- Hardcover: 208 pages
- Publisher: FT Press; 1 edition (August 7, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0137145500
- ISBN-13: 978-0137145508
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.7 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 60 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,200,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Conversational Capital: How to Create Stuff People Love to Talk About 1st Edition
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An Exclusive Conversation on Conversational Capital with Author Bertrand Cesvet
What is the most common mistake made by individuals seeking to harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing?
All too many individuals seeking to harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing focus on the vehicles through which word-of-mouth is perpetuated, rather than the triggers of word-of-mouth to begin with.
The number of times we've heard marketers yearn for a presence on social media or a user-generated content campaign is nauseating. Our response is pretty universal ~ it doesn't matter that you give your consumers a place to talk if they don't have anything good to talk about.
Thus, our central message is to focus not on the tools, but on the substance of conversations. The only way to create resonant and sustained word-of-mouth is to focus on the inherent value of the experience itself.
I found it interesting that Conversational Capital should not be termed "buzz." Why is this so important?
Buzz is something created around an experience rather than related to the experience itself. Let's say I put a pedometer in a box of Fruit Loops cereal and proceed to call it "healthy" because the pedometer encourages one to exercise. I've done nothing to change the experience or the nutritional value of the cereal itself - only created a stunt to project a temporal aura of "health."
Do smaller companies have an advantage in building Conversational Capital?
Being small isn't necessary, but it helps. Why? Because engineering and implementing Conversational Capital requires three things: 1) the ability to be nimble, 2) the capacity to be entrepreneurial (and thus embrace some degree of risk-taking) AND 3) the foresight to take a long-term view of the development of your brand, unconstrained by investors clambering for short-term profit-taking.
That being said, many large organizations have successfully preserved these three competences. Look at an organization like Southwest Airlines - the largest domestic air carrier in the US. The firm has managed to develop Conversational Capital principally because its empowered culture is by its very nature, entrepreneurial.
So in essence, the ability to act small is what matters more than being small.
How wary should marketers be with the double-edged sword of myth?
Myth must be rooted in some fundamental truth about the brand, the brand experience, or the brand's founding. Otherwise myth lives in the realm of lies, rather than as a story that's told and retold. Marketers can temper their wariness by ensuring that the myth(s) around their brand are continuous ~ it is continuity that keeps the cutting edge of that proverbial sword away from you.
What industries do you feel are under-utilizing Conversational Capital?
Industries that view their customers with disdain or an attitude of dismissiveness.
Look at the North American Air Transport sector. Airlines continue to pare service in a continuous quest for cost-cutting, thereby commoditizing themselves rather than developing the ability to build brands and extract premiums.
Look too to the North American Auto Industry. It is in crisis principally because it didn't listen to the talk around its brands. And it didn't build products worthy of conversation.
Many further examples exist, from education, to financial services, to telecom, to department stores. But ultimately, the realization must be apparent that not everyone can be a Conversational Capital king. But each industry should have its star(s).
About the Author
Bertrand Cesvet is chairman and chief strategist of SID LEE, a Commercial Creativity company with offices in Montreal and Amsterdam. He provides creative and strategic leadership on marketing communications and experience design projects for clients such as adidas, Red Bull, Cirque du Soleil, and MGM Mirage. He lives in Montreal with his wife Josee and daughters Gabrielle and Emma.
Tony Babinski is a Montreal-based writer, creative director, and filmmaker. He has worked with SID LEE since 2000 and is the author of Cirque du Soleil :20 Years Under the Sun, the authorized history of Cirque du Soleil. He lives in Montreal with his wife Julie and children Sophie, Max, and Lily.
Eric Alper is a strategist for SID LEE. He has kept a blog about Conversational Capital going since 2006. He has also developed and written the Conversational Capital blog.
Top customer reviews
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Bertrand Cesvet and his colleagues at Sid Lee remind us that marketing is ultimately built upon conversations, and conversations can't be meaningfully held with computers. Underneath all the gloss of technology, marketing is for human beings.
Conversational Capital is also important because it represents an early attempt to create a marketing system that invokes the power of ritual to create salient interactions between marketers and consumers. "Rituals are an essential part of how human beings create and formalize meaning. The presence of ritual marks an experience as deeper in meaning," the authors write. The deeper meaning that ritual summons in turn leads to a stronger brand, greater consumer engagement, and higher profits.
It's true that the authors' exploration of ritual dynamics in the marketplace isn't as profound or as anthropologically-informed as it could have been. However, their observations are still, years later, miles ahead of the cultural insights of conventional marketing. The team at Sid Lee deserves credit for beginning an important conversation about the qualitative human experiecne of marketing - a conversation that is still not being attended to by most agencies and corporations.
