Select Page

Influencers & the Decline of Western Civilization


Ok. Perhaps the title and imagery is a bit dramatic, but it sums up my view of paid influencers as it relates to the CMOs desire and need to control messaging. A recent viewing of the 60 Minutes segment called “The Influencers” (© 2016 CBS Interactive Inc) lays bare the new trend which is earning some at the top of their Influencer game, millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars (such as Kim Kardashian).

Kim Kardashian doesn’t even have a talent, other than self-promotion. I mean she certainly has some attributes that caught the attention of many, but her talent is the fact that she can instruct others, at scale, in what to do, how to do it, and most importantly, with what product.

Logan Paul, on the other hand, has blended comedy, mockumentaries, provocative statements throughout social media, and now ad videos that now include, according to the 60 minute interview, his own direction and creative for a major international Donut company! Most recently, Logan Paul took on Heavyweight legend Floyd Mayweather in an exhibition bout that earned him a $250,000 base take and up to $20,000,000 in residuals from PPV.

The strategies of using a product in a direct or indirect manner throughout their social footprint has earned Influencers a second look by the Federal Trade Commission. Just as with any other advertising, professional influencers are bound by disclosure requirements – stating that they are being paid for the endorsement, according the the 60 minutes interview.

So social influencers, who earn Billions of followers by the way, are a great way for business to set a ground game in action. This is true “grass roots” advertising. Everything, it appears, is up for endorsement by these people. Whether influencer fatigue will set in one day is not even being discussed, yet!

So why do I have the dystopian view of Influencers, and why western civilization declines with their use? Simple, accountability! Who is controlling the brand look and feel, the messaging – keeping things “on-message”? Have we as marketers suddenly given up on all of that? Is there no longer an interest in Brand Guides and Creative Briefs?

Paid influencers give companies an arms length relationship with their consumers. Since the videos, posts and tweets normally go through no QC or legal review, companies get away with the exaggerations that they could never benefit from through normal advertising/marketing interaction. It’s the Wild Wild West and the FTC is just catching up.

Now with all of this said, I think there is a different level of influencer that is far more useful and presents less of a direct threat to the integrity of a company – Earned Media Micro-Influencers. These are people who are not paid for their endorsement of products, but their reach to their personal social networks gives companies great exposure through what we call UGC or User Generated Content. UGC can then be repurposed for national reshares by the brand if a review of the message complies with the marketing strategy. The Micro-Influencer gains by earning national notoriety and presence, which in turn gives them a better chance at paid media engagements, or just to be more “popular’ in the social media realm.

So influencers, the capitalist in me is incredibly jealous that I didn’t get to capitalize on this trend! But the marketer in me is waiting for the other shoe to drop, when marketers find themselves in so much trouble for this crazy free for all due to class action suits, wrongful death suits, etc, that they will be forced to change the rules and truly treat paid Influencers just as any other celebrity endorsement, complete with ethics and morals clauses, content reviews, legal reviews, etc. For my money (and really none is needed – that’s the best part), I would much rather use the genuine UGC that can support a brand and message.

Full disclosure, I follow no Influencers! I do follow great speakers and though leaders, but they aren’t selling me things – for example Simon Sinek. I follow him on LinkedIn, but he’s never tried to sell me running shoes or zit cream.

“The Whirlpool Effect” – How one company took a boring segment and created engaged customers

Whirlpool Corporation had a problem. They have great products in a boring consumer products segment. According to the Shorty Awards who rated Whirlpool’s strategy as Best Social Media Tool, “In the past, the only reason people had to engage with Whirlpool was when they had a product complaint. Whirlpool wanted to change the conversation and give consumers a reason and interest to engage with the brand beyond the product.” (#EveryDayCare – Whirlpool, DigitasLBi and Crowdtap – The Shorty Awards, 2012)

