Tag Archives: Communication

The Best Brand Social Communication

SocialDisarray

Far too many brands fail by using social as arms of their PR team – where they announce and tell rather than join in a conversation. The reality is that probably less than 10% are doing their brand communication on social effectively. MediaPost’s post on Sprout Social’s recent study of brand response to their audience (or consumers) through social shows a dismal upward trend of not responding to social queries. More audiences are expecting more customer service capabilities via social, yet brands continue to send many more posts than replies. In the case of media and entertainment, they send 8.5X more posts than replies and, in the real estate vertical, nearly 12X. Some of the brands that better understand not only the power in responding, but the need to, are those in travel/hospitality and some in everyday-use package goods. Virgin Atlantic is one company that set the tone early in the use of social media in how they handled travel disruptions caused by volcano ash that hampered travel throughout Europe in 2010. Where other airlines completely let their customers down, Virgin Atlantic served their customers well through constant communication and grew loyalty in the process. The thing is, your brand should determine how involved you are in social communication with your audience – not the vertical.

Of equal importance is that responding to your audience via social is only part of the equation in good brand social communication. That often overlooked component is the brand voice. As with the other pieces of brand experience that are moving to the forefront of Audience Development is the consistent portrayal of your brand’s voice. Especially when maneuvering the social realm, consistency is even more important as it will usually be the most “human” relationship the audience has with the brand. The voice needs to factor the following at minimum:

Purpose – Why are you on Social platforms in the first place? What services will you serve via social and what will you not? If, for example, you have no intention of delivering customer service via social, that will greatly affect the voice.

Character – What does your brand “sound like”? As this is the must human interaction, what do you want your audience to take away from the brand socially?

Tone – What is the general vibe of the brand? If this is not consistent with character and your overall brand, your social is DOA.

Language – Determining the kind of words you use and the style of language is completely dependent on who your audience is. If you don’t have that understanding of your audience, you can find yourself actually hindering growth by using the wrong language.

All of these considerations – along with your brand’s consistent dedication to providing the needed resources – can lead to great brand social communication. Being clear and consistent with your social strategy and execution will not only lead to streamlined resources, but also consistent growth.

Mapping The Cost Of Innovation

1441927780745

Many companies claim that they place an emphasis on innovation – and to a point, they are delivering – but when it comes specifically to marketing and buzz generation, companies set themselves up to fail in the innovation category.

Sure.  They may execute a campaign that utilizes a new technology or create a video that goes viral and generates an insane amount of views. They might even develop a marketing product that revolutionizes the industry or makes use of an existing product in ways nobody thought of before. But when it really comes down to it, most companies fail when bringing innovation to their marketing because they don’t plan or spend in the right way that lends to cost-savings down the road. Or, even worse, the execution doesn’t align with their strategy, so it hits the intended consumers like a thud.

Many innovative marketing products could be better if they were not treated as the end-all product that is oft copied, but as something that builds upon itself. Innovation done correctly is built with future iterations in mind so that products and development can be built on or added on cost-effectively. Too often, those new product are developed for one execution and then, upon its success, they do not allow for augmentation – forcing companies and their vendors to start from scratch.

Numerous factors lead to innovation that is not cost-effective.  Sometimes, due to a lack of vision or strategic planning.  Others might be due to a company’s lack of determination in supporting ongoing innovation expenditures. And then sometimes, products just don’t work out. All of those factors, are reasonable explanations for the waste of money but they don’t need to be. It really comes down to the ability to have long-term vision and communicate objectives well.

With the right executives supporting the long-term innovation play – where a specific near-term ROI may not happen – the environment can be ripe for marketing success for quarters and years to come.

Here’s how you do it — think more than one step ahead. Auto manufacturers build concept cars with the full knowledge that the car as a whole might not make it to the dealer, but components like auto-parking most likely will.  With that vision toward the future derivatives, even an unsuccessful campaign is not a waste of money. Be thinking of what components might be re-used in the future and make sure your team and vendors build those elements accordingly.

