From colleague Gary Milner, further dour sentiment towards Facebook and Myspace as marketing vehicles (see my earlier pointer to P&G’s new CMO saying essentially the same thing — marketers aren’t that capitvated by advertising next to photos of frat boys doing keg stands).
“However, more than half (55%) of the 180 responding chief marketers–representing brands with revenues ranging from $250 million to more than $10 billion–indicated low current interest in actually incorporating the networking sites into their plans.
“One-third said they’re “not interested at all” in getting Facebook and MySpace into their plans, and 22% said they’re “not too interested,” while 35% are very or somewhat interested.”
This four-day break I tried to find a couple hours each day to sit down with a great book or film and unwind from the sometimes bloodless world of marketing, powerpoints, conference calls and key performance indicators. This vacation has been a particular relief from a season of grueling bad news and I took advantage of the time to put my gardens to bed for the winter, exercise, cook, and spend as much time outdoors as possible with my family.
FILMS: Two films worth noting. The first, Andrei Rublev, was highly touted by my son Eliot, a senior in the cinema studies program at NYU’s Tisch School. He specializes in the obscure, but has guided me to some amazing movies in the past, including my all-time favorite, Ordet. Eliot is a good guide to difficult films, providing a smart narrative during the film to keep things in context. Andrei Rublev is by the Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky, and is based on the life of a medieval Russian icon painter, a monk who actually is less at the heart of the narrative than the era itself. The tale unwinds in a series of chapters, all presented in a strange impressionistic fashion where plot and exposition of the story are discarded in favor of long lingering tracking shots of roots and mud, flaming cows, holy fools, and rapacious Tartar hordes. As Eliot himself admitted, on first viewing he thought the film was unwatchable, indeed he fell asleep, but on subsequent viewings he has rethought the film to the top of his ever mutating list of great films.
I would not recommend it unless you are seriously into new experiences. Let me say that a patient viewer will be well rewarded by the last vignette, in which Rublev, existentially blocked from his art by doubt, is reinspired by the raw passion of an orphaned teenaged boy who is called upon to cast a massive bronze bell for the medieval capital. Tarkovsky depiction of the process, of the insanity that besets the young bell maker as he tries to recall the secrets of the craft that were barely passed on to him by his late father, the forging of the bell, the drama of its first ringing. Serious stuff. A very important scene I would watch several times.
Movie two has been long awaited since I read the masterful novel it is based upon, The Leopard, by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. I blogged about the book last summer, reading it just before I departed for Beijing and the Olympics. This is the tale of a Sicilian prince in the late 19th century, and the film adaptation, by the Italian director Luchino Visconti is pretty amazing, but I would caution incomprehensible or wasted on someone who has not read the novel. Burt Lancaster plays the Prince and nails the role, despite Visconti’s apparent preference for an Italian actor in the role and dislike for Lancaster who was forced upon him by the producers (Lancaster went on to be cast in the masterpiece, 1900, by Bernando Bertolucci, and ultimately reconciled with Visconti who was his friend for the rest of his career). The role of Tancredi is played by Alain Delon, and the leading lady is Claudia Cardinale, for whom I’ve always had a serious crush since seeing her in Once Upon a Time in the West.
The Leopard (Il Gattopardo) is a gorgeous film that rises to a crescendo with the final ball in Palermo. Visconti’s treatment of the costumes, the interiors, the amazing scene of a room filled with chamberpots brimming with urine from the ball’s dancers …. Read the book, then rent the film.
APPLETV: I watched The Leopard on the new AppleTV video on demand device which downloads the content from the iTunes store. Pretty good stuff, but there’s a long way to go before AppleTV or video-on-demand is going to win my heart over. DSL based WIFI connectivity and interminable download times is not a real game changer in this day and age of instant gratification expectation, and the library is not amazingly comprehensive enough to be interesting to a film student like Eliot (let’s just say it will be a long time before iTunes offers Andrei Rublev). We also downloaded The Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood’s awesome western, in HD. That was good as always.
BOOKS: I’m juggling a few books as is my habit. I have started Constantine von Hoffman’s copy of Lives of the Popes (which I borrowed from him three years ago and have yet to return, earning the epithet, “David Churbuck, Book Thief of Lenovo” on his blog). This is good stuff as I am a big fan of Byzantine history and need to expand my studies into Catholicism and early Christianity having been lopsided towards the Greeks due to Gibbons and Norwich’s excellent Byzantium trilogy.
