Friday, November 28, 2008

What's the opposite of celebrity endorsement?

I mean... what's the official term for the situation where a person in the public eye and a key influencer of significant amounts of people decides put down or generally voice a negative view about something?

Celebrity derisement perhaps?

Now I've previously commented that Celebrity is not to be confused with influence, but when a person has both of these and they start giving their opinions, people listen and act accordingly.

This was once-again brought to my attention yesterday when Rory Cellan-Jones mentioned Stephen Fry's negative Twitter comments about his new Blackberry Storm on Twitter. It seems that one man is able to make a difference in the successful launch and selling of a product.

The topic must therefore get around to the question of "which celebrity derisement do you need to avoid?" or "which key inflencer's negative sentiment causes the most impact?". How do you find this out?

A theory:
By understanding, measuring and plotting your company's corporate social graph, you can specifically identify your celebrity influencers as well as other key figures (journalists, officials, etc.) and appropriately deal with their positive and negative endorsement.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

CRM - old acronym, same business value

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has its roots in the basic business justification that:
you should satisfy customers with the best possible product in the market
through a relational exchange process.
Its as simple as that! However,the term has fallen out of favour to more recent and newly-hyped theories & tools such as anaytics-based and 1-to-1 marketing . Why?

Customer relationship management goes beyond the normal transactional model (customer told, customer buys, customer goes away) but actaully enables the marketer to estimate the customer's sentiment and buying intention, so that the customer can be provided with products and services before they start asking (or even realise).

This is possible through the integration of four important company components:

  • people
  • process
  • technology
  • data.

Perhaps its time we take a look again at CRM.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The digital future of the BBC

For those who haven't been following what's been happening with the BBC recently, I'll try and recap:

  1. The BBC Trust on Friday (21st November) has rejected plans, described as 'controversial', to launch a network of local BBC news websites with video content.
  2. This scheme would have cost around £68m, but was judged "unlikely to meet [licence fee payers] needs" or improve the service
  3. The regional press has welcomed this decision, as it saw these plans as direct competition to their own local efforts (less laughing at the back there please) and would potentially affect their revenues by 4% per year.

This is in direct contract to nearly every other major media player, who is currently cutting back its regional news operations (e.g. even ITV). For more information see the well-balanced report on the BBC website.

What I believe the BBC management have done is find an area of communication (e.g. local coverage) that isn't the subject of innovation and ground-breaking new models that we would have once hoped for from the regional press. By planning a new, alternative and professional service that moves the Corporation one step further from broadcaster to local media hub, it surely is only trying to provide what people want?

This isn't necessarily the end of the matter. There is still a public consultation process which will see the final decision given on the 9th January 2009.

Perhaps the BBC now needs a new Media Relations Manager?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Good service from UK Customer Service?

I recently posted on how good Customer Service can make a difference in these current difficult economic times. However just how efficiently are Customer Service departments dealing with the people they are supposed to help?

Well, apparently not very well, as in the UK we spend almost five days a year communicating with customer services by phone, in person or via the Internet.

This astonishing fact comes from a recent European DHL survey that suprisingly shows that 5.8billion hours a year in the UK are spent dealing with Customer Services staff. This is an average of two hours & 16 minutes a week......!

The UK's top three dislikes about customer service are:
  • waiting times (83%)
  • language barriers (80%)
  • lack of knowledge (74%)
Can you afford to upset the very customers you are supposed to be helping?

Friday, November 21, 2008

What's in a name?

Ok, slightly off-topic posting today. But given that Mrs Sutherland is pregnant right now and we're still deliberating names.... I couldn't help but share this funny

Skyping Baby Names

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Multi-channel online sales

Offering products through multiple online retail channels is a great way to gain improved sales!

Why do I say this? Well you may currently be making enough money on your current branded eCommerce site to keep the boss and shareholders happy, but what are you missing out on?

Answer: An opportunity!

Lets put this another way, your customers don't always use the same online channel to:
Gain awareness, review features, understand detail, discuss their potential purchase, etc. Some use shopping comparison sites (e.g. Google Shopping, etc.) , some go direct to brand sites, some go to independent & industry-recognised reviews and others ask their friends on social networks.

Q: Doesn't that just commoditise our product?
Sure, there's the chance that cusomers just look at price, but that happens anyway. Others use multiple online sources to gain information and clarify their purchasing decision. If you are not present when they are making that decision you are missing an opportunity.

