Halloween scares & solutions for marketing

Halloween Scares & Solutions for Marketing

Halloween is coming, even earlier than usual this year, judging from all the retail displays already in the shops! Although it is now more associated with children dressing up in scary costumes and demanding “Trick or Treat”,  it is actually a Christian remembrance of the dead on the eve of All Saints’ Day.

So what does that have to do with marketing? Apart from the obvious effort of many companies to include the pumpkin shape, flavour or aroma in almost every product they make, at least in the US, marketing too has its scary moments doesn’t it?

What scares you marketers the most, or to put it another way, what keeps you up at night? One of the most recent studies on the topic, issued a few months ago, comes from The Marketing Institute (MSI) and was summarised by David Aaker of Prophet as seven issues, which he divided into three tiers:

TIER ONE: The hot topics

  1. Understanding customers and the customer experience with particular emphasis on the impact of social and digital.
  2. Big data and analytics, with how they will impact predictive modelling and the marketing mix.

TIER TWO: The other concerns

  1. Following on from the opportunities of Big Data, the next concern is Marketing Accountability and its ROI.
  2. Developing marketing excellence and the new skills required such as visualisation and storytelling.
  3. Leveraging digital/social/mobile technology and linking it to CRM
  4. Creating and communicating enduring customer value and how to measure it in the social environment.
  5. Developing and delivering integrated marketing

TIER THREE: Previous concerns getting under control

  1. Innovating products and services
  2. Global marketing
  3. Segmentation
  4. Optimizing social contracts

What I find interesting from this and similar studies that I wrote about last year, is the overlap between many of these challenges. Marketers are really concerned about the wealth of information that they have on their customers and how they can manage to turn it all into insights, for more profitable actions and engagement. I therefore thought it would be useful to summarise the “so whats” of all these current challenges and propose actions that will help marketers get these issues under control, so they can change their scares into solutions:

Understanding the customer experience

SCARE: With the exciting new worlds of social and digital taking up much of the thoughts of marketers, they are struggling to find ways to think integration, but that is the only way to understand today’s customers. 

SOLUTION: Starting from the customers’ perspective makes looking at the bigger picture much easier. Instead of thinking single channels of communication, think connection and engagement. (>>Tweet this<<). Instead of thinking purchase and loyalty, think advocacy. Creating value for the customer goes way beyond providing a product or service these days. (>>Tweet this<<)

Knowing what to do with data

SCARE: We have gone from an information rich environment to complete data overload. This challenge definitely keeps a lot of marketers up at night. They feel as if they have to use everything available but at the same time are also aware that they are incapable of doing so.

SOLUTION: The answer lies in the old “eating an elephant” solution. Rather than worrying about what is not being managed, marketers should review what they already have, and only then decide what else they could use to help answer all their questions. There is so much information available today that we can’t work with it all, but we can ask better questions that can be answered by analysing this data. Start with the right question and then use the data you have to answer it. (>>Tweet this<<)

Engaging customers

SCARE: Every brand has some sort of web presence today. Whether that is a website, Facebook page or Twitter account, most companies have rushed into social media without a detailed understanding of why they are there. If this is your case, it’s time to take a step back.

SOLUTION: How are you connecting with your customers today, both offline and online? The two should be complementary. However if there is too much overlap and you are doing the same on both, then you are wasting your money. You are also wasting your money if you don’t know why you are online in the first place! (>>Tweet this<<)

I had a client once who wanted help in updating one of their websites. In running a first analysis of all their websites, I found that more than 80% of them were being visited by less than 30 visitors a month! We cancelled all those websites and invested the money in the remaining active ones, improving both their ROI and the engagement with their customers. Maybe it’s time to take a look at your own web statistics?

Marketing ROI

SCARE: Marketers are scared for their budgets and even more so for their jobs. With the rise in the importance of technology and IT, marketers need to move from branding and creativity alone, to embracing data and analytics much more than they have done in the past.

SOLUTIONBecome friends with your CIO and see IT as a support of rather than as a threat to your budgets. Yes managing new technologies and data analysis will need more investment, but that won’t (shouldn’t) come at the expense of brand building. In fact with the increased power of the customer and the number of channels on which to reach them, marketing needs increased budgets to be where and when the customer demands connection and information. (>>Tweet this<<)

Acquiring new skills

SCARE: As already mentioned, marketers must get comfortable with large amounts of different data. They also need better ways to analyse and make sense of it all, often in near real-time. This is a challenge in itself, but the new skills they have to acquire don’t stop there. They also need to turn their information into actionable insights and then share them with the rest of the business to gain acceptance and impact.

SOLUTION: Your market research and insight colleagues are the best people to help in making sense of the data and developing actionable insights. It will be the marketer’s job to share these with the rest of the business in a more creative way. Visualisation & storytelling are the new must-have skills for today. No longer can you expect PowerPoint presentations to excite and engage your C-suite executives – if they ever did!

These are five of the most pressing current scares of marketing and some simple solutions to address them. Are you challenged by something else? If so, add a comment below and I’ll help you find a solution. Or if you prefer, you can contact me here.

C3Centricity used an image from Microsoft in this post.

 

 

Do you use ad testing as a go, no go decision?

Should you Test your Advertising? If so, What, When and How?

 

One of my clients recently asked me a very interesting question, which I share here, as I am sure that you too have asked it from time to time. It was this: “Should I test my advertising and if so, when and how?”

Depending upon whether you work on the client side, in a media agency or are a creative in an ad agency, you will have certainly answered this in a different way. So let’s review all the pros and cons and decide what is right – for you – in different circumstances.

 

Should you test advertising?

If you work on the client side and ask your colleagues in an advertising agency, most of them would probably scream NO and that’s not surprising! Countless teams have suffered at the hands of market research and the over-testing of their creative.

In the past sixty years or so, there have been many different metrics invented, with the intention of evaluating which of a client’s communication concepts would best meet their objectives. And that for me is one of the biggest challenges to ad. testing. Should you test a campaign or each individual ad? Should you test an ad built to increase awareness in the same way as one built for encouraging trial, purchase, repurchase, loyalty or advocacy? My answer would be a very Swiss “It depends”.

Firstly you have to be clear about why you are advertising in the first place, and what your campaign is trying to achieve. It still amazes me how many companies develop new campaigns simply because that’s what they do each year. Hopefully each new campaign has a link to the preceding one, but even that is not always obvious. Therefore start by being very clear with whom you want to communicate and why – and share that information with your ad agency.

