Marketing in the Digital Age: Why Join the Digital Conversation

Small is the new big but insufficient nonprofits are taking advantage of the current digital media opportunities to galvanize their devoted audience.

Why not?

I am scared of the new and unfamiliar. I will not get fired for buying more advertising. I have done my job if I show that I can paint within the lines. Unlike advertising, word of mouth does not have established metrics and demographics data. I like the sense of control when I centralize the brand identity and message.*

Why now?

1. Marketing is about conversations.
Don’t talk down to me. National TV advertising is down. Radio is down. Print ad is down. Non-interactive Web site is down.

Talk to me like a human. Tell me a story. And give me a reason and an easy way to share the story with others.

2. Marketing is about invoking feelings.
Humans are irrational. Purchase decisions are, more often than not, made on the basis that a new product will change my life for the better.

People are buying one thing from you: the way the product makes them feel. People are looking for a free prize, a spot bonus—an exceptional attribute that’s worth telling their friends about.

How do you make people feel?

3. Marketing is about connections.
Quoting Seth Godin: “Nobody cares about you. Almost no one cares that you exist.” Advertising, like campaign posters, will get your logo, face, blurb in front of them. But is it the door-to-door, person-to-person conversations that are value add; that gives people cause to feel like they are part of a bigger, better reality. This keeps people coming back and talking to others about you.

People have limited time. You don’t have a right to their time. And guess what, they are also selfish. How are you, in that brief interaction, making them feel bigger, more connected, more savvy?

4. Marketing is about fashion.
One word: iPod. Apple fans are not purchasing technology. iPod ownership is a ticket to be part of the hip crowd.

Three words: Live Strong wristbands. Advocating a cure for cancer is a no brainer. Figuring out a way to satisfy the fashion-conscious, cause-driven, selfish—what can you do for me because there are 50 other things demanding my attention—person is the key.

Ideas for Ten Thousand Villages USA:
1. Start a corporate blog: You have a fabulous, amazing story to tell. Put aside 10 percent of your resource to listen… and to talk, to your customers. Unless you are prepared to be candid, transparent, timely and controversial, blogs are not right for everyone. However, successful viral blogs help spread a good idea and make people feel good, feel smart, feel connected.

2. Create a meme: Compact the fair trade ideology. It is too broad an idea to be easily conveyed or retold in N. America. Red Cross = saves lives. Jet Blue = cheap, good travel. Whole Foods = organic fare. It’s not easy to compact fair trade—I know, I have tried. Perhaps you can show, not tell. See #3.

3. Get visual: Not a lengthy feature. Imagine a 2-minute YouTube clip chronicling the growing of cotton to the point of purchase of a fair trade T-shirt. Call it the “Lifecycle of a Fair Trade T-Shirt” and spread it among your advocates. Imagine a single-panel, edgy cartoon on the back of a Ten Thousand Villages business card (dubbed blogcards by Hugh McLeod) conveying the meaning of fair trade. Try not being tempted to flip the card around to talk about fair trade the next time you hand one out.

4. Make the connection: Pilot an online community where people can leave messages for and hear back from artisans. People get to upload their fair trade item to the Web, artisans get to see what’s become of their handicraft, people get to witness (pictures and/or words) what’s become of their money (new house, school for the kids, community center, etc.) and both parties get to talk… and listen. Arrange a learning tour for the most active participant and a visit to States for the most active artisan.

:Post inspired by recent events and writings of Seth Godin

*I am a firm brand identity advocate. I do not underestimate the sweat, power or thinking behind a powerful brand, or the value it brings to the customer. But my role is to weigh that against balanced creativity. Think of the delightful variations around the Google logo (holiday and fan created).