Marketing, brand building & customer centricity

Say Goodbye to Marketing & Brand Building, Say Hello to Consumer Centricity

Marketing is an old profession. It’s been around for hundreds of years in one form or another. If you’d like to see more about its complete history, then I highly recommend this Hubspot infographic.

With the advent of digital marketing in the early 80’s, many companies began to take a serious look at their marketing. They realised that their primarily outbound strategy had to change. Consumers didn’t appreciate being interrupted in their daily lives. However, with the creation of inbound marketing, they still irritated consumers with spammy emails, popups and subtle cookies for following their every move.

Brand Building

Many large CPG companies such as P&G and Nestle changed the name of their Marketing departments to Brand Builders, in the hope of adapting to this new world. But they failed because they continued to run their marketing in the same old way. With few exceptions, it’s still all about them and their brands and not much about the consumer.

Luckily some other consumer goods companies realised that to satisfy the consumer they had to do things differently. They were the ones that moved to consumer centricity. Or to be exact they started on their journey towards putting the customer at the heart of their business. Customer centricity is not a destination because consumers are constantly changing and their satisfaction never lasts for long. (>>Tweet this<<) The aim for satisfaction and delight will never end.

I think we have taught our consumers far too well! They understand a lot more about “marketing” than they used to. They understand that companies have marketing plans and regular promotions, so they wait for their price offs. They realise that in today’s world, products have become more and more similar. Their format, colour or perfume might be different, but there are strong similarities in their performance.

That’s why consumers now have a portfolio of brands from which they choose. They are far less likely to be loyal to only one brand than they used to be. They have come to expect constant innovation so they quickly adapt to the once novel idea and start searching for the next big improvement. According to Accenture’s “Customer 2020: Are You Future-Ready or Reliving the Past?” almost a half of consumers believe that they are more likely to switch brands today compared to just ten years ago.

Marketing skills

SOURCE: Korn Ferry CMO Pulse Report 2015

Customer Centricity

In response to these ever more savvy consumers, marketing has to change. In the 2015 Korn Ferry CMO Pulse Report, it is confirmed that new skills are now needed. The most sought-after skills today are analytical thinking and customer centricity. Marketing is now as much an art as it is a science. In order to take full advantage of the enormous availability of information about our customers, we can no longer rely on our creativity alone.

C3C EvaluatorHow to Know if you’re Customer Centric

Companies which place the consumer at the heart of their business are easy to recognise. Their websites are filled with useful information, entertaining videos and games, and their contact page provides all possible forms of communication. Their advertising is consumer centric and emotional, with the consumer and not the brand as the hero. They involve their consumers in many aspects of their business. (see “The exceptionally easy and profitable uses of co-creation” for more on this topic.)

If you’re not sure how good your customer centricity is, just take a look at your own website, or why not complete the C3C Evaluator?

Move Beyond Brand Building

Whether you are still doing marketing or have already moved to brand building, here are a few of the essential first steps that you need to urgently make to adopt a more modern approach:

  1. Place pictures of consumers everywhere, so people start to naturally think about them. This can be at the beginning and end of presentations, in your office reception, in the lifts or anywhere many employees spend time.
  2. Whenever a decision is taken, ask “What would our consumers think about the decision we have just taken?” (>>Tweet this<<) This will avoid such practices as hiding price increases by reducing pack content without telling the consumer. Or asking credit card details for the use of a “free” trial, in the hope that the consumer will forget and be automatically charged for a service they may not want.
  3. Review the language of your website. If there are more “we’s” than “you’s” then you know what to do(>>Tweet this<<) While you’re online, check out your contact page for possible improvement opportunities, as detailed above.
  4. Take a look at your target consumer description or persona. When was it last updated? If you don’t even have a written document clearly describing them, then use C³Centricity’s 4W™ Template until you develop your own. (you can download it for free here)
  5. Examine your advertising. Who is the hero? Consider developing concepts that are more customer centric, by making use of your understanding of them and their emotional triggers.
  6. Spend time with your front-line staff and consumers. Make use of call centers, in-store promotions and merchandisers to talk to your customers, as well as to the employees who connect with them. They will almost certainly be able to tell you a lot more about your customers than you yourself know.
  7. Share your latest knowledge about your customers with the whole company. Help every employee to understand the role they play in satisfying the customer. Make them fans of your customers and you will never have to worry about such questionable practices as those mentioned in #2.

These are your starter tasks for moving from marketing and brand building to a more customer centric approach. If you’d like more suggestions about moving to a new-age marketing approach, download a free sample of my book “Winning Customer Centricity”. The fun drawings in this post come from the book!

 

 

Co-creation leads to greater customer satisfaction

The Exceptionally Easy & Profitable Uses of Customer Co-creation

One of my clients, who is following the 50 weekly actions for customer centric excellence described in Winning Customer Centricity, asked me for some further ideas on co-creation.

Since working more closely with customers is the best way to understand, satisfy and delight them, I am impressed that she is taking co-creation even further. In fact, I realised that this is an area that many of you may be interested in learning more about, so I decided to share what I told her, but first …

What is Co-creation?

The term co-creation has been around for decades. However, it is only in the last ten years or so that we are seeing a growth in co-creation in so many different areas of marketing.

According to Wikipedia co-creation is “a management initiative, or form of economic strategy, that brings different parties together (for instance, a company and a group of customers), in order to jointly produce a mutually valued outcome.”

My M&MIndividualisation, which offers higher-priced items with a customer perceived higher-value, has been popular for years. It allows customers to design their own unique products to show off their personality. For instance, customers can personalise their M&M chocolates and design their own Nike running shoes. But these are not strictly co-creation since they are designed by one person for for one person. Co-creation is designed by many for the many. (>>Tweet this<<) 

After the success of such personalised offers, organisations understood that there is value in getting input from customers. They now include them not only in product enhancements, but also in developing their advertising and even in first-stage innovation.

The practice has been further intensified by the internet, which has enabled companies to reach out to customers across the globe, virtually for free. Social media, in particular, is a great source of customer understanding, as well as for highlighting issues with current offers. This is why co-creation should include social media in some form, as I’ll share further on.

Who to work with?

Winning Customer Centricity BookAs I mention in my book, not all business managers feel comfortable exposing their new ideas and concepts to their customers. If this is the case in your organisation, then you are left with the only option of interviewing employees. This isn’t such a bad thing; after all, they too are customers, but you need to keep in mind their biasses. They probably know more about the brand than the average customer and are also likely to be more positive towards it. However, their passion for the company and its brands is a valuable asset not to be neglected.

If your management allows you to work with customers, then you will want them to be vetted for different things by the recruitment agency:

  • They shouldn’t work for one of your competitors; nor should their close friends and family members.
  • They shouldn’t work for advertising, media or PR agencies, which could tip off your competitors.
  • They should be creative and curious, but not be one of the infamous “1%ers” (the ultra-creatives) that were popular when co-creation was first used.
  • They should be articulate and be able to describe their thoughts, ideas and problems succinctly.
  • They should be well-informed and knowledgeable, even opinionated if you want to introduce some challenging into the discussions.
  • Depending upon the task you want to share with them, they should be category and / or brand users – or not.

Some suppliers may propose psychographic analysis to hone their selection process. However, this is not essential if you obey the above rules and clearly identify the type of person with whom you would like to work.

Social media again provides a great way to identify and recruit those who are both knowledgeable and passionate about the category. Another source of customers, is from co-creating platforms that copy successful job sites, such as UpWork and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

 

Should you compensate customers?

