Tag 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

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

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

Why Social Media is Like a Donut

The Social Media Donut

Glazed Donut

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E-Consultancy recently published a report on business useage of Social Media.  While reviewing an excerpt of the report, it struck me that many firms are in the Early Adopter stage.

While I’m not questioning the research report, I am left wondering what this all really means.

When an organization says it is ‘experimenting’ with Social Media, is it merely allowing employees to be on Twitter and Facebook during the work day, perhaps to keep GenY employees happy?

Does ‘heavy involvement’ mean that someone has been hired full time to Tweet about a company’s offers? Is it having a few brand ‘friends’ on Facebook? Is it having an research analyst sift through monitoring dashboards for some pithy consumer comment?

Of those who ‘don’t do anything’, is it because Social Media  is not the right way to engage their customers? Is it because other channels are proven and deliver accountability for results?

It’s really about the hole in the donut – the organizational white space in which one must ask: “What is Social Media in the first place?”  To wit, “In my experience, the white space has always been where the action is.” – Dr. W. Edwards Demming.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

Marketing Research is Fun!

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