Granted, some form of smoke and mirrors is a component of your innovation process – and not in a devious way – you might think of innovation as putting the cart before the horse.  What it does is build an environment of hype that points to a vision of what the future could be. Be prepared to create assets that just show off what you are planning to do in order to effectively communicate expectations within the company. Utilize communication and spin control. If innovation is treated solely as a magic force that nobody has insight into, it is doomed to fail in the long run.  Even the major technology companies that have super-secret labs share some of their developments internally and sometimes, even externally. Maintaining to others that you are doing really cool things under a shroud of mystery will only lead to further questions on the money that’s being spent. Conversely, communicating too much without conveying the ultimate vision can be almost as damaging.

To the finance types, developing key KPIs to measure your success is a necessary component. Innovation is not an always-win proposition. You may not find huge marketing numbers to point to a winner. Come up with those elements that prove its working.  Is it money saved on future campaigns?  Is it press coverage of your marketing products? Is it related to time-to-market for future products? Is it tied to sales? Brand recognition? Whatever it is, make sure that is known to your team and management. Without those clearly understood KPIs, you’re effectively spending a lot of money on just an illusion…

When all is said and done, there needs to be an environment or atmosphere that welcomes trial and error. Intrinsically, there is no other undertaking that comes across so much success and failure with few traditional methods of measuring both. It is those corporations and organizations that truly embrace innovation (and not just tout that they are innovative) who most consistently bring successful innovations to market. Sometimes innovation can seem just outside your grasp (as an individual or an organization) but with vision, communication and execution, it will come back x-fold in marketing and revenue streams you might not have even considered at the onset.

Navigating The Cost Of Innovation

It’s a new year and we are all on the continued lookout for things new and innovative. The Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2014) kicks off every year with many promises of innovation and they often deliver. Walking those halls provides a course in one way to look at innovation – which we’ll delve further into later. Many companies claim that they place an emphasis on innovation – and to a point, they are delivering – but when it comes specifically to marketing and buzz generation, companies set themselves up to fail in the innovation category.

IMAG0422

Sure.  They may execute a campaign that utilizes a new technology or create a video that goes viral and generates an insane amount of views. They might even develop marketing product that revolutionizes the industry or makes use of an existing product in ways nobody thought of before. But when it really comes down to it, most companies fail when bringing innovation to their marketing because they don’t plan or spend in the right way that lends to cost-savings down the road.

It would seem clear in the writings on this blog that I am all for marketing innovation and have pulled off some executions that I am quite proud of.  The buzz and impressions they generated were phenomenal and have often brought on follow-up coverage in the press. But they could have been better.  Many innovative marketing products could be better if they were not treated as the end-all product that is oft copied, but as something that builds upon itself.

Innovation done correctly is built with future iterations in mind so that products and development can be built on or added on cost-effectively. Too often, those new product are developed for one execution and then, upon its success, they do not allow for augmentation – forcing companies and their vendors to start from scratch.

Numerous factors lead to innovation that is not cost-effective.  Sometimes, it is due to a lack of vision or strategic planning – you were only looking to do this one creative vision and didn’t think how it could be used or grown beyond that.  Others, it might be due to a company’s determination to support ongoing innovation expenditures. And then sometimes, products just don’t work out.

All of those factors, and more, are reasonable explanations for the waste of money but they don’t need to be.

It really comes down to the ability to have the long-term vision and communicate objectives well. With the right executives supporting the long-term innovation play – where a specific near-term ROI may not happen – the environment can be ripe for marketing success for quarters and years to come.

Here’s how you do it.

Again, think more than one step ahead. Auto manufacturers build concept cars with the full knowledge that the car as a whole might not make it to the dealer, but components like auto-parking most likely will.  With that vision toward the future derivatives, even an unsuccessful campaign is not a waste of money. Be thinking of what components might be re-used in the future and make sure your team and vendors build those elements accordingly.