Most co-creation programs compensate customers, at least some of them, for their time and even their ideas on occasions. I have found that customers are usually so happy to share their thoughts and be heard, that they don’t expect compensation other than the opportunity itself. I have often received requests from participants at the end of a project, asking to continue in the panel or online group, because they enjoyed it so much. Customers love to talk to companies about their products and services, so why not make it possible for them to do so in a safe and private environment?

Compensation is therefore not mandatory, but adding prizes and a competitive element to the discussion can encourage a greater level of participation. I give some examples of brands that have done this further on.

 

When to involve customers?

There are many reasons you might want to get input from your customers beyond the more common anonymous market research. Here are some of the most often used occasions when you might want to include your customers:

  • Involve your customers in co-creationchoosing their favourite names, flavours or perfumes for a product
  • getting reactions to your marketing plans
  • sharing experiences and problems encountered with your category
  • reviewing product and communications’ concepts
  • watching pre-air advertising and choosing the ending, slogans or other details
  • asking for ideas on how to improve a product or service
  • running a competition to solve an issue the company would like to address
  • voting for their favourite new product or service idea
  • creating new flavour and aroma mixes from original ingredients
  • brainstorming with R&D on new product ideas
  • sharing opinions on promotional concepts or competitions.

 

Examples of co-creation

In Winning Customer Centricity, I mention a few companies who successfully use co-creation, such as Nespresso’s “Le Club” and P&G’s “Connect+Develop”. Since I wrote the book, co-creation has become much more widespread and there are many more great examples. Here are just a few to inspire you to invite your own customers to join your initiatives:

Heineken ideas brewery

Source: Heineken

  1. Heineken: Their crowdsourcing platform, called Heineken Ideas Brewery, launched in 2012, asks the public for suggestions, since they believe that innovative ideas can come from everywhere. The first challenge they set was for sustainable packaging and the best idea, the Heineken-o-Mat, was rewarded with a $10,000 prize.

 

 

Lego Ideas

Source: Lego

2. Lego launched Lego Ideas as a platform to enable their customers to create and share their ideas for new sets. Other users then voted and commented on these suggested new sets.

The highest-rated ones were often developed and launched by the Lego Group. The original creator of the idea was compensated with a small percentage of the net sales revenue.

 

3. British Airways: Airlines make a lot of use of customer panels; after all they know all their passengers’ details, so recruitment is relatively easy. BA uses their FutureLab to elicit comments and reactions to their questions and concepts. 

Their panel is made up of a global community who discuss everything from prices, to seating, competitions to services. BA shares their plans and ideas and gets immediate feedback on what their passengers believe might work and what won’t. And all this within a few hours and mostly for free, apart from a few small monetary prizes for the most active or creative participants each month.

 

Coca-Cola Freestyle machine

Source: Coca-Cola

4. Coca-Cola is one example of companies using co-creation for input to their innovation process. Their Freestyle machines is a fountain dispenser which offers over a hundred products, giving the customer the opportunity to mix their own flavour combination.

An additional mobile app allows them to then save it so they can get the same mix at any other Freestyle machine. Coca-Cola saves all the mixes in their consumer database, which can then be used to learn more about new flavour ideas and consumer preferences.

 

Purina Dear Kitten

Source: Purina

5. The final example comes from social media, where co-creation of content has become the norm. There are literally thousands of companies using their customers and fans to share their thoughts, ideas, photos and videos on their websites.

Amongst the best is Nestle Purina who started by allowing pet owners to publish pictures of their animals. This then was followed and enhanced by Purina developing and sharing fun videos including Dear Kitten from their Friskies brand and Puppyhoodfrom Puppy Chow. We all know how popular pet videos are on the web, so it is not surprising that many of them went viral.

Making use of co-created content

Speaking of “virability“, there are recent examples of brands that invite customer input, combined with a marketing promotion or a specific hashtag campaign. These are important for viralbility on such platforms as Youtube and Instagram which are primary sources for fashion and beauty brands, because of the importance of image.

Chobani is heaven!

Source: Chobani

One brand that was an early adopter of this and and successfully used customer generated content to both improve image and increase sales is the Greek yoghurt company Chobani. It invited its loyal customers to submit photos and videos praising their yoghurt, which were then used on their website as well as in advertising. They generated a lot of excitement with the billboards in particular, as people love to see themselves in print. 

These are just a few of the best uses of customer co-creation that I remember, but I know there are many more. If you have other examples I would love it if you would share them below.

In conclusion, I hope I have inspired you to try co-creation and to include your customers in more of your internal plans and processes. It is not only fun, it also provides you with fresh thinking and a deeper understanding of how your customers’ needs and desires are changing. Makes you wonder why you haven’t done more co-creation before, no?

 

Winning Customer Centricity BookIf you would like to learn more about “Winning Customer Centricity” then I am offering my loyal readers – you! – a free download of the first five chapters. Just go HERE.

Marketing taking strategic action

Today’s Most Stunningly Useful Marketing Infographics

It’s been a couple of years since I shared a post on infographics, so I think we’re due for a fun and useful update, no?

I have searched the web and come out with the best infographics I can find on marketing. In usual C³Centricity style, I also give you some ideas on how to implement actions based on the findings shared in the infographics.

What is interesting this year, is that the vast majority of infographics are about the science in marketing. Not surprising I suppose, but more and more of the infographics also tend to be advertisements for companies, rather than general infographics for learning purposes.

In previous years, I found far more infographics which showed the results from the integration of the findings from numerous different sources. This has made my choice all the more difficult this time since I consider these to be of more value to you the reader. So, apologies if your favourite infographic is not amongst them. If this is the case, then just share a link to it in the comments below and say why you like it.

 

#1. The Modern Marketer

Marketing art and science

Click to enlarge

With the constant increase of new information sources available to the modern marketer, our jobs have become as much technical as creative today. This infographic succinctly summarises all the new skills to succeed in marketing and it’s no small task! Where are your strengths on each of them and which need some work to boost your skills?

This infographic succinctly summarises all the new skills we need to acquire, to succeed in marketing today and it’s no small task! Where are your strengths on each of them and which need some work to boost your skills?

Where are your strengths and which will require some work to boost some of these skills?

ACTION: Honestly review your level on each of shown skills (nobody else will know!) and identify which you may need to work on. Then make plans to read up on the topic to become a more valuable asset to your organisation.

If you’d like to read more on how to improve, then check out C³Centricity’s recent post entitled “The New Marketing Role – Testing and Tested“. It covers some of the most challenging areas and shares ideas on coping with them.

 

#2. The Psychology of Colours

The psychology of color

Click to enlarge

We all know the importance of colour in our lives, but do we think often enough about it in our businesses?

This colourful infographic reminds us of the meaning behind the major colours, as well as the choices between using one, two complementary ones or more. Whether we are reviewing our packaging or communications, it’s a useful reminder to consider what messages and images we are conveying in addition to the words, through our use of colour.

ACTION: Review your brand’s packaging, website and other communications. Are they aligned and coordinated in terms of colour choice, fonts and layout? If not, was it by choice? If not a conscious decision to shock or break the mould, reconsider your choices.

Brands that have done this – for a limited time – include  Nike, Pepsi-Cola and Apple. You can read about these and other brands’ changes in a great post by Hongkiat, called the “Logo Evolution of 25 Famous Brands“.

