Posts Tagged ‘social media’

How Social Media is destroying brand loyalty


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.




September 29, 2014 Leave a comment

Remember what you learnt in school?
Well time to forget it.

2 instances over the past two days make me feel that a new era is upon us, which has relevance to us as human beings and brands.

On a social media site one woman put up a long post accusing another member of having stolen another person’s business, put him on the road etc. It was just that. An accusation with no facts. Within minutes the member who was accused responded saying it was not true and that it was her legitimate business. And then the rest of the group erupted. Of the 100s of comments posted, just 2 asked the accuser for evidence. The rest were after the person accused asking for business plans, dates, employee names etc etc. The group had decided that a guilty verdict was on.

Another woman posted this picture 10704104_10152314070461857_8179011347410255662_n

The complaint was that they found a cockroach in their starter. They put it aside. Ate the entire meal. The bill came to 18,000 KSH. Then they pointed out the cockroach. The interactions are posted below.


The bar response was thus..
Dear S,

The cockroach was found in the starter portion of your meal. However after complaining, and voicing your disgust, you and the other 6 people on the table continued and completed your main course with satisfaction, You then demanded a full discount on all the items consumed ..threatening to post your carefully taken photo on social media and other media.. Francis rightly offered you a partial discount.
We note with interest that the cockroach is on the plate and not put aside, which any reasonable person would have done. Your picture clearly shows that you enjoyed the dish with the cockroach on it.
You may have found this an opportune moment to claim a free meal for you and others on the table. This was not possible as your table happily consumed all the food ordered despite the cockroach. This seemed contradictory, and attempting to claim a free meal with threats was done in bad taste.
G Bar strives to provide a quality product at all times and we highly regret this incident.)

I don’t know about you, but if I find a cockroach in my starter course I am going to make a scene right there, or at least bring it to the attention of the waiter/manager and not wait till the end of the meal. There is some reason to suspect the diner’s version of events. It doesn’t meet the justice criteria of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ And, obviously, the bar could have responded much better.
However, the picture had done the damage. Everyone, responding do the lady’s post was on the side of the lady. The bar being one of the most famous bars in the city will probably continue unharmed.A smaller one would go down under.

As you can see from both the above cases people no longer have the time and patience to wait to find out what’s right or wrong. Decisions are made instantly and then get fed on by others and before you know it minds are made.
Equipped with a smartphone, one becomes the judge and jury and digital vigilante justice is meted out mercilessly.

As a marketer one runs this risk everyday.
What if it is your brand that is at the receiving end? Are you equipped to move quickly? If not it is time.

I recommend a simple 4 step process:

First the listening. Many companies have set up listening posts of varying types for themselves or their clients so on a real time basis they know what is being said.
Second is the analysis. Hearing the words is one part of the job. Interpreting it is the next. Simple rules can be set up as alerts. eg cockroach and your brand should never be used in the same post. Set up the rule so that if someone says it, it bubbles up immediately.
Third is the response. What is the rule? Accepting and apologising is the start of the ‘healing’ process. Ignoring or combating doesn’t work at all. Start the conversation and steer the person off social media to an acceptable solution
Fourth is measuring. Now that you’ve solved the problem can you convert that story into a favorable one? Will the person communicate that she had a problem that was solved and now she thinks the better of the brand/company?

Marketing is now a 24X7 activity and speed and a proper process will decide whether you are innocent or guilty!


What people seem to share

April 21, 2014 2 comments

Ever so often I am asked by people what makes things go viral, or ‘how can I viral a campaign’.

And I have given the usual thing of ‘ if people find it interesting, they will share’.

But it seems that is too simple an answer. So I did a ‘scientific’ study of my facebook newsfeed and my twitter feed to look at what my friends, and those I follow share.

If this works for this demographic, which would be a marketers dream, it should work for most relevant, valuable segments. That’s my belief.

And it wouldn’t be the first time I was wrong.

So here goes.

I have divided my findings into 2 categories.

Originated Content

Shared Content


Originated Content:

Hands down this is about their children. Their first walk, their first bath, their first day in school, their coming back from school, swimming medals, toys they made, toys they destroyed, rugby matches etc etc. Anything kids and you will see it.

The interest in sharing food pictures seems to have declined, if not died.

What does this mean for marketers? If parents are sharing so much about their kids then marketers need to find a way to be a part of this. At the simplest level brand should participate in all school events. Don’t wait for the big annual day things. Parents are proud of every single achievement of their kids. So create events, take part in class events, house events whatever. And give certificates/prizes. It builds bonds with the parent and she, and he, will share it with the world.

There is of course other originated content but it lags way behind wrt sharing, so I am not referring to it here. Sorry writers and artists.


Shared Content:

Again here I omit any content that is celebrity linked in anyway, as they have an unfair advantage. Same with music.

  • Humour: Head and shoulders over any shared content type is humour. Who doesn’t enjoy a laugh? And this is revealed in the fact that this category is so popular.

