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How Social Media is destroying brand loyalty

cheating

Last week, I wrote about my trysts with Scotty’s diner. I had been there a couple of times, and rather enjoyed the food and the conversations with the staff. On my walk to Scotty’s I noticed another place called Bloom’s Cafe. Wondering, what it was like, I went on-line to read about it. And there were some pretty good reviews of the place. So the next morning, I went to Bloom’s.

There was nothing wrong with my experience at Scotty’s. I was quite happy there, but the temptation to try out an option was too hard to resist, buffeted as it was with great reviews. Quite frankly, there was nothing Scotty’s could have done differently to prevent me from trying out Bloom’s.

And that is the risk that brands are facing with the advent of social media.

Used to be that there was a category of goods called ‘impulse purchase’ that were always susceptible to consumer moods. Typically candy/snacks and the type, where the risk was low and the financial downside was minimal.

Higher involvement categories were pretty much inured against this. These were considered purchases and the sales outlet, the salesman and word of mouth  of friends mattered a lot.

Till the mid 1990s ones awareness was limited to what we read in the media and heard from friends. With the advent of the internet the choices before us exploded. Brands we had dreamt of, or never heard of were all available at the click of a button. But how do you decide on what you were willing to spend your hard earned money.

Enter the concept of reviews. First on amazon, now showing everywhere. From a pair of socks to apartments there is no shortage of opinions being expressed that is changing consumer decisions everyday.

Emirates or Etihad

Hyatt or a Westin

Mobilio or Ertiga

Sobha or Prestige

And so on..

What we are seeing is that with social media, words of strangers carry as much weight as that of friends.

Much as people are willing to try out new options, bad service from their own brands is instantly shared on-line as well.

It appears that the days of lifelong loyalty are long gone.

So what are brands to do?

I believe it is a combination of 3 elements.

Customer Satisfaction: Ensure that existing customers are happy and their issues/concerns are instantly resolved. Don’t give them an opportunity to complain publicly. If they do, ensure the problem is addressed publicly as well.

Consumer Advocacy: As reviews play an important part in prospect decision making, there is need to run a continual consumer advocacy program. Some companies incentivise consumers to post advisors on trip advisor, for example. Similar programs exist, or should be created, by other brands as well.

Consumer Acquisition: Acquisition has to be a continuous program as there will always be people who drop out, seduced by a good review somewhere else. Hence it is important that brands are always on the hunt for new prospects, who may well be loyalists of another brand.

In my opinion consumer decisions will be shaped by

Advertising + Media (editorial) + Social Media.

Brands will need to play in all these spaces and have distinct, integrated, strategies that work across all.

 

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Re-visiting re-targeting

December 6, 2015 2 comments

This morning I went to a grocery store and looked at some cereal boxes. For some reason, I decided to not buy it, put the box down and left the store. Then I wandered into a shoe store right next door. As I was browsing through some shoes, there was a guy from the grocery store holding a box of cereal, asking if I wanted to buy it now. After overcoming my shock at seeing him there, I declined and went to the store next door. This time a clothes store. And again, as I was browsing for some jeans there was the same guy holding another box of cereal. And this continued through a few stores.

In fact for a few days I saw him nearly everywhere I went. Just as I was getting really irritated with him following me, he mysteriously vanished as well.

In real life this would be really weird. But it happens often on-line. It is a concept called Re-targeting.

regargeting

Re-targeting is simply an advertiser’s way of targeting you with sales messages based on your previous browsing history. Usually connected with some e-commerce activity.

Earlier this week I was looking at buying a pen on-line. Since then I have been inundated with ads for the pen on my facebook feed, email side ads, nearly every other site I have visited. Yes, bordering on irritation.

In my humble opinion the idea of re-targeting, while great, needs 3 simple principles to be followed.

