March 26, 2007
A world without the 30 second spot or the glossy spread?
Bob Garfield's Chaos Scenario 2.0 is a great read in the online section of AdAge today.
Interrupt marketing is dead! Traditional media and traditional advertisers are locked into a death spiral...word of mouth and social networking are in...agencies are out...
February 15, 2007
You can no longer hold on to your brands...
Last week I moderated a webinar panel on the role of communities in B2B marketing with Rob Leavitt from ITSMA and also with Mike Smith from BMC Software (recording can be found here - requires registration). It was a great conversation with good lessons learned from BMC Software.
As part of my opening comments I harped on one of my favorite topics again - that the field of marketing is undergoing tectonic shifts and that the old rules no longer apply. The old techniques of interrupt marketing that involved interrupting people to show them product or company messages or as Alan Moore, one of the co-authors of Communities Dominate Brands, calls it - the just in case marketing techniques - do not work anymore!
You can no longer broadcast messages to individuals and hope that they will get it and retell your story. Funding traditional communication programs like that is like pouring water into a sinking ship. Not only are people fed up with it, you are also competing with an exponentially growing number of companies who are trying to reach the same people. Plus you now compete across multiple media - many of them always-on and where prime time is between 9-5.
As a marketer you really need to solve the ambient findability problem - be there when people need you and where they need you. Madison Avenue calls it "engagement" - although most agencies are very confused about what engagement means. No it does not mean engagement with the ad...
One way of solving this riddle is to engage with communities who are already communicating amongst themselves about topics that you want to talk about. If your message resonates with them then it will automatically get amplified within the community before being "retold" outside the community. In some cases they may not like your message, but still like what you do and simply replace your message with something else before retelling the story. And then there will always be the case where they really don't like what your doing, will reject your message and talk back and in the process expose flaws with your company or product in public.
This is of course the end of control. This will happen whether you like it or not. You have to give up your brand to your communities to succeed. And if you do it right you will once again reach your customers and do it with budgets that are dramatically lower than what you are spending today.
December 8, 2006
A Brand Loyalty Hierarchy
When you think about the affinity that you have for different brands, you quickly realize that they fall into different categories - you may not have the as much brand affinity and loyalty to your soap vendor as you do to your favorite shirt manufacturer, or your car manufacturer.
Could there be such a thing as a universal brand loyalty hierarchy - akin to Maslow's needs hierarchy? And if so, would it help marketers in determining what marketing program might work better to promote and position their products?
Let's try this out and see where it leads...
At the highest level of the brand loyalty hierarchy are products that help define who you are and what you stand for. They are the products that define your personal brands - let's call them Image Defining Brands. Brands that fall in this category in the consumer space include your clothes- you might want to wear only Nautica shirts because you are a sailor, or a sailor wanna be. Another product that probably falls in this category is the car you drive - with some people driving all wheel drive vehicles to indicate their love for the rugged outdoors and adventure travel, and others swearing by the Toyota Prius to indicate their dedication to a cleaner planet. In the corporate world, products that fall into this category are products that can affect a person's image or career. Early adopters of Lotus Notes collaboration software or Linux servers come to mind. Being early in buying VoIP solutions would probably fall into this category as well. The key is that those brands define who I am or who I want others to think I am.
Next ring down are products that do not necessarily define your image, but they make you feel good - let's call them Feel Good Brands. You may not really have much brand loyalty to a soap vendor who's product you use, but you buy the same soap over and over again because it smells good and makes you feel good when you step out of the shower. Another example in this category could be Fair Trade Coffee - it really does not make a difference to your image whether you drink Fair Trade Coffee or not - after all it is not written on your cup. But it makes you feel good that the laborers that brought you this coffee were treated fairly. In the business world, products that fall in this category are products in well established and mature product categories. If you are in charge of deciding which CRM system to bring into your company, it is no longer a career defining decision, or even an image defining decision - it is very much a "feel good" decision. You will choose a solution that will make you feel good about your decision.
One ring further down are the products for which you have little brand affinity. They don't define you, nor do they make you feel much different than if you were using another brand - let's call them Commodity Brands. Low end pens and pencils come to mind. You may buy a pen from Bic because you know that they have a reputation to last long and not leak on planes, but in reality you might be just as satisfied and feel just as good with a Papermate pen. The same is true for the gas you put in your car, you may have a slight preference for Mobil because it has a reputation of being a cleaner gas, but you really would not feel much different after filling up your tank with with cheap LuKoil gas. In the business world, brands that fall into this category would be office supplies, or snack/vending machine service providers. The key buying decisions for these brands are reputation and trust.
Of course, product vendors can create products in certain product categories that allows them to move up (or down) the hierarchy. Luxury pens are perceived by some buyers as image defining products. And while Fair Trade Coffee in your own cup may not help define your image, being a Starbucks vs. a Dunkin' Donuts kind of coffee buyer may do just that.
More on this later...what are your thoughts?
November 13, 2006
Increasing customer loyalty by creating deep-soul connections
Dori Molitor, the author of the report starts off by talking about the incredible levels of brand loyalty that Harley-Davidson bikers have - attributing it to a deep-soul connection between Harley-Davidson and those who love their motorcycle, and claiming that this is the highest level relationship a brand can have with its consumers.
Companies like Apple, BMW, or Nike can easily be used as other examples of companies that have achieved deep-soul connections with their customers, but can other companies in less "sexy" industries develop deep-soul connections with their customers? The white paper takes us through the stories of less obvious candidates that have achieved that same level of customer connection - including General Mills, Serta, the mattress company and Trader Joe's.