#3. The Science Behind Creating Buyer Personas

The science behind creating buyer personas small

Click to enlarge

Every brand attracts a different group of buyers and understanding them is vital to the success of your business. How much do you know about your own consumers? Can you answer the twelve questions asked in a recent C³Centricity post called “How well do you know your customers?

This infographic takes you through their own “formula” for creating a buyer persona; a fun way to look at this important topic.

ACTION: It is vitally important to understand our customers as well as possible. Building an image of them, or a persona as it is often now called, helps make them come alive. We suggest working with C³Centricity’s 4W™ Template which you can download here.

 

#4. Digital Trends 2016

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 12.21.54

Click to enlarge

It is impossible to keep up with everything that is happening online, isn’t it? Therefore, I think this infographic can help us prepare for likely changes in the near future and the changes we need to prioritise.

Whether these are more personalisation of marketing offers, the geo-targeting of our customers using mobile, or optimising the customer journey across touchpoints, we have a lot of new opportunities – and challenges.

ACTION: There’s a lot in this infographic to review. I suggest starting at the top and working your way down the list of different areas. There are several priority lists to help you choose the most relevant areas for you to target this year.

 

#5. Artificial Intelligence

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 16.04.04Ericsson produced a colourful infographic detailing the 10 hottest consumer trends of 2016. Although it is interesting to review them all, I believe that AI (Artificial Intelligence) is going to be one of the biggest game-changers for the way we connect with our customers.

They will be able to interact with products before they purchase and will expect many services and brands to integrate seamlessly into their current lifestyle.

ACTION: AI will be challenging for any company which is not up-to-speed with the latest technologies and future developments. It will become essential for all organisations to have a science arm to their IT and marketing departments, so their products and services are not out-dated by the time they are launched. Things are moving so fast that this can no longer be done after launch. Think Amazon Dash buttons without the need to push!

 

#6. Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive innovation

Click to enlarge

Innovation has always been key to growth but with advances in technology disrupting normal processes, companies need to adapt to new ways of innovating.

This infographic lays out the clear disruptors of today and the areas and industries the most likely to be impacted.

ACTION: Review each of the disruptors detailed in this infographic and identify the ones which could have the most influence on your organisation. Then start to plan for actions to embrace the probable changes or ways to offset possible negative repercussions.

Also (re)read the C³Centricity post on innovation entitled NEVER succeed at innovation; 10 mistakes even great companies make and assure yourself that you’re not making any of them.

 

#7. Corporate Reputation

Corporate reputation

Click to enlarge

We all know things move incredibly fast these days. It is therefore surprising that so many companies get caught out by social media crises.

B2B seems to be less prepared than B2C, but more than 10% would take no action to address a damaging social media post!

ACTION: Have you considered what you would do if a customer posted a negative comment on social media? If not, you must develop a clear plan for what to do as well as if and when to respond. There are some great cases of companies who have been able to respond to an attack with appropriate comments. Check this post from BufferSocial for 14 amazing examples.

 

#8. Retail has changed forever

How retail has changed

Click to enlarge

Mobile didn’t only change how we connected, it has also changed how we shop, choose and pay.

If you are in a customer-facing industry then you are affected whether you like it or not. And ignoring these trends will lose you business.

ACTION: Review the details of the infographic and identify those trends which will impact your brand or category. Then plan to embrace the transformations necessary to satisfy your customers’ changing preferences.

Conclusions

Marketing will never be the same again! For a business to benefit from the constantly shifting customer interests and priorities, there are numerous marketing changes which will need to be introduced. These could include embracing technology more directly, changing how your product or service is found, presented or sold, or the data you use to better understand them.

We can no longer ignore the fact that the world has changed and marketing with it. As Darwin is attributed as saying:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

The same no doubt applies to CMOs!

This post used an image from Winning Customer Centricity: Putting Customers at the Heart of your Business – One Day at a Time“.

 

Customer service

The 7 Essential Differences Between Simply Responding to Customers and Providing True Customer Service

A longer post than usual this week, but one that will make you smile, if not laugh out loud!

It describes one recent personal example of disinterested client support, from which I have drawn seven learnings for everyone wanting to deliver true customer service.

I can’t understand why any organisation would still have trouble offering superior customer service when there are so many great examples they merely have to copy. (JetBlue, Sainsbury’s, Amazon, Zappos) In fact, Mark Earls wrote a great book on exactly this topic, called “Copy, Copy, Copy” which is highly recommended.

My story this week is just one example of how some companies still struggle to accept that the customer is right, even when they’re wrong! Not that in this case I was wrong (at least I don’t think so, but I’ll let you be the judge of that).

However, they certainly gave me the impression that they believed I might have been trying to cheat them in the information I provided in my emails. They were never satisfied with what I sent, even when it was what THEY had specifically requested!

Perhaps they were just dragging out the process in the hope of not having to “pay up”. You can see for yourself below, or just jump to the seven learnings at the end of the post, so that you can avoid making the same mistakes yourself.

BACKGROUND:

Many years ago I bought a TomTom guidance system to help me navigate the streets of American cities. Although I love to drive and feel just as much at home on a ten-lane LA highway as the two-lane Swiss autoroute system, I decided it was time to stop making so many impromptu visits to unplanned US destinations!

A few years on, I thought that it could also help me in Europe, even Switzerland, when trying to locate a new client or contact. (My car is almost fifteen years old and isn’t equipped with a GPS) I, therefore, added Europe to my online account, since my unit couldn’t keep both in memory at the same time!

Last May I replaced the European maps by my Amercian ones as I was visiting Florida that month. When I tried to reinstall the European maps in September, they had somehow disappeared from my account. I contacted TomTom customer service to ask how I could get my maps back and this is how our conversation went over the pursuing three months – with their worst English mistakes removed or corrected for better comprehension, but their own font bolding left in:

THE EXCHANGE WITH TOMTOM:

Me: Hi there, I contacted you in May about changing from European to US maps. I now want to change back and the maps are no longer on my account! Help please!!!”

TomTom“Dear Denyse, … As per your account details (…), I am sorry to inform you that, I could not see any map of Europe being active on the account in the past. Hence, I am unable to see any European map details. Hence, if the map had come pre-installed with the device, I request you to please provide me the picture of the box (front face of the box) so that I can activate it on your account. If you had purchased the map of Europe, then please provide me the scanned copy of the purchase receipt of the map so that I can activate it…” (We already exchanged a few months previously and anyway didn’t they READ my email?!)

Me: Here attached please find the invoice concerning my purchase.”

TomTom:Denyse, many apologies, but it seems the purchase invoice is not attached in the correct format since I am unable to open it. Hence, I request you to please send me the scanned copy of purchase receipt in PDF format so that I will be able to view it and help you accordingly.” (They can’t open an email with an image?! OK well it’s true it wasn’t in pdf format!!!)

Me:Apologies for my delay in responding but I have been busy with trips – without my TomTom! As requested, I attach a PDF of the invoice.”

TomTom: Denyse, I would require the purchase receipt of the map of Europe that must have been provided to you after you purchased it. If you are unable to find the receipt of the map, please provide me the picture of the box (front face of the box) to check the device details.”

Me: Please find enclosed the invoice for the Europe maps that have disappeared from my account after replacing them with the US ones for a trip…”

TomTom: Denyse, we are unable to find the invoice of the map on the attached documents. I would request you to take a screen shot of the entire invoice or the part which has the order number and the date of purchase and the details of purchase.” (They can’t read the email THEY sent to me and now want a screen shot!)

MeThis is already what I attached to my previous email. Here it is again.”

