Archive for Facebook

Dec
22

My Jerry Maguire Social Media Moment

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Consumers and marketers have had what I’d call an “understanding” since the dawn of time. A quid pro quo as it were. You the consumer will accept a degree of marketing and salesmanship in exchange for a quality item or service of sorts.

Since consumers aren’t really the easiest bunch to please and can be a bit leery, marketers have had to resort to a mix of surprise, delight and entertainment to woo us. We are accepting of this to a degree. For marketers, the number of mediums in which to communicate to consumers has grown seemingly exponentially. Social media has become but one of those mediums.

With the advent of the Internet and expansive growth in technology came this thing called social networking.

Us as consumers would find refuge in such a place. It would be where we would begin to part with disruption marketing. It would be a place for us to network on our terms, to exchange memes, to showcase our intellectual or professional prowess, our banal activities, pictures of our kids on the beach or of us in a video getting stuck in a drier. Whatever it was, it was ours to engage with as we saw fit on our terms on our time.

Yet something happened. What was supposed to be ours became theirs.

The second we attributed analytics to it we missed the point.

The “Accidental Billionaire” Mark Zuckerburg instead of defending us, the 500 million people he quite literally owns, he now barters.

A friend of mine once equated Facebook as a TV channel, “where I can see what my friends are doing whenever I want.” At 500 million people, it’s more than a channel, it’s a network (as in television). But just like most networks they’re equally as perplexed about how to ensure their ability to deliver effective marketing to its audiences which is of course largely the basis of its valuation.

Do we blame investors? Of course they seek monetization but should it be at the expense of the relationship with the consumer?  It’s impossible to imagine Facebook ever going the way of the dodo but Facebook’s valuation as I’ve said is based largely on the backs of 500 million people and how much advertising revenue can be extracted from the company.

This is why I love Twitter, if for no other reason than Twitter seeks to wait as long as humanly possible to decide on monetization. They seek to find a balance between monetization and consumer experience. LinkedIn I believe successfully did the same thing.

Instead of looking at Facebook and discussing what’s going on behaviorally with how we communicate with one another or our relationship with privacy or lack thereof, companies see 500 million people and think dollar signs.

We forget about what’s important about social media. And shame on us for even conceiving of the term. It’s about “social” and us marketers being so high and mighty attempt to rob you the consumer of the “social” aspect and consider it a medium, where we can what? Not contribute to the conversation but interrupt the one you’re having.  Gee, sounds a lot like TV.

Over the past few years people have used the buzzword of this being the “social economy” when the reality is we should be calling this the era of the listening economy. If only we’d actually do it. Facebook recently mined our status updates for memology. But honestly did anything useful actually come out of it other than HMU (hit me up) is the new BRB (be right back)?

Facebook has become a place of information overload. Whoever knew the brilliance of brevity in 140 characters?

Perhaps, just maybe if we would actually listen, we might find ways to contribute to conversations. This is yet another reason I believe Twitter continues to thrive. It’s a place where not only do people exchange memes but people are inherently nice. You post a tweet seeking advice about something in Paris and someone in Sheboygan, WI offers up a solution.  It’s a place where you’re essentially listening first. The ones that shout the loudest on Twitter seem to get tuned out the most and much like television advertising or banner ads fade into the background.

Perhaps we can learn something from Google’s new 500 Billion Words project called “Ngram” which was featured in a cover article in the New York Times this week.

“’The goal is to give an 8-year-old the ability to browse cultural trends throughout history, as recorded in books,’ said Erez Lieberman Aiden, a junior fellow at the Society of Fellows at Harvard. Mr. Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, assembled the data set with Google and spearheaded a research project to demonstrate how vast digital databases can transform our understanding of language, culture and the flow of ideas.”

I’m of course well aware that there are myriad of research companies that mine “conversations” and customer comments.

Consider this comment from David Gehring in a comment to a blog post called the “Death of Market Research” by Forrester’s Tamera Barber.