Which is exactly why we read these books, right?
Although the introduction/forward took a bit to get into and caused me to skip ahead to find where the "real" book began, from chapter 1 I was hooked.
The authors use three very different companies, Cirque Du Soleil, IKEA and Montreal local delicatessen Schwartz's, to illustrate "The Engines Of Conversational Capital":
2. Exclusive Product Offerings
4. Relevant Sensory Oddity
I have to admit that I have never seen a Cirque Du Soleil production, never bought furniture at IKEA and never eaten at Schwartz's BUT I don't have to to understand what makes them three outstanding businesses.
The later half of the book explores each "Engine of Conversational Capital" individually using many major and unique brands to bring points home. The final few chapters are devoted to implementation in your own business.
I can see how this book is compared to The Tipping Point and Made To Stick although there is less storytelling and more cause and effect examples.
All in all a great Book!
Danielle Millar, Glenn Simon Inc.
The book is a high-level description of "Conversational Capital" or what makes a consumer into an active advocate for your brand combined with the description and benefits of lifestyle brands. The key concepts are: Rituals, Initiation, Exclusive product offering (EPO), Over-delivery, Myths, Relevant Sensory Oddity (RSO), Icons, Tribalism, Endorsement and Continuity. Each concept is given examples using well-known brands to help you understand the concept. The designing process is defined at a high-level with some useful tips. However, it does not really have anything revolutionary or even barely evolutionary.
If you have taken more than basic marketing classes, you will see the validity in the concepts but will be wishing for more substance on how to make your brands into the described brands.
Take-aways from the book:
Rituals -- "Rituals are behaviors or rites we engage in to mark certain activities as exalted. When ritual behavior becomes associated with a consumer experience, it is marked out as more resonant" (pg. 68)
Initiation -- "Initiation is a special subset of ritual. When consumers feel they have worked a little harder to acquire special knowledge of or access to a consumer experience, they feel set apart." (pg. 75)
EPO -- "EPO occurs when a consumer experience offers a notable degree of individualization. When you feel something has been designed just for you, or in a distinclty personal way, you can claim an experience as your own, it becomes more salient. EPO sings in high-end experiences, but we've also observed it in simple products such as Cracker Jack or the Kinder Egg." (pg. 83)
Over-delivery -- "Over-delivery is an aspect of EPO. It's what happens when brands make an experience feel special by going much further than they have to in terms of customer satisfaction. Over-delivery occurs when consumer experiences include features that anticipate needs and desires consumers haven't even thought they would want but end up loving. In the end, it can be understood as an attitude; the desire to be the best and keep improving, just for the sake of it." (pg. 89)
Myth -- "Myth might be the most critical engine of Converstational Capital because it embodies a brand story. Essentially, stories set brands apart because they are so important in the identity-forming and affirmation process. We are the sum of our stories and we look to myth to provide them. If your brand is powered by myth, it might be all you need." (pg. 97)
RSO -- "RSO stands for relevant sensory oddity. IT can be observed when a consumer experience surprises and delights a full range of sense. IT recognizes that human beings see, touch, hear, taste, and feel and communicates with them on that level. However, doing so in a manner tha is relevant, and resonates with the consumer experience in a meaningful way, is key." (pg. 105)
Icons -- "Icons are signs and symbols that are rich in evocative power and associations. Almost anything can take on the shorthand power of an icon: places, buildings, people, logos, labels, and more. The key is that these icons have to evoke a compelling brand story." (pg. 113)
Tribalism -- "In essense, Conversational Capital occurs when brand stories become part of the identity formation and affirmation process. Determining which tribe you belong to is a bedrock component of that process. Tribalism takes place when consumer experiences draw the like-minded together in a quest for mutual discovery." (pg. 121)
Endorsement -- "Endorsement is not a matter of well-known people speaking for your consumer experience. Rather, it is a matter of consumers advocating on your behalf in a free and unsolicited manner. This is the most powerful form of marketing there is. However, endorsement comes with a built-in caveat. If you are endorsed, you need to live up to consumer support. If they recommend you to someone who is disappointed, they look bad, too." (pg. 125)
Continuity -- "Conversational Capital demands continuity. Because it is about creating consistent brand stories, it works best when there is no disconnect between how a product is designed, marketed, and perceived. The best brands are the result of a united, cohesive strategy, and they walk the talk." (pg. 131)
The book was clearly written quickly with marginally editting. The book is a fast read where the text is concept light. So, it is good for getting some key marketing vocabulary with supporting real-world high-level examples.