This week I interviewed Shelly Drumm on her experience at SXSW Interactive, and how it relates to inbound marketing, web dev, and SEO.
You went to SXSW Interactive last week, and we wanted to catch up with you to find out what you learned.
I know there’s always a ton of information on new innovations in technology and robotics and all sorts of awesome stuff, both directly related to the work Commerce Kitchen does and only sort of peripherally related.
I did learn that GNR doesn’t always refer to Guns N’ Roses.
Oh? Tell me more.
I went to a Ray Kurzweil talk with Lev Grossman. Kurzweil was talking about some of the advancements in Genetics, Nanotechnology, and Robotics, a.k.a. GNR. Took me awhile to catch on, embarrassingly. I knew he wasn’t talking about the metal band, but…
That talk was cool because he’s been predicting the arc of technology for several years, and he’s been surprisingly accurate. He predicted the unleashing of the web on the world within a few years’ accuracy and a couple of other bizarre spot-on predictions.
He started the talk referring to Watson–the IBM computer that played Jeopardy. He gave a room full of thousands of tech geeks an answer from that Jeopardy match, and no one was able to come up with the right question, but Watson did that in seconds.
So that was the starting point in his talk on the inevitable evolution of A.I. As we incorporate more and more technology into our lives–the way we interface with technology (smartphones, wearable computing) it becomes possible for us to access this sort of augmented brain.
Using our phones, we have this posture where we walk through the world staring down at our hands, so what happens when we don’t have to do that? When heads-up displays can overlay reality with the info we’re getting from those devices? When this becomes the norm?
I had this idea that smartphones should have a live camera that shows what you’re not seeing when you’re looking down at your phone. So, the floor below you, or whatever is in front of you.
That also came up in a talk with Amber Case. She was talking about location-aware services and how those affect engagement in the world around us. The problem is that these devices have such great potential, but they disengage us at the same time.
If we’re sitting in a conference with a ton of tech geeks, but we’re all hanging out with people in virtual spaces instead of the people near us, how does that impact us?
However, everyone seems really excited to see what the Google Goggles will look like. And that in-lens display will change a lot of how we interface with the technology that’s currently being beamed to us right now in our pockets.
But location definitely seemed to be a big theme at the conference. The founder of Foursquare gave a talk as did as these other two heavy hitters [Case and Kurzweil].
So this thing about location. That seems to really apply to our industry. Location-aware services. I know this conference was more about tech than marketing, and while Commerce Kitchen does a lot of tech stuff, we sort of do it from a marketing perspective. Do you think any of this applies to marketing?
Sort of. There was a really interesting talk on contemplative gaming. The three panelists were freaky smart. When we think of games typically we think of blowing shit up and war-like gaming, and there’s not much space for contemplation in games. These panelists were talking about play vs. work. They referenced a marketing situation, how Starbucks has turned play into work.
So, you may have always gone to go get your Venti vanilla iced latte, but now you’re scoring points while you do it. It’s basically work-ifying a game. These panelists were discussing game-ifying work instead, making play out of things we usually think of as work. So that pulled in the marketing piece.
Do you have any insight into how that would progress? Because it seems like it is a game, right? I mean, you score points, you get a free latte or whatever? Isn’t that what a game is? How is that work?
Well the difference is between work and play, right? Just because it’s a game doesn’t mean it’s playful.
Ah, I see. Play-ify vs. game-ify. So how would that change things like Fourquare or location services?
I have no idea.
That wasn’t terribly enthusiastic. But let’s just suppose that Foursquare, or ‘checking in’ somewhere, or even Klout, Favstar, etc., right now they’re game-ifying something fun and turning it into work; how do you think marketers could add the element of play back in?
I don’t know. I could think about it. This isn’t to say that there’s a problem with game-ifying. I don’t think it’s a problem. It was just an offhanded observation. There’s work to be done and we can get that work done through play.
Do you want to talk about the Juggalos? Because that’s the talk that was most closely tied to marketing.
Yes. Totally. But I’m sort of fixated on this local thing because that seems really huge in search right now. Local signals, local communities. And that expansion of local. There was an article a few weeks ago that discussed this new idea of local and how it relates to what cities your city is directly connected to by flight.
Someone is Los Angeles is a lot more likely to be friends on Twitter with someone in Toronto than someone in St. Louis. But I feel like there’s a lot more to this location thing–to play, to work, to rewards, to gaming. Definitely something to think about. But let’s talk about Juggalos.
