Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Banner Ads - Can't Stop Clickin'em..

Another 45-day hiatus... No reasons and no explanations. Priorities entailed a different orientation. Period. However, passion overwrites priorities once again, and here I am, working on another aspect of Marketing...

Before I talk on something on Marketing per se, just noticed this wonderful set of Banners, at one of my favorite Banner-ads' site - Banner Blog - Excellent compilation of Banner Ads across the globe - a must see for anyone who can appreciate creativity...

Picture some of the classic ones - my top 3 favorites from the past month's collection - - one that displays the name of a coffee brand through beans (Suplicy Coffee), one that draws an interesting analogy to reinforce "stability" of a car on any sort of terrain (Citroen C5) and the final one on Mach3 Turbo, that gives you an online experience of smooth shaving!

Have a look at the website - great example of another form of advertising in the virtual universe...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Is your share price increasing? Maybe it’s because your CEO blogs!

Most of us would have felt most of the time that though we have the minimum possible free time with the maximum possible work, our CEO is the person who has the maximum possible free time with the minimum possible work. And that minimum possible work is also passed on in the least possible time!

Well, for those of you who are humming with a nod in agreement, here is something that should keep him occupied finally – make him blog!

Today, when we talk of the CEO – he is the person who essentially drives the business or leads the drivers of the business, ensuring complete employee satisfaction and optimum utilization of the processes and resources. Naturally, he is at the helm of the organization, and therefore, his word, his inputs and his perspectives, would represent the orientation of his organization as well. So, a representation of the same in the online world – essentially blogging, would be of interest to anyone interested in the business of the organization as well!

In an article in the Times dated 8th August, Playing Footsie with bloggers, Bernhard Warner talked in detail about the impact of a CEO talking in the virtual world.

Any stakeholder would ideally give a lot of credibility to the top notch of the organization, than a “global” word from the communications department. Be it investors, fund managers, customers, suppliers, shareholders or employees, the level of clarity and transparency in the system is far greater when the chief executive talks openly. What he talks and how much he talks is a secondary issue which can be discussed later, but one thing is certain – the credibility increases the moment he talks – just talks!.

More so, most of the blogs are person-centric, and not necessarily community centric. Hence, a CEO blogging would naturally entail a person-centric approach of enhancing organizational credibility. As mentioned in this article, “a company that embraces the openness and transparency blogging brings, will enjoy a competitive advantage over a company that doesn’t

Bernhard also compared CEO blogs vis-à-vis Corporate blogs, which, according to him, are mere extensions of the marketing department. Truly so, most of the Corporate Blogs focus more on PR and online presence, than on quality communication per se. For them, the stakeholders only comprise the Customers and no one else.

What, then, does the CEO talk about? The relevance of new ideas, their applicability, a competitor analysis, future outlook, current issues, apprehensions, market forces, business practices and current industry orientation are pointers that any stakeholder would look forward to. So, any flavor of any of the above would definitely be relevant and purposeful in the online as well as the offline world.

Fine. So you made your CEO blog and your managed a strong PR and good credibility in the market with whatever he could contribute. Now, what do I do with this?

It might just be a hobby or an interest of the CEO who has a flair for writing, or it might just be another PR gimmick. But considering all possible exceptions - under normal circumstances and in plain simple terms, “Is this helping my business at the end of the day”?

As has been put nicely in the article – “Any long-term investor would value a transparent chief executive. But, of course, honesty and openness alone are no guarantee for job security. The leader of a listed company is judged of course by share price, not trackbacks and RSS subscriptions.

Rightly so, there has to be some tangible return from the time investments a CEO makes in writing. And yes, there is! According to the study conducted by Bernhard, 7 out of 10 companies witnessed their share prices go up since the company began blogging! That’s a direct 70% hit rate!

Obviously, the others in the company were also doing something all this while. So, the share prices are not just because of blogging. But still, even though there is no direct equation that a CEO blogging would entail a rise in share prices, it also doesn’t hold completely invalid. Inference? Simple. A CEO blogging has an advantage over a CEO not blogging!

Final quote from Bernhard’s piece: "A host of studies show that investors are more loyal to companies that adopt a straightforward and transparent tone with all stakeholders, from investors to customers. And blogs, if they actually say something, can have an impact on managing investors’ expectations, which is the only true way of capitalising on positive news and minimising the toll of negative news"

So, finally, there is some task defined for the CEO, which he HAS to do himself (as of now!) ;-)

The sampling included 10 companies – Reuters, L’Oreal, Sun Microsystems, Rediff.com, Ducati Motors, General Motors, Benetton, Boeing, Southwest Airlines and Marriott International. Headquartered in India, London, Paris, Milan and the United States, each company has been blogging for at least six months. Shares in seven of the ten firms are up since the company began blogging.

For a list of some of the prominent CEO blogs, you can link to this site. Feel free to share more if you want to!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ad Age Power 150 - Best Marketing Blogs

Recently came across the Power 150 list from Adage – Some of the Best Marketing Blogs in the world

An excellent compilation by Todd Andrlik, listing down 393 top blogs of passionate marketers – something that I would keenly study, over the next few months.

If you are a window-blogger and prefer to blog-browse rather than blog, this is the list you should start with!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Interactive Shopping for Kids: Make a Bear – Take the Bear (India)

Indian consumers are quickly moving out of the “neighborhood kirana-stores” mindset and getting acculturated to organized shopping malls. Be it the product availability, the experience, the ambience or simply, the lure of an air-conditioned hang-out place – consumers no longer want to spend time outside under the sun or shopping in sweaty shops!

Talking of shopping malls – malls in India have evolved and are no longer just a shopping destination, but thanks to Martin Lindstrom and his work on Sensory Branding, ambience now plays a critical role in shopping. As a result, shoppers want to spend as much time as they can in the malls – shop, eat, drink, sleep, play around, flirt, and do everything else that is practically possible to do in broad daylight!