TomTom: Denyse, the attachment that you are sending us is the screen shot of the email that you have received from TomTom. I would request you to send us the invoice which is sent as an attachment in PDF format with the email. Kindly download the invoice on your computer and while replying to this email, please attach the PDF file on your reply.” (Isn’t a screen shot what they asked for?!!)

Me: Is TomTom just trying to irritate a long-standing customer? I have replied to each email with the requested information and each time you come back asking for a different format. You have the order number, the date, the item and the relevant item code of the maps I purchased directly from you online; what difference does the format of the document have? This is how the attachment appears on a Mac, which obviously you are not aware of, so I resend you the attachment as a pdf.”

This last exchange seemed to wake them up! Finally, they accepted that they had all the information they needed to confirm that I had indeed purchased the European maps, so they could once again reactivate them!

It took three months to get what I had requested, which could easily have been shortened to about three minutes if their customer services had had access to our previous email exchange – I am here assuming that they didn’t, because otherwise I would be extremely “disappointed”.

THE SEVEN LEARNINGS:

This is a great case study, as it shows numerous errors that so many organisations are still making in terms of customer care. These are the takeaways that you might want to consider in order to avoid similar long drawn-out – and resource-wasting – exchanges with your own customers.

  1. The customer is right and has a valid request. (>>Tweet this<<) This should always be assumed until such time as it is proven otherwise. After all, this is the premise of the legal systems in many countries and for good reason. However, an interesting article in the Huffington Post last year questioned this well-known customer service quote, first coined in 1909 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store in London. In today’s fast-paced world, I believe that a customer’s satisfaction should always come first; comment below if you disagree.
  2. Respond as quickly as possible; time is of the essence in helping the customer to perceive the incident as positively as possible, especially after a negative experience with a product or service. According to Forrester Customers want companies to value their time. (>>Tweet this<<) 71% of consumers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service.
  3. Take action just as soon as you have the minimum information that will enable you to do this. According to the Mobius Poll 2002, 84% of customers are frustrated when a representative does not have immediate access to their account information. If you need further details to complete your files, they can be gathered from your happy and satisfied customer once a solution has been found. They will also be in a better frame of mind to answer any other questions you might want to ask.
  4. It is important to ensure that your care center personnel speak and write the language of the customer as fluently as possible. In the above case, it is clear that the responses are from an offshore country using standard scripts. This does not make the customer feel important let alone cared for and in my case, frustrated that I was not being listened to or understood.
  5. Give your customer services personnel authority to respond appropriately to most requests, without the need for escalation or verification with managers. (>>Tweet this<<) Working to “standard” procedures for every case, often delays the customer getting full satisfaction as quickly as possible.
  6. Even when the issue is resolved, the customer can still be left with a negative feeling about the whole experience, especially if it has taken considerable time and effort on their side. And remember that it is likely that they will share their negative experiences with far more people than they would have done, had the incident been dealt with in a speedier fashion. (See James Digbys original post and the updated statistics on customer satisfaction on Bouty.net)
  7. Aim to surprise and delight not just satisfy your customers. (>>Tweet this<<) Although your customers may be looking for the resolution of a problem when they first reach out to you, there is an opportunity for you to surprise and delight them with much more. If they complain about a damaged product, don’t just replace it, provide a complementary sample of another product or a discount coupon for them to purchase it. If they are unhappy with your service, offer an immediate discount and not just a rebate on future services. The latter can be perceived by the customer as their being pressurised into a further purchase, something they are unlikely to be ready to do at the time of the exchange. According to McKinsey’s “The moment of truth in customer service” 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. Make them feel great!

So these are the seven learnings that I took away from this incident. Basic? Yes sure, but instead of just saying to yourself “I know this” ask yourself “Do we do this – always?”. It is surprising how many of the basic elements we forget to check as we advance in experience, and years!

If you have other examples of frustratingly poor but easily resolved customer service mistakes then please share them below. We all need a laugh from time to time, and learnings from others are so useful in helping us avoid making the same mistakes ourselves.

If you would be interested in joining a webinar on any of the topics listed then please add a comment below. We will be sending out invitations shortly.

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity. 

It is now available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy a copy from our website here, as well as on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook, iTunes and in all good bookstores. Discount codes are regularly published on our private FaceBook Members group – why not ask to join?

The marketing priorities for 2016

Five Marketing Priorities for 2016

We’re halfway through the information gathering of our survey on the topics that interest you most. If you haven’t yet completed the six questions, then please do so HERE before the end of February. There are FIVE free consultations up for grabs.

I thought it would be interesting to see what the results to date are showing, so here are the top five demands in terms of both articles and webinar requests:

  1. Storytelling

  2. Increasing my impact on the business

  3. Developing better business strategies and vision

  4. Developing more actionable insights

  5. Segmentation and consumer targeting

Any of these surprise you? Do you have different priorities? If so, then please add your request in the comments below, or complete the survey so that we can work on the most important topics for YOU! In the meantime, here are some thoughts on these five areas, on which we have already written some very popular posts:

#1 Storytelling

Storytelling in businessWe all know the importance of engaging our audiences, whether they are our customers, colleagues or bosses. Humans love stories and retain the information shown much more easily if shared through a story.

The post “Clues to a Remarkable Brand Story” remains one of the most popular on this topic and we will be expanding and turning it into a webinar in the near future. If you would like to be invited to this webinar, then please leave your name below in the comments below, mentioning the webinar(s) that is /are of most interest to you.

#2 Increasing my business impact

Market research & Insight's new role is customer centricity championWe all work to make a difference; for ourselves, our families and hopefully our customers and brands too. However, we all believe that we could do more and have more impact on the business if only we were given more freedom or more resources. (>>Tweet this<<)

The post “Try a new perspective on Business Intelligence; how to have more impact and answers” covered a few ideas about how to increase influence and hence impact within our organisations. Although it is on business intelligence, most of the ideas covered are relevant for marketing, market research and, in fact, most positions in large organisations. And don’t forget to leave a comment below if you would like to be invited to a webinar on the topic.

#3 Developing better vision and strategy

Business vision and strategyThe popularity of this topic came as a surprise to me, as they are the very core of setting up a successful business. However, it is also exciting to see so many people looking for support in improving their own vision and strategies.

For me, the interest in this topic also suggests that many of you realize that your own are not as customer-centric as they could be. One of the most read posts on the topic was “Brand strategy, vision and planning; when did you last review yours?” published at the beginning of last year. Check it out for a clear plan of all the essential elements you need to consider when looking to update your own strategy and vision. As before, don’t forget to leave a comment below if you would like to be invited to a webinar on the topic.

#4 Segmentation and customer targeting

SegmentationChoosing a group of customers to target is an essential basis for successfully meeting and even surpassing their needs. (>>Tweet this<<) Taking all category users and segmenting them into smaller groups which are more coherent will enable you to better meet the desires of one section of users more completely than if you tried to target everyone. As the infamous quote by John Lydgate says:

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”

I have often heard excuses for not running a segmentation because the product / service is new, or that the cost is too high. The first is not valid, since (pre) launch is the best time to identify exactly who you want to please. And the second isn’t any more valid since segmentation can be done for little or no cost until such time as funds are available.

If you want to know more about segmentation, then read “How to segment for actionability and success” which was published a couple of years ago, but still gets hundreds of reads, as it is one of the fundamentals of good customer-centric marketing. Don’t forget to leave a comment below if you would like to be invited to one of the forthcoming webinars on the topic.

