Digital, Me


A few years back I worked one of the by then “main” beer brands in Portugal. Well to consider Tagus as one of the main beer brands is a stretch but according to the pie charts that’s where it was.

It was a fun brand to work. It had a great communication strategy that served  a truly different concept (for the time) based on a few “characters” with a rather cool influence among the people we thought drank Tagus (or so we thought). All was fine and dandy. Except Tagus was nowhere to be found. And despite all the communication efforts nothing was working. We (as a brand) were failing at getting the precious golden liquid into people’s mouths. It wasn’t that people didn’t like it – in the blind tests 9 out 10 gave it a clear advantage, although on a regular test 10 out of 10 it would fall last. It had a clear perception problem. It was associated with College parties and has being “cheap”. The portuguese beer market is highly divided between 2 brands and it’s a pain to make a dent (if that’s what you want). But the main problem for Tagus was distribution. One couldn’t just find it anywhere. No one sold it. Trust me, we tried. While brainstorming we sent out various team members to Lisbon’s highest density neighbourhood when it came to bars and pubs. In 40 to 50 bars not a single one sold Tagus. They had to walk close to 10km to find it. In a supermarket.

So we had a problem. People actually liked it (as long as they didn’t know it was Tagus) but no one was able to buy it.

One of common triggers to reach a strategy that fits the context and the objectives is that you can transform weaknesses into strengths. And that’s what we did. We harnessed the power of scarcity: “Tagus is so good that you can’t find it anywhere! We dare you to find it! C’mon, hit the streets, find it! Please show it to us, because not even we can remember to what it looks and tastes like.”

It was a great exercise, one that opened a lot of creative doors to deal with the problem and showed us that sometimes it’s not all about the pros, the target, the positioning. Sometimes the problems we need to solve go beyond our “natural” comfort zone. In this case we identified the problem as being the distribution and we thought of a strategy to deal with that in the comms field.

Unfortunately I can’t tell you if it would have worked or not because ultimately we didn’t pitch the idea and the brand (really) ceased to exist. But what I’m trying to tell you is that sometimes it’s not about finding only the good things to exacerbate. You can turn the problem upside down and play with your weaknesses too. But again, this is just an exercise. I honestly can’t predict the outcome if we managed to pull it through.

Disruption even if only in an academic/case scenario is always a good thing. It forces you to be on your tiptoes and to question everything.


Digital, Marketing, Me

The 5 W and then some

Window by Akane Kinomoto

Every first day of class I ask the same question: “What are your expectations regarding this Digital Strategy module?”. Every time I get the same answers: “I want to know how I can use Facebook better.”; “I want to know how many posts should I post on Facebook”; “I want to understand Twitter a bit better.”; “How can I make my brand’s Facebook page more efficient?”

Social media is hype. Yes, it still is. Not for the common users. Those just use it the more convenient way. But for brands and those responsible it still is pretty much uncharted territory. Maybe because it still doesn’t fit their spreadsheets or Powerpoint presentations to the board. Truth is, most brands still run after the best social experience instead of running with it.

I believe that the most important part of my job is asking questions. Who, What, When, Where and Why are my 5 commandments. I also throw a H in the equation. H for How. If Who, What and Why lie in the strategic field, then the When, Where and How lie on the tactical field. Unfortunately brands and professionals dwell more on these last ones. I kind of understand. It is easier to fill in the answers to these questions and these are the ones in which you see your thought and planning come to life. But its wrong. You can’t have a digital strategy if you bypass or ignore every W and H. You will have a process of intentions. A fine-looking activation plan with no reasoning behind. And in the long run you will fail.

Digital Strategy isn’t (only) about technology, platforms or media. It is about people. So if the first question that comes to mind when thinking of your digital strategy is how to act and be on Facebook you are doing the wrong question in the wrong order.