“Additionally, we’ve recently been diving into social media market research using tools like NetBase’s ConsumerBase product to analyze the qualitative values found in the amalgamated ‘conversation’ happening online about our client’s brands and shows. When these “non-traditional” data sources are approached with a thoughtful hypothesis and the same scientific rigor as our more traditional research efforts, we are able to derive some very powerful insights. And these insights translate well into strategic as well as tactical brand and product strategy.”

Perhaps we’re on the right path.

It seems to me, if we take time to listen and observe what social media means in a cultural context then maybe we’ll find better ways to monetize the medium in a fashion which allows for a happy co-existence.

Your thoughts?

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Nov
23

David Lubars Thinks You’re Dumb

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I belong to a group on LinkedIn called “Re-inventing the Advertising Agency Business Model”.

Here is where my advertising and marketing brethren pontificate on the future of advertising. In my mind it’s a useful exercise if only someone would actually do anything about it.

Lately, this issue is one of the most widely discussed topics in the marketing/advertising community. Forrester has several reports on the matter.  Fast Company is planning to dedicate the December/January issue to the “tumultuous state of advertising.” As a part of this issue they recently asked the three top creatives of three very different agencies to visually demonstrate the future of advertising.

David Lubars, BBDO’s chairman and chief creative officer said this, “Everything will continuously change, but people will always stay the same.  Go back 70 years, go ahead 50 years, a human is a human. There are primal things that will always drive us: Will this product be better, will it help me succeed, will it make me more attractive? So the technology and the way we to speak to people will change, but those fundamentals will never change.” How he visually represented this is pictured above.

Herein lies the disconnect between the consumer and marketers.

One of my previous blog posts was about the chaos that is today’s consumer marketplace. These days we can’t even agree whether or not to call ourselves consumers. Alex Bogusky wonders if the term is a dirty word. Grant McCracken offers the term “multipliers.” No matter what, they’re far more diverse, sophisticated and interesting than we’ve ever given them credit for.  And while we try various new means of reaching consumers such as geo-tagging, QR codes, harnessing viral and so forth, at the end of the day on the whole, we default to the same old same old.  No disrespect to David Lubars. I don’t even know the guy and am not so sure they’d let me in the building but the same old same old is generally what agencies like BBDO produce. Advertising to the lowest common denominator.

Don’t get me wrong, BBDO has done some amazing work and continues to do so and the sheer size of BBDO globally is beyond intimidating. Nevertheless all too often it seems like big agencies are in protectionist mode as the biggest purveyors of disruption marketing.

Every day, the 30-second spot is becoming less and less relevant. Commercials are background noise. Banner ads have become plain beige wallpaper.  Brian Morrissey recently pointed out that click through rates on banner ads have stabilized. Phew.  Good. At .09 percent. Ummm Houston… we have a problem.

Grant McCracken has a wonderful section in his book “Chief Culture Officer: How to Create a Living Breathing Corporation” where he refers to the “American scholar Lewis Mumford [who] offered his vision of the world created by commerce.” It looks something along the lines of the set of “The Truman Show”.  As McCracken says, “This became the intellectuals favorite thing to say about popular culture: that culture touched by commerce must be diminished by it,” when in fact the exact opposite has happened. So while Lubars would have you believe that we as consumers are primal and simple the reality is we have evolved considerably.  Sure there are ways to simplify explaining consumer purchase behavior but in general consumers are extraordinarily complex.

In Mark J. Penn’s book “Microtrends: Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes” he says, “With the availability of choice has come a rise in individuality. And with the rise of individuality has come a rise in the power of choice. The more choices people have, the more they segregate themselves into smaller and smaller niches of society.” In his book he offers glimpses into 82 of these “niches”. To me, that’s relatively daunting.

We talk about the notion of true change but the reality is we continue to produce mediocre dumbed-down work largely at the request of the client.

Agencies are still effectively layers upon layers of management with peer-to-peer alignment with clients.  That being said, clients haven’t asked for it to change much.  When the ads aren’t performing, fire the agency!

In my humble opinion it’s going to take CEO/CFO level leadership on the corporate side to force their CMOs and marketing organizations out of their comfort zones to explore agencies with new business models and to change the way in which they interact with those agencies and who takes responsibility for idea creation. And to consider bringing some of those people who generate ideas in-house.