One of the things to remember, says Dori Molitor, is: "A deep-soul connection is not the exclusive purview of ostensibly “sexy” brands like Harley and Nike, nor does it require spending enormous sums of money. It is about transcending those kinds of considerations and connecting with consumers based on a higher purpose than a sterile, financial transaction." And a higher purpose does not mean a "good cause" or a charity - something many marketers will try to use and fail miserably. Finding a higher purpose is all "about the connections that brands can provide to other people (their relationships) or the ways in which they help consumers lead happier, more purposeful lives."
Well said! At the end of the day branding is all about how people feel about themselves...
October 19, 2006
Is this what brands are all about?
Advertising Age just came out with their top 200 brands report - in which they measure brands by their ad spending on "measured' media. As can be expected when you measure brands by their ad spending, the top 25 list is littered with losers - including Verizon, in the top spot, Ford (#3), AT&T, Dell, etc.
Verizon spent almost $1B in "measured" media in the first half of 2006, while Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge combined spent over $1.2B on "measured" media in the first six months. Ford spent 3X as much as General Motors Corp. on "measured" media. And when looking at the top 200 brand spending by media, they allocated a whopping 6.7% of their "measured" media spending on the Internet - with the rest spent on TV, Radio, Newspapers and Magazines.
What the heck are they thinking? And what are they "measuring"? Do you think that if Ford were to stop spending on traditional advertising for six month or even a year and instead invest $1 B in a clean energy research they would lose a ton of marketshare? And what if they were to spend their marketing dollars more wisely - like use the information that they already have about their existing customers to market more effectively to their existing base. If you have a Ford, how many times did you hear directly from the company since you purchased your car? Or what would happen if Verizon were to spent 1/2 as much as they did in the first six months - and by doing so still spend as much as their nearest competitors - and instead spend the other $1/2 B on customer service and customer retention programs?
Economist Steven Levitt - from Freakonomics fame - found that money spent by candidates in political races hardly mattered at all. In fact he found that a candidate could cut his spending in half and lose only 1% of the vote. The same research found that a losing candidate could double his spending and expect to shift the vote in his favor by only that same 1%.
Verizon - are you listening?
There is no question that advertising plays a role in marketing - but those numbers prove that a majority of ad dollars are being wasted and miss-prioritized!
First you need a product that will WOW your customers. And while Geoffrey Moore will tell you and Apple prove to you that you should not care about customer service while your product is in the Tornado, when you have mature products like Verizon and Ford, customer service and retention are key to your success. In fact, they can lead to a ton of free advertising - generated by your very own consumers and delivered with much higher precision than TV advertising!
September 21, 2006
Commercial buddies and friends on MySpace
ClickZ Experts has an interesting article on Social Network Marketing by Sean Carton. In it he lists some of the profiles of advertisers on MySpace.
- Helga - for Volkswagen, a 25 year old female from Germany has 9144 friends
- The Original MySpace Burger King King - male, 52yo - has 3255 friends (he's probably too old for MySpace)
- Smart - the Wendy's Square - a 28 yo single male (and with an unsure orientation) - has 79,840 friends
It all looks pretty cheesy - surely there must be better ways to promote products to the youth market.
September 13, 2006
You cannot always control the context of your brand
August 16, 2006
Advertisers on social networking sites
I think brands will have to go beyond a conversation - though that's a good start - they have to be willing to develop and maintain a relationship/friendship with their customers over the long-term. And I think companies are looking at these sites all wrong. Advertisers, marketers, product-makers are trying to figure out how to exploit and use all the people on these sites - when they should be studying what these folks are doing and try to figure out how they can help these social sites be better for their users. Not more cluttered with their ads. If your product and brand don't really fit in - stay out. Know your customer and respect your customer - that's it.
At the risk of being repetitive - marketing is not about interrupting or intercepting people, it's about assisting them!
July 31, 2006
Old brand logos "web2.0-ified"
Here are some good ones:
Pfizer beta - Yikes
June 15, 2006
Pitching cars to tweens - buy a virtual Toyota Scion online
The New York Times yesterday reported how Toyota is selling virtual Scions in an online game frequented by tweens and teens. Players can buy the car, modify it, pick up friends that don't have the cool car yet, and join a club - which was visited over 33K times so far!
Talk about influencing brand image early!
June 2, 2006
Another really interesting Skypecast on the future of marketing
I was lucky enough to host PR guru Larry Weber and interactive marketing pioneer Lois Kelly for a great conversation on the future of marketing. You can listen to the conversation by downloading the MP3 of the session here.
Some random snippets from the discussion include:
"...the first thing marketers should do is stop spending so much money on traditional media - it's like throwing water into the boat, and not out of the boat..."
"...many marketing departments embrace the new marketing platforms but it's amazing to see how they organize themselves like they did 25 years ago..."
"...I would organize marketing from the bottom up....innovation still never comes from the top down....I would look at things less in categories like PR, advertising, direct marketing....and start looking more in campaign orientation...."
"...the weaker the dialog the weaker the brand...the stronger the dialog the stronger the brand..."
"...Madison ave hijacked the browser in the last 10 years...we need to reclaim it..."
"...marketing should be at the center of everything...because the center of dialog will be at the center of a company's success..."
