It was an honor to speak at Boussias Online Marketing Conference ’11. Athens, Greece. June 17, 2011.
It was an honor to speak at Boussias Online Marketing Conference ’11. Athens, Greece. June 17, 2011.
Peter Ecomomides of FelixBNI tells a story of his neighborhood market to illustrate how everything has changed & nothing has changed. Peter talks about conceiving creative & human ways to interact with customers. Applying common sense marketing to social tools (Social Monitoring Tools) & social networks (The World Wide Mind). The importance of adapting social technologies to ways humans have always spent time is vital. We gossip, watch movies, check out photos, listen to music, check the news. The most successful social networks, apps and tools are digital software that serve timeless human actions. This is the beauty of what Mr. Economides recognizes in his statement about “getting back to social”. He acknowledges that social objects – tweets, status updates, photos posted to Flickr, video posted to YouTube, ARE the medium. Mr. Economides writes, “Twitter is not a medium. Your tweets are the medium. Your blog, your Facebook page, etc.”
AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH MR. PETER ECONOMIDES OF FELIXBNI
ON CHANGE: You’ve emphasized that “everything has changed and nothing has changed”. What are your thoughts on that today and why is this an important message for those getting into marketing via social networks?
Everyone in marketing was educated BDSM – Before the Development of Social Media. And the marketing we learned was focused on the Broadcast Economy. Mass media. Mass retailing. The consumer as a demographic number.
Social Media has given birth to the Conversation Economy. Massive media which do not broadcast. Messaging has become stream of micro conversations. The consumer now has a highly individual profile.
My point is that this is the way it has always been. Mass, if you think about it, is the aberration. It’s back to village, where conversation and word of mouth rule supreme. It’s just that this time the village is global. And the main road running through it is the internet and social media.
The irony is that the largest medium in the world has taken us back to a world filled with individuals, conversation and word of mouth. But as Gary Vaynerchuk says, it’s “word of mouth on steroids.”
Social media is influencing consumer behaviour way beyond the internet. And this is the most important thing for any marketer to bear in mind. Great marketing rests on powerful consumer insight. And if marketers don’t understand the 360º effect of social media on consumer behaviour, they’re in serious trouble.
I often illustrate this through my local butcher.
I believe that he has the best meat in Athens. Now, I am not an expert. I do not know this, but I believe it. Not because of what he says but because of how he behaves. He does not impress this on me. He expresses it in everything he says and everything he does.
He has not studied marketing. He knows nothing about social media. But he is an insightful human who understands what makes people tick. His reputation has been built entirely on word of mouth. He knows that. And he also knows that his reputation can be ruined by word of mouth. In a flash.
Smart people have always known this. And the best butcher in the village has always behaved like this. Ask your grandmother.
Everything has changed and nothing has changed.
ON TECHNOLOGY AND CONVERSATION: Danny Brown writes, “Every single one of us is connected, from the tech savvy to the Luddite to the in-between. And if we’re all connected, it becomes easier to help. And if we all help each other, maybe there’s just a chance the world might be a better place.” Do you see social technologies as accelerators of helping each other and making the world a better place? What can humans do in the context of social technologies that is different than via telephone, fax machines, and the Pony Express? Is it only about speed or is there something more tactile about social technologies now?
Conversation is the key.
Good conversation is a dialogue that consists of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. In other words, it is dynamic. It moves somewhere. Social media facilitates synthesis in a way that the telephone, fax machine and the Pony Express never could. It’s immediate. It’s massive. And it’s open. It’s like a perpetual town hall debate.
Television? Just thesis. No antithesis. Certainly no synthesis.
ON TWITTER: What is Twitter and why do you use it?
Twitter’s a cocktail party where you are free to drop into a conversation, plant a seed, pick a fruit, shape a thought, learn, share, contribute … and move on to the next conversation. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis.
Twitter is also the most immediate news source on the planet. I witnessed the Egyptian Revolution earlier this year by switching between Twitter and Al Jazeera on my iPad. I was in Tahrir Square through Twitter. Picking up news and personal drama. And I’d see the images a little later on Al Jazeera. No other medium could have done that for me.
The evening news? Forget about it!
ON FACEBOOK: Why have so many people flocked to Facebook?
A market is always built on a great product.
And I think Facebook is a great product.
Easy. Intuitive. Lots of ways to share. And, importantly, lots of reward through the Like button.
But there are a lot of great products out there which do not succeed ….
Facebook’s initial appeal was to the high school and college crowd. Important influencers of the older crowd. Facebook crossed the chasm into mainstream through kids. And once they had the critical mass, the network effect kicked in. One billion users by the end of 2011 … remarkable. But that;’s the network effect in action.
Facebook has played an important role as most people’s first step into social media. But it runs the risk of becoming the “low rent district” of the internet.
EXPLAINING SOCIAL TECHNOLOGY TO GRANDMA: How on earth do you explain social technologies and social networks to grandma? Or the crustiest of CEOs?
