Category Archives: Marketing Research

Mind The Gap

“At Gap brand, our customers have always come first. We’ve been listening to and watching all of the comments this past week. We heard them say over and over again they are passionate about our blue box logo, and they want it back. So we’ve made the decision to do just that – we will bring it back across all channels.” This is from a recent press release from Gap Inc. regarding a change in its corporate logo. The full text can be found here: link.

So the socialmedialists feel that they won the day. The people (crowd) has spoken. While some have speculated that this was a PR stunt, The Gap Inc. nonetheless appears have capitulated and reverted to its original logo. Amen.

My speculation is that this event was symptomatic of something else: a brand that is indeed struggling amidst a retail industry vertical that is recovering fairly well since the 2008 economic downturn. The stock price peaked near $26 around April 23, 2010 and has fallen 30% to around $18 today. Historically, the stock hasn’t done much in the past 5 years, remaining under $20.

From a marketing perspective, the outcome of the social media/crowdsourced and subsequent response by Gap Inc. suggests a brand that has lost control. There is little sense that the outcry actually came from Gap customers or whether the research that GAP conducted was segmented with respect to brand loyalists, frequent shoppers, Gap customers at large versus non-customers and people who generally make a habit of railing against brands for sport. To take this further, there was little evidence that Gap distinguished between social media in the broadest context or WOM – Word of Mouth otherwise known as earned media, a key metric of contextual online brand conversation. I would also surmise that the Gap’s logo wasn’t top of mind with its various customer segments as opposed to merchandise selection & availability, customer service and the on-line shopping experience.

At the end of the day, whether or not a company chooses to change its logo,  the value proposition has to be clear, strong and reflective of customer wants and needs. If the value is not there, perceived or otherwise and if the product/service delivery does not meet or exceed expectations and create conditions for repeat purchasing, logo changing will do nothing to affect corporate performance. This goes for any company in a fiercely competitive market.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia

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The Social Maze

Where are all my customers?

 The funny thing about all the endless advocacy of social media is that nothing has really changed in the business of matching consumers with brands. Oh sure, now that consumers ‘control the brand’, companies are at the mercy of infantile twittering tantrums such  as when consumers don’t get their way (especially on an airline) hoping to unleash a social firestorm primarily with the hope of getting noticed for a nanosecond or two. (The same folks likely get back on the same airline, content to collect their frequent flyer points.) 

One would think, with all those folks splaying their private lives out in public via the likes of YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Foursquare – lest we forget this thing called a phonebook or the science of geodemographics and credit card purchase data – that people would be easy to find. In fact, with all of the yottabytes of data out there about consumers, it should, in the year 2010, be a matter of running an algorithm or two to find customers, understand preferences and match any product or offer with any consumer 24/7 in any country with high Internet penetration.  It would be the end to the need to advertise using traditional channels.

Funny indeed. The search and storage/processing technology required to make the social web possible has, as the main output, data. Whether you call it media or content it’s still really just more data taking up space on some distant server farm deep in the Mariana Trench. As such, are we all the wiser? Not really. With free cloud apps having a shelf life not much longer that the vegetables in your local supermarket, many are wary of the risks of implementing something that will be obsolete by the time it gets traction in the marketplace. With the yet to be proven value of social media monitoring and analytics, it’s not as if the world has abandoned representative random sampling or in-market product trials.  

Do companies really have the strategies, skill sets or business processes to effectively leverage the social web? With only $2 billion slated for social media spending in the USA this year, I doubt it. Yet, evangelists are forever hopeful, as that is their stock in trade. Like Charles Revson, founder of Revlon once said, “In the factory we make cosmetics; in the store we sell hope.”  

On the other hand, Charles Revson didn’t have social networks at his disposal but his customers had no trouble finding the Revlon counter.  

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia

MaaS Marketing the new Mass Marketing?

Is marketing now only about placing the order?

I have worked in a number of environments where marketing technologies have been at the centre of business transformation. I don’t mean to suggest that customer wants and needs were not a consideration. Rather, there was a tendency to undertake business tranformation in a way that was technology-led where the requirements of the client were the last consideration in defining the vision and implementation strategy.