The rule seems to be ‘Silly is king’: While there are many types of humour, obviously, the one people like to share and retweet is the one I can only call silly. Think Over the top, slapstick, puns, cat videos etc. The ecards, George Takei’s stuff all fall into this category. And king of the heap is Gangnam Style.Followed by ‘What does the Fox say?’

Silly doesn’t have to be idiotic, though idiotic gives it added momentum.

Brand that come to mind that have used this well are Old Spice (Hello ladies), Samsung with Ellen’s selfie and even I would say VW’s Star wars ad.

Humour is hard but slapstick is easy and Old Spice and VW have shown that it can be done well. Very well.

A tactic that brands that are serious, can use, is to make memes of their own serious ads and make those humorous. The advertising agency will be happy to do this task so that the brand itself can maintain it’s ‘purity’.

If you create content that is ‘parodyable’ then there are enough people out there who will, and spread the word on the brand’s behalf. So shape content accordingly.

  • Human Interest: The next category that people share is human interest stories. Upworthy has made a business of providing just this kind of content. The ‘ When X did Y, you’d never guess what happened next’ formula. Besides this we all share in our friends’ joys and sorrows. We like, empathise and share it with them.

Obama’s 4 more years tweet was the most retweeted in the history of twitter before Ellen’s selfie.

Brand’s that play in this space such as food, health and nutrition, education, financial services and so on should look at creating/packaging content for the social media space wrapped in a human interest angle. Subsume the brand to the bigger arc and let your audiences share it for you.

  • See how smart I am: This is a relatively nascent category of sharing. This is putting in the hands of the customer information what she, or he, will share thereby showing how smart they are. TED talks are king of this pile. Who doesn’t share Ted talks? Whether they sit through the entire 18 minutes or not. The category of infographics runs on the premise that people will want to share information, whether they consume it or not. This is the digital equivalent of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

This is relatively easy to do. Collect a bunch of statistics. Put them into bright coloured charts and give them an intelligent sounding label. And you’re good to go. I jest of course, but if everyone read all the ‘information’ they were sharing there is just no way they’d be doing any work!!

So, there you have it.

My analysis of my timeline, newsfeed whatever.

Yours may be different, of course, though I think rather unlikely.

Next time someone asks me ‘how to viral a campaign’ I have a more ‘scientific’ answer.

Now I have some Economist articles to retweet. For example did you know China’s a growing market for private jets?

Can Customer Service Mindset Be Taught?

August 13, 2013 3 comments

Over the summer we went on holiday to England and experienced the real life in England by staying in B&Bs as opposed to the usual hotels that one tends to do on travel. And it did reveal a different side of the place and the people.

Right across the place we were staying in London was a little lane and there was this really cute little café run by a couple of Italians. Wot The Dickens!

The first time we went there for breakfast they were friendly and welcoming and as we placed our orders made some recommendations to save us some money. Not bad you’d say. Or perhaps, even, expected. A few days later when I went again, for only the second time, the man behind the counter recognised me and engaged me in a conversation on the reason I was in London. On being told that I was there for a wedding he talked about weddings and how his partner did not believe in weddings and thereby bringing the partner in, resulting in an entertaining chat. As I left with merely my cup of coffee in hand I had a smile on my face. Ah well you may say, small cafes recognize their customers as individuals and can spend time building a relationship.

Next to this café is another little one, which is where we went the first day. Run by a couple of Polish girls. We got what we ordered and that was it. No chit chat. No attempt to make you feel welcome or comfortable. And no it was not a busy day, we were the only ones.

So clearly being small is not enough.

During this same holiday we were also traveling by train. A cousin of mine stood at a counter to buy 4 tickets for us for our trip. When his turn came to buy tickets he said ‘2 adults and 2 children’. The man behind the counter asked ‘ Will you be traveling together?’ . ‘Yes’ replied the cousin. ‘Then what you should buy is the family ticket. It is much cheaper and gets you 2 adults and 2 children’. My cousin was quite surprised with the attitude. Here was an employee of a large organisation who was willing to ‘lose revenues’ by being honest. If we’d bought the 4 tickets as individuals we’d have been none the wiser. But the fact that someone is willing to ‘help’ with no ulterior motive save the need to do the right thing, leaves an extremely favorable impression.

We’ve all been to places like Starbucks and sometimes, some employees are engaging and welcoming while others are focused on getting the order processed as efficiently as possible.

All service organisations have process manuals and training programs. It can teach you a way to act and behave. But does it bring the genuine warmth that relationships need?

Lots of brands now seem to be defining themselves as being in the service business. So they are looking beyond being in the product business. Which is great as building consumer relationships are vital to the long term success of brands.

However, the service business requires a different mindset. And I don’t know that it can be taught. Zappos and Amazon have shown that it is possible to build a customer service oriented organisation. So, it is not impossible.

Nordstrom has a hiring philosophy that says ‘Hire for attitude. Skills can be taught’. Perhaps, brands can learn from them?1077_lg_nordstromIrvineSpectrum

Again this is clearly far easier if you are in the service business. Restaurants, stores, hospitals even indeed live and die by customer service.

But what about if you were a marketer of soaps? How does customer service apply then?

I believe a customer service attitude is all about ‘being interested’.