I don’t think there is one standard “agency of the future”.  I think there will be numerous solutions providers who all find unique ways to solve client’s problems and I think the more flexible and nimble those types of “agencies” are the better they will succeed.

And in fact according to Fast Company, Kraft appears to be on the cusp of doing it.

“For the enterprising client that can see clearly through the chaos, this new world holds promise. Kraft, for instance, has assembled a growing Rolodex of 70 new specialist partners. This isn’t some fringe brand — it’s Kraft, the country’s largest food marketer, which spends some $1.6 billion on marketing every year. The company is so open to new thinking that it recently hired a startup called GeniusRocket to develop a new campaign for the relaunch of its Athenos Hummus.”

My bet is that agencies will look a lot more like production companies and content will be king. I am also betting that audience segmentation will be far less about traditional demographics (age/race/HHI) and will be more about lifestyle/lifestage/interests. As we know Facebook is betting most heavily on “groups” and I guarantee you they will mine the data of the largest groups and offer up “access” to the largest groups at a steep premium. Social media in general has proven itself as a place where people with like interests congregate irrelevant of race or household income but don’t think for a second the consumer isn’t hip to what’s going on. We as marketers must be respectful and creative as to how we segment consumers.

May the best content win.

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Nov
14

Where I’d like to Read it

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I’m on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. All three of which I access most often from my phone.

I read blogs. I read industry rags. I read magazines. I read the newspaper. About the only thing I don’t read very often are books. Often because I’m too busy reading other things. Or watching and observing TV, things or people.

Most of the things I read, I read digitally and a lot of the time I do that from my phone (BlackBerry Torch).

What I do most often besides make calls, email and text… is read.

I’ll occasionally look at a YouTube video but I really don’t foresee watching TV or a movie from my phone even if I could.

Twitter is a place where you can connect with people from various affinity groups at 140 characters a tweet. However, for me and I think many who utilize Twitter in a professional capacity it’s become my de facto clipping service. I can’t remember the last time I’ve actually held a physical printed edition of a newspaper in my hands.  I read the New York Times on my phone. In my opinion the New York Times mobile edition is best in class. Here are some others that get good marks in their mobile form (please feel free to comment and add to this list)

  • Mashable.com
  • Boston.com (Boston Globe)
  • Wired.com
  • CBSSports.com
  • AdAge.com
  • Dictionary.com
  • Amazon.com
  • ReadWriteWeb.com

To be fair there are others with good mobile versions but oddly enough all too often when I’m pushed content via Twitter I get dumped in to the full site. I clicked on thirteen various links and ten out of thirteen times was led to the “full” site.  Only ReadWriteWeb.com, Mashable.com and Wired.com brought me to the mobile site. This is especially true with blogs. This usually means trying to resize it to fit my browser page and to do this without having to scroll left to right and top to bottom. A frustrating exercise that usually leads me park the content via Instapaper.com.  Instapaper is a helpful tool but should be unnecessary.

Now some might argue, “Well that’s your phone’s fault.” I’m not quite sure whose fault it is but I can say that if you’re to believe most advertisers from wireless carriers I’d venture a guess that within three to five years the ONLY phones that will be available to consumers will be smartphones. Wireless carriers and manufacturers have us watching football games and TV shows on our phones and doing these elaborate searches and posting and sending pictures.

Consider some thoughts:

  • A recent tweet from @BrettGreene suggests that “Within 3-5 years, mobile devices will be the FIRST screen for users accessing the Web. #ProfsChat (via @davidoxstein @CKsays)”
  • According to the Twitter Blog, “Total mobile users has jumped 62 percent [April 2010-Sept. 2010], and, remarkably, 16 percent of all new users to Twitter start on mobile.” Roughly about half of all Twitter users do so from a third-party mobile app.
  • @jmoore700 who is the Chief Media Officer for the ad agency Mullen recently tweeted, “The power of mobile, 200mm people now use Facebook through its mobile app, a threefold increase since last year.”

Now most importantly consider the following two graphics from a recent study done by Handmark recently featured in a Mashable.com article.