Today, we have what appears to be an increased love affair with marketing appliances. What I mean is that there is an almost universal embracing of the latest piece of technical wizardry to hit the marketplace. When a new gadget hits the market it’s not just covered in a technology publication, it’s a major event that makes the front page of the daily news. On the consumer side, it’s been about various tablets, e-readers and smart phones. On the business side, it’s been about apps ranging from the latest in search tools for consumer-generated content, customer relationship management and licenced applications in general that provide augmented value through Internet access on demand known as SaaS – Software as a Service. Implicit here is the pervasive expansion of social networking platforms.

By no means am I suggesting a dislike for gadgets – I have plenty of them myself. It’s really about the illusion that using applications or appliances in and of themselves augment the value of a brand experience or address a complex business challenge. For example, having a website or microsite has little effect on consumer behavior if it does not enable something (or someone) and lead to an action or at best, a positive result. The same can be said for having a fan page on Facebook, opening a Twitter account or running banner ads on the Internet. Similarly, “ordering up” the latest in mobile applications might demonstrate that a marketing manager is taking an action but unless that application delivers value that the customer can see or experience, an enterprise is best to take the money, put it in the bank and let the interest payments flow to the bottom line.

We are a society that makes an increasing number of decisions based on data. Business goes to market with an array of marketing appliances. We all spend more time on the Internet. What we seem to be missing is the opportunity that technology should enable us to do and that is to have more time to create. What I mean is create new artforms in business – incorporating creative ideas that reflect an advancement of culture, art and intellectual enlightenment, something that seems to more of the past than in our future.

I was influenced early on in my career by Theodore Levitt. He wrote a book entitled  “The Marketing Imagination”. I was also influenced by Wally Olins, a practitioner of corporate identity and author of “The Corporate Personality”. Both books were about ideas, identity and shaping the corporate personna.

If we want to uncover opportunity in our own marketing futures, let’s take a turn toward the creation of ideas and not rely too much on appliances to do the work for us. That’s the difference between between having 15 seconds of fame in web-wide world and creating brands endure long after a marketing technology has reached the end of its lifecycle.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

My New Levi Jeans: Outside “The Social Bubble”

I just bought a new pair of Levi’s. Blue jeans. Levi’s 501 with the red tab. I bought them because my 10 year old pair are done. I also have a black pair. I have always bought Levi jeans since I was in high school. While we all struggled to carve our our own identities, fitting in was important. Funny thing is, we all wore the same but different (?)  ‘uniform’ – Levi jeans, Bass Weejuns and Lacoste tennis shirt.

To be clear, I don’t think about Levi’s as an ‘iconic brand’. There’s little that is iconic about a 100+ years American brand now made in Bangladesh and Mexico. Instead, I want to relate this post to a couple of things that had nothing to do with why I bought by latest pair of Levi jeans. 

Social Media had nothing to do with my purchase. It did not influence, there was no online conversation, no online recommendation, not even a visit to a Levi website, microsite, Facebook page or banner ad. No online activity whatsoever. I didn’t even wonder if the Levi’s brand would be my ‘friend’. Social Media didn’t exist when I bought my first pair of Levi’s; it’s utterly irrelevant to this day. 

I am not part of a Levi community, online, offline, inline or out of line. While I may be one of millions who wear Levi’s jeans, I don’t have discussions about the brand, don’t care whether or not others wear the brand and don’t care what others think, feel or experience about the Levi brand. I wasn’t connected to a ‘friend’ that I ‘trusted’ or had an online ‘relationship’ with.

I didn’t go into a Levi retail outlet or even a jeans store. Just went to a chain department store to the menswear department. 

I have never bought another brand of jeans, never will. If someone gave me a pair from another brand, I would give them away. 

This was purely a value exchange. I paid my money, got new Levi’s. I bought them because I like them more than any other brand of jeans. I just do.

To paraphrase a recent quote from “The Social Bubble” in the Harvard Busness Review, “Levi’s makes awesome stuff”.

I am a Levi’s 501 jeans with-the-red-tab customer for life.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

The New Corporate Trust Agent

My previous post “Marketing Research Mindset: Stop Debating Social” was about the opportunity that Social Networks presents to the corporate marketing research function. Here are some further thoughts on moving forward.