"...the "idiot of the month" award goes to the Disney Corporation..." talking about their TIVO proof technology.
I will publish a more thoughtfully digested version soon, but wanted to give you some snippets to entice you to listen to this great conversation asap. And don't forget that Lois and Larry will be having a live conversation at our marketing innovation conference next week - so make sure to join us there!
May 22, 2006
More and more "edgy" ads released by agency/company
After a version of the Volkswagen Passat ad was released a few weeks ago on YouTube where one of the characters with ego problems says "because mine is only yeah big" instead of the official version where he says "because I am overcompensating for my shortcomings," here comes another example of a vendor/ad agency planting a seemingly unapproved ad version online. This time the Durango ad, banned for TV, has two guys in a bathroom arguing about "Mine's bigger, no, mine is" (and 7 inches makes a difference - via Adrants).
While these are fun to watch, it can be dangerous for companies to release what could be construed as consumer generated ads. Although there is of course a major difference between the two, take the Sony PSP graffiti as an example of one such campaign that backfired.
April 11, 2006
What do you do when your brand becomes the target of xenophobic rumors?
The Sunday New York Times had a great story on how Lenovo has gotten under fire by a bunch of xenophobes including Lou Dobbs, a couple of people from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, an advisory body to Congress, and other politicians.
The gist of the story is that Lou Dobbs and a few others, including some members of congress, are "suggesting" - based on mostly unfounded insinuations and allegations - that Lenovo computers currently being sold to the State Department as part of a competitive contract won by Lenovo "could provide shadowy spooks in the Chinese government with an ideal means of conducting espionage."
Being framed in the context of "buy American" and also in the context of "national security," the story inevitably took on a life of its own. It does not matter that it is virtually impossible to "buy American" when it comes to PCs, as most PCs are manufactured and assembled, at least in part, overseas. Nor does it matter that it is extremely unlikely that the Chinese could put "spook" software in the Lenovo PCs as they are assembled in North Carolina and as the PCs have to pass the State Department's two computer security groups, which oversee the administration of their own test suites and install firewalls and other security software. It also does not matter that the company has historically been a meritocracy - now run by Americans. The fact that the story is framed in the context of cultural anxieties will ensure its rapid spread.
Regardless of whether you believe that xenophobia like this is bad or really bad for the economy as a whole (there are some good lessons to be learned from some European economies on that front), it goes without question that it is damaging the Lenovo brand. And while articles like the one in the New York Times, exposing the fact that there is no substance to the points being raised, and undermining the legitimacy of the claims being made, are necessary - from a brand perspective they only add fuel to the fire. In the long run they could potentially cause more harm than good to the Lenovo brand.
So what is a company to do when faced with rumors that either appeal to fundamental cultural anxieties or that are framed in popular worldviews? Rebutting while staying on the same playing field is a losing proposition - a fact proven over and over in the world of politics. Could there be an opportunity to reframe the debate or start a new one on a playing field that is more advantageous to the company? Or should they just paint themselves in green and lay on the grass 'till it all blows over?
Other blog post on the subject:
Brad Feld at Feld Thoughts - "Maybe Penn and Teller should do an episode on Bullshit! on Dobbs and the current “security issues” "
March 30, 2006
Mercedes - a case study on how to squander a great brand
- safety - important as she was driving around our 6 year old son in New England weather
- reliability - we trusted that the German engineering would not cost us a fortune in service charges
- a relationship - we were looking for a relationship with the car manufacturer instead of a dealership . We were told that we were buying a Mercedes, and that all promises would be honored by any dealer - no matter which one
- luxury - that is what the brand stands for after all
- status - in hindsight there was unfortunately some of that
It did not take long for us to realize that Mercedes was not delivering against most of its implied brand promises.
I bought the car from Herb Chambers' Flagship Motorcars, as they were the only one willing to provide me with a quote via the Internet at the time. Soon after we bought it, various parts of the car started to break down and the engine started to lose oil. And soon after that we found ourselves looking for an alternative dealership as we were very dissatisfied with this dealer's service level. One dealership, which was actually closer to us, did not have Saturday servicing. Nor were they willing to provide a loaner car during major services to customers who did not buy the car directly from them. So much for the promises across dealerships.
We ended up with Foreign Motor West, a 45 minute drive from our house, and over the years spent thousands of dollars with them on all kind of problems, which ranged from small things, like various indicators and buttons failing, to bigger issues such as a leak in the air conditioning system in year three which unfortunately could never be located and resulted in repeated air conditioning failures, to brake problems, to the ongoing oil loss problems and more expensive repairs for things I don't even understand - nor care to understand. What I do know - it is a long, too long list.
Less than a month ago we had the car serviced again - this time it needed a new air flow meter and a few other things - costing another $1,100. Three weeks later , while driving to our son's birthday party, my wife's car blew up on the highway less than 3 miles after leaving the house. To our surprise, Mercedes Roadside assistance did not cover the tow - which ended up costing $5/mile. We had it towed, at our expense, to the nearest dealership.
But the biggest surprise came a few days later when they called us from the dealership with the estimate for repairs. Turns out something had blown a hole the size of a quarter in the side of the engine. Which meant we needed a new engine. The cost: $14K!