 

When to test

A lot of companies have a standard process of testing ads before airing. Whilst this could be admired, it often results in multiple ad developments. The feeling is that more is better. If you test two, three or more ads, you can then choose the winner to air. What’s wrong with that?

Well, in my opinion, quite a lot. You’ve just wasted a lot of time, money and energy in developing multiple ads, when you know you’ll most probably only use one in most cases. It’s time to think differently and spend your valuable resources more wisely. Once the ad agency has developed a number of campaign concepts or ideas that meet your carefully defined objectives, then that is a better time to test.

Don’t wait until you have gone further and produced animations, final prints or complete films before testing. If you wait until that late a stage in the development process, you are also more likely to designate a “winner” when in fact they could all be good – or bad! Working with concepts will help identify the real winning ideas you have, which can then be developed into a final version or two for copytesting – if you must, but more of that later. The earlier you test, the more resources your ad agency can concentrate on the most relevant concept(s), rather than diluting their efforts to give you the wide choice you usually demand. No wonder ad agencies don’t like copytesting!

 

What to test

Another reason for testing concepts rather than finished ads, is to ensure that they can be turned into a campaign. I have witnessed many terrific, so called “big ideas” that were superb as they stood, but which it was impossible to visualise other than in the single form proposed. If you show your early work to consumers, they might even be inspired by the story of an idea and suggest other ways to show the concept you have developed and thus you get an indication of the campaignability of the idea.

For regional and global campaigns, there is often the added complication of the translation of the idea into other languages. There are many concepts in English that don’t or only poorly translate into other languages. English is a wonderful language that is particularly appropriate for advertising, because of the ability to make wordplays, or use idioms, acronyms, slang, compound words and other wonders of its grammar. In addition the English language is known for its extensive vocabulary, which is especially useful in advertising copy-writing. Whereas in another language you might only have one or two words to express a particular meaning, English may have five or six, each with subtle differences.  If you’d like to see some great examples of advertising messages “lost in translation” (>>Tweet this<<) check out this fun article from Business News Daily.

 

How to test

Depending upon their “standard” processes, most companies will tend to use the same methodology, with no regard for the reasons for doing so. Are you used to copytesting all your developments in order to pick the “winner”, or to get airing approved by management? Some clients I know must score in the “top quadrant” on the usual copytesting impact and persuasion metrics in order to use an ad, even though there are valid reasons to accept lower scores on one or other of the metrics, depending upon the campaign’s objectives.

Some of the best – and most useful – campaign testing I have ever seen, was done qualitatively. But that alone won’t work unless you then allow the creatives, market research and insight groups to discuss the results together – ALONE! It was exciting to share consumer opinions with the creatives and they found it equally stimulating to share their ideas and get feedback based on real consumer input. Whoever said that creatives don’t like testing are wrong; they just dislike judgemental, sometimes disrespectful and bland numerical results with little if any depth of analysis.

A powerful testing methodology I have had the privilege to work with is the unique one proposed by PhaseOne. Their scientifically based, proprietary technique, is based on over thirty years experience of academic work and real-world validation. Their knowledgebase includes an extensive foundation including analytics in human behaviour, anthropology, culture traits, entertainment, education, communications and marketing. This enables them to accurately explain how your target will react to your messages and even more importantly the reasons why, without actually speaking with consumers. In comparative testing versus standard copytesting, their technique has been shown to give similar outcomes, but with greater depth and understanding of the reasons why consumers react to an ad as they do and not just the what. If you’d like to hear more about this unique methodology, especially if you’re having trouble speaking with your own target customers due to legal or confidentiality issues, I’d be happy to share some case studies.

 

In summary when it comes to testing your advertising:

  1. Know with whom you want to communicate
  2. Know what your target audience wants to hear
  3. Know why you are communicating, what the message is that you want to send
  4. Know which concept(s) have the most resonance with both your target audience and objectives, and why
  5. Know how the concept(s) will develop into a campaign across media
  6. Know how you are going to communicate, the most relevant medium and channels for your target audience

Can you answer all six questions before pre-testing you own ads? If so, well done; if not, perhaps it’s time to review your testing process.

 

Where testing came from & where it’s going

In conclusion, a few words about the future of pre-testing. Although advertising testing supposedly started in the mid 1800’s, it was in the 1950’s that performance metrics became the holy grail of clients, ad agencies and media sellers alike. From Day-After-Recall, to persuasion, and brand linkage to moment-by-moment systems, it wasn’t until this decennie that the importance of emotional rather than rational responses to advertising gained support. Today, emotional analysis has become widely available and customers’ reaction to the ads are measured, usually on the six universal emotions (happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, disgust, anger) plus neutral. Whilst it’s still early days in understanding the connection between emotional reactions and brand impact, things are moving fast. C³Centricity is now offering facial coding as part of its services, whether for adding to market research projects or for the development of original promotions and point-of-sale activities. One such case study is available for download on the C³Centricity Members area here. (Free to join)

Interestingly, when I was doing research for this post, almost all the more recent articles I found were about the testing of online advertising, comparing PPC and positioning, of the usual paid, earned and owned media. However, with around two-thirds of budgets still being on traditional media – at least for now – and Statista showing that consumers still trust it more than new media,  it seemed appropriate for me to concentrate on that here and leave online for a future post.

Also, I have covered only pre-testing here, yet I know many companies who are satisfied with running only post-tests. They admit that it is because they never have enough time to pre-test their ads which, at least to me, highlights a clear lack of concept testing in the first place. Hopefully I have explained why I think it is important, no vital, for clients, media and ad agencies alike, to do more of it. At least it will provide more material for those development discussions – before it’s too late!

Do you agree? Have I forgotten something? Let me know, I’d love to hear what you think.

C³Centricity used an image from Dreamstime in this post

 

Checking the 7Ps of outstanding customer service

The New 7Ps of Best Practice Customer Services. Are you following them?

If you claim to be customer centric are you sure you’re walking and not just talking the talk of true customer service?

Last year I was prompted to question this of the Swiss cable company Cablecom. It had been desperately trying to address a long-term deficit in customer care versus its main competitor Swisscom. Swisscom has made customer service their MSP (main selling point or value proposition) and they are renowned for putting their customers first. Cablecom on the other hand had, until then, been trying to win customers through aggressive price cutting. In today’s connected world, especially when internet connection is concerned, dissatisfied customers will be quickly heard – across the net.