#5 Developing more actionable insights

Good market research brief leads to good MRInsights are the holy grail of marketing (>>Tweet this<<); the prize we are all searching for which will make our brands grow and our customers delighted. The problem I have found in running workshops on the topic around the world is that many companies work with information and then jump straight to action before the insight has been developed.

Now I know that insights take time and energy to develop, but they are another of the fundamentals of good brand management. Every brand should have (at least) one insight on which it is based and around which its brand purpose and communications are built. Without this, the brand is likely to jump from one positioning to another with every change in marketer or advertising agency.

I have written many posts on different aspects of insight development, but the most popular by far is “How the best marketers are getting deeper insights” which was published at the end of last year. Please leave a comment below if you would like to be invited to a future webinar on developing actionable insights.

The survey on the blog post and webinar topics is open until the end of this month, so you still have time to respond and add other topics – AND to win one of the FIVE FREE consultations that are up for grabs. If you would be interested in joining a webinar on any of these topics then please add a comment below. We will be sending invitations out shortly.

Winning Customer Centricity BookThe featured image comes from Microsoft Office images. This post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity.

It is now available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy a copy from our website here, as well as on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook, iTunes and in all good bookstores.

15C-Customers in your vision

Best Marketing Quotes of 2015 & their Implications for Your Business

Happy New Year to all C³Centricity Readers!

First some exciting news for you. We are updating the Members area of our website, with a whole new look and feel. There will also be more content with a great new series of webinars to watch, and new templates, presentations, case studies and videos for you to review and download.

We are planning to launch the series of webinars in a couple of months time, so look out for further details and a personal invitation to get the chance to see it before everyone else.

You can help us to make it perfect by completing a short 6-question survey. This will ensure that we prioritise the subject areas of most interest to you. And you might just WIN one of the FIVE FREE consultations which we are offering in appreciation of your time. (we’re feeling really generous because it only takes 2-3 mins to complete!)

If you are not yet a C³Centricity member, then please drop me a line and request an invitation to join the private Facebook group, where members can exchange thoughts and ideas in the meantime. We are also linking all the previous material from the members’ area to this private group, so it’s worth joining!


And now to this week’s post…

As we get back into the swing of things and review our work objectives for the year, a little extra inspiration can be a welcome extra push. This is why we all love to read marketing quotes.

The quotes we have chosen here will make wonderful additions to your reports or presentations, inspiring everyone who hears or reads them. And the specified implications for each one, make timely reminders of what should be in your marketing plans for the year.

#1. “Marketing used to be about making a myth and telling it. Now it’s about telling a truth and sharing it” (>>Tweet this<<Marc Mathieu, Global SVP of Marketing at Unilever 

IMPLICATIONS: Everyone uses social media to connect with and share their experiences about brands. It therefore makes sense to provide them with the information they will want to exchange with others. For example, if customers have issues that they announce online – social media has become the immediate complaint centre for many people – then it is vital that brands both respond and resolve the issue rapidly. If they do, then this potentially negative comment can be replaced by more positive ones as the customer continues to share their experiences.

Have you recognised the need for increased personnel to manage social media as well as the call centres, and the importance of specific training to enable them to respond without scripts? Read “The New 7Ps of Best Practice Customer Service” for more information on customer service excellence.

#2. “Good marketing makes the company look smart. Great marketing makes the customer feel smart” (>>Tweet this<<) Joe Chernov 

IMPLICATIONS: Which are you preferring in your daily work? Customer centricity is no longer a choice, it’s an essential of every business today. (>>Tweet this<<) You can only make your customers look smart if you understand them deeply and know what is important to them. To check if you truly understand your customers , read “How well do you know your customers?” for more on this topic.

#3. “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is” (>>Tweet this<<) Scott Cook

IMPLICATIONS: Are you regularly following your brand image? Even if you are measuring it, a brand’s image can change fast these days, especially when it is active on social media. Therefore, it is even more important to track conversations online and engage your customers in this way to keep abreast of any modifications in their perceptions of your brand. If you’re not sure about your own brand measurement, see “What does your Brand Stand for. Ten Steps to Perfect Image Following” for more on brand image measurement

#4. “Google only loves you when everyone else loves you first” (>>Tweet this<<) Wendy Piersall

IMPLICATIONS: Where do your customers go looking for information about your brand? A majority of them probably use Google, Bing, Yahoo or one of the other search engines. (See “The Best Search Engines of 2016” for some great alternatives to the big three) Do you know how your customers find answers to their questions? If the information is not on your brand’s website, then you have little control over what they learn. If your customers are active online then you must be as well, providing them with what they need, where and when they go looking for it.

#5. “Marketing’s job is never done. It’s about perpetual motion. We must continue to innovate every day”(>>Tweet this<<) Beth Comstock

IMPLICATIONS: I know as well as you do, that marketers work hard, but you can’t look after your current offering without also preparing for the future. Customers never stay satisfied for long, so innovation is the only way to keep them loyal. How are you innovating? If you are only making marginal changes to size, perfume, packaging or services, then these are

If you are only making marginal changes to size, perfume, packaging or services, then these are not innovations, they are merely renovations. While these may keep your customers happy in the short term, you cannot rely on them alone. Read “Never succeed at innovation” to learn how to avoid the mistakes so many companies make when they try to innovate.

#6. “We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in” (>>Tweet this<<) Craig Davis 

IMPLICATION: Do you remember to be available to customers where and when they need you, and not just where and when it suits you? Quote #6 is a reminder that on social media as well as our brand websites, we need to publish information that our customers want to read, rather than the news we want to share with them. Ideally, these should be the same, especially if you are truly customer centric and know and understand your customers intimately. If you’re not sure how well you know them, see if you can answer these “13 Things your Boss Expects you to Know about your Customers”.

#7. “Commit to a niche; try to stop being everything to everyone” (>>Tweet this<<) Andrew Davis 

IMPLICATIONS: There is no try only do, as John Green wrote in “The fault in our stars”. In marketing, we need to be committed to our customers and do everything possible to surprise and delight them. In order to succeed in that, we need to have chosen the right group of customers who will be both interested in what we have to offer, and of interest to the business in terms of sales and profit. To learn more about the art and science of segmentation, read “Essentials of segmentation and some simple alternatives”. This post will help you start identifying your best customers, even with no budget!

#8. “Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed” (>>Tweet this<<) Dan Zarrella

IMPLICATIONS: Marketing has generally been considered more art than science but the arrival of Big Data has changed this. Marketers today must be as comfortable with data as with creativity, and have a global rather than local appreciation of their customers. After all, there are few geographical boundaries for customers these days, since we can all buy things from almost any country we like via the internet; country frontiers have been surpassed by linguistic ones.

Therefore brand managers need to be aware of what is going on with their brands throughout the world. How do you manage this information sharing in your own organisation?

#9. “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” (>>Tweet this<<) Bill Gates

IMPLICATIONS: Hopefully by now, regular visitors to this blog have come to appreciate that complaints are a gift. They enable you to identify problems before they become too serious and also provide an opportunity to get to know your customers better and even surprise and delight them with your response.

People who complain are often expecting a “fight” but if your care centre personnel remain calm and do everything they can to quickly correct the issue, and their service even goes above and beyond what the customer expects, then it is highly likely that they will share their experience with friends and colleagues. Just as we share negative criticism, surprisingly positive outcomes to a complaint, merit even more sharing.

