The comments, both here and on Facebook, on the previous marketing lessons posts have been terrific and chock full of examples, some of which we should strive to emulate, and others that we definitely want to avoid.
In this post I’m going to share my three picks for official sponsor companies that got it right at BlogHer ’10. These are by no means the only ones that did, but I have some specific learning points in each example.
Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project
I’ve been aware of the Responsibility Project since they reached out to me just before last year’s BlogHer. I don’t get many pitches and respond to even fewer but given my interest in ethics, disclosure and responsible blogging, I’m a good fit for their message of “do the right thing” and have written about the Project a few times over the past year. I was delighted when I received an invitation to its outing to Ellis Island the day before BlogHer. I’ve been to New York many times, and seen most of the main tourist attractions, but never Ellis Island. So I RSVP’d yes, and made my initial travel plans to get to NY that morning in time to join the trip. (BTW in the end, my plans changed and I went to NY on the Tuesday to film a roundtable discussion on celebrity worship, also for the Responsibility Project.) The Ellis Island trip was terrific as a sightseeing excursion and I highly recommend it. Details for organizing your own visit are on SCR.
Here’s why it worked as a blogger event.
Unique – The Ellis Island venue was a nice change from the usual meet & greet cocktail party/luncheon accompanied by swag bag that we’ve come to expect from blogger events. It also fit well with the theme of responsibility, although I admit that I nearly laughed out loud in the brief luncheon presentation by Peg Zitko, VP of Public Affairs at The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation when she tied the concept of responsibility to President Reagan’s decision that the American people should be responsible for restoring the Statue and Ellis Island through private donation rather than federal subsidy. Nothing against her message about the importance of the public contributions to the restoration — that’s an important story — but responsible is not exactly how I would describe Reagan’s policies. Oh well, never mind…
The group was small, about 30 women. This made it easy to mingle and chat, and actually get to know each other. Liberty Mutual PR agency Ketchum told me they invited bloggers who they have been working with already, like me, and others who they wanted to get to know better because they thought the Responsibility Project themes would resonate for them.
Here are posts from:
The swag bag was appropriate and thoughtful — sunscreen, lipblock, bottled water, some snacks and an autographed copy of the Ellis Island cookbook written by our tour guide Tom Bernardin.
Limited lecturing – Because the trip was sightseeing, it seemed likely that the company presentations would be brief so we could enjoy the venue. They were. Senior Vice President, Communications Paul Alexander greeted us after we boarded the bus at the Hilton, said a few words and showed a brief film of clips from Responsibility Project commercials and media coverage. At lunch, we were treated to the afore mentioned brief talk from Peg Zitko and a screening of Second Line, a short film directed by and starring Danny Glover. That’s about it. Instead of bombarding us with presentations (or crafts) the Liberty Mutual and Ketchum people mingled and enjoyed the trip with us.
Executive commitment –– Major kudos to Paul Alexander who joined us for the whole trip, and managed to still look cool and crisp in his suit and tie at the end of the day, when we all looked a bit frazzled and fried. This is the kind of commitment from company executives that bloggers want to see. Not a few words and a hand wave as he or she is escorted from the room, and on to presumably more important things. I was most impressed by this, although perhaps I should have expected it. It is after all the right thing to do, and I have come to believe that Liberty Mutual walks its talk.
Procter & Gamble
I didn’t spend much time on the Expo floor. In my early career, one of my duties was tradeshow coordinator and I spent my fair share of time setting up, working and dismantling trade show booths of all sizes. As a result, I have a love-hate relationship with trade shows. I love the customer contact and the energy when you have a great conversation with a prospect or a reporter. However, the very venue reminds me of endless hours manning show booths or waiting for freight to be delivered etc etc. As a result, unless there is something I am specifically interested in, I tend to cruise through as fast as possible. In the case of cleaning products and groceries, my family will tell you straight up that I am not the buyer 🙂 so I also don’t want to waste the booth staff’s time chatting with me.
However, I was impressed by the sheer size of the P&G booth, and heard many good things about it from folks who spent some time with the P&G reps. Even if all you did was walk by, you got the idea the P&G had made a serious commitment to BlogHer.
Other things P&G did right: In addition to the show floor, it had suite space for its new brand Align. The reflexology massage was awesome! More importantly, though, it was paying attention before BlogHer. As I’ve mentioned previously, it offered (and I accepted) free samples of Align for the attendees at the pre BlogHer BBQ. That gives the brand some mindshare even before people get to the conference. Given the noise and competition for attention once BlogHer starts, this is smart marketing.
Pepsi had a lot of things going on during BlogHer but I’m going to single out one, because I think it is very important, not just as a marketing lesson, but as an example for anyone interested in gender equality. Or parity if you prefer.
It is a well known fact that there are not enough women elected officials in this country. Not enough women run, and of those who do, not enough win. The day before the main conference, BlogHer partnered with the White House Project to hold a workshop for women interested in running for office. NY York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand also held a brief meeting with political and NY bloggers during the conference to focus attention on women as candidates.
However, I believe our political reality won’t change, or change enough, until the business world changes. Until more women are in positions of business power and choose to use those powers for good. To make change in the world. And to support women candidates.
Pepsi, helmed by a woman, CEO Indra Nui, seems to be doing just that. The company took the opportunity at BlogHer to showcase some of its senior executive women. It brought a panel of senior executive women to BlogHer for a “Sofa Summit” moderated by Campbell Brown to talk about Pepsi’s forays into social media, being a senior executive, nutrition and yes, even their families. I was privileged to be invited to this breakfast session attended by about 30 women bloggers, many (but not all) of whom write about gender issues.
This is important — to see women in senior executive positions at top brands.We need more of it.
Now you may have noticed that I didnt include any of the entertainment brands in my picks. Does that mean I don’t think Ubisoft got it right with Let’s Dance 2? Of course not. The dance-offs in the booth were brilliant, and many many bloggers tremendously enjoyed this booth. It’s also a slam dunk. Nothing in marketing is ever easy, but it is a lot easier to come up with fun ways for customers to engage with entertainment brands. Fun is already the point.
It’s a whole lot harder to make insurance, soap and soda sexy. That’s why Liberty Mutual, P&G and Pepsi are my top picks.
Unrelated to BlogHer specifically, but apropos of brands getting social media engagement with their customers “right,” brands that have a track record of positive engagement with customers in other venues tend to hit more than they miss when deploying social media tools. They aren’t perfect — no one is — but they already seem to understand the importance of connecting with customers over shared values, not simply products.
On October 14, I will be speaking at the Pennsylvania Governor’s Conference for Women in Pittsburgh on using social media to build your brand and advance your career. Early registration price is $135 and expires Sept. 1oth. But… courtesy of the conference organizers, I have a pass to give away . Just leave a comment on this post by noon eastern time on September 14th. I’ll use a random number generator to pick a winner.
Disclosure: Liberty Mutual hosted us for the day, providing transportation to/from Battery Park and the Hilton, the ferry ticket and guided tour of Ellis Island and lunch, plus the afore mentioned swag bag. I also participated in the celebrity worship roundtable; my extra hotel costs for Tuesday and Wednesday nights were covered and the participants received a small honorarium for our participation. I attended Pepsi’s Sofa Summit breakfast on Saturday. P&G sent samples of Align for the attendees of the Boston pre-BlogHer BBQ at my house, and like many attendees, I received a reflexology massage at its BlogHer suite.