You need smoke and mirrors to be a component of your innovation process – and not in a devious way. Going back to the CES reference, you might think of innovation as putting the cart before the horse.  What might surprise many is that a lot of the hyper-cool technologies shown at CES are not real or ready for prime-time. Sometimes features are faked in to prove the concept. Other instances show content that is not optimal or canned to showcase a technology. An example of this is the content that is shown on 4K monitors.  No broadcaster is filming in 4K yet and they started showing those monitors two years ago with dummy content to show clarity. What they did was build an environment of hype that pointed to a vision of what the future could be – with no true revenue stream to show for it immediately. Be prepared to create assets that just show off what you are planning to do in order to effectively communicate expectations within the company.

Utilize communication and spin control. If innovation is treated solely as a magic force that nobody has insight into, it is doomed to fail in the long run.  Even the major technology companies that have super-secret labs share some of their developments internally and sometimes, even externally. Maintaining to others that you are doing really cool things under a shroud of mystery will only lead to further questions on the money that’s being spent. Conversely, communicating too much without conveying the ultimate vision can be almost as damaging.

Develop key KPIs to measure your success. Innovation is not an always win proposition. You may not find huge marketing numbers to point to a winner. Come up with those elements that prove its working.  Is it money saved on future campaigns?  Is it press coverage of your marketing products? Is it related to time-to-market for future products? Is it tied to sales? Brand recognition? Whatever it is, make sure that is known to your team and management. Without those clearly understood KPIs, you’re effectively spending a lot of money on illusion…

When all is said and done, there needs to be an environment or atmosphere that welcomes trial and error. Intrinsically, there is no other undertaking that comes across so much success and failure with few traditional methods of measuring both. It is those corporations and organizations that truly embrace innovation (and not just tout that they are innovative) who most consistently bring successful innovations to market.

Sometimes innovation can seem just outside your grasp (as an individual or an organization) but with vision, communication and execution, it will come back x-fold in marketing and anywhere else.

Tesco’s American Invasion Was DOA

UK grocery company, Tesco, has decided to pull out of their American Invasion and take a $1.8 Billion write-off (with the favorable UK exchange rate – only 1.2 Billion Pounds – it still doesn’t soften the blow of the astounding loss.) Tiffany Hsu’s LA Times article points to Tesco’s misunderstanding of what the public wants and the dire consequences of trying to compete with the Wal-Marts, Costcos, Trader Joes and the like. If Tesco believed those were their competition, their analysis was very off – regardless of recession or not. Tesco saw themselves as something they were not – and in America, it’s foolish to think that customers will save bad branding by finding the hidden gems behind whatever facade is presented. Any way you slice it, its unfortunate that Tesco’s invasion of the American market was dead on arrival.

Courtesy: Freshneasybuzz

Courtesy: Freshneasybuzz

It had a lot more to do with branding, design and store locations than what Americans do or do not want. Admittedly, my exposure is limited to their locations in the Los Angeles market, but it quickly became very clear how Fresh & Easy was positioned counter-intuitively and ineffectively.

The first store I visited was a huge space on heavily trafficked tourist destination Hollywood Boulevard. It was large, dark and depressing. Another location was also in midtown on a heavily trafficked car artery with no abundance of parking spaces. And the last one I was in a week ago was probably the best model of what they should have been doing all along – a small, bright and colorful store in a heavy pedestrian area near USC.

Beyond their questionable locations and early dreary decor, they should have positioned themselves as the perfect last minute spot to pick up quality prepared meals and sundry items on the way to work or on the way home for dinner. They couldn’t/shouldn’t have felt they could compete with the established big markets.

The article compares them to a Wal-Mart, but Tesco should have positioned Fresh & Healthy as more akin to a refined and healthier 7-11 – like their own Tesco Metros back in the UK. That healthy option would have been the right aspirational touch – especially in Southern California.

Fresh & Easy might have worked if they had stronger positioning. It seems they were even unclear on who they were meant to be. Because of that, their marketing never worked. It’s a shame, because if you look at their location near USC, they could have focused on smaller spaces in higher foot-traffic (or more easily accessible) areas to create something akin to the Marks & Spencer Simply Food product in the UK. Another similarity to M&S in the USC location was the automated tellers that allowed staff to be focused around the store to help out in ways you certainly don’t see in a 7-11.

