CHICAGO — Think of Tami Cannizzaro, senior director of marketing for eBay’s Enterprise unit, as a marketing unicorn, that rarest of creatures who combines legacy enterprise branding acumen with a guerrilla marketing playbook that includes social media, community building and influencer cultivation.

Speaking on “The New Rules of Engagement: How Digital Marketers Must Evolve” at CMSWire’s DX Summit, she shared ten ways that brands today can build what she calls “human-to-human” messaging tactics to keep up with the dramatic shifts that are reshaping the marketing landscape today.

Turning Down Money

Cannizzaro’s talk built on the premise that legacy marketing efforts — in which brands fiercely maintain and protect their identities — are failing to keep up with the rapid shifts in human behavior that have reshaped our consumer interactions with traditional advertising, TV and even digital communications channels.

“There is no longer a captive audience for anything these days,” she cautioned. “We have developed such a powerful reflex to ignore marketers that we tune out things that used grab our attention like email, search ads ... even phone calls from family and friends.”

Cannizzaro shared a tipping point that happened to her recently when she breezed past a vendor who was handing out actual dollar bills to passersby outside the subway. “I thought to myself, what is happening here; I just turned down money,” she laughed.

From Irritability to Authenticy

“What doesn’t irritate us?” has become the question marketers have to answer, Cannizzaro believes.

The answer for today’s brands lies in establishing authentic human-to-human communication, based on what she calls “social advocacy” to deliver the right organic, word of mouth messages to the right audiences at the right times.

Legacy Marketing Needs Help

What’s more, Cannizzaro believes that “unless you’re Budweiser with the Clydesdales in a Super Bowl commercial” legacy brands are falling dramatically short in delivering their messages to receptive audiences.

“People want to hear from people, not brands,” she stated. Cannizzaro cited Halloween costumes as a recent example. “People posting pictures of what costumes they were buying turned out to be much more influential than stores telling us what costumes they were selling,” she noted.

People Need People

When people become the message, the goals and dynamics of branding shift from a “branding police” effort to stay perfectly on message to an embrace of brand impressions that add up to collective feelings around the world.

This levels the playing field for brands without large budgets to penetrate audiences and build credibility. “Third-party validation is becoming a huge driver of organic reach,” reminded Cannizzaro. “Earned media is so credible that we’re seeing social media growing as the driver of SEO rank.”

The Authentic Reach Playbook

“Picture a ball versus a bag of marbles,” suggested Cannizzaro. “They may seem to be equal in weight but the marbles have 300 percent more surface area. Reaching out to capture those individual perceptions of your brand is a way of spreading your message across a greater surface area, Cannizzaro maintained.

Here are her top ten tips for building that real and sustained brand engagement:

  1. Build employee advocacy: The notion that only senior management can craft and share brand messages is old school and counterproductive Cannizzaro believes. “Your employee base should be sharing your brand through blogs, tweets, and word-of-mouth messaging,” she suggested. One way to break down resistance from employees worried about whether they’re sending the wrong messages is to provide an aggregation tool such as Voice Storm.
  2. “Tribe up” by finding your influencers: Within your markets, “ask who gets listened to at a vertical level and how can I connect with those messages?” suggested Cannizzaro. Movies do a great job of finding their influencers, she noted, but so do many B2B markets that publish lists of their top influencers.
  3. Curate other’s content: Work with influencers to source great content and syndicate it. “Source content drives authority,” Cannizzaro noted.
  4. Find people who already love you: When dealing with your most loyal base, give them fun ways to participate suggested Cannizzaro. “Ask yourself how you can give people incentives to engage in fun and personal ways,” she directed. “People love to participate in meet-ups and through social media so your key influencers will rise to the top and become even more apparent,” she suggested. Cannizzaro also noted that hyper-local efforts need not be expensive when dealing with groups such as college students.
  5. Build local communities: Cannizzaro noted that since brands have already lost the platform for global reach, marketers should accept that focusing on local efforts are a great way to create buzz,” she said.
  6. Harness bloggers and build affiliate networks: Not only will these tactics build brand dialogue, notes Cannizzaro, they can do so rapidly and efficiently by spreading your message across thousands of sites. “Let native advertising work for you,” she urged.
  7. Take advantage of low-cost social media campaigns: Platforms such as Facebook allow advertisers to craft different posts for different constituencies and those different posts can be used to target completely different constituencies such as older more loyal users, millennials who may be trying a brand for the first time, etc.
  8. Build community by adding value: This can happen through a campaign that delivers something like a personalized message on Mother’s Day or through something as simple as a thank-you shout out on Twitter, noted Cannizzaro.
  9. Take advantage of context: Whether it’s capitalizing on a breaking news, a relevant local message or interesting cultural moment, brands should create instant engagement by tapping into real-time conversations rather than missing opportunities by worrying about being “on message.”
  10. Remember that community = opportunity: Whether those communities involve face-to-face meet-ups such as a local dinners or virtual communities on LinkedIn, getting people together activates communities and drives word of mouth.

Metrics Not Money

Although Cannizzaro’s overall message was “just jump in” she had a word of advice for marketers trying to sell their programs to senior management. “Track your metrics and your results to create your own KPIs,” she suggested.

“When a boss sees that hosting a dinner for 20 users resulted in four follow-up sales meetings your programs will gain momentum and start to sell themselves.”

Title image by Asa Aarons Smith