As these mall-crazy shoppers become parents, they want their kids also to get more used to malls – maybe a bit more than their homes too!!

So, what’s new being offered to them? Retailers, in order to tap this opportunity, want the kid-shoppers to engage with their stores, their products, and the ambience that facilitates (if not expedites) this purchase processes.

According to a recent article in the Economic Times, this ideology is being applied by Shoppers’ Stop in Delhi (Rajouri Garden) and is called the the Build-A-Bear Workshop. It provides an interactive mall-based activity for kids to create their own stuffed toys. This entails higher involvement of the kids in their purchase activity, by making them participate in every stage of the making their own stuffed toys. As mentioned in the article, the store..

“…allows customers — who are referred to as guests — to go through various stages of activity in creating their own teddy bear (or other stuffed toy), including choosing a stuffed animal, stuffing it, giving it a heart, stitching, fluffing, naming and dressing it. And though the toys are priced at a premium level ranging between Rs 595 and Rs 1,295 for a stuffed animal and add-ons such as sound chips, clothes and accessories coming at extra cost — the interactive shopping experience also adds on an element of entertainment for young customers and can turn into a family affair as well.”

Interactive Shopping, as it is called, attempts to capitalize on the involvement level of kids with their toys, and also, address the gap created by inability of shop-o-maniacs to whet their shopping appetite because of their kids. The kids are also involved into something constructive, and the shoppers can get their own time, too – watching themselves in the mirror trying different outfits!

Sometime back, I had discussed the various ways in which marketers market to women. One of them took special note of women with kids and customized offerings for the shopping convenience of their customers. As I had mentioned,

“the store design and the ambience are essential elements of a purchase cycle for most of the women . They consider aesthetic sense as a primary determinant of any outlet, which reflects in its offerings and services. Thus, when it comes to women shoppers, we need to move into an entirely “experiential system” and environment”

Taking a cue from this experiential system, marketers at Shoppers' Stop have done a commendable job in creating an experience around their products, engaging the kids with the product (which, of course, would subsequently translate into sales!) as well as give the shopper her time to purchase even more than she would expect to!

So, next time you plan a visit to the place to buy clothes for yourself, you need not request your neighbors to play cricket with your kids! He may as well go and make a mama bear for himself! ;-)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Art of Creativity - Applied in Advertising (Brazil)

Found this nice piece of creativity at advertising for peanuts. A fine example of how simple concepts of design can communicate a strong social message. Made for CVV (Suicide Prevention Center) by Leo Burnett, Sao Paulo (Brazil), the campaign symbolizes how the best person to help you in your times of trouble is you yourself. Hence, the campaign “Help Yourself

Incidentally, found an interesting blog, Mer-chan, whose author, Katy, had identified a similar design piece created by Peter Callesen.
Peter’s work - designs made by cutting sheets of paper – seems to have inspired the creators of this campaign.

Katy mentioned in her post that the work of the artist from Denmark would have either designed the posters himself or would have inspired the admen….both in Brazil as well as in China

Nonetheless, excellent pieces of design - in fact, I would recommend any aspiring designer to visit Peter's website and learn how he has created wonders out of simple sheets of paper.

Commendable work indeed!
[via Advertising for Peanuts]

One for the Smiles…

Caution: Even though it may seem to have, and may provide additional incentives for window-blog-visitors, this post does not contain any Adult content.

Have been watching some advertisements at YouTube lately. Out of the 50-odd I scanned through today, these are the best 10-minutes spent presented here..

What's common in all this pieces? Each of them ensures high recall value and strong humor association. However, what remains to be seen is, as I keep reiterating time and again, how much of this translates into sales and brand recall - ultimate objective for most of the sane marketers.

An addition to this perspective, however, is the significance of recall value – If the ad ensures high recall and it’s a low involvement category, then this very recall drives in-store pick ups or impulse purchases at the POP.

All said and done, a nice treat for the weekend – Kudos to the agencies and the contributors for these. :-)

This is a series of four commercials that were banned, but were presented at NBC back-to-back. The 2-minute video features “The most read newspaper in SwedenExpresse (Swedish Newspaper), “Get in ShapeCompanhia Athletica, BCCheering Works” and “We blow up your favorite Holiday Picture!Time Foto.

Just Load it, sit back and earn some smiles...

Additionally, the following three were my pick from the lot – commendable conceptualization, excellent execution and of course, high humor content…

The commercials are of Polisan wall paintsGet used to it”, Braathens SafeWe’re flying your in-laws at half price! and Zazoo condoms

Brilliant execution, undoubtedly – and for all the people who have some sense of humor – definitely worth the load…

Friday, July 27, 2007

“Walking Dead” Customers – Recall or Abort?

Guess the seemingly consistently inconsistent behavior of irregular blogging has been all the more apparent, and it has more or less been a norm for me to start my entry with this comment. Though I have been rationalizing this for some time now, I seem to have run out of reasons now…..traveling, work pressure, partying, net connection….anything else?

Nonetheless, I am glad that finally, something goes out at this place once again….and hopefully this one should make sense for the customers…er..readers of this blog… :)

Talking of customers, for every marketer, they are the source of bread and butter for him. He would do anything, and I mean anything, to keep them happy, to keep them coming, to keep them buying whatever he wants to sell….

Having said that, if that may be the case, are there a set of customers a marketer shouldn’t bother about, anymore? A set who you think you would not want to talk to anymore; if they need something, they would come themselves, and if they leave, so be it? Strange, isn’t it?

Surprisingly, there IS a class like that…at least for those who have this written in BOLD BLACK on their annual planner documents… “its either the bottom line or your bottoms!

So who are these step-kings, after all? These are those customers who you know are consistently disinterested in the big flashy pitches you have been making to them, who stare at your face with a expressionless discontent, a set who are still using your services, but today they are, tomorrow…might not be!

