Tag Archives: consumers

The Digital & Social Era: Unlocking Brand Value in a Nanosecond

 

Monopoly, Scrabble, Mr. Potato Head, G.I. Joe, Nerf, Little Pony, Transformers.  These are only a few of the brands we are all growing old with, and are also seeing our children grow up with. They are all household names that have an extensive legacy and franchise around the world. They’re all Hasbro brands.

While many brand managers often think of extending a brand in terms of new product in the physical sense, the digital and social era offers the opportunity to transform brands into new media properties in ways that unlock the brand’s legacy. The age of new media offers up the chance to pull brands literally “out of the vault” and make them fresh again by relaunching them in an entirely new format.

Hasbro is a company that not only manufactures and distributes toys and games; it is an entertainment company that now competes with the likes of Disney. For example, one of the largest and most successful movie franchises is Transformers. Introduced in the mid-1980s, Transformers was a toy line that featured parts that can be shifted to change from a vehicle into a robot action figure and back again. A number of spin-offs followed, including an animated television series.

In 2007, a live-action movie, under sponsorship of Steven Spielberg, was released, with the latest installment to be released this summer. Around the brand is a vast array of media, including video games, a website, online games, TV commercials, a Facebook community, books, gear and all sorts of toys. Yes, there are apps for iPhone – in 3D no less – that include puzzles.

Not only has Hasbro become a force in the movie industry, it also is a direct investor in television having recently launched The Hub channel in the U.S. in partnership with Discovery Channel whereby the Discovery Kids platform was renamed The Hub. In Canada, Corus Entertainment and Hasbro Studios have come together to distribute Hasbro brands across the various Corus kids television platforms, such as Treehouse, the TV home of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (with HD episodes available on iTunes).

What makes the discussion even more compelling is how Hasbro has been able to artfully blend instinct with formal management process. I say this because the toy business, like fashion, has for many years been built on having a nose for what’s hot and what’s not. In the age of digital, so much is in the moment that risk and reward take on much shorter cycles, thereby requiring a balance between management discipline and entrepreneurial behaviour. As Michael Hogg, President of Hasbro Canada, says: “The toy business is like packaged goods with your hair on fire,” in that much of the action is in the moment, about today. This makes me think of the phrase Carpe Diem – on steroids.

Underlying this “360 degree” approach to defining the media mix is the foundational belief that there is also a value chain with regard to the media platforms. In Hasbro’s case, TV is the anchor to build brand awareness in key segments, whereby other media take on a supporting promotional role to augment consumer engagement.

In the days of traditional media, there was much talk about unlocking ‘incremental brand value’ by building out line extensions and adding ancillary products. In the era of digital and social media, brand value can be unlocked in an exponential way by developing the optimal media mix and devising the right formats for each brand.

It also means sticking to the fundamental questions: what are the demographics, who are the buyers, what are the right media choices and how do we build the trust factor into everything we do? The latter is most important especially when engaging audiences of ‘mommy bloggers’ who have valuable opinions about product safety, play value and ideas for innovation.

It also requires a change in mindset since metrics are not always conveniently at hand. In fact, it may be advantageous by allowing managers to take risk by investing in more trials, seeing what works through iteration and then building metrics that support additional investments for a calculated payoff.

For Hasbro, one formula that continues to prove itself in effect leads the consumer through the channels. Television is the anchor for certain target segments for brand building; websites are ideal for promotional activity and driving consumers to the retail store.

So let me end with a few more Hasbro brands that you may well recognize: Twister, Battleship, Yahtzee, Risk, Tinker Toy, Play-Doh, Sorry! and Easy Bake. And yes, there are and will be more apps.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia

 

Social Media: A “Head in the Sand” Moment

Seeing Your Brand With Eyes Wide Shut

It could not have come at a better or worse time – depending on whether  you are Google or Facebook. Or it may not matter at all given the continued high levels of adoption of “freemium” social media networking platforms. 

The recent survey by ASCI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) conducted by ForeSee Results,  yielded numbers worth considering.

For Facebook, it is basically ranked at the bottom of the deck by users when it comes to delivering on customer satisfaction – ergo, the user/customer exprience. Facebook is rated so low that it stands slightly above airlines and cable companies in general. Not surprising given that Facebook is really an Internet utility. Perhaps the only saving grace it that you don’t get a monthly bill.However, as a brand manager, you might want to ask yourself: “Do I really want to partner with a medium that is seen to deliver, in a measureable way, low customer value?”.  Even worse, some social networks may even dimish the value you are trying to deliver via your brand.

Not to worry, it looks like Facebook will be around for a awhile. Consumers or should I say “users” are as addicted to some forms of social media in a classic love/hate relationship. Things might be different however, if they had to actually pay to use this utility.

Pause for a moment.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia

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

Management by Algorithm

In a recent post by Brian Solis “Influencing the Influencer” I was struck by the image showing a definition of leadership. Solis goes on to suggest how important people are in the marketing mix. Rightly so, he sets the context as the ‘attention economy’ as many who participate in social networks have an insatiable appetite for attention, notably those who see themselves as “authorities and tastemakers” or at that exalted level of self-actualisation, brands. Apparently, these are the folks that brands must recruit across the social media galaxy in order to truly lead, then connect with the broader audience – the ‘everyman’, in a most sincere and meaningful way.

