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Posted: December 16, 2011

Oscar marketing 2012: Part 1

Customer engagement is no passing fad

Esty Atlas

Before the cavalcade of Hollywood stars descend on the next Oscar night (with my favorite host Billy Crystal), I wonder what some of the major "stars" of marketing see as 2012 trends for capturing the hearts of customers in the new year.

The nominees are plentiful within the lead actor category: in this case, online. The number of new apps that have sprung up on smart phones and iPads has again altered how star-power is built for companies.

Its key impact: those who wowed their audience with sexy online offers garnered the most red carpet (media) attention. They subsequently saw their bottom line profits rise a lot faster than their competitors. Today, all age consumers are spreading news and reviews about every company, every organization, pretty much everything that matters in our lives. Everything is fair game and companies who understand how to leverage their marketing messages, with the right social graces, are advancing their budding online customer relationships with far greater success.

Customer engagement is not a passing fad. One of the most well-known marketers, Seth Godin, has written 12 bestsellers that have been translated into 33 languages on the topic, so when he talks, I tend to listen. His perspective is a game-changer. Here's an excerpt from Seth Godin:

Optimistic enthusiasm as a form of realism
How does your organization respond to new opportunities? Most companies launch new things, try out new initiatives, brainstorm new approaches. The internal response (or reaction) to these ventures is a cultural choice, one that often turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If your organization is both pessimistic and operationally focused, then every new idea is a threat. It represents more work, something that could go wrong, a chance for disaster. People work to protect against the downside, to insulate against the market, to be sure that they won't get blamed for anything that challenges the system. In organizations like this, a new idea has to be proven to be better than the current status quo in all situations before it gets launched.

On the other hand, an organization filled with people who are rewarded for shaking things up and generating game-changing products and services just might discover that outcomes they are dreaming of are in fact what happen. The enthusiasm that comes from believing that this one might just resonate with the market is precisely the ingredient that's required to make something resonate.

One more thing: outsiders are way more likely to approach your organization with fabulous projects if they think they're likely to both get a good reception and succeed when they get to market.

Next, a few words about the skyrocketing growth of social media applied for business purposes. Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, recently said "we create as much information in two days now as we did from the dawn of man through 2003."

What smart businesses are doing these days is having marketers help them create "customer hubs" which integrate data from many sources so it can be analyzed and used to make better business decisions. Business, large and small, has gone social or to be more specific, social commerce; essentially word-of-mouth applied to e-commerce.

According to Brian Solis, who specializes in change management, "Social commerce is rising quickly. This is a story about how and why people make decisions and it's redefining the way brands and consumers interact."

TIP: to reap the applause of successful social commerce, deliver value first and sell later.

Jim Cathcart, the well-known author of Relationship Selling, defined what customer relationships are all about: in a relationship people know each other and have an exchange of value. Ask yourself: who is truly glad to know me? Don't talk about upselling customers, but rather upserving them. If you do a good job, others will vouch for you and recommend your services.

Move from self-promotion to social referrals: "Trust me, he is a great lover," not "I am a great lover." Companies, like individuals, can come across as too egotistical; that's a turn-off. What do people want? Trusted referrals and honest reviews.

As you can see, marketing 2012 goes real-time, not just watching issues for potential PR fires. Marketers must know how to leverage opportunities and act as third party advocates for their stakeholders. This requires a more agile communications strategy that is consistent and in touch with the audience. Only then can the stars align in your favor.
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Esty Atlas is a four-time Emmy award-winning writer, specializing in leadership communications, media and public relations. 303-919-2425; email: or

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