The “borderline customers” who are ready to defect to some other service providers, and are not keen to take any more services from you….or a more refined interesting term coined by the experts – “Walking Dead”. That’s what they are called, defined as …"customers who currently maintain service but whose next action will be to discontinue all services, an important economic consequence to the firm"

According to a recent article in Knowledge @ Wharton - "Beware the 'Walking Dead': Analyzing Customer Data from a Multi-Service Firm", this particular class of customers might just suck up your additional advertising and marketing dollars, without giving even a single penny back….they are still using your services, still there holding on to what WAS offered to them some time back, but don’t find anything that is being offered recently interesting, and just might be on the lookout for something “better” (the dangerous ambiguous word this is!)

Summarized from a detailed paper on how Customers manage their service portfolios "Modeling the Evolution of Customers' Service Portfolios" by Marketing professors David Schweidel (University of Wisconsin), Eric Bradlow and Peter Fader from the Marketing Department of University of Pennsylvania, this concept is akin to the basis for CLV, or Customer Lifetime Value, where the measure of putting customers in the “Walking Dead” category is nothing but the remaining CLV for them.

Few years back, Knowledge@Wharton had published another article by Wharton marketing professor Peter Fader on Customer Lifetime value “Which Customers Are Worth Keeping and Which Ones Aren't? Managerial Uses of CLV” Some of the learnings from that article are still applicable today.

“The goal is not only to identify customers, but to reach out to them through cross-selling, up-selling, multi-channel marketing and other tactics – all of which are tied to metrics on attrition, retention, churn and a set of statistics known as RFM – recency, frequency and monetary value

I wouldn’t delve into the details of the customer equity management as of now, but in a nutshell, though consumer profiling is based on strong assumptions and is highly intuitive, a basic framework can be built, based on the market segmentation, consumer purchase pattern and RFM measures – all critical to any CRM exercise; accordingly, marketing investment can be optimized. As part of this optimization exercise, the “Walking Dead” have been identified.

Coming back to the original paper, it classifies the customers according to the level of engagement they have with the service provider.

The first level is when you just start using the services of the company – you aren’t really sure about the credibility of the company and its offerings, so you want to try with the “minimum” risk, yet you explore what are the options with you, and what are the pros and cons of moving further with the offered services, etc.

Once you build some trust in the company that is when the customer enters the second level. It is here that the customer looks at the company more like a partner, as he/she intends to engage with the company on a long-term basis. So premium offerings are taken, and additional services are purchased. The relationship/partnership goes to a next stage – the state every marketer aspires to be in, with his customers, and wants this way all the time.

Alas, the story doesn’t always end the “Happily Ever After” way – and some customers start getting uncomfortable with their current portfolios. They either believe in something better outside, or something worse inside…..that is when they move into the final level….the state that is considered one state before they are “dead” (for the company) and so are called the “Walking Dead” - Services are dropped, scales are reduced, no more initiatives are taken, no new experiments or offers lure them…

When do you know which customers are “Walking Dead”?
According to the paper, these customers might want to shift, but maintain their current portfolio due to inertia. This is when their service levels get more or less constant. Consequently, it’s a matter of time when they would drop all the services.

A major flaw in most of the companies’ assessment of their customers is the assumption of customer behavior life cycle as a pattern – that customers are linear in their purchase pattern and move from one level to the next, and then the next. This is generally not valid, since customers skip levels and may also use multiple services at the same time. Thus, predictability of services should add another dimension for companies and factor these as well.

Interestingly, to address this behavioral predictability, Fader defines a concept of “co-purchasing map”, wherein all the services offered to a customer should be evaluated, and not each of them in isolation. (For Technical details on the calculations, please refer to the paper!). Thus, there might be services (offered by the same company or other companies as well) that act as complements rather than substitutes, since customers tend to take all services together

More so, it is important to view customers in terms of their entire history of purchasing decisions, not a single recent decision, since "the entire sequence of portfolios is informative of his current lifecycle state and future behavior," the paper states.

Coming to the point, with all this understanding, what are the options that we, as marketers, have with us, to get out of this, and get back to our numbers?

Marketers attempt to retain customers in Level 2 itself, and in a way, slow down the aging process (transition to level 3). For this, they use tactics like cross-selling, upselling and multi-channel marketing to augment customer lifetime value. Additionally, the findings in this paper state that such services should be extended ONLY to those customers, “who are likely to adopt new services, as well as those customers who are at risk for discarding some or all of the services to which they currently subscribe.

This “Risk for discarding” factors in the level of dependency on the existing operator/supplier/vendor. If the “switchover cost” for the customer is high, then inertia keeps him tagged to you. Else, there is an instant transition. At this stage, marketers have two options – either overwhelm the customer with attractive offers and appease him to sign up, making him further dependent on your services. Or, leave him to his own, until he says goodbye to you completely.

To conclude, when customers start unsubscribing to your services, an orange signal is triggered. But what is important to note (and inferred from the article) is that when such a thing happens, it is not automatically implied that the customer is moving out, or transitioning to another service provider. One needs to assess if he has taken up some other services from the same provider only through the “co-purchasing map”….If that is the case, he is not a “defecting” customer – he simply is exercising his options with you..

But even after all the optimistic assessment, if the customer seems to be looking for alternatives and does not seem to get too impressed with your dance, maybe its time to bid him goodbye….and show the walking dead…the path to the grave!

Marketing is mean, isn’t it!!! ;-)

[Photo sources: Choices, Walking dead pic and Child in Pumpkin patch. Special thanks to Steve for allowing me to use the pic of his daughter Melody, for the purpose of this entry – depicting the choice consumers have today! Thanks Steve!]

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Did you check your parking area?

Boredstop had a nice billboard published sometime back. A strong way to communicate the "risks" involved in your life.....for Nationwide Insurance.

Located in the north side of the Atlas Building in downtown Columbus Ohio, this billboard seems to be doing more rounds online than it would have attracted offline. Great execution - Just that one needs to see all the 3 billboards at the same time, and of course, in the right sequence!

