For marketers to successfully transition to the role of facilitators, they need to align their efforts with what people are actually doing -- not what brands want them to do, Tobaccowala says. A simple yet stellar example of such alignment is the Nestle Purina site Petcharts.com.
"There's this enormous amount of interest in cat and dog content online, but interestingly, none of the major [pet food] companies actually have lots of traffic that comes to their websites," Tobaccowala says. Although these companies put a lot of effort into trying to generate content of interest to their audience, they just can't compete with the myriad content-sharing sites out there.
So, instead of spending time and money trying to generate original content to garner the interest of pet owners, Purina partnered with multiple content providers, such as YouTube and Flickr, in order to aggregate pet-themed videos, stories and photos on a minimally branded site.
It's a simple concept, Tobaccowala says, but perhaps one so simple that it's often overlooked. "People are already doing something," he says. "Why don't you align with what people are doing rather than spending a whole bunch of money trying to create stuff? But do it in such a way that it is consistent with the brand."
Another example of strategic alignment is Champion's Homestyle Sports YouTube channel, which allows everyday Joes and Jills to upload their own sports-themed videos. People are creating these videos anyway, Tobaccowala points out. So it makes sense for a brand -- especially one that markets itself as the sports brand for your everyday athlete -- to align itself with that content.
Ignore the silly things
It probably comes as no surprise to marketers that social media channels represent key ways in which companies can align themselves with the interests and activities of their consumers. But not every channel is for every brand, and the urge to play in every social media application is one that brands must resist, Tobaccowala says.
"Notice, nowhere have I said, 'Go do a viral campaign.' Nowhere have I said, 'Go do Facebook'" he says. "Because those are silly things. All of those things make sense only if they actually align with the client's overall objective.
"A big part of what [Denuo does] is tell clients what not to waste their good old time on," Tobaccowala adds. "Today, clients are wasting lots of time and lots of money on things that might not make sense for their brands."
If companies want good word of mouth, Tobaccowala says all they need to do are two things: have a superior product and have excellent customer service. "Do those two things, and that is what's going to give you positive word of mouth -- not viral campaigns, not Facebook, not anything else," he says.
That's not to say that marketers should abandon emerging media opportunities. But they should be creative and thoughtful in how they approach them. And Tobaccowala should know -- innovation is built into his job title. In addition to his role at Denuo, Tobaccowala serves on the board of directors of VivaKi, an initiative launched in June of this year that leverages the combined scale of four Publicis agencies: Denuo, Digitas, Starcom MediaVest and ZenithOptimedia. Tobaccowala is the top innovation leader across all four agency brands.
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