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December 17-23, 2007 Mississippi Business journal

A7

Let's try mashing up marketing mix by intreducing sixtli P: Piay


A busy 50-year-old executive tumed me into a werewolf. A renowned product designer poked one of my friends. Welcome to the business side of Facebook-where play releases stress, where company thought leaders plug into industry-wide forums, and where deepening client relationships, establishing networks and attracting talent happen as a by-product of having fun. Meanwhile, over on secondlife.com, leading consumer-focused and business-to-business companies are spending energy and money running virtual organizations. Their new existence is rooted in delight; notice the verbs in the process: they create an avatar, explore and have fun. Serious companies such as IBM, Bain, Coke and hundreds of others are leading tbis charge into this playground. These days even the austere New Yorker invites readers to play with its hallowed cartoons via its weekly Cartoon Caption Contest, where readers submit, via the Web. a caption for a cartoon visual. Down the street from New Yorker headquarters, at the Niketown Lab, consumers actually design tbeir own shoes. The online feature of this lab generates tbree million unique visitors a month. The once immutable laws of marketing have relaxed. The examples above, and thousands of otbers. signify that a command center approach of marketing communications is outmoded. Building a brand with public relations and amassing expert credentials will work not alone. For example, as an avid reader and sometimes writer. I trust the consumer reviews on amazon.com more than a handful of book jacket biurbs. In fact, I have never read a bad blurb.

Driving choices
Companies that invite us to play invite us to make tbeir offerings our own, and tben we buy and "tell a friend" about it. Perbaps we even syndicate it on Digg or back to Facebook. Increasingly, peer recommendations drive the choices buyers make. When you let your audience play with your brand, they become part of it. They volunteer for your army. Tbey recommend your product or service. Play is an imperative for companies wanting to lead. Our global culture demands playfulness for a company to become an icon, and thus reach its market potential. Make sure your company's marketing mix incorporates this P no matter bow dry or tecbnical the industry. To lead, you must encourage and enable play. One early reader of this article commented that Play may not play out in the financial industry. To her, I will end by noting that I just compared movie tastes on Facebook with a senior VP from a major lending institution, a former client. Another friend a venture capitalist tumed me into a vampire, then sent me a private post. He is ready to play, and that could mean serious business. Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, which helps companies prosper with a pragmatic application of brand marketing and product innovation. The Oxford-based firm is online at www.southerngrowthstudio.com.

invitations to piay
Everywhere companies are encouraging us to become a part of tbeir culture by inviting us to play, to participate, to opine. Where is the communications firewall set up by the legal and PR departments? Wbat is going on? What bas cbanged in marketing? Everything. In this era of interaction, the ability to play with a brand, product or service is a critical factor in winning new customers and retaining existing ones. The above examples are not merely clever promotions. Like tbe universe, marketing always expands. Tbe marketing mix once the four Ps of Product, Place, Price and Promotions, later upgraded to the five Ps with the addition of Positioning now welcomes the sixth P, Play. As consumers and buyers, we want the power to choose our options and to control the experience. We expect to try things out, to squeeze the Try Me button on a SpinBrush toothbrusb before throwing it in the cart. Marketing has merged with technology, making the user experience the benchmark of success. Market leaders understand that in a fragmented culture the best way to establish leadership is provide a way for people feel safe to explore, to play, to try out everything from software to food to consulting methodologies before buying.

Letter to the Mississippi Business Journal

Kudos for MB J's Mississippi NEXT


Dear Editor, Great article in the November 19th issue of the Mississippi Business Journal about your Mississippi NEXT publication. I too believe that to whom mucb is given, much is expected and it was refreshing to read your article in that regard and to give thanks for that blessing. I also agree that the concepts being promoted by Superintendent of Education Hank Bounds are a step in the right direction for Mississippi youth. We all face a challenge in keeping young people motivated and inspired to succeed in school and beyond strongly encouraging the college path. More and more this challenge is getting younger and younger particularly so, when you consider that sixth grade has been pinpointed as a determinant in the success of some male youth in and beyond high school. The Web site MSNEXT.com is a great tool and will interest and encourage our youtb in that direction. I'm spreading the word about it to all of my friends and family. I hope that the guide book will be available in all Mississippi schools but especially in the public sector. However, in today's world where technology looms we must also look to refresh and renew the classroom approach. Children today are not inclined to sit still for a lecture in the classrooms of old but must instead be given hands-on, technologically driven approaches to drive forward into the future. This approach will require that we all embrace a new thought process and that we better prepare and train our teachers for this new way of teaching. I think this is in line with Dr. Bounds promotion of workforce training for high school kids and in the long run will help to make for a better Mississippi. Thanks for your article and continue to be a voice and an advocate for better education both public and private for all of Mississippi's children. Monica Gilmore-Love Mississippi bom and raised MSU Graduate {Go Dawgs) Mother of 3 in Mississippi Public Schools sent via e-mail

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