The high point of the recent reading season has been Peter Matthiessen’s Shadow Country, his fourth novel about the controversial Florida murderer, settler, and pioneer, Edgar Watson. I was a devout fan of Killing Mister Watson, Lost Man’s River, and Bone by Bone, regarding the set to be among the most important works of American fiction in the 20th century. I will go way out on a superlative limb and say that Shadow Country is a masterpiece, the first work of fiction I would put on a syllabus of American literature were I teach such a course (along with Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, etc.). Matthiessen is often viewed as an “environmental” writer, a zen craftsman, but in his Watson series he proves himself a master of much more, exposing, through a tale told by many narrators, the literal end of the road of America, a place so hostile and brutal that it remains to this day. I have made a pilgrimage to the scene of Watson’s murder by neighbors, the beach in Chokoloskee, and I have journeyed into the abyss of the wilderness below that Indian mound into the island and channels verging into the Everglades. Nothing I have seen is more wild or closer to America’s own heart of darkness.
Shadow Country is, by Matthiessen’s admission, a reworking of the first three novels into the book he set out to write. I would nominate him for the Nobel prize in literature for the result and have long maintained it is a subject Hollywood should make into a film. The book just won the National Book award this month.
FOOD: I did a lot of cooking this past week. Of particular note.
A classic quahog chowder made according to Capt. Chatfield’s recipe.
A daube de bouef derived from Julia Childs: I would default to her beef bourguignon next time, but it was quite good.
Brussel sprouts with pancetta in a balsamic reduction with shallots. This came from a New York Times article a few years back featuring a dozen side dishes by top chefs. I can’t recommend it highly enough and I am an inveterate hater of brussel sprouts.
Leftover turkey converted into a turkey marsala with mushrooms over farfalle with pesto.
My new addiction/affliction: armagnac. I dunno, I’m a big fan of anything French. This is basically French moonshine made from grapes. Less refined than cognac but a lot more interesting.
WALKS: A few standard beach walks under gorgeous pink salmon Cape light, a great trek through the Crocker Neck conservation lands, a roadtrip to Nyes Neck on Buzzards Bay in West Falmouth to seek the Churbuckian manse, Windsway, as noted by Facebook pal, Frederick Churbuck. I think we found it, not sure. I will upload photos anon. The Churbucks of Falmouth are best known for Leander Churbuck, a painter of some repute and note.
Mark Cahill on PC Mag’s decision to ditch dead trees and go all-digital, a reminder of why Mark remains one of the best media strategists out there.
“I believe we’re seeing the tip of the iceberg. Those that can make the jump will start to make that jump quickly. Notably, I expect to see trade journals become a relatively rare beast. Ivory towered experts lecturing professionals about their profession is a thing of the past. Instead, users will gravitate to profession-based niche social media. The journals will slowly cease to exist, and the magazines that remain will be serving the less technical of the professions.”
Every holiday season the good folks at Concept2 — my favorite brand of all time, inventors of the Concept2 Ergometer, or indoor rowing machine — conduct the Holiday Challenge: a hellacious 30 day challenge to row and log 200,000 meters on the rowing machine between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
In the past, if you succeeded at rowing at least 7,000 meters per days for the duration of this challenge, you would win a printable certificate, the opportunity to purchase a t-shirt, and a free pin to wear with pride.
This is not a trivial pursuit. I have succeeded three time since the first time I did it in 2002, and find that if I don’t get the minimum number of meters rowed in the beginning I won’t be motivated to make them up later on. Well of course I didn’t row yesterday — two helpings of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts followed by two slices of pecan pie, one of pumpkin, a snifter of armagnac, and two glasses of Ruffino chianti — it was Thanksgiving and I did do the Crossfit workout of the day (which is going to make this year’s Concept2 challenge all the more horrible as I intend to do both in my quest for eternal youth and the ability to snap off 10 real pull ups followed by 100 pushups).
Oh well, it’s in my DNA to abuse myself so. Some Anglo-Celtic-Teutonic yeomanic stock that makes it imperative that I turn myself into a human piston for 60 minutes every day.
As my stepbrother says, “The body is evil and it must be punished.” Well, having logged 11,000 meters this evening, that means I have to row only 10,000 tomorrow to be on track for the little pin and certificate. Yay.
Two things that are really cool about Lenovo this week.
First: we announce a very cool way to disable a stolen or lost laptop by sending it a text message that will disable it. I think we should put a big dye bomb under the keyboard so when the text message is sent the machine dyes the thief a nice shade of indelible orange.
Second, we announce this external hard drive with a high security numeric keypad thing going on. Master designer and Lenovo blogger David Hill posted this most excellent photo of the rejected ideas last night. I like working at a company that has great designers.
The Scots have a word for the mood I’ve been in lately — heck the mood the entire world has been in the past couple months — and that is “dour” – which I’ve heard pronounced “dow-er” but think is more accurately spoken as “dew-ar” which is appropriate since a Dewars on the rocks with a twist is about the best recourse I can recommend for someone feeling battered these days by the dour news coming from the world’s markets.
