Social Media Currency: The money that can’t buy you Love.


I recently read an article in Brand Republic entitled “Social Media Currency – the new cash in your pocket” suggesting that brands can build and alter their brand perception in a matter of days, or even hours by harnessing the power of social media as a form of currency.

As a marketer I get that the idea of offering consumers an incentive to Tweet nice things about your brand is a very seductive as we’ve become obsessed with linking Social Media investment to product sales.

Kellogg’s #Tweetshop, Topshop’s #TrickorTweet and AMEX’s partnership with Foursquare are all great examples of how brands can leverage Social Media for the purposes of driving trial or launching new products – but they are unlikely to shift peoples perceptions long term.

Advocacy isn’t something you can simply buy. 


Facebook Graph is just the latest example of just how influential peer-to-peer endorsement has become – it’s for many of us the way we now make the choices between the brands we buy and the services we use.

It therefore makes perfect sense to me to have a long-term strategy built around building genuine social advocacy – after all people should want to say nice things about your brand without expecting some immediate reward.

Since its inception in 1987 Red Bull has built a €4.3B global business around word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing and an ethos of bringing the people to the product – not the product to the people.

Red Bull

By systematically investing in Sports and Culture and tapping into specific communities it’s been able to build credibility and brand advocacy from within.

The success of this activity for Red Bull is measured in terms of the new consumers they are able to attract and not the number of cans they’re able to sell.

Proof of principal, if it was needed, came in October 2012 when over 3M Tweets, 10k Comments, 30k Facebook Shares and 220k Likes followed Felix as he plummeted 39km towards the Earth.

Playing The Modern Marketing Game

Unfortunately there are still too many Marketing Directors and CMO’s who see Social Media as just another opportunity to sell more products to more people.

Modern Game

A survey as recently as last week said that whilst 90% of adults use social media regularly only 22% of businesses have a dedicated social media manager – suggesting that many businesses still see Social Media as a one-way street.

The same survey also said that the average company only responds to 1 in every 3 fans comments on Facebook – which perhaps explains why less than 0.5% of Facebook fans engage with brands that they are fans of.

All the anecdotal evidence I’ve seen points to consumers wanting more than ever to engage with brands – the only difference being they want to do it on their terms and when it suits them.

Connection vs. Communication thinking

The brands that are engaging successfully with their consumers have made the switch from a Communication to a Connection mindset. They all understand that to connect with their consumers their marketing ideas need to be HIGH PITCH™


Their simple rule of thumb is: if you find that your consumers don’t want to talk about you, without you having to reward them every time they do, then it’s probably because your ideas don’t have PITCH™.

In this way it’s clear that Red Bull Stratos had PITCH™ and Kellogg’s TweetShop did not.

If Brand Republic are right and Social Media is a form of currency the real question business leaders and marketers should be asking is how should I use it….

Like a fast buck that I give away cheaply for another Facebook Like or a nice Tweet… Or like a nest egg that I invest in, to build credibility and advocacy for my brand over time?

I’m sure the temptation will be the former but as Frank Leahy said: There are no shortcuts in life only those we imagine.


Embedding a Culture of Execution

(And a few thoughts about the little things that make a big difference)

As far back as I can remember I’ve always had a fascination with execution – although I never used to called it that of course. I just remember spending hours as a kid with a big bucket of LEGO bricks on the floor of my parents house building endless creations without the need for plans or strategies – just “doing” LEGO.

Today I believe that execution is one of the most important collective sets of activities in which marketers must engage because consumers don’t and will never buy a brand or a product for its strategies. Great Ideas, brilliantly executed, is what sells products.

In fact Execution is Strategic. No strategy can be successful without taking into account how to execute it. No strategy delivers results unless it’s converted into specific activities that are superbly executed.

The brands that get this tend to reward I DO over IQ – and these are the ones that will win. These companies tend to be more ideas led, more nimble and more willing to take risks, to make mistakes and to learn from them. Most of all, they are not ruled by their strategy, but guided by it, able to evolve their ideas and plans based on market forces and consumer feedback.

There’s of course no empirical evidence to support this, but who cares, that’s what we are taking about – it just seems to make good sense.

So if you want to foster and executional culture you must first focus upon changing the beliefs within the company that influence specific behaviours, since behaviours are what ultimately deliver results.

These beliefs should prompt us every day to look ourselves in the eye and ask:


Too many of us, me included, would have answered no to at least one of those questions, because it’s too easy in life to talk about the abstract (strategy) and harder to get into the detail (execution).

So here are a few concrete things that I think are important when trying to embedding a Culture of Execution into any organisation – big or small. 

[YOUR CHOICES] You need to focus on winning with the markets or consumers who will make the biggest difference – he who tries to please everybody pleases nobody (Aesop)

[YOUR TEAMS] You cannot be the best unless you work with the best – you should ensure that you are working with the very best partners and people. Being able and willing to work collaboratively is key – without it your execution is only as good as you are, so you better hope your pretty bloody good.

[YOUR TIME] Every touch counts. Execution should be where you invest your time and energy. From now on you should agree to spend 80% of your time on execution because that is what will make the biggest difference. Brands that succeed have been able to tun their execution into a competitive advantage – relying only on product superiority makes for lazy marketing.

[PURPOSE] “You don’t need journeymen, nor intellectuals, nor people who unquestioningly execute process. You need doers. People who want to make a difference, people who are constantly on the lookout for where things can be better, people who want to win 5-0 not just 1-0, people who think: “if you’re not moving forwards, you’re moving backwards”

[ALLOW FOR FREEDOM IN THE FRAMEWORK] Strategy is important but you should not be a slave to it. Always look for opportunities to “steal with pride” and be as passionate about repurposing existing ideas and to grow your business, as you are about inventing new toys. There are many ways of describing it, Coke talk about ‘Freedom in the Framework’, Unilever about ‘Adopt & Adapt’, Proctor about ‘Think Global act Local’ but they all mean the same thing – you need to find ways to tell your story in a way that consumers will relate to. And you have to be ready to listen and react.

[THE CONSUMER EXPERIENCE] As Marketers we talk about how the brand experience is supposed to feel like and then we try and sum it up in a page of PowerPoint. That’s bollocks. Experiences are full of emotional nuance that connect, entertain and move you. After all when was the last time you left a movie and said “I loved that film it really made sense?” Brilliant Brand Experiences should go beyond ideas, logic, strategy and process; they should be about the stuff you can’t write down.

[YOUR BEHAVIOUR] You cannot talk about doing you can only do by doing. Behaviour is contagious so we must set an example that we would want others want to follow.

[YOUR GOALS & PRIORITIES] They must be clearly defined and remain consistent. They should be shared by all but owned by individuals. They must be tracked, measured and followed through so people feel accountable for their delivery. As Soichiro Honda said: “Each individual should work for himself. People will not sacrifice themselves for the company. They come to work at the company to enjoy themselves”

Hopefully there was something in there that made you think.

If there was just remember: Thoughts aren’t exclusive, they are to be shared, added to and stretched. So if something did inspire you to do something differently, feel free to share it with someone else. You might just inspire them too. That’s when things really get exciting.