Bram Pitoyo, Portland Creative/Tech Event Review

Light Up Your Brand: An Event Review

Light Up Your Brand: A Session of Social Media Self-Discovery

UPDATE: Thanks to Ascentium for linking up to this review.The Afterglow

When: Wednesday, June 25, 2008, 1:30 – 5:00 pm.

Where: Aura Restaurant and Lounge, which thanks to its atmosphere was an interesting venue for this daytime event.

What It’s About: A primer to social media marketing strategy, viewed through numerous case studies from the eyes of four influential speakers from four equally influential companies.

I have to admit: I came with a bit of skepticism—wondering whether the speakers will view the social web as yet another venue to command and conquer, rather than to participate in and learn from. I was proven wrong—and couldn’t be happier. One speaker even bravely admitted a failed attempt that he ultimately remedied.

I find these: their desire to genuinely engage people and admit mistakes, to be an indicator that Light Up Your Brand as an advertising and marketing conference, really did “get it.”

(On that note, I am strongly compelled to attend more local events from these industries, and wish that they are made more public/advertised better ie. through

But on to the note.


As agency, we, Ascentium, were asked a lot about social media, so we decided to bring together leaders from industry and hear what they think. Light Up Your Brand is a peer group with great people.

Chaz Edwards from Federated Media

Web 2.0 for Marketing: Rise of conversational media.

  • The first phase is a C:\_ (command prompt) interface
  • The second phase is a place where brands like Microsoft play—where, instead of learning an arcane language, you can “poke” and figure your way around a graphical interface.
  • The third phase is a place where the search bar is the interface—as technology is made more accessible.

Web search affects how we think about brands. Today, your Google result page is your corporate homepage.

So not only is search the new interface, search result pages are really a proxy of how your brand is doing.

But if you think of things this way, it’s unsettling just how much the web real estate is not controlled by you. Google is favoring conversational sites rather than informational ones—and your site is largely informational. Wikipedia, fan sites and blogs can and do show up higher than your company site.

This is the rise of conversational media.

Need proof?

  • Conversational sites like YouTube, Wikipedia, Blogger, Facebook, flickr and WordPress is growing at a much faster rate (double-digit) than, say, Google, Yahoo!, MSN,,, Disney, iVillage, etc.
  • ComScore now gives “Conversational Media” its own category.

There are two points that I want to make regarding that last statement:

  1. First of all, the fact that 600 million people uses Conversational Media means that it’s not a niche category anymore. We have to think of this is a business opportunity.
  2. The vast majority of these users, however, are people who participated in a very low impact way. Only 1 to 10 percent of the total visitors are curating contents.

If what I told you is true, we as marketers need to figure out a way to develop conversational marketing further.

Historical analogy:
Apple. 1984. Super bowl. It was one great TV commercial. It was advertising content that was as good as the television program. The quality of this marketing was amplified into the press. The ad reportedly was worth $5 million dollar that night—and this didn’t include word of mouth (ie. watercooler conversation the day after.) Collectively, all these conversations and press started to build Apple’s brand equity and caused us to pay premium for their products.

Case studies:

  • Intel builds morning newspaper for Enterprise IT
    popurl is a smart technology that takes all the RSS of the world and puts it in one place. We contacted Intel. It would be great to build the morning newspaper for Enterprise IT with the technology that powers popurl.

    Intel said: we’ll fund this, but we want our logo at the top and Intel’s relevant content displayed in the sidebar.

    On the first week, the site got 40,000 visitor—50% of them returned.

    With this, amplification followed through conversation that happened in Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, StumbleUpon. Free marketing.

    But something else happened. 6 weeks into this program, I typed ‘Enterprise IT.’ Google found 36 million pages.

    The 8th one on the list was Intel’s popurls page. Here’s a marketing that started as advertising (popurls,) had PR amplification, and ultimately inserted Intel into the audience’s conversations.

  • AMEX OPEN Forum

    AMEX wasn’t getting good clickthrough with a web banner campaign. People came to the OPEN website, apply, then leave when they’re done.

    But we found people that came to the site on a regular basis, and they spent more money.

    The question is: how can we engage and get them to be more loyal to the brand?

    Solution: AMEX OPEN became a publisher. We partnered with independent blog authors and business people whose audience intersects with OPEN. The idea is to get those people to create valid information about small businesses that would be useful for the forum visitors.

    Thousands of visitors validated content by voting “this post useful”

    69% of traffics were referred by independent, non-affiliated media sites.

  • Dell: Tapping into the “Green” conversation

    Dell is a latecomer to the “Green” bandwagon. How could they establish credibility? We created a drawing app of Facebook. Dell then invited user to draw what “Green” means to the user. 12,000 submission were entered for this contest.