Marketing Research professionals who look past the ‘research’ shortcomings of social media monitoring, see the wealth of organic, continuous streaming of customer conversation on the web. This view is echoed by the ARF – Advertising Research Foundation in their most recent publication The Listening Playbook.  This new breed of research professionals is reinforcing its position as the Voice of the Customer within their organization (or their client’s domain). They are also the small minority that organizations are turning to for help in solving complex business challenges brought about by the Social Web.

Marketing Research should be the ‘go to’ place to sense the marketplace and be the primary source for social network guidance.  Consider the following: 

You Can Handle The Truth

The Voice of the Customer (VOC): Consumer research is, in part,  about understanding wants and needs, whether explicit or implicit. The best methods afford the enterprise a window to see many possible futures rather than the world as viewed through a rear-view mirror. VOC input also enables strategic planning in the broadest context and tactical business process improvement at the transactional levels of the organization.

Analytical Rigor: Those who do it right and avoid analytical rigor mortis bring an objective view to the decision-making process. Marketing Research sits at the table as a key input that is fact-based and provides insight into the risk and potential rewards of business decisions. Like the accounting function, Marketing Research employs its own version of GAAP that can both replicated and audited for accuracy. Unlike accounting, Marketing Research has the added benefit of providing a qualitative perspective that can be applied to innovation.

Business is filled with risk: As in golf, business is ‘a game of mistakes’, risks and rewards.  As some like to ask, “With all of that marketing research, why do so many new products fail?” One might also wonder then why do so many advertising and public relations campaigns miss the mark, M&A deals go awry, startups fail, product quality glitches occur, costs are overun, brands lose market share and so on.  As one venture capitalist recenty told me, success is often about timing and luck. We both agreed however, that data, research and insight help to manage the “known unknowns”.

Enter the Golden Age: The best thing about Marketing Research, as I see it, is that it knits together Customer Relationship Management and Social Media as a primary step of customer engagement. It is catalyst in unifying the enterprise and the customer through insight. CRM needs research to design the customer experience; Social Media, in proving its business utility, needs market research to make sense of the millions of consumer-generated comments that are posted every day about brands. Social Media and CRM are where Marketing Research insight is put into action. Similar links exist at the functional level with product development, media, advertising, sales, public relations,  marketing and manufacturing.

In the new consumer world of social and mobile, has there ever been a better time for Marketing Research to be the new Corporate Trust Agent? 

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

Marketing Research Mindset: Stop Debating ‘Social’

Yes, look here for answers

Is it research or something else? Social media, Business Intelligence, Customer Relationship Management, Online Communities and Marketing Research (MR) – all are ways to listen and understand customers.

My guess is that MR is filled with the most angst amidst some sort of identity crisis in relation to social media.  Witness this recent piece in Research Magazine:

The survey of marketers, conducted for the IAB by research agency Opinion Matters, found that the most common use of social media was to drive awareness and consideration of a brand, as well as engagement and advocacy. 60% of the firms surveyed said they were using social media for research purposes, but when asked where social media fits in their organisation (selecting all answers that applied from a total of six), only 12% chose research, compared to 73% who chose marketing, 33% who chose PR/communications and 20% who chose ‘other’.

No wonder there is angst. MR isn’t really seen as delivering value when in comes to social media. If you get a migrane just thinking about social media, consider the following possible remedies:

1. Social Media won’t go away but respondents have: While people are giving up land lines and don’t like getting unsolicited mail, they’re opting to express opinion on the Internet in a pure, organic way. Partner with an online monitoring firm and create a new social science.

2. Stop hiring more MR professionals: Instead, hire people who understand the digital space. Marketing Technologists speak to ways in which applications enable the marketing process and the customer experience. Innovate.

3. Clients are buying-in to marketing research online (MROCs) and owned media platforms: In order to deliver incremental perceived value – business insights or new ideas – you must play in the right sandbox when it comes to customer listening.

4. Stop acting like an accounting function : It’s the job of the MR professional to guide the CMO and others, in a brand or customer management role, to see the way forward. Focus on what’s in the cloud and drive the next big idea. Act in real-time.

5. If you try to prove ROI you will die: Ask yourself, how many things does an enterprise do without having to justify with ROI? Do marketing, strategy, HR and finance have to deliver ROI to justify their existence? MR needs to focus on business benefits as the way of knitting together social media across the enterprise. Be the Voice of the Customer.

