Posts Tagged ‘New media. outdoor recreational industry’

Data is Not Information

I have been reading where the single biggest concern of companies in 2012 is collecting and analyzing consumer data. Here’s a recent  Gartner study.

This brings up the point that data is not information. It takes several steps to bring data into meaningful information.

1. Data must be collected and then filtered. About 96% of collected consumer data is “white noise” and of no value to a brand.
2. Data must be organized into “silos” where specific data sits waiting to be analyzed. For example, a brand has a national running event it is sponsoring.
That goes into a specific “silo”.
3. Data must be analyzed.  This takes time and talent. An analyst must understand the business that the brand is in. He or she also must understand social media and consumer sentiment reporting.
4. Once the data is collected, organized and analyzed, then insight must be provided. Questions like: “What does this mean?” “Why is this happening?”
“How do we further capitalize?” “How do we lessen the damage?” All of these questions need to be answered.
5. A Monthly Report should be provided to senior management. This reports answers three simple questions:
- What is gaining traction with consumers?
- What isn’t gaining traction?
- Is any initiative or miscommunication hurting the brand?

If a brand is collecting consumer data and it isn’t landing in senior management reports, then data is not becoming information.

Paul Kirwin

Paul Kirwin, Founder and CEO of Channel Signal

How Specialty Retailers and Small Brands Can Enlist Influencers

I just got off the phone with a excellent journalist in the outdoor recreational markets. He is writing an article about how specialty retail and smaller brands can get traction in the social media space.  He is writing it for the Outdoor Industry Association Newsletter called WebNews, and I encourage you to look for it. The general feeling in the industry, apparently, is that specialty retail and the smaller brands are at a disadvantage compared to the larger retailers and brands when it comes to engaging with the likes of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.

I don’t agree with that assumption, but we will stay focused here.

Small specialty retail is, by definition, local or regional. So, they should focus on the local and organic way of doing things. And that means attract the local athletes that have local influence. And that means these folks show up at the local races and events, compete and generally do well. They are the “go to” people locally when consumers have questions about bikes, hiking shoes, climbing gear…you get the idea. Now, if these people have a blog, are on twitter, or publish in some other way…all the better.

The focus for specialty must be on local…local events, local athletes and creating local buzz.

Now, for the smaller brands. They should attract Influencers, but here is the criteria at Channel Signal. If a person:

1. Publishes

2. Has substantial Followers or Friends

3. And is Authentic, meaning that his/her followers are authentic and the content is wanted/needed…

then these are true Influencers. Now, who else are Influencers. Retail salespeople. Published media. And national blogs. Why? Because  consumer traffic is either driven to them, in the case of retail salespeople, or people read them because they are in big daily or weekly publications.

Now, both specialty retail and small brands can attract Influencers by publishing useful, interesting content. And that means “how to” pieces on being better at road biking, mtn. biking, climbing, hiking, trail running, minimalist running…and the list goes on. Consumers are excited. They want to learn. They want the best equipment they can afford. And they want guidance.

Retail specialty can do all of these things through their web sites, by publishing content that appeals to consumers (and therefore) to Influencers…and is then picked up by Influencers and gets widely distributed within the region. And it drives consumers into the store.

Small brands must also publish great content, attract genuine Influencers, engage them by asking questions about how to improve the content, how to get better, and how they would like to engage with your brand. Do not try to sell them. Repeat: do not try to sell them.

So, that’s my two cents on Influencers. Have much more to write, but that should do it for now.

Oh, and one more thing. I too want to throw my hat into the ring, already crowded with every imaginable politician, and proclaim that I too believe that Moms work really hard.

Peace and out.


Paul Kirwin

Paul Kirwin, Founder and CEO of Channel Signal

The Ever Increasing Roar of the Crowd

The public is now being heard loud and clear. And it won’t stop.

On the world stage the cry for freedom is being heard in Syria. It has been somewhat realized in Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria. Syrians seem to believe that the power of guns displayed by the the Assad regime won’t win the battle. The revolutionaries will keep fighting and throwing bodies into the battle. As Ho Chi Ming once famously said, “ You can kill ten of our men for every one we kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and we will win.”

And the videos and tweets keep coming. From cell phones, they are telling the story of the struggle. Real. Raw.

Here’s a great graph of the Arab Spring Revolution. The Guardian Graph

And now back to the corporate world. Things aren’t going so well for companies who make promises and don’t keep them, create new pricing, back the wrong horse or change the rules in midstream. I have included a great piece from Mashable about the recent troubles companies have had when they ignored the publishing power of the consumer. Coke. Go Daddy and The Bank of America heard the roar, ignored it, and lived to regret it.

