Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What makes logos great?

In the most recent edition of Australia's Marketing magazine, appears one of those articles that does the regular rounds - Australia's greatest logos, world's greatest logos, complete your own geographic coverage.

The regular chestnuts turn up again in this edition with the ABC's sinewave adaptation taking number one spot, the Qantas flying kangaroo number two and so on. A relative newcomer to the Top 10 is Woolworth's apple peel logo. The usual retinue make up the numbers - Commbank (let's forgive the 'CAN' campaign for a minute), 7 Network, BHP Billiton, 9 Network and so on.

Perhaps the only surprise is that the national broadcaster's sinewave beats the two commercial networks' logos to take first place. Why surprising? Because the relative number of viewers of ABC is significantly less than the other two.

Of course, public exposure does not make a great logo - or it shouldn't. But there is an uncanny link in the Marketing mag panel's top choices and exposure. The TV networks achieve it on the basis they are what they are - TV networks. I believe there is still no greater medium for brand awareness building in Australia than free-to-air TV.

Then, of course, there is Qantas. The iconic flying kangaroo is embedded in the Australian consumer psyche, although one would argue that awareness is outstripping affection with many right now. Woolworths spends more than just about anyone on its brand profile, Commbank is a prolific advertiser. Perhaps of the nominated logos, BHP Billiton's is the only one that is not currently backed by a multi-million dollar advertising campaign or equivalent.

For what it's worth, I'd like to propose a fewAussie logos that I think are great and capture the essence of their business:

For sheer cheek 'up the establishment' cheek, I love Mambo. Music to one's ears (?). Is it still cool to wear Mambo. Who cares? They almost challenge us to be uncool.

The graphic integration of the 'R' and 'C' in the shape of a wave captures what this company's heritage is all about.  Rival Quiksilver also scores highly in the logo department, but I put Rip Curl marginally ahead because of its simple execution. Iconic.

Absolutely no bull from the R.M. Williams paddock. I love the way the company has not tried to contemporise its outback Aussie feel. You can almost smell the cow dung on the leather.

It's football. Say no more. Enjoys a high profile, but why? Hundreds of thousands just love what it delivers. Footy. 

Yeah, right. It goes with the footy. Almost interchangeable with the logo above. Go the pies!

I don't know how the hell this logo equates to lawn mowers, but it does. Unchanged for as long as I can remember, even if it has dallied with engines not produced by Briggs & Stratton in recent years. A cut above the rest.

Any other entries into the logo Hall of Fame welcome...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

It's wrong on so many levels

Maybe I'm too dumb to fathom some things, but how often have I heard this statement in business? Usually when someone says 'it's wrong on so many levels', I can only see one reason why it is so. What are the other levels? How many levels form the threshold at which you decide not to do something?

I'm sorry if this entry includes more questions than narrative, but I fear I might be missing out on some very big chunks in the formulation of business strategy or, more accurately, the drivers of rejecting a strategy. The most worrying thing about this is that, if you're part of a collective of supposedly wise heads,when someone says this, everyone else in the room nods in agreement.

Am I the only one at the meeting who is one dimensional in their thinking? Others can clearly penetrate the obvious first level to explore other levels. No. I think the answer may be that I may be the most savvy in the room in being able to see through this fraudulent comment.

Either the person saying it is embracing the entire collective by using 'so many levels' to cover their own incapacity to recognize the other intellectual arguments others may have. A less generous explanation may be that they know something is wrong with an idea, but cannot place their finger on it, so invite others to fill in the gaps.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to add this to the Forbes list of most disliked cliches used in business. I am perfectly happy in my simplistic, superficial world to accept a single wrong is enough to convince me not to pursue something.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Coles reverts to Status Quo

Francis Rossi what are you doing? For old rockers, who won't even admit these days to being fans of 'The Quo' as 70s rock band, Status Quo, was affectionately known, playing the Cole's 'big red hand' guitars is a perfect symbol of fading youth and, indeed, relevance.

It's a startling revelation and even reality check for all of that vintage to witness the absence of Rossi's former long mane. In lieu, we see some thinning strands, swept back almost as a reference to virility and cool. And the glasses! Like having grandpop doing karaoke to the once proud, yet simple chords (or is it just a chord?) of Down, Down.

Yes indeed, Coles is pushing prices down and it's appropriate that this response to Woolies' newest, fresh food brand campaign is belted out by Status Quo. For it's a return to type for Coles, with it's price-led advertising leading a race to the bottom.

