Tag Archives: customer-centric

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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Social Media: Where Does It Belong?

As part of a continuing series for the ACA – Association of Canadian Advertisers, the following post offers an ‘enterprise view’ of how to organize for social media. For the most part, advertisers are keely aware that any customer-facing activity does not fall exclusively within the domain of a singular function, department or business discipline. Indeed, the cross-enterprise approach is often the only way to provide a consistent delivery of customer value and in turn get feedback on performance.  This also avoids one of the most dangerous of obstacles that inhibits business  transformation…

To read on, please go to:

http://www.acaweb.ca/en/social-media-where-does-it-belong/

En Francais:

http://www.acaweb.ca/fr/qui-controle-les-medias-sociaux/

– Ted Morris

Ahead of the Curve Behind the 8-Ball

It wasn’t long ago that the clamoring for CEO’s to get with the latest program by using Twitter and various social media platforms, reached a feverish pitch.  As usual, those forever looking for shreds of evidence that ‘social media’ pays out a clear cut ROI, would trot out lists of companies (and their CEO’s) who ‘got it’. Funny thing was, most of those lists, and many related cased studies were  mainly of obscure companies in the early stages of growth. Naturally, a 500% growth rate as a result of using Twitter, was impressive though less so when the base number for that growth rate was near zero, the kind of stats that investment fund advisors like to use when people have little appetite for buying stocks following a market meltdown. 

There have been case studies, some from reputable technology analysts, touting remarkable cost savings. Beyond the headline, the data showed a savings of $4M over 3 years for a certain USD$100B technology provider using social media as a collaboration tool.  In the end, this seemed a bit on the light side. No pun intended here but greater savings might have been had by turning the office lights off when people left for the day.

There has also been a lull in those declaring their location. Shout outs for Foursquare and various locational platforms seem rather muted of late. The initial interest seemed to be focused around luring people into retail premises by pushing discounted offers out to the latte-rati, more recently up-sized to the Starbucks version of 7-Eleven’s Big Gulp. Adoption hasn’t been that broad and one wonders if location-based applications are still looking for a real business problem to solve.

Lastly, not to make too fine a point, recent press by ‘those in the social know’ are now suggesting that too many offers, tweets, friending by brands for the sake of friending and a general overloading of Facebook fan pages by some brands, has started to turn some people off. Mashable had some recent thoughts on this issue of why people are unfollowing certain brands. I also expressed in a post from last year, building on a thought piece by the Economist, that there is so much data out there, one wonders what is to be done with it all – and that was when YouTube, Facebook and the like where just getting ramped up with the posting of video and photos. Clearly, when a brand fails to deliver on the promise, even CEO tweets can’t come to the rescue, GAP logo changes notwithstanding. Again, ask yourself, are we solving a business problem or just creating stuff to do because we’re not sure exactly what to do?

If you’re indeed feeling both ahead of the curve implementing certain technologies and behind the eight ball in terms of getting measureable business results, consider this: any organization that undertakes a transformation, in this case toward the Social Enterprise, cannot achieve success by leading with technology. This is what happened to early adopters of CRM in the last decade. Success can in fact be achieved, notably for companies that are truly customer-centric (culture/process/technology) who understanstand those things that deliver value to the customer relative to competition re. the “Outside-In” approach. IBM, Ford, McDonald’s, P&G are a few companies who do this consistently and have the financial results as proof.

This is not news, in fact, it’s an old principle advocated by Peter Drucker some 50 years ago. While it’s tempting to drink the latest elixir of technology, it pays to stick to managerial fundamentals, much like accountants use GAAP methods to keep track of every dollar earned.

– 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

Customer-Centric Media: Paid, Owned, Earned

Sean Corcoran, Forrester analyst, recently posted a commentary on the relationship between earned and paid media. He makes some good points to which I have added my 2 cents in italics:

“…there are still many social media “experts” who believe that paid media has no role in social media marketing. This is also wrong.  Absolutely. It also underscores why one should avoid such “experts”. True experts take the agnostic approach and provide a balanced perspective of the choices available to managers in the appropriate business context.

