Ruud Questions: Steve Gradman

Steve Gradman is the Senior Brand Manager for pen producer Uni Ball, a Rubbermaid owned brand.

Steve is one of those folks that appear in your Twitter stream by surprise, giving advice on a question you posed, helping out with an interactive touch. In my case he jumped into a geek question about Moleskine notebooks and which types of pens blot the least.

In this talk about branding, marketing and social relations his takeaway points are; interact consistently with a genuine desire and voice and you'll be rewarded with banner-carrying brand fans.

Emphasis is mine.

woman writing in kitchen
by David Boyle

You're a brand manager. How's that different from PR or "regular" marketing?

Well, my Marketing 101 professor once said marketing is the relationship of finance and romance (not sure what great mind originally came up with this quote).

I guess being a brand manager vs. the PR or agency people means I have to deal with a lot more of the finance side.

So in addition to overall brand strategy and marketing decisions, I have to handle the day to day workings of the business like inventory issues, product pipeline, pricing, rebates, packaging, etc etc.

The web expanded the discussion. Blogs put discussion tools in the hands of The People but social media at large has fragmented any focussed discussion, it seems. Does that make brand management harder, easier or just different -- and how so?

It makes things much easier for me.

I have been at this for a long time and between the many companies I have worked for I have been a part of some of the worlds biggest brands.

Until the popularity of blogs and Twitter came along getting that daily one-on-one interactions with consumers was nearly impossible and as a result we often had to assume what consumers thought based on their past purchase decisions. Now the ability to discuss how our brand, products, campaigns are immediately affecting consumers is priceless in our everyday decision making.

Uni-Ball Pens
by Sergis

Additionally, we are now much more nimble and capable of reaching those previously expensive and niche consumer segments that demand different communication vs. general market.

A good example of this is with what we loosely define as Pen Addicts or Pen Geeks. There are numerous pen fanatic blogs out there that previously our efforts would miss; now with the ability to interact via social media we can specifically apply our messaging and engage these consumers who then blog about our products to their fans and followers essentially carrying our banner for us for almost zero cost.

You're the person behind the @UniBall_USA Twitter account. Obviously you see value there. How do you measure that so when confronted with the "who cares? it's a waste of time!" question you have something to show for?

I get the who cares quite a bit.

Anyone who doesnt see the value of the ability to connect one-on-one with your consumer base is simply just ignoring the world around them.

Twitter Networking
by Phillie Casablanca

Twitter has been an incredible tool for us to get immediate reactions to promotions and marketing initiatives. Twitter helps us talk to consumers about new product likes and dislikes, and get the word out with everyone from mom bloggers to pen fanatics.

Plus I simply love Tweeting about things be it pens or otherwise and trying to give the brand a little personality to boot.

You use TweetDeck. Any other tools you use for online reputation monitoring and management?

I have TweetDeck open all day long on my computer. I currently monitor my replies as well as search terms uni-ball uniball pen etc to see what people are talking about as it relates to our business.

New Economy Marketing Books
by MikeBlogs

There is nothing better than logging on to TweetDeck after my commercials air during a high impact event and hearing the chatter about it (both good and bad)......

Without giving away the company's golden egg, what's "the secret" in using Twitter successfully?

Be yourself, be funny, and consistently participate.

Main reason for these Q&A's is to help people effected by the recession to figure out if trying to earn a living online makes sense. What's your take there?

Hmmmmmmmm not really my area of expertise, but I can tell you that a sense of humor, brand and product knowledge, and consistent interaction have been my keys to success.

Let's say they went ahead and started a web site. On a shoe string budget, if that even, which brand management steps do you recommend they start of with so as to increase and their visibility and their perceived value as quickly as possible?

First and foremost figure out the one key thing that will separate you from your competition. We call it your One Common Understanding or OCU. For uni-ball it is all about our security message and how Uni-Ball helps prevent check fraud and other document fraud with its exclusive ink (our trademarked uni-super-ink).

So if you are starting a site, make sure there is a clear and simple definition as to what that site will be about and how you will clearly and simply communicate that through your look and feel, information, products, etc.

If you can quickly become an expert or definitive source for all things that represent your OCU you should have a solid framework for success.

Quote from Cluetrain Manifesto, 1999
by Dave Duarte

About the Author: Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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