivered to stakeholders and the visual and verbal communications used to express the company’s aspiration and value proposition to these stakeholders.”
The role of brands in overall reputation management has become much clearer in recent years. Brand management includes defining the targeted experience of customers, as well as capturing and conveying strategic intent to all stakeholders including clients and prospects; employees and the broader pool of talent; shareholders; and the broader investment community.

Thirty years ago, the corporate brand for a financial services company was something advertising people worried about, something external to the business itself. Corporate brand management in the industry essentially consisted of periodic – or more accurately, episodic – corporate brand image advertising campaigns, perhaps accompanied by a shift in visual branding elements. Funding justification was often based solely on what competitors were spending, rather than on actual return on investment.
Today, industry leaders have come to understand that brands play a much bigger role in achieving and sustaining success than in the days when virtually all brand issues were delegated to the advertising department.
This shift has come about in part because of the realization among investors that a growing percentage of a company’s financial value, especially in service industries, is accounted for by intangible assets rather than physical assets like real estate, plant and equipment. Intangible assets include the quality of client relationships, employees expertise, intellectual capital, proprietary software and, yes, brands. According to valuation experts, these intangibles can account for as much as 30% of the firm’s total value.
The process of realization was accelerated by the rise of the service-based economy and consolidation within industries, not least in financial services, that occurred in the 80s and 90s, and which is again in full swing. The mergers and acquisitions that marked this period involved placing a value on intangible assets – which began to raise significant questions about, and subsequent exploration of, the value of brands.
Today, it is understood that brand strategy and brand management are fundamental aspects of business strategy and business management. Brand decisions are no longer relegated to the advertising department; most CEOs, divisional heads, corporate strategists and even finance and accounting departments are now intimately engaged in managing the brand assets of their company.

The importance of brands as financial assets and a source of financial success is much clearer than it was even ten years ago. Today the key question should not be whether a brand has real financial value, but rather what skills and level of investment are needed to manage the corporate brand/brand portfolio for optimal financial return.
With this shift of focus there has emerged a need for developing and integrating skill sets that enable real and professional management of brand performance. Many companies are finding that achieving excellence requires a careful combination of both internal resources and specialized external expertise. The increasing professionalization of the brand management function has also led to the creation of the same sort of diagnostic, analytic and measurement tools around brand performance that already exist for the management of other assets and functions.
One of the greatest challenges facing executives in this area is that good brand management now requires a wide variety of skills, from the creative to the analytical to the financial. This must be taken into account when considering the backgrounds of CMOs and brand managers, the composition of their teams and the overall governance of the function within the corporate structure.
Success through good brand management
Companies that take on the challenge of brand management early and effectively can reap significant competitive advantage and even create dramatic turnarounds in market position. One excellent examples in the financial services industry is MasterCard. The focus was investment and top talent on driving brand performance for competitive advantage. The results of a good strategic move are often evident only over time, and continued investment in a winning concept is vital to success.
MasterCard vs. Visa
In the case of MasterCard, for decades the credit card company had struggled against its main rival, Visa. Visa had achieved and sustained competitive advantage over MasterCard by:
1. Finding, keeping and investing behind a clear benefit of high relevance to cardholders at that time: ubiquity of acceptance, nicely captured in their “Everywhere you want to be” message
2. Contractually obligating, unlike MasterCard, its card issuing member banks to invest a specified percentage of card revenues in building the brand
3. Effectively relegating the MasterCard brand to a second tier among shared member banks through #2 and among cardholders through always positioning its brand in communications against “upscale” American Express and never directly against MasterCard
For two decades, the MasterCard team tried to break out of the “perceptual lockdown” Visa had managed to impose on the MasterCard brand. After many attempts to find an angle that could beat ubiquitous acceptance, in the mid-1990s the MasterCard team identified a fundamental shift in values emerging among cardholders that could open an avenue for their brand to beat Visa on relevance to consumers. That lever was a shift away from aspiring to live a rich lifestyle and using a “prestigious” card, toward enjoying the rewards of everyday life and using a card for everyday payments.
The team realized that in this context the brand’s greatest relevance could be not its functionality (including ubiquity), but rather the authentic things it enables people to achieve in their everyday lives. These insights led to the emotionally compelling “Priceless” campaign.
This brand turnaround resulted in significant share gains for MasterCard for the first time in years. It contributed to MasterCard’s successful IPO and the subsequent run up in valuation. Last but not least, least, it resulted in a copycat brand communications effort by VISA (“Life takes VISA”) indicating that Visa is now attempting to play catch up on achieving everyday relevance.

Implications for the future
In closing, here are a few thoughts about what’s needed to properly manage your company’s brand for financial success:
•Recognize and embrace the full complement of skills now needed to achieve excellence in brand management from the analytical to strategic to creative competencies.
•Assemble a crack team to manage the brand, or brand portfolio, performance to the highest standards.
•Achieve and sustain strong brand relevance with customers; brand differentiation is not enough.
•Discover the right concept and sustain investment behind it over an extended period of time, but be prepared to modify or alter course based on shifting customer values.
•Drive the brand concept through to the experiences delivered to each stakeholder group, not just communications.
•Ensure brand strategy is part of the business strategy across the organization.
•Put in place the metrics to measure market and financial performance of your brand(s).