Overall, it would seem to me that we have a long way to go before the way it’s portrayed that we’ll interact with our phones is actually how we’ll interact with our phones.

That being said, I think the data is a pretty big wake-up call that content providers need to be in lockstep with carriers and manufacturers. The companies that do this early and well (in addition to providing good content of course) will be the first to create the most significant brand loyalty in the mobile medium.

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Nov
13

Why Twitter Really Works

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Recently I came across the following Tweet:

“RT @MalikYoba: RT…Twitter makes me like strangers I’ve never met and Facebook makes me hate people I know in real life.”

I couldn’t help but agree but I didn’t know why. That was until I received a copy of Grant McCracken’s new book, “Chief Culture Officer”. This is an excellent read named one of the best Innovation books of the year by Business Week and one of the best Big Idea books by CEO Magazine.

But I digress.

In “Chief Culture Officer” McCrackan references the old Nike ad “Tag”. I remember the ad vividly.

In it is a live version of tag played out in the middle of the day on urban streets. Mr. McCrackan offers a few theories on why this ad resonated and what it meant to us culturally. The third of those theories is what he calls the notion of the “generous stranger”.

Although referring to the ad, he might as well be referring to Twitter as well in saying,

“’Tag’ evoked a third trend we might call the ‘generous stranger’. For many of us first notice came in the form of a bumper sticker that read ‘Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty,’ a phrase so influential it now has its own Wikipedia entry. Several thousand years of cultural practice and religious teaching had encouraged us to think of generosity as a personal gesture that passed between known parties.  The ‘generous stranger’ trend suggested that it was better when things passed between perfect strangers. “

And thus Twitter suddenly makes perfect sense.

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“When I was four years old
they tried to test my I.Q.
they showed me a picture
of 3 oranges and a pear
they said,
which one is different?
it does not belong
they taught me different is wrong…”

Ani DiFranco

As the 2010 Census is being compiled one thing that we can most certainly be assured of is that we’ll probably recognize America as considerably different then it was say 20 years ago. We will see far more examples of other races, religions and ethnicities. While the census is used for lots of very important things, in the past it has been the single greatest overall driver of marketing decisions.

This being the case we can also be assured that marketing to said demographics will become increasingly challenging as well as remarkably inefficient and hardly cost effective. This is in large part because of what I like to refer to as “cross-culturalization”. This is simply where people from multiple ethnicities, races and religions share like interests.

In the past, marketers have traditionally marketed to people by finding the most similarities possible to reach the largest swath of people generally via demographics and household income otherwise known as “buying power”. Just consider the term, “general consumer”.

Is there really still such a thing?

Furthermore how people define themselves will hardly be answered by the census.

Zuckerburg would have you believe that Facebook’s fate to continue to remain relevant rests largely with the growing of the “Groups” functionality. No doubt he’s read Seth Godin’s “Tribes”. Interestingly enough today there was an editorial in the New York Times by David Brooks about “Flock Comedies” and shows like Dick Van Dyke, The Waltons and The Cosby Show being replaced by shows such “Friends”, “Sex and the City”, “How I Met Your Mother” and “Glee”. The editorial makes the argument that these “…shows also serve one final purpose. They help people negotiate the transition between dyadic friendships and networked friendships.”

Arguably the Internet has exploited people’s ability to group themselves and congregate together well before Facebook. Following a blog might be the simplest means of identifying with an interest or a group.

One question Facebook may want to confront is whether a group’s identity or brand is diminished by it being on Facebook. By its sheer size, Facebook is the Wal-Mart of social media regardless of whether or not it cares to admit it. ASMALLWORLD would not be the brand that it is if it were on Facebook. Perhaps there could be opportunities for Facebook to private label groups able to utilize Facebook’s functionality. But, let’s be honest, one thing about associating with a certain group is the notion of exclusion and to be a part of a certain group requires a degree of legitimacy or street cred.

Then there is the very real fact that there are some groups that people don’t want to be openly associated with. Take being gay, in which Facebook was recently accused of likely “outing” gays.

One of the simplest descriptions of Facebook I ever heard was, “It’s a TV channel I can turn on to see what my friends are doing.”

