meshmarketing is almost here!

A few months ago, the mesh team — in other words, Rob Hyndman, Mark Evans, Stuart MacDonald, Mike McDerment and I — announced a new event we’re calling meshmarketing, a one-day series of keynotes, presentations and in-depth workshops about online and digital marketing ideas and tactics. During the summer months, we’ve been lining up some world-class speakers and marketing experts for the event, and we wanted to get as many details about it out there as possible, because the event is coming soon (October 22 at CIRCA) and tickets are relatively limited.

In a nutshell, meshmarketing is focused on insights, tools and tactics that are designed to help you get more out of the growing online marketing and advertising markets. It’s designed to provide you with ideas and perspectives on the key trends but also practical and valuable knowledge that you put into action immediately. You can register here.

Our keynote speaker is Hugh MacLeod, a popular cartoonist, author and marketing thought-leader. We also have two though-provoking panels to kick off the event: the first looks at how competition is heating up between PR, traditional ad agencies and digital shops, with each one trying to take the lead in the competitive online arena. Featured on the panel are Mia Wedgbury, president of Fleischman-Hillard Canada; Katherine Fletcher, a senior partner with iStudio and Jill Nykoliation, president of Juniper Park.

The second panel looks at the merging of marketing and social media, and will tackle the thorny issue of how to blend the two successfully. This panel includes Mitch Joel, president of Twist Image and author of the new book, Six Pixels of Separation; and Ferg Devins, chief public affairs officer for Molson Coors, who leads Molson’s social media activities.

The rest of the day features a series of workshops, filled with hands-on, practical tools and knowledge. A big part of the inspiration for meshmarketing came from feedback we got at mesh, where people said they wanted more focused and practical insights and tools about marketing and the online world, so we’re hoping these workshops fit the bill. They include:

Building Web Properties that Convert, with Dan Martell
Advertising Networks 101, with Mladen Raickovic
Search Engine Marketing/Search Engine Optimization, with Jeff Quip
Generating Customer-Driven Creative, with Andrew Sutherland and Dino Demopoulos
The Keys to Mobile Marketing, with Amielle Lake
Facebook 101 for Marketing, with Elmer Sotto
Social Media Analytics, with Katie Delahaye Paine
Inbound Marketing Campaigns, with Dharmesh Shah

As usual, we’re planning to kick off meshmarketing with a pre-event party and, of course, an after-party. More details on those to come as we get closer to the event. But in the meantime, get your tickets for meshmarketing soon — if mesh is any guide, they will be going quickly 🙂

The TTC does the right thing

When I first heard about the YouTube rap video “I Get On The TTC,” which a couple of Toronto rappers recorded recently about the venerable — and much criticized — Toronto Transit Commission, I was really hoping that the TTC wouldn’t blow it by either ignoring or somehow trying to de-legitimize the video. I thought the fact that TTC commissioner Adam Giambrone is (as far as I can tell) about 19 years old might help them get with the “user-generated content” program, and for whatever reason it looks like that is in fact the case. According to a post at Torontoist, the duo got a call from Toronto officials, and wound up being honoured by Mayor David Miller and Giambrone, who played the video and even danced along, and then gave the two a free January Metropass. And some props are also due to Mayor Miller for the shout-out to “Spadina Bus,” the 1980s hit from The Shuffle Demons.

Do brands belong on Twitter? Yes and no

Guest poster Mark Drapeau has a piece up on Mashable that looks at what — for the social-media sphere at least — has become an age-old question: should companies and brands be on Twitter? He comes to the conclusion they should not, for a whole bunch of what are very good reasons, including that company names “reduce authenticity and transparency,” and that “brand names and logos, as opposed to full names and user images, are not in the spirit of the Twitterverse.” As he puts it:

“Does anyone really want to talk to @DunkinDonuts? Or would they rather talk to Bill Rosenberg, the founder of Dunkin Donuts of Canton, MA, or perhaps the local franchise owner on Capitol Hill, or a disgruntled but funny summer employee punching in at 4am? People connect with people, and so I think the latter.”

There’s no question that the post raises some good points. But as someone who has been spending a lot of time in my new role at the Globe and Mail thinking about social media and how (or whether) we should be using it, I’m not sure he is completely right. I agree that one of the appealing things about Twitter is the personal aspect, and the ability to connect with someone, even on a somewhat trivial level. But I don’t think that means companies — or brands — can’t use it, just that they have to approach it in the right way.

Obviously, throwing an account like @DunkinDonuts up there and hoping to attract thousands of followers is pretty dumb, just as creating Facebook accounts for the Burger King mascot was kind of dumb (even if it was trumpeted as a huge success). As a number of people have pointed out, no one really wants to interact with Dunkin Donuts on a personal level, apart from the actual process of buying a donut. But what about an account like @Comcastcares? Hundreds of people have interacted with the person (or people) behind that account and been pretty amazed by the response. That’s a good thing, no?

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Pepsi & Twitter as early-warning device

Over the past year, Twitter has become a wildly-popular social network, allowing people to stay in touch not just with their friends but also with celebrities like MC Hammer and Shaquille O’Neal, who use the service to talk directly to their fans. For many companies, meanwhile, Twitter has effectively become a real-time market-survey tool. Comcast and Zappos, for example, have used it to track reactions to their products and have been able to respond to their customers much faster than they could in the past. Some companies, however, have found themselves at the center of a Twitter-storm — including Johnson & Johnson, which faced criticism from mothers both on the service and in the blogosphere at large, after an advertising campaign for the painkiller Motrin made what were seen (by some) as disparaging comments about moms who carry their kids in slings.

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Flash flood: Mom bloggers and Motrin

My kids are too old to carry around in slings — I mostly drive them everywhere now — but I can still sympathize with the mom (and some dad) bloggers who are up in arms about Motrin’s latest marketing campaign, which uses “baby-wearing” as a way of trying to appeal to moms as potential customers. The rationale seems to be that using slings and other baby-carrying paraphernalia is mostly a fad, and causes back and neck pain that requires Motrin. Instead, hundreds of moms are criticizing Motrin on Twitter — where they have helpfully tagged their comments with #motrinmoms — and on dozens of blogs as well.

If you’re one of those who believes that “any publicity is good publicity,” or that getting potential customers “engaged” with your product includes pissing them off, then the Motrin campaign probably seems like a great success. And I’m sure there are those who will argue that the critical Motrin moms are a vocal minority, that they are too easily offended by something that was meant to be humorous, etc. That may even be true. But it’s still a problem for the company — a very modern problem. For better or worse, this kind of social-media “flash flood” of negative PR involving Twitter, blogs and Facebook is becoming more and more commonplace.

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