Further to previous lists posted here and here, following is an update of PR, marketing and social media blogs that I try to regularly keep tabs on.
On a positive note, it's fantastic we're starting to see some interesting homegrown Australian blogs providing commentary on marketing, communications and new media. Those marked with an asterisk (*) denote the Aussie blogs.
I noticed in the weekend papers that four books penned by Stephenie Meyer occupied the top four spots on the list of Australia's best-selling books (confirmed here, so I wasn't dreaming).
I'm sorry, who?
Now, I shouldn't play dumb here 'cos I live with a couple of recently converted Meyer devotees so I do know a bit about her. Rather, I'm echoing the thoughts of many Australians (I took a straw poll of six people to confirm this - how's that for robust research?).
For those unaware of Meyer, she's written a series of books - a teen vampire love saga, if you will - which has obviously struck a chord not just with teenagers but adults as well, a la Harry Potter given her massive popularity.
In what is testament to the power of consumer-generated word-of-mouth (with some help from PR activity, a web presence including MySpace and the odd retailer promotion etc), Stephenie Meyer has seemingly rocketed out of nowhere and is now blitzing it with her Twilight series - Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn.
I say seemingly because all of a sudden Meyer is 'everywhere' and selling books by the truckload. Now, obviously she's been around for ages (she's written five books and you can't do that overnight!) but, to me, this rapid trajectory is the stuff of TIPPING POINT.
In doing a little subsequent research, I discovered this is indeed the case, as illustrated by online monitoring service Hitwise (although they refer to an 'inverse' tipping point when it comes to Meyer).
Further reinforcing the word-of-mouth theory is the large number of fan-based websites that have sprung up in Meyer's honour, a sure sign of grassroots support (a necessary driver for word-of-mouth), not to mention the fact she's got over 83,300 friends on her MySpace page.
Now that Twilight is heading for the movie screens, maybe Stephenie Meyer will indeed become the next JK Rowling as predicted.
More and more blue-chip companies and brands are dipping their legs into the social media water (as opposed to merely their toes!).
Fantastic to see!
In recent times I've been busy compiling a list of examples of corporates who are getting involved with blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Second Life et al; it's still very much a work in progress but in the meantime, check this out -- ex-Forrester analyst Peter Kim has put together an A-Z List of Social Media Marketing Examples which is definitely well worth bookmarking.
It's a solid if not eclectic list with some interesting examples, ranging from the well-documented successstories through to some companies that are attempting to use social media in innovative ways.
Corporate Twitterforays overall tend to be a little naff although some brands, with a little effort, have potential while Forrester and Wholefoods are making great inroads in this space.
There are also several examples of consumer'backlash' social media executions - what can happen if an angry group of consumers turns against your brand.
All in all, Peter Kim's list is definitely worth spending some time on if you're interested in a broad overview of what's happening in social media from a corporate and brand perspective.
There's no doubt the corporate world globally takes itself waaay too seriously.
There's also no doubt that such conservatism often manifests itself in a company's marketing and corporate communications.
Okay, so let's check off some common hallmarks of today's corporation:
bland and unoriginal marketing (in the box thinking),
obsession with control of message (top-down approach to communications),
predilection for chest-beating (we are the greatest, you too will love us),
an unwillingness to take risks (in an era where not taking a risk is often the riskiest option),
far too much emphasis on 'vanilla' TV advertising (at the expense of cheaper and more effective marketing communication mediums), etc
...and yet companies still want to stand out from the crowd - I just don't get it.
Which leads me to the purpose of this post, and that is to highlight a company that 'gets it' - a company that is not afraid to have a bit of fun, to put itself 'out there'.
I'm speaking of Southwest Airlines, the highly successful US airline (being from Australia, I'm not overly familiar with Southwest so apologies if I state the obvious at any time).
I've heard over the years that Southwest is a fun and quirky brand and that it's highly popular with its customers, and it's not hard to see why. The fact Southwest has an interesting blog scores a big tick, but that the CEO gets involved and has a bit of fun simply ratchets it up a whole new level.
PHOTO: Southwest CEO Gary Kelly as Gene Simmons from KISS
I recently stumbled upon this post by Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly and was absolutely blown away by this man's willingness to show his quirky side. Put simply, Kelly's personality epitomises the company's brand perfectly, which is a bonus for the company's marketing team you'd imagine.
The upshot of the blog post is that every year, Kelly has a bit of fun with his Halloween costume. On this occasion, he's asking the blogosphere (i.e. his airline's customers) for some suggestions as to which character he may become this year.
At time of writing, the blog post had attracted some 180 comments and Kelly had received some pretty interesting suggestions!
PHOTO: ...and as Edna Turnblad from Hairspray
How many C-level executives at large corporations do we see freely expressing their personalities like Kelly? Unfortunately, not too many and the world is all the poorer for it.
Do I believe that every company should be fun and quirky? Not at all (that would get a little tedious, don't you think?).
But, I do strongly believe the corporate world could learn a lot from Gary Kelly and Southwest Airlines i.e. stay true to your roots and be open and genuine and authentic in everything you do.