January 31, 2011

Can Marketing Create a Brand?

Perception meets reality

The topic of branding has often created heated debate. Some claim they are branding experts who can create desire in the hearts and minds of customers and potential customers. I'm of the belief you cannot create a brand.

Just like viral, it is something that happens when a customer interacts with a product or service. It's about their experience not the outbound message.

This is not to say that a compelling offer won't lure some people to try a product, it happens every day. The table may have been set but the customer remains the one who has decided to partake. If they enjoy it and share the experience with someone then branding begins.

Coke is not a brand; it is syrup and bubbly water. Harley-Davidson is not a brand; it’s a company that makes motorcycles. Porsche is not a brand; it is a handsomely priced line of super cars. And they all conjure up images in our minds which is where brands grow.

She told three friends

You are certainly familiar with the telephone game where you tell someone something, then they tell someone and by the time it gets three or four people deep, the content has morphed into something different.

This happens with our online persona. Like branding, our reputation cannot be created because it's what happens when we aren't in the room. We have no idea what most people think or say about us. But we can conduct ourselves in a way to hopefully garner kind feedback.

In marketing, there is a term called aspirational. There are four categories of items that people aspire to win – cars, cash, trips and things they don’t have access to within their own means.

Bound for Arlington

An example would be a pair of tickets on the 50 yard line to see the Packers and the Steelers on Sunday. The Packers and Steelers aren’t brands; they are football teams. I can hear fans of both screaming at me for writing that. And that would be branding. Ask anyone in Green Bay if they cheered for the Vikings this year.

The social web presents an interesting opportunity for many to position themselves in a certain light. If you work hard and build up a Klout score and get a lot of followers on Twitter, some may perceive you as a savvy digital expert whether you are or not.

How do you think you can change the perception of others?

knealemann | How can I help?

image credits: coke | inform | mogoel

January 29, 2011

Laugh and Change

There is a lot of chatter about the monumental shift in how we communicate. This is not only about the social web but it certainly has accelerated our ability to quickly find similar thinking people all over the world then connect and share. The world is changing, but then again hasn't it always been changing?

New York cartoonist Liza Donnelly has been reflecting change in her work for decades. She joined The New Yorker in 1982 and has challenged the status quo, stood up for individuality and done it through making people laugh and think. [video]

knealemann | How can I help?

video credit: TED

January 27, 2011

Internal Social Networking

Making the Quantum Leap

Four years ago, I saw The Secret. I watched the first half with eyes rolling and arms folded but the second half taking notes. I thought the production values were bad and the theory far-fetched. But it was one of those moments where I decided to take the leap of faith.

I did not read the book. The film is a bit cheesy but if you've seen it you know it's about quantum physics. If you think positive thoughts, make positive changes and move in a positive direction, positive stuff will happen. The opposite is true and seems to happen twice as fast. But, it’s easier said than done to just think good thoughts and turn your life around. It is why most think it's a bunch of crap and give up proving the point.

Conviction and Perspective

If you’re in a bad place, it’s tough to sit on your living room floor, smile and imagine your life in a better place. The human mind has a glitch where negative seems to flow easier than positive. But something crucial is missing from simply having good thoughts and that would be something called action.

I was embarking on a new business four years ago and was pumped after reading more material about quantum physics but I allowed momentum to slow down. Happy thoughts can be extinguished by self-doubt which morphs into inaction. It is completely self-inflicted and time wasting. If you've been there, it can feel like you're walking through wet sand. Colleagues and friends can say nice things but you can't seem to shake it.

There is no Time

During the work day, there is little or no time to examine our feelings, find significant think time or measure how closer we are to our goals and dreams. We create distractions and wrap them up in badges of honor called 'busy'.

Running a business is hectic work and a keen eye must remain fixated on revenue. To many, realizing personal potential becomes secondary to making the quarter. We spend more waking hours at work than at home. But we don't seem to spend much time, if any, finding how those relationships can positively affect the experience.

Schedule the Time

Perhaps to start, you find an hour a week where you and your team get together and have an open and honest talk about each other rather than a client emergency or project deadline. Skip one of those agonizing status meetings where you dissect every current project to the point of nausea and spend it on each other's development. Perhaps it’s too touchy feely for some people at work but this is not to suggest tears and hugs are requisite. But it can unearth monumental ideas for growth.