Incidentally, a closer look just made me think - is this an ad for Coop's paints as well? ;-)

So, do you want to go and check the parking area once? ;-)
[via Ilya of Billboardom]

Sunday, July 22, 2007

All you need is “Luvs” – but All you get is Controversy!

How many times have you hummed a tune, which you really liked, only to realize that it featured in one of the recent Ads you saw? How many times have you seen a product in a store, and suddenly remembered the cute song that plays in its Advertisement? How many times have you purchased a product, only because you remember its ad on the TV/radio, and believe in the promises it has made?

Such is the power of a tune…a jingle in an advertisement. Any marketing 101 book would tell you that one of the key brand elements critical to any campaign is the jingle – a background tune that enables a strong brand association and recall. As a marketer, one would ideally want a tune that sticks to the consumer, such that it acts as a cue for her future purchases, and keeps his product high on recall.

Wikipedia defines a jingle as “a memorable slogan, set to an engaging melody, mainly broadcast on radio and..on television commercials. An effective jingle is constructed to stay in one's memory .. the best jingles could stick with a consumer for their entire life.. People still retain lingering brand loyalty to companies that are no longer in service, all because of one well-crafted tune

Such an effort of retaining brand loyalty was made by Saatchi and Saatchi, when they created the “All you need is Luvs” Campaign for Procter & Gamble’s diaper brand, Luvs.

Any rock fan (or even friends of rock fans!) would recognize the background song – the famous ‘60s number “All you need is Love” from Beatles. The song was meant to be a tribute to the world, and had a different meaning when it was released. So this time, when it is featured in a diaper ad, does it offend you? Do you feel agitated about a number of your favorite band being used for a diaper Ad?

If you are a smart marketer, passionate about your brand and focused towards ensuring “recall”, chances are you would not be bothered. However, considering that some topics are sensitive in nature, and the song was inspired by the Vietnam War, there is a possibility of hurting someone down the road. As articulated at Adrants,
.."if you're going to use "All You Need is Love" to push diapers, expect to be swathed in shit"

Yes, to a certain extent, it is valid. There are some fans, who did get offended, and have raised concerns over it too. Have a look at a recent article in the Times of India that gives a flavor of the sentiments of the fans.

But, this is not the first time that Beatles have inspired the ad makers. Beatles’s numbers have been used for Advertisements before, but not in such a direct controversial manner. More so, there are emotions attached to the Vietnam war, and the current Iraq war is akin to the conditions in Vietnam.

Since this song was inspired by Vietnam, some believe it is pertinent to the Iraq war as well. And with such emotions attached, if one tries to leverage it for diaper brands, they are bound to face some resistance!

And what are the marketers saying? Brandweek reported the comments from Saatchi & Saatchi’s Account Manager, Mark Rolland - “The song helps us break through the diaper advertising clutter and simply communicate to moms that Luvs diapers are ‘all you need’ to keep your baby happy

According to Promo Magazine, the song plays an important role in creating a stronger connection to the Luvs brand and awareness of its core benefit – leakage protection for less (Mark’s comments).

According to the article, the campaign is designed to offer a fresh approach to keep the brand relevant and top-of-mind with mothers.

Indeed, the Ad not only has reached the moms, but has reached few others too. Has it overstretched its “Clutter-breaking” attempt, or is it just another manner to get high recalls? Would this campaign follow the “Benetton” Advertising strategy of controversial advertising, or should we take this as an exception? I guess the coming month or two would be worth tracking the responses!

The campaign is not only restricted to National Television, but also features in DTC samples, a Net campaign, coupons and in-store displays and would move on to the next phase of their campaign in February. Wondering what “All we would need” then? Or after the Beatles fans, would it be the Elton John fans, when they hear the next one from Saatchi and Saatchi with the moms asking their kids….."Can you feel the Love tonight?” er…Luvs did you say? ;-)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Advertiser and the Consumer – Breaking up!

How would you describe the relationship between Advertiser and the Consumer? A romantic couple flirting with each other or an irritated couple not getting along at all, ready to separate..

A recent campaign on this "Break up” personifies this very relationship, and wonderfully articulates the differences cropping between them. Have a look ..

So, what exactly is the issue? - Agencies don’t realize that there is a problem and consumers don’t think that there is a solution to this problem – so most of them don’t speak up. It simply reflects in the results!

The campaign, titled “Bring the love Back” addresses the first part of the issue – the disconnect between the consumer and the advertiser – how they do not get along, how the advertiser does not understand the consumer, how he simply assumes that what he is and what he is doing is simply the best, and cannot figure out why the consumer does not like it….and how all this culminates into their separation – their break-up!

The creator of this campaign, Geert, Trade Marketing Manager at Microsoft, writes a regular blog on this campaign – Bring the Love Back. A downloadable presentation (movie.ppt) on the blog gives the background and plan around the campaign. According to the presentation, this new campaign by Microsoft addresses the evolving role of the new media and attempts to answer “how does a brand have to communicate in order not to lose its consumers?

Microsoft sees a strong potential in the new media and its role as the key player in this media. The action plan – first tell the consumers about the need, and then step forward to tell them that you can best address those needs for them…

According to the presentation, Microsoft plans to communicate at two levels – first create awareness and then substantiate the claim with relevant case studies and roadshows to keep the consumers involved, and engage them with Microsoft’s digital solutions.

The reason for choosing such a mode to articulate the point was to symbolize the personal communication between advertiser and consumer and demonstrate the expressions and emotions behind this communication.

The next step for Microsoft – articulate its role as a critical player in the new advertising age, by leveraging the awareness created through the campaign. As the presentation mentions, in response to the question “How do we make sure that we talk the talk and walk the walk?
The movie has to make the claim, then its time for the proof: cases, cases and again cases. Showing how you can communicate effectively and which role Microsoft’s digital media can play here. This is about roadshows, seminars, presentations and cases. To do this we will built a strong engagement plan and roadshows.”
Undoubtedly, the campaign delivers the intended communication and engages the consumer into identifying the voids in the new advertising world. What remains to be seen is the manner in which Microsoft translates this communication into a business opportunity and reinforces its command in the Advertising world.