Whirlpool focused their efforts around engaging consumers by the soliciting, amplifying and promoting of those stories where everyday appliances played a role in a bigger positive story. Stories about how the simple tasks of cooking, cleaning or doing laundry could impact people’s lives, along with their schools, communities and families. Other content is around the impact of missing out on school because a child doesn’t have clean clothes to wear, and how Whirlpool helps take that challenge head on. Finally there are also constructive recipes and ideas geared to introducing important household chores to children in a fun and positive way. (Every Day, Care® by Whirlpool, 2019)

For the most part, the content Whirlpool promotes, and the User Generated Content, is in no way product or sales focused. Instead these real life stories and actionable ideas positioned Whirlpool as a thought leader in a way. The mechanics of the campaign were simple – hashtags that identified #EveryDayContent across all social media platforms, along with a Whirlpool website that was dedicated to the narrative they were developing. Organic submissions from Users (UGC) defines Earned Media, as submissions spread through their clients social channels and footprint – truly what we call Earned Media. Content was curated and then promoted across owned and paid media as well.

A look at Whirpool’s social media accounts tells part of the story as to the impact of this clever campaign. Followers netted through the campaign were pushed in to social platforms, and were opted in to multi-touch omni-channel campaigns. It worked – Facebook shows over 1.1 Million followers! That is incredible for a company that quite possibly makes the most boring products in the world. Yet they effectively leverage that platform for not just promoting their product, but for reputation management. As recently as today I saw a post from a consumer who was very upset that they were having issues with a product, and customer service, through social listening platforms, jumped right on to the problem and will most certainly correct the issue.

The results of the campaign back in 2011 are amazing (#EveryDayCare – Whirlpool, DigitasLBi and Crowdtap – The Shorty Awards, 2012):

  1. 44K stories were collected and shared
  2. Consumer satisfaction grew from -.3 to +4.6 on a 5 point scale
  3. 12% YOY Growth vs 6% Industry Avg
  4. 6.6% Sales Growth vs 4.9%

While this growth was for the fiscal year 2011, the Whirlpool site and hashtag are still very active. Such longevity in a social media/digital marketing campaign is rare and speaks to its root humanity.

The company’s CEO in 1969, Elisha Gray II , once made a comment about Whirlpool’s core values as it relates to this topic, as well as their commitment to the environment. He said “We cannot separate our business from the communities in which we operate, and hope to grow and prosper.” (Environmental Sustainability | Whirlpool Corporation, 2018) This commitment to sustainability extends to their reduction of environmental impact not only in manufacturing, but in the use of their machines in the marketplace. This last component speaks to the development of their app.

The Whirlpool app provides consumers further engagement opportunities with the Brand, wrapped around a clever app that allows you to monitor and control your Whirlpool appliances, for a subscription fee of $.99 per month (Connected Subscription | Whirlpool, 2021). This connection can then be used to funnel back in to direct to consumer advertising and further engagement with the #EveryDayCare program.

Ultimately, Whirlpool has done very well to expand their market, digital footprint, community & environment focus, and overall relevance. Hard to do for a company that sells a boring product! Although in reality, is a refrigerator that can tell me that I’m out of bacon boring? I think not! In truth I don’t know if it can tell me that anyway, but I can dream.


Every Day, Care® by Whirlpool. (2019).; Whirlpool.

#EveryDayCare – Whirlpool, DigitasLBi and Crowdtap – The Shorty Awards. (2012).

Environmental Sustainability | Whirlpool Corporation. (2018). Whirlpool Corporation.

Connected Subscription | Whirlpool. (2021).; Whirlpool.

A Day in the Life of a Digital Media Consumer

I spend most of my day on a screen of some sort. It seems to be a requirement of my nature, almost like eating. As a matter of fact, all day long I’m browsing the virtual refrigerator and cabinets that are the internet. Some of it is necessary to survive (or to survive at work, school, etc), some of it is free choice grazing, and some of it is just plain gluttony! All along the way, I consume marketing messages, digest calls to action, and seem to continually add weight to my digital footprint. So here’s a look at a typical day of digital consumption…

Each morning, I start with my email, usually on the phone. Next (and this is usually while still in bed), I verify that no urgent text messages came in, check my LinkedIn account for new connections or interesting posts, and finally check Fox News to make sure nothing blew up – not that I could do anything about it anyway.

What I will not do is check Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. I have deleted most of those accounts, as I believe viscerally that Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey are traitors to the Constitution and to free speech.  As a result of leaving those platforms, I have less anxiety. I don’t read random posts from people I don’t know, or don’t know well and clinch my teeth, wondering how someone could be so rude/stupid/clueless/etc. That’s just not good for you.

So I continue my day usually at my computer. Most of the day is spent creating on the Adobe Creative Cloud platform, or creating within Office 365. But all of a sudden, I hear the “knock, knock, knock” of Slack, and I begin communicating with colleagues/partners in one of my companies. So far so good with not doing anything that will trigger excessive sales messaging to my inbox.

Then comes my need to buy something (from Amazon – groceries, furniture, gifts) or search for something, and the cycle starts. It appears that every search term I’ve used in Google is now coming back to haunt me, whether on the Amazon App or in the browser. Those searches have specifically led to me seeing ads for the very products, or competitor’s product- described as the “You may also like…” section of Amazon.

Before I know it, I need to go back to LinkedIn (for work – we sell a platform that enables Social Selling and as a result, we engage on LinkedIn frequently) and the “sponsored content” ads are tying to either some of those searches or visits to a software company’s site.

One more look at my emails and I see more and more spam. Spam that bypasses my spam filter. Most of it looks like there is familiarity between myself and the sender, but there is not. Some of the ads are follow up emails on perhaps research that I downloaded, or a trial of software that I did. That I understand, and it does not bother me.

When I review my emails there are things that catch my eye, but it is usually in the form of information/content that I find interesting. Several companies send me digests, which are essentially digital newsletters with several articles that may be of interest, and I will occasionally click on them – after all, this is actually closely related to our content amplification platform’s functionality, so I am neither bothered or hesitant about these types of emails.

But then there is the rest of them. I rarely open any email in my inbox that is not from a known and trusted source. That is why I have normally had over 100,000 unread emails in my inbox (it’s down to 5400 today  ).

By the time I do one last LinkedIn and email check at the end of the day, I would venture to guess that I have consumed in some way over 10,000 digital ads. Between paid media, earned media, employee advocacy and good old fashioned multi-channel marketing, I have overindulged! All day long I have 3 27” monitors surrounding me at my desk, with each doing something different – yep, shear gluttony.

So what satisfies me in digital media? Honestly I do so much research that Google and LinkedIn are definitely my best outlets. I have learned to get what I need and move on. I don’t dilly dally looking at pinned pictures of puppies, or living vicariously through some acquaintances pictures from Cabo. When I socialize it’s with real people, talking and conversing. My disdain for the majority of social media, except for LinkedIn as I mentioned, is showing. I think it is destroying our collective ability to communicate.

Look, I’m in the digital media marketing business. I’ve been in the marketing business for essentially 34 years in some way shape or adjacent form. But I don’t like what much of the digital marketing world has become. I don’t like that I know how to target someone to see my ad. I don’t like that what you watch on your Smart TV is something that I can use to present you with very specific TV ads – tied to your search history for devices in your household.

A recent movie (on Netflix) called The Social Dilemma speaks to this. At one point, it is said that what all of these free services are selling, is you. You, the consumer, are the product. What you look at, how long you look at it, what you say, all rolls up into an unbelievable profile about you – the product that Mark and Jack and others are selling.

Are there positives, yes. And I love helping companies market better, by providing a way to easily distribute interesting content to share to their extended networks, as information, as optional resources, to help someone make an informed purchase decision. Alas, that is not the intent of the great majority of social media/news/search sites.

As long as Mark, Jack and Jeff are at the helm of most of the digital impressions you face daily, they will keep fattening you up as the prize hog at the slaughterhouse – not caring what happens to you, just caring about home much money you will bring at market.

Ethical consideration for new marketers

The American Marketing Association has a statement of ethics that sum up the golden rule as it pertains to marketing. It gives us guidance on not just what we should be doing as marketers, but what values we should hold up as the basis for any action we take. This relates not just to the offers, ads and messaging that we put forth, but to how we conduct business with customers, stakeholders and the community at large.

Critically important are the Ethical Norms of Do no harm and Foster trust in the marketing system. I say critically because all else follows after these. If we do no harm, we ensure that our messaging and methods are safe, truthful and that the products we are representing are not harmful to people, the environment, or society. By fostering trust in the marketing system, we assure that society views our efforts as good- that products and companies act in good faith in their dealings, product design, price, messaging and even how the product is packaged, delivered and disposed of.

When creating an Integrated Marketing Communications plan, these norms, and the ethical values that support them, must be taken into account. The overall SMART goals of the plan as well as the strategies and tactics used need to emulate these norms and values. Consistency of messaging and communications is central to an IMC. Therefore we must also be aware of the potential embellishment from those in the purchase cycle, whether sales people, distributors, retailers, etc, who are attempting to sell the product by deviating from the messaging to fit the opportunity, but in turn are either intentionally or inadvertently misleading or deceiving the consumer. I believe even the creative brief which is shared to all within the sales chain should reinforce the ethical expectations that govern the IMC.

Failure to follow the AMA guidelines can lead to a variety of undesirable consequences. At the lowest level, unhappy customers. These may be lost forever and are far more expensive to replace than adding net new customers. They can spread the negative word, whether on social media or just in their physical circles, and impact future sales. Then we have the worst case, those who choose to litigate. Whether product liability, deceptive advertising, fraud, or any other accusation, the mere claim is harmful to the company, it’s stakeholders, and products. There are financial implications that can range from nuisance all the way to company-ending. And while the intent of those who put a company in peril may even be good, perhaps not even a personal financial impulse but one to help the company, the damage done is an avalanche that starts with one small rock falling.

So move forward in building our IMC and remember the Golden Rule that pretty much sums all of this up, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

SMART Goals and Marketing Campaigns

SMART Goals and Marketing Campaigns

What are the goals and objectives of your Marketing Campaigns?

More sales I bet? Of course.

How much of an increase? Ok, got it.

Now lets talk about what goals really are. They need to be SMART, and by SMART I mean:



Actionable (or Aspirational depending on which marketing wiz you talk to)


Time related, or Time sensitive

So while there is nothing wrong with defining a goal as, let’s say, increase revenues by 20% by the end of this fiscal year, my guess is you will always end up with similar strategies, tactics and KPIs to measure the success. Additionally, if you are a B2B company and have a sales force of any significance, how are you attributing that Marketing campaign to the achievement of the goal? Can you ensure that the increase in revenue came as a result of marketing’s incredible prowess, or was it that your sales team grew, got better trained, or is always cyclical to where you come to expect spikes in fiscal year activity? The trick is in setting those goals, identifying strategies to support them, implement tactics that deliver on the strategies, and attribute those tactics using proper Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Set Better SMART Marketing goals (and write them down!)

First off, let’s not take for granted that everyone understands the specific goals of the marketing campaigns that we develop. According to CoSchedule’s State-of-Market 2019 Report, “Top marketers set goals. Goal-setting marketers are 376% more likely to report success (R =0.27, n = 2,055, p-value 0.0001). 70% of the most organized marketers achieve their goals most of
the time, while an elite 10% of organized marketers always achieve them.” (, 2020)

Marketing Campaign goals need to be in keeping with the scale of what you are trying to accomplish – new product launches, boosting Brand Awareness or Share of Voice (SOV), gaining social media followers, etc…..These goals should be SMART and most importantly, must be further broken down to what strategies, tactics and KPIs or measurements you will use to validate success.

For example, if I am the CMO of a Pet Supply company, and we are launching a new line of active pet toys, a fido-proof drone that will keep cats and dogs busy and running around, I will first conduct a SWOT analysis and define my target persona, a combination of demographic and psychographic information that describes my target buyer and their buying habits. That persona leads to a certain insight into how I can best reach that target buyer. At this point I may begin planning my campaign.

