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  • Sam Decker

16 Insights from Ted Leonsis (Word of Mouth Marketing Association Keynote)

I’m in D.C. presenting at the Word of Mouth Summit. I wanted to share my notes from today’s keynote by Ted Leonsis, Vice Chairman of AOL(and owner of several Washington sports teams).

Mr. Leonsis shared tremendous insight and perspective on how marketing has changed, and he presented it with disarming humility and sincerity. It was great to hear someone at his level ‘get’ what has happened to the market and marketing with such clarity, presented with simplicity.

Here are some of the points I captured from his presentation…

  1. Give customers the opportunity to create, share, and self-express. It’s why there are 55 million blogs.

  2. Typically corporations want executives to ‘stay on message’ and to ‘be handled’…but that doesn’t pass customers’ sniff test. Mr. Leonsis, for example, typed his responses in chat room Q&A…typos and all.

  3. Their job at AOL was to surrender to the audience. To hold the mirror up to the audience.

  4. Fastest growing markets: Latino, African American, Boomers, Youth.

  5. Youth is an entirely different market (note: search Millenials on Google).

  6. He encourages kids to study Mandarin and Math. China is producing 260k college grade in Math. U.S. is producing 22k, 10k are foreign students.

  7. In a happiness study, factors of happiness are: Relationships, Community, Self-Expression, Giving Back, Pursuing a Higher Calling. Online can help these things.

  8. Book recommendation: “The Great Third Places”

  9. Ad spend is 8% online, while time per person per day is 17% online and growing. Shift in spend will follow.

  10. Early in his career he marketed to people. Now it’s marketing to algorithms and chipsets (ex: google). He gave a great story where his car told him he needed new tires and he went and got them…5 hours out of his day. Yet tire companies spend hundreds of millions to convince him to buy tires…his car prompted him. Customer is in control…your message needs to be there right time, right place. (my interpretation: strategic need for data flexibility, interoperability, democratization, normalization).

  11. Business Models 2.0 don’t need any marketing around them. AOL spent 10s of millions on spam technology. Someone recommended a “report spam” button. No marketing, self policing system. AOL now most spam-free system by user contribution.

  12. For his sports team, he captured 101 things customers didn’t like and he attacked them one at a time, and showed progress against them.

  13. Create products that aren’t tricky.

  14. Embracing the customer: Listen (be open), Create good products with virtue, Make sharing easy, Mirror the community.

  15. 7 Web 2.0 Virtues: Generosity, Sharing, Politeness, Openness, Communication, Respect for Individuals, Diligence. He made note, coincidentally, that the Jesuits considered these the secrets of success in life.

  16. Customers have two wallets: money and time.

There is a lot here and I will likely blog about many of these concepts later. In the meantime, what stands out to you? Leave a comment.


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