Back to the incident that prompted this post. After a few days of being ignored by Cablecom – my perception at least because my emails and phone calls were not being answered – I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that I resorted to Twitter.

It was more than a year ago that Twitter was first referred to as today’s call centre. Guy Clapperton, author of “This is Social Media” wrote an interesting post about this in 2011 and surprisingly this idea was actually questioned at the time. Today, I would argue that it is much, much more than this.

Today’s call centres are a frustrating, if sometimes necessary experience for customers to endure. In many cases they are automated, with an often long and complex self-selection process of button pushing to arrive at the department one needs. Usually the result of all that effort is just a recording that either announces that the department needed is not open at the moment, or that the collaborators are currently busy and to please stay on the line. We are next subjected to music supposedly designed to calm our nerves, interspersed with messages suggesting alternatives to waiting on the line: going to the website to find a solution, to check their available FAQs, to complete a contact form, or to send an email. And then of course to add insult to injury, we hear the infamous message about our call being important to the company! Really? If so you’re not showing it, you’re not walking the talk.

Edison recently ran some research showing the patience that we have or rather don’t have today, on social media. Convince & Convert published some of the first results in an interesting article showing that companies must react immediately to customers using social media. One in five expect an answer within 15 minutes and 42% within the hour. For reference, when Guy Clapperton wrote his post almost three years ago, the level was almost half that at just 25%.

Companies that have understood customers’ frustration with help-line queues have found alternative solutions, such as arranging a call back, or providing sufficient staff to cover the busiest times, or at least to be available when the customer is most likely to need support.

Today there is no excuse for a consumer goods company to not be ready to help their users when they need it the most (>>Tweet this<<); for example:

  • Early morning or late at night for personal care products
  • Breakfast, lunch and evening meal times for food manufacturers
  • Evenings and weekends for TV and technology products

Whilst in a few cases, there may be customers who use Twitter to jump the call centre queues, in most cases, it is a customer’s final cry for help before “going under”.

Taking the customers perspective is the absolute right thing to do for a company, but should we as customers also not take the company’s perspective when reaching out to them, or at least to the poor person who gets our wrath at the end of our email or phone call?

Jimmy N. from UPC-Cablecom, was one of the very best examples of what a customer service advisor should be, based upon my considerable years of working on both sides of contact centres. What did he do so well and what might we all learn from him, despite his relatively young age (early twenties)?

I summarise it as the new 7 Ps of customer services:

  1. Private: He immediately took the conversation offline, asking for my email address and then calling me to speak in person.
  2. Patient: He let me talk first, just listening until I had finished ranting, or stopped to ask a question.
  3. Polite: He never lost his cool, even when I did!
  4. Perceptive: Empathised, knowing when to push forward with the next topic and when to go back to reiterate what had been agreed.
  5. Professional: He was an expert, knew his topic and more importantly knew how to explain its complex details in simple terms.
  6. Pragmatic: Worked with me to find solutions that worked for us both.
  7. Perseverant: He continued to ask and answer questions until he was sure I was happy with everything.

Are these the seven best qualities for call centre advisors, or are there more “Ps” to mention? Let me know, especially you Jimmy, if you read this.

If you need help in optimising your own care centres or customer connections then we would love to support your plans. We know we can help, just tell us where and when. Contact us here and check out our website: http://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage

No Obligation, just INSPIRATION!

C³Centricity used an image from Dreamstime in this post.

This article is based upon a post first published on C3Centricity in February 2013.

Cannes Lions Award

Award Winning Communications are Powered by Insight & Customer Understanding

This time last month, many marketing and communications professionals had just returned from Cannes, France, where they had attended the annual Lions Awards Festival. They are now back in their offices and have probably been comparing their own communications to this year’s winners and wondering what they can do to get one of these coveted prizes in the near future.

For the rest of us, we are also looking at the winners, but more for gathering learnings on how to make our own communications more creative and impactful, without any ambition of winning a Lions one day.

That is why I decided to review a selection of the Press Lions Category and analyse how they might appeal to their target customers. I found three dominant themes running through all the prize-winners, some of which even incorporated several of them in one single campaign. If you’d like to see all the winning ads from these campaigns they can be found in the AdWeek article linked above.

1. Simple & clear messaging

We are all in a hurry these days; we have far too much to do and so we no longer read with as much attention as we did in the past. Today we just skim headlines and articles, and quickly decide whether they’re worth digging into in more detail or whether to pass over to the next one. It is therefore essential that ads communicate their message in a way that is quick to read, understand and capture. Examples of this from amongst the print winners:

Harvey Nichols – Grand Prix Campaign

Harvey Nicols insight built communicationsThese are clean, simple ads showing nicely packaged but cheap seasonal gifts, because you decided to  #SpendItOnYourself, as the campaign is entitled. The eye is naturally drawn to the simple red words, since the articles themselves are white on a white background. The reader gets the message and immediately thinks whether they too could give such items, but then also reflect on why they don’t spend (more) on treating themselves. This feel-good reaction makes for good recall of the campaign as well as the positive image transfer to Harvey Nichols.

Zwilling J. A. Henckels – Gold Lion Campaign

Zwilling insight built communicationsRather than saying how sharp these high-end knives are, this is illustrated by the incredibly thin slices of different foods shown in the campaign. The thin slices are then overlapped to show the shape of the blade and the text below is kept in the form of the handle. The artful design of the whole ad further complements the idea that these are special – definitely not cheap – knives, for connaisseurs only.

 

2. Emotional resonance

The UK was one of the first countries to use shock tactics in their road safety and other public service campaigns. Stimulating people’s emotions is guaranteed to get ads noticed and remembered, but it doesn’t all have to be negative.  Examples from amongst the winners:

Shanghai General Motors / Buick – Gold Lion Campaign

Buick ads built with insightThese ads show real people who have been injured in road accidents, holding up the signs that the drivers that hit them had ignored. The tagline “Signs are there for a reason” is clear and simple, and the images of the injured people emotionally impactful. The reader immediately thinks about occasions when they too have driven recklessly, but were lucky enough not to have injured anyone. The impact of the visuals remains long after the reader has turned the page.