Q. How do I do this ?
Easily! Most eCommerce software/vendors allow you to take a regular product (including price, image reference and even inventory/stock) feed from your online catalogue/database. This feed (usually in XML format) can be provided to key partners or affiliates, who can easily re-format it and put it up on their site to work for you.
Note: If your eCommerce provider says this is difficult or even impossible to do this, consider reviewing their contract ASAP

Q. Doesn't this cannibalise my existing eCommerce operation?
Possibly and lets be honest about this. If you are running a successful online sales channel and you provide a feed allowing your products to be sold on other channels, then there is this risk. This can however be measured and avoided by carefully selecting your channel partners. This comes from understanding & comparing the sales made with that of your own site . It may be that these partner channels target a different demographic or catch people at an entirely different part of the product consideration process. Careful analysis is imprortant here.

Has anyone got any more questions?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The influential millennials

There's no getting away from them, the Millennial are a defined generation, typically born in the Thatcher & Reagan years and beyond (or the 'Eighties & Ninties' if you prefer). They're also referred to as 'Generation Y' (the one that came after Generation X, obviously) and the biggest generation in numbers ever.

So just how influential are they?

Well, in Europe they make up about eleven percent of the workforce despite having higher costs for higher education than previous generations.

Having never known a world without the Internet, they obviously spend a great amount of time online and 18-24 year-olds make up 19% of the adult online population. But despite their apparent stereotype, they do not demonstrate the impatient, self-absorbed and disloyal characteristics sometimes labelled to them, but instead they are more optimistic, more loyal and less rebellious than previous generations .

Even though these tech-savvy young adults may still live at home with their parents, they do strongly influence many adult consumer buying choices (e.g. parent shopping habits) particularly the family technology preferences and habits. In a recent Motorola study Millennial were shown exerting: considerable influence on parental decisions about cable, DSL and satellite service, as well as on which HDTV to purchase, and even which programming packages to buy.

A slightly older piece of research from 2006 showed they influence household purchases in the fol owing ways:
  • 81% of clothing and apparel purchases
  • 77% of groceries purchases
  • 76% of movie, video, DVD purchases
  • 69% of video games and systems purchases
  • 68% of computer purchases
  • 66% of cellphone and computer software purchases…

And lets not forget that they are now politically active. For example in January 2007 Farouk Olu Aregbe, a student government coordinator at the University of Missouri, launched a Facebook group, "One Million Strong for Barack."

As mentioned by Brad Sago, in his report on The Online Shopping Psychology and Expectations of Millennials:

Over the next few decades, Millennials will continue to stamp their own unique imprint on business and society.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Modern Brand Building

I've been getting increasingly frustrated with some companies I have spoken to and their treatmant/attitude to their own brand (I won't name them right now, as we're currently tracking their activity as part of some client reasearch we're doing).

Has no brand manual (the logo use varies from campaign to campaign, fonts are varied, writing style is confused, etc.) yet they think they have a great brand. It seems that sales are declining in their high-specialised market right now, but this is the 'customers fault for not understanding them'.

Has a great 'brand bible', put together less than a year ago by a highly-paid brand consultancy, yet has started to ignore these guidelines because the person who commissioned/championed the work has left (they went on to bigger & better things). They have now been replaced with someone who wants to put their own "emphasis on things".

The thoughts that my companyIdeal Interface have taken from this experience has been:
  1. Document your brand (if you don't know, how are your customers going to?)
  2. Take every opportunity to use your branding across all channels
  3. Be consistent, be very consistent

So once again, I find myself referring to the work of Mr Paul Isakson and his thoughts on branding in the modern age:

Monday, November 17, 2008

Motrin apologies

An update:

Following a social media outcry, McNeil Healthcare (the parent company) have issued an apology on the homepage of their website

As well as this, they have also issued apologies via email to concerned customers and pledged to remove all occurences of the offending advert as quickly as possible.

This apology seems to have been relatively well received:

I'm sure there will be several commentators out there who will provide their opinion on this series of events, but here's my main bullet points:
  • Following the backlash, McNeil Healthcare, and in particular its VP if Marketing, seem to have responded over the weekend and today (I guess time will tell how badly this has affected brand and revenues)
  • Several Motrin names on Twitter have now been taken by 'concerned' individuals (I'll not post who they are, as I don't think they have acted entirely in the public's best interest)
  • Brands can no longer afford to ignore social media and should take steps to monitor the mentions and sentiment all the time

Further reading:

A social media crisis for Motrin

Word has reached these shores of a Social Media backlash to the TV adverts for Motrin a painkiller in the US.

The ad targetted mums who carry their child in a sling on their body and went on to mention how this this is fashionable and gives you back pain. They haven't gone as far as to say "your child is a pain in the neck", but a lot of people took offence to the clip, blogging about it:
(e.g. ) and using Twitter. (At this time of writing, the website is even down).