I am not a car expert, but I feel confident saying that a 5 year old Mercedes with 100K miles (mostly highway miles), should not blow a hole in the engine. The dealership where we had the car towed to told us there was nothing they could do other than putting a new engine in. When we contacted our dealership they towed the car back to their garage for inspection, only to get back to us a week later and tell us that the engine had overheated because there was no antifreeze in the car. A rather important point here: the other dealer had told us that the reason there was neither antifreeze nor oil in the car was because of the aforementioned quarter-sized hole in the engine.
Now I really felt taken for a ride (and not the smooth, luxurious one Mercedes promised us)... Mercedes was turning what should have been their problem into a chicken or egg problem - did the hole come first or did the antifreeze disappear first? And they were blaming me for not having antifreeze! Where, oh where, did the antifreeze go in the three weeks since they ran all their sophisticated electronic equipment on the car? Maybe most Mercedes customers are stupid (including me for being motivated by emotions instead of economics), but to me (and the other dealer) it seems obvious that the antifreeze leaked out after something blew a hole in the engine!
Still believing that this was just a bad movie and that nobody at Mercedes corporate would want anybody to perceive their brand this way, I wrote to Mercedes customer service asking for their help and also emailed a few PR folks as well as their newly minted VP of Marketing - Mark McNabb - asking for help. I never heard back from the office of the Vice President, but someone from their PR got back to me and introduced me to Paul Juron, the GM for the Customer Assistance Center. I pinged him twice but never got any response. Finally I did get a response from someone in his department - simply stating "Thank you for your recent e-mails to Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC. After review, I have been asked to respond on our organizations behalf. Arrangements have been made for your concerns to be reviewed on a local level; you may expect further contact shortly, if not already." Well, as it turns out, the local decision stayed the same...it was deemed to be our fault/problem that something got loose in the engine and blew that hole in the engine block.
My final analysis? No wonder Mercedes has tumbled to 21st in the most recent JD Power Satisfaction Survey. It is mind boggling (instructive too) to witness and experience how such a prestigious brand has fallen so far so fast. And while I've learned something, believe me that it's been no fun being on the receiving end of this knowledge.
Oh one more thing: Mr McNabb, if you happen to stumble upon this post, I would like to extend you a complimentary invitation to our upcoming Innovative Marketing Conference's CMO Summit - a $1,500 value. Not only would it be fun to have you there to discuss Mercedes as a case study, but you might actually walk away from the event with some valuable lessons on how to do the right thing for your customers.
PS - if you like this story - please digg it!
March 15, 2006
The role of advertising in startups and new product categories
Research, such as the research reported by Everett Rogers in Diffusion of Innovation, has shown that advertising works best on innovators and early adopters. It does not work as well on the early majority buyers. For majority buyers, interpersonal communications (word of mouth) from peers is the preferred mode of getting information. In fact, the same research shows that for all buyers as a whole, interpersonal communication has an effect on buying behavior that is over tenfold that of mass communication.
Furthermore, advertising works best in the awareness stage of the buying cycle. That is, if the buyer has the right predisposition to be informed by the ads. That occurs when the buyer has a need, or when some other change agent has approached the buyer about the possibilities first (i.e., expert in the press, colleague, etc.). If neither of those happen, then the buyer will not even hear or see the advertising – it will just be tuned out. In the preference stage, when the buyer starts forming an opinion about the product, most information comes from interpersonal communication. In the preference-forming stage, interpersonal communication may sometimes be substituted by expert commentaries and reviews.
Based on this, and stating the obvious, start ups who are peddling new product categories to innovators and early adopters should not waste their time and energy on brand advertising. Instead they should focus their efforts on lead generation and on influencing the influencers so that the right interpersonal conversations can get started.
February 8, 2006
Interesting marketing project at Bentley College
Bentley College marketing honors looks like an interesting college project - with the following mission:
"The students in the honors seminar in marketing at Bentley College have created a multiple author blog in order to complete a class assignment as well as to introduce other marketing students to cutting-edge ideas and principles by monitoring and commenting on some of the best marketing blogs in the blogosphere.
So, each student will monitor a particular blog and post a commentary on a particular blog posting every week. A few of the Corante Marketing Hub contributors got adopted as blogs to follow, and there are already interesting commentaries on posts from those blogs - including the brandbuilder, marketing to women, diva marketing, and brand autopsy.
When Melissa reviewed a post on Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM)from this blog she raised some interesting questions. Why is that when people disclose that they work for a company for which they are recommending products, the rate at which the message gets passed along is 70% higher than when the relationship is not disclosed? This is a very counter-intuitive result after all. She also says: "Francois does not offer any insight into the real significance of this finding. Rather, it just states the results of the study. It would have been helpful to see what he saw as implications from this study." - good point!
Walter Carl, the author of the original research paper, offers some possible explanations for the results of the survey. One is that the average length of time that the agent and their conversation partner knew one another in the study was 6 years. That is a long enough period to build a lot of trust so that the conversation partner feels that the agent has his or her best interest at heart - no matter what the commercial relationship is between the agent and the company for which products are being recommended. His second reason is that credibility is either unaffected or increased by the disclosure.
While these are plausible explanations for why a commercial message would get passed along after disclosure, they are not really reasons for why the pass-along rate would increase with disclosure. If the average length of time that people knew one another was indeed six years, then perhaps one reason might be the motivation of the conversation partner to help the agent out. Just like with some of the better referral incentive programs, which work on the premise that is better to give an incentive to the person who is being referred, rather than the person who is making the referral - it plays off a basic human need to "give." Another possible explanation, which Melissa alludes to in her post as well, is that the conversation partner sees the fact the the agent is willing to associate with the product/company as an extra endorsement for that product. If the agent is willing to get into a commercial relationship with the company that makes the product that is being endorsed, and is willing to disclose that relationship, that means that the agent must feel really good about himself or herself in the presence of that brand - and that is maybe what adds to the contagiousness.