But as they push prices down, so they deflate the morale of people who remember the golden years of Status Quo. (Oh dear! Just remembered I still have a Status Quo vinyl at home called 12 Gold Bars. Don't tell Coles, they'll use it as a promo line in the confectionary aisle.)

As you look at Rossi who, admittedly, is quite a bit older than me, instead of reflecting on Coles low prices, you have to ask yourself: "Have I deteriorated that much since I listened to The Quo?" It's enough to prompt hanging up the air guitar for good.

The sight of those old rockers opening their guitar cases only to feign surprise at the tightly strung 'red hands' inside is quite sad. And then to bastardise a song that no one possibly thought could be further degraded to create the 'Down, down prices are down' lyric is just too much to accept. The rock gods and immortal chords in reflecting their mortality are, in fact, a reflection of your own.

I've got to hand it to Rossi, the vocals appear to hold up for at least the duration of the advertisement. It's more than can be said for some of his contemporaries, who still occasionally warble to entranced, or more likely effused, crowds in Victorian vineyards on Sunday afternoon.

It's clearly a bit of a lark for The Quo. Reputations cannot be tarnished when most of the viewing audience is either too young to know who these guys are, or so engrossed in mobile devices during the ad breaks to not even notice.

But the point of the advertisement is well communicated - down, down, prices are down. Perhaps not down as much as Status Quo's appearance fees these days.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The day Campaign Palace faced the schizophrenics

The older cohort of marketing types are looking back with some nostalgia at the evaporation of The Campaign Palace, the iconic creative hothouse circa the 70s to the 90s.

Some of their great work is featured here and I've heard much commentary about the demise of advertising creative in the age of YouTube since the announcement of the Palace's closure.

I did have some experience of Campaign Palace in the late 1980s. I was employed at then travel powerhouse, Jetset, in those years. I learned a lot - mostly about how bad agency briefings could be.

In one particular instance, I recall feeling pity, even remorse for even turning up, for Palace account director, John Poulakakis, who in Palace's dimly lit black boardroom faced a house divided. You see, like most travel wholesaler / retailers, we were not used to paying our own marketing bills - or at least not 100% of them.

For the most part, campaigns were funded by airline partners and anyone else you could rope in. Hence the rise and rise of the schizophrenic brief. On the one hand, we wanted campaigns that would build the brand of the fledgling Jetset Travel Centre retail network, on the other, in this particular instance, there was our 50% owner, Air New Zealand, who wanted to fill trans-Tasman seats in a damn hurry.

I'll never forget John's exasperation towards the end of the two hour briefing or, should I say, debate. The brand development brief around warm, caring Jetset retail types did not mesh easily with the frantic, price-driven rush to fill aircraft seats.

It was brand building versus tactical imperatives and, of course, who was picking up the tab. The meeting ended with no resolution and a Palace resolve to try to accommodate both briefs. I'll never forget the end result - half page newspaper advertisements divided in two, half featuring the Jetset Travel Centre positioning, the other the last-minute seat sale.

It was not a campaign that The Campaign Palace would later feature in its portfolio and, I note, one which does not feature in the highlights package. That meeting taught me much about putting crap in and getting crap out - whether you're programming a computer, or briefing an agency.

We did enjoy some good times with the guys at The Campaign Palace, but our schizophrenia soon resulted in a parting of the ways.

The key to their success was identifying the key message and developing creative that delivered it in an effective and memorable way. In their day, they were certainly the Antz Pantz in advertising (still so hot!).

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Brand differentiation worth a sausage

Don't you just love a citrus grower who smells like oranges? And a zany farmer in the armour? And a truck driver with the joke I cannot remember? If you don't know who I'm talking about, the latest Woolworths TVCs created by Droga5 have completely passed you by.

Woolworths has taken a significant step to ending the price war with supermarket rival Coles and steer us to making 'quality' and 'fresh' decisions.  Commercially, it's a big call for the people running Woolworths' brand - a stance against being beaten to death by the big red hand that points prices downwards for Coles.

Woolworths has chosen to get back to brand differentiation because, as we know, discounting might bring market share, but it can also deliver commercial ruin and unhappy shareholders.

It will be interesting to see what they do with the stablemate Masters big box hardware brand. So far, my only recollection is the call 'Don't you just love competition', positioning the brand in the category as a rival to Bunnings.

