The Blog

After learning a lot at the Economist Marketing Forum in San Francisco last week, I had a chance to head in the complete opposite direction for the iMedia Breakthrough Summit in Fort Myers, Florida. As usual, the iMedia folks hosted a great event that brought together people from the brand, agency, and media sides of digital marketing. Once again my notebook was full of some great insights and ideas that only seem to result from being there. Of course, my goal is to provide you, dear readers, with as many of those insights and ideas as possible in this blog—with a meaningful marketing spin, of course.

Overall, the two main focus area of the event were Twitter and mobile. It seems that the consensus from all was that mobile is close to going mainstream, while Twitter was the exciting new tool that promises to explode. Here are some of the specific takeaways that I collected from the guest speakers:

Christi Day, Emerging Media Manager, Southwest Airlines

I don’t think I have seen anyone who has a brand personality that better matches the brand she works on than Christi Day. Her goal was to make us smile as well as learn as she described how she got Southwest into the world of Twitter. She and her team in media relations first tried out Twitter on a lark in July 2007 and quickly gained a following. Eventually it became so successful and followed that Christi brought in people from both media relations and customer service. Instead of outsourcing Twitter responses to an agency or team, Christi takes the responsibility for herself, 24-7. Her tips for other brands joining the Twitterati: (1) Be Fun—connect to events, stories from real flights, and viral videos; (2) Be Real—show your personality and what’s going on in your real life; and (3) Be Relevant—provide information and notices, and promote fare sales. I was a little surprised to hear that Southwest is not tracking how the Twitter account leads to actual sales, but that is in the works. You can follow Christi at

Ed Kaczmarek, Director of Innovation, Kraft

Ed is the newest marketing rock star in my mind after hearing his story of the launch of the Kraft iFood app for the iPhone. It is already a huge success according to Kraft’s expectations, with downloads in a few weeks that met its three-year objective, and PR coverage valued in the millions of dollars. Ed talked about how the iFood app “brings us closer to becoming an indispensable food resource for consumers’ meal planning, preparation, and shopping needs.” This is a perfect example of how a great brand purpose leads to marketing with meaning.

I loved hearing some inside lessons about how Ed’s team got this remarkable innovation through the company by “keeping it under the radar,” and that a big key to success was leveraging Kraft’s database of 15 million consumers to drive initial awareness (another benefit of a decade of meaningful relationship marketing). Another huge help was Apple’s decision to feature the app on its App Store front page, which drove traffic “better than any paid marketing.” The tool is catching hold with new consumer targets including Gen-Y and Men (35 percent of users, “far above” the percentage in the Kraft database).

This is just the beginning for iFood. Ed alluded to upgrades on the way and said that it was built to be a platform for retail customers and even external marketers. Even working with competitors is possible, as Ed said that, “If we really want to fulfill our goal, we have to allow others in.”

Lara Green, Digital Marketing Manager, CoverGirl and Max Factor (P&G)

Perhaps the quote of the event was Lara’s claim that “mobile is no longer innovation” for her brands at P&G. In other words, it’s just the best way to reach the young girls and women that her brands target—and they have done enough experimentation to feel comfortable with this space. Another key to success is the fact that mobile has gotten a strong read in marketing mix modeling, which is the single best way to compare ROI across media alternatives. As evidence of the mainstream nature of mobile for CoverGirl, the brand actually has four mobile focus areas: (1) a strong WAP site; (2) a text-to-sample program; (3) a mobile CRM program; and (4) integration with other marketing activities. I was a little surprised to hear that a beauty product can “look good” in the small space of mobile screens, but its banners are getting 1 percent to 2 percent click rates, and when text-to-sample offers appear in print magazines, the supplies are exhausted in days. Another great example of meaningful marketing from CoverGirl in mobile is a ColorMatch tool that helps people make the right choice on the go and at the retail point-of-purchase.

Dr. Spencer Wells, Genographic Project Director, National Geographic

iMedia consistently mixes in pure digital marketing presentations with diverse speakers such as Nolan Bushnell, the father of video games. I specifically enjoyed the presentation by Dr. Wells, who is in the middle of a long-term project to categorize and glean human migration insights by sampling the DNA of thousands of men and women around the world. The Genographic Project is a long-term investment by National Geographic and partner brands such as IBM. It began way back in 2005 and is now starting to spin off insights. I loved the fact that National Geographic is funding the project and building personal connections by selling a $100 kit that allows anyone to submit his or her DNA and receive insights into family history. According to Dr. Wells, his management worried that no one would buy the kits, and hoped to sell 10,000; but more than 297,000 have been ordered so far.

So, another great collection of insights, some of which will make their way to my upcoming book. For more, check out the Twitter stream here. I hope to see you there next year.

3 Responses to “Takeaways from the iMedia Breakthrough Summit #imediasummit”

  1. Chris says:

    Regarding the sample supply being exhausted, my experience is similar but further analysis of the responding group points to the vast segment of freebie-hunters, a very well-interconnected group, that do free samples and coupons as a hobby, rarely owning anythng bought at full price. I have to question whether sampling programs ever produce a real, bottom-line profit of any kind, either directly or indirectly. Was this addressed at all?

  2. Bob says:

    Very good question, Chris. Unfortunately we didn’t get into this during the session. I can tell you, though, that I have seen data that suggests that the “freebie finders” actually are drivers of sales and word-of-mouth. I think you’ve got to do a big enough sample offer such that the mass, representative audience outnumbers them.

  3. Bob,
    Nice observations and takeaways. I would have to agree that Christi from Southwest Airlines totally fits their brand. Her perky/quirky personality really shows thru in Twitter.

    I have video of her and myself in our twitter session that will be posted on my Twitter book blog today. It was great meeting you this week as well.


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