Consumers are judging brands on products, brand performance, brand promises, advertising, grass roots events…everything. This isn’t just social media anymore. Think of this as Consumer Sentiment, and they have opinions on everything a brand is doing.

Consumers don’t believe brands just “make products” anymore. That is because brands have come out with sustainability studies, environmental stances, corporate opinions on the behavior of entertainers (think Limbaugh), and have backed legislation they believe is good for themselves and their industries.

It’s a new world. And brands are being held responsible for their products, actions and opinions.

Here are some examples of corporate stumbles in this Mashable Article.


Paul Kirwin

Paul Kirwin, Founder and CEO of Channel Signal

It Is Still Your Gut



Recently, while talking with executives about social media, I got three different messages from them:

1. I get it and we are building our social media presence. 

2. I don’t get it and until somebody shows me the money, I’m not gonna get it. 

3.  I know that we need to get on top of the social media thing, but I’m not sure if it will do us any good. 


Ok. Here is what social media data can do.

1. With the proper analysis, it  provides insight and justification for your major decisions.

2. It gives you the truth. And remember, every post, whether good or bad, has a good deal of truth to it.

And your “truth” and their ”truth” may be completely different. Not the same picture at all.

3. It gives real-time feedback on the performance of your products.

4. It provides trending information, which will be a leading contributor to upcoming sales forecasts.


Here are some things that data cannot do:

1. It can not make decisions for you.

2. It should not be  manipulated. If it is, it will be at great risk to your company and your career.

3. It cannot be your friend. When data says the momentum is good, it doesn’t care. When momentum is bad, it doesn’t care.

4. It cannot be ignored. Data is direct from are your customers, your life-blood. Ignore them and you ignore the performance reviews of your products. It is the beginning of the end for your company in the 21st century.


I say these things because recently there has been too much emphasis on both the power of social media and the weakness of social media. Both are true.


Social Media Reporting becomes a competitive weapon when you:

1. measure correctly

2. analyze

3. deliver the data in a way that senior managers can understand and compare to performance in other sectors of the enterprise.

And when data is delivered this way, it is still your gut, but with more ammunition.

Paul Kirwin

Paul Kirwin, Founder and CEO of Channel Signal

An Orca Sparks a War


A few days ago I got a call from a lawyer who has ties with Sea World. Not direct ties but close enough to be concerned.

So the conversation goes like this…
Lawyer: “Are you aware of what happened yesterday at Sea World?”
Me: “Yup. Read about it.”
Lawyer: “I want to suggest that they call you because this is an incident that could blow into a crisis. They need Channel Signal to monitor this.”   Me: “Thanks. We would love to help. Based on a little searching around it looks like its heading into crisis now.”

Well, we didn’t get the call, and the message was, thanks we have it covered.
Good for them. Hope it goes well.

It’s not.
All major news outlets carried it. Predictable. Major animal rights sites were on the offensive. Predictable. And Sea World and animal entertainment advocates were on the defensive. Predictable.

And here are the unanswered questions which brought heat to the debate:

1. Why was this whale in question (Tilikam) involved in the shows after killing other people?
2. Is the use of predators for entertainment just a game of chance?
3. Why did the shows resume so quickly.
4. And are these predators merely prisoners for fun and profit?

Pick your side and pull out your firearm.

CNN sponsored a raging screaming match between an orca trainer and an avid environmentalist. Other news talk shows followed. Actors and actresses got involved. PETA has set up a Free Willy Facebook Site and already has over 6,000 followers.

Twitter, Facebook, and the blogsphere lit up about the poor handling of the situation.

And standing in the middle of this traditional and social media storm is Sea World.

A couple of things to remember here.

When an incident blows into a crisis, immediately start monitoring…on both sides of the issue.
1. Learn what is critical to answer and answer those questions…rapidly.
2. Address and even attack false statements rapidly.
3. And have people available 24/7 for all questions from all quarters.
4. And don’t stop listening, and responding until the crisis is past…well past.
5. And no attitude.

Now, I realize that, according to reports, the Sea World team is tight and losing a trainer to another family member (Tilikam) has to be devastating.

But, that is why you bring in a communications team that knows what they are doing. To protect the Sea World team. Provide guidance. Get to the facts. And appoint an authentic Sea World spokesperson.

And some of these people on the communication team should have news training because first and foremost this is a news story. The facts…that’s what reporters want. And if they smell that facts are being withheld, then they will dig harder and look for angles.

And reporters will then report those “angles” and that information will be picked up by the blogs. And mis-information becomes fact.