I made my Masters debut at Mornington outside Melbourne the other week. It's certainly very tidy and not in the mould of a traditional hardware store for blokes, with the customary bins of plumbing bits and stands of stormwater pipe to fantasise over.

White goods take pride of place, with one of the glitziest arrays of washing machines I have ever seen. Some of the Samsung machines would not look out of place in a night club - perhaps they're for laundering money, but I digress.

I would not be surprised to see Masters positioning itself for the female handyman, if that is not a contradiction in terms, or perhaps the male housemaid.

But there is a real opportunity that the brand Masters have so far failed to capitalise on - and it's right on their doorstep. It's the sausage sizzle at the front of the store.

I was amazed to see that the sausage sizzle was an exact duplicate of the Bunnings sizzle. Heavy cotton canopy, six burner BBQ, same happy combination of community minded adults and kids folding snags in bread with onions and sauce according to taste. Sorry, girls and boys, you're going to have to put more sizzle into the idea if you're going to differentiate.

How about gourmet sausages with a selection of mustards from regional growers - maybe even one of those whacky Woolworths fresh food people grows unique mustard seeds. Perhaps the guy in the armour could serve them, while a tradie from inside the store lubricated the moving parts with some motor oil off the specials stand. Nothing wrong with cross-promotion.

As it is now, Masters is failing its first brand promise by not delivering the competition we love. The sizzle thing is just trademark infringement! I know a guy who goes to Bunnings every Sunday just for a look around and a sausage. Sad though that may be, the point is that Bunnings has trademarked the car park sausage sizzle as part of the retail experience.

Clearly, I'm unimpressed. I'm not a Masters convert and will chew over my future purchase decisions at the Bunnings sizzler.

Voicing her difference

I have the good fortune to have a 14 year old daughter who helps keep her middle aged Dad at least partially in tune with popular culture. Sorry, wrong - who totally immerses her Dad in popular culture by taking control directly and remotely of every audiovisual device in the household and car.

That's why I spent many consecutive weeks recently tuned into 'The Voice' on the Nine Network. It's an interesting concept. Remove the visual cues from the contestants to make initial selections based solely on 'the voice'. But that's not what this is about.

Over the course of the show, old dudes like me try to look cool by declaring the winner early in the series - sort of lording it over their teenage kids by bringing several decades of music cool and discernment to the task of blowing everyone away with their wisdom. How could anyone who had heard Slade, Kiss and Elton John not be better equipped to assess the contestants than those consumed by Chris Brown, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber? It's a lay down misere...

But these talent shows are really all about who can build their personal brand in the space of a few short months. Happily, I picked Karise Eden to win The Voice way back at her second appearance. If I had as much success at Flemington Racecourse, I would have time to more frequently keep this blog up to date.

Why Karise? Because among the other aspirers to the throne, her voice was absolutely unique. Close your eyes and you could be in one of those ice cool clubs in New Orleans listening revelling in soul. None of the other contestants on the show had the capacity to stamp their unique mark - their brand.

Good luck Karise. Don't compromise. Too many brands fail because they lose their soul.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tidying up Google's mess

I wrote a couple of pieces on some days off from the normal gig last week. For those who clicked through from Twitter and elsewhere previously, my apologies for the tatty presentation and lack of paragraphs. You can blame me, but I'd prefer it if you blamed it on Google's Blogspot.

When is Google going to get on the pace and ensure bloggers like me can upload properly formatted material from an Apple mobile device, in my case an iPad?

I understandthe Google-backed Androids are locked in an interstellar fight to the death with the iWorld, but I don't appreciate being collateral damage. It's enough to get one thinking about WordPress as a better option, although I understand there's less scope for some of the finer points of formatting like colours, fonts etc.

But if I am continually thwarted in my attempts to bore the world stupid with my blogs, then I will migrate to WordPress. I know it won't change the world, or perhaps even break anyone's sleep, but I will have the satisfaction of knowing that I took a stand.

Once again, apologies to any readers this week who appreciate the finer points of paragraphing etc. I have now tidied up the page using ancient desktop technology.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Brand journalism? The media and commerce conspire

Way way back, when I began a journalism cadetship on The Courier-Mail in Brisbane, there was a massive separation between advertising (promoting brands and products) and editorial. Never the twain should meet in those days. But the other week, I joined a LinkedIn group called 'Brand Journalism'.

