Social Media Meets Event Management

Had a great time working with Phil Crowther and colleagues at the Sheffield Business School Event Management Hub today. Practioners and academics with an interest in event management and social media came together to consider the role of business to business social media in the context of event management.


The audience was a mix of communications experts very familiar with the role and tools of Social Media to less experienced, interested to find out more people.  The event was sponsored by Eventbrite and as well as me doing a short intro talk giving a 10 min view of the world of  B2B social media from my perspective there were interesting talks from Paul Webster of Learning who you can follow @watfordgap and Sally founder of Social Bean a brilliant event based community network.

As for me I noticed in my research prep for my 10 minute stint that there was actually very little if anything published by academics on the role and effectiveness of Social Media in B2B context in terms of buyer usage and perspectives.

What I tried to convey was the significance of the growth of Mobile search and the changing character of people who were now controlling budgets. The Facebook Generation are now emerging as a powerful force in B2B management and they are changing the way solutions are sought and chosen.

I was lucky to stumble across a top line report from Base One which outlined their survey of social media and b2b buying.

I also mentioned a couple of cases where social media novices had seen an impact on their activities. The first was beekeeper Ken Ward in Shropshire who noticed a tweet from a local farm shop which meant he could approach them to supply honey. The other was his son Simon who owns an office refurbishment company.

Ten weeks ago Simon had no on-line presence. Today he has an NJRcoolspace website, Twitter account @NJRcoolspace which he uses to tweet images of jobs he is working on and sharing useful articles he finds, he has a Pinterest account, a Google+ page etc.

For Simon this activity has to be so much more than just getting the message out. It is an integral part of his sales strategy. Does it work? It certainly does already online inquiries have resulted in two projects and interestingly 40% of searches have come through mobile!

The Dread Of Going Shopping

On Saturday I visited a major outdoor clothing retailer. The experience confirmed why I dread shopping and got me wondering about the management thinking that underpins and drives the activities of sales assistants.

Much has been written about the changing role of the retail outlet in the context of increased online shopping. It seems apparent to me that there is a disconnect between the rhetoric of retail changing to suit changing shopping behaviours and the death grip of a pushy sales mentality.

Retail psychologists will recognise some of the irks I have. Firstly the experience of being mugged the moment you step across the threshold with the notionally friendly greeting of ‘are you alright there?’ . Whilst the content of the communication is friendly, it is socially inappropriate and is not an expression of interest in my welfare. It is a vacuous utterance from a shop employee who really wants to ask me if I’m going to buy anything from them. In that sense it is deceptive.

Talk about ‘processing’ customers as resources to extract their value. Step one open the ‘process’ with a technique that obliges people to say ‘yes’ because pop psychology tells us this is a good thing. Good for who? The customer?

Having resisted the urge to run out the store because my need to privately explore the product range I have been browsing on the Internet is stronger, I am then confronted with my ‘new best friend’. My new friend wants to follow me around the store to notionally help me but the ‘spider like’ attempt at constraining me in a silken cocoon of product feature verbiage is suffocating.

I just want to escape. I don’t want to be in the place. I don’t want to ‘helped’ to make a buying decision as if I’m suffering from a knowledge and capability disability.

When will retailers learn that sales assistants (sic) driven by an aggressive sales philosophy sugar coated with facile friendliness is bad for business?

People are going shopping for different reasons now. They are going informed and they are going to explore. In that exploring they will use their own capability as thinking adults to buy the product they want.

This was a black experience for me and one that might just stop me exploring the outdoor brand I like in that retail outlet even though the T shirts tell me I shouldn’t.

Goose Fair 2012 Customer Experience Without The Relationship?

The first week of October sees the arrival of the oldest traveling fair in the world to Nottingham. The Goose Fair is probably one of the amusement and entertainment industry’s biggest brands and yet it has formed over the years without the need for centralised brand management and the policing of style guides.

It is a confederacy of family sub-brands that coalesce at a particular time and a particular place to become a brand experience that thousands of people look forward to every year. Come Sunday the tangible evidence of the brand will dissolve as the showmen’s families and their rides go to the next place.

The relationship the visitors have with Goose Fair is interesting. The brand of Goose Fair lives on in the memories and imagination long after the fair has gone and long before is arrives again the following year.

No loyalty cards, no discounts no gimmicks, no effort devoted to forming lasting personal relationships between customer and ride owner. The only relationship that is formed is with the brand experience. A full sensory experience of sights sounds, smells and excitement that the showmen know works time and time again.

So does Goose Fair invite us to think differently about the way brands are portrayed in management text books? Would a style obsessed creative director enforce changes to the ‘look’ of the ride and kiosk artwork, would a zealous brand manager seek to homogenise the offer so that it fits with an over arching corporate ideal? And if they did then what?

The brand of Goose Fair has survived because of its loose configuration and a the delivery of very clear idea. Excitement and Fun. That if you like is the mission and the individual show people choose how to address that mission the way they feel is best. Maybe corporate entities could learn something from a brand that has survived for hundreds of years?

In the final analysis Goose Fair delivers. It doesn’t make vacuous promises about making you happy, fulfilling your dreams, promising you magic. Every year simply turns up and does it. People remember it and that’s why they keep coming back, and telling their friends and family.