With those markets off 40% from their highs in the fall of 2007, marketers are also feeling very dour right now, and despite feeble exhortations that now is the time to double down and crush the competition, all signs are in place for a major flattening and decline in global marketing programs from advertising to PR. It is an article of faith that one of the first expense items to get whacked in a downturn is marketing and other corporate services perceived as “soft” and nice-to-have versus essential to make payroll and keep the lights on.
Some marketing activities will survive and continue through these hard times, and I believe it will be the newest techniques and tactics which endure thanks to the simple fact that they can be measured so well. These are the days when every dollar or Euro spent on marketing has to defend itself from that king tyrant Le ROI.
I was talking to my friend John Bell yesterday. We were talking about how far the world has shifted since August when his firm, OgilvyPR’s Digital Influence Project helped my team run the Olympic athlete blogging program. That was the high water mark for Lenovo’s online brand efforts in 2008, and now, a mere three months later, I listened to myself declare to John that the next 12 months are going to be a dour test for this new wave of conversational/social/engaged/word-of-mouth/collaborative marketing that me and a gazillion other optimistic theorists have been blogging and tweeting and opining at one conference or council meeting for the past three years.
Fast forward to February 2009 and imagine yourself telling a CFO or someone in finance that you need cash to improve “brand reputation” through a “conversational marketing program” involving blogs, wikis, vlogs, photo sharing, tagging, twittering, and crowdsourcing. I guarantee the response will be something on the lines of “how many buggy whips will it sell?” I don’t think Social Media Marketing is ever going to go away – I am a huge fan – indeed I think it could be the tactic that actually thrives through this shitty economy, but only if practiced at extremely low cost and with some evidence that it can drive revenue.
So, henceforth, let me commit to a mini-series here on Churbuck.com on how to market online through a downturn. There are three groups who will be pissed off by what I have to say. I will say “sorry in advance:
Agencies: Sorry, but these are the times when you better learn how to do-it-yourself. It’s like when I was 28 and bought my first house. I did the sheet rock, not Ned the Nailbanger.
Vendors: Sorry. That $150,000 a year “reputation monitoring” system you want me to buy? Nevermind, time for DIY. That social media technical platform that offer single-sign on seamless interoperability between the company’s forums, blogs, and wiki? No license fees for me, it’s all got to be open sourced, in the cloud, and as close to free as possible.
Consultants: Sorry. Consultants won’t be hosed – CFOs prefer contractors to full time employees during hard times – but theorists and strategists are a dime-a-dozen right now and these are the days when actions and direct revenue improvement are going to speak louder than the torrent of theory and drivel that has been skipping like a broken record or a scratched CD for the past year or more.
I will go out on a limb here and say this: any organization can extend its marketing reach for an initial investment of $0 by doing two basic things. The only cost will be time. The only risk will be reputation. I’ve complained about “101” level marketing advice being parroted over and over again by the analysts and consultants, well, here’s my contribution in the form of a simple action plan to do two essential things in the new marketing environment that won’t require a visit to your finance department.
Open a blog. WordPress.com. Stop. Go no further. Go there. Open a blog. Go battle with your PR and legal teams and before you visit them do a quick Google search for “corporate blog policy” and print out one of the many policies held up as classics by the experts. Do a search and replace and put your organization’s name in the appropriate places. Get permission. Start blogging. Cost: zero.
Monitor what other blogs say about your organization. Google Blog Search. Technorati. An RSS reader. Google Reader. Bloglines. Whatever. Learn them. Set up RSS search feeds on your brand names and start reading. “Engaging” with bloggers? Google search on the topic. There’s more advice out there than a herd of consultants could impart for a fee in a year. Cost: zero.
That’s enough dourness for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Next post – how to turn this stuff into sales and look really smart.
I don’t view it as a matter of “rights” as much as intrusion factor and ROI/benefits. While it may be au courant to put a social network into one’s media plan, and while it may be noble but ultimately misguided to establish a brand outpost inside of a social network (be it a SecondLife island or a fan page in Facebook or MySpace), in the end it comes down to the old question: does it convert? Socially pushing soap — which Proctor & Gamble does — is different than socially pushing tech which because of its complexity requires more aftersale support between the brand and the end user.
That said, I think any advertiser who rolls into a conversational medium and starts shouting “Buy” is going to get their hats handed to them fairly quickly. Those who inveigle their way in gradually, and who don’t hijack the medium with the 2008 equivalent of pop-ups, lead gen registration walls, or blicking epilepsy inducing display ads, and who study the anthropological subtleties of the natives may find, if they are clever, that they actually don’t have to pay for the attention. Dunno, just a theory. But I, like Mr, McConnell, remain chary of advertising next to someone posting a picture of a keg stand or their sick guinea pig than I do running the message on PC Magazine or PC World.