She's Connected 2010: Talking to Brands (2/2)

Ottawa’s own CL Buchanan Photography was the official conference photographer. I’ve included a link to Cherie-Lynn’s site at the bottom.A couple of weeks ago, I wrote my first post about my experiences at the She’s Connected Conference in Toronto. The presentations in the morning were filled with great information that was relevant to the bloggers who attended as well as the brands. From the blogger’s perspective, we could easily see how brands should want to work with bloggers to get their message across. The value was clear. As a blogger, I could imagine sitting there as a brand and thinking that I was surrounded by a goldmine of influence. A roomful of people who could help humanize and spread my message.

But did the brands see it that way?

There were 10 brands in attendance at the She’s Connected Conference. Here’s the list and my impressions of their message.

Kobo

 Kobo was one of the first presentations of the day and I did touch on it in my last post. I won’t lie - I really didn’t know we were going to receive readers when we went to the conference. Yes, I am oblivious at times. When they set up the table and everyone flocked to get their Kobo eReaders, I thought it was extremely generous! But I was also skeptical. I hadn’t heard great reviews about the product and I have high expectations of devices I like. I wasn’t sure this one would be able to deliver.

After the presentation, which consisted primarily of a short tutorial and overview of the company, I found I really wanted to like the Kobo. It was evident in talking with their CMO, Marina Glogovac, that they didn’t quite know exactly how they wanted to use social media to promote their products, but they are trying very hard and were open to suggestions. They’re willing to work with bloggers and they’ve already instituted some suggestions that came up at the conference. I applaud their openness and quick response. It’s refreshing.

Coca-Cola

Unfortunately, I missed Coke’s presentation in the afternoon. I did have the opportunity to be part of two discussions with their team, though. Coke is a challenging product for moms to get behind. Personally, I try not to drink pop, especially diet - I don’t consume artificial sweeteners anymore. Apart from my personal weight loss goals that I’ve written about quite a lot, there’s the simple matter that Coke really doesn’t make any products that are truly appropriate for children, in my opinion. Additionally, I don’t give my son juice unless it’s very watered down. I don’t personally believe children need juice - it often has as much or more sugar as pop. Brandon tasted Coke one time (because his Daddy let him) and it was clear after one sip that he wanted more. We braved the upset and said no to more. I don’t want him getting hooked on it. 

Coke (Canada) is struggling to figure out how to use social media. It’s a new part of their promotion strategy, so they’re still trying to figure it out. While I do enjoy a good Coke every now and then, am I the right person to promote Coke? Probably not. I’ll be very interested to see if any of the bloggers from the conference feel differently. 

Maple Leaf/Dempster’s

I thoroughly enjoyed talking with the reps from Maple Leaf and Dempster’s. I’ve used their products for years without really thinking about it. But who can forget their response to the listeria outbreak a couple years ago? And, of course, that came up at the conference because, obviously, moms are concerned about the safety of the food they give their children. They faced some tough questions while they were there and answered every single one. They did so without any sign of defensiveness or even discomfort. I’m sure they would have preferred not to have to deal with that issue, but they were prepared with honest answers. Executive Chef, John Placko, gave us all the details about the lunch we were served and he was a pleasure to speak with at the round table sessions.

The reps I spoke with for Maple Leaf/Dempster’s were also new to the social media scene. They seem to have so much enthusiasm for the possibilities and were very open to suggestions and discussion. As a mom and health-conscious individual, I see Maple Leaf/Dempster’s as a brand that I can envision working with and feeling good about that choice.

Calvin Klein

I sat through the Calvin Klein presentation wondering what they were doing at the conference. Sure, I brought home a ton of perfume that will last me roughly 50 years, but there weren’t any actual CK reps at the conference. The presentation was from a scent expert hired by CK to speak. We didn’t get to talk to anyone from the company about working with them. This was the one brand I felt didn’t fit at all in the purpose of the day. 