If you marketed a soap how would you show you were interested? Technology to the rescue. Give the customer opportunities to reach out to you. Ask them how they liked what they bought. Any feedback? What did she not like? What did she like? Would she like to try something new? Would she be interested in a promotion? and so on. Social Media fits so right in to this space.

So again, if we started with what we wanted to do, we’d end up with a brilliant social media strategy. If we started with ‘let’s do a social media strategy’ we’d end up with…well…literally anything.

Perhaps customer service cannot be taught, but it sure can be learnt with a little help from social media.

So many channels, nothing to say

Many many years ago, I forget when, I started a linkedin profile.

Then came facebook. So dutifully I got a facebook profile.

Then came twitter and sure enough I signed up.

Shortly thereafter, there was G+, Path, Pinterest all of which I signed up to. (sequence not important for the point I try to make!)

It was new. It was shiny. Everyone was on it. So of, course did I.

Over time I have reduced my activity to two : Facebook and twitter where I am comfortable, I have something to say and judging by the response so are those who follow me or read my stuff. (I am not counting blogging here, purely because it is still niche and dependant on personal interest)


The way I use facbook is to share/talk personal stuff. Things I find interesting or enjoyable at a personal level.

twitter on the other hand is professional, serious stuff.

That is not the recommended, or right way, just that it is my way.

I have many friends who have linked the two and what they tweet and what they post are the same. To my mind it defeats the purpose of the 2 channels. But that’s my opinion.

I mention this only because, recently I was in a conversation with a client who was harping on about the need for an app. Not that the app would be wrong, but we were discussing the channel, before discussing the strategy.

This is symptomatic of the many meetings I’ve been part of where managers want to be on every single channel that’s out there so that they can be on the latest shiny object.

Then the decay kicks in. Either because of lack of consumer engagement or lack of content or something more prosaic like budgets.

I always prefer/recommend that no matter how modern the technology, the old principles of who are we talking to and what do we want to say are even more important. It anchors everything you do, so that when the next thing comes along one is able to evaluate the need to be on it or not.

Very simple, obvious post I know, but considering that these conversations still take place, it seems one can never repeat often enough.

Do marketers know these people?

December 16, 2012 2 comments

I grew up in India. In several cities as is the case with many of us middle class folks.

News was what I heard on the radio, later on TV, newspapers and from parents and their friends talking.

Socialising was going down and hanging out with the boys and girls of the building, or ‘colony’

Playing was usually cricket in some narrow dusty lane with all manner of kids. Be that of a carpenter or a CEO.

You respected your neighbours. You didn’t scream at people unnecessarily or be violent for no reason at all. You didn’t like someone you kept your views to your self or you opted out of that circle.

Songs were about love and heartbreak and relationships and life’s journeys.

Everything cost money. There was nothing for free. Not even favours!

You learnt there were norms and there were consequences.

It was a way of living.

20 years later there’s a new of living.

News is what you see on your 2″ by 3 ” screen. Maybe a 7″.

Socialising is updating status messages, hanging out on-line, retweeting, skyping or whatever the new way is.

Playing is a game on your device. There was farmville, there was angry pigs, there is am sure a whole lot of new games, that I don’t know.

You don’t have to be nice to anyone. You can be rude on-line. You can mock people. Flame people. If you have the skills you can hack into their accounts and spread filth. The latest example is right here : things people say

Songs are nearly usually about sex and violence.

Everything should be free : Books, music, sites, news. If you charge, they’ll leave

On the internet there are few consequences.

As I said it is a new way of living. And a whole new generation of people are growing up in this new environment.

Do we know how to deal with these people?

Do we know how to communicate with them?

The best we seem to have been able to do is ‘let’s have a social media strategy’.

I think we need far more than a communication strategy. It is a consumer environment strategy. Examine their life and understand the deep psychological impact of this new life. From there will emerge a plan.

It’s a new world. With new citizens.

We need to be prepared.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Last week I went to a show and like many other shows I have attended they were very strict about banning photographs during the show.
Now, I understand completely that the flash from cameras can distract the performer. Many museums and art galleries, for example, allow photography but no flash.
But I am talking about a complete ban on any kind of photography.

To my mind this seems like a hangover from old fashioned thinking, which goes something like this : Don’t show the people what we do. Let them come and find out for themselves.

But this goes against what we have seen so frequently from time immemorial, and accentuated more recently since the arrival of social media, that giving people a taste gets them more attracted to the main event.

Many magicians do ban recording because they don’t want the trick to be given away. There is probably some merit in it. But as a lay man even if I see a video of someone making an elephant disappear I still want to go and see for myself.

In fact I think that video of the vanishing elephant is likely to be circulated more widely than a line in his/her press release and get far greater interest in the act.

Similarly I believe seeing pictures of a show, either on someone’s social media feed, or on an email has the potential to get spread far and wide and bring more people in to the show.

Perhaps while performer has a Facebook page and has accepted that customers lead the conversation they are still, like many big brands, trying to control the messaging rather than let consumers own it, spread it and bring more people in to the tent and rack up those dollars.

%d bloggers like this: