Tag Archives: brand promise

Brand Engagement – The Lee Valley Tools Experience

No doubt you have read countless articles about the importance of brand engagement on social media. To this end many brands have scrambled to check off their to do list with the lattest Twitter or Facebook account so as to make new ‘friends’ or be ‘liked’ through these new channels.

That’s fine as far as I’m concerned but true brand engagement happens at the Moments of Truth – those places where customer and brand come together and something gets done (or not). To put it another way, when there is a moment of truth, there is an opportunity to deliver a superior customer service experience that is memorable to the customer in a positive way. In turn, customers will be satisfied, maybe delighted and at best, generate some ‘earned media’ (word-of-mouth) for your brand, the most powerful kind of recommendation and form of advertising.

The grass can be greener on all sides.

In my particular case, I needed a replacement part for my Lee Valley push mower. The part was a bolt that fits into a knob that is used to adjust the height of the roller. When I called Lee Valley with the intent of getting a replacement part, I was served immediately by a gentlemen who volunteered the following:

– 2 replacement bolts, 4 day courier delivery via UPS, free of charge.

Indeed, the parts arrived in two days and I was back in business. Not only was I pleasantly surprised but even happier to own a Lee Valley product. From a customer perspective, this was a superior and most memorable experience worth writing about for others to read especially since Lee Valley knew that I hadn’t even paid for the lawnmower as it was given to me by a neighbour who was discarding it in favour of a power mower.

As a practitioner of CRM and social media strategy, this is a fine example of genuine customer engagement by a brand this is not contrived, driven by a campaign or planted by an influencer. The Lee Valley experience was simply part of their script, as in reflective of their customer service culture and  the way they do business. 

It is clear that Lee Valley Tools own their brand and product way beyond the point that it’s in the customer’s hands as the positive perception of the brand was augmented several steps away from the original point of purchase.

Not only was this was a fine customer experience, it was very engaging.

– Ted Morris 

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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

Social Media is a Croc

There’s an awful lot of chit chat on social media networks about Apple’s latest product – the iPad. This is yet another successful product launch and continued revolution that Apple is leading in bringing new technology appliances to the consumer marketplace. It’s absolutely stunning that Apple doesn’t spend a cent on social media yet has garnered an enormous amount of publicity (admittedly good and bad) from people who just can’t help talking about Apple products on the social web. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why Apple doesn’t spend any money advertising on social networks – all of the publicity through Word-of-Mouth from those who desire, own and love to talk about Apple’s products is FREE anyway.

By the way, anyone who purchased Apple shares a few years ago would have made enough money to fund their iApple desires for the next decade…

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

Becoming Customer-Centric: The Social Enterprise

“Time discovers truth”, said the Roman philosopher Seneca 2000 years ago.

With this in mind, it’s been some time since I taught the course “Becoming Customer-Centric” at IBM‘s Advanced Business Institute in Palisades, NY. This was when the Internet was an enabler of e-business and  CRM was in its early days. Social networks did not exist.

So I recently thought of the “Social Enterprise”. Back in Y2K,  CRM was seen as the panacea for companies with a vision to become customer-centric. This is to say, enterprises lead with technology to drive CRM implementation. Other companies adopted the “Outside-In” view, with the customer as focal point, as their approach to delivering optimal business value across every customer touchpoint.

Things are much different now and for the better. Here’s why:

1. The Portable Brand: The web and the world of the customer has given rise to the Open Brand – On-demand, Personal, Engagement and Networking. This does not mean loss of brand control, but instead, new opportunity to deliver flawless customer experiences, across all touchpoints, according to the brand promise. Mobile applications now afford customers to interact with their favourite brands as they are on the move around the physical and virtual worlds, hence the “Portable Brand”.

2. Customer Outsourcing: New opportunties abound, especially in customer service at pennies per transaction. This is especially true for mobile apps at under $0.10 per contact but also of web-based transactions where customers provide instant feedback on the experience. Customers are saying “come into my process” as they exert their new found powers to influence the relationship agenda.

3. The Web as Data Warehouse: The Internet is a vast but unorganized data warehouse of customer experience stories waiting to be mined –  it’s like harvesting bottled water from a huge stream virtually for free; a new era of customer behavioural analytics will re-define the traditional purchase funnel;

4. “Outside-In” rediscovered: Companies can extend their boundaries deep into the customer’s world in a most personal way to the point where the company/customer boundary disappears. This effectively renders the product-led “Inside-out” approach to process design and technology selection obsolete especially for brands that evoke high emotional involvement on the part of the customer;

5.Sense & Respond” is redefined: The Social Web transcends geography therefore providing global brands with a unique opportunity to leverage their footprint in all markets, in real time, always on. Companies are taking on new ways of listening to customers via online monitoring of consumer-generated content, running viral advertising campaigns and engaging cusumers in on-line forums and communities.

Upon further reflection, those days at the Palisades might as well been in Seneca’s time.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

Manage The Experience – Control Your Brand

There’s been an awful lot of talk lately about  ‘social media’  and how brands are no longer in control. It’s now all in the hands of the consumer. What strikes me about this kind of thinking is that it’s never actually been proven, using solid data, valid business cases or testimonial by a company or brand that has fallen victim to the rise in consumer control.  

Hell hath no fury like a consumer scorned

Ok, so your first push back might be “What about the Jeff Jarvis Dell Hell”? or “What about David Carroll?”  He’s the travelling troubadour who suffered at the hands of United Airlines who allegedly damaged his guitar then lost his luggage. In both cases, the offending brands were mercilessly flagellated online  as the bad news spread like wildfire through dry sagebrush. Dell and United were either unable to plug the gaping hole in their corporate reputation or stood by with an air of utter indifference. The viral vituperative spread across the socialsphere and consumers were vindicated in (almost) real time. “The Man” was taken down.

"I am now in control here..."

So was this all about consumers being in control? Well, yes and no. Yes, in that social media is one of the best things to happen to consumers in providing a channel for consumers to voice opinions about their brand experience good or bad. No, in that brands still have ample oppportunity to do deliver on the brand promise. What this means is exactly that – deliver on what the consumer is promised regarding product performance, service quality and social responsibility.  Stand by your value proposition and make sure that your company is always firing on all cylinders across every customer touchpoint. Consistently manage all customer-facing processes and drive the use of customer information about preferences, contact protocols  and wants & needs across the enterprise. Make sure employees are enabled, trained and supported to delivery the very best, on demand.

Manage your company. Control your brand.

Branding in the Age of Relational Media

[Author’s note: This post originally appeared in Communispace Verbatim]

In 1989, George Fields (the founder of ASI Market Research) gave me a copy of his book, Gucci on the Ginza—a fascinating exploration of Japanese consumer culture. In his book, Fields employs the term Shinjinrui—meaning, in a most literal sense, a new type of person. This idea remains valid in this age of relational media—Shinjinrui march to their own tune and don’t always run with the crowd as we have seen with Facebook, YouTube, and of course Twitter. Shinjinrui also engage with brands on their own unique terms and expect the same in return.

Here’s why… crowds by their very nature are amorphous masses whose only identity is the mass itself. Crowds, like sleeping giants, can be easily awakened. At the slightest of provocations, crowds turn very ugly and morph into mobs (as was recently witnessed at the  Web 2.0 Expo). Similarly, when I worked for a social/relational media monitoring company, we found that there were a lot of ‘brand haters’ out there—racists, extremists, shills, and scam artists, all of whom had no interest other than compromising the reputations of many of the institutions and organizations that make our society a civil place. This brings us to the importance of community and how it can contribute to brand building.

Brands by their very nature are unique and distinctive unto themselves: UPS’s logo and uniform models of brown trucks, Big Blue—the IBM logo, and the Nike ‘swoosh’—a brand that doesn’t even need a name to be recognized universally. Some are even represented by characters that are symbolic of what their brands stand for: Ronald McDonald, Frosted Flakes’ Tony the Tiger, Mr. Clean, and the grand old man of 111 years, Bibendum, a.k.a. The Michelin Man. Bib, incidentally, is currently on  a campaign to reduce gasoline consumption worldwide.

So this raises a key question: how does a crowd relate to a brand in the first place? I don’t think it can, because it’s the individual customer who has the brand experience at the 1:1 level. It is the customer who relates in their own unique way to the things that brands stand for, such as Dove’s ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’. If these brands do reach out and touch consumers at the individual level, why would they seek out the opinions of the undifferentiated masses? Brand communities are composed of homogeneous groups (segments) that have a set of shared interests and lifestyles that engage with the likes of Dove beauty products. As  Diane Hessan mentioned early in the year, “…if the crowd is smaller, more intimacy leads to higher engagement.”

It would be ironic, perhaps poetic, if some prolific texting Millennial brand manager, likely a Shinjinrui, stood up in an agency briefing and declared: “We need to identify a specific consumer segment and do some target marketing.”