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The End of Business as Usual

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We can probably all agree that things are changing fast but there are certain signs that signal, as author Brian Solis has written, that 2014 is The End of Business as Usual.

What are these signs? They are all around us from the collapse of big box retailers like Blockbuster Video to the growth of wearable technology from brands like Nike, Fitbit and Google.

Opportunities for Brands:
Solis has written a lot about how communication is evolving. For the first time in history, social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram and more have turned civilians into publishers and given them a voice and the ability to grow an audience. Solis points out that these groups share one-to-one-to-many. That is, (people who have people) audiences with audiences or influencers have the ability to spread the word exponentially further now as audiences via these platforms amplify the content.

This has also opened up opportunities for smart brands to: a.) have a voice. b.) connect with their customers one-on-one. c.) pull not push (more on this in a minute...)

One of the best public examples of how brands can and should be connecting one-on-one with customers is Pete Shankman's story of the greatest (customer service) story ever told, featuring Morton's Steakhouse. (read full article here). Basically, Pete is an influencer with a significant audience and tweeted from an airplane how much he craved a Morton's steak. Morton's had their ear to the ground, rallied the troops and shuttled a hot steak to Pete as he landed. Well done Morton's for using social media to listen and take action. I'm not sure how many thousands or millions of people have heard this story, but Pete is likely a (paying) customer for life.

Another example is what happened to me last month when GM reached out and offered to send me a new Buick Regal to test drive.

They found me through my show, Behind the Brand and I assume they did their research to determine that my content and channels of distribution (Mashable, HuffPo, Entrepreneur Magazine etc.) aligned with the kinds of people they hope will buy their cars.

To be honest I was hoping they would send me one of the new sporty Cadaillacs -- but I agreed to try out the Regal to give them my opinion. I was pleasantly surprised. Although I did see other Regals on the road with old guys wearing bright shirts and ball caps, presumably with golf clubs in the trunk, it was super smooth and luxurious.

What's the lesson here for brands? It is indeed the end of business as usual as Solis writes. How much does Ford (a direct competitor to GM) shell out to sponsor American Idol and twenty other shows? Millions and millions...and they do a phenomenal job on the grand scale as well as grass roots (thanks to my friend Scott Monty).

But what if you don't have the biggest budget on the block like Ford? What if you're not as savvy or have an army of people and agencies at your beckon call to execute marketing strategy? What if all this "new media" stuff is new?

A great place to start, whether you're a big guy or little guy, is to find the influencers. When you know who you'd like to reach, then all you have to do is figure out where they hang out -- and who the ring leader is...

I'm a ring leader in my very small piece of the universe. Behind the Brand airs nationally to about 5MM people per month. What's the cost of sending me a Buick Regal for a week? A month? A year? Now compare that to the average ad buy and you can see pretty quickly how this style of guerrilla marketing has huge potential.

For the full interview with author Brian Solis check out the video below and let me know what you think.

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