So let’s run with that. One could make the assertion that Facebook is really akin to an original big three TV network before cable where at any given point a marketer can reach the largest number of people. Let’s call Google the largest of the big three. Google however will always have search relevance for its ad platform. With Facebook though it has to provide relevance by interest. And here Facebook is actually becoming cable before our very eyes with groups becoming channels such as the Disney channel or Spike or Lifetime. However the same way marketers struggle to get a relevant message across requires understanding your audience.

And this is where groups come in.

What Zuckerberg isn’t saying is that basically groups will become a giant ad serving platform. Take for example the group “Mom’s Who Need Wine” which has about 336K+ followers on Facebook. Not too shabby a number, right? And where better to offer up any number of specific offers, Groupon like capabilities and so on based on hosts of data and data mining and insights to prospective advertisers.

At its core, I think Facebook is right culturally about the concept of groups. But I think Facebook has some considerable uphill battles. One is trust. The other is why Facebook? Facebook Groups is where the wannabes will live. The legit groups will be places like ASMALLWORLD or ShredUnion. As an advertiser, do you want to be where trends begin or where trends go to die (e.g. Wal-Mart). For that I suggest you ask Grant McCracken, author of “Flock and Flow”. Furthermore, if you start a group like “Moms Who Need Wine” why should Facebook make all the revenue off a group they didn’t even start?

Zuckerburg and the team at Facebook will position groups as what Facebook users want. And truth be told, that’s a load of crap. Groups is a way to make money. In interviews with Facebook staffers, nobody talks about the needs or wants of consumers… they talk about not being “… surprised if only 5% or 10% create groups,” noting “that’s 25 to 50 million people — not a small number by any standard.” Those are Nielsen numbers. Another factor to consider is what are real groups such as “Mom’s Who Need Wine” versus fad groups such as “Sorry But I Can’t Hear You Over This SunChips Bag” which currently has more than 51,000 friends.

So the question is what consumers do. And that, as I think we’re readily aware by this point, is anyone’s guess.

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Nov
29

Can Hummer have a Hyundai Moment?

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I recently read a great blog post by Andrew McCafee on the “Illusion of Brand Control” from the Harvard Business Review blogs. Mr. McCafee studies how technology affects businesses.

In his article he cites examples of two brands. One which seeks to try and corral perceptions of its brand the other who seeks to let its brand run free.

The brand that seeks to corral the perceptions of its brand does so fairly unsuccessfully while the brand that lets it brand run free seems to find organic success. These may not be apple to apple case studies but nevertheless, the former it would seem could learn something about perception, identity and aligning business, product development and marketing strategy.

The example of the brand allowed to run wild is MIT, in which there are 11 student blogs featured on the admissions office web page. They are central to the schools communications efforts. The premise was simple. The school is confident enough that in having some of the greatest scholars of the world grace its campus, why wouldn’t they be capable of presenting a cogent dialogue on a variety of topics to the world thus demonstrating why you would want to attend MIT.

On the other side of the spectrum is Hummer.

Mr. McCafee starts his piece…

“You’ve probably heard by now that ‘your brand is no longer yours.’ The assertion’s based on simple math. In the era of blogs, discussion boards, Facebook, Twitter, and other Web 2.0 tools, virtually everyone can get online and talk about your company and its offerings. As a result, the amount of information your marketing and PR departments can generate is only a small percentage of the total volume of content on the Internet about your firm.

What’s more, if some of the external voices become as popular, or perish the thought, more popular than your official voice, then they’re going to show up high in organic (as opposed to paid) search results. For example, I just typed “Hummer” into Google. The second result is the Wikipedia entry about the vehicle, and the fourth one is a site full of user-submitted photos that are not likely to please the brand’s owner.”

Let’s talk about the fourth one. On that site there are 5092 submissions of people flipping the bird to passing Hummer H2s. That’s a lot of angst.

When one thinks about Hummer’s past advertising, it often portrays young, good-looking, hip and adventurous 30-something individuals utilizing their Hummers to create their own adventures seeking out the most remote spots on earth.