International Students Transform Yourself With Sheffield Hallam University

The UK has a great reputation for higher education.

I was fortunate to support an international student experience event in Istanbul recently with the International Student team at Sheffield Hallam University.

Istanbul is an amazing city and we were working closely with a local Turkish education agent Edcon My job was to introduce Sheffield Business School by running a typical lecture and seminar session.

The session went well and it was interesting to work with students and potential students from Turkey. I even picked up a bit of the lingo too – Hoshgeldiniz being a good starter. My aim of course was to give delegates a flavour of the International Marketing courses we do at SBS.

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The Perils Of Brand Invisibility

I think I have discovered a new Marketing phenomenon. As all great discoveries seem to happen it came about purely by chance.

When my father passed away I inherited his Toyota Avensis.  It looks just like the one pictured here. They say every cloud has a Silver Avensis don’t they!

I have been using the ‘Les Mobile’ as it is affectionately known for a while,  frequently driving along the A52 in Nottingham to get to the train station and I have noticed a very consistent thing. I seem to be regarded as invisible to other road users!

Our other car is a 2 litre VW tdi and I often drive the same route in that too but other drivers behave completely differently when I’m driving that. Typical behaviours when I’m in the Toyota include, seriously close tailgating, undertaking and cutting up braking distance and verbal abuse such as ‘out of the way old man!’ combined with the regulation gesticulations.

So as a student of Marketing Management I thought ‘what’s going on here?’ and it seems to me that it is a manifestation of the very deep motivations and values that car brands tap into. As Volvo allude to in their recent advert,  cars are symbols or ciphers of ourselves, they signify who we are and what we stand for.

Cars  proclaim to universe our sense of self esteem and our relative status in the social traffic jam. Drive an old Toyota and you are instantly stereotyped. As Bob Cialdini says  – click – whirr! Avensis – click – Mr middle aged, grey anonymous nobody who is in my way! – whirr.

I wonder if there are stats that correlate Brand Invisibility to car accidents and anti-social car driving behaviour? Maybe the military should re-think their investment in cloaking technologies and simply kit out the army with a silver Toyota Avensis, just think of the money they’ll save!

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What Does The Value Of A £963K Bonus Look Like?

The controversy over Royal Bank Of Scotland Chief’s £963K bonus hit the headlines this week.

As you might have seen there has been a range of reactions broadly along a spectrum from ‘he deserves it’ (the bank, and UK Financial Investments) to ‘he doesn’t deserve it’ (politicians and outraged members of the public).  Clearly the debate hinges on what people consider to the value of Stephen Hester’s contribution to the business.

People can get very ‘green eyed’ over the rewards other people achieve, and in my commercial past I enjoyed business performance bonuses. So as a general principal I don’t have a problem with people who make a positive difference to an organisation and who face risks and responsibilities getting additional rewards.

Stephen Hester’s bonus get’s me wondering though. Wondering especially about what innovative and insightful difference he has made to RBS. The sort of difference that would leave ordinary people like you and I slapping our foreheads and saying ‘you know, I wish I’d thought of that!’

From the outside it seems he is clearly a ‘safe pair of hands’ and this reputation has obviously been well earned. My question is this…is being just a safe pair of hands enough to justify a massive bonus?

Tell me if I’m wrong, but being fortunate to have the senior job post and then overseeing some rather obvious tasks that most final year undergraduate business students would identify as necessary in the context of RBS hardly seems worth £963k. A bonus yes, but £963k for re-balancing a business that needed re-balancing, and the obvious move of cutting costs? Where are the bright ideas? the new value propositions? the game changing ways of working?

There is the argument that the bonus is relative in the context of the vast sums of the banking world and the competition for talent in a global market place.

Stephen Hester a Lionel Messi? I can’t really say. Mind you if the remit was ‘to get it sorted’ and he has done that then he probably deserves the bonus because there was always the possibility he might not have! It’s just that it seems for alot of people there was a very low probability of Stephen screwing anything up because it was so bad in the first place.

We are told “the bonus reflected Mr Hester’s work towards rebuilding RBS”. What do you think?

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Realistic Business Engagement Advice For Business Schools



There is a fine line to be trod between customer orientation and customer worship. This presents a real challenge for a business school.

Surely a key aspect of a university business school’s value proposition is not just a claim to research independence but also an independent advisory voice that can express things without fear or favour.

Once again my author of the week Michel de Montaigne offers insight. In his essay on the role of ambassadors (chapter xvi) he also summarises the key purposes in society for clerics, soldiers, merchants, and courtiers.

Courtiers have special responsibility for ceremonies and manners. They are close to the Patron and this seems to be a very fortunate position. I don’t think it is too much of stretch to see a business school in the role of courtier. However in chapter xv de Montaigne points out the problem of being a courtier…

“A man that is purely a courtier, can neither have power nor will to speak or think otherwise than favourably and well of a master, who, amongst so many millions of other subjects, has picked out him with his own hand to nourish and advance; this favour…”

Is it feasible to avoid the ‘courtier trap’ as business school I wonder?


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