How are your own customer service personnel being trained to respond to complaints? Do you yourself listen in or even man your call centres to get close to your own customers? If not, you should, because there’s no better way to understanding their issues and it might just provide you with an idea or two for brand renovation or an innovative new product 0r service.

#10. “Marketing is a race without a finishing line” (>>Tweet this<<) Philip Kotler 

IMPLICATIONS: This is a great quote to end this list and a superb reminder that our work is never done. This doesn’t mean leaving the office late every evening. It means recognising that the hours you put in don’t count as much as the value you deliver; to your company, your brand, but above all your customer. (>>Tweet this<<) As long as you think customer first in everything you do, you will always make the right decision. See Winning Customer Centricity for 50 ways to put your customers truly at the heart of your business each and every day.

These are just ten of our most loved marketing quotes of the moment. If yours isn’t among them, please add it below. You can find loads more inspiring quotes in the library of the C³Centricity website on vision, understanding and engagement.

Is training on your objectives for your team this year? If so then we’d love to support the initiative with our 1-Day Catalyst sessions on insight development, innovation and brand building, to name just a few of the topics we cover. We can also develop proprietary sessions to your own specifications as we already have for numerous businesses around the world. 

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity.

It is now available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy a copy from our website here, as well as on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook, iTunes and in all good bookstores.

The best marketers share insights

How the Best Marketers are getting Deeper Insights

Are you as busy as I’ve been, trying to deliver on all your final objectives before year-end? Stressful times indeed, but this post is a must-read if you want to start 2016 ahead of the competition!

I’ve just returned from running a two-day workshop in Japan. The topic was “Insight into Action with Impact”. One of the things that I loved about the workshop was that marketing was invited too. Even though market research and insight (MRI) groups generally report into marketing in most companies, it seems to me that they are often working on different planets! In many organisations, the collaboration between these two departments goes no further than project briefings and results delivery.

This is not the case with my client in Tokyo; this MRI group has a wonderful working relationship, not only with marketing but also with Channel, Sales, R&D, Finance and even Legal. They have understood that insight development is too important to be left to the market research team alone (>>Tweet this<<) and have worked hard to build strong relationships with all the other departments in the company.

I am sure that many of you reading this, are asking why this is so important. It is NOT important, it is VITAL! Insights are the golden nuggets that we are all searching for (>>Tweet this<<). Successful businesses depend upon deep customer insight. They understand the power of engagement built on insight to connect with and inspire their customers. And yet many companies continue to leave this to the insight team to develop and deliver on their own. It’s as if they believe that this group have some natural-born skill or magic that enables them to do it while others cannot. Don’t worry, we can all do it with the right training and a few tools.

Great companies understand the importance of insight generation and the challenges faced by everyone in developing them. This is why the best marketers search for greater collaboration. I always encourage the market researchers in my client companies to socialise with other departments, rather than sitting behind their computers all day. The best marketers already do this, do you?

So if you are struggling to develop insights that will truly resonate with your consumers or customers, I suggest you follow these tips which I shared with my client’s marketing and insight teams this week. Despite being some of the best marketers I know, they are still keen to progress their thinking and processes to embrace customer-centricity in every area of their organisation.

  1. Turn business objectives into customer-centric ones. If you are defining your objectives in terms of the business, such as increasing sales, beating the competition or increasing awareness, you are not thinking customer first. Instead, identify what you want to change in terms of your customers’ behaviour or attitude and you are likely to meet with more success. This is because you will be thinking about your customers’ objectives rather than (just) your own.
  2. Insight generation should start with customer connection (>>Tweet this<<). When was the last time you personally spoke with your customers? If it wasn’t in the last week, you’re not getting out enough! Make a habit of regularly watching and listening to your customers. They are changing faster than you may realise, so it is important to keep your finger on the pulse of market changes.
  3. Have regular contact with all other departments. It is impossible to really understand the business if your contact with other groups is limited to meetings and presentations of analyses you have conducted or plans you have written. It must become a daily habit, so you are the true voice of the customer / consumer internally.
  4. Get MRI to share their nuggets of information at every occasion. While they may present findings in formal meetings and presentations, I know that market research and insight learn new things about the business every day, so why not as’ that they share them? Every project and every analysis turns up more information than that for which it was designed. Somehow these learnings get lost, as they are not seen as relevant to the question at hand. However, ask that they make them a regular part of their newsletters, Lunch & Learn sessions, or internal “Tweets” and they will surely inspire new thinking.
  5. Get into the habit of speaking with consumers at every chance you can. Suggest to join in when research projects are being run, listen in to call centre conversations, speak to demonstrators and merchandisers, or even talk to shoppers at retail. These connections can quickly become addictive as they are for the best marketers in the most consumer-centric organisations. As an added bonus, the insight development process will become both quicker and less challenging for everyone.
  6. Ask MRI to analyse more than market research information alone. They are the best synthesisers you have and can manage multiple data sets from all available sources. There is so much information flowing into organisations today that there is more data than even the best marketers can manage. According to IBM, more than two-thirds of CMOs feel totally unprepared for the current data explosion, especially as it relates to social media. And in some research conducted by Domo, a similar number of marketers claimed to be unable to handle the volume of data available to them. Ask MRI to help and you will be better informed and feel less overwhelmed.
  7. Remember that insight development takes energy and time. Although my client’s teams got close to the perfect expression of an insight in just two short working sessions, it usually takes days, if not weeks or even months to refine, group and synthesise information down to an actionable insight. However, the right training and some simple tools can speed their development for even less than the best marketers.
  8. Insight development should involve more than the insight team, which is why it is important for them to build relationships with other departments. The alternative perspectives brought by the other groups will enhance the overall understanding of both the customer and the market situation you are looking to address.

If you work in marketing or even another department outside of market research and insight,  I would love to hear what you do to develop your relationships with them. Do they involve you in insight development or only deliver the results of their process to you? What could you and they do better to make insight development and customer understanding easier in your organisation?

For more information on our training courses in insight development and brand building, please check out our website or contact us here. Let’s have an informal chat about how we could support your brand building efforts or provide fun training days, as we already do to businesses in many various industries. We love customers, consumers and clients!

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity. It is available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy it, usually at a discount, in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and the current discount codes. The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores.

Describe your customer personas

Market Research & Insight’s New Role is Customer Centricity Champion

I’ve just returned from a trip to Belgium. Apart from the greater presence of armed military personnel, it was business as usual. On Tuesday, I presented at BAQMaR, the Belgian very innovative and forward-thinking research community. What a fantastic and inspiring experience!

My talk was on how market research and insight teams could further progress the industry and their careers, by becoming the customer’s voice within their organizations. Here are my three Big Ideas and three New Skills that will enable market research to make a bigger and more valuable impact on business.

Big Data is not the star of the show, it’s just the support act

Everyone seems to be speaking about big data these days. Not a day goes by without an article, podcast or post about the importance of big data. I don’t dispute the new opportunities that information from smart chips, wearables and the IoT provides. However, data remains just a support to business and decision making. It’s what you do with all the data, how it is analyzed and used, that will make a difference compared to past data analysis.

Business doesn’t get what it needs

One of the problems that has been highlighted by BusinessIntelligence.com is that business leaders and especially marketing don’t get what they need. Executives still struggle with email and Excel spreadsheets whereas what they want are dashboards. They want someone to have thought about their needs and to provide them with the information they need, in a format that is easy to scan, easy to review and easy to action. They also want mobile access, so they can see the I formation they want, where and when they need it.

