The Old Spice Guy Was Ready And Waiting

I am doing my darnedest to do what expert bloggers do and that is to write ahead, to have some blog posts in the queue and ready to publish. But every time I try to do that, something more interesting comes along and I can’t not comment on it—which is at least consistent with the point of this blog post.

The post that I intended to publish today started with a gentle reminiscence about fly fishing on the Snake River. That was how I was planning to introduce the skill of reading one’s immediate environment and reacting appropriately. Pure gold, you’ll just have to trust me on this.

But then the Old Spice guy and his handlers started making video after video responding to famous and regular people on social networks in real-time. I’m guessing that you’ve heard about this viral hit, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to embed one of the brilliant commercials. You can see all of the responses on the Old Spice YouTube channel.

The Old Spice guy work is an excellent demonstration of an emerging communications competency: the preparing to improvise, the organizing to be able to react in the moment to external stimulus (like a fly fisherman does, by the way).

Of course, the marketing of investment products is different from the marketing of consumer products. But there’s a lot to learn from the lead of marketers who are both creative and effective. Can asset management firms play this game? The tilt toward real-time communicating exposes what we believe to be the greatest weakness in investment product communicating: Reacting after the fact and on a delay.

For the last several years, the industry has been working on wringing days out of investment communication production, and kudos to all the sales idea, fact card and shareholder report producers and shareholder reports out there. There may not be much more time left to find in the product communication delivery process.

Anticipating The Need To Communicate, Improvise

Starbucks Red Cup Image

But we believe asset manager communicating has to venture far beyond product communicating. We believe that progressive firms are going to develop a cross-functional, Compliance-on-board culture and competency that anticipates the need to communicate and organizes to support what will come close to seeming like improvisation.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while but steadily since last December when I heard a social media presentation by Matthew Guiste, category manager for social media at Starbucks.

Guiste calls social media “a contact sport.” That’s a key point for asset managers. The successful revenue-generating programs Guiste described involved a rapid exchange of information, internally and externally.

He told the story of what happened after individuals on Facebook and Twitter were “heard” to be looking forward to the release of Starbucks holiday Red Cup. It was an “organic expression of enthusiasm,” a mini-trend that Starbucks moved quickly to amplify by adding Red Cup-related content to its many social media channels and firing up some related Facebook advertising. They did the same for their Free Pastry Day, which started small but turned out to be "the biggest single thing we did in social media" in 2009.

The examples cited by Guiste illustrated Starbuck’s ability to 1)listen in real-time, including Web and social media analytics 2)respond proportionately, including adding promotional marketing and advertising and 3)evaluate and adjust. All in short order.

The same themes of collaborative creativity and distributed decision-making authority appear in ReadWriteWeb’s excellent account of how the Old Spice guy videos were made.

Asset managers aren’t there today, of course not. I was especially intrigued by Guiste’s observation that “social media seems to be better with short-term high-intensity activities than longer-term, lower-intensity activities.” Most of investment marketing is longer term and little of it intense.

Does the Starbucks approach or even the Old Spice guy stimulate any ideas on what you might communicate—even something small—in a fresher way, in response to what's being discussed or happening and on a tighter turnaround?