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Carolyn Ann:

Are you sure you're not in marketing? It sounds more and more like you could be to me!

Well, first things first: I'm with Joe on my blogging. Except I don't even use Google Analytics!

I admit to some suspicion about Google's Page-Ranking algorithm. The secrecy behind it is a little too devious, and it emphasizes the clique, the cult of the popular and so on.

As a case in point (and I'll be blunt: my words on this little protest sparked some, er, hostility!). There's a transgender store not far from Euston Station, London called "Transformations". Surprisingly, it's not very popular - despite having been in business for quite a long time. (20+ years?) Anyway, there was a protest organized that had the aim of removing the store from the top-rank of the Google listing: the protest failed for a variety of reasons, not least being that no one seemed to have cottoned on to the fact that Transformations (probably) paid to have the top listing. (The point of contention came when I pointed this out...) But - and this surprised me - Transformations was finally knocked off top spot! It took over a year, but the only thing it proved was that popular action can skew Google results.

Now, the organizers of the protest claimed a false victory: they hadn't told Transformations of the protest (although I doubt it stayed secret for very long!) They also claimed that it proved the democratic nature of Google's rankings. Something that couldn't possibly be proved, because no one, outside of Google, knows the algorithm Google uses. Was the displacement a result of the now-lapsed protest, or simply because Transformations failed to pay their bill? I don't think it's possible to know. And therein lies the problem: without that payment to Google, you can never be sure what Google is doing. They claim "do no evil", but their actions have all the hallmarks of being 'a little' flexible in the definition of "evil".

Anyway, back to your question: how do you measure the return on investment of creating a positive image? Uh, well, that might be a bit difficult. Traditionally, it's called "goodwill", and a reasonable dollar amount is attached to it - when a company is sold. (It literally turns up on balance sheets as 'goodwill'! Or at least, it used to... I'm a bit behind times, fiscally speaking.)

I can't help but think that it's the wrong question. If the person asking insists on a number, it might be better to ask the sales staff what they think.

But when I think of the ROI of that protest: it was meaningless. All it did was create advertising, that Transformations apparently failed to exploit, for free. If you didn't know who they were before, you certainly found out when you went looking for transgender resources on the web. The protesters were, I have to observe, all of a like-mind; I didn't pick up any fresh or new opinion beyond the "let's join the party" sort of stuff. ("Oh, Goody! A protest against a store for this or that reason! I'll join because it seems to be the popular thing to do..." Am I too cynical? :-) )

Another protest that was meaningless was some "family" group protesting Ford's decision to advertise in gay media. When Ford pulled some advertising from gay magazines, the group claimed victory: except no one had ever heard of them, and no one really cared. Ford was doing an excellent job of losing money all by itself. I just thought I'd throw that one in...

Chevrolet doesn't pay attention to its customers. Not that long ago (last week?) I called Toyota's main number and complained to them about their stance on CAFE standards. I told them I will not buy a Toyota Tundra, when I go looking for a new truck (next year?) if they persist in keeping pollution and mileage at the same, abysmal, levels. If they had blogs, I could comment on their stances: what's the Return on being directly involved with the potential customer? (Wait, I detect a similarity to what you tell us... :-) ) I didn't bother calling Chevy - I just know they pay not a blind bit of attention to their customers.

If a marketing manager needs to understand the return of interacting with consumers, they really need to get a new career. If they want to explain it to their C-levels, consider the cost of not interacting with customers: Ford lost close to $13 billion in one fell swoop. Ignore the customer at your peril.

And despite the fact that I've rambled on, I'll close with something I used to tell me staff: we existed to serve the customer. They were the ones who generated the revenue that paid our bills. All those fancy computers, nice courses in semi-exotic locales? All paid for by the people who interacted with the customer. But without the tools to interact, even they'd be hard pushed to make the required dinero.

Carolyn Ann

PS I think there was a point to my roaming... My apologies if this was overly long! And vague...

@Joe -- going back to your original comment, this is writing and thinking together. In a way I think may of us wish it could be the same in organizations. How many proposals have you written today that have gotten you a green light to action?

@Geoff -- I'm amused by Power 150. My debut was at #80 and after 8 months or more of blogging I'm still pretty much there. The more things change, the more they stay the same. You come here and read to get ideas and find original content, not because I might be on some list. Clearly I'm not going anywhere on that one ;-)

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