  1.  Context: Just like when advertising’ context is important, the same principle applies to re-targeting. I think sometimes brands get so anxious that the customer has not bought that they start showing up in the very next page being browsed. This serves to, both confuse and frustrate the customer. So ensure that re-targeted messaging continues to be within the context of the brand/product/message.
  2. Message: Often times I have seen that the advertising message being delivered in re-targeting is basically just restating the product/brand message. There is little attempt to factor in that I have just been on that page, seen that message and not completed the transaction expected. So showing the very same messaging is not going to work. Re-targeted messaging should be delivered in a manner that gets the customer to perform the action, that was not completed the first time. Typically, this may include an offer. Or, my preference is, to deliver the message in a different way. Perhaps a new value proposition even. This is a rich bed for some A/B testing.
  3. Timing: There are 2 aspects to this. How soon after the initial targeted message do you re-target? If the customer is continuing to browse related content then obviously it makes sense to be visible literally immediately. However, be careful to not come across as stalking. The other aspect of timing is how long do you continue to re-target. For a b2b product, re-targeting should focus on getting the customer to move to the next step of the journey. Any estimates on typically how long this takes should guide the duration of re-targeting. For FMCG brands this is a little trickier. Factors like, when the original interaction took place, basket value, seasonality all play a role. Any continued message delivery after purchase is made is money wasted, and stopping message delivery when the customer is still shopping is leaving money on the table. So some rigorous analytics is called for.

The Content Cycle

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Decades ago when I joined the business I did many ads for my clients.

They were well made by great minds and got more than adequate airing.

But they had extremely limited life spans. When the campaign stopped airing that was it.

A new one came along and wiped out the previous one.

That was pretty much the cycle,

All that started changing about a 15 years ago with the arrival of the WWW and it’s various players.

No I am not going to hold on about the importance of Digital, though it is. But for me more important was the need and ability to revisit what the communications business was about and its infinite possibilities.

Looking back over the more recent few years a picture started forming in my mind about this, what I am calling the Content Cycle.

IMHO The cycle has the following phases

Creation: Right at the beginning is the need to create content. This is what starts the cycle.

Search: Once the content is created it needs to be searchable.

Share: When the content you create is found, enable/allow it to be shared.

Enhance: True believers/lovers of the content will then want to enhance it

Which brings you back to the Search and Share portion of the cycle. And so on.

There, you have it, my version of the content cycle.

Content Creation. Content Searching. Content Sharing. Content Enhancing.

Now if we look what is going on the world of communications you see that at a technology level some players like Facebook operate very strongly in the Content Sharing space.

Google is strong in the Search Space.

Instagram is in the Creation space extending to Share.

And so on.

No one is really happy being in one box. They all want to extend and own the chain. And of course I understand that. The more you own the cycle the greater the ability to monetise the content, which is what the game is all about.

With that backdrop, it is literally mandatory that marketers and agencies when they create ‘advertising’ look down this chain and ensure that they are leveraging all parts of the cycle.

Create content that people want to search, share, enhance which drives more searches and shares.

If you are still creating just a good old fashioned ad then you are just getting ROI for your spends.

P&G with Old Spice seems to be doing a great job in this space.

As is Unilever with Dove.

And Coke of course.

These are just a few brands that come to mind that seem to have understood that there is more to advertising than advertising. It is about creating content that travels down the cycle.

The next time a client evaluates an agency’s work they should ask the Qs

Is it searchable?

Is it shareable?

Will our users try and enhance it?

It is not about digital. It is about the idea. It always is. But Digital enables the idea to live long after the TV has been switched off.

Of communication filters

It’s a standard ritual before one leaves for a holiday.

Turn on ‘out of office’ on your email client whose message generally says something along the lines of

  • being away for a specific period of time
  • email responses will be delayed
  • if it is urgent please text/call

And that’s pretty much it.

It does nothing at all to help you manage the emails that will come from people around the world. If, like everyone I know, you have a handheld device those emails keep coming in relentlessly and depending on your device either there’s a red light flashing or not.

Ironically, with the phone there is not even the opportunity to have an out of office message. I have always been amazed at that huge hole in service. If anyone knows that you are not in your normal area of operation, it is your phone service provider. You shouldn’t even have to set it up. If the MSP knows you are out of your normal zone, you are out of office and every caller is reminded that you are not where you should be. ‘Do you still want to continue? At least give the called the information and let him/her decide’.

And lastly social media. When you are traveling the messages, tweets, notifications just pile up. You don’t have the time to go through it all, and something important could be missed.

All in all a big head ache!!Image

During the holidays, I was a victim of the above. There was content overload and trying to cope with it all was a struggle which I lost pretty early on.

And I am playing catch up.

