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Joseph Jaffe Interview

Posted on Apr 13th, 2008
Written by Lee Odden
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    At last year’s DMA07 Annual Conference, I had the good fortune of giving half of a workshop on social media with renowned author, speaker and new media marketing guru, Joseph Jaffe. Too many marketing pundits don’t “walk the talk” and I found this not to be the case with Jaffe. A brilliant marketer who dares to challenge established marketing groupthink and advocates experimentation, Jaffe brings a fresh perspective that has attracted blue chip clients like P&G, The Coca-Cola Company, American Airlines and Motorola. He has also written two excellent books: “Life After the 30 Second Spot” and “Join the Conversation“.

    As part of CATFOA, Tim Brunelle from MCAD announced to the Twin Cities Interactive Community group on Facebook that Joseph Jaffe will be presenting Monday (4/14) at the Fine Line and I thought what better way to help promote that event than through an interview? While in Helsinki, Joseph fielded a list of questions ranging from how companies can define social media strategy, a tricky question on Second Life and why companies are so afraid of “letting go”.

    Enjoy and be sure to make your way downtown Minneapolis Monday night at 6pm.

    If you were a social networking site, which one would you be?

    I love that question. If I were a social networking site, no question I would be NinBeOrkHiLinkFaceSpace. If I had to choose one, I’m definitely going to go with WebKinz, probably because I spend more time on it than any other site trying to earn my son KinzCash!

    What have been some of your experiences with promoting “Join the Conversation” that were different than your first book, “Life After the 30 Second Spot”?

    JTC has been much harder than LA30 for many reasons. I’m busier being the main reason. I’m blogging, podcasting, have a real job (kinda) with crayon, a new kid…I can go on, but it’s making my exhausted.

    Also, there’s a LOT more clutter and competition out there. It seems that I started a trend when LA30 came out. Suddenly everyone wanted to be a book author. Also, it became so much easier to publish a book through self-publishing, publishing-on-demand, which is almost how I went with LA30 had I not landed a book deal with Wiley. All in all, I think it’s terrific that so much IP is out there. Rising tide….

    Speaking of which, there’s also this little phenomenon called the Blogosphere, which gives away generous amounts of FREE and PREMIUM IP. It’s certainly made it harder for authors to break through. I have a pile of review books from the floor to the ceiling from authors. It’s one of the reasons why I turned the traditional review outreach on its head by creating UNM2PNM: Use New Marketing to Prove New Marketing.

    My approach with both books was to use the very approaches in the books (exclusively) to promote them and in so doing, turn the books into their own case studies.

    In this particular case, I extended an offer of a FREE book to any bloggers (business, marketing) who explicitly agreed to review my book. With a communal flavor and explicit permission, I’ve created a branded review mechanism. Many have embraced it, by paying it forward and giving up THEIR review copy for anyone who agrees to review it…and so on.

    Who are some of the companies doing well in “joining the conversation” and engaging effectively in social media?

    I get asked this question ALL the time and my honest answer is that I don’t really know. I don’t really study companies progress with any consistent methodology/rigor and so I’m not sure it would be fair or accurate to single out ones doing an especially good or bad job, such as Dell or Sony respectively for example 🙂

    It’s much easier to spot the ones taking their one foot out their mouths only to replace it with their other one. I’m sure many companies are doing a good job, however they’re not doing a good enough job communicating this…think of it as INFLUENCER OUTREACH ABOUT INFLUENCER OUTREACH 🙂

    To be sure, it’s early days still. Companies are still learning to cope with digital and it’s explosive growth. I often say that we are today (with conversation) where the market was 5-7 years ago with digital. At the foot of the summit with a LONG way to go.

    To date, my belief is that investment is sporadic and spend on conversation is one-off, ad-hoc and not very integrated. Interest is typically by one or two people (individuals, who are often more likely to be rogue than not) as opposed to a group, department or ultimately on a corporate level. I have an acronym of C.O.S.T. which stands for Cultural, Organizational, Strategic and Tactical. As an industry we’re at “Level-T” right now.

    I will single out Dell though as a company that deserves honorable mention and praise in the space.

    Can you share 3-5 tips for companies trying to make sense out of defining a social media strategy?

    1. Don’t cede control completely to your consumers. They don’t want it. Meet them halfway. Partner with them. Work with them
    2. Marketing is not a campaign; it’s a commitment. If you want lifetime relationships with your consumers, you need to invest in them…genuinely…for life. Begin with investing in what we call at crayon, “commitment to conversation” (monitoring, optimization, response, outreach etc.)
    3. Learn to deal with negativity. You want the love, but can’t deal with the hate. Criticism is not your enemy; apathy and indifference are. Any negative response from consumers (whether by blog, e-mail or customer service inquiry) is a cry for help AND an acknowledgement that they care (enough to reach out to you…)
    4. As per my earlier point, think strategically. We’re currently working with some of our clients to define a social networking strategy BEFORE cart before the horse deploying a “Facebook App” for example
    5. That said, we also advise companies to invest in “well-structured experimentation”. We distill this into a very real and workable number – 4: 4 experiments over a calendar year. Is 1 experiment per quarter that unrealistic or irrationally exuberant? I think not.