Digital, Marketing, Me

Crowd Vs. Community


by Akane Kinomoto

“There is a difference between a community and a crowd. In a crowd, people push and shove and try to get a step ahead. In a community, people look around, they smile, say hi, share a story, because they know that a community doesn’t move forward unless they all move forward together. Social done right can make a great community go forward.”

– Doug Ulman, president and CEO of LIVESTRONG

If there’s something that I’ve always found scary in the marketing sector it’s the overuse of buzzwords, the labeling of things and thinking that because we’ve labeled it they end up becoming exactly what we’ve labeled. It’s the insight that has nothing insightful. It’s the brief that doesn’t brief you. It’s the community that actually is a crowd.

We look at a digital strategy and we only discuss the platforms when in fact it’s the strategy that unites the platforms, the concept, the copy and the tone. We look at a social media strategy and discuss fans, even when they are not called fans anymore. We forget that before they are “fans” (most of the time they don’t fan a damn thing), they are people. We discuss the sweepstake, the fan hoarding, the fan boosting but rarely discuss if what we talk or do is really relevant to the people in the brand context. And when discussing the number of fans isn’t satisfying anymore we condense all those numbers, that actually are people, and get a new term, a new label: “our community”. The truth is that most of the time it’s not communities we create. We create crowds. Going back to the importance of words and labels, their real meaning and correct use, let’s see what the dictionary tells us about these two terms:

crowd |kroud|
a large number of people gathered together, typically in a disorganized or unruly way: a huge crowd gathered in the street outside.
• an audience: a crowd of 500 filled the synagogue.
• informal, often derogatory a group of people who are linked by a common interest or activity: I’ve broken away from that whole junkie crowd.
• (the crowd) the mass or multitude of people, esp. those considered to be drearily ordinary or anonymous: make yourself stand out from the crowd.
• a large number of things regarded collectively: the crowd of tall buildings.

community |kəˈmyo͞onitē|
noun ( pl. communities )
1 a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common: Rhode Island’s Japanese community | the scientific community.
• a group of people living together in one place, esp. one practicing common ownership: a community of nuns.
• a particular area or place considered together with its inhabitants: a rural community.
• a body of nations or states unified by common interests: [ in names ] : the European Community | the African Economic Community.
• (the community) the people of a district or country considered collectively, esp. in the context of social values and responsibilities; society: preparing prisoners for life back in the community.
• [ as modifier ] denoting a worker or resource designed to serve the people of a particular area: community health services.
2 a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals: the sense of community that organized religion can provide.
• [ in sing. ] a similarity or identity: writers who shared a community of interests.
• joint ownership or liability: a commitment to the community of goods.

Analyzing the “communities” we create in social platforms, we quickly realize that the majority are crowds and not communities.

A community is our wishful thinking. It’s our burning desire. It’s what we rarely achieve. And if we continue to give out prizes in return of “fans”, if we keep stacking up numbers what we’ll get is a crowd. In the end nothing will make sense because those numbers have close to zero affinity with our brand, but their eyes will shine for the iPad we’re giving out. If I ask the majority of my colleagues if they rather want a relatively small but active community or a big numb crowd, I’m pretty sure they go with the small but active community. And that is what we have to fight for, agencies, clients and people who are part of these communities. Only then we’ll be able to craft a space that promotes true fellowship that satisfies this trident but essentially the people. People that are going to listen, read and interact with the messages that we want them to listen. The people that in the moment of purchase will remember where they are always welcome; where they know they’ll find others with the same interests, and goals; where they know they’ll be closer to those who can help them make the best decisions or to be able to enjoy everything a brand, product or service has to offer. 2013 is around the corner so here are my wishes: that platforms truly become more social, more human, smaller but more active. That “fans” go back to being humans. That we bet on creativity more that on the latest fad platform. That we stop thinking in buzzwords and start thinking in the people who are on the other end. What about you? What do you think or what are your wishes for social media in 2013?

This post was first written in Portuguese for the Upload blog. If you want to know more about the conference please do check their site here