Kudos to Geert for a simple, yet effective campaign. As mentioned, a series of this commercial would follow. What’s next? A 6’5” versatile hunk, who flirts with the consumer and engages in an emotional dialogue? Or two consumers who keep talking to each other about this guy they found?

Though I have limited ideas, would look forward to the next one in line…or should I say, the “Make up”! ;-)

[Via Experience the Message]

Picture the subtle messages communicated through some parts of the conversation -

  • wants a divorce: “you do all the talking, I never get a chance"
  • "I have changed and you haven’t"
  • "We don’t even hang out in the same places anymore!"
  • "If I say order this product, it isn’t exactly a dialogue!"
  • "You are saying that you love me, but you are not behaving like you love me"
  • "You are not even listening are you?"
  • "If you knew me, you would know I don’t care about that"
  • Putting up advertisements that apparently lure the consumer is “declaration of love”
  • "Come to the store – I have two words for you – loyalty and production"
  • assertion that he knows everything about the consumer and doesn’t have to bother about asking her – listen to the description :)
  • nonchalance reflected in the advertiser’s attitude, and
  • a final attempt by advertiser – "a chance to win a Bahamas vacation" – tactical promotions as the last attempt to get back the consumer…
  • At the end – “I want it to be like the old days” – the mindset of traditional advertising

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Consumer Education for Brand Engagement: Context without Content?

I have earlier discussed about Engagement marketing and Media Engagement in detail. Another facet of Engagement Marketing is Brand Engagement, which I briefly mentioned earlier.

Just to recap, Brand Engagement is the last step of Engagement Marketing (From Media Engagement to Ad Engagement to Engagement Marketing to finally, Brand Engagement). It ensures sustainability and loyalty towards the advertised Brand.

This happens when the messages and experiences blend into a combination culminating into a strong association with the brand per se, and not only the communication [previous post]

An article at Marketing Profs “Brand Engagement: Teach Your Customers Well” by Nick Wreden , published last week focuses on a specific component of Brand Engagement – Brand Education and its various forms and methods.

According to the article, Brand Engagement and Wikification have replaced previous models like “positioning” and have emerged as the “two great trends reshaping branding today” (as defined, wikification implies that brands are defined by customers—not companies—based on their own and others' interactions)

A critical component of Brand Engagement is Brand Education. Nick describes this brand education as having two components – Contextual Education and education on brand-usage. According to him, companies are doing great in the former, but failing in the latter, i.e. they have innovated wonderfully when it comes to promoting the experiences around a product, but have chosen to consciously ignore educating the consumer on the product usage and its benefits.

To understand this, let me go back to the definition of Engagement covered in my post on Engagement Marketing – “Engagement is defined as turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context..to make the brand more personally relevant and palatable to the consumer.”

In effect, what companies are doing is that they are focusing on the second half of the definition – enhancing the surrounding context in order to promote the purchases. Thus, enhancing experience has become one of the focus areas. The brand idea is covered, but is not sustainable, since there is no depth in understanding the product specifications and its benefits. Consumers merely engage with the contextual factors for the sake of impression management, or “status skills”*, as it is termed, and discount product knowledge per se.

Nonetheless, Product knowledge still holds paramount importance, as compared to focusing on creating and experience. As Nick mentions,

“One study claimed that 20% of consumers who learn a skill based on a product will buy that product, 65% will buy that brand again, and a mouth-opening, eyebrow-raising 96% will tell a friend about the experience.”

What the statistics reveal is a phenomenal impact of imparting product knowledge to the consumer. However, what is the impact of giving him an experience around the brand? Agreed that he might go and talk to his friends more about the experience and not about the brand per se, but the fact remains that this might translate into sales, even if the experience is what the consumer is looking for, and not so much about the product benefits per se.

Moreover, as I had presented a research input earlier, the process of consumer purchase is “Feel, then Think, then Do”, i.e. consumers process a lot of new information, including ads, on a subconscious, emotional level first, and later engage their rational mind to lead to action. So, a marketer should focus on raising stimulus to sensitize the consumer, to seduce the consumer, than provide fact-based push factors.

Thus, though Brand Education should be given priority, and cannot be compromised with, it is imperative that marketers move towards “Experiential Marketing” and context is factored strongly, too.

The article has some nice tips to offer, vis-à-vis imparting brand education, along with contextual education, like ensuring comprehensive product knowledge to the sales force and understandable consumer-educating tools (like website, manual, reports, white papers, etc.) and encouraging comprehensible training ensuring high involvement, which in turn would entail high absorption. Another nice input, worth quoting,

“Develop a virtual brand university: Go beyond product tutorials to offer online courses in material relevant to your brand. Proctor & Gamble has a "virtual university" for consumers. Sony offers online classes in digital photography and scrapbooking. Atkins has offered classes in nutrition and exercise. Financial services companies regularly offer e-courses on investing and retirement planning.”

Finally, C2C education also comes handy is the most effective form – education generated by the consumer, for the consumer. A few spaces have been mentioned in the article, like WikiHow, VideoJug, etc that focus on the “consumer-to-consumer education” route. Though these new avenues have their own ups and downs, i.e. on one hand, they act as the strongest testimonials, while on the other they run the risk of misinformation and negative WOM. However, they give a totally new dimension to designing the marketing strategy for the brands and a medium of providing education to their consumers – worth exploring once.

To summarize, to engage the consumer with the brand, marketers need to not only promote the experience to the consumer and provide incentives vis-à-vis the brand’s context, but also provide comprehensive education on the product behind the brand, and its benefits. For this, comprehensive product knowledge should be available to and at all touch points, with appropriate communication strategy complementing this initiative.