While I am not so sure that there any major implications coming out of this study, I am concerned that marketers will screw up WOM marketing by trying to optimize it and by looking for measurable ROI's. It is and will remain hard to measure, and just like physicist learned a long time ago - you can dramatically disrupt the environment by measuring it.
January 30, 2006
Strong brands are not the only key to success
"Building strong brands is the key to success, in our opinion, not better products or better people " said Laura Ries from Ries & Ries (the other Ries is Al Ries - who once wrote that "line extension has become the marketing sickness of the last decade. It seldom works." ) (via A Clear Eye - where Tom Asacker clearly disagrees with her).
She also states that: "Because in America marketing is not considered important. Management, human relations, customer service are all considered of higher importance that marketing."
Marketing may not be important in America, but to compare it as something distinct from customer service and human relations is so...well...20th century thinking and wrong. And it is equally wrong to say that brands are more important to a company's success than products and people!
Where is the customer in this whole equation? Take Harley Davidson as an example - they truly have "branded" customers as defined by the original meaning of branding. But who owns that brand? And how tightly is it integrated with the product, or with customer service people?
Thinking of marketing as another silo-ed organization is a key to failure, and those who still believe that brands can be controlled and created by marketing departments are in it for a rough ride and big disillusionment.
We are seriously overdue for a new breed of marketers to come to the foreground and eclipse this old school of marketing thinkers.
January 12, 2006
Are Chinese Buyers really that different?
"denizens of the Middle Kingdom are profoundly Confucian. They are motivated by a religious zeal to maintain order. One one hand, Chinese are passive, willing to conform to rigid, hierarchical convention. On the other, they are boldly resolute, intent on moving up the ladder of success. This master conflict between regimentation and ambition exists in the heart of the citizens and defines the bull's eye of consumer desire."
It's a pretty interesting report, with profiles of the middle class as well as of urban buyers, and with detailed descriptions of what makes Chinese women, men and teens "tick". The report is also full of "fun facts" - like the fact that they consume 21 liters of beer in China vs. 84 liters in the US, or that 90% of Chinese own cell phones vs. 54.6% in the US.
Apparently Chinese consumers like to buy expensive, foreign brands for the outside, and local, cheap brands for the inside.
Hmmm...I know people in the Western World that are not all that dissimilar in their buying behavior.
December 14, 2005
Ford reverses it's decision...and will continue to advertise in gay magazines!
Ok...so maybe I will not feel so bad about driving a Ford after all - as they got the message - and reversed their decision not to cave in to religious extremists who wanted them not to advertise in Gay Magazines...
Religious boycotts (and many others) do not have real economic impact...they're just noise!
Ford - great move!
November 30, 2005
Don't call me stupid...
Grant McCracken has a brilliant reply to "It's the Purpose Brand, Stupid" - an article published in the Wall Street Journal yesterday by Clayton M. Christensen (HBS), Scott Cook (Intuit) and Taddy Hall (Advertising Research Foundation) .
While I agree with the authors of the article that "to build a product that people want, you need to help them do a job that they are trying to get done", and that many companies are building the wrong product by not following this simple rule, I also agree 100% with Grant that taking that to the next level and start talking about "purpose brands" is somewhat ludicrous.
I love it when he points to the costs of building true purpose brands:
"Some costs of the Purpose Brand proposition: Pucini becomes entertainment, indistinguishable from Disney. There is no difference between time keep devices called Patek Philippe and Timex. Ford makes the same thing as Volkwagen. All business schools, mark you, Dr. Christensen, are pretty much the same. Intuit is only a couple of features different from Microsoft Money. Most of all, Mr. Hall, there is no longer any such thing as advertising strategy. Now, it's sell the function all day long. (And to think that marketers and agencies actually fund the Advertising Research Foundation!) "
No reason to wonder what Grant really thinks about the authors...it's clearly stated in his post: "The three wise men are a wrecking crew. "
November 3, 2005
How brand advocates are born
iMedia has an interesting chat with Guy Kawasaki in which he talks about consumer evangelism.
I especially like the part when he is asked about examples of innovative uses of evangelism:
"Very few companies use evangelism. Sure, they hand out business cards to employees with the title "evangelist," but "evangelist" isn't a title, it's a state of mind."As you know, I feel that way about marketing in general. He continues by saying:
"To start, the key to evangelism is a great product. Very few companies have a great product, and very few companies understand evangelism. Thus, the set of companies that have a great product and understand evangelism is tiny -- about as likely as a professional hockey player from Hawaii."I love it! This is so true. Now that word-of-mouth is the latest craze in marketing - I cannot wait to watch all those people who will try using it (or more likely abusing it) to promote crappy products.
October 13, 2005
Creating a brand before there is a product...
Grant McCracken - who I had the pleasure to talk with recently - has a really interesting post on his blog about a startup idea for a consultancy that specializes in the creation of brands...brands that are product free that is. The idea is that once the brand is created, you sell it to companies.
He believes that companies that would buy pre-launched brands like that could shave months off their go-to-market time.