What is my Pet Toy campaign goal? I want to develop a campaign that results in the sale of 5,000 units in the next 9 months. The SWOT analysis will establish our external Opportunities and Threats that will help define our goals. With a strong e-commerce presence, a marketplace looking for healthy pet solutions and a firm physical store footprint in the Northeast (but none in the west), the goal is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-related. With our SMART goal identified, the next question is, what strategies do we implement in order to support our goal?

Coaches define the strategies and translate those into tactics which are used on the field.

Strategies vs Tactics

Risking turning off any readers who don’t like football, let me provide an analogy. When a team goes out onto the field, their goal is to win. Again, that’s the easy part. The strategies employed are the secret sauce. Is a strategy to prevent one player from ever having enough space around him to catch a ball? Another strategy may be to tire out the competitors offensive line. Perhaps yet another strategy is to run the ball more, knowing our competitor is weak on protecting against the run. Often confused, strategies are driven by goals. Tactics are the blocking and tackling on the field that support the strategy. The tactics are the plays called that support the strategies. And if those strategies are well executed, we should win!

Our Pet Toy campaign needs specific strategies. The Strengths and Weaknesses that we identified above (in our SWOT analysis) will govern what our strategies look like. One strategy may target sales growth in the west through a multichannel email/direct mail campaign, POP displays or paid traditional media. However, this is likely to be ineffective, as no physical stores are in place in that geography. The majority of consumers targeted for this product are more likely to act on digital calls to action, as the age demographic encompasses primarily millennials. A strategy that targets the west via digital marketing, therefore, makes more sense. To drive this strategy, tactics will then be defined to drive our e-commerce sales in our western region through earned social media and influencer marketing on social media. Additional tactics will include pay per click and OTT/CTA advertising, allow us to target demographic, geographic and psychographic data at a high level of accuracy.

KPIs measure progress over time!

How do we know we won the game? Standard Marketing Metrics give us a general overview of how our marketing campaigns are performing. Similarly, the scoreboard tells us who won. But don’t forget the other statistics which are so useful in not only understanding what happened in the game, but what trends do we see from the past and how do we use those to help plan for the future. For this, I give you, the KPIs. KPIs in football may be completed passes, sacks, turnovers, rushed throws, 3rd down conversions, stops in the red zone, etc.

In our Pet Toy example, our marketing, KPIs will include conversions rates, social media likes, social media reshares, click through rates to the e-commerce landing page for the product, cost per conversion to a sold transaction, conversion by source, etc. If we were a B2B business we may also include the number of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL), number of Sales Qualified Leads (SQL), the ratio of MQL to SQL, and many others. These specific, measurable statistics allow us to build a timeline of performance, giving us far deeper understanding of how our overall marketing campaign is performing. It allows up to tie the specific measurements to the tactic used, to the strategy that tactic served, and finally back to achieving the overall SMART goal of the Marketing Campaign. Marketing KPIs guide us for future planning. It’s this measurement over time that is the T in SMART.

Football KPIs based on Tactical Actions

KPIs measure the Tactics, which support the Strategies, delivering on the Goals of your Marketing Campaign.

Now that we understand that, let’s look forward to understanding how all of this supports a much broader brand strategy that can deliver actual shareholder value.

Next up on Marketing Snippets…

Integrated Marketing Communications is NOT another Marketing Plan!

IMC is an approach used to unify different modes of communication into one cohesive Brand experience. That means that at every touchpoint including customer service, billing, sales, trade shows, demonstrations, traditional and digital media, the experience is cohesive, consistent and promotes the value of the Brand. IMC requires far deeper communication throughout your organization and while the Marketing Dept. may be the coordinator for IMC, every department within an organization needs to be involved. In a future blog, we will discuss how the IMC is built, and why understanding SMART goals and objectives are so critical throughout the marketing value chain.

CoSchedule. (2020, November 16). How to Set SMART Marketing Goals You Can Achieve. CoSchedule Blog.