Leadership is the best way to overcome angst and clears the way for taking ownership. No one will fault you for that.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

ARF Listening Playbook – Seven Deadly Sins of Listening: Opinion

Steve Rappaport, Knowledge Solutions Director, Advertising Research Foundation recently outlined in the WARC Blog a number of ‘bad habits’ that diminish the effectiveness of listening to consumer-generated content.

The following is intended to serve as a complementary viewpoint founded on fact-based marketing research and CRM consulting:

ARF Deadly Sin #1. Checklisting: The practice of gathering vendor or software capabilities and features, and comparing them in fancy grids, which give the appearance of thoroughness.

4ScreensCRM: Vendor evaluation is important but can only be done effectively if mapped against client process and technology requirements. As a start, provide your client with a roadmap that outliness potential outcomes and various paths to those end points. This should help with the anticipation of possible futures and builds a foundation for the initial strategy.

ARF Deadly Sin #2. Questionable Rigor: Listening is an emerging research discipline with a variety of approaches, but without standardized industry practices or an extensive body of research-on-research to date. Given the newness of the field, this is to be expected and will change over time.

4ScreensCRM: Provide your client with a business case that includes parameters for listening. Clients appreciate the need to pilot net new initiatives using an iterative approach to learning. Taking time to know what the ‘black box’ of the Internet contains is prudent in regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals.

ARF Deadly Sin #3. Adding Listening to Staff Work: It is common for someone in the research department to be designated the listening guru. However, that individual is usually just starting up the listening learning curve and can be easily overwhelmed by multiple demands – learning a new field, implementing listening research, understanding the results and sharing them throughout the company, all while performing their day job.

4ScreensCRM: Provide timely outsourcing capabilities with the right skills sets and tools to match the clients requirements. This will enable the client to keep focusing on their core business (e.g. make and sell automobiles) while at the same time forming in-house expertise along the way.

ARF Deadly Sin #4. Collecting Everything: It is easy to be seduced by social media metaphors – “rivers of conversation” is one, and it leads to thinking that relevant conversations are everywhere and flowing.

4ScreensCRM: Direct your client to places (URLs) where there is meaningful and legitimate conversation about their brand. Advise your client on the appropriateness of CGM listening at it relates specifically to their industry vertical, product categoryand market segments. If you client’s brand is not one that generates organic online experiential discussion, be candid about the go/no go decision to engage in further listening.

ARF Deadly Sin #5. Relying on Observations: At a recent ARF Industry Leader Forum, Paul Banas, Kraft Foods’ Insights and Strategy manager, told us that “observations are facts without wings – they don’t take you anywhere.” What good is it to know that brand mentions were 45% positive over the last year? He made the point that insights inspire action, evoke emotion, are unexpected, and lead to leverage-able ideas.

4ScreensCRM: Good insight reveals opportunity for competitive advantage and considers which functional groups are best to own the action plan.  Point to areas that will deliver a quick hit vs. long term impact on the client’s business. Use proof points to reinforce the business case across the enterprise.

ARF Deadly Sin #6. Using The Wrong Measure to Evaluate Listening: We learned that many of the measures used to judge listening are better suited for analyzing social media campaigns. This is a classic instance of using what’s available, such as activity measures (e.g. clicks) exposure metrics (e.g. page views), engagement measures (e.g. time spent) and transaction counts (e.g. conversions).

4ScreensCRM: Develop metrics that are variations on marketing research measures.  Metrics can be cascaded in order to provide a ‘drill down’ and get to the underlying drivers of consumer sentiment (satisfaction, willingness to recommend) and mentions (undaided awareness) of brand attributes, physical or emotional as well as comparisons relative to competition. 

ARF Deadly Sin #7. “It’s Just Another Way To”: Saying listening is “like a focus group,” or “another source of insights,” may be the greatest sin of all because these phrases make it appear as if listening is just another technique with limited application.

4ScreensCRM: Adopt the view that listening is about extending the view of the brand into the broader customer universe and augments the client’s ability put themselves in their customers’ shoes. Authentic online conversation is organic where consumers self-select, actively participate and seek the opinion of like-minded consumers. Listening is a passive process to understanding unstructured and unscripted conversations not possible using ‘active’ survey research.

– TedMorris, 4ScreensCRM