Now, I was one of those guys that believed that there must be an organic connection between the product and its brand - actually between product "usage" and its brand. But then again, throughout my career as a marketer I have also always preferred marketing/selling the vision/idea about the product without showing/demoing the product itself - believing that I could create a stronger impression in people's mind without the constraints of the actual product. Am I mixing things up? How do you get through to early adopters and innovators if you have no products? Don't they love to tinker with the innovation, not just the concept?
Considering that Grant is an expert on branding and I am not - I am really intrigued about this and will noodle on this one for some time to come.
If you haven't read it before, his blog is *very good* - talking about branding and marketing at the intersection of anthropology and economics (and complexity theory).
October 4, 2005
Great series of posts on marketing lessons learned at Starbucks
John Moore over at Brand Autopsy has a great set of posts (here is one) on what he learned at Starbucks - some which definitely resonate with my high tech marketing background, others which are confirming what goes behind delivering the experiences that I have been enjoying as a loyal Starbucks customer.
Some of the lessons learned include - "rarely, if ever, can you sprinkle magical branding dust to create an endearing and enduring brand." - referring to the fact that you need to first and foremost focus on building your business and not your brand. One will flow out of the other - not the other way around.
Another one is - "remarkable business make the common uncommon" - well Starbucks clearly did that!
And in a third post he quotes Howard Schultz, the Starbucks Chairman as saying “If we greet customers, exchange a few words with them and then custom-make a drink exactly to their taste, they will be eager to come back.” He calls it delivering great customer experiences though "touchology" - brilliant!
Like many of you, I have experienced firsthand how powerful the results of those practices can be - both positive as with Starbucks, and negative, as with Brueggers (update since I last posted this: the last time I went there they had virtually no bagels - their excuse: they ran out of dough - that's like Starbucks running out of coffee beans - unlikely) and many others.
It is amazing to me how many companies are still not focusing on the overall customer experience - which happens through all the customer touch points - advertising, word-of-mouth, product, packaging, service, delivery, repair, etc. It must be too logical for silo-ed companies to understand. Or maybe it's time to redefine the role of marketing!
September 13, 2005
The importance of product names on consumer choice
Sin Blush, Riptide Rush Gatorade, ionic antiperspirant...how about Orgasm Blush? Well - apparently the latter sells even better than Sin - which is a best seller. When names focus on emotions - the products sell better than if the names are functional.
The study looked at 4 types of names: common (i.e., dark blue), common descriptive (i.e., cherry red), unexpected descriptive (Coke red), and ambiguous (antique red). What they found is that students liked the ambiguous color names better when they saw the name before the color and preferred the unexpected descriptive ones if they saw the color first.
July 30, 2005
Bad Google listings last for a long time
Try typing in Miserable Failure in Google. See what is still up there? Almost two years after bloggers started putting links with miserable failure linking to the Bush resume.
Many companies still do not realize how long lasting damage can be...the key is to listen and to respond fast in times of crisis. For a great overview of what to do and what not to do in times of crisis, wonder over to Naked Conversations and read chapter 13 - blogging in a crisis!
July 29, 2005
A good reputation without screw-ups lasts a long time
I finally got around to reading last week's Business Week and ran across a survey - the top 20 Innovative Companies in the World (requires subscription) - which somehow surprised me.
The Boston Consulting Group basically polled 940 executives in 68 countries to establish the list.
I was not so much surprised about finding Apple in the top spot, but I was in finding 3M in second place and Google only in 8th place after Microsoft, GE, Sony, Dell and IBM.
I know 3M used to be a model for innovation - which was widely written about in various case studies. And I may be wrong in this, but what breakthrough innovation has come out of there since the post-it-notes? Are they truly still more innovative than Google is? Or are they still riding their excellent reputation wave which they built up many years ago?
I think it's the latter and I do believe there is a lesson to be learned here. As long as you don't screw up, you can benefit from a good reputation for a very long time.
July 19, 2005
Barry Diller needs a lot of LOVE
In the latest issue of Marketing Profs Today, William Aruda writes "Branding: All you need is love" In his article he mentions Jennifer Rice of Mantra Brand Communications who conducted an interesting "love" experiment. She typed "I love [brand]" into Google and noted the number of items Google returned. She did this for many well-known brands to see how much we really love them. High on the "love list" were Apple, Google, Target and IKEA.
Interestingly, that correlates with the results of the InterBrand Reader's Choice Awards for the brands with the most impact in 2004. Apple was number one. Also in the top 10 were Target, Google and IKEA.
So I was amused, to say the least, by a recent AP article (see here)reporting that media magnate Barry Diller "sets sights on dethroning online king Google. A key component of his strategy is the $1.9 billion takeover as Ask Jeeves. "There's a lot riding on this acquisition," said Safa Rashtchy, an analyst with Piper Jaffray. "All eyes are on Barry now, waiting to see what he can do with Ask Jeeves."
Although Ask Jeeves has been perennially overshadowed by better-known search engines, Diller is convinced that it's the missing part of his Internet plan.
If it pans out the way Diller envisions, Ask.com and several affiliated search engines, including Excite.com and iWon.com, will become the mortar binding all of his other Web sites - a so-far dysfunctional family delving into travel, lending, ticketing and matchmaking.
OK, so Mr. Diller was the driving force behind establishing Fox as the fourth major network, when many media mavens said it couldn't be done. But the three networks that he muscled in on weren't particularly high an any brands-I-love list. Not so with Google. It's going to take more than cash and hype to pull this off. I'll be truly amazed if he does. If he can't I wonder what the fire sale price of Ask.com(remember Lycos?)will be.
