Beyond Buzz by Lois Kelly (A Book Review)

April 12th, 2010   •   no comments   

What is the best way to make conversational marketing work?

How does one embrace the lofty ideals espoused by the Cluetrain Manifesto?

More importantly, how can one “operationalise” the ideals of Word Of Mouth marketing beyond just “creating buzz”?

The answers to these and more were answered in Beyond Buzz by Lois Kelly. Turning the old marketing model of integrated marketing communications over its head, Kelly shared practical strategies which are grounded with various case studies and examples. They include McDonalds and McJobs, Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign, Sun Microsystems, and the Women & Infants Hospital.

Unlike many of her contemporaries purveying “social media snake oil“, Kelly isn’t fixated with the promises of social technologies like blogs, social networking platforms (Facebook), microblogging (Twitter, Plurk), or Youtube. Instead, she focuses primary on the core offering of marketing organisations: the art and science of conversational marketing that wins the hearts and minds of customers.

Some of the book’s main points include the following:

1) Write like how people naturally speak and adopt an active conversational style throughout various platforms and media. Avoid buzz-words, try to cut-to-the-chase, use the active language, delete meaningless adjectives, and tell stories.

2) Make meaning and not buzz, which lasts only for limited time period. The four ingredients of meaning-making are relevancy, emotion, context and pattern making.

3) Stand for something and embrace a point of view (or several). This should differ from the usual vision, value proposition, messages, and elevator speeches which are normally unremarkable. A good point of view should be engaging, true, relevant, genuine, fresh, able to connect the dots, memorable, “talkable”, leggy (ie resonate with multiple audiences through multiple channels), and likeable.

4) Listen, listen and listen some more to discover great talk-worthy ideas. Good sources include the CEO, point-of-view workshops, the exploration of new metaphors and going on a walkabout.

5) Consider the nine most common themes in a conversational strategy. These are: aspirations and beliefs, David vs Goliath stories, avalanche about to roll, anxieties, counterintuitive/contrarian points of view, personalities (especially strong ones?), how-tos, glitz and glam (enlisting help of celebrities), and seasonal/event-related.

6) Shift towards building a marketing organisation that emphasises “talk” as a culture. Traditional roles should be shifted from a promotional/”push” point of view to one of two-way involvement, dialogue, storytelling and relationship building.

As a guide for marketers and communicators, the book scores in its ability to dish out advice that is woven around a single-thread of conversational marketing. I like her hype-free and nuts-and-bolts approach which leaves something of value to readers.

The challenge however is to implement some of these conversation-oriented strategies in more command-and-control oriented Asian companies and organisations. Relinquishing control is still a difficult thing to do in this part of the world, and so is sharing company stories in an honest, open and transparent manner. Hopefully, with time though, this paradigm may change.

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