    Dell engaged a core group of people very deeply:

    1. Over 60MM impressions
    2. Over 12,300 graffiti
    3. Thousands of fans of the contest
    4. Millions voted for their favorite Graffitis
    5. Hundreds of thousands visit Dell’s and joined the conversation


  1. Build your competence as a publisher—either in-house or through partnership with existing content leaders.
  2. Think of your site (and ads) as brand assets: emissaries you set free for your fans to help tell your story. It is destined to be free. Share your brand assets freely.
  3. Join your customers in the conversations they’re having, in places where they’re naturally aggregating. Don’t try to force them into your environment (ie. Go to Facebook, not Dell’s own website.)
  4. Think of search result as your ultimate report card—a proxy as to how well your brand is doing.

David Veneski from Intel

Three phases of internet:

  1. The Portal Era – Content is king
  2. The Search Era – Context is king
  3. The Social Media Era – Contacts are king

We consume media in 3 ways:

  • As recipients: film, TV, radio, press and outdoor advertising, etc.
  • As interpreters: internet, interactive TV, ambient, guerrilla and mobile advertising
  • As participants: MySpace, podcass, YouTube, flickr, Facebook, Digg, etc.

As marketers, we’re facing uphill battle with this new reality:

  • Decreased attention
  • Increased consumer control
  • Proactive advertising avoidance
  • Multi-tasking is the norm
  • New habits, new expectations
  • Democratization of content—user generated

At Intel, we’ve done a ton of TV advertising in the past. Today, we hardly spent anything. Those TV campaigns were great, but today, people are consuming ad on significantly different media. By advertising online, we spent one-tenth of the cost and got the same result.

Syndicated content and contextual linking on relevant website. We have the opportunity to take our :30 TV ad, embed it on the web and serve it up as contextual ads.

Intel + digg
We sat down with Kevin Rose and said, “we want to work with you. What would it take to build something that excites your audience?” He replied, “our users are dying for a new visualization model.” So we built digg’s arc.

We also sponsored Facebook’s Grafitti app. We don’t just built it for philanthropic purpose, mind you. We want to market to you, but not do it disruptively.

The result: we generated 60,000 additional impressions to our brand that we didn’t expect. Yesterday [Tuesday], we launched a Robot Contest. Got 475 active graffitis in the first 15 hours. Users are embedding Intel’s branding in their graffiti. It’s the perpetuation of our brand in a way that we don’t really anticipate.

Then we went to slashdot and built Intel opinion center. We basically put our brand in a very skeptical environment. I have to admit that it wasn’t successful. But the key thing that we learn: never shut it down. You have to see the conversation through, even though it may be painful to read. It’s okay if they say bad things about your brand. You’re going to get feedback—and it’s not always going to be good—but you have to listen and address every single one.

How we solve this problem: we got the really smart people at Intel (chip engineers, developers and such) to have candid conversations with slashdot users (who are interested but very skeptical.) Then we tell them to forget the marketing speak, and talk to them just as if they would if they talk to their cubicle mates.

My takeaways

  • The online arena is changing
  • Intersect the customer where they naturally go—don’t assume that ‘if you build it, they will come.’
  • Collaboration is key: work with good vendors. We enjoyed, for instance, in working with SourceForge, Slashdot’s parent company.
  • Participation breeds loyalty.
  • Give first—take second—the audience will know if you are disingenuous. [Editor’s Note: frankly, the fact that the speakers addressed and acknowledged the importance of being genuine made this event worth the afternoon.]
  • Keep pushing innovation

Patrick Crane from LinkedIn

There’s a positive change created through social media.

Why do people find the need to express themselves?

  • No longer defined by their employer
  • Career mobility up
  • Average job tenure down
  • A professional brand is key to winning jobs, employees and customers

The six degrees of separation? It’s becoming a truism today.

You may ask, then: is the forecast realistic? Can the social networks earn this much advertising value?

Yes, and no. Yes, it’s going to earn advertising value. But no, it’s going to be measured in conversations instead of revenues.

These facts breed opportunities for a company to market themselves differently.

Passive discovery and active search
Google will not always be the first place to search for information. Today, there are numerous search engines and ways to discover news (ie. DIGG, StumbleUpon, etc.)

This is my personal experience. I got an iPod and wanted a really cool headphone for it. I went to Google and searched for “premium headphone,” but it didn’t give anything that I really wanted. Then I though, “What if I run the same search term through my contacts?” I found what I’m looking for.

Viral pass along
Company should use Web 2.0 to harness the power of a good relationship they’ve earned. For example, on Facebook, the fact that somebody just joined an influencer group for a particular brand is distributed/pushed to everyone of his/her contacts. Everyone knows. It generates interests. And so on.

For example: the LinkedIn Blackberry fanatics group registered 300,000 members. Funny thing is, they don’t go to Blackberry’s website to interact and troubleshoot stuff. They do it amongst themselves, unmediated by the company, in Linkedin.

Deep dialogue

Southwest CEO, Gary kelly, asked on LinkedIn:

“How can an airline make you more productive?”