Sea World finds its very business model now being questioned. Will parents risk a show knowing that something terrible could happen? Will people  find it detestable that these carnivores are kept in tanks for life, when in the wild they travel over 100 miles a day in open ocean?  And is this just about money, since the show opened 3 days after the tradegy?

Free Willy has taken on a whole new meaning for Sea World.

And some of this could have been avoided with a communication strategy laid out in advance. And a new key to that strategy is 24/7 monitoring of the crisis so that opinions are quickly uncovered, and then covered with facts.

Before Social Media, you could count on a crisis having a limited shelf-life. After all, the media had new things to cover and its attention was taken elsewhere.

With Social Media, every crisis has a long tail. So, Sea World and its handlers will be dealing with blogs, tweets, YouTube, and Flickr for the forseeable future. And with every new fact about the story will be thousands of opinions.

“We’ve got it covered.”

Clearly, Sea World underestimated “it”.

And what it would take to “cover” it.

Paul Kirwin

Paul Kirwin, Founder and CEO of Channel Signal

When the Funnel Becomes the Bucket

Recently I wrote that the distribution of information had always been a funnel but it had now turned right side up.  The mouth of the funnel is wide open and consumers are publishing because it is easy and they have opinions.  The good brands are building these funnels, advertising their communication portals (Facebook,etc) , attracting consumers, collecting opinions, engaging, finding their voices and constructively inviting/channeling consumers further down into the brand storyline. During this process the brands are quietly measuring their effectiveness, learning, and becoming much better communicators as consumers elect to engage more deeply.  They are collecting excellent data on Influencers, athletes and active consumers as the information travels down the funnel.


In recent conversations I have been painfully reminded that many me-too brands in the Outdoor Industry are not building solid funnels but building buckets with holes and no bottom.


How? Well, these companies crow that they have a Web Site, Facebook Page, are on Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr.

And consumers are initially engaging…entering the bucket. But they are not directed or invited to go anywhere.  They  just sit in the bucket, quickly draining to the bottom…without direction.

And then an analyst from Channel Signal investigates. We find that they had good sign-up for the Facebook page, a decent  following on Twitter, and that YouTube and Flickr had good traffic, but that it fell off quickly.

Why did the traffic fall off?  Because these companies did not allocate the resources to engage. Employees were not assigned to respond to consumers, and direct them to the next point of interest. Consumer questions and comments went unanswered. They were not invited to go to Facebook or the Website, or YouTube, or a User Group. And because there was no natural momentum of engagement, no funnel, consumers were stranded and then took the easy way out….quickly out the bottom of the bucket. They were invited to the conversation and then nobody talked to them.

So they didn’t stick around. And  they took all of their knowledge about the brand with them.

A study by the Chief Marketing Council shows that 38 percent of the 480 executives in the industries surveyed say their companies have no programs in place to track or propagate positive word of mouth among customers. And only 29 percent rate highly their ability to handle and resolve customer problems or complaints

All that money to make products that attract consumers. All that money to sell into retail. All that money for advertising to attract consumers. All that money to set up conversation channels.  And then the pay-off…consumers responding online by engaging in one of the channels. And…

And silence. All that wonderful potential data about consumers and what they like and don’t like about your brand and products…out the bottom of the bucket. And all those potential Influencers, gone.

Never to be captured again.

Say goodbye to measuring ROI.

Paul Kirwin

Paul Kirwin, Founder and CEO of Channel Signal

Window to the World

I found the below graph from eMarketer (done by Ruder Finn)  very interesting. 

Overall, Ruder Finn divided online activities into six categories, listed from most common to least:

     * Learn

    * Have fun

    * Socialize

    * Express oneself

    * Advocate

    * Do business

    * Shop 

Men were more likely than women to go online for business, entertainment and to keep informed on news and current events.

Women, in turn, were more likely to use the Internet to advocate for a cause or issue, express themselves and socialize.

More than two-thirds (69%) of young adults ages 18 to 29 posted comments on social networking sites, 55% played games and 50% went online “specifically to rage against a person or organization.” 

Okay, much of this data doesn’t surprise me. What does is that 100% of the respondents are going online to “pass time”. Pass time? Who has got the time to pass the time? Once I got past feeling sorry for myself, then it started to become clear. 

The Internet has become an entertainment center, information center, education center, and a conversation center. It is becoming all things to all people. So, that monitor that sits in the house, or in the office…it truly has become the window to the world. 

So, if you are an outdoor business, then understand that your customers, consumers you want to reach, your vendors, your manufacturing partners, your environmental and social initiative partners, your reps, your retailers, your employees and their families are all looking “at the screen”. For many it is the first thing they do in the morning and the last thing they do at night, with many many visits in between. 