Waste of Time

The antiquated notion of the annual review is a complete waste of time. We need to work in real-time. We need to listen to each other. We need to pay closer attention to that desire in our gut and share it with others. If they don't want to hear it, perhaps they aren't suited to be our teammates.

Many owners and managers will think it is lunacy. There's work to be done. There is no time for feelings and bonding. You and I have interacted with companies that have horrible internal customer service and ones where the people actually like being there. And we know which ones will get our return business.

Digital channels have proven we have the desire to connect and share with people all over the world. Are we doing the same within our organizations?

knealemann | how can I help?

image credit: gdargaud

January 23, 2011

The Evolution Will Be Digitized

I meet people all the time who are overwhelmed by the online choices, don’t think they can find the time or see the results of more online activity, while the so-called experts claim everyone is doing this stuff. That is simply not the case.

People usually fall into several categories, those who...

• Don’t get it
• Think everyone gets it
• Are overwhelmed by choices
• Want instant results
• View what they are currently doing is enough
• Don’t think they should invest time or money

Social media are the mediums in which we socialize. This includes face-to-face meetings, email, relationships in and out of your organization, mobile, web and any other time two or more humans are connecting.

But I thought it was time to review some numbers on the world’s largest aggregate social networking sites and perhaps this can educated you, inform you and excite you.


There are over 190 million users worldwide who have sent more than 4 billion tweets since 2006. It is the 12th largest website in the world and over 600 million searches occur daily. The heaviest demographic using Twitter is 35-49, 62% access the site at work and 35% from home. The gender split is close to even with 54% female 46% male.


Almost one third of all humans on earth with an Internet connection also have a Facebook profile, group or page. There are over 600 million users with an average of 130 friends. Over a third of all users accesses the site via their mobile device and are twice as active on the site than non mobile users. Close to half of all users log on to the site every day and over 10,000 new websites integrate with the environment daily.


There are over 80 million users in over 200 countries and a new member joins the site every second. Over half users have attended post-secondary educational institutions and executives from all Fortune 500 companies are represented on the site.


It remains the world’s second largest search engine next to its owner, Google. It is also the 5th most popular website in the world. Every age is represented in users of the site but the heaviest users fall in the wide demographic 18-55 and the gender breakdown is almost even. More than half of all YouTube users visit the site at least one per week.


We also could review the over 300 million blogs, the percentage of companies now embracing the use of wiki pages and the increased interest in podcasting and webinars for the purpose of training and education as well. Social media are not limited to these four websites, they are channels you can create with your customers and clients, colleagues and coworkers to educate, inform and advance business.

And it all reminds me of the quote from the first Cluetrain Manifesto published twelve years ago. "We are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. We are human beings - and our reach exceeds your grasp. Deal with it."

How are you embracing digital now more than ever?

knealemann | email

image credit: istock

January 21, 2011

Simplifying Complex Problems

Life can be as complicated as we make it. How often do you hear someone or yourself use the word “busy” throughout your day? It’s as if we find comfort in being busy with tasks and deadlines, meetings and responsibilities. We wear busy like a badge of honor. After all, who among us would ever dream of admitting we have blocked off some time to think and plan?

Often when you check in with a colleague, they will predicate any response with the level of busy they are experiencing which is usually high.

Add to all this, we have this penchant for making simple things complicated while we find difficulty in making complex concepts rather simple. We do it in the business sphere when we have long meetings with no agenda and waste our time on stuff that won't lead us to solutions.

Eric Berlow is an ecologist who loves to study what you and I may find overwhelming to find the simplest concepts inside. [video]

knealemann | email

visual credit: TED

January 19, 2011

Marketing is Not a Department

Every industry, every job, every position within an organization has its fans and its critics. If you are climbing the corporate ladder right now you may be looking ahead toward those who are in positions above you on the org chart and making a list of what you will do differently when you get that gig. If you’re the boss, you may have found that deep dark place where you are completely honest with yourself and admit you don’t actually have all the answers to everything.