Else, chances are that the consumer would remember the celebrity promoting your brand, would recall the malls where it is available and the nice music the mall plays, would appreciate the schemes running on your brand, but when it comes to the product behind it, he might mumble his way off to sales….. ;-)
[via Marketing Profs]

* “Status skills” is coined by Reinier Evers, of Trendwatching.com, - using a brand in a way that improves their status / context in the community.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Error 404! Cannot find server..er..Consumer!

If you want to connect to your consumer, you need to talk to them in their language, using the tools they use, the forums they visit and communicate your differentiating point where it hits the most to them - in their own conditioned environment.

Thanks to Martina (Rocco Stallvord, actually), I could identify yet another conditioned view that we come across more than a few times daily – Error 404 – Cannot find server!

Basically, the website of West Wayne Agency, the page first seems like the same error 404, but then when you refresh, you notice that the same page communicates something different – just like the URL tries to connect to the server, the consumer tries to connect to the brand – and this is what happens when he cannot find the connect… and he disconnects!!

Solution? Have a look to what West Wayne suggests - call them people not consumers, and build a relationship with them...

Interestingly, one thing I noticed what worked in favor of West Wayne for such a creative – the call code! West Wayne has the contact office in Atlanta, Georgia, the calling code of which is 404! Therefore, HTTP 404 has an altogether different interpretation in this case. Maybe – this connect might have triggered the idea for all you know….

Nonetheless, a brilliant piece of execution – worth experiencing the disconnect yourself - simple, yet strong!

[Via Adverblog]

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Tomato Juice in Margarita? Using B2C learnings in B2B space

Jason, from Centric, a media agency, had given an interesting perspective on the essentials of B2B branding, and certain misconceptions that marketers have, with regards to the techniques that qualify as B2B.

In his post,The Key Failure of B2B Branding, Jason believes that most of the marketers consider B2B as a microcosm of B2C branding, and attempt to incorporate B2C marketing components in the B2B space, too.

His innuendoes on how consumer marketers, specifically, Procter & Gamble has some of the strongest brands, are worth mentioning…

"..if you throw tens of millions of dollars at promoting a product over a period of decades, of course it’ll have a strong brand. It’s been seen so many times that it’s become part of the culture. So yes, when you look at the strongest brands, they’re going to be consumer brands."

But where most of the marketers go wrong is when they take this understanding of “successful branding” and use the same recipe for their industrial brands as well. Naturally, just because tomato juice tastes nice in Bloody Mary doesn’t mean that you would use it to make Margarita as well, right?

Reasons? According to the post, essentially it’s customers vs. consumers. Be it communication, selling process, demand influencers or cost considerations, industrial customers don’t behave like consumers.

For them, profit motive and returns on their investments are the most important criteria. So, they are bound to think much more rationally, and take objective decisions - though not entirely, but the level of subjectivity is also, to a certain extent, predictable, in case of business markets.

But marketers, in their quest to maximize returns and “market” their brands to their customers, tend to spend more in advertising, use tactical measures similar to the ones applied in consumer markets, and tend to ignore scalability and cost considerations.

Solution? Look at who you are addressing, and what they want to know, NOT what you want to tell – though this is Consumer Behavior 101, but then, again, most of us want to always start from 401, assuming the first 3 chapters are the “usual stuff” !!

Specifically, the media being used by prospects, the communities they engage with (social or virtual), the level of details they look for and the tools they use for day-to-day operations and interactions, needs to be looked into. Based on the customer profiling (and not segmentation per se), marketers should engage with their customers at various platforms (offline as well as online), enhance their own visibility and focus on a two-way communication.

This two-way dialogue includes blogs, websites, podcasts and vodcasts (what I discussed in my previous entry), communities, etc. In the B2B world, it also translates to Consultative selling, educating the customers, money savings, loyalty programs, etc. In effect, one can infer that the level of communication and feedback in B2B is much more, vis-à-vis that done in the B2C space (However, virtual media is changing that notion, too).

This point of conversing with the customer has been reiterated in the article, Conversational Marketing in 2 minutes, where people need to be engaged in an ongoing dialogue. The objective of this exercise is to get feedback from the customers regularly, make customers talk about the brands, and engage them with the overall brand per se. Though the concept focuses on Consumer markets primarily, a page or two can definitely be borrowed while designing the brand communication for industrial brands.

So, what is the point to be made? Essentially, though there are things one could pick from the Consumer world, and apply some of them after selective filtration to the industrial markets, one cannot do a direct “cut-paste” job from the essentials of B2C marketing. B2B markets have their own behavioral patterns, something which should be looked into, first and then, modified based on the learnings from the other world! A nice quote from Jason to summarize the point “treat your audience as a social network, not like a broadcast audience

So, though a Bloody Mary tastes good, may as well look into the taste of Margarita first; if you want to get a better taste, may as well put some more lime juice in your Margarita, and not tomato juice! Or better still, an additional shot of tequila would give you a better kick, too. Or should I say, an RoI? ;-)

Centric is a new gen media agency, specializing in some of the emerging and most promising media mix – be it Virtual media in terms of Second Life, online event management, etc. or Interactive Advertising, or Integrated campaign development. It deservingly calls itself the “Agency of change” and rightly, it IS into the elements that would position it as an agency of change.

[Image Source: Mama Drama ]

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Time-management technique for Workaholics: Podcasts and Vodcasts

The latest edition of Harvard Business Review (June 2007) has a small note on how employees can leverage technology to learn and revisit their company details and how companies, in turn, can leverage the same technology for internal branding. The article, Employees get an Earful, by Anders Gronstedt, talks about how employees, particularly salesmen, can either listen to podcasts or watch vodcasts (video podcasts) to get latest updates on their company, just before their meetings and calls.

"At companies that use internal podcasting or vodcasting, employees don’t have to stop working to learn, and they can make productive use of their downtime. People can listen while driving to client meetings or watch while waiting in airports. For those who don’t mind blurring the line between free time and work, podcasts enable constructive intrusions into commuting, walking the dog, or running on the treadmill"

According to the article, “Portable media players, including video-enabled phones, have rapidly become mainstream tools for internal business communications”. Now that initial investments are controllable (as mentioned in the sidebar “Getting started in internal podcasting”), companies have started exploring this channel with keen interest.