    And if you’re wondering whether 4 and 5 contradict each other, they don’t. This isn’t an OR; it’s an AND. I like to refer to this reconciliation as building a bridge to the future from both sides:

    1. From the present forward (the experiments; the proof of concept)
    2. From the future backwards (the prototypical 3-year plan; the vision etc)

    What are some of the quantitative and qualitative metrics companies should consider with varying types of social media marketing efforts?

    Metrics are a two-edged sword. As David Ogilvy once said, “we must use (research) not as drunk uses a lamppost, but rather as a guiding light.”

    When it comes to experiments for example, I caution clients against short-term thinking. We need to be thinking about Return on Experimentation (ROE); not Return on Investment (ROI)

    That said, I think there are several levels of efficacy and directional usefulness, from more traditional digital mechanisms like RFiD (Recency, Frequency, interactivity and Duration) to “Time Spent” as a whole; from conversational metrics like blogger pick-up, sentiment, authority and influence through mainstream media activation. I also wholeheartedly recommend custom metrics that are tailored to the program, the specific hypothesis being proven or refuted and of course the brand itself.

    What’s your response to Fortune 100 Marketing VPs that show interest in Second Life because they think it’s “cool”?

    Trick question right? There aren’t any Fortune 100 Marketing VP’s that think Second Life is cool, because they’re all reading and believing what they read in the mainstream media, trusting their traditional agencies counsel against Second Life and on the whole, preferring to follow as opposed to lead.

    I once asked a room of marketers (50% of whom had cheered that Second Life was THE most overhyped approach in marketing today) which of them had spent more than 4 hours in Second Life AND piloted a program in this virtual world. Not one had.

    To be honest, I’d love to chat with a Fortune 100 Marketing VP who *does* think Second Life is cool. It is, although it might now be a victim of its initial success. We’d then sit down and craft a deep, meaningful and sustainable program grounded in strategy, community, dialog and partnership.

    From a personal standpoint, what’s you current favorite social media conversation tool – ie, shiny new object?

    Twitter is definitely the shiny new object. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention my clients, ooVoo ( and Linkory (

    Personally, I’m starting to experiment in video, so I’m fascinated with uStream (and ultimately, Blip, Qik, Seesmic, Viddler etc etc etc – haven’t got there yet!)

    Write your own question. Really. What question should I really be asking you here and of course the answer would be nice too.

    Q. Why are so companies so afraid of letting go (with respect to “control”)
    A. That’s a great question; I’m glad I asked it. Companies are afraid of letting go, because they’re grounded in so much “baggage” and status quo; companies are dysfunctional, political and bureaucratic beasts. They’re not hard-wired to embrace change. They’re siloed and haven’t figured out yet how “just do it” when it comes to showing a human, authentic side (which is so badly needed)

    There’s definitely an element of laziness when it comes to unlearning and relearning new processes, combined with the fear of the unknown.

    This is just something that’s going to have to be learned the hard way. Controlled or gated access is a one-way ticket to obsolesce. Accessible and approachable companies (not completely, but somewhat) on the other hand will differentiate themselves based on their commitment to conversation, their communities AND to our little planet.

    Outside of “Join the Conversation” and “Life After the 30 Second Spot” what are your favorite books on advertising, marketing or social media?

    Honestly, I don’t get to read any business books much to my chagrin. Just no time! I am reading Alex Berenson’s The Ghost War after thoroughly enjoying The Faithful Spy.

    I do however, like to talk about books as concepts (you should be able to “get” the entire concept of a book just by its title) and here I often talk about:

    • Wisdom of Crowds
    • The Tipping Point
    • The Ultimate Question
    • The World is Flat
    • The Long Tail

    …and I always must hat-tip Cluetrain as the book that started it all.

    Thank you Joseph!

    Be sure to make your way to the The Fine Line Music Cafe Monday night 4/14 (318 First Ave North in Minneapolis) 6:00 PM – 7:45 PM for Joseph’s presentation on “The Future of Advertising and Other Short Stories.” Admission is free and the first 250 people there will get a copy of his most recent book, “Join the Conversation” thanks to CML, IBS, Hello Viking and MIMA. The overall event on Monday is sponsored by MCAD, MIMA and MSP Communications.