In fact, paid and earned media can have a very close relationship and should be leveraged together (along with owned media) for the best results. Here are some ways in which paid and earned media can work together: 

  • Brands use advertising to scale participation for their social assets (this has been especially leveraged by brands on Facebook)
  • Advertising content can become viral (e.g. Old Spice campaign)
  • Advertising creative can be co-created with the community
  • Listening platforms can provide real-time assessments of campaign success (like a mirror to word-of-mouth, or maybe like a fun house mirror)
  • Earned media can become advertising content (often happens with ratings and reviews)
  • Social media data can be used to target audiences through online media (see Media6Degrees or 33Across)

This makes so much sense as companies are looking to form bonds with their consumers via conversations. The best marketing campaigns leverage multiple media whether it be broadcast to create brand awareness or POS or print/local radio for promotion and social for generating Word-of-Mouth brand mentions & buzz.

> Social Media content creation is very hard to scale. Viral growth is open-ended and unpredictable. It depends on several factors notably creative, the social  platform and timing. Television reach & frequency is largely a matter of adspend and targeting since the medium is rich in normative audience data.

> Co-created advertising is media that can be re-used, repurposed and leveraged to drive on-going audience engagement. It also has the advantage of providing almost immediate feedback and new ideas for near real-time message refinement.

> Listening platforms, at their best can monitor all media formats. The main advantage is that they provide intelligence much faster than traditional marketing/media research.

> Earned media is the currency that acts like a ‘credit’ attributed to the brand by its constituents, whether they be advocates, influencers or a more general audience with a brand experience.

What’s the point? Social media marketing is very important but it can’t be done alone. While advertising, though on the ropes and lessening in its importance, will continue to play a role in providing scale and immediacy. Interactive marketers need to start balancing their media together for optimal results.

Not sure that I agree that advertising is on the ropes. Adspend budgets are up in 2010 while social media accounts for a fraction of the total adspend (as separate from digital adspend). In summary the keyword, as Corcoran says, is balance. Since the “Galaxy of media choices“, to paraphrase the Boston Consulting Group, is extensive and complex, it’s a matter of making the right choices in context of the brand, the measurable objectives and target audience, as the best way to optimize adspend and results.

-Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia

Commentary: Media Companies Need To Become Marketing Companies

The following is an excerpt from an online post authored by Andrew Heyward and Jeffrey F. Rayport in a recent edition of Harvard Business Review:     

                                                                                                                                                                         These consumers, people we like to call “Customers 3.0,” live in a blur of mash-ups, blogs, RSS feeds, links, text messages, tweets, and “life-casting” on social networks like Facebook and MySpace. For Customers 3.0, the very idea of content includes everything, embracing all media formats as well as advertising. And they collect, collate, and customize such content according to their individual tastes in personalized online environments (like MySpace or Facebook “pages”). This is what we call “user-generated context.”        

In this environment, it’s increasingly difficult for either publishers OR advertisers to stand out. The long-standing value proposition of publishers to brands – we create compelling content that attracts a desirable audience and then sell you the privilege of placing your commercial messages adjacent to it – is becoming a tougher sell.         

That’s because marketers don’t get much value out of seeing their messages appear in anodyne ad units (like banners ads). They need rich integration of their brands with content users are seeking or creating on their own. That leaves publishers in a sticky position: either they stand by and watch marketers build compelling online experiences without them, or they put their editorial and creative capabilities to use to help their clients – the big brands – cut through the clutter.         

In our practice, we like to say that “every company is a media company.” Increasingly, every media company must also become a marketing company. For online publishers, the challenge is to achieve that goal without damaging the very reputation for credibility and integrity on which their market positions rest. If online publishers can’t manage that balancing act before it’s too late, they’ll have more than mud on their faces.          

Here is my take:  As brands/national advertisers transform in part, to media, publishers have an opportunity to seek new partnerships by redefining their roles. For one, extending the value proposition means that publishers can be purveyors of a paid subscription base that is made available to brands as participants in making the message. Media and message become united. Message and media finally merge in a way that makes business and cultural sense.    

What this may mean, by necessity, is the redefinition of how the paid print advertising model is architected as ‘earned media’ become currency. This is not to advocate a ‘freemium model’ – after all, you still only get what you pay for – rather a model that attributes a business value to user-generated content reflecting the effort and subsequent return of the medium.     

Those that see the opportunity will find the right tools for the job. New cloud applications are about to come out of the gate in such as way that makes the cost of entry low and the opens the door to test this new media paradigm.      

– 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