It was the final sign-off for me from journalism, as I once knew it, and PR and marketing. Don't get me wrong, I see nothing wrong with brand journalism, as long as it doesn't masquerade as pure journalism, like many of our so-called current affairs programs do.

I crossed to the 'dark side' when I left newspapers in 1981 and moved into Ford Australia's public affairs office. It wasn't long before I was elevated to the lofty position of 'Product Information Manager', which was the first formal transition from PR into marketing. From there, from the journalism purists point of view, it was all downhill for yours truly.

It's now widely acknowledged that there are more journalists working for corporate masters than reporting on them. Over 80% of many newspapers, more in some cases, originates from copy or ideas generated by brand journalists than from those employed in the media. Whether this is a good thing is another issue, but it's a trend endorsed by the growth in media distribution and the 24-hour news cycle.

Get past the first section of your daily newspaper, or the first two items on your current affairs program and you're well into understanding the growing nexus between editorial and PR / brand journalism. You're into channels hungry for content and grateful for any corporate largesse that may help fill them.

What's worse is the evidence suggests the public is generally happy with this arrangement. They're happy for a current affairs show to research whether it's cheaper to shop at Aldi than anywhere else. They think all content should be free on the Internet.

If they wanted truly independent editorial, they'd pay subscriptions to independent news services. Indeed some do, but not enough to sustain a genuine global news organizations. So brand journalism is here to stay, perhaps to become one of the fastest growing professions in corporate communications, as companies not only interact with media organisations, but also service their own growing channels in the social media and web.

Always thought of myself as a journalism turncoat until I discovered brand journalism. I've subscribed!

Leveson inquiry - an archaelogical dig into what the media used to be

Pretty damning isn't it? My last blog entry was January. Slack, uninspired? What has been the cause of the demise? Two things have come to light in the last 24 hours that have helped me understand where the answer to this question lies.

Everyone's favorite media guy, Uncle Rupert, fronted the UK's Leveson inquiry into media ethics, while The Atlantic published an article pointing out that 90% of news stories may eventually be written by computer algorithms. Clearly, I am a humble scribe who has neither the access that Uncle Rupe has to people who can inspire or be inspired, or the smarts to create an algorithm that can generate blogs for me. But I am inspired to return to the keyboard by Murdoch's first appearance at the Leveson hearings.

Due respect to the inquiry inquisitors, but what háve we learned from the first interview with Rupert? The Guardian this morning described a series of concessions uttered by the media mogul, but the reality is that, beyond obtaining some specific insights about conversations between him and various UK politicians and prime ministers,did we learn anything we did not know, or at least assume, already.

Today's Guardian, for example, asks how Rupert can believe that meeting Tony Blair a few times a year demonstrates little more influence than that accorded the average citizen? This misses the point. It is no more access than any substantial media mogul would have to a prime minister. I don't believe the Murdoch assertion that commercial interests never sway the content or support delivered by newspapers like London's The Sun, but then I don't believe there is any media enterprise that lends support to one or other political party's election campaign without taking it's own commercial interests into account.

The main issue I have with the Leveson inquiry and any other similar investigation is that it is interrogating the past, not the future of media. As marketers and corporate communicators, we are well aware of the disaggregation of media. If The Sun had the influence that some claim, all our media strategy issues would be resolved. But the reality is that we know audiences are behaving differently.

Ownership of traditional media channels is increasingly becoming a financial liability rather than an asset. Mini-publishers, like me, today are taking to the web, mobile and other distribution channels together our message out. I have about 300 people a month visiting this blog (apologies to them for my recent neglect). Unless that 300 are all prime ministers and presidents, I obviously have much less clout than Rupert, but the collective efforts of hundreds of thousands of bloggers do have influence - perhaps even more because followers tend to be people who generally subscribe to the credibility or value of the source.

And now, with the advent of journalism by algorithm, there is no sign of disaggregation continuing. As The Atlantic suggests, algorithms are unlikely to replace opinion pieces and so on, but they do have the potential to increase the sheer volume of news covered. I cannot confirm it, but The Atlantic claims these algorithms already account for thousands of stories about America's Little League coverage.

To me, this suggests the technology has the potential to create micro packets of news for local community digestion. So for me, putting the octogeneric Rupert in front of the Leveson inquiry at great expense is only of passing interest, an archaeological dig into what media used to look like before the US President funded much of his campaign and ultimately won office on the back of a slick social media strategy.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Kodak failure a lesson for all, but not surprising

It's sad about Kodak, the venerable brand that has played a central role in capturing a big chunk of modern natural and human history. Perhaps more sad is that fact that the people running it either a) didn't see digital coming or b) saw it coming and buried their heads in the sand and refused to embrace it.

The company's demise is no surprise to me. I consulted to another long-established and highly respected brand in the 1990s - Agfa. They were in the film production business also and arguably produced the best consumer film product on the market.

The interesting thing about Agfa was that it had seen the digital age coming and was actually a leader in the area of high-resolution medical and pre-press imaging (remnants of it still are, as far as I know). Even in the mid-range scanning segment, some of Agfa's flatbed scanners were second to none. So there was no excuse for its rapid demise and disappearance in the consumer imaging sphere.

The writing was on the wall for me when I was asked to promote Agfa's range of digital cameras. I had a stockpile of them in my office that I promoted to the camera cognizenty in the media to 'road test'. I remember them clearly - 2 megapixel resolution on the base model, with a premium 4 mPx on the upmarket model.

That was great for about six months, but not for the several years that the company promoted the range. It got to the point where I was forced to have a very robust conversation with the company's executives about the wisdom of maintaining the media evaluation program when competitors were rapidly moving on to a whopping 6 mPx and beyond.

In fact, in my famously diplomatic way, I shipped all the test units back to them declaring that there was no evidence that the company had any commitment to the segment and no product development strategy that I could see.

Twelve months later, and to my cost, I received the inevitable call from Agfa Australia. I was to lose a significant marcoms account - not because of what I said, but because I had been proved right and the Belgian HQ had announced Agfa was withdrawing from the consumer digital imaging market. That was back in 2001 and, in my view Kodak was not looking much healthier even then - remember the $15 million Australian Government subsidy to retain Kodak in Australia when Ziggy Switowski headed up the operation? Perhaps we'd rather forget this in the context of the auto industry funding debate!

But, back to the knitting. I was later told that Agfa had withdrawn from the sector because it saw mobile phone and electronics companies as the future players in photography for the masses. And hey, they were correct. The digital cameras offered in mobile devices today are vastly superior to their early offerings. But the point is, why didn't they take action to forge alliances or even negotiate mergers with some of these operators?

Agfa's brand in consumer photography was massive in Europe, respected in the United States and growing in Asia-Pacific. It had strong advocacy in professional photographic ranks. But it appeared the executive placed no real value on the potential for their brand to assist other companies not already in the consumer imaging space to, at minimum, develop and manufacture products for them.

I am not close enough to Eastman-Kodak to know the intricacies of why they went broke, but Rupert Goodwins of technology website, ZDNet sees it this way:

"Kodak made all its money from selling film, then the digital camera came along and now no-one's buying film. It's not like they didn't see it coming. Kodak hesitated because they didn't want to eviscerate their business," he said.

Sounds a hell of a lot like history repeating itself to me and there are lessons in it for all of us. Purists might argue film produces superior images with more subtle colour gradations and so on, but no one wants it. Some audiophiles still argue vinyl LPs deliver a warmer sound than CDs. And even I believe CDs deliver superior sound to mpeg devices. But those views don't matter if the masses don't believe them.

Consumer demand drives our businesses, not the widgets we might develop or service models and systems we might think are good, or even superior,  for them.

It's not only the Earth that's spinning!

Have you caught up with the discussion about whether we should ignore the Earth's speed of rotation on its axis and set our time by the obviously more accurate atomic clocks? If you haven't, pin your ears back because it occasionally has implications for all of us.

If you didn't know it already, the Earth is not an accurate keeper of time because, would you believe it,the damn thing cuts a nick off 24 hours every time it spins. This is because it actually wobbles several degrees on its axis and gets hit by various bits of space debris, solar winds etc.

So if you stuck around a few million years, if you relied on good old Mother Earth to run your life, you'd effectively be robbed of a few weeks or so. In fact, the boffins who work tirelessly to deliver this info to us calculate the loss of about half a day every 6,000 years. It means that once in every few thousand years,  your client's deadline of tomorrow is really closer than you think.

To better focus our minds on this, our boffins have spiced this debate up in a way that should soon have management and IT consultants donning the sandwich boards again declaring 'the end is nigh'.