Judge for yourself :

This is a warning to every brand. Your customers could take offence, even at your highly-researched campaign, especially if it targets a sensitive section of the population (e.g. new mums). Make sure you have plans in place for how to deal with this sort of crisis and learn from how other companies respond.
(Note to Motrin: Perhaps taking down your own website at a point like this isn't the best policy?)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Predicting the future

As I look forward to becoming a father in 2009, I've been thinking about what the future has in store over the next year. This therefore brought me round to think about how companies can use modern methods of communication to try and predict what lies ahead.

Astrology, tarot cards, tea leaves, etc. have now been replaced by: scenario modelling, data-mining and a lot of computation & analysis. However I can help but think that this is still similar to palm reading and its ilk. Why? Well, it still uses one critial part of the system that is fallable... the human component!

Although a single human may be considerably inaccurate at predicting the future (Old Moore, Nostradamas, etc.), is a collective group of humans any good at guessing what happens next? Well, on the basis of the recent financial crisis, it would seem not , but perhaps there is light at the end of the predictive tunnel....

The recent USA Presidential Campaign was

Friday, November 14, 2008

Integrity and why we have forgotten about it?

OK, I've focused a few of my postings over the last few months on brand values used by companies (e.g. this one on Human Attributes). These are often words such as: Trustworthy, Transparent, Approachable, Innovation, Collaboration, etc.

But after reading through many of these from different companies, I've noticed one word missing from the collective bunch... Integrity

Why is this?

Why do companies not include "The steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code" as a differentiator?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New York Times is spoofed

I was sent an email by a friend yesterday, who told me about a free version of the New York Times they apparently picked up yesterday. After they read the surprise headline 'Iraq War Ends' and saw the date of 4th July 2009, they realised it might not be genuine.

A quick search on the web, shows that the NYT actually noticed as well:

It seems that newspapers still have a role in getting the message across, but its perhaps more worrying that they had to give away the 1.4 million printed copies of this hoax, rather than charge the cover price for what is obviously a great souvenir!

Virgin Airlines and Facebook....

... the problem otherwise known as 'the case for segmenting your personal Social Graph'.

For those who aren't aware, Virgin Airlines recently sacked 13 of its staff for calling its passengers 'chavs' and apparently criticising the company's safety standards

“There is a time and a place for Facebook. But there is no justification for it to be used as a sounding board for staff of any company to criticise the very passengers who pay their salaries.”

"But hang on.... this is Virgin Atlantic Airlines" I hear people say. "They are the 'fly in the British Airways ointment', the company that has a Facebook page with quotes from Richard Branson, endorsements by James Bond and they actively encourage their customers to take silly photos of your free DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) socks as you travel the globe with them".

But, in my opinion there is a definite difference between a company presenting itself in a friendly way on a social networking site and the action of some employees venting their frustrations and opinions on the same platform.

Is this therefore not a principle case for segmenting the different contacts in an individual's Facebook account? Surely to have: work colleagues, school mates, customers and everyone else all seeing everything you say or do is not what anyone really wants? Wouldn't it be better to classify some aquaintances in one way (e.g. Business contacts) and others in another way (e.g. people I can say what I like to)?

Classification and segmentation of a personal social graph must obviously be the next step for all multi-purpose social networks (or over vertical/market-specific social networks that allow you to import your entire social graph). Perhaps following that segementation, companies will be likely to follow-suit and understand just who within their Corporate Social Graph they can have contact with and what that contact should be.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Michael Rosenblum tells it like it is

Forward thinking Michael Resenblum tells it like it is this week whilst backstage at the Society of Editors conference in Bristol:

His words during the conference were very powerful. Quotes such as:

“Any idiot can do this, making TV is not hard, it's not complicated, it's not difficult. The technology makes it incredibly simple.”

were meant to galvanise publishers into thinking more about cost-effective TV production and less about paper. It the news that's inportant, not how its delivered.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A failed experiment

I've been following a rather heated debate started by Scott Karp over at Publishing 2.0 on the failed business models of traditional (old) publishing. He's had some intersting debate, mainly thanks to his main challenge that newspapers aren't entitled to make a profit just because they think its a valued venture.

Or to quote him directly:
Nobody has the right to a business model.
Amen to this! The World is filled with people who had a great but failed idea. Why should the newspaper industry survive just because:
  • "that's always the way we've done things"
  • "that's what I trained for"
  • "we helped bring down a government in the 1970's"
  • etc.
Now I've already covered this subject in a post back in April "What does press2.0 really mean?" but to put it more succinctly.

We may eventually find that the profitable running of a newspaper was a failed experiment!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Better than free

I've covered the subject of the gift economy previously in my posting Open Source Your Idea. But thought it needed further coverage. This happens when the economies of scale work on a global level (thanks to the Internet) and the cost of distribution becomes almost zero (but never really really reaches it), it becomes a business advantage to give at least part of your products away (and is still recommended as a strategy by some eminent VC's).
For example, just take a look at how many 'lite', 'freemium' or 'trial' versions of software packages there are out there (I'm currently a sucker for the demo / trial versions of applications on my iPhone).

