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Suomi Finland and Nokia – A Benchmark for European Blogging

August 21st, 2006

As I was visiting some relatives in Finland last month, I noticed that very few Nordic Web sites had incorporated blogging and New Media features at a corporate level. Blogging and podcasting have already become commonplace amongst the general population in Finland, as it has in the United States, however there is a glaring gap between most corporate Web sites and available New Media technology.

Something inherent about the Finnish society is that people adapt to technology very quickly. In fact, it is a country where you find youth text messaging live television talk show hosts from their mobile/cell phones although they’re being charged to do so. Finns, and I’m supposing other Europeans, would most likely embrace companies or organizations that would open up the level of transparency in regards to products, services, and community. For instance, Nokia is Finland’s most influential consumer brand, of which people proudly show off their new model phones amongst friends and family, along the same level as a car, home, or other status symbols. So as to exploit and enhance this brand power, I could certainly envision Nokia providing an interactive community where its customers could go online to chat about new product features, designs, like and dislikes, desires for future technology and so forth. Not only would this create further intimacy amongst Nokia’s customer base, but also it would enhance customer evangelism while at the same time providing in-depth and basically free unsolicited market research. Plus, Nokia has already experimented with the blogosphere by sending bloggers new phone models and had phenomenal response; why shouldn’t Nokia then take blogging to the next level and engage their customers? Nokia also has a few non-employed enthusiasts blogging about their products, the next step would be to envelop this community within the Nokia.com sphere to help shape the content and engage in the discussion.

So as to prove this isn’t a Nokia centric blog, Fazer, Finnair, Hesburger, and Stockmann are four other Finnish companies that come to mind that could leverage new media technology and customer evangelism. In fact, no matter the firm or industry, the main ingredient for success is to identify a loyal customer base and empower enthusiastic individuals with tools like blogs and customer reviews so as to become a participative marketing and sales extension for little to no cost. Although this may appear somewhat iffy in terms of ethics, the truth is that most customer evangelists don’t want to be bought, they’ll proactively solicit the virtues of a company’s products and services simply because they feel an inherent personal emotional identification around the brand. In other words, the brand becomes a reflection on their personality.

In conclusion, I’d like to reiterate the old mantra to those of you who haven’t heard it before … great brands create consumer evangelists by empowering their customers to be a strategic marketing force. Companies that have succeeded, such as Apple Computers, Under Armour, and Southwest Airlines, know what makes their customers tick. If you’re a marketer reading this blog, I highly encourage you to check out some articles under Google keyword search using “Customer Evangelism.” One article in particular that I would recommend is the “Customer Evangelism Manifesto” by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba; it has honestly revolutionized our corporate drive at RisingLine New Media Marketing. Anyway, I hope this blog provided some helpful information. Please feel free to provide feedback or ask questions.

Fiskars: Cutting-Edge Customer Evangelism

August 2nd, 2006

I recently became aware of the inspiring story of Fiskars, you know, the company that makes the orange handled scissors.  When started learning about Fiskars I thought, “What marketing insight could be gleaned from a company that makes such a boring commodity?” I was soon to learn that it’s the commonness of their product that makes the Fiskars story so inspiring.

Imagine being handed the job as the marketing director for Fiskars–a successful international corporation with a legacy dating from 1649. You’ve been given the world wide marketing responsibility for….long pause….scissors.

I’m sure it’s out there, but I can’t imagine a product that would be more dull (not literally of course) and more resigned to the classification of “commodity pumped out of China for a few cents each.”

Just for fun, here’s part of the provocative description of scissors from Wikipedia:

Scissors are a tool used for cutting thin material which requires little force. They are used for cutting, for example, paper, cardboard, metal foil, thin plastic, food, cloth, rope and wire. They are also used for cutting hair and nails.

So, given this bleak scenario what has Fiskars done? They’ve taken one of the toughest products imaginable and perfected the basic essences of marketing by:

  • Identifying the real need behind why their customers buy their product.
  • Branding themselves around those needs (not around their product).
  • Creating strong emotional bonds with their customers.
  • Creating an online community offering real extended value.
  • Embracing Customer Evangelism Marketing.

It’s not necessary for me to explain Fiskars’ near-perfect emotional branding, they’ve done such a great job it’s apparent just by visiting their website.

The story of Fiskars can be a big downer too. When I absorb the marketing masterpiece they’ve created out of such a ubiquitous product, it takes away all excuses for why any other product would be difficult to successfully differentiate. Almost anything, compared to scissors, would be better positioned to achieve marketing success. If you’ve been using that type of excuse, just imagine what the marketing leadership of Fiskars would do if they were at your company selling your product.

Fiskars deserves high honor for their leadership in quality consumer evangelism marketing, and for the inspiration they provide to the rest of us.

Politics and Blogging

August 1st, 2006

As RisingLine continues help the blogosphere grow in acceptance with mainstream organizations, such as corporations and government institutions, I began pondering why our elected officials are not taking advantage of blogging technology. For instance, since elected representatives are typically engaging in dialog with their constituents from a reactive perspective, why not make it proactive? I am familiar with this segment because I used to work in a United States Senator’s office as an intern and I was responsible for fielding inquiries from the public. I quickly learned that most inbound communication to our office was in the form of complaints or grievances against the government or our representative.