Volkswagen – Gold Lion Campaign

Volkswagen communications built on insightA completely different and definitely light-hearted approach to travel is taken by Volkswagen in this winning campaign. They show how getting from one place to another can be fun in these playful, product-free ads. The visuals appeal as the viewer takes the extra few seconds to understand it and then takes away the message that driving a Polo GTI is fun too.

 

3. Confirming intellectual superiority

In today’s overcrowded urban areas, people look for ways to differentiate and prove themselves, whether physically or intellectually. This is one of the reasons that gaming has become so popular in all age groups. Finding the hidden signs in an image or understanding a play on words in an ad can increase the engagement, provided of course that they are neither too difficult nor too easy to solve. Examples from amongst the print winners:

Jeep – Gold Lion Campaign

Jeep communications built on insightsThis campaign includes ads that are both a play on words and images, doubly clever. Jeep shows images of animals which, when inverted became different animals or birds. The tag line “See whatever you want to see” refers to both this as well as to the advantage of the Jeep to place the driver higher up, with better visibility.

Penguin Group China – Gold Lion Campaign

Penguin communications built on insightAt first you might find these Penguin ads rather crowded and confusing, and therefore you don’t immediately “get” the joke – I admit it took me a few seconds!. But look carefully and you will see penguins holding microphone booms in otherwise classical illustrations of well-known literature. The ads are for Penguin’s new audiobooks and are a clever and amusing way to communicate the novelty.

To sum up my findings from this quick analysis, the winners have three points in common:

      • Their messages are clear and simple to understand
      • They connect emotionally with their audience
      • They offer the viewer something in return for their looking at it

All these ads clearly demonstrate that working with customer understanding and insight increases the likelihood that your communications will resonate with your target customers. Now we need to wait until next year to see how well these ads perform in impacting the sales and images of the brands. Which of these will be the real winners of Cannes? I would love to hear what you think.

If you would like in improving your own communications, or in understanding and engaging with your customers, whether using traditional or new media, then why not give us a call? Let us catalyze your own communications with some of our unique tools; contact us here.

C³Centricity uses images from Forbes and AdWeek in this post.

The new marketing man is a brand manager

Are P&G Right to End Marketing?

In the last couple of weeks, there has been a tremendous amount of discussion around P&G’s decision to change marketing into brand management.

The consumer products world closely watches whenever P&G announces changes, whether to their strategy, marketing or in this case their organisational structure. As this AdAge article (herementions “P&G seems well out in front of the rest of the marketing world — or what used to be known as the marketing world — on this”.

As businesses have become more social, there have been a lot of articles about marketing. Some have spoken about the need for marketing and IT to get together, if not even merge in some way (See this Forbes article). Others have proclaimed the end of the CMO’s position altogether, including the infamous piece by IMD’s President Dominique Turpin “The CMO is Dead ..… Welcome to the CCO. Then there have been even more articles challenging marketing to show their worth and suggesting metrics to prove their ROI (See Fournaise 2011 study of 600 CEOs or Forrester’s Marketing Performance Management Survey).

The fact that there have been so many different pieces on the topic over the last year or so, suggests to me that marketing is still vital for and extremely attractive to business, but that it is in desperate need of reinventing itself. I believe this is behind P&G’s move.

At the end of last year I wrote a post proposing what I thought would and wouldn’t change and what needs to. Six months on, in light of P&G’s announcement, I thought it useful to review my list:

What will change

  • Marketing can no longer work alone in a silo; it needs to become more collaborative and more commercial or business oriented. It can no longer remain fuzzy and hide behind claims that its ROI is difficult to measure.
  • Understanding customer service opportunitiesThe sales funnel will be (has already been) replaced by the purchase decision journey, which will be a multi-layered, flexible representation of the route to purchase. For more on this, read “How Great Customer Service Leads to Great Customer Loyalty”.
  • Advertising and messaging TO the customer will be replaced by valuable information made available FOR the customer. In line with the longer sales journey and multiple online consultations, communication will become more informative, more useful, more timely.
  • Local will no longer be geographic but “Native”. Whether it’s language, habits or interests, customers will be targeted on their similarities that will rarely, if ever, include geographical proximity.
  • Mobile web consulting will become the norm, so brand sites need to become adaptive. Content will aim to inform, educate and entertain first and foremost, rather than sell, and websites will become flexible and adaptive to the differing screens and customer needs.

What won’t change

  • The customer is still the king, but content joins the ranks in almost equal position, needing more respect and value, and less commoditisation. For a great post on this read “5 Ways Content Marketing Must Change in 2014”.
  • Recommendations will remain a vital part of choice and decision-making, but they will no longer come from just friends and family. They will come from organised collection – think TripAdvisor or Angie’s List – or from (self) proclaimed experts through their Blog posts and faithful followers.
  • Customer (consumer) understanding remains vital and in fact the need for understanding will even increase as customers will be in constant evolution.

What must change

  • We are all swamped with messages and information and yet – perhaps because of this – our attention span is declining. Messaging must become shorter and simpler as people use headlines to decide whether or not to stick around.
  • In addition to the increased need for informative content, it will need to engage as well as (or is it more than?) inform. Storytelling will become an essential skill for marketers, both internally and externally.
  • Wearable technology will totally change our where and when decisions of messaging. The customer will not only be in charge of what messages are received but when to be “visible” to receive them.
  • The old marketing funnel to advocacyHaving changed the sales funnel to a path to purchase, the usual loyalty funnel no longer works. The simple path from awareness to loyalty will be replaced by a constant and consistent battle for trust. What’s more it will never be truly “won” as customers continue to be fascinated by novelty.
  • Marketing can no longer depend on creativity alone. It won’t be enough, as if it ever was, and marketers will need to get (even more?) comfortable with their BigData and its usage.
  • Customer understanding will come from multiple sources and market researchers will become understanding analysts responsible for turning the unstoppable flow of information into the organisation, into palatable morsels of digestible stories.

Although I didn’t predict P&G’s change, it does in fact address most of the above, by combining four functions under the new title of Brand Management: brand management (formerly known as marketing), consumer and marketing knowledge (their name for market research), communications and design. At least by combining these groups under a single leader they will be forced to work less in silos and there should be more and better collaboration. Only time will tell if this move will be successful.

Do you think P&G’s change is the right move? Will you consider doing something similar? I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially if you are, or aspire to the “old” CMO or marketing roles. 