The promise of getting in and out of a market in five minutes with inexpensive essentials and healthy prepared meals would have been something that might have made it a success.

Short of that, its another example of a move that a company should have never ventured in the first place. Or, its an example of a good thing that never had the required clarity and forethought to drive success. Fresh & Easy is Dead. Long Live Fresh & Easy.

Lessons From SXSW About Authenticity

At the SXSW Tech Conference, downtown Austin was flush with participants pitching their products and more people clamoring for and chasing insights into those products and more. Steve Smith points to the search for Authenticity in his MediaPost blog – Chasing Authenticity At SXSW.  While he was talking about Authenticity in relation to products and their intended users, the same lessons hold true for communication.

20130309_202724

Essentially, Smith captured statements from Walgreens and HBO executives about the development of their companies’ Apps.  In the case of Walgreens, they found that people didn’t care about games – they just wanted to do core activities like simple filling of prescriptions. At HBO, consumers wanted to view original content on the HBO Go App.  In both instances, the companies were able to build user-base solely on the core features and then they were able to expand to other functionality. They realized that they couldn’t hide their “authentic” product to build excitement for something that didn’t make sense for their intended audience right off the bat.

Too often in marketing, we see messaging that is spun too far from the truth.  Or, we see products from publishers, companies and organizations that just don’t ring true to what we believe them to be. We’ve all been there – where we might be too heavily immersed in a product to take a step back and ask the right questions. The right question is not always “Will anyone care/buy?”, but “Does this product make sense coming from us?”

We’ve referenced the common occurrence of utilizing campaign products that are the shiny-object-du-jour and how marketers should really analyze whether that makes sense.  Sometimes, you’ve got to bite the bullet to present what management asks for.  But, we should all be striving to present the authentic core of what our companies represent. The litmus test for any product development or campaign is whether people will immediately understand why you’re releasing/communicating this.  If its not immediately clear to the end user, then you might need to reconsider.

The business world is awash with terms like “optimize” and “leverage” and that’s for a reason.  Sadly, many don’t follow through with the core elements of each. Subsequent campaigns and communications are that much easier when they are derivative of the core values or message.  Through that authentic development and communication, you’ll make bring the right products and campaigns to market with the strongest economic benefit and upside.

Hotels Working Hard To Connect The Dots on Young Loyalty

USA Today filed a report on hotels and their “new” quest to engage teens and pre-teens with programming and other benefits to build early hotel loyalty. The quest is all fine and good, but USAT assumes that the marketing is specific to the teens, when the real recipient is the parent.  When you look at the samples of activities, they didn’t really make sense as marketing tools to kids – but they might make sense to draw their parents to their properties.  The biggest issue is that it seems the hotel operators might not have their finger on the pulse of what their teen and pre-teen prospective consumers would even be drawn to. It’s good to look for ways to build brand loyalty – especially with young consumers – but you can’t build that loyalty with confusion about who you need to connect with.

The article recounts a few of the offerings that have recently been launched by some hotel chains. What the article doesn’t do is cover how these features are marketed. If there is no specific marketing strategy for these offerings, then too much is left to chance – making the offerings less effective. But, let’s just say that the offerings were marketed through specific media or even as part of their CRM or email communications. You still have to question who (and when) the target is for some of these offerings:

  • At select Omni Hotel locations, a “Teen Connection” program has been launched where the teen-aged guests can communicate with a Teen Concierge through Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, or text. Besides the obvious question of “why don’t you just go downstairs and speak face-to-face with someone?”,  I question how much business (or loyalty) will be generated for something so specific. If, as a teen, I had connectivity – which should be paramount – I would be communicating with friends not rushing to communicate with a stranger about things I would need permission from parents in order to actually do it. Since the marketing would be toward parents, would parents want their kids to be asking for reccos through social?  Maybe they would feel more comfortable that it is from a more substantial (i.e. hotel) source, but again, why not go down to the lobby to ask someone? Which leads to the bigger concern about the Teen Concierge idea.  As a parent, do I want an 18 year-old to be a concierge telling my son or daughter to go see a rock show at the Beacon or skateboard through Central Park when I am visiting New York City? David Strebel, the teen concierge at Omni Berkshire in Manhattan gave those examples of what he would offer. While those suggestions are borderline fine options for  teens who know the city well, as a parent, I’m not so happy about the argument that is probably going to happen when I tell my kid they can’t do what the cool guy at Teen Concierge got them to set their mind on.
  • Hyatt has rolled out their “For Kids by Kids” menu and it seems like it makes the parents happy due to its healthier options.  But, the concept of “by” is an interesting one as it seems the menu was only “approved by a group of young taste-testers.” To be upset about the lack of offerings like  “curried shrimp lettuce wraps” on a kids menu could just as easily be appeased by hotels in offering child-sized portions (and costs) of the regular menu items. But, again, there is confusion as teens are not the sweet spot for children’s menus.  Most children’s menus are targeted at 12 (at the high-end) and under with many targeting even younger. Maybe another solution is to rethink some menu options entirely to more strongly relate to their target audience. Maybe the rethinking leads to a couple of items on the menu that are healthy, but are more of a “grazing” type of offering – where young adults can lay around and idly eat healthy foods like crudite, crackers and tuna or chicken salad, etc.
  • Some real head scratchers are Sofitel’s French Language TV station, Tivi5MONDE, for children under 13 and the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes teen massage and facials. What’s the audience size for kids under 13 who want to watch something in French and are teens really that interested in spa treatments as a progenitor or loyalty? The Ritz offering might make perfect sense due to its overall demographic, but the loyalty they have going has very little to do with how kids are treated.  In fact, there are many who stay at such hotels that would prefer there were not pre-teens or teens running around…

We’re not even dealing with Tyson’s Corner Marriott’s belief that American Girl packages with free viewings of American Girl’s McKenna Shoots for the Stars are perfect for pre-teens and teens.  American Girls’ target is considerably younger than that demo.

It could all come down to how the writer, Nancy Trejos, framed the story as attempts to target and draw in those demos. It seems that the examples either over think the target or don’t really address them.  One commenter on the article succinctly stated that “the best way to keep teen guests content – offer free wi-fi.”

Obviously, the best way to provide loyalty is to offer great experiences without being too gimmicky. As the adults are usually (hopefully) the ones making the decisions, the effect the offspring have is based on their content and how much they enjoyed things.  So, there are probably inexpensive ways to convey to parents that there are great offerings for the kids to allow for sampling and, based on good experiences, many happy returns.

The low-hanging fruit is for hotels that are heavily used for business travelers.  By way of CRM programs and booking confirmation emails, they can easily include a little blurb inviting those business travellers to bring their families along. They can work on programs that make travel for children, pre-teens and teens more comfortable.  And, there are things that can provide a sense of security and comfort for the parents.  Maybe its just having a late-afternoon kids and teens “only” reception in a part of the hotel restaurant where healthy choice foods and fun activities are provided at no extra charge.  Maybe its in the form of borrowable MP3 players that have music that conveys the spirit of the city they are visiting.  Obviously, there are so many more options – all with different degrees of difficulty.

The thing is, a lot of what was listed seemed like it was from some ideal story of teens who visit the Waldorf-Astoria and take it over. While it might seem exciting to talk about QR codes and healthy choice education in order to get press coverage, the results are what matter and the ones shown just don’t seem to do the trick.

If you want to target a certain demo, you’ve got to know who they are, what they want and then deliver on that.  But that’s not all… You’ve also got to be clear in how you’re going to communicate it.  You’ve got to make sure you’re communicating clearly to the people who really matter.  In this case, is the kids that the initial communication needs to happen with?  No.  It’s the decision makers – who happen to be the parents. And ultimately, it doesn’t matter how much the parent’s love an idea of something, f the child doesn’t like it, there will be problems.  The challenge is in connecting the dots – or at least leaving the right breadcrumbs to draw target demos to your product and generate loyalty.

Aside

Launching product campaigns and watching trends, it is easy to see marketers shift quickly from one new technology or platform to the other without really gleaning all that they can from what they have already done.  Perhaps this is a … Continue reading