July 18, 2005
More on consumer-centric brands
John Hagel continues to refine his ideas around consumer-centric brands on his blog - this time also relating it to the long tail and giving emerging examples. He also debates Chris Anderson on whether the brand will be owned by companies or individuals.
July 13, 2005
As can be expected from his writing, this one is a very useful piece in analyzing what might be in store for the future of brands.
It is his opinion that brand power shifts with relative scarcity - so when "quality" products were scarce, the brand power resided with the product manufacturers. When quality became a commodity and shelf-space became a scarcity, the brand power shifted to retailers. And now that we have e-tailers and unlimited shelf-space, the brand power is shifting again...but where to?
The new scarcity is of course our attention! We only have so much time to find what we need. So he argues that what's happening to brands now is even more fundamental than what happened in the last shift - we are in the midst of moving from product-centric brands to customer-centric brands. And creating customer-centric brands will require a new type of marketing - one which he described in his book Net Worth and which he calls collaboration marketing.
So I guess the customer is really in the power seat now...
July 9, 2005
Follow up on Dell...
I am putting this is in a separate posts as my trackbacks for the previous were not accepted (at the Houston Chronicle my ping for the previous post was denied for "questionable content") and MT keeps sending those when you edit a post. Here is another great post from the Social Customer Manifesto about Dell closing down their customer service discussion boards and the chat Christopher had with a customer representative about it.
I wish my bank horror story would get as much play :)
Is Dell following the path of Kryptonite?
I have always had good experiences with my Dells, but recently Jeff Jarvis over at Buzzmachine bought what seemed like a Dell-lemon and blogged about it (here). It quickly spread across the blogosphere (boy, do I hate that word) and a ton of other unhappy customers started to chime in as well. Then yesterday Dwight Silverman from the Houston Chronicle wrote about his interview with some Dell PR person who basically said - we do not respond to online comments and do not need a corporate blog! (here - via Micropersuasion).
Even though I have personally been happy with them over the years, I am sure that I would not have recommended a Dell to a friend - which I did just a month or so ago. And I am sure that I would have done a lot more due diligence into alternative brands when I bought my new top of the line machine 1 1/2 month ago. Don't marketing people at Dell get this???
And if they let this go a little longer, Google searches for Dell will turn up all kinds of negative stuff...
Dell - wake up! The rules have changed!
May 9, 2005
Am I missing something?
Awhile back I wrote a post about how idiotic I found Kodak’s move to rebrand Ofoto to Kodak Easy something something (sorry it’s a pretty long and hard name to remember).
Well, recently I got another chuckle from one of their funny behaviors. About three weeks ago I got an email from those guys telling me “The brand new catalog from the Gallery is in the mail! It's packed full of spectacular gift ideas for upcoming holidays like Mother's Day, Father's Day, Graduation, Fourth of July and more.” Not only did it not get here in time for Mother’s day; but why the heck waste money on a paper catalog with me?
They should know that I am a digital kind of guy. I take high resolution digital pictures, I upload them to their service, I share it electronically with friends and family. I have responded (as in bought) to electronic marketing messages in the past. What else do they need to know about me to ensure that they communicate with me through the most effective channel instead of wasting money on an expensive catalog?
...some people will never get it!
April 27, 2005
Meetup insults their early customer champions...
This is hilarious. The VP of Communications at Meetup.com, which recently decided to start charging for their service insulted a group of early users on their web site - calling them "Belly Achin bloggers in Seattle." You can follow the saga here (via church of the customer).
On a separate yet related point, perhaps Meetup.com should have evaluated some alternative pricing schemes. Based on their user base and the most common uses of their service there are so many alternative revenue models out there that I am surprised that they went with the straight monthly fee.
April 25, 2005
Marketing voodoo and fufu juice…and how would you like a wiki with that?
Are you confused about which marketing technique might work for you? Join the club. Even as a marketer I get confused about all the mumbo-jumbo that is being touted as the best thing since sliced bread (and why is sliced bread the best anyway? Give me baguette and croissants any day ;-)).
I mean buzz marketing, evangelism marketing, guerilla marketing, influencer marketing, neuromarketing, open source marketing, parasite marketing, stealth marketing, viral marketing, word-of-mouth marketing, underground marketing, WOW marketing. And just when I thought I had a pretty good grasp on all the current techniques – I run into this post which talks about avalanche marketing, cascading style marketing, centrifugal marketing, exponential marketing, fission marketing, grass roots marketing, grassroot marketing, organic marketing, propagation marketing, referral marketing, ripple marketing, self-perpetuation marketing, self-propagation marketing, stir marketing, wildfire marketing.
So I figured I would go to Amazon for help – but no luck there either – there are 40,087 books on Amazon about Marketing (and I just realized that I must own about a thousand of those).
I guess you could expect that from a profession whose trade it is to come up with categories, new terms, and even verbs to help get people’s attention and sell stuff…
...but in this post-scandal era, perhaps all we need is “transparent marketing” – based on plain language and with a tone/voice that you would use with a friend.
As an experiment, I thought it would be fun to catalogue all those techniques. For that purpose I set up a Wiki (here) for people to add their categories as well as definitions. Check in and make the changes as you see fit to the Wiki!
April 23, 2005
New Coke - 20 year anniversary
I just heard on NPR this morning that today was the 20th anniversary of the launch of New Coke. 79 days later the company discontinued the product because of consumer protests.