If you need help in adapting to the new world of marketing, why not work with one of the new breed of marketers? Someone who combines cultural sensitivity with creativity and technical know-how; a catalyst for the change your organisation needs. Contact us here and let’s discuss your needs.

C³Centricity used an image from Microsoft in this post.

Blood brothers sparks many emotions

What Blood Brothers can teach us about Emotions & Customer Satisfaction

I recently had the privilege of seeing Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers at the wonderful Grand Theatre in Swansea. This musical is in its 29th year yet doesn’t have a wrinkle. It is still as relevant today as it was when it was first performed and continues to surprise and delight audiences from around the UK.

As the music continued to turn in my head for days afterwards, I wondered how a play that was written so many years ago, could continue to resonate with audiences so successfully. Furthermore, it is a story that is introduced from the end; you see the twin boys dead and go back to their early days to understand how it happened. As is also the case with the Titantic movie, despite knowing the ending, the story still fascinates and the audience is still surprised when the known event finally takes place.

I realised that in fact this is a similar situation to that in which many companies find themselves today. Their customers know the ending to the story (the product usage), yet would still love (expect?) to be surprised and delighted. So what can we learn from successes such as Blood Brothers and Titanic that we can apply to our own brands to build more emotional responses into our customer satisfaction? Here are a few that I came up with – once the music began to quiet in my head!

Resonate

One of the reasons for the success of both the Titanic movie and the Blood Brothers musical is that they are strong stories about a multitude of human emotions: love, trust, optimism, fear, sadness, anger. They are stories told by sharing the feelings of all the main characters. People empathise more easily with recognisable emotions and remember or imagine themselves in similar situations to those shown. The events then resonate without them even realising what is happening until their own emotions stir.

QUESTION: Are you identifying the needs of your customers so that you can better meet them from an emotional as well as rational perspective? What could you show or communicate that would stir memories or empathy?

Surprise

As I mentioned earlier, even though we know the story and more importantly the ending, we are still surprised when the fateful event takes place. In the case of the Blood Brothers musical, this was with surprisingly loud, double gun-shots taken from policemen discretely positioned amongst the audience. It  was something for which we in the audience were neither expecting nor prepared for at the time it occurred. There was an outburst of shock followed by nervous laughter amongst the spectators, proof that they were both surprised and emotionally involved.

QUESTION: What positive surprises have your customers experienced when purchasing or using your product, or when contacting you about the usage of your brands? Can you find more for them to enjoy so they then share their experiences with others?

Delight

Once the shooting of the twins had taken place and the audience had calmed down, the full company came on stage for the final song. The music and voices built to a crescendo and ended to thunderous applause and a standing ovation. I understand that 99 times out of 100 this is the case, which doesn’t surprise me. The relief of the engaging music after such a sad event made people happy and thankful for the wondrous performance and climax.

At the end of Titanic, the movie ends with the leading lady letting go of her childhood sweetheart’s memory in an emotional farewell as she tosses the diamond in the ocean and then sees him welcoming her as she passes over. I seem to remember that Top Gun has a similar event near the end, when Maverick is seen tossing Goose’s dogtags into the ocean. How do these all work so well? I believe it’s because they free the audience from all their pent up emotions and people are delighted with their new-found (emotional) freedom.

Customer satisfaction just works betterQUESTION: Is there a way you can work with your customers’ feelings and liberate them from their pent up emotions? In the case of products and services, these are more likely to be feelings of frustration or disappointment with the pre-purchase situation. If you can replace these through a positive experience, then your customers will be delighted and thankful to you, and memories of how you made them feel will remain in their memories for a long time. Emotions beat rational satisfaction every time, so work to stir them whenever you can.

Simplify

Too many things in life today are overly complex and unduly complicated. Those of us who are from an earlier generation, sometimes long for the ‘good old days’. Back then, life seemed simpler, things worked or they didn’t. When something works well, it just works. No bells and whistles, no lost energy, no difficult instructions to follow or manoeuvres to perform.

Apple still excels at customer satisfactionThis is one of the reasons why Apple’s products are so popular. They are solid, they perform as expected and you can use them immediately upon purchase, intuitively, without reading the instructions. In fact, have you seen how few instructions are actually included in the Apple product boxes?

We don’t read as much nor as thoroughly as we used to; communications must be simple, easy to scan and of minimal length.

QUESTION: Could you simplify the way your brand is purchased, used, consumed? Can you simplify its packaging or the information that is printed on it? Is you product information too complicated and long-winded; could it be shortened?

Engage

customer satisfaction comes from storytellingI can’t conclude without a mention of storytelling. I know everyone speaks about it these days and we all now understand its importance. But for me it’s not just about storytelling, it’s about engagement. Entertain, share, teach; make it worthwhile for your customers to spend their time, money and emotions on your products, services and communications.

QUESTION: Are you engaging your customers and do you understand how your stories are being heard, understood and shared?

 

One week after watching the Blood Brothers musical, the music is beginning to fade in my head, but the memory of how it made me feel is as alive and raw as it was seven days ago. This is the power of emotions. This is how to remain in your customers’ minds, memories and more importantly hearts. How will you do the same with your brands?

C³Centricity used images from Swansea’s Grand Theatre, Dreamstime, Microsoft and Apple in this post.

Brands love their customers

What’s Love Got to Do with It? Satisfaction, Surprise & Delight

There’s been a lot of rather liberal use of the word LOVE recently in connection with brands and their customers. Perhaps this was partly due to the lead up to Valentine’s Day last week.

But ever since Lovemarks was published in 2004, followed by The Lovemarks Effect and more recently Loveworks, companies have talked about how much brands are loved by their customers. Sorry Mr Roberts et al, I personally don’t think consumers love brands. Consumers may say they love you but I think that they really just love themselves! (>>Click to Tweet<<)

Whilst I agree with the premise that traditional branding practices were (still are?) generally dull, boring and rather predictable, digital has certainly livened things up in the last ten years. With greater real-time visibility, brands are constantly trying to out-do each other and luckily the customer has everything to gain from this. After all, surprise and delight are the fundamental demands of consumers today and the holy grail of brands. However from attracting interest to inspiring love, that’s one heck of a jump!

