Saturday, November 02, 2019

Social media has turned the world upside down - How have marketers responded?



The Doors is my favourite rock group. Their lead singer, Jim Morrison, graduated with a degree in Film at the prestigious UCLA Film School, where he studied with acclaimed film director Francis Ford Coppola. Jim Morrison was also a poet*.

One important aspect of Marketing is getting attention. Almost fifty years since he died, Morrison still generates a massive following on social media and The Doors still sell a lot of records.

Back in 2005 when I was at Boston University School of Management, pursuing my full-time MBA, I had the idea of writing a paper about organisations like the Doors that had a devoted fan base that was drawn, above all, to their authenticity.


When I wrote my paper about 'realness' in Marketing back then, I was influenced by a Harvard Business School case study** written by the new Dean of Boston University's business school, Susan Fournier. 

The case study she wrote was about the Harley Davidson Owners group or ‘Hogs'. It was HBS's first-ever 'multi-media' case study.

Harley Davidsons do not compete with other motorcycles in any typical way. They are not particularly fast, reliable or eco-friendly.

They are certainly not cheap. BMW’s, Yamahas, Ducattis or Honda’s will outstrip them here in every way. But what Harley Davidsons do have, which the other brands lack, is a unique bond with their customers.

The Harley Davidson Owners Groups ('Hogs')

The Hog club goes on rides, and the riders catalog all of their adventures. A few years ago a marketer suggested that Harley start using dirt and grease-free chrome. 

But the Harley team shot this idea down instantly. They believed that part of the appeal for a Harley owner of having that bike is cleaning the grease off of it after a hard day's ride.


Lululemon (image below) is another top brand that's established an almost cult-like following. Lululemon isn't just a product, it's a lifestyle.




Since I wrote that paper, a celebrity and property developer, Donald Trump, first put himself forward as a candidate as a publicity stunt to increase TV ratings on his show 'The Apprentice'.

The now, US President, Donald Trump made many outrageous statements during this period. Yet every time the political experts said ‘that’s it, he’s crossed the line. He's finished’, he just got more popular. The pundits couldn't believe it.

Similarly, Nike took a decidedly political stand on Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, kneeling during the National Anthem to protest against racism in the USA.


Most marketers at the time said that Nike made a terrible mistake bringing out this ad. 80% of marketers today still say that you shouldn’t take a strong position at risk of alienating your customers.

But just as in the case of Trump, being controversial worked for Nike. Nike has made six billion US dollars since that ad, that was loved and loathed in equal measure. 


*Extract from ‘The Movie’ a poem by Jim Morrison
The auditorium was vast and silent
as we seated and were darkened, the voice continued.
The program for this evening is not new.
You’ve seen this entertainment through and through.
You’ve seen your birth your life and death
you might recall all of the rest.
Did you have a good world when you died?
Enough to base a movie on?
I'm getting out of here.
Where are you going?
To the other side of morning.


Go to my website.

** Harvard Business SchoolBuilding brand community on the Harley-Davidson Posse Ride
https://store.hbr.org/product/building-brand-community-on-the-harley-davidson-posse-ride/501015

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