The question got 137 answers in essay length, which got distributed to the respondent’s contacts by way of push notifications (ie. “So and so just answered this question”.) This was, essentially, a dialogue with the brand. Southwest, then, came back to all the respondents with a message that said “we listened to you. Here’s what we did based on your suggestions. And here’s a business class ticket for you.”


Microsoft’s Bill Gates asked on LinkedIn:

“How can we do more to encourage young people to pursue careers in science and technology?”

The fact that he joined LinkedIn (he’s the most searched person, by the way) at about the same time that Microsoft launched the Windows 2008 brought the latter into the spotlight.

We’re launching a new subscription and discussion environment for groups. Today, about 1,000 companies are already doing it in a beta kind of environment. This feature will be rolled out to all groups on late July.

Companies and brands: here’s a way for you to create your group, do it in private or public mode, and have a dialogue with your audience there. The thing with dialog is that you really have to do it even if it’s a little bit scary. I applaud David Veneski for having the guts to say that Intel got slammed on Slashdot.

Why do I think it could work for marketers?
Because it’s already working for publishers.
For example: on BusinessWeek and most major publication websites, there’s a sidebar that contains story tools (Digg this, Stumble this, share this, etc.) Brands should do this, too. There’s no harm in encouraging people to share.

There’s even a potential new ROI model here. The idea is that all division within the companies, not just their “web team,” should interact with communities around the brand.

10 practical steps for marketers

  1. Sign up and connect. Don’t leave it to your agency.
  2. Consciously built out your networks. Connect to influencers you know.
  3. Join groups and engage with people.
  4. Understand opportunities for ‘virality.’ See how it works
  5. Focus of the authenticity of the dialog. The Slashdot example is brilliant. Talk to the customers like you talk to the guy besides your cubicle. Remember: the internet is a place where the smallest instance of marketing-speak can be smelled from a mile away.
  6. Ask yourselves: is my company ready for this?
  7. Expand beyond a test budget for advertising.
  8. Go beyond the banner ad.
  9. Develop new measurements for ROI. Sure, you can measure most traditional media results by the amount of money you get from it; but what’s the value of getting 1,000 answers from customers—all with deep insights?
  10. Create a group of cross-functional evangelists within the company.

James Rice from Ascentium, who have been kind enough to share his presentation with us. It is embedded below for your reading pleasure, preceding my quick takes (and often verbatim notes.)

RODEO Branding:

  • Relevant
  • Open
  • Distributed
  • Experiential
  • Original

There’s all this fuss about social media.

But email has been social for day one.

And humans are pretty social, right?

Social media is a coffee house.

So, no offense, but shut up, brands.

You should start by listening. Figure out the purpose and value that you can bring to your audience before you say anything.

Does badge branding works digitally?

Subscriber marketing: the next evolution of direct marketing. Stop thinking about your customers as “target” or “segment.”

If you have things people can get fanatical about, do let them know. Let your subscribers and most loyal customers in on the secret first before you start to “go viral.”

Experience marketing. Like what Seth Godin said, there is more value in reaching the right 5000 people than the 5 million people who don’t care.

“Runs, not hits, win games.” ROI should be based on depth of engagement.

In fact, in this participation economy, ROI should mean Return on Interaction.

Dell does IdeaStorm. Starbucks does myStarbucks Idea. This is great and all, but don’t do this if your brand isn’t ready to listen with intent.

Even if you’re not ready to do this, however, you can at least foster a community and add value to what’s already occuring.

Discover, Activate, Maximize. Convert prospects into users, users into fans.


Technicality: ☝ ½
Translation: Complete understanding of the art and subtleties of xterm not needed.

Interestingness: ☝ ☝ ☝½
Translation: If you work in social media, many of the things that were talked about in this event should come as no surprise. I find the speakers’ frankness and desire to learn as signs that point to changes in how the industry play in the social media spaces.

And that, if you ask me, was Light Up Your Brand’s biggest allure.

What I learned From This Event In Six Words:
They get it. Now, do you?


3 thoughts on “Light Up Your Brand: An Event Review

  1. For me, someone who has the ability to translate ideas from one discipline to another, I found great affirmation of my ideas in this post. The “RODEO Branding” bullets are where I’ve been trying to take my teams for a few years – I’ve just never articulated it in that way!

    Good stuff – thanks for sharing!

    This is on Delicious for later reference – and now RSS’d!

  2. This is probably one of the most comprehensive reviews I’ve ever read of any event. I felt bad that I missed it, but I was able to get it from you through your wonderful mindshare.

  3. caseorganic,

    Thanks for the comment! I strived to capture the immediacy of the events and talks that I attended—warts and all. Even the questions, remarks and “ambient noises.” I feel that they all add to the wholeness of the event in their own ways.

    Besides, if you want comprehensive, you’ll go here 😉

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