Wikipedia defines love in many different ways, because the English language doesn’t distinguish between the levels of love that other languages do. The closest I could find to the emotional connection Kevin Roberts was referring to, was impersonal love described as “People can “love” material objects, animals, or activities if they invest themselves in bonding or otherwise identifying with those things”. This definition points out a very important element of brand love, that of personal investment. As I already mentioned, I believe that customers love themselves first and will only invest in brands if they get something out of the relationship in return. That is the part of the bonding that too many brands seem to forget when developing online advertising, fan pages and social media exchanges. It’s as if they publish and then say “Love (Like) me I’m great”, when they should be saying “We love you, you’re great”.

In 2004 Kevin Roberts introduced the notion of emotions to branding and I believe everyone today agrees that purchasing involves an emotional response, often even stronger than rational based decision making. This is the one essential element that some brands struggle to incorporate into their online presence in a meaningful way, so let’s see how the top brands do it.

TwitterFirst, taking a look at Twitter’s list of the Top 20 most followed brands for 2013 we can see that involvement (in this case following) is triggered by one of four simple customer needs:

  • Entertainment: YouTube, Instagram, TwitPic, Funny Or Die, MTV, Ramalan Indonesia, funnyordie, UberSocial
  • Keeping up with your friends: Twitter, Facebook
  • Keeping up with the world: CNN Breaking News , CNN, The New York Times, BBC Breaking News, Google
  • Keeping up with your team: FC Barcelona, Real Madrid F.C., NBA, ESPN

Interestingly, the brands in this top 20 all provide a service to people, rather than blatantly looking for love, although they have been successful in bonding with their followers. Also, the only consumer brand to make it onto the list came in at number 20, namely Samsung Mobile. However their tweets are actually more like those of the news channels than a manufacturer promoting their brand, although of course they do include their product names when relevant.

Chatting for customer service connectionThe relationship between brands and their followers is one of need (>>Click to Tweet<<); the Tweets provide customers with information they can use or share with their friends. In addition, for many, Twitter has become the modern day customer service line, since they are assured a more rapid response and usually a more positive conclusion than through a simple telephone based connection. Whilst excellent customer service should be the delivery no matter which medium customers choose to use, we have all now understood that they are not created equally. We know that telephone-based customer service still exists, but we just don’t get the fast, efficient level of assistance that we desire anymore, and are moving away from its usage.

As a result organisations are very keen to improve the service they give via Twitter and use it not only to respond to customer comments, but also to involve their customers in improving their products and services, as well as to keep them abreast of launches, new campaigns and promotions.

FacebookAnother platform that brands use to connect with their customers is Facebook. Brands create pages and encourage “Likes” for their postings, which seem to have similar purposes to Twitter, albeit with a more generous allowance than the 140 characters of a Tweet.

Looking at the pages with the most fans, we find a similarity to Twitter in terms of content and also a few of the same companies (NBA, MTV) but there are more consumer brands present amongst the most popular. These brands are promoting themselves through similar types of content, entertainment and news, but the biggest difference is the possibility for customers to reap direct benefit through coupons, promotions, store information and free games. In addition, customers can usually provide content too, by uploading their own photos, videos and stories.

So coming back to my original question, brands should understand that customers’ love can be as short lived as a holiday romance. As with marriage, it takes consistent effort to maintain the connection, providing satisfaction, surprise and delight in almost equal proportions. The brands which succeed online are without exception those that offer all of these, as the following table shows:

Brand

Content

10 NBA videos, commentary, photos, merchandise
9 McDonald’s games, prizes, promotions, news,
8 Monster Energy extreme-sports clips, news, events
7 Victoria’s Secret exclusive updates, videos, screen wallpaper doubled its talking about me score when it started giving away 100k gift cards to fans, electronic gift cards
6 Converse photos of unique shoes
5 Red Bull mix of humour, extreme sports, events, images, games & apps
4 Starbucks photos, store locator, electronic gift cards, manage rewards, challenges
3 MTV sneak peeks of trailers, clips, humour, questions, photos, quizzes, information about pop stars
2 Disney facts, film screenshots, cartoons, videos, quotes, photo & story sharing
1 Coca-Cola encourages donations, local & global events & promotions, videos

In conclusion, let me say that I am not suggesting that we forget love, but rather that we take off our rose-tinted spectacles and understand that our customers don’t really love us; as with my two cats it’s just a matter of “cupboard love”!

Did you know that C³Centricity measures EMOTIONAL REACTIONS to advertising, packaging, new brand concepts, products and just about anything else a customer can see, hear, taste or feel? Interested in learning more? Then why not CONTACT US today for an informal chat about your needs? We’re sure we can help.  

Reputation and trust, your brands and corporation need both

Reputation and Trust: Do you Have Both?

At the end of last year I asked readers to send me their biggest challenges for 2014. The winning question was related to innovation, which I wrote about last week: “This is why your new products crash & burn“.

Another of the questions I received was related to measuring equity and the relative importance of following the image of the brand or the corporation. I respond below to this interesting dilemma and propose some ideas about what you should be following.

The three essentials of brand valueLet me start by saying that I covered brand image metrics in some detail last year in a popular post  called “How to Build Brand Reputation and Consumer Trust: And then Track it”. The article spoke about the three important areas that you need to measure in order to have a complete perspective of your brand image, namely Rational / Functional, Emotional / Subjective and Cultural / Relational.

Whilst this is the simplest method for measuring brand equity, it is said that there are in fact seven essential elements that make a business great in the eyes of the customer. These elements are a combination of product perceptions as above, together with those of the enterprise. Perhaps surprisingly, the latter actually trump the former in driving behaviours today, so corporate reputation is now essential to follow too. It also suggests that whilst product performance, services and innovation are important, it is the companies behind the brands that influence a consumer’s trust and final choice. If you’d like to read more about this, please click on the above link where you can find more details.

Coca Cola logo

However, measuring brand image and corporate reputation is still not going to give you all the answers you need. One of the areas that few organisations study today, even when they measure both of these, is the relationship between the images of the brands and the company.

Unilever AXE logoFor some brands such as Coca Cola, the relationship is both obvious and strong, whereas for Pantene or Axe the link to P&G and Unilever may be far less evident.

P&G Pantene logo

Despite an increasing effort by both companies to strengthen the association between their brands and themselves as manufacturer, the connection remains tenuous at best.

So how do you measure this link and understand what the brand brings to the corporation and vice versa? Read on for a simple process.