So, like the days of television rabbit ears, brands need a shill: “A person who publicizes or praises something or someone for reasons of self-interest, personal profit, or friendship or loyalty.” (via Dictionary.com)

This is the oldest game in the advertising playbook.  The difference is of course, that the brand is supposed to recruit people who come from a superior gene pool, that of the online reviewer or opinion leader. It’s real time, it’s from the heart and… it’s transparent. To reinforce this approach, a number of SaaS applications are mentioned such as Klout and PeerIndex that use ‘human’ algorithms to calculate one’s social currency (capital?). It’s so valuable, anyone can calculate their influence scores for free.

Has it occured to those who advocate this kind of approach to identifying influencers that some consumers have no interest is what others think? Rather, consumers prefer to try things themselves. In otherwords, they prefer to take the lead, thank you very much.

For marketing managers, understanding customer preferences and value drivers, is really the first place to start. Management by algorithms alone is a very dangerous thing to do as it places limits on the ability to learn, develop insight and understand consumer behaviour in context.

As in using spell check, your facility with language doesn’t improve over time.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia

No Ticky No Laundry: The Unservice Service

My 75 year-old mother-in-law recently inquired, via the web, about a laundry product that she has been using for years.  In response,  Church & Dwight employed what is known in CRM-Customer Relationship Management as “the customer service apology” method:

 Subject: Reply from Web Form Regarding ARM & HAMMER® Super Washing Soda

Thank you for visiting our web site recently.  We have received your e-mail regarding ARM & HAMMER® So Clean! Super Washing Soda. We appreciate your interest in our product and are sorry you are having difficulty finding it in your area.

Because so many products compete for space on grocers’ shelves, stores sometimes must limit their offerings to those with the greatest demand. You might mention your interest in our product to the store manager where you shop and he or she may be able to order it for you.

Please understand that we are not able to process individual consumer orders.  And since we work through brokers that distribute our products to retailers, we are unable to give you the names of specific stores in your area that carry our products.

Again, thank you for taking the time and having the interest to contact us.  If you have any questions or concerns in the future, please call us at 1-866-931-9741.

We hope you will visit our web site again at: WWW.CHURCHDWIGHT.CA for information about our company, products, history, and financial information.

Church & Dwight Consumer Relations Representative

 

You may wonder why, in this age of location technology (bar codes, RFID), how a manufacturer could be so clueless as to where its own product is within the distribution channels. By contrast, food companies can locate any shipment.

Being a resourceful sort, my mother in-law has gone with Team Borax.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

Cross-posted @ cloudave: http://www.cloudave.com/link/no-ticky-no-laundry-the-unservice-service

Social Networks: The Unseen Dangers

SOCIAL NETWORKS: THE #1 MALWARE SOURCE – Last year, I predicted that the web was the battleground and social networks would get ugly. Both those predictions proved true. This year’s threat is no different – just more specific. Social networks have in fact become so ugly that they will be the #1 source of malware infections. Why? Nielsen Online says social networks have become more popular communication tools than email. Also, social networks by their very nature are gathering places, which tends to imply increased levels of trust. Finally, social networks leverage complex, Web 2.0 technologies that can suffer serious security vulnerabilities. When you add those factors together, it’s no wonder that social networks will become to malware what email used to be to the virus; the #1 source of infection.Corey Nachreiner, WatchGuard® Senior Security Analyst, CISSP www.watchguard.com

I spent a few years working for a technology services company that provided online detection of various forms of malware that posed a security and privacy threat to both consumers and business. Some of the work spanned various industries such as financial institutions and insurance companies as well as law enforcement agencies to detect fraud, counterfeiting and cybercrime in general. This was well before Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter became universal social networking platforms. Clearly the problem is much worse today as underscored by the above quote.

One thing that users seem to be oblivious to, whether they be business managers or consumers, is that social networks are cloud computing applications. They sit out on the Internet, a relatively open and unsecure environment where all types of predators lurk – identity thieves, terrorists and scam artists. Their ‘corporate’ vision and mission is carried out with the sole intent of stealing your identity, emptying your bank account and infecting your IT system with malware and harmful viruses, all without a shred of moral fibre or social conciousness. Beneath the surface are some very social criminals that want to be your ‘friend’ in a most unwarranted way.

It is unfortunate that social networks platforms do not, as a rule, provide disclaimers or warnings for people before they sign on. While the premise of ‘friending’ or ‘following’ people is innocent enough, there is little in the way that protects people from the possibility of online identity theft, fraud or in the worst cases, stalking and surveillance. The most egregious cases come from those who arrogantly declare privacy as a thing of the past, knowing full well that those who profit most are those who engage in online criminal activity.

It’s not surprising that many business are reluctant to take up social networking platforms. These software applications, mostly free, do not have the security safeguards that would prevent unwarranted intrusions into an enterprise’s data bases or email systems containing confidential and proprietary information. Security Solutions is one of the fastest growing areas of IT services and a facet of corporate governance that has taken on strategic importance in the digital age. As much as social networks have seen incredible growth in the past 5 years, so has online fraud. Concurrent with this has been the growth in security solutions such anti-malware applications, vulnerability assessment and penetration testing.

At some point, marketers and social media advocates need to wake up and understand the risks inherent in open and unsecure software systems. In doing so, they might be a bit more successful in moving their social media agenda forward. The responsibility to ensure that consumers are well out of harm’s way needs to be a serious consideration.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

(Cross-posted at http://www.cloudave.com)

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