Back to the village! And back to my butcher story.
You’ve seen many approaches to marketing over the years. What are two of your favorite campaigns, in the past or now? What could social technology and social networks facilitate that maybe would have been tougher in the past?
I’d rather talk about great brands.
Because a campaign is just a stage in the life of a brand.
Every category has a protagonist brand.
And it should be the ambition of every brand to be the protagonist of its category.
Think of a soft drink. Coca-Cola?
The Coca-Cola of vodka?
The Absolut of computers?
The Apple of beer? The Heineken of sports shoes? The Nike of coffee shops?
Starbucks hardly advertises. But look at the quality of the conversation it has with its customers. In everything it says. And everything it does. Everything communicates.
Starbucks knows what its “Starbucksness” is all about. And so does every barista who works there. That’s the key to a great brand. Consistent behaviour throughout the organization. In everything it says and does.
Great brands have always understood the conversation. Great brands have always understood that they sell product to individuals and not to numbers. Great brands have always “got” what the social media experts are preaching. Nothing is new.
Naturally, social media open up new opportunities to connect with consumers through thesis, antithesis and synthesis. I wonder about the future of consumer research …..
ON GREECE: You have lived all over the world – in New York, Mexico City, Hong Kong, Johanessburg, Athens. You’ve marketed huge brands like Apple and Coca-Cola. You’ve been in leadership at major ad agencies like McCann and also done your own thing. Now you live in Athens, Greece. What is happening in Greece right now and how can OR are social networks play(ing) a part in this?
There’s a huge conversation going on on Twitter, revolving around current events in Greece. Also a number of great forums on Facebook. But I don’t see much traction. I am working on a public forum in the style of Quora which I hope to launch soon.
GREEK FAVORITES: Who is your favorite Greek musician? Film director? Playwright? Journalist?
Konstantinos Beta (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiuSbj-PrvA)
Dimitris Papaioannou (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimitris_Papaioannou)
Alexis Papahelas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexis_Papahelas)
Find more on Peter Economides at FelixBNI (http://www.felixbni.com).
HEART AND SOUL ARE GREECE’S PRIMARY EXPORT: Greece has vast exports of the heart that world citizens desire. There’s nothing new about this AND there’s a whole new generation of Greeks who deserve to experience a return on their culture’s seemingly endless ability to tap soul and human-ness. There’s a tactile aspect to relationship here found nowhere else on the planet. People everywhere want this experience AND want to know how to get it.
THE TIME OF THE GREEK HAS COME ONCE AGAIN: Due to increasing weaving of heart and tech via social networks, the time has never been better for Greek “heart-exporters” to get busy. Walk into a night club in NYC or LA and watch what happens to the crowd when DJ Vassilis Tsillichristos takes control. There is an intuitive understanding within the Greek psyche of interior landscapes and this plays out in Greek music especially. The music effortlessly carries one swiftly to the center of physical sensations related to relationship, self-exploration and identity.
SOCIAL NETWORKS BORN FROM GREEK PHILOSOPHICAL TRADITION: PhD student Theresa Sauter, from the Queensland University of Technology, is examining how social-networking websites help people form their own identity.
“Social-networking sites, blogs, online discussion forums and online journals represent modern arenas for individuals to write themselves into being,” the Courier Mail quotes Sauter as saying.
“A lot of people see social networking as a new way for people to interact but I’m interested in examining it as a way to form an identity and understand ourselves,” she adds.
“The ancient Greek philosophers used a reflective notebook to write down what they had read and their thoughts on it,” she said.
EVIDENCE FOUND IN THE GREEK COFFEE RITUAL:We see in Sauter’s quotes the strength of the Greek identity. Living in Greece, one REALLY experiences that force in real-time. It is a passion for creativity that is shaped by the presence of a harsh critical eye. This typifies the internal Greek landscape, its psychic tension. One part of the Greek psyche acts like a chisel upon marble, carving towards essence. How could an export of Greek sensibility and passion play out?
Here’s just one way: There is an increasing movement via Augmented Reality, Transmedia and the externalizing of social network experience that needs Greek input. As we begin wearing computers, touching QR codes and interacting “in-the-flesh” with social networks, humanity has the potential to extract from imagination a deeper experience via relationship. And Greeks have mastered this. One only need sit at coffee in Greece to know what is meant by this. Every possibility is explored over coffee, every avenue of relationship, every business idea, every position on anything at all. And it is this, this precision of relationship, that Greeks bring to the global human community. If I were to ask someone to lead the branding of external social hardware, I would pick a Greek BECAUSE of the precise and complex social analysis he/she creates.
