The threats created by social media and technology, from content/publisher overload to online critics inciting consumer mobs, are familiar to any marketer or public relations professional. The mission of Cymfony's "Influence 2.0" initiative, led by Mr. Nail, is to help them "understand the macro changes that are diminishing their ability to drive revenue and profit for their companies" and adjust accordingly.
Ad Age Digital: How did you arrive at the idea and execution for the "Influence 2.0" e-book?
Mr. Nail: It came from a lengthy thought process: how to frame a fundamental and complex change in the relationship between marketers and consumers without oversimplifying it. The idea of social media and people participating in media and marketing is too big and complex for any one person to handle. It made sense to create the book using the same web 2.0 systems that it explores; wikis are very good at organizing many voices to create one coherent message.
Ad Age Digital: Why is understanding social media so vital for marketers?
Mr. Nail: The importance of social media in people's lives just becomes greater and greater, while other established forms of media become less important. This is creating a dramatic shift in the relationships between companies, media outlets and audiences. We're trying to give marketers the bigger picture here --- a more holistic framework -- so they can find the best way to adapt to all the new technologies and how people use them to control media.
Ad Age Digital: You've already outlined the first four chapters. What are they?
Mr. Nail: The first chapter, "The Dawn of the Age of Influence," is already written. It's a general overview of our mission, defining what the idea of word-of-mouth, consumer-generated media has come to mean. The second chapter is about proving to companies that this is real, providing evidence of how much control consumers have now. The third will show how [the new media] drives business successes and failures. The fourth is about getting started, showing professionals how to begin to apply the lessons we've already learned.
Ad Age Digital: Most marketers associate the issues a brand can have with consumer-generated media with the case of the Kryptonite lock, which in 2004 failed to calm customer fears after a video detailing a product malfunction began circulating online. Today, what companies or brands best use and respond to consumer-generated media as part of their marketing efforts?
Mr. Nail: I'm excited about companies that are being very smart about it. My poster child right now is [tax preparation software designer] Intuit. They have blogs for all of their products that are monitored and mined for ideas by product managers. Intuit's CEO, Steve Bennett, is very aggressive about being open to consumer feedback. Roomba -- iRobot's robot vacuum -- is another interesting example, because it lets consumers actually hack its programming to make it compatible with Bluetooth.
Ad Age Digital: So you're talking about way more than brand messaging here.
Mr. Nail: Oh, absolutely. When it comes to the power consumers have over marketing, people only think about communications. But it's the four P's: products, price, placement and promotion. I hope people will learn from the e-book that consumers are exerting their power in all these core areas.
Ad Age Digital: Which company in particular is successfully controlling their brand image today?
Mr. Nail: I hate to use the word "control." It's really about successful participation. There're a number of them, but I think Lego is brilliantly communicating with its most loyal customers who act as ambassadors for the brand. What companies need to understand is that their most loyal fans can't ever really do them damage. They can do something different and unexpected, but that can turn out to be a company's greatest asset.