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 ]