PRECISION OF RELATIONSHIP IN GREECE: What do I mean by “precision of relationship” in Greek culture? This is related to insight. I’ve learned a lot about insight since spending time in Greece, both in the professional sense and the personal sense. Devin Coldewey writes, “Insight is the result of recombination, hybridizing ideas, internal accidents, emergent properties of ideas we never even knew were related.” To return to Greek “coffee time”, here we experience a seemingly inexhaustible exploration and re-exploration of what was said, who said, when it was said, why it was said, what it could have meant, what should we do about it. And it is in this analysis that one finds laughter, depth, decision. When you look into the eye of a Greek, you really feel like some part inside your chest or brain has been touched by that eye. And whether this is true or not, whether the observer really does “feel” you immediately, is not the point. The point is what YOU feel in that moment. Because Greeks will reflect to you what you are very quickly, if only by staring back at you a few seconds longer than other nationalities.
HOLLOWED BY SORROW, FILLED BY JOY: If externalized social hardware is to lead humanity to some kind of evolutionary step, it will necessarily lead one into depth of experience of others and the world (as digital social networks have done). James Hillman writes, “Until the culture recognizes the legitimacy of growing down, each person in the culture struggles blindly to make sense of the darkness that the soul requires to deepen into life.” It is natural to desire transcendence, to want escape, to experience “another place”. And the pleasures of transcendence are multiplied when one has experienced depth and pain. A cup hollowed by sorrow can hold more joy. No nation has experienced such depth of heartache than Greece, not only because of the nature of its travesties but ALSO because Greeks truly do feel emotion in their bodies with an intensity one has to see to experience. A fight between Greek lovers is truly something to behold!
FROM CITY TO ISLAND: But what really draws one into the Greek experience (and why Greek sensibility ought to have a strong influence upon the externalizing of social networks through social hardware and wearable computers), is the bent towards simplicity. The journey from the endlessly complicated chaos of Athens to a Greek island captures what humans really long for deep down. Cosmologist Brian Swimme captures this journey when he writes, “The fundamental worldview of industrial society is that Earth is like a gravel pit or a lumberyard — just a resource for human use. We live disconnected from the evolving earth community, but our deepest allurement is a rich, intimate participation in the sacred powers of life, of nature, of soul, the ongoing adventure of the Universe and the ways that each one of us can reinvent ourselves.” Tens of thousands of Greeks experience the ritual of departing from an industrial mindset to pure physical and social immersion every August. Our future as a species should be characterized by this type of pilgrimage for it is the healing we need.
SOCIAL GRAPH = ATHENS, INTEREST GRAPH = THE ISLANDS: Externalized social tech at its best will follow Occam’s Razor. Leonardo da Vinci captured the Razor in his own elegant language: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” And few environments could be more simple than a Greek island in the summer. As one of Greece’s greatest writers, Nikos Kazanstakis writes, “How simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. . . . All that is required to feel that here and now is happiness is a simple, frugal heart.” He goes on to write, “You have your brush, you have your colors, you paint the paradise, then in you go.” Think of the social graphs (Facebook) as Athens, many types all melded together. Think of the interest graph (Twitter) as the islands: each island has its purpose. Santorini for lovers, Mykonos for parties, Tinos for Mother Mary, etc.
GREECE IS THE PHYSICAL MANIFESTATION OF AN IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE: The immersive quality of social networks matches the immersive experience of Greek culture. If you walk down the street in Athens, in any Greek city, you’ll see how over and over each person IS a kingdom unto themselves, ready at any moment to react or seduce, to envelop you in his/her ethos. A Greek may seem quiet on the surface but I will tell you that below this surface is a great molten center ready at any time to burst forth. And in this fire there exists the same Promethean tendency to distribute the magic of the gods to one’s parea, one’s tribe. The magic of the parea is the at the center of Greek culture. This subjective nature of the parea and its interests is captured in The Art of Immersion by Frank Rose:
“That was then. In the months and years ahead, professional storytellers of every persuasion—people in movies, in television, in video games, and in marketing—will need to function in a world in which distinctions that were clear throughout the past century are becoming increasingly blurred:
The blurring of author and audience: Whose story is it?
The blurring of story and game: How do you engage with it?
The blurring of entertainment and marketing: What function does it serve?
The blurring of fiction and reality: Where does one end and the other begin?” (http://www.artofimmersion.com)
THE PAREA: In a country like Greece, influence and connection is of particular importance to success and career momentum. The Greek is a FANTASTIC mix of being a very social animal AND being very private about matters to do with money and ownership. And that ‘s a nice mixture! But the social side seems to always win in the end and that’s a very important factor in understanding Facebook’s acceleration in the Greek social eco-system. Through Facebook, one may discover the tribe, the lover, and the career best suited to one’s interests: in short, Facebook is the ultimate digital Parea-producing engine.
As I understand it, a Parea in Greek culture is a circle of friends who gather and share their stories about life, their philosophies, values and ideas. The Parea is a venue for the growth of the human spirit, the development of friendship and the exploration of philosophies to enrich one’s quality of life that is all too brief in time. In Greece, the Parea is a long-lasting circle and cycle of life nourished by its members. And that’s exactly what social networks are engendering in the human family: a finely woven fabric of connection and communication resulting in unlimited new possibility found first internally, in the psyche, and then actuated externally.