Well it’s interesting that you mentioned community because the ICP’s [Insane Clown Posse] marketing method is all about community. It’s about creating local threads–much like you were talking about with Twitter–these ties to community where it doesn’t really matter where you are.
The woman that gave the talk on ICP, Jenny Benevento, highlighted a few things that ICP has done really well. More than anything, they’ve highlighted community before product. You see that also with Harley Davidson. It’s more about being a Harley guy than actually owning a Harley.
So it’s more about self identification than consumerism?
Right, but at the same time ICP is still pulling in $10 million a year, even though they haven’t released an album in a long time. It’s all coming in through merchandise.
They’ve given their audience something to believe in; they’ve created this whole mythology. And they’ve built this crazy community. They throw their fans a party every year that they lose money on. Something like 100,000 people show up at this enormous gathering in Illinois. This year they only lost $15,000 on it, but they consider it one of their best investments.
Another interesting piece that the speaker mentioned is that ICP protects its community in ways that most brands don’t. A sketch comedy group was going to do a spoof of a Juggalo child funeral–and it really does happen, Juggalo funerals with “Wicked Clown” [ICP's label] coffins. ICP actually contacted the sketch comedy group and said you can make fun of ICP itself as much as you want, but don’t make fun of Juggalos; don’t make fun of our community.
Wow, so they’ve really built themselves an empire and they actually protect their people.
Yes, I think they’ve actually published a book on their marketing approach as well.
That’s amazing. Do you think that this kind of approach to marketing could work for any other industry or brand? What can other organizations learn from this?
Find something people are excited about. Find a niche – Jenny also mentioned Jimmy Buffet’s Parrotheads movement and Harley Davidson. Find it and build from there. Most of ICP’s online environments are created by fans. Basically this kind of marketing only works when you can create a lifestyle product. These are all things people can get excited about.
So it isn’t necessarily something we can try to apply to all industries?
No. Or all products. Though she did make a connection between tech companies; when ICP first started, they were a small band in Detroit and nobody knew who they were. So someone asked, how do you build from there? This goes back to the local discussion.
It makes more sense to have a small group of dedicated individuals spread the word about your product than to spend $50,000 on an ad campaign you bought and paid for. You have to get people really really excited.
The hard part is distilling that into lessons. It might be impossible to build a hardcore fan base on something like lawn care, so how can you distill some of those ideas so they’ll work for your industry?
That seems to be the big question, doesn’t it? How do you get something to go viral when you’re creating a product of necessity rather than a product of identity?
I do believe that if you have a great product or service, and if you treat people well, then that builds its own devout fan-base, don’t you think? When you have an ordinary product vs. a lifestyle brand, then you just have to be really good at the basics: customer service, attentiveness, etc.
Right – and that reminds me of this crazy customer service experience I just had. I had to buy a replacement part for my favorite earphones, and I called a Denver-based sound company that carries the headphones. They gave me a part number, but couldn’t order them for some reason. I searched the web and found some company in Indiana – Sweetwater Sound – that carried them.
I placed the order, and within a couple of hours I got a phone call telling me that they were able to ship my product same day, and that I should have them within a week. A phone call. Crazy, right? Then the next week I got a call saying “Hey – we just saw that your package should have been delivered today. Just checking to make sure it’s what you wanted!” I opened the package and it was filled with candy. Smarties and Tootsie Rolls and stuff. I was totally in love with this company on the spot.
BUT – the part was wrong. My local company had given me the wrong part number. I emailed the guys at Sweetwater and within a couple of hours again, I had someone call me to clarify what I was looking for and to apologize that it might take them a few days to see if they can find the right part.
So, I still don’t know if I’ll get the right part, but you know what? If I can’t, and if I have to replace the headphones I’m definitely going to order them through these guys, even if it means paying a bit more than ordering through Amazon or some other online retailer. I don’t have a lifestyle built around good earphones or other sound equipment, but these guys’ customer service blew my mind to the point that if I can order from them, I will.
So you’re a Sweetwater ambassador? Are you gonna start dressing up like a giant headphone and promoting this company like mad?
Totally. Does that come with face-paint?
Most definitely. Well, thanks for telling me all about your SXSW experience. There’s a lot to think about here, with localization, lifestyle marketing, and game / play-ification.
Shelly Drumm is a WordPress junky with upwards of seven years of WordPress web development under her belt. A librarian by profession, she has a finely-tuned understanding of information seeking behavior and she uses that expertise to build websites that are thoughtfully structured and, as a result, easy to use. Her passion is to give clients, regardless of their tech skill level, control of their web content by delivering beautiful websites built with an intuitive, web-based content management interface.