ANA CMO’s: It’s Not About Social Marketing. It’s About Marketing in a Social Era.

An edited version was published in Ad Age on October 8, 2013

Bob Liodice (CEO ANA), Olivier Francios (CMO Chrysler, Fiat N.A.)

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The ANA annual meeting is our TED Conference for brand marketing.  It’s a forum to bring big ideas to the fore that serve to inspire us to think and act bigger.

To me, if there was one overarching idea from last week’s conference, it was this notion that Social has flipped from being marketing candy, to being a central core driver to a brand’s strategy.  That when marketers discuss Social, it’s not really just about the tactics they’re employing on a Facebook, Twitter, Vine or Snapchat.  Social is being owned by the CMO, and is now becoming the engine that’s powering substantial market share driving campaigns for grown up brands.

Google’s North America President Margo Georgiadis, on the first morning’s breakfast started the ball rolling citing that a remarkable 24 of the top 100 brands have had a viral video on YouTube already this year.   Ms. Georgiadis implored the need for marketers to create content instead advertising.  She heralded brands that are inserting themselves into social moments of the day, citing Pepsi’s Jeff Gordon’s Harlem Shuffle spot that hit 7 million views and importantly delivered topical street cred for them.

Well of course, you’d expect the Pepsi’s and Coca-Cola’s to tap into the social zeitgeist.  Joe Tripodi didn’t disappoint sharing how their marketing team in Australia personalized Coke Cans and bottles with 150 first names showing that content can come in many forms including a products packaging.  This helped reconnect the brand to reconnect with millennials by increasing its social currency, growing consumption by 7%.   But what really impressed the audience was Olivier Francois, Chrysler’s CMO, presentation that showed how Social was powering the automotive makers overall approach to marketing, and with that a helped a remarkable revival of the company’s brand that just five years ago was in near ruin.  He unveiled at the conference Ron Burgundy/Will Ferrell as Dodge’s newly appointed spokesperson and the shooting of some 67 spots that will no doubt be the backbone of an integrated television and social program that is sure to build a lot of buzz.  He exhibited that this was more than just a one-off.  The Clint Eastwood voiced Imported from Detroit Super Bowl half-time spot for Jeep and the edgy work for Fiat, shows that the automotive company has institutionalized Social by Design as its go-to marketing play book.  Mr Francois claimed that Jeep is now the strongest growing automotive brand in the country.

As much as CMO’s cling onto ROI, and advocate data informed decision making, what became apparent is that unlocking social media magic is much more art than science.  There is a fine line between Social gold and YouTube obscurity.  In a moment of refreshingly candidness, Mars’ Debra Sandler revealed they had made two potential Snickers spots for the Super Bowl, and at the last minute despite some concerns expressed internally, made the call to run the Betty White spot.  The spot stole the show at that year’s Super Bowl and created a social media storm and Snicker bars flew off the shelves.  I doubt the campaign would have gained such fame if they went with the Aretha Franklin spot.  And I thought it big of Tony Pace at Subway to admit that he initially rejected the idea to create a competition, dubbed #ProjectSubway to have designers create outfits made of recycled Subway waste.  The 70 million impressions they garnered through earned media, illustrated to me that Social is about putting the ideas back in the forefront, something that I’m excited about.

There was much discussion on Purpose based marketing.  Consumers and employees are increasingly valuing brands doing the right thing.  Promoting this is a tricky proposition. Step over the line, and credibility could be lost.

ConAgra’s initiative to raise awareness and help counter the 17 million kids in America that don’t know where their next meal is coming from was clearly a personal passion project for their CMO, Judy Chow. But when she convinced the company that it fit the food manufacturer’s corporate mission, it became a more substantial program internally and externally.  Their efforts on the ground, at retail and through content provided the stimulus for consumers to build a more positive opinion of the brand.  As Ms. Chow demonstrated it also helped the business too.  USAA’s Roger Adams proffered that authenticity is even more important in a world of social media.  “Building opinion, builds trust.  Building trust builds advocates,” he aptly stated in his presentation.

So what were the lessons I took away from the ANA’s top marketers in 2013?

  • That social isn’t just a single channel or a tactic … it’s increasingly a core principal behind the marketing strategy.  Having a campaign idea that’s Social by Design offers so much more strength to the marketing effort.
  • Social’s success is being measured by overall marketing metrics.  Sales.  Brand opinion. Reach and Impressions.  Not just follows or likes.
  • That the CMO is owning Social, not the social team.
  • Content over advertising.  That’s shifting how the media and communications need to be planned.
  • Judgment and ideas are probably going to be more important than logic and data for the time being.
  • Integrating paid with the owned and earned, not the other away around is the new hierarchy.

To summarize, the top marketers are demonstrating, that it’s not about social marketing.  It’s really about marketing in a social era.


About Brand Media Strategy
This site is a resource for communications planners, brand marketers and media professionals. Brand Media Strategy [published by Advertising Age, Palgrave MacMillan] explains how brands today are employing advertising and media communication strategies to grow and build their brands. It explores the value of advertising in mass media; activation of digital media programs; and employing non-paid or non-traditional media vehicles. It's author is Antony Young, President of Water Cooler Group. A brand media communications company.

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