I wonder what the opportunity is for filters that channel the information so that you are able to pick up the important pieces and let the rest just lie there happily ignored.

Perhaps a filter that would have parameters such as ‘let calls/emails/tweets of the following individuals’ through. This helps you focus on the important bits.

You could even set it up for time periods when you have more time. So a kind of dial up/dial down opportunity as well.

Filters that are dynamic ie by time of day or week. Maybe Monday mornings you want minimal interruption whereas in the midst of a conference call you would welcome them.

I think this may be the next big thing in communications development where you have the ability to decide how much of the information you want to see, and when.

Completely coincidentally while I was contemplating this blog, my brother in law @jprangaswami @jobsworth wrote about filtering, far more comprehensively and intelligently than I ever could. If you are keen, do read it here. Filtering: Seven Principles.

As marketers we need to be aware of the need to help consumers receive and digest the volume of content we send their way. And relating this back to my previous post, shouting louder or more often only makes a bad problem worse. You don’t want to be filtered out now do you?

Digital Silo-ism needs to end

March 18, 2013 1 comment

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Decades ago when I started in advertising, in India, TV was a new medium.

The agency I worked in then had a TV department.

It comprised of a couple of pot smoking creative looking types. Long hair, eccentric, came and went when they felt like etc.

Their job was to look at the creative brief, take the print campaign and create a film out of it. Then we had to go sell it to client and then off these guys would go to make the film.

Really, I kid you not.

The problems with that approach are obvious.

But the good thing was that it was all one company, one P&L. Just that one set of people had skills the others did not.

As TV became more mainstream, the department vanished and made its way to a production team that produced the film, the creative department came up with.

I mention this because in recent times one sees the same cycle being repeated with Digital.

But it is worse in many cases because they run different divisions or P&Ls or whatever the management term for that is.

Yet again they are staffed by people who act and behave like they are special. They often get pulled in last after the ‘main’ campaign is created and either a great opportunity to leverage digital is lost or some sub standard work is created or, worse, they are off creating something different because ‘come on adapting a mass media idea is so lame’.

Because they are run as separate divisions the ability to integrate becomes that much harder.

In my opinion the days of Digital as a separate function are numbered, if not over yet.

Digital is mass media. Everyone needs to know how that medium works and how consumers interact with it.

The challenges of communication remain the same.

Just as no one turns on the TV to watch ads, no one logs on to Facebook to ‘like’ a page.

The brand still needs to communicate creatively, engagingly to get the consumer to act the way desired.

Creating independent divisions is a very expensive, sub optimal way for an agency to work.

If I look back at the TV era the breakthrough came from creative. Once creative understood how TV worked the integration barrier was overcome.

In digital too the breakthrough will come from the creative function.

Digital is a lot more complex. So many options, so much detail and so many metrics.

But fundamentally it is about customer engagement. The role of the digital experts will be about using the creative idea and ensuring that its digital interpretation meets the ability of the medium.

The P&L driven organisation will miss the wood for the trees. The brand driven ones will grab it and run.

One of the most oft quoted successes in digital marketing is Old Spice. And that came from a ‘traditional’ agency.

I know quite a few digital business leaders who want to hold on to their P&Ls and be devoted to their turf protection.

I know quite a few marketing leaders who are fed up with this silo that everyone says is fundamental to business today.

For digital to really grow and become mainstream the silo needs to go.

Which of the majors will bring the wrecking ball to the party?Image

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Women and Digital

You may recall the fiasco that was della.com. If not visit www.della.com. A site created by Dell targetted specifically at women. On the face of it a good idea. But it got lambasted in the media for being sexist and treating women differently etc etc. There’s no winning these days!!!

Anyway..here’s a survey among women on their favourite Technology brand. Any guesses? Well it is no surprise that it is Apple. Seems they can do no wrong. And the second? Google.

The reason why women like Apple is because of it’s ease of use and record of innovation, driven by ipod.

Couple of highlights for me

In the younger age group Apple leads Sony by 2:1. But in the older (25-39) Apple and Sony are tied and in the 40+ Apple and Microsoft are tied for the top spot. Sony? Microsoft?

Over 40% of the people said they had bought a digital product in the last 6 months. That is HUGE. I can’t imagine another category, that has such a high recency of purchase.

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