Letters, Sept. 6, 2010

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Tabasco due for a change of direction

RE: "Tabasco Up for Review After 24 Years at TracyLocke," (AdAge.com, Sept. 1)

Wow, what a fantastic opportunity. I'll bet there are hundreds of agencies that would jump at the opportunity to work with Tabasco, an iconic brand and a household name.

I will always remember Tabasco's marketing for the excellently written print campaigns utilizing the iconic label style, and of course the exploding mosquito spot from several years back. But, while it may be great to be nostalgic, consumers these days are changing their media habits faster than Lady GaGa changes her outfits. The Tabasco brand needs a jolt into the 21st century. For example, their Twitter page has 2,049 followers. For a brand of that stature, that's shameful. Can they be out of things to say? Why are so few people listening?

Look at what an entertaining ad campaign tied in with social media did for the Old Spice brand. It not only revitalized the brand, it grew the entire category.

With that in mind, I think Tabasco could be due for a change of direction. They need to get with the times, and with relatively low budgets for a national campaign, they are probably better off to find a "hot shop" that will eat, sleep and live their brand.

Sounding off about the chief listening officer

RE: "'Chief Listeners' Use Technology to Track, Sort Company Mentions" (AdAge.com, Aug. 30)

I've been recently pondering, "How many companies are 'really' listening to their consumers on social media vs. saying that they do?"

The term "brand monitoring on SM" has become so widespread nowadays that it's become a cliche. It's just something that a brand says to seem like they're tech savvy, hip, accessible, etc. Even if they do monitor, they do it more from a quantitative perspective (how many mentions, how many followers, how many positive or negative reactions are we getting, etc). This article is dealing with the qualitative aspect of listening. It may be time-consuming and costly, but it's vital.

What should be noted, too, is that the fact that this is unstructured data makes the data-mining different as well. Traditional data-mining is more focused on quantitative, while this falls on the more quantitative analytical area because of its unstructured nature.

Many companies forget the value of just listening to social media. When we train ad agencies on social-media marketing, one of the things that we always encourage is to start with listening.

Some companies are hesitant to jump into social media (especially those in highly regulated industries), but even just listening can be a great start.

Even some of the most active companies on social media have not yet mastered the art of listening -- taking comments and mentions, interpreting them and channeling them through the organization effectively.

Fantastic post and a great area to bring attention to!

Sorry, I just think this is another dumb idea that will get some attention for awhile and then it will fade away. Really, a chief listening officer? Isn't this a sign of how far off the mark businesses are, that we're getting excited because companies are listening? Shouldn't good companies always have been listening? And shouldn't everyone listen?

And what the hell is the marketing department doing if they're not listening to customers? No wonder CMOs have an 18-month tenure. Lastly, don't these companies have customer service departments who listen to customers day long?

I'm not buying this as a new, deep change to how businesses conduct themselves.

Kodak's Beth LaPierre states that "We don't censor the comments or videos people create about our company," yet she determines what to do with the multitude of data ... what's important, who it goes to, what weight it's given, etc. This involves some sort of subjectivity, which is a de facto form of censorship. Given that a "chief listener" would fall somewhere under the marketing umbrella, this could lead to some conflicts of interest. After all, you don't have to look far to see two different conclusions drawn from the same set of data.

Perhaps of more use would be a "chief aggregator" whose role is not to interpret (or even sort) the data, but just make it available to whomever would like to see it. Then each department could overlay the data to their specific initiatives and adjust accordingly.

Heartbreak over Harley break-up

RE: "Why Carmichael Lynch Resigned Harley After 31 Years" (AdAge.com, Aug. 30)

Harley seems to be lost and floundering. Stolen or not, the "Screw it" campaign was brilliant. Harley's questionable sponsorship of the UFC is less so. Also, for too many years Harley has ignored the popularity of their bikes among African Americans and Latinos. ... Bikers don't all come in one color. Then, too, Harley's missed the opportunity to promote motorcycles as alternative transportation, which is baffling. Sure, they're expensive, but I'd rather ride a V-Rod than drive a Nissan Leaf.

Sometimes you have to jump ship and fire the client before you get blamed for the brand going under. I had to do that once. It's hard when it runs counter to what we do, which is to help a brand move forward. But you can't fix a bad client, only bad marketing.

I'm from Milwaukee. Harley is part of our blood. It's sad to see Harley's future die. There is a lot more than an agency story here.

Spending in the category has been insignificant for years. Honda, Suzuki and BMW all care more about their cars -- and Yamaha about pianos.

Motorcycles and scooters should be as big a growth market as alternative energy vehicles for the next ten years as gas prices continue to rise, but no one is paying attention -- esp. Harley, which has the least fuel-efficient bikes on the planet.

Carmichael Lynch did amazing work -- and understood the Harley brand better than the manufacturer did at times.

Best of luck to them.

As to HD -- there will be agencies galore to take the account, but the advertising won't be the problem.

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