Remember the Y2K millennium bug? Filled newspaper columns and IT consultant pockets in tandem, as we waited in dread throughout 1999 for the moment when society ground to halt as we ticked over past midnight to enter the 21st Century.

We'll never really know whether the 20th Century habit of encoding the year date as two digits in PCs would have brought down contemporary society because our multi-million dollar investments in IT upgrades were completed in time, but it was probably the biggest ever millennium con we ever fell for! Of course, Apple users were immune from the travails faced by mere PC users - more iTuned into the future as usual.

Now scientists are debating whether we should abandon our current practice of bumping our atomic clocks by a second every few years to compensate for the Earth's wobbly behavior lest it upset our computer systems. The Ghost of Y2K perhaps?  So, if we stick to the atomic clock, some are arguing that we won't have to make the miniscule adjustments that put our computer driven society at risk every few years.

What we really need now is the daylight saving lobby to zoom in on this discussion. What are the implications of moving to atomic clock time? Will this result in extra daylight seconds - those poor farmers having to get up micro-seconds earlier to milk the cows, curtains fading, outdoor decking needing extra oil. The consequences don't bear thinking about.

And what about the nuclear lobby. Where do these atomic clocks derive their power. Where will we dump the nuclear waste? My God, we already have atomic clocks. Is there a waste dump in my backyard? Should I start buying BHP shares to capitalise on the proceeds from the Olympic Dam development? Big social and strategic issues that strike at the heart of my general well-being!

And then there's the Green lobby. How is carbon pollution influencing the timing and rhythm of our existence? Should we go nuclear or keep burning fossil fuels to keep town hall clocks running. Should we re-introduce wind-up watches so we derive health benefits as well as energy savings.

We spend a lot of time talking about this stuff, yet we have all been turning back the clock to help our punctuality for years. Even as I write, I'm betting someone somewhere is adjusting a watch heading into meeting to declare their timepiece had let them down again.

For the most part, knocking a second off a deadline once every few years is not going to resolve my day to day tardiness, especially when the atomic adjustments are most likely to occur on New Year's Eve!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Social media - awareness or equity in the brand equation?

I'm pretty much over the Marcoms seminars on social media, so just to bore everyone yet again, I'll talk about(yep, you guessed it) social media. The reason I'm over these discussions is because I'm essentially over the line with it, both a relatively early adopter and convinced that it has a role to play in corporate communications.

In fact, it plays many roles, both offensive and defensive in overall communications strategy but, from a brand perspective, I'm starting to believe that in some sectors it is a greater brand awareness than engagement tool. Many would argue that they have run successful engagement programs using social media. I have seen some very creative and engaging programs. My issue is, what exactly has the target audience become engaged with? I'd argue that in nine out of ten instances, the engagement has been with the creative rather than the brand. The brand is a sponsor of the program, but does it translate into calls to action of commercial benefit to the sponsoring brand?

Sponsorship is perhaps an appropriate analogy. How does sports sponsorship benefit a brand? Does it deliver greater brand awareness, or does it build brand equity? In some instances, it can create a positive disposition towards a brand, but does this ultimately translate into sales?

Both social media and sponsorship generate interaction with the brand. Both can promote brand values by positive association with well crafted campaigns, well-chosen partnerships and so on. But there is increasing evidence that users of social media, in particular FaceBook, are not enthused by the thought of interacting with business in these channels. There are better online vehicles for that, principally online search and aggregator sites like eBay etc.

And if we generally accept that social media is not the appropriate channel for handling specific customer queries and complaints, we by definition remove one of the most effective drivers of interaction from the social media space.

On the flip side, followers on Twitter and friends on FaceBook have expressed an interest in your company simply by following your news and commentary and given you permission to access their space. Even so, I think you'll generally find that very little flows back the other way from these disciples - unless, of course, you really want to launch some edgy conversation. That's why I qualified my opening comments by saying engagement is difficult in 'some' sectors. Part of the brand DNA of some organisations may actually court controversy - think Benetton.

It's why I'm leaning to the view that, for most sectors, social media has greater potential for brand awareness building through leveraged distribution of information than it has for true customer engagement reflected in increased sales. That's still better achieved through well constructed search and website strategies.

The key for me lies in optimizing online strategy to ensure that, no matter what online channel people are in, that they are ultimately directed to a websites designed by you to provide solutions and advice aligned to their interests. You never know, doing so, may actually encourage people to really 'Like' you!