With companies like IBM, Xerox, National Semiconductor,etc. incorporating this in their internal systems and processes, it is only a matter of time that others would follow, too.

Looking ahead, podcasts and vodcasts would act as critical tools in internal communications, in cases where employees have an established comfort level with the technology. It is quite relevant for salesmen/field reps, since they need to be connected to the system real-time and need to process information under time constraints. There are cases where employees are more comfortable with this technology, and prefer it over white papers and training sessions.

Subsequently, this could be incorporated into other internal functions of the organization – be it in terms of training modules, or PR or internal branding.
As companies create data/media tools on a regular basis ensuring regular usage by employees, this can be considered as yet another element in the emerging Social media: Encouraging C2C interaction by way of developing communities and storing podcasts on social platforms like blogs & forums, employees are encouraged to get more engaged with the company – a perfect way for reinforcing internal branding.

…worth keeping a watch on..

For now, something to cheer for the workaholics – NO time is FREE time now! ;-)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Fond of collecting Shells? - Think about the snails first!

A powerful & provocative ad that reflects upon the condition of the refugees, who are forced out of their homes.

According to Spluch,

The United Nations refugee agency is running a provocative international advertising campaign that employs shock tactics to raise awareness about its work and drum up public support for those who have been forced to flee their homes.

The pro bono TV campaign, launched in Canada earlier this month and also running in about a dozen countries in Europe, South America and Africa, was created by the Toronto office of the BBDO advertising agency, said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which hopes the drive will help raise $1.8 million for the agency this year.

Using shock tactics, this seemingly animated piece draws an analogy to the process of pulling a snail out its shell - the pain and the cruelty associated with it, and the disturbing site that ensues.

Something to reflect upon. Commendable execution of the creative, a fine piece of Social Marketing

[Sources: Google Video, Spluch]

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Long-term Marketing - Not a Quick Fix..

Found an interesting perspective on what should marketers looking for a long-term marketing career invest in, to ensure that their businesses are sustainable and successful.

John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing, recommends 3 imperatives for Long-term marketing - the 3 essential marketing practices required for producing results - the 3 Cs: Content, Connection and Community.

  • Content - self-growth and increasing self-worth and market credibility. This could be done through blogs, white papers, workshops, articles, etc.
  • Connection - personal relationships need to be reinforced to be leveraged subsequently - through co-creating experiences with them, by way of stories, training and other brand elements
  • Community - a social network, that moves beyond personal relationships and penetrates into the local communities, and social circles. This can be done by way of investing time & money in social projects, get-togethers planned with clients, initiating and maintaining forums, creating opportunities for continuous engagement with the communities, referral networks, etc.
To summarize, one needs to invest into enhancing self-worth, building personal relationships and get involved with the community, to ensure payoffs in the long run. Quick fixes tend to work for self-claimed marketers holding on to a short-term orientation.

Thanks to John Caddell's post on Strategic Marketing, who also gives an insight into his own experiences and learning from this perspective.

Geo TV (Pakistan): Innocence under fire!

Found this creative at Brand Synario - a Pakistan-based advertising website. I have rarely come across ads produced in that region, and this one gives a fine sample of the level of creativity presented there.

A nice piece for Geo TV, "Innocence under fire!" or "Jeeyo or jeene do" campaign that summarizes the kind of news being produced in the region these days. Through this campaign, it attempts to send out a social message to people to reduce the tensions amongst themselves - using the emotion-drivers...the kids!

A nice way to position itself as a channel that does not show violence all the time, and a channel endorsed by kids. A key influencer for parents in recommending channels is the influence of those channels to their children - this ad leverages this pattern and gets the same kids to endorse the channel.

Nice piece. Have a look.

brandsynario.com is a project of Synergy; the fastest growing Integrated Marketing & Communications Group in Pakistan. Starting off as a single source advertising concern in 1999, the Group has now become a trusted Integrated Marketing & Communications Solution partner for some of the key local and multinational players in the industry.

In-store Marketing Tactics – Simulation for Consumers, Stimulation for Marketers..

With the changing behavior of the consumers, and newer channels evolving, companies are fighting for consumer mindspace. More than that, and a step before, in fact, is the battle for catching attention and a portion of the eye span of the consumers – of getting attention towards your products, out of the clutter of consumer goods shelved along with you! This is the reason most companies use tactical measures at the final touch point – the retail outlets, to drive sales.

They attempt to plant “traffic stoppers” in a bid to make the consumers stand up and take notice of their offerings. What would you suggest to introduce such “traffic stoppers” at the POP?

Follow the “P”s and you would recommend innovative packaging, advanced product technologies, sales promotions, etc etc. But what if these methods have been tried and tested, and failed, too! What next?

A recent research at Mckinsey Quarterly discussed an innovative application of technology in in-store marketing. The article, “Using technology to improve in-store marketing” by Jim Brennan and Scott Liles, summarizes a recent case study taken up by Mckinsey for a consumer goods manufacturer.

With insights required from in-store shopping experience, and key customer profiling and preferences to be mapped to in-store investments, the company had limited resources and options with itself, to experiment and test inside the retail outlets. With constraints like multi-site management, long waiting period and high investments per customer, the company had to look for alternatives to identify its areas for improvements.

To add to that, sales driven retailers have increasingly become reluctant in adopting newer products, and as they grow, the filtering process tends to become much stronger for new product introductions (NPIs).

Solution? As what every new world marketer would think, for every marketing problem, there is… the online space – so was the case here too. A virtual shopping simulation was conducted online, with real participants, and based on the behavioral patterns and customer preferences the results were applied in the real environment subsequently.

As the article mentions

"The manufacturer developed an online interactive-shopping simulation to analyze the individual and collective impact of various in-store marketing tactics. Real-life participants browsed through a virtual store aisle, examined products, and “spent” a set amount of money."