In the case of marketing, it appears far more people have an opinion than have any experience in the field. My plumber knows what he’s doing and charges me handsomely for his knowledge. My lawyer is a sharp dude who went to school and has letters behind his name so it must mean he knows his way around some law stuff. Yet with marketing, everyone is apparently an expert. That gets even more watered down when you replace the word 'marketing' with the words 'social media' but I digress.

Many moving parts

Clearly, advertising is part of an overall marketing plan yet it is not the sole piece of the puzzle. The look and feel of a company, how the phone and emails are answered, the design of business cards, presentation and business function execution and client correspondence are all part of the overall marketing of a company. In short, marketing is everything you do. I've had company owners tell me they weren't ready to do any marketing. If they're open for business, they have already started.

Many organizations take a campaign approach to some initiative or product launch or event and decide they need to “do some marketing”. And that, in many cases, means advertising. So they build a budget, put together the creative, decide what media they will use to spread the word and there, the marketing is done.

Return on Ignorance

What is then dangerous is when those who are not mathematicians seem to have a foolproof opinion on the return on investment. The success of an entire company should not hinge on a single event.

There is a myriad choices when it comes to external or outbound marketing options. There are the channels that have been deemed traditional such as print, radio, television and transit/outdoor. Additionally, there is the choice of direct mail, trade shows, presentations, conferences and face-to-face contact.

Choosing channels

The social web can be both daunting and enticing. On one side it looks too much like work when you can just place an ad on a flat surface but it can also give the impression that it’s a quick fix. It does require commitment and can garner results but not tomorrow.

We live in a customer centric world and we are all customers and providers. But that certainly doesn't mean everyone is equipped to steer marketing initiatives with guesswork and opinion. Or worst yet, adopting the strategy that what may have worked last year will work again this year.

I'd love to know your thoughts.

knealemann | email

image credit: flickr

January 17, 2011

The Social Network Comes of Age

Zuck's story wins big.

Last night, the much criticized Hollywood Foreign Press Association awarded The Social Network four Golden Globes for Best Picture, best original score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, best direction from the wonderfully talented David Fincher and best screenplay by one of the most gifted writers today, Aaron Sorkin.

From cave walls to profile walls. 

Social media have been around for a couple of hundred million years old. However in the last 10-15 years, we have discovered electronic ways to accelerate conversations, build relationships and conduct business. Last night, the latest incarnation of this activity won some awards. And today we get back to creating bonds with each other through the myriad means available.

A sequel is not forthcoming.

One could argue that The Social Network is a film that has very little to do with social media and everything to do with scandal and personalities. If Mark Elliot Zuckerberg had created Facebook on his own void of any of the allegations and real activities, perhaps Sorkin would not have been so keen to write about it.

Then again, harnessing a way to get over a third of the world's online community to join a website is quite miraculous. And we are fascinated by a 26 year old dropout from Harvard who has fast tracked to the billionaire set and the scandals that follow him.

We haven’t seen a film about Digg or FourSquare. The studios aren’t deluged with treatments on the rise and popularity of Wikipedia or LinkedIn. And there haven’t been any rumblings of an upcoming made-for-TV mini-series on the formation of Twitter or YouTube. This is not to take away from the popularity of those channels but we like stories and we are fascinated by people.

Is that not the essence of social networking?

knealemann | email

image credit: googleimages

January 15, 2011

Looking Inside

The opinion of them.

The chatter in the digital channels is deafening. Opinions, blogs, news articles, podcasts, expert analysis, tweets, the list goes on and on. If you spend any time skimming through websites for information, you can’t even get near scratching the surface. So I am amazed you took the time to visit here, thank-you.

The challenge for any business manager is to try and remain a few steps ahead of the day-to-day which is near impossible because of distractions and deadlines.

Who has time to plan and look forward when you’re trying to keep a company rolling in the right direction and trying not to hit a pothole?

Victim of busy.

Some say you’re not embracing all the right tools to maximize revenue. Others claim you are missing opportunities right under your nose.

You need to manage all the moving parts, ensure stakeholders are working toward their strengths and keep the black ink flowing.

It can be confusing and divert momentum

If you travel in some circles, they will tell you that you need to be everywhere. Others have bottles of snake oil with the promise of instant results.