So I guess that consumers taking ownership of a brand is not such a new thing after all - just more widespread.
April 20, 2005
Another example of horrible customer service - Verizon
So I come home from a trip today and realize that I have no dial tone on my home phone. I go online, but of course, it's impossible to find a customer service number on the Verizon web site (somebody must have figured that it was too expensive in the last round of budget cuts). I finally do find a place to report the problem online...telling me that it only takes minutes to get someone on the case.
So I fill in all the information about the phone line that does not work, and just when I thought I was done with the trouble ticket the system asks me whether I checked the dial tone at the Network Interface Device (also known as NID). After clicking through a few help screens to help me understand what an NID is (and where to possibly find it), it tells me that I do not need to be a technician to figure this one out - I only need a screwdriver and an extra phone set to open that device up and test for an outside dial tone (this is called outsourcing customer service to the customer - aka let them do all the work! Might work for Amazon...but not Verizon.).
At any rate, after checking the NID and finding no outside dial tone, I conclude that the problem is not with my "inside wires" but with their outside line (remember... THEIR problem). As I finish the trouble ticket the system informs me that this will require the dispatch of a Verizon technician - and the earliest time that they can send someone out is this Friday anytime between 8am and 6pm. Wait a minute...I gotta stay home all day two days from now because their line into my house failed????
By now I am furious (and ready to chew up a live person), so I go back to looking for a number on their web site (its impossible that they don't have a number I thought...there must be a number there somewhere). While looking I get a call from a Verizon machine to tell me that my ticket was opened successfully. It also gives me a number to call should the line come back on by itself. unfortunately I did not have a pen to write it down, and there was no way to replay the message...goodbye. So I go back on the web and finally find a number. I call that number only to be struggling with another automated doodah that asks me for all the same info. I keep asking for a representative until the system finally tells me to hold for a repair representative. I hold...only to get a fast busy tone after about 30 seconds of waiting!!!! I guess the system discovered that I was calling from a non-Verizon phone (my cell) and therefore should not have access to their expensive in-person support staff.
Contrast that to my Vonage experience a few months back. I had a poor line with Belgium and reported it. The representative called the number herself, made the necessary adjustments to the network (don't ask me, that's what she told me)and called me back immediately to let me know that my problem was fixed.
Time to short Verizon and buy Vonage...or Skype!
Customer service going down the tube - where is marketing?
We went to a local restaurant here last night and had another one of those nightmarish dining experience caused by an abnoxious waitress. When I add this to the incompetence of the attwireless (I guess now Cingular) person I dealt with a few weeks ago and the absolute farce that I had to go through to get Adelphia's high speed internet access installed, I am seriously wondering about the state of customer service in this country.
I am saying this country because in a lot of other countries you kind of expect that. But in this country that was always one of the things that stood out for me - the high quality/friendly customer service.
Where has it gone? We cannot blame outsourcing! How come the marketing departments of those companies are not all over this problem. I am sure they realize that all customer touch-points influence the brand - not just the product line-up and the promotional stuff...
...but then again, maybe not.
April 15, 2005
Open Source Marketing
This isn't exactly new and you may already know this, but I recently stumbled across this concept of open source marketing, conceived by James Cherkoff at Collaborate Marketing. Pretty interesting – at first I thought it would talk about free marketing services, a bit of what I am doing a lot of these days…but no – it goes way beyond that. It builds upon David Weinberger, Doc Searls, and Chris Lock's concept that markets are conversations (in the cluetrain manifesto) and talks about how to put the customer in charge of your brand (so not just in the middle!)
The open source marketing manifesto can be downloaded here.
Shel Holtz also has a great podcast interview with James on his blog (interview is here).
April 1, 2005
Screwing up a perfectly good thing...
Ok...so this may not be totally new anymore, but it got me ticked off enough that I wanted to write about it.
I have been a long time user (and champion) of Ofoto. The other day all Ofoto users received an email from the Kodak Chairman informing us that they were renaming the service to Kodak EasyShare Gallery. Kodak easwhatwasthatnameagain??? Here is another perfect example of how a big company can kill something so innovative...
Ofoto was not only catchy, easy to remember and above all easy to recommend to others. It also occupied a piece of "real estate" in my mind that was (mostly) associated with possitive attributes. Some corporate suit felt that this service would benefit from being renamed to the supremely bland "Kodak Easyshare Gallery"...I must be missing something...not only will I never remember the name of the service when I am at a party and want to recommend the service, but even if I did...the person I would recommend it to would never remember it (and I am not even talking about the fact that url is different from the name...a problem Ofoto did not have!) And that problem is of course exacerbated when I will try to recommend the service to my international friends (what the heck does EasyShare mean in French, Dutch or Urdu anyway?).
I am sure Kodak will spend a fortune trying to rebuild a brand around the new name. The problem with that is twofold...with a name like that it will not work (and in the process they killed a good brand)...and it is a total waste of shareholder money.
I was sufficiently offended by the stupidity of this move that I replied to the email (I thought I was responding to the Chairman of Kodak of course - since he wrote to me) and voiced my opinion on the subject...only to get an automated response saying:
"Greetings from KODAK EASYSHARE Gallery Customer Service. This is an automated reply to your response to our recent email; so a customer service representative will not be replying to your message.
1. To quickly find answers to your questions ..."
Sell your stock if you have any...some companies will never get it!