Following Brand & Corporate Reputations is a 3-step process

Step 1: Measure your brands’ images

Hopefully you are already doing this on a regular basis. If not please start immediately since you cannot manage brands without knowing where you are today, even if you have a clear idea planned for where you want to go. The post linked above gives you a start on getting this done.

The one addition that you may have to incorporate in your current questionnaire is to ensure that you clearly identify whether the respondent knows who makes each of the brands. This will be essential for the analysis later on.

Step 2: Measure your corporate image

Again you should already be doing this, but I am always amazed how few companies collect such metrics on a regular basis. The prompt for doing so is often a crisis or a change of management and vision, but by then it is actually too late. Whatever you measure in such circumstances will be difficult to analyse since you don’t know what the figures looked like before the event happened. This is why it is essential to measure it at least annually and perhaps even more regularly when a lot is happening in the marketplace.

As was also the case for your brand equity metrics, you will need to include a measurement of brand attribution for each of the companies you measure. This will again be used in the analytical phase.

Step 3: Analyse and cross-reference the information gathered

The third step of the process is to first review the images of each brand by the knowledge and awareness of the consumers about its parent company. Then review the corporate images based upon whether each is attributed or not to each of its brands, or maybe even to competitive brands. Then by crossing these two sets of relational information, you will get a clear picture of what the brand brings in terms of reputation to the company and what the corporate reputation adds to or detracts from each brand. Once you understand the relationship between your brands and your business, you can start to lay out a plan to boost your consumers’ knowledge and trust with appropriate PR and advertising.

Some organisations, including those mentioned above, find ways to associate their company name within their brand advertising. For instance Nestlé and Purina both end their ads with a company link and logo. Unilever and SCJohnson are a little more creative in showing  a fold up / down corner with their logo and name and in the case of the latter, even their corporate slogan. This is far less intrusive and leaves the brand to shine as hero in the ad.

If you already run your own brand equity or corporate reputation studies, why not combine them as suggested above, for improved actionability? If you do a different type of analysis I would love to hear about it; just add a comment below or write to me in person at denysedd@c3centricity.com. It would be great to hear your thoughts on this essential element of tracking.

Angelo Ponzi, Director PhaseOne

Why Global Campaigns often Fail and What You Can Do So Yours Won’t

It’s been a while since we had a guest post so I am happy that this week Angelo Ponzi from C³Centricity partner PhaseOne, based in Los Angeles, has shared one of his most popular articles on taking local communications global.

If you’re a global advertiser or have done research on global advertising, you know it’s not easy to launch a global campaign.

Year after year, many brands launch global campaigns only to have them fail.  Sometimes it’s the message that doesn’t translate.  Other times, a product name or slogan just doesn’t translate around the globe — or worse, it offends the target audience. Or, perhaps the behavior the brand is trying to influence just isn’t relevant.

What are the pitfalls that must be avoided and what strategies do you need to have in place in order to set the stage for a successful global campaign?

Benefit of a Global Campaign

Unilever Dove logoThere is a strong argument for implementing a creative campaign on a global scale.  When it works, it provides brand stewards with a high level of control.  It also ensures consistent implementation of a brand strategy, and it saves money — a lot of money.  When it works, it can work BIG.  Take for instance Unilever’s global work for their Dove brand and their Beauty campaign. This global work beat the odds, changed the way people think of beauty, and changed the way we as advertisers communicate about beauty.

Regardless of the brand, all brands — even regional or local ones — need to think globally. Why?  Because a brand’s image or reputation is only one post, tweet, blog, pin or share away from being talked about on a global basis.  Social media has changed the way we market, but more importantly, it has changed the way we need to think.

It’s difficult enough to create relevant communications that include a strategic message, strong theme and a brand story that appeals to the target audience in one market. Creating one that appeals to multiple cultures is extremely difficult. One size fits all does not apply here folks!

Important Considerations:  A Common Voice Spoken in Many Languages

What are some of the important considerations when beginning to think about a global approach?  Certainly, humor or the use of slang when trying to establish a brand across borders does not always work.  For example, humorous TV spots that aired in the UK didn’t make audiences giggle as it traveled across borders to other English and non-English-speaking countries.   Keep in mind, the joke or “shtick” doesn’t always travel well from country to country.  The use of humor may also be impacted by cultural values, etiquette, language and dialects, as well as social economics of the audiences.  Individually, these are all important considerations to be researched when developing campaign strategies and creative executions. Brands must learn to have a common voice that can be spoken in many languages.

Campaigns need to consider the four elements of the brand

In addition, you should take into consideration your international competition, since they are most likely exploring global and local (“glocal”) approaches as well.  But, while you’re looking in the rearview mirror at your primary competitors, don’t forget to look out in front for those local brands that are already entrenched and may already be the leaders in the market.  Know where your brand stands in the market.  Are you a challenger in one market and a leader in another? How you speak to your target audience will be different based on your market position, making it even more difficult to identify a distinctive message that is relevant globally from market to market.

Define your brand’s core personality, including the tone in which you speak to your audiences, and keep it consistent.  Identify a common motivation or need across cultures that speaks to their aspirations, not just your brand’s product benefits. By doing so, the overall culture of the brand remains constant and familiar to the audiences throughout the world.

Key Factors for a Successful Global Campaign

In examining the factors in developing and implementing a successful global campaign, we have found that it becomes clear that there has to be almost precise alignment across five different market factors for success.  If even one of them is off, the campaign and its investment are at risk.

As we explore these five key factors, ask yourself the outlined questions and answer them honestly as you assess the possibility of your global campaign.

#1. Your Brand’s Equity

Does your target audience think about your brand the same way across all markets (i.e., do they have the same associations)?  Do the brand’s values and its personality resonate at the same levels across all markets?  Is awareness high and attitudes strong in one market while they suffer in another?  If so, then there is a high level of certainty that the same advertising will not work in both markets.

#2. Your Brand Market Share / Market Position

Do you have consistent market share in each and every market in which you compete?  In reality, it is much more likely that your market position varies by market.  Whether you’re a strong leader with few challengers working to grow the category and retain market share or a challenger against stronger brands trying to steal market share, it is almost impossible for the same kind of creative and messaging to work across all of these situations.