If you are one of the few who can eliminate judgment from others, clear your mind enough to focus on exactly what you are good at and more importantly decide what you want to do, you are way ahead of the curve.

How do you focus and eliminate disruptions?

knealemann | email

image credit: flickr

January 13, 2011

Do You Feel Like An Alien?

We don't have time.

I was in a client’s office this week and they gave me a tour of the place and introduced me to the rest of the team. Nice, warm, friendly people all made me feel at home. I was introduced as the guy “here to help with the social media stuff”. It’s not all I do but in this case it was a workshop to explain tools, examine what they’re doing, find ways to better integrate all their efforts and most importantly ensure internal communication improves. That work continues.

I felt a bit like an alien, a strange being that was coming in with stuff that was foreign to most. My direct contact is doing a great job and it was as if she had found another from her planet to help explain it to the rest of the team. Love this client, love her team. They want to understand what they don’t understand. Perfect!

Does this sound familiar?

You seem to be the only one jumping up and down to embrace the power of the digital channels yet some look at you with confusion, claim there is no time for all this stuff and think Facebook is just a way to keep in touch with their college friends?

Everyone seems to have an opinion of the social web yet the organization has yet to embrace the full power of an integrated solution to improve communication and drive revenue. If you spend too much time on Twitter or Quora you are left with the impression that “everyone” gets this stuff. They do not. We are still in the early stages.

We're way behind!

You can read spaces such as Mashable, Wired, Gigaom or Business Insider and it appears you are in the dark ages if your organization is not completely firing on all social networking channels. Don’t worry, global companies are still working on it and there is no one answer.

If we take a campaign approach tied to return on investment of one YouTube video or a single blog post as the metric to social media success, we still have a lot of work to do.

What’s your story?

knealemann | email | How can I help?

image credit: wikimedia

January 12, 2011

Changing Education Paradigms

One of the most popular speakers to ever speak at TED is Sir Ken Robinson. He is clearly smart and very funny. He cares deeply about education. Here, he shares some of his thoughts on some of the most controversial learning topics today.

knealemann | email

video credit: TED | RSA Animate

January 11, 2011

Predicting The Future

"640K ought to be enough for anybody.
Bill Gates (1981)

"The Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big share of the market for itself." Business Week (1968)

"$100 million dollars is way too much to pay for Microsoft.IBM (1982)

"It's just a fad, a passing fancy.Phil Wrigley, Chicago Cubs owner, on the introduction of night baseball. (1935)

"Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a conspicuous failure.Henry Morton, Stevens Institute of Technology commenting 
on Thomas Edison's light bulb (1880)

"Guitar groups are on their way out."
Dick Rowe, Decca Records passing on signing The Beatles (1957)

"Democracy will be dead by 1950" John Landon-Davies (1936)

"There is no reason for any individual to have a computer 
in their home.Ken Olsen, President of Digital Equipment Corporation (1977)

Got any predictions?

knealemann | email

image credit: delta

January 9, 2011

Humanizing Your Company

What we want versus what we should.

Some call it a midlife or identify crisis but eventually we all go through it. Some go through it several times. This is not about getting to an age where you buy a sports car to rekindle your youth or run off to join the circus.

This is at your core and is suddenly right beside you with a two-by-four that smacks you right in the skull.

The brave face masks our fear. We may fool others but we don't fool ourselves. The uneasiness fails to subside as we plow through on all the things we should do while we ignore what we want to do.

Your title is not you.

Humans are unique to any other species because we have the ability to reason and can analyze and solve problems. But that constantly gets us into trouble.

Justification for not moving forward on an idea or embracing others' input on a project can always seem to be explained in our clever minds. And this logic infiltrates our businesses, our work spaces and our team environments.

Pride and measurement.

We think we’re so superior because we can solve problems. But one could argue we create more than we solve. We are the only creatures who worry about what if, then and next. We are also the only beings who worry about having a purpose.

We want a legacy, we want our lives to mean something yet we seek approval from everyone but ourselves. If we can’t see it, no amount of awards or money will be enough. Without that feeling in the gut, increasing revenue can only sustain us on its own for a short time.

Think like the animals.

Dogs do not concern themselves with that incident last July when they didn’t catch the ball on the first bounce. Cats waste no time worrying about your opinion of them. Birds fly void of any concern they’re doing it wrong.