That being said, I believe blogging presents a great opportunity for our elected officials since transparency in politics is becoming a huge issue. Statistics from most polling organizations reveal the public at large does not trust the government. In fact, many voters view professional politicians as crooked, greedy, or disengaged – although this might not always be the case, perceptions are critical in politics.

Bringing this back to New Media, blogs are a way for elected representatives, or their staff, to actively engage with constituents via a transparent media. Although there may be fear in opening up a Pandora’s box filled with disinformation, the content within a blog can certainly be contained within a set of content and technological parameters. For instance, should disingenuous visitors post false information or lewd content, the false information can be quickly responded to by either another constituent, or a staffer, and lewd content can be deleted by a site administrator. Plus, with internal prompts, RSS, and XML technology, representatives and staffers can easily keep on top of what is being posted on their blog site.

Finally, from a personal perspective, I would sincerely appreciate the opportunity to respond to and dialog with my elected official to let them know my opinions on issues that they have commented or voted on – such as abortion, taxation, property rights, education, government spending, foreign affairs, etc. I certainly don’t believe that I’m alone in this opinion, since most people I chat with about politics feel the same way. Also, if you’re an elected official or a staffer who is reading this blog, I encourage you to perform a Google search on political blogs to view the energy out there amongst those who desire more transparency in government.

It’s no secret that one of the primary reasons for low voter turnout in the United States is that voters, especially younger voters, feel no connection with their representatives or candidates. Yet these people are voicing their frustrations and concerns online through blogs. I’d like to point out that the conversations about elected officials and politics are already taking place, blogging will afford elected officals the opportunity to participate if they’re willing. For a great example of an elected official utilizing blog technology, I invite you to visit the Anthony A. Williams’ blog. It might be an eye opener.

The Perfect Storm-New Media Marketing

July 29th, 2006

Perfect Storm

The Perfect Storm: technology
meets the marketing concept.

If you haven’t decided whether the buzz over developing new media promotion tools, like blogs, RSS, and Podcasts is hype or reality; it’s time to come out of denial. It’s a brand new business world out there and as Warren Buffet might say, “It’s time to get some skin in the game!”

It’ not bad news though! The Internet has finally evolved to a place where unambiguous success can be achieved by those who recognize the opportunity and make a die-hard commitment to develop a radically different outlook on business, and really, on life in general.

I hate to state the obvious, but just in case we’ve got some readers who have missed what the Internet has already done to the business landscape, here are some quick facts from a Google query:

>>Forrester Research, Inc. estimates that 47.3 million North American households have online access and 43.9 percent have browsed online. Of the 43.9 percent, 65 percent have made purchases.

>>Time-starved consumers are regularly going to the Internet first to determine which local service company to patronize.

>>Consumers are rapidly becoming more comfortable using credit and bank cards to make purchases from security-backed virtual retailers.

>>Large corporations and governments have already mandated the use of online transactions to their downstream vendors.

But remember, that’s history now

These early years of the 21st century are radically different than the “old” Internet described above. The one where people became comfortable with the stability, security, and general trustworthiness of receiving information making purchases. We have just entered a brand new era, one that is especially historic for business. Why?  Because for the
first time in the industrialized world technology has aligned in a “perfect storm” with the marketing concept—the concept that businesses should make all decisions based on the needs of their customers. It’s always been great
concept, from when Adam Smith first wrote about it in 1776, but never realized in a macro market. Today we
have the tools to make the marketing concept a achievable reality on a broad scale.

Businesses driven by real-time communication with customers (i.e. the Marketing Concept) create an almost Utopian scenario—the customer’s needs are best met, the business is optimized for profitability and growth, and society benefits from a net gain in opportunity from the customer and investment profit from the business.

It’s a radical new order…where a business’ best customers can
become its best salespeople.

It’s the realization of a true free market economy in which the consumer has the most direct influence over the management of businesses, institutions, and organizations. It’s a radical new order within society where a business’ best customers can become its best salespeople. Adam Smith would be proud.

Customer Evangelism meets New Media

We here at RisingLine believe that the best strategy to achieve the Marketing Concept is customer evangelism. Developing a customer evangelist marketing strategy insures that your business is truly focused on meeting the needs of your customers and maintaining interactive communication with them. Ultimately, customers are so pleased with the
quality of your solution, that they organically become your passionate advocates.

We group the technology used to launch customer evangelism under the term “New Media.” It encompasses ulta-modern Internet technology like blogs, RSS, Podcasts, and content management systems—allowing the Web to become a conduit of real time communication, collaboration, and community—creating the perfect storm of marketing strategy and technology tools.

How do I start?

Funny you should ask, we just happen to be in the business of New Media Marketing…helping clients to gain strategic insight and catch the passion of customer evangelism, then providing them optimized web tools.  So, a great place to start is our website…to to our front page and work you way through:  http://risingline.com. For a great introduction to Customer Evangelism, we’ve posted the Customer Evangelism Manifesto by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba. To see some of the New Media technology applications, (Web Edit Content Management, Custom Blogger Blogs, etc) you might like to visit our live demo site and try them out for yourself. To get a feel for the power of RSS we invite you to visit a non-profit site we sponsor, http://freeRSSdisplay.org.

We of course are ready to provide some more personalized insight through a phone call, WebEx, or visit…just let us know how we can help.

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