Granted a great degree of Hummer’s spots are automotive eye candy in shot in places like the far reaches of New Zealand. However when there are people in the ads, the folks and imagery used in Hummer’s spots are really not at all representative of the actual Hummer consumer. And these days, I don’t think there are many people in America who want to be seen in a Hummer. The people portrayed in the spots of old courtesy of Modernista! are no doubt beautifully art directed and shot. But the people in the commercials look a lot like, well the people in agencies like Modernista! And what I know about people like these is that most of them wouldn’t buy a Hummer. They’re probably more likely to buy a Mini. And the hardcore outdoor folks that you might find riding their bikes to their boutique agency are design/brand snobs and extraordinarily eco-friendly. I might personally resemble this last remark.

This is where the opportunity lies for Hummer for North America. If they align the business strategy, product development and marketing effectively they could actually carve out a nice little niche for themselves.

While current brand perception is negative, I would predict that if you dug down to the brands core you’d find perception about the brand is probably still pretty well respected for being a vehicle that can pretty much get anywhere.

I have no idea what the new owners are considering for Hummer, but how about thinking of this for a second. Develop smaller than H2-type vehicles with less bling, powered by clean diesel (the magic word is torque) and provide functional utilitarian packages aimed at various affinity groups (outdoor enthusiasts).

This is where I wonder if Hummer can have its own Hyundai moment. Any marketer with a subscription to AdAge knows that Hyundai is the marketing darling of the industry these days and rightfully so. However it wasn’t marketing that created Hyundai’s turnaround. It was the company.

As Mark Allen Roberts said in response to the AdAge’s “Marketer of the Year”article on Hyundai, “What they did brilliantly was on the front end.”

I don’t suspect Hummer will be as universally captivating as Hyundai because it will always be a niche brand but I do feel that there’s a tremendous opportunity for Hummer.

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Oct
18

Stuff White People Like

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Brooke and I went to college together in the private enclave of Colby College in Waterville, ME.

We lived unique college experiences with my social environs grounded more in my lacrosse teammates and others in the student-athlete universe. Brooke while no doubt a sports fan was far more intellectual than I. Nevertheless, we were bound by common friends and most notably a class called “Female Experience in America”. In this class, we were part of one of six teams asked to create documentaries on social problems in America.

Brooke remains a good friend. She went on to Stanford and Salem State to get her MS in Psychology and is now the director of a community program at a local community college. She’s a wonderful global citizen. But Brooke is also phenomenally unique and very cool.

Let’s take a gander at a few of her recent Facebook posts:

• “Thinks 38-0 against a team with no wins this season is sufficient. Let the Titans go home to warm up, and put on some NASCAR or a hockey game!”

• “Leblanc has wanted to be a professional hockey player for as long as he can remember. But after he was drafted by the National Hockey League, he didn’t listen to the scouts who wanted him to skip college and dedicate himself to the pro game.” – Related Boston.com link

• “Loves her Bruins — consistently inconsistent!”

• “Inside 10 laps to go, Denny Hamlin and Greg Biffle were contenders for the checkers. They brought home the steering wheel.” [Nationwide series @ Fontana]

• “Now back to more important things: NBC’s f*-up of canceling ‘Southland’” – Related EW.com link

Brooke also has links posted to Youtube clips of Istanbul spoofs from the song by They Might be Giants and clips from the Craig Ferguson show. Among her fave bands are REM, The Allman Brothers and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Her fan pages on Facebook include: NASCAR, U2, Brigitte Bardot, Wimbledon, The United States of America, The New York Times, Starbucks, Target, Twilight, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Calvin and Hobbes, Roger Federer, The New England Patriots, The Daily Show, Pete Carroll, The Princess Bride, The Young Ones and A Christmas Story.

What’s so unique about Brooke? She lives in New England, went to the preppy private enclave of Colby College in the woods of Maine, LOVES the NHL, her Bruins and NASCAR.

Here’s what’s so unique about Brooke. She’s black.

If you attempt to market to her solely based on her race, you will make assumptions that are flat out wrong. Just another example of the importance of truly getting to know your customers.

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