Information must become smarter

The current data overload means marketing are overwhelmed by the availability of data, especially from social media. They need help in organizing and making sense of it all. My suggestion is to use it to better understand the customer. The who, what, where and above all why of their attitudes and behavior. This will certainly enable them to start targeting with more than the demographics that a frighteningly high number are still using to segment, according to AdWeek.

Information needs to become useful

While big data can have many uses, it is often so complex and unstructured that many businesses are unable to make it useful for business decision-making. My suggestion would be to start by asking the right questions of it. Data, both big and small, is only as useful as the questions we ask of it. (>>Tweet this<<) If we ask the wrong question we can’t get the answers we need. Therefore start by considering what attitudes or behaviors you want to change in your customers. By bringing the customer into the beginning and not just the end of the analytical process, we will make better use of the if roast ion available to us.

Market research and insight teams need new skills

In order to satisfy and leverage the opportunity that big data provides, market research and  insight professionals need to acquire new skills:

  • Firstly that of synthesis. There are no better analysts in most organizations and while data scientists and business intelligence specialists can find correlations and differences in the data, it needs a customer expert to provide the meaning and relevance. This also means that market research and insight experts need to get comfortable integrating information from multiple sources and no longer from MR projects alone. (>>Tweet this<<)
  • Secondly market researchers need to get out more. Not only should they be visiting customers in their homes, in the stores or going about their daily lives, they should also be inviting their colleagues to do the same. There are so many ways of connecting with customers today, from care lines to social media, from promotions to websites, there is no reason for any executive not to have regular contact these days. (>>Tweet this<<) However, they need someone to accompany them to bring sense to what they are seeing and hearing.
  • Lastly, we need to surprise the business. It’s not with the dare I say boring trend reports, share presentations and trackers that we will excite business. However, sharing all the nuggets of understanding that we learn on a frequent basis while analyzing information, could form the start of corridor conversations, newsletters or “Lunch and Learn” sessions.

So synthesizing, socializing and surprising beyond mere storytelling, are the three new skills I believe the analyst of today needs, in order to make maximum use of the wealth of data and information available. These are also the biggest challenges that I think are the most important; what do you think? What do you see as the most challenging aspect of making use of data today?

For more on brands please check out our website or contact us here for an informal chat about how we support brand building efforts or provide fun training days to businesses in all sorts of industries. We love customers, consumers and clients!

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. It is also now available as an Audiobook, which can be integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service.

Storytelling in business

Clues to a Remarkable Brand Story

Stories exist in all cultures. They have developed down through the ages as a means of transferring knowledge, long before books and now the web enabled their storage.

Today’s information-rich world has made storytelling a required talent for CEOs and CMOs alike to develop. And websites and Fan pages now make it a necessary skill for brands too.

Brand stories are perhaps one of the easiest ways to resonate with customers. Hopefully, this will then lead to those highly sought-after but ever-diminishing rewards of loyalty and advocacy. Of course, I say “easiest” with caution, since great storytelling is an art that is often learned but rarely truly mastered. (and I am conscious that I am (too) often in that group!)

One of the best places to find great stories is on TED. Amongst the most popular talks on the topic of storytelling, The Clue to a great story was given in February 2012 by Andrew Stanton. Stanton is the Pixar writer and director of both the hit movies Toy Story and WALL-E. I was reminded of his talk because it has since been turned into an infographic on the TED Blog. It inspired me to review the five “clues” Stanton talked about and then to apply them to brands. These five essential elements of remarkable brand stories are the result.

 

Make me Care

According to Stanton, a story needs to start by quickly drawing sympathy from the audience / reader. The hero is introduced as being rejected or badly treated by family, friends, circumstances, or the world in general.

Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

SOURCE: CopyPress

Well-known examples of heroes include Cinderella or the lovable WALL-E in the film of the same name. Their predicament immediately generates feelings of concern and empathy, especially when identified as unfair or outside the control of the hero.

This works well for people, but for brands I believe the emotions sought should be on the opposite side of these as demonstrated by Plutchiks’ Wheel of Emotions (see right).

Those of trust, admiration or anticipation are more relevant for brands than remorse, grief, and loathing. People spend money on brands because they believe that they will provide pleasure and / or solve one of their problems. Our job as marketers is not only to satisfy this need but to go even further by turning that expectation into surprise and delight (but more on that later).

 

Take me with you

In storytelling, there is often a journey, a mystery or a problem that needs solving. Something that entices the reader or audience to linger a while longer and to learn more about the situation. In a similar way, a brand wants its customers to remain and become loyal. It therefore makes promises, whether real or just perceived as such by the customer.

Storytelling in businessWhen I first started working at Philip Morris International, there was a rumour amongst consumers that Marlboro was financing the Ku Klux Klan in the US. This started because its packaging had three red rooftops or “K’s” on it (front, back and bottom of pack). Management obviously didn’t want this untruth to be believed by its smokers, so one of the K’s was removed by making the bottom of the pack solid red.

However, consumers’ desire for mystery and intrigue was so strong that another rumour quickly emerged. This time, smokers had found three printer’s colour dots inside the pack (black, yellow and red). The story went that these markings symbolized that Marlboro hated Blacks, Asians and Indians! Once again management looked for ways to dismiss this rumour, but as in the previous case, just denying it would have most likely led to further reinforcement of the rumour. Since the printer needed these colour matches, they remained for many years.

Customers love to tell stories about “their” brands. There are many myths about the greatest brands around, often starting from their packaging or communications. For example, Toblerone has the “Bear of Berne” and the Matterhorn, exemplifying its Swiss origin, on its pack. The brand name too has Berne spelled within it and the chocolate itself is shaped like a mountain.

Camel has the “Manneken Pis from Brussels” on the back leg of the camel. Whereas the Toblerone links were intentional, I don’t think JTI planned that association into their design! Consumers just looked at the pack and having discovered the resemblance, started to share their findings, and it became a “truth”.

Many other brands have developed stories through their communications, that are also shared and repeated until their customers believe they are true. Further examples include Columbia outdoor wear’s “Tough Mother” campaign, Harley Davidson’s enabling “middle aged” men to become bikers at the weekend, or Dove’s campaign for real women to name just a few. All these stories confirm and further support the connection their customers have with these brands, so they almost become a part of their extended families. Such a strong emotional connection will ensure brand loyalty and advocacy for as long as the stories are maintained.

Be Intentional

In a story, the hero has an inner motivation, which drives them toward their goal. They will encounter problems and challenges along the way, but their motivation remains strong to reach their desired destination.

For a brand, this motivation is what it stands for, its brand equity. What is the brand’s image, its personality; what benefits can the customer expect? Not only is it important to identify these, but perhaps even more importantly, is to consistently portray them in everything a brand does. From its product to its packaging, its communications to its sponsorships, the customers’ loyalty and appreciation are reinforced by every element that remains consistent and continuously reinforced.

Let me like you

A story depends on a hero with whom the audience can empathize; someone worthy of their respect, even love.

This is exactly the same for brands, which is why problems and crises need to be handled quickly, fairly and respectfully. In today’s world of global connection, everything a brand says or does, anywhere in the world, is shared and commented upon, around the globe in a matter of milliseconds. Whereas in the past, disappointed customers may have told ten others, today it is estimated to be closer to ten million, thanks to social media!

