TD Bank’s Green Chair Dialogue First Indication of Mainstream Media’s Move to Conversational Marketing

Posted on October 21, 2010

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Memo to Purchasing: social media and social networking is more than marketing and telling people what you had for lunch.  It is in fact the new paradigm in terms of how we communicate and share ideas with one another.

In a bellwether move that may finally signify the fact that mainstream media such as television have finally grasped the conversational marketing concept that is the hallmark of the social media world, last evening’s commercial in which the “famous” TD Green Chair was occupied by one of the producers of the show CSI talking about the addition of Lawrence Fishburne to the cast was subtly brilliant.

For the first time I actually watched one of their commercials with interest because they eschewed the soapbox broadcasting of contrived scenarios heralding their product and services, and actually delivered interesting information. It is the classic brand by association or, indirect branding approach that connects with an audience and in the process builds a “know, like and trust” rapport that is essential for ultimately doing business.

It is of course a significant departure from the Madison Avenue product front and center bombardment to which we have become accustomed, which equated volume (nee audience size) with contact quality, confining the real relationship building to the big fish, client oriented one-on-one golf course outings or expensive dinners that was limited to a select few. As long as the dissemination of information to the masses were restricted to a relatively narrow funnel of TV, radio and newspapers (including magazines), the top down pyramid approach was the most viable option.

In the emerging world of the “you looking at me, and me lookin at you” cross pollination realms of the Internet, the one-on-one relationships that were the sole bastion of the select or targeted market influencers, is no longer an exclusive domain. In short, we are now both the receivers as well as disseminators of information where we have the ability to influence those within our social communities.

The best way for me to describe this new paradigm is to envision an infinite number of tables of similar or shared interests around which say ten people sit.

Now one individual can belong to multiple tables (re social networks or virtual groups), so that when they receive a piece of information that they believe may be of interest to the members of the other tables to which they belong, they will naturally share it. This is what I refer to as the cross pollination effect. The compounding of this factor is ultimately what leads to a particular message going viral.

The key therefore is to deliver information to the various tables that will both engage and maintain interest, something that the traditional talk at campaigns fail to do. After all, if the broadcasting methodology worked where all people are forced to look at a single stage there would not be a need for saturating the market through advertising tricks such as road blocking in which a commercial is broadcast simultaneously on several radio stations and/or television channels. You know what I am talking about . . . that frustrating experience when you change channels in which a commercial for a particular product or service comes on, only to find that the same commercial is also running on the channel to which you have just switched.

In the social media and social networking worlds, such deceptive tactics are not necessary, nor is the client advertiser required to spend incalculable sums of money for multiple prime time traditional media spots. This of course is perhaps one of the reasons why Madison Avenue has been slow to embrace the Internet in that substantially lower fees mean less revenue and ultimately profits. To the traditionalists it is much easier to deliver a mega-blast message under the auspices that reaching a large and faceless audience is the same as influencing them to buy your product.

Even though the TD commercial is being delivered through these same media outlets, it is nonetheless a major departure that perhaps unknowingly represents, like within the San Andreas Fault, a seemingly minor or innocuous shift that will eventually lead to the “big one,” which is the inevitable major quake of change in terms of how we communicate.

In the meantime, it should be very interesting to chart the response to the TD Green Chair commercial now that the formerly empty seat is being occupied by something more than a subliminal invitation to make yourself comfortable.

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