Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Tale of Two CMO's: Interest (Part II)

If you haven't read my blog in a little while (don't worry, I forgive you), you might have missed the fact that I'm working on a five part series titled, A Tale of Two CMO's: A Study in Contrasts. The goal of the series is to contrast the styles of an old school and new school CMO whose personas I've fleshed out in my original post. During last week's installment that focused on generating brand awareness, James' and Tessa's responses sounded more similar than different. This week, you will start to see a more noticeable divergence in their positions (a trend that will continue as we move down the marketing funnel).


What role does search play in fostering consumer interest?

James: For us, paid search (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) have become a major component of our day-to-day marketing efforts. To be honest, I can't think of a better way to "fish where the fish are." I just wish there were more relevant search queries to buy and page views to serve up. Right now, we max out our key search terms and as it turns out, we're still only spending 3-4% of our overall marketing budget on SEM and SEO. Obviously product ads on television, print and online also play a huge role in driving customer interest. I don't see this going away anytime soon.

Tessa: Yes, search is a great tool. And as James mentioned in his repsonse, our company also continues to use product specific advertising to drive consumer interest. However, we've been experimenting recently with our newly launched branded online community (four months old) and are starting to see some amazing results. In fact, where we are seeing the most traction is when we take a prospective customer from a paid search term to our branded online community (heavily threaded throughout our website). We've done a series of A/B testing using the same keyword and while the sample sizes are still small, the prospects we've surveyed post-community visit have shown a 3-5% increase in brand affinity and interest in a specific product vs. those that haven't visited our community.


Thoughts on a branded online community's role in helping foster brand interest?

James: I 
About nine months, our director of digital marketing tried to convince me pilot a branded online community. While I am not opposed to the idea, investing another $500,000 to a million dollars in something in which very few companies have shown demonstrable success just seems premature to me. I'd rather reinvest that money in paid search or perhaps think about testing out a small ad buy on Facebook where there is some critical mass in the two to three hundred million users.

Tessa: As I mentioned in my last response, we are starting to see some real traction in our branded online community driving not only interest in our products but also creating a deeper level of brand engagement. It's also starting to move the needle ever so slightly on the NPS (Net Promoter Score) front. My only complaint with the community so far has been a lack of critical mass. We're starting to get there with over 150,000 members thanks largely to making the community more visible from all areas of our website and select Facebook ad buys. Ideally, I'll really start to pay attention when we get north of 500,000 members.


How about the greater social Web? Are you testing places like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn?

James: I know a probably seem like a dinosaur but I'm still not convinced that there is real upside to participating in the social web yet. Of course our HR department uses LinkedIn to recruit but beyond that, we haven't done a whole lot. Our corporate communications people have started a Twitter and a Facebook account but mainly use it to post press announcements. To me, I see what's happened with companies like Southwest Airlines, and Nestles and I think, "do I really want to open our company to that kind of criticism?" I'm sure we'll get there at some point, just not until the rewards outweigh the risks.

Tessa: We are testing various outposts on the social Web like Facebook and Twitter to see if we can do a better job at engaging our prospects and customers. I'm not sure I can look at our Facebook Fan page and say, "wow, look at all the consumer interest we're generating," because Facebook doesn't really work like that. With that said, if we can do a better job at providing valuable content to our prospects and customers while engaging them in meaningful dialogue, that looks like success to me. As for LinkedIn, that's been mostly a recruiting tool for our company but I do see promise based on some of the conversational capabilities they've added over the last 6-9 months.


As we can see, we're starting to see a little bit of a divergence between the way James and Tessa view social to drive traditional marketing outcomes. Next week, I have a few additional twists and turns up my sleeve so don't think we're done just yet. By the way, if you have any questions for our two CMOs -- trick or straightforward, let 'em fly in the comments!


  1. Hmmm...I have to say that James' comment on opening up to criticism is kind of missing the target. Here's the rub: consumers are going to criticize (or doesn't have to be a negative) a brand with or without a Facebook page or other online social presence. Consumers are going to talk and share. It's better to get consumers talking with you on their terms and that means being where they are which is increasingly through the social web.

    With that said, there are still places for traditional marketing techniques. Not every individual in every target segment is online. So, James does have it right when he says we have to fish where the fish are.

    My question for our two CMOs: What roles do quantitative and qualitative (ethnography, interviews, etc.) research play in understanding their customers? And in what ratios do they employ them?

  2. I'm actually surprised that James believes so firmly in SEM, yet is so archaic around the social web. The research done to create a strong SEM program should actually help him understand what people are talking about on the social web that actually lead to SEM based leads. Additionally, if SEO is part of his SEM program (and let's hope it is) his team should really be sharing with him all the information around the benefit of SEO when using Twitter, YouTube, blogging, Buzz and even LinkedIn.

    At this point I actually think James needs to get a team that starts sharing with him a bit more information on what is happening out there in the market and how it could further flip his funnel. My guess is that his team is a bit intimidated by him and don't challenge his thoughts, whereas Tessa is surrounded by folks who like to debate strategy and tactic.

    BTW, fantastic idea Aaron, looking forward to the next part.



  3. Chris - great points. I'll make sure I put your question about "qualitative" vs "quantitative" to our two CMOs in next week's installment.

    Kyle, you know, I was thinking the same thing when James answered the way he did. How can he not know about the SEO/SEM value of social. My guess is exactly what you said and that is that his team isolates vs. informs him. Unfortunately, this is one of the vestiges of the "command and control" mentality of the old school CMO. BTW, thanks for the props. While this column is fun to do, it's harder than I imagined. I have a few tricks up my sleeves for next week. ;)

  4. Hi All,
    I read terms like demonstrable success, brand engagement, meaningful dialogue, upside, conversational capabilities...and Tessa even experienced some "amazing results".

    The word "sales" never appears once on this page.

    I know the previous post, and perhaps this series is about brand awareness, but let's not forget that the true power of brand is spending one dollar, to make two. Just look at the powerhouse companies who invented, and continue to invest in branding (How many colors, shapes, sizes, and holidays can you leverage for the good old Hershey's Kiss?...just wait til next year, there'll be one more!)

    Branding and brand awareness enable you to sell more products to exisiting customers (we promise you will love it just like the old one!), and provide a platform for new customer acquisitions (If you didn't like that color, try this one).

    Old school, middle school, new school, if marketing tactics can't be tied to sales metrics, I'm afraid it is destined to be a fairly meaningless conversation.

    On the flip side Aaron, I always enjoy reading your post as they are always intelligent, articulate and thoughtful.

    That's my rant guys...You don't have to buy it :)

  5. Dwight - this is arguably the best comment yet. I will be sure to explicitly address these issues in the next edition of a Tale of Two CMOs.

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