#3. Competitive Actions

In examining the competitive environment, a number of variables must be considered.  How many competitors are there?  Very crowded categories require different actions from less-crowded categories.  What is the level of spend by competitors?  Some competitors are more dedicated to certain markets, investing greatly in them.  Are they buying market share?  Are you prepared to compete?  What are your competitors claiming?  We often see that the claims competitors make vary by market.  Just because your message is perceived to be different in one market doesn’t mean it will be distinctive on a global scale. What are the environments in which your brand will compete?

#4. Category Penetration / Maturity

One of the biggest mistakes marketers make today is assuming that the advertising they create for well-established brands within very mature markets will work in markets where the category as a whole is just emerging — those markets from which future growth will come.  What they are forgetting is that the audience’s familiarity with the category dictates how much you have to explain versus what you can assume they will already know.

#5. Target Audience / Cultural

We as human beings are complex.  Yes, there are some core things that tie us together: we all have needs that we strive to satisfy.  But even then, what our needs are and how they are expressed vary, with much of that driven by culture.  More times than not, global campaigns fail by not taking into consideration the cultural differences between the markets.  This is particularly true when humor is involved.  What one culture views as funny could be offensive to another.  Culture can also impact how our target audiences approach the category.  One example is cleaning products — what “clean” means varies across cultures.  We also see great variance for games and toys.  For example, are they for independent enjoyment or do they bring people together?

To help lay the foundation for global campaign success, a research study that examines your brand in your current and planned markets is essential, as is the same research on your competitors to see how they have succeeded and failed so you can learn from their efforts.  Understanding where you stand and where you intend to go versus your competitors is essential to creating a successful and lasting global brand strategy.

Get thinking about what’s important in developing a global campaign.  Do your homework.  Invest the time (and money) to understand your target audience country by country. 

Before you start ask yourself, “What campaigns have been successful on a global basis?  How did they do it?  And, which ones failed and why?”  Learn from it.   Now go take over the world.

The future of information and insight

8 Marketing Essentials for 2014

Over the past few weeks I’ve been in the US catching up with a few C³Centricity partners about marketing priorities for 2014. The meetings were as inspirational as the new products being presented at the Las Vegas CES (Global Consumer Electronics & Consumer Technology Tradeshow)!

We discussed some of the most important challenges marketing will be facing in 2014 and brainstormed some possible solutions. If you are having any of these difficulties then I’m sure you will find the following ideas useful:

Social Media Metrics

Email is a popular customer service connection pointAs many companies transfer budget from traditional to online advertising, it is essential to also shift some of your funds to measuring its impact, even if some people do question the validity of such metrics. However, the most important thing to do is to link the metrics to what is happening in your business. Your CEO isn’t interested in how many Facebook Likes you’ve managed to get, but he is interested in knowing that you gained x% in awareness. Some standard numbers often followed are mentioned in “10 Social Media Measurement Best Practices” but remember that engagement and listening for better customer understanding are also (more?) important, as mentioned in this Business Insider post. What everyone does agree, is that every campaign must have objectives and metrics to gauge their efficacy; do yours?

Storytelling

There is so much (too much?) information flowing into organisations today, but it is not being sufficiently accessed because most of it is not being integrated and analysed. Even when it is, sharing the insights is often a challenge because of the complexity of the process. Turning knowledge and understanding into stories and then visualising or videoing them is a better way for both sharing and getting participation in actioning them. Why not review both your insight development and your knowledge sharing processes this year? If you’re comfortable with where you are, perhaps now is a good time to start storing your information and insights in easily-accessible libraries?

Showrooming & Virtual Reality

Virtual realityIt has been suggested that showrooming will be the end of retail outlets, but I believe there will be an integrated, rather than an either / or future. Virtual reality enables shoppers to see how products could be used, or how they would look in their homes, office or even on themselves. It also allows both retailers and manufacturers to improve their offer by identifying any pain points, and enables them to hold less stock and still offer maximum choice to customers. How about going online with 3D catalogues or providing in-store areas to offer your customers product trial and experience?

 

New Communication Opportunities

According to Jay Walker-Smith of Yankelovich

“We’ve gone from being exposed to about 500 ads a day back in the 1970s to as many as 5,000 a day today.”

Whether that second number should be 5,000 or 20,000 as I’ve also heard mentioned, it suggests that little can or is being retained our customers. Since this is unlikely to change in the future, as attention spans shorten even more, finding new messaging opportunities that resonate with our customers is vital. Why not use social media to track your target audience’s expressed wants and needs, and then compare them to what your key competitors are communicating. This will help you to uncover hidden communications’ gaps which you can then use to connect with your customers.

Adapting Communications to Personas

Don't alienate your business from its customersAre you dissatisfied with your current segmentation efforts? Creating personas can already add interest and thus actionability, by visualising their similarities and differences. Have you thought of taking the same approach to your communications too? By crafting personas built from your existing data on media habits and going beyond traditional segmentation, you can focus your attention on how to actually communicate with these different groups.

Channel Management

Mapping your brand’s story as told by the brand across channels can provide a “mosaic” of its communications and quickly highlight areas which need attention.Successful campaigns work across multiple channels but it is important to examine the contribution of each to avoid overlaps and gaps. Why not make 2014 your year of brand building through improved channel management?

Better Communications for Organisational Strategy

Following on from the above point, people’s attention spans are diminishing and we are all skimming rather than reading today. This means that companies need shorter, more impactful copy, for advertising and websites, but also for internal newsletters and communications. Analysing the content of communications can be very informative in understanding the messages our customers, employees or consumers are receiving. We can no longer be satisfied with knowing just what we are sending out. Make this year the one in which all your communications resonate and provide the right messages to your targets.

Disruptive Innovation

Trends around the worldCustomers are becoming more and more demanding – no news there! They don’t stay satisfied or surprised for long. What was novel yesterday is normal today and boring tomorrow. I suppose that’s why shows such as CES get so much air-time on local, national and even international media. We all love to dream and imagine a better life just around the corner. The same goes for our customers, who are always open to new and better propositions.   What are you doing to meet these increasing demands? Is your innovation linear, exponential or disruptive? If it’s not the second and hopefully the third, you are probably missing out. Why not make 2014 the year you disrupt your innovation process?

These were eight of the tens of ideas that I discussed with my partners to help companies identify their marketing priorities. Have a look at your plans and see whether you are still playing it safe by just repeating what you did last year? The same number of campaigns, the same promotions, even the same type of innovations. There’s still time to make 2014 the year of exponential growth and change for your company.