Yet we spend considerable amounts of our precious time worrying about what happened, what’s about to happen and what might happen.

Teamwork spans much farther than the general ledger.

On Friday, we discussed taking your business social and that has absolutely nothing to do with a website. This is at the core of business. We are not drones performing sufficient duties to deliver satisfactory results to the revenue line. We are people. We have hopes and fears and dreams and desires. And so do those working with us.

This is not to suggest your company should be a place where everyone holds hands and talks about feelings all day. But if we forget the human part, the business part will continue to be a challenge.

What are your thoughts?

knealemann | email

image credit: wallpaperstock

Reposted on social media today.

January 7, 2011

Your Business Goes Social

Where perception meets reality.

The social web can be an insulated world full of seemingly sound theories. However the chatter can overwhelm you. The naysayers of spaces such as FourSquare, Twitter or the much debated newbie Quora often say it’s a big waste of time. And it can be.

Many claim bots and abandoned profiles proves it's all smoke and mirrors. While others can show documented evidence that the sustained activity has positively affected their business and bottom line. I am of the second group but that's up to you to decide.

But what are social media?

I can soundly defend that it is whenever two human beings are connected. That may be through email, phone, in person, on a website, in a discussion group, attending a conference, sharing a workshop, commenting on blogs, listening to podcasts, contributing to wikis, sharing a cup of coffee, the list goes on.

It is all media and all social and Facebook is along for the ride.

Going social.

There was an interesting discussion on Quora yesterday about when to take your business social and I had to remember that my reality may not be their perception. My stance is that your business needs to be social now - not some day.

In my recent discussions with larger organizations where it is much more difficult to navigate procedures, never mind become more social, it is clear that not every business on earth is holding hands and grasping the social web for all that it can be.

Many who are trying and still unsure where to go with it. That's okay, us too. But I think the ultimate reason why some companies give it lip service but aren't sure where to go next is because we are still taking a departmental approach.

That’s not my job.

To most organizations, social is a department, a role, a part of a larger role which drives that portion of the organization that is responsible for all that human stuff. Not everyone wants to share and collaborate. The majority do not want to be transparent and available.

Some companies continue to think it is profitable to keep headset laden employees tied to a cubicle for eight hours. Many would argue that industries such as law enforcement, factory work, garbage collection or politics cannot be collaborative social environments.

I disagree. What’s your take?

knealemann | email

image credit: usvigers

January 5, 2011

Facebook Goes For Gold

Looks good 'on paper'

The news hit just as the last morsels of Holiday over indulgence was digesting.

Goldman Sachs earmarked $450 million for their top private clients to invest in Facebook. The social networking juggernaut is currently "valued" at $50 Billion. This would just about get them into the Fortune 100 save one itsy bitsy issue - actual revenue.

This was not something new to the world of VC and high-tech.

During the heady days of 1995-2000, billions were made and lost on paper in some cases in a matter of hours. The dot-com boom bubble bust caused stock speculation
to go off the charts.

Simply by owning a sexy website address, guys in basements were suddenly living the high life in posh offices in Manhattan. The problem was that most had no ability to make actual money on any actual product or service. This is not unlike the vast majority of start-ups today that have the coolest neato gadget solution for something we don’t even know we need. Many embrace the strategy that Google will eventually buy them.

But we’ve learned our lesson, right?  

Dot-com billionaires continue to live among those who lost their shirts before even owning a shirt because there wasn’t a shirt in the first place. The wasteland of marble floored office complexes and Herman Miller chaired boardrooms collected dust faster than they could collect revenue.

Despite the ever increasing appetite for online social networking, many are looking at the Facebook | Goldman Sachs relationship cautiously and with significant concern.
If a website lost its speculated net worth in a matter of days during the dot-com bust, even the almighty Facebook can falter under its hoodie laden wonderkind.

Person of the Year

Facebook CEO and 24% shareholder Mark Zuckerberg saw his bottom line almost double in 24 hours. His estimated personal wealth is in the $15 Billion range.  All the while, tech investors continue to hope for a Facebook IPO and it is doubtful Goldman Sachs will be waiting patiently.

