How’s Your Reputation?

A conversation with Gavin Blawie, digital-marketing expert

By
Abbie Westra, Editor-in-Chief, Convenience Store Products

Gavin Blawie

NEW YORK -- A new and occasional feature in Fare Digest, Channel Surfing offers a peek at what’s on the mind of retailer/operators, consultants and other experts in the foodservice-at-retail industry.

This week, we talk with Gavin Blawie, vice president of client strategy for digital marketing firm 360i. Blawie, a 15-year veteran of integrated marketing, has developed strategies and award-winning offline, digital, social media and shopper marketing campaigns for international brands such as Coke, Oreo, FedEx, Monster.com, Jose Cuervo, Pizza Hut, Pepsi and Lego.

Fare Digest spoke with Blawie about what’s next in digital marketing, how social commerce affects all business--online or not--and his concerns for the speed of change in digital marketing.

Fare Digest (FD): What component of digital media and marketing is biggest on your radar today?
Gavin Blawie: The ability for brands to create original, compelling content that is interesting/cool/entertaining enough to be shared, in regular ways big and small. The converse is latent but equally powerful: the ability to harness and activate original, brand-inspired content being created and shared by consumers on a brand’s behalf. Either way, it’s the consumer’s judgment call and choice to share or not, and the marketer’s opportunity to accept and work within that reality as the new filter.

FD: We’re starting to hear a lot about social commerce. What is it?
Blawie: Social commerce represents the same connected, always-on network of personal conversations, observations and sharing that now sits atop, within and alongside consumers’ shopping experiences. Brands can now connect with people online, and as people share more and more of their lives, people routinely post consumer reviews and share shopping experiences for everything from big-ticket, considered purchases (“Just got the 60-inch big-screen TV”; “Great vacation in Jamaica, too bad I stayed at …” etc.) to ordinary, impulse buys (“Slice of pizza and a Coke for lunch.”). 

These personal updates represent primary insights and selling opportunities shared every day across the social Web, and their effects can be seen from the rise of social customer service (the airlines listen to tweets much more than 1-800 numbers) to the ads you’re served online, to the “items recommended for you” next time you log into Amazon. (360i recently published a dedicated Social Commerce playbook, which can be downloaded free at http://www.360i.com/socialcommerce.)

FD: How are businesses that don’t actually sell items online affected by social commerce?
Blawie: I think the real power behind social commerce is people’s ability to widely share personal shopping and buying experiences--the good, the bad and the ugly. You may not market or sell your company online, but your reputation for service, quality, price and product offerings can be and are shared every day. 

Now more than ever, you must bring not only the usual marketing four P’s (product, price, promotion and place), but a relentless focus on consumer satisfaction if you want to foster positive word of mouth. In many ways that’s what’s most interesting about digital marketing--word of mouth is really the oldest form of advertising; it’s now recast and more relevant than ever thanks to the concept of social-media marketing.

FD: What excites you most about the future of digital marketing?
Blawie: The ability for the truth of a brand and genuine consumer experiences to help create and break through more traditional, often idealized marketing communications, like TV, print or even digital ads. Businesses now really must stand or fall on their reputation, for many key factors (which are increasingly table stakes) like price, quality, value, but mostly for how they really treat and respect their customers.

A lot of marketing dollars are spent on the building of brands and careful reputation management, but the digital world is a more transparent, less controllable forum that companies need to think and act in with consistency and purpose across all touch points.  The fact is these days every sale and customer interaction is a chance to further build or erode a company’s word of mouth for their brand and overall reputation.

FD: What scares you, or makes you nervous?
Blawie: Keeping up with the floodgates of change--the ability to listen and gain insights in real time, emerging social sharing platforms and how people increasingly “lifecast,” the continuous pace of innovation, and the creative destruction that follows.

I find myself more and more going back to the core marketing principles: how brands need to provide a value exchange commensurate with consumers’ investment, a healthy respect for how people go through their lives, and how brands can add value in complementary vs. interruptive ways.

To me, that’s the only way to make sense of the times, and help brands navigate the furious pace of staying relevant and thriving in this hyper-connected, consumer-driven world.

For more digital marketing insights, follow Gavin on Twitter @hablamos.

Keywords: 
loyalty
Abbie Westra By Abbie Westra, Editor-in-Chief, Convenience Store Products
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