Eventually, opportunities that were indicated as high potential included “redesigned shelf sets that highlighted the manufacturer’s charitable efforts, more sophisticated end caps (the displays at the end of shopping aisles), and in-store and on-shelf advertising”.

Traditionally, in-store marketing tactics that have been adopted by companies, as mentioned in an old article by Mike Kirkwood, include counter Displays near checkout, Display Racks, Banners, Posters, Streamers and shelf talkers – with messages that would make the consumer stop and read or take notice. The Point-of-Purchase is also termed as the “in-store silent Salesperson”, wherein the product communication itself acts as a driver for sales. This simulation reinforced the key options that would be the ‘most beneficial’ to the company.

There are companies that are developing this kind of Simulation applications as well. Vision Critical’s Fusion seems to be in line with the tools used above. According to the company’s product portfolio, Fusion is a complementary suite of rich media applications that include interactive visuals, streaming video and 3D virtual environments.

It mentions that respondents have a greater preference and higher participation rates toward visual testing and therefore, the results are less biased and more insightful. Some of the tests conducted through this product include Package testing, Product testing, Feature testing, Price point testing and Label testing.

This might be a familiar concept for the Second Life citizens, where NPI and brand launches are already happening and have attracted constructive consumer feedback as well.

But can this simulation be generalized for all product categories? More so, can it be applied to any retail environment? How much of these insights can be translated from an online simulation environment to an offline real-time in-store experience?

Reiterating what has also been touched upon, in the article, it is difficult to get insights in case of high involvement products, or specifically, where either the price points are high, risks perceived are high or product knowledge is limited.

A key pointer mentioned is that it removes biases to generate results. However, where I disagree a bit is that this is precisely the environment in which consumers would shop, and any impact of these biases should figure in the tactics designed. Consumers need to be engaged with the shopping process, and their involvement levels are influenced with the ambience as well. Any pilots, if they do not factor these biases, would obviously give unrealistic results/patterns – a conventional flaw in some of the theoretical marketing models!

All said and done, it definitely resolves the issues mentioned above – the costs incurred, multi site issues, long waiting time – all this has been addressed by the new media; but it still needs to factor impact of local ambience, store formats as well as people skills –something that would definitely be pertinent to getting the “consumer’s attention” – whether positively or negatively!

Companies familiar with “In-store advertising” understand the ways/media being used currently. I had earlier talked about how in-store advertising was evolving into newer forms of indoor media. As I had mentioned that time, seems like the factor of DSCA or Desperately Seeking Consumers Attention is advancing into marketing tactics, too...

So, you can either say that "companies should ensure that the right level of subjectivity should be factored while translating research results into practical on-the-ground strategies, to ensure that they not only communicate but also connect to the consumers, to give them a pleasant and valuable experience"

or simply,
"Just make them pick up my bloody product, will ya!"

[References: Mckinsey Quarterly Web exclusive, April 2007, In-Store Sales Techniques – July/August 2003; Image source: P&G Annual Report, Buy my Stuff, Sleeping child]

Incidentally, while browsing through in-store marketing tactics, there was this interesting insight I managed to get hold on to. Mentioned in the recently held
In-Store Marketing Summit, on the April 19-20, 2007, at Oak Brook, IL, that on an average, consumers cover & shop at only about 25% of the store. The perimeter of the store remains the most trafficked, most highly merchandised and most “glamorized” section.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Remember – You’re in charge..

Found a nice piece of Ad on this week’s Best Ads for Remember Credit Card.

A nice creative, that connects to a unique subtle thought pattern of each one of us – the impulses within us that are beyond the zone of “Acceptability” and stay within our heads only!

Picture this – (read it slowly)…
Its not just you – we all have the most bizarre thoughts and impulses constantly flowing through our heads that might have dramatic consequences, if they actually went through with them…

This is what the Ad is about – how our attitudes are NOT governed by our impulses, but by a sensible controlled thought process – in most of the occasions. A basic apprehension attached to credit cards is that it entails profligacy, and one does not have control of his/her expenses. A nice way to counter this apprehension and invoke a change in behavior….Have a look

A nice phrase to summarize the entire creative…
"Remember - Just because you can do something, that doesn’t mean you will…
Remember – you’re in charge.."

Incidentally, the website of the credit card, though in Swedish, has some interesting features, worth exploring. If you want to find out about the application process and the procedure, the home page directs you to an interactive panel, where your host is waiting for you to explain things around. Though all the text and explanation is in Swedish, thankfully he talks English!

With a well targeted choice of language, the set of 4 videos covers, in a nutshell, the need of a credit card, the need of “re:membercredit card, and a product comparison with other credit cards. It elaborates on the consumption habits and usage patterns vis-à-vis a credit card, and enunciates the solutions to all the problems it cites during the interactive!

From the misconceptions we carry about a credit card to inflexibilities attached to the “usual” credit cards, the interactive suggests you to move beyond the "Conventional thinking of monthly consumption, where most of us have a financial horizon of a month, and we plan our life around the lunar calendar".

And what is the solution?
You decide how to run your life and then, better ways to finance it.; How to pay for what you buy, by borrowing money from your future self – a credit card that evolves with you – a credit card where you are in charge".

Specifically, the card helps you plan (your own payment plan), and planning gives you a greater command of your life – “Remember! When you have a plan, you're in charge!”

Moreover, it helps you deal with the unexpected. When unexpected things happen, you should be able to move on, and not get bothered by them – “key is to be in charge of the unexpected

Finally, it even congratulates you, when you decide to apply for a credit card….a perfect online companion and friend for you…

Thus, it reinforces the central theme of being in control of your expenses by planning things around you, and a tool that facilitates this planning is your remember credit card, that helps you….in a way so that you're in charge!
Commendable execution – worth a look

Wonder what all the recovery agents would have to say to this…;-)

Still despise the credit cards?

Agency: DDB Stockholm, Country: Sweden
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