I was part of the Hanes Comfort Crew this past week at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida (more about my Disney experience later). Basically, they wanted to show off their new lines of garments and underwear, but mostly they wanted to understand a bit more about how social media and moms/parents who use it will help influence the experience of buying more product. It’s an important game for Hanes to win. Over 85% of households in the US have Hanes products in them (the exact number eludes me, but who cares), so to grow is a tricky challenge.
How Do You Work With the Influencers?
But more so, they want to know how to build relationships through some of the great folks I got to meet like Erika Lehmann, Lori Falcon, Vera Sweeney, and more. What does the new world of advertising at a distance look and feel like? How do each of us find the right lever to help Hanes with their goals, while feeling that we’re doing something for our community?
What’s the return on these efforts? How do you move more socks and underpants and the like?
Cause Marketing is Solid
One thing I loved: Hanes is working hard at cause marketing. They did a great project with Mark Horvath of Invisible People, not to mention that they’re a key sponsor of the Susan G. Komen foundation. And they’ve got some great plans for 2010 in that aspect. That, I believe, helps a brand: showing that they’re working with causes.
But What of Influencers?
It’s a tricky business on all sides. Large brands (not just Hanes; I’m using them as the storytelling element) are seeking relationships with people who have an audience the way publishers sought to build relationships with magazine readers and TV viewers, etc, only the way we interact as bloggers and media makers is much more different than the way shows were produced, and the lines were far more distinct between editorial and advertising. It’s a tricky situation on all sides with regards to disclosure (though I feel that disclosure is probably simpler than we make it).
And audiences aren’t the same as communities. I’ve worked long and hard at [chrisbrogan.com] to make this a community. I can’t and won’t treat you like an audience. My friends in the Hanes Comfort Crew feel similarly. Daddy Brad from DadLabs knows that his community trusts him with their time and attention. He won’t sell out for camouflage boxer briefs.
It’s an interesting time. Companies are saying, “We’re going to invest in this social media stuff, but we have to see a return.” On our side, on the media making side, you and I are going to have to find how we can ethically, seamlessly, and with value to all parties tell stories that will help all sides of the triangle.
What say you?