In a great article entitled “What an angry customer costs” by Fred Reichheld, it is said that the cost to companies of haters or detractors is enormous. “Successful companies take detractors seriously. They get to the root cause of customers’ anger by listening to complaints, taking them seriously and fixing problems that might be more pervasive” But it’s not merely a question of preventing the spread of negative word of mouth. As Reichheld, himself says “For many customers … (resolving complaints) …is where true loyalty begins”.

(Surprise and) Delight me

Stanton says that stories should charm and fascinate the audience. For brands, we should aim for surprise and delight as previously mentioned. The surprise of learning something new about the product or company that made it; delight at getting unexpected gifts or attention from the brand.

This is where limited editions and seasonal offers first started, but over the last few years, thanks to today’s connected world, brands are going much further:

  • In 2010, SpanAir delivered an Unexpected Luggage Surprise for its customers flying over Christmas Eve.
  • Also in 2010, another airline KLM, had staff members prepare gifts for a select few passengers who tweeted about their pending departure on a KLM flight at the airport.
  • Tropicana  brought “Artic Sun” to the remote Canadian town of Inuvik, where residents live in darkness for weeks each winter.
  • Amazon is known for their excellent customer service, but they often go the extra mile, upgrading customer shipping to expedited service for free.
  • Kleenex surprised sick people with their Feel Good campaign that targeted people Tweeting about going down with the ‘flu.
  • Google, who are known for their creative and timely illustrations on their homepage, started showing a birthday cake as the image above the search box on people’s birthday.

The last example actually happened to me for the first time a few years ago and I admit that I was so excited I actually Tweeted about it! Am I the only one who was touched by this gesture, because I haven’t heard anyone else mentioning it?

So those are Stanton’s five clues to a great story, adapted for brands. Do they work? What stories are told about your own brands? Or do you have other great examples to share? Please share them below.

For more on brands please check out our website: http://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage/ or contact us here for an informal chat about how we could support your own brand building efforts or provide fun training days.

This post has been adapted and updated from one which first appeared on C3Centricity in 2013.

Customer service

How a Company Reacts to a Crisis Says a Lot About its Customer Centricity

In the UK, there was a recent, highly publicised significant and sustained cyber-attack on the Telecom company Talk Talk’s website.

According to the news as I write this, it seems that a fifteen (!!!) year old Irish lad and a 16-year-old Brit may be responsible. They might have been able to steal information such as names, addresses, passwords and other personal information including bank details. The phone and broadband provider, which has over four million customers in the UK, said that this information “could have been accessed, but credit and debit card numbers had not been stolen”. This was later corrected and Talk Talk admitted that such sensitive financial information had also been obtained.

When the news first broke, Talk Talk tried to play it down. When people requested to cancel their contract, they were told they would be hit with a hefty £200 cancellation fee! That’s really adding insult to injury isn’t it?

As a result of the ensuing outcry, they later amended their position, saying that they would only waive termination fees for customers wanting to end their contracts if money is stolen from them. The local Consumer group Which? called the offer the “bare minimum”.

“In the unlikely event that money is stolen from a customer’s bank account as a direct result of the cyber-attack [rather than as a result of any other information given out by a customer], then as a gesture of goodwill, on a case-by-case basis, we will waive termination fees,” the company said on its website.

Am I dreaming? Goodwill gesture?!! My brother is one of their soon to be ex-clients and I, therefore, followed the handling of the whole case with interest.

What Talk Talk did was ignore their customers’ feelings. As a result, they are provoking their customers to cancel their contracts as soon as they come up for renewal. That is certainly what my brother will do. If on the other hand, they had said that people had up to a month, or three or six months, to cancel their contract if they so desired, then I’m sure that many would have waited before taking such a rash decision.

That would have given them time to calm down, and they might even have forgotten or forgiven the incident by the time their contract came up for renewal. By forcing people to stay, they are also forcing people to leave just as soon as is legally possible. This is just another example of a short-term gain for a long-term pain / loss.

As if that isn’t enough, reporters facing imminent deadlines, will often go with what (little) information they have about the situation. They can’t wait hours or days for the company to craft an appropriate response that will assure that its image remains intact. As a result, damage is done incredibly quickly to a business as well as to its image when such incidents are handled badly. A good reason for organisations to be prepared for any and all eventualities, by using scenario planning. See “10 Steps & 5 Success Factors to Ensure your Business is Ready for Anything” for more on this topic.

 

What Talk Talk should have done

As all good crisis managers know, what Talk Talk should have done is to follow best practice procedures. When a crisis happens especially when it directly involves the customer:

  1. Admit the problem.
  2. Detail exactly what has happened.
  3. Say what you are doing to put it right.
  4. Empathise with customers and offer a solution.
  5. Explain what you will do so it doesn’t happen again.

These five simple steps are known by all PR professionals and yet when a crisis happens the reaction from so many companies appears panicked and chaotic. It is as if knowing what to do doesn’t ensure a company does what needs to be done. (>>Tweet this<<) In this case, it doesn’t even look like Talk Talk has thought through and prepared for such an eventuality – even though this isn’t the first time it has happened to them! Being prepared is half the battle. (>>Tweet this<<)

 

Learning from Mistakes

According to an article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, this is Talk Talk’s third major security breach in the past year! When asked whether such sensitive financial information was encrypted, Talk Talk’s CEO, Dido Harding, said: “The awful truth is, I don’t know”. What is shocking is not only that it has happened before – several times – but that the head of the organisation has not taken steps to ensure such gaps in her organisation’s security were corrected.

Every business and every person makes mistakes occasionally. It’s what we do after making a mistake that makes the difference. As Bruce Lee is famously quoted as saying Mistakes are always forgivable if one has the courage to admit them.” (>>Tweet this<<) 

Excellent leaders and great businesses admit their mistakes quickly and with courage. They see them as a chance to learn and to grow, rather than as an excuse for ignorance and denial. As a recent article in Forbes mentions, “A company in crisis is an opportunity for change”. (>>Tweet this<<) A business should take both short-term and long-term actions as quickly as possible. Doing nothing is the worst reaction to a crisis, as it opens the way for even greater criticism and exaggeration. As already mentioned, journalists love a good story and if you don’t provide it, they will create it with what they’ve got.

“Bad companies are destroyed by crisis. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them” Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel

Being Customer Centric

I spoke about customer centricity in the title because I believe that companies who are thinking customer first, will react appropriately in a crisis. Taking the customers’ perspective will mean that they will do what’s best for their clients first and foremost. They will address the issue for their good, and only then address it internally. Therefore, all businesses which are in the habit of thinking customer first are more likely to do the right thing first.

There are many organisations that have reacted inappropriately in a crisis and their business has suffered, in some cases to the point of closure. Another recent crisis, that of Volkswagen, highlights just how far a company will go to win the approval of its clients. It shows that although they may have understood the importance of their customers, in this case at least, they exaggerated and lied to win their approval. Both such practices will almost always be discovered sooner or later because too many people are involved in keeping secrets. Customer centricity may not be easy, but it’s the right way to conduct business in today’s informed world.

When faced with a crisis, a customer-centric business follows the 5-step process mentioned above, to empathetically respond first to its clients, and then to the press and relevant authorities. It’s a clear sign that the organisation has the right priorities.

If you’d like a useful checklist about what to do in a crisis, I highly recommend the one which Forbes published a few months ago in their article “You have 15 minutes to respond to a crisis; A checklist of Dos and Don’ts.”

Have you prepared several future scenarios to be prepared for the opportunities and challenges your organisation may follow? If not, then let’s discuss possible solutions. Contact me today here.

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. The Audiobook version, which can be integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service, was published last week.