What are you thoughts?

knealemann | email

image credit: googleimages

Re-posted on social media today

January 3, 2011

Theories and Memes

There are more scientists alive right now than have been alive in any other time in history combined. They are working on cures for diseases, concepts that will defy our own capacity and ideas to revolutionize industry. They are writing opinion papers and research pieces that are challenging conventional wisdom and they are reversing past beliefs with regularity.

There are more writers alive today than in the collective history of humankind. They are writing books, compiling and dissecting historical data, relating daily events, adding to our collective education and publishing digital content faster than the two billion online users can consume it.

We all contribute to the conversation with our biased view.

My grade ten history teacher once proclaimed there is no such thing as an unbiased opinion and that has stuck with me ever since. The battles continue between science and religion, news agencies and the blogosphere, pro life vs. pro choice, conservative against democrat, my opinion or yours.

Our differences become escalated when we begin to read what others are preaching and feel compelled to discard our own beliefs.

What about your career or your organization?

You rely on suppliers and clients and fellow stakeholders to build something together. Each has an opinion yet somehow you are expected to piece together your memes with their theories and come up with solutions to increase the bottom line.

No two people are alike yet we attempt to arrange relationships within the business sphere and remain surprised when there is friction or conflict.

Status quo is often not practical.

Seth Godin wrote yesterday about the common practice of adopting the mantra - that's not the way we do things around here. That is perhaps the single most important phrase to immediately eradicate from our vernacular. The way you've done it is not enough of a compelling reason to keep doing it that way.

And when it gets to the online, digital, marketing, public relations, social media or advertising silos, the best place to start may be with a clean slate. After all, the brightest minds once thought the world was flat.

How do we manage memes and theories in a team environment and continue to build business?

knealemann | email

image credit: seekingalpha

January 2, 2011

Digital Predictions from the Past

It’s early in the New Year. We tend to feel brave and have a penchant to make predictions. These predictions are often more long term than our resolutions. So I thought it would be interesting to rewind to almost seven years ago and see what a guy who is always living on the early adopter curve said about some things back then.

Chris Anderson, as you may know, is the editor-in-chief
of Wired magazine and website

He is also a speaker and author. His first book in 2007 entitled The Long Tail argued that products in low demand or that have a low sales volume can collectively make up a market share that rivals or exceeds the bestsellers and blockbusters, if the store or distribution channel is large enough.

His second book Free was released in 2009. It was available as a free download for two weeks and over a quarter of a million took advantage of it. Amid controversy of his tactic, the book still debuted on the New York Times Bestseller list at #12 when the paid version was released.

This was a TED Talk Anderson did in 2004. Since then Wired has sustained an onslaught of unrelenting competition from official organizations and the blogosphere. Since this is prediction season, I thought it would be interesting to see how many of Chris' thoughts have come true, seven years later.

Wired is one of the most respected resources on technology and culture. Anderson continues to lead the charge. [video]

knealemann | email

visual credit: TED

January 1, 2011

Ideas for 2011 (part 2)

• Trust your gut
• Do something ridiculous
• Be more tolerant
• Success is not a number
• Follow through
• Focus on how
• Take the victory
• Be confident without boasting
• Do your part
• Of course you can do it
• Make time for think time
• You're not always right
• Hone the offer
• You are not a social media expert and neither am I
• Don't wait
• Find the lesson
• Keep learning
• Make a list of people you want to work with then make it happen
• If you want to then do it
• Thank a friend
• Read five profiles each week
• Don’t settle
• It really has nothing to do with numbers
• You're not always wrong
• Exceed expectations
• Don't just collect followers, friends and connections, get to know them
• Collaborate wildly
• You’re just as worthy as anyone
• Don't be mean
• You are not expected to have all the answers
• Smile more
• Own it all - not just the good stuff
• Chocolate is a food group
• There's much more to life than work
• Help others
• Do what you say you will do
• Lighten up
• Trust yourself
• Stop talking about the economy
• Say why not
• You are social media expert and so am I
• Consume more funny
• Focus on strengths
• More face time
• Eliminate soap boxes
• Good enough is not good enough
• Be yourself

What's missing?

knealemann | email

image credit: johnelkington
© Kneale Mann knealemann@gmail.com people + priority = profit
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