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My name's Joel Kelly and I live in Halifax, NS.

I'm a 20something guy doing digital and social media strategy for a Halifax-based marketing agency.

I'm a vegan nerd and marketing asshole.

You should follow me on Twitter.

Contact me about whatever (like, say, your marketing questions) at

Monday, April 27, 2009

Everybody needs an elephant

So I spoke at the AIM Conference in Halifax this week about how businesses can make their marketing more social. You know, giving people something worth talking about, and helping facilitate the conversation. I thought I'd write about one of my favourite points in the talk.
Everybody needs an elephant.

Well, something like that. This came to me while having a conversation with a friend a couple weeks back. The inevitable and obvious question of "What's new?" got asked, and neither of us had anything particularly interesting to say.

So he suggested that he should just buy an elephant. That way, there would always be something to answer that question with.

"Just trying to figure out if I'm going with an Indian or African elephant."

"Oh, I'm still haggling with the owner."

"Would you believe it? Damn thing's caught up in customs."

You could go on and on about how the paddock construction is going. How much food you have to buy, and on and on. Actually, the thing never really has to arrive.

It's just something to talk about.

And everyone's looking for something to talk about.

People will go to extraordinary lengths to have something new to talk about. Hell, we'll even pay tons of money on a vacation just to have the subject of new conversations.

Does your business do anything that might give me something to talk about? Are you at all helping me buy my elephant? Are you so interesting that you can replace the elephant?

Does your business have a blog that's regularly updating with things I can bring up with coworkers? Does your packaging include funny or fascinating takes on the industry you're in?

If you make cutlery, why doesn't your packaging say how many forks are made worldwide in a day? Why don't you tell me a bit about the history of modern cutlery? When company comes over, I'll have something to talk about.

If not, I guess I have to keep trying to buy that elephant. And that's a bit of a pain. Too bad you couldn't help.


Darrin Searancke said...

Yeh, all good points Joel. Back in my radio days we would call that "water cooler talk" or sometimes "elevator talk"- although we didn't have very long elevator rides in my city! The idea was that if you could provide some on-air trivia/joke/prize (or promotion) that people would share with co-workers/friends/strangers - the desired effect was that it helped develop your personal "on-air" brand/career & promote the station. It all comes back to providing some form of added benefit and getting people to share information - preferably about your product/service! As you say, on-line this can be something as simple as blog/packaging information (how to use your product/service effectively) or an actual physical benefit (prize/voucher, etc.) Now, did you say HomeDepot has a sale on Straw this month?

Kimberly said...

When I read the title of the post the first thing that came to mind was this video: which made me kind of weepy. Instead you made me think. Do you think it's a certain type of consumer that looks for the extra bits of knowledge? I know it sounds crazy but I think there are some people out there who are perfectly content without elephants. Maybe those are the same people who think boobs sell though. What do you think?

Joel Kelly said...

Yeah man, exactly.

It makes so much sense for radio, talk shows, etc etc, but so many advertisers don't seem to get that they need to do the same thing...

Glad you liked the post!

Joel Kelly said...

Good point, Kimberly.

I'd suggest that not everyone (very few, in fact) are looking for companies to give them things to talk about. But I believe it's most people who like having something new to say. The point is that if a company can be the one doing it, then they should at least be trying.

Not everyone's looking for a branded elephant, but most people will take one if it's offered, you know?

Awesome video, by the way!!