Brands better be presenting themselves there. And they should educate, entertain, sell, and dialogue.  

Ten years ago this was a dream. Now it is here, with all of its advantages.


Paul Kirwin

Paul Kirwin, Founder and CEO of Channel Signal

Outdoor Retailer and the Winds of Change

Recently Outdoor Retailer brought out some cost-cutting measures designed to ease the price pressure for manufacturers and traditional retailers. Attendance at the shows has been dragging. So booth pricing was cut along with some other stuff. It’s a start, but it does not address the challenge.

Here is the challenge.

The distribution system has changed. The minute manufacturers agreed to sell online then consumers became the 800 pound gorilla in the distribution system. They wrote product reviews. They expressed opinions on blogs. And they twittered about their purchases. They now are directly in the loop and they like it.

Traditional retailers are still players in the distribution system, but not the only player. And that is what Outdoor Retailer apparently fails to understand.

Here’s the line-up in the distribution system:

1. Traditional Retailers

2. Online Retailers

3. Small online “sellers” that are in the shadows…selling product that manufacturers may not even know about. (More about that in another blog.)

4. Manufacturers selling goods online.

5. Large Product Review Sites…these invite consumers to review, then publish to the public with relish including online links to retailers offering the product.

6. Platforms that offer a mix of brick and mortar and online.

Five of the six players in the system offer feedback loops for consumers to respond with a product review. Millions are doing so.

84% of consumers list online product reviews as key to their purchasing decision reports SIA. And I have tons of back-up research pointing to about the same thing.

Until OR addresses the consumer by opening up the Show to them for the last day, all other cost-saving measures that they employ is window dressing.

Why? Because OR is about cost-effectively selling and buying product. (We’re all in one place.) It is not about saving money. And more product can be sold and more on-the-sport feedback received when the 800 pound gorilla is in the room.

And if OR doesn’t address the changes in the distribution system, then manufacturers will be forced to.

What does that mean?

Money away from Outdoor Retailer, which will now be known as the “traditional trade show”, and money into an outdoor consumer trade show that will grow so rapidly it will make your head spin.

Paul Kirwin

Paul Kirwin, Founder and CEO of Channel Signal

When Brands Tweet

Corporate Tweeting. What is it? It’s when brands, more specifically public relations or marketing folks working at the brands, tweet with the purpose of selling product. And that’s where I have the problem. 


First, I appreciate the outdoor brands following me on Twitter. Nice compliment and I don’t take it lightly. And I follow them.

But for me, or anyone else, to get anything out of a corporate tweet we have to get past this SELLING THING. Here are some recent examples: 

Corporate Tweet: Just walked outside and it is raining! Sure glad I have my “BRAND” waterproof-breathable shell on!!

Corporate Tweet: Just saw our new catalogue. Have to admit that we sure have some new cute things in it!!

Corporate Tweet: Got to get outside today and test out my new “BRAND” bike. 

You get the point. Brands have got to stop directly trying to sell product through Twitter and start leveraging the communication channel. It’s the wrong channel to sell product. 

The communication channel mainly consists of people who are familiar with the brand’s products…at least the general product line. These people know the outdoor space and most of the major players…brands, major retailers, etc.  Many are avid equipment users. Many work in the industry. They do not want to know about specific products and where to buy them. 

What do they want to know? 

Tell me what the BRAND is doing right now. Just like Twitter says. What are the brand’s employees and athletes doing?  Tweet about your environmental initiatives, the grass roots events, how the brand is helping people with special needs to get outside and recreate. And tell me what your customers are doing and how they are making a difference in their communities. Make your brand come alive through all sorts of people and events.  Give me a 360 degree brand education. Inside and out. In real time. 

It’s Earth Day. So, tweet about the brand’s activities to celebrate the day. Tell me that you and your fellow employees are getting out of the cubicles and picking up trash. Tell me that you are planting trees at a nearby park…on behalf of the brand. Tell me you are part of a group taking pre-schoolers out to a farm.

Show me your corporate soul. 

And the next time I’m in an outdoor specialty store, which is at least once I week, and I need something…guess who will come to mind? That’s right, you. Why? Not because of an individual product but because you have distinguished yourself by telling me that your brand has purpose in life. 

You stand for what I stand for. And man, I’m gonna buy you.

And will this grow your Twitter base? Damn right. 

And will this approach travel to a larger consumer audience? Same answer. 

Damn right.

Paul Kirwin

Paul Kirwin, Founder and CEO of Channel Signal