Bourjois / Smashbox

We didn’t get to hear from Bourjois and Smashbox at all. There were makeup artists and sales reps from the company, but beyond setting up to do the conference attendees’ makeup and telling us about their products, we didn’t get to hear from them at all. I wear makeup every day and I would have liked to hear their ideas for using social media and bloggers in their promotions.

Look Good Feel Better

Getting to see Sherry Abbott speak was something that many of us were looking forward to. Her story of surviving cancer is nothing short of miraculous and she’s paying it forward to countless cancer patients/survivors by helping them work through the effects of cancer/treatment on a woman’s body, and dealing with the inevitable morale issues that can come up. Look Good Feel Better is Canada’s only charitable organization that deals with the self-image issues that arise with cancer treatment. Unfortunately, as much as we were all riveted by the presentation, we didn’t get a chance to speak with her during our round table sessions about working with bloggers to raise more awareness of what they’re doing.

Egg Farmers of Ontario

I touched on the Egg Farmers’ presentation in my previous post. It turned out to be an unexpected gem in amongst all of the huge brands that were there - we learned some really useful things about eggs. I did get to speak briefly with someone at the table in the exhibit hall, but I wasn’t able to get a clear sense of whether they want to work with bloggers or if they were just there to give their spiel. I love eggs - I hope they decide to do some social media campaigning, because I’d work with them!

Booty Camp Fitness

Lisa Richards’ presentation was high energy and motivating. She clearly loves her job and loves talking about Booty Camp. She’s also made it known that Booty Camp Fitness is ready, willing and able to work with bloggers. They are all about using social media to promote their products and services. I’m scheduled to participate in a four-week Booty Camp session in January, so you’ll be hearing more about it from me later on!

Corby Distilleries (Seagram)

One of the key messages that we, as bloggers, tried to reiterate over and over through the day was that what we do has value. Yes, many of us write for enjoyment and aren’t paid, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be paid if we’re promoting a company’s products. That said, it became clear pretty quickly that the only payment Corby/Seagram was willing to give was coolers for our time so we could have a big party (organized by us, of course). BIG - like hundreds of people. I’m not a big drinker and I’m not big on large gatherings, so I’m probably not going to be working with them anytime soon.

Kraft Canada

It was interesting talking to Kraft. They were honest about not being part of a two-sided conversation with their social media activities. They’ve developed some interesting tools for dinner ideas - from text messages to a mobile app. These are in addition to their quarterly What’s Cooking publication. Our discussion with them was enlightening. They don’t know where to go with social media, but they were open to suggestions and constructive criticism - primarily that the conversation needs to be two-sided. I’m very keen to see what comes out of those discussions with Kraft. Hopefully, they’ll be taking our advice and we’ll see them on twitter soon.

My Takeaway

It was truly a mixed bag. Many brands seemed to come to the conference to feel out the potential for social media as a tool for promotion, yet they didn’t have a clear grasp on any of the ways they could accomplish that. Fortunately, the women in the room were not shy about helping them out with suggestions. Other brands seemed to be there to make a sales pitch. Actually, all of them were there for that, though I do think some had a dual purpose that included talking with the bloggers.

What I would love to see from my next She’s Connected Conference is some brands that are actually already using social media as an established promotion tool - and doing it well. I’d love to see companies come in who work with bloggers and who want to expand on that. I’d also like to see the sales pitches limited. Yes, they have to have a chance to do it, but the afternoon speakers went over so long that we ended up two hours behind by the end of the day. My selfish little complaint: That effectively eliminated the opportunity for any social interaction amongst the bloggers and though we know each other online, we would have liked to get to talk more in person. :)

I enjoyed the day and I do think it was a very successful first conference for Donna Marie Antoniadis and the rest of the She’s Connected team. I’m thrilled that I was invited and I look forward to the next one!

*****

Photo credit: CL Buchanan Photography. Visit her Web site or like her on Facebook.