So, you've recouped the cost of development, shown it costs you virtually nothing to produce a copy (e.g. software, an idea, a process, etc.) and then your strongest competitor comes along with something...... and charges for it. What makes it worse is that customers pay for it, a lot of them.

So how does that work?

Well according to Kevin Kelly, a great modern thinker, Editor-At-Large for Wired magazine and Author of the 1997 book New Rules for the New Economy (which still holds true 11 years on), there are 8 reasons for paying for something rather than settling for a free version:
  1. Immediacy
  2. Personalisation
  3. Interpretation
  4. Authenticity
  5. Accessibility
  6. Embodiment
  7. Patronage
  8. Findability

Basically, there are several reasons why paid-for stuff is better than free.

It therefore strikes me, in these modern and leaner times, that companies need to reconsider if the really need to give everything away and that this may be the difference between profit & loss (and therefore economic survival).

Friday, November 7, 2008

Customer Service makes a difference in crunch times

As my old Economics teacher used to say "in a perfect market, all prices are known and the market finds its equilibrium quickly". And thanks to all sorts of online innovations (e.g comparision sites) the price of similar products (e.g. groceries) and services (e.g. insurnace) becomes increasingly easy to compare. These items therefore get increasingly competitive (e.g. near enough the same everywhere).

Therefore, assuming the quality remains constant, the only real competitive edge comes in the delivery and support of the item. In other words, the service provided, either during the transaction or afterward, becomes the difference.

This is especially true online, where customers think they get a lesser service compared to in-store. This is proven in a recent survey, where eight out of ten consumers believed they get better customer service in-store, rather than on the internet or over the telephone. What's even more surprising (especially in these more-frugal times of a recession) is that 73.4% say they are prepared to pay more for a product if they receive a better service in-store.

Tim Ogle, CEO at Retail Eyes , who did the survey is quoted as saying:

The public has spoken - even when their pockets are stretched in times of financial adversity like now, they are prepared to pay for quality of service.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

UK retailers face tough time

Recently I was appalled to find out that there is an insolvency specialist who has compiled a list of 323 retailers it thinks stand a 70% or greater chance of going under by the New Year.

The idea is that banks will continue to finance retailers over the coming Christmas period, when a lot of retailers make a significant proportion of their money, This will be in the hope that this revenue is enough to keep them afloat.

The role of companies like Begbies Traynor is to rescue companies about to go under. Its therefore good business for corporate insolvency specialists to identify those who are not doing good business (think of this as the equivalent of a corporate dead pool)

Mark Fry of Begbies Traynor said:

"There is every chance we will witness a rash of retail failures at the start of 2009"


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Suffering Election Burnout?

If you've already had enough of the USA elections, you could be suffering from election burnout.

But share a though for those gamers currently playing the new Burnout Paradise xBox360 console game. This is currently one of the screen shots captured from a particularly slippery part of the xBox Live course:

Thanks to Dan Shust over at Resourch Interactive for the image.

Although this story has now been picked-up by several of the mainstream media such at the UK Telegraph, what nobody has so-far done is identify who these targetted adverts are aimed at.

However, I think I now have identified who this online gaming population segment are and may even have captured one of them mid-play:


Given the shenanigans going on in the USA today, I thought this old Bob Hope clip was quite funny!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Multi-channel madness

Its not enough these days to be great just online or to make lots of sales on the High Street (unless you're a discount retailer, that's not really happening these days). No, you now have to be good across a range of different sales or communication options... known as multi-channel.

But how do you make sense of it all? Well, if you are using more than one communication or retail channel, then you need to think about how to leverage these touch-points so that you get the right mix of: message, content, sales, support and whatever else.
So, if you:
  • Advertise online to get customers into store
  • Provide a kiosk for an online newspaper
  • Sell online and have customers collect from store

Then you've probably found out already how mad it can be.

But are you providing the mix that your customers want? For example, in the US earlier this year, retail customers cited the 'Ability to return merchandise to a a store, even if it was purchased online or over the phone' as the feature they desired the most from multichannel.

For those about to embark on this epic journey, multi-channel comes with its own set of challenges, including:

  • The analysis (and decision) of what channels to implement
  • Identifying the right metrics/KPI's across channels (and then actually measuring & acting on them)
  • Organizational impact from exisiting 'siloed' departments
  • Maintaining the message consistency across channels
  • Finding or building the central technology to manage the whole thing
  • Integration of the data between disparate systems

I'm going to try an focus on these challenges (and quite possibly more) in forthcoming posts and try to figure out how to avoid or resolve them. Hopefully it won't make us all mad in the process.