Thursday, 29 January 2009

Virgin turns problem into a PR masterstroke

This story about a letter of complaint to Richard Branson shows the strength of the Virgin brand and provides good insight into how Virgin truely understand how to manage the customer brand experience.

It works on many levels.

Richard Branson telephones a loyal but hacked-off customer. This action alone probably turned that customer into an advocate.

Virgin’s PR machine then goes into overdrive. They circulate the letter and talk about the telephone call.

It's brilliant.

At a stroke Virgin have turned a loyal but disaffected customer into a likely advocate and created an awesome PR story.

All brands should take note. Brands organisations need to have systems in place that can effectively handle customer problems because, when handled elegantly, it is possible to transform unhappy customers into powerful advocates.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Cadbury's eyebrows

I saw the Cadbury’s ‘eyebrows’ film on YouTube last week..

I don't think it's another gorilla...but I liked it.

Faris [who alerted me to the new film] made some good observations about how Fallon [Cadbury’s agency] are getting good at making films the internet likes.

Here are some of his tips:

- Leave out all that stuff about product. As much as you can anyway.
- Make people feel something nice, link that association with your brand
- Give people things to copy, or respond to, or play with
- Don’t take yourself or your brand too seriously

If you are going to deliver brand promises via traditional TV then consider how you can use these tips to help enhance the brand experience.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Burger King's facebook promotion was not joined-up

This is an example of a great idea potentially being let down by ineffective brand experience management.

I refer to the recent Burger King "Whopper Sacrifice" Facebook promotion (Facebook users got a free Whopper coupon in exchange for dropping 10 friends from their account).

Chris Ondrula, chief operating officer of a Chicago-area Burger King franchise, is quoted as saying: “Franchisees were concerned about being deluged with Whopper coupons and had been caught flat-footed…..they would like to be kept in the loop when things like that happen, as it puts people behind the register in a difficult position not to know what [customers] are talking about."

I appreciate that Burger King is a massive and complex business, but to not inform the people serving customers what was happening is a classic example of an organisation that is not delivering joined-up brand experiences.

The lesson from this is simple.

When planning any kind of brand experience that involves front line teams best practise is to get all stakeholders to work together to plan how the activity can most delight the consumer.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Why don’t Banks change their approach to customer service?

My mate Ingrid recently wrote about how rubbish UK some banks are at customer service; and asked why they stick to the old model given the financial crisis and massive decline in consumer trust.

I couldn’t agree with her more. Why don’t they change?

I read with interest that Walkovia (US bank) continues to be the highest scoring bank for customer service and that despite struggling this year with financial and regulatory problems, it continues to tout its reputation for good customer service.

I wanted to understand the reasons behind their success and discovered that last year they had recruited their first "customer experience executive" (Michael Sherck).

His job description says it all: “My job is to stand in the shoes of the customer, to make sure that every employee at the line level is doing the right thing for the customer. How do we do that? We take great care of the employees. That's the first step.”

Powerful stuff. There is more.

The current program their are working on involves calling 1 million + customers in the next four months, just to thank them for their business. He thinks while most will just say: "Wow, that's great, thank you very much," a lot will probably respond with: "Wow, I appreciate your call, and I had something I want to discuss with you."

UK banks could learn a thing or two from Walkovia about how to delight consumers with positive brand experiences.

Mind you…a posting that appeared on the news story article about this bank shows the challenges the web has created for brands' today.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Brands should invest in working out how to use Twitter

I’m new to Twitter but I discovered, thanks to Mashable, that there are a number of brands that are working out how to use it.

Here are some of the reasons why some of them say they use Twitter:

Jet Blue

To demonstrate the brand is built by people who care
To talk too many, but even better… to listen.


To humanise the Ford brand and put consumers in touch with real employees.
To test how it could support strategic communications.


To develop a relationship and build a dialogue with consumers.


To listen, learn and engage with blogs and other social media.

The numbers are quite small (100 – 36,000 followers) but it a brand uses Twitter to successfully engage with it's consumers it must be a powerful way to deliver brand experiences that can turn influential consumers into advocates.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

HMVs purchase of 11 music venues is a game changing move

HMV - a leading record store in UK - has very cleverly transformed its business model and potential fortunes overnight.

The world knows that the record business is in long term terminal decline given that digital, file sharing, etc, has changed people’s music buying behaviours forever.

HMV have moved into the live music business through the purchase of 11 live music venues.

This is a perfect business fit for them, as summed up by their CEO when he said:

‘The deal was far more than a rebranding exercise of some of the venues. Music is very much part of our DNA, and by extending the HMV brand into the growing live music and entertainment market our customers will, as never before, be able to access and experience music in all of its forms via HMV"

Put yourself in the mind of the consumer and compare these two different types of experiences.

In a store you are wandering around, looking at stuff, maybe thinking about the pleasure you'll get when you play what you buy for the first time. There may be some pain at the check out [cost, time, rude staff, whatever] but basically it's an okay brand experience.

In a gig you are with yor mates, the band is great, the music is loud, you're having a fantastic night out. What a great brand experience.

By moving into live music business HMV has, at the stroke of a pen, opened-up massive and extremely relevant brand exprience opportunity that should transform how consumers' feel about them. Not to mention the interesting merchandising, cross promotion, loyalty initiatives (tickets to gigs), etc, opportunities.

All this should help drive HMV music buyers through the path to advocacy to become fans and advocates.

Like the O2’s success with the Docklands Dome, I think this link is inspired.

Monday, 19 January 2009

This year marketers should prioritise Delighting existing customers

We are living through extremely challenging times.

It is hard to believe that less than 12 months ago we were in a period of abundance. Today we face a future of pretty bleak austerity.

So how should brands plot their survival as consumers are dramatically changing their spending habits?

What brand experiences should be protected as marketing budgets are being cut?

One thing to protect is your efforts with existing customers. It is well known that it is much more cost effective to keep existing customers than recruit new ones. Existing customers should become the primary focus for brand organisations.

I came across a report from RSR Research entitled: 2009 – The Year of the Existing Customers.

They make two points that really work for me:

1. Know your (existing) customers well

Retailers have got good at collecting information about their customers through loyalty cards, etc. It is vital to use this insight smartly to work out how to deliver customised brand experiences that delight customers.

2. Pay attention to customers wherever they are

It has become more important than ever to truly listen to your customers. Ignore what they are saying at your peril. The internet has given consumers an extremely powerful platform to talk to others if you deliver poor experiences.

So, as you consider marketing plans for this year, and beyond, a good start point would be to think hard about how you can delight with your existing customer service processes. Winning the delight part of the PDD framework should give you a huge competitive advantage.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Brand organisations that deliver joined-up brand experiences will win.

Key to delivering great brand experiences at all stages of the PDD framework is an organisation that is totally joined-up.

Brand Marketing, Sales and Customer Service departments need to have a strong relationship and an integrated process that ensures they work together.

Why is it that they often do not?

I have lost count of the number of times that I have worked with brand marketing people that do not involve sales in their brand experience planning. I have also worked with successful brand organisations that do.

It is hard to provide hard ROI evidence to show that one is better than the other, but the quality and innovation of the planing work produced is always much better when sales are involved.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Advocacy must be a focus for the whole brand organisation, not just marketing

One of the most powerful ways to persuade a consumer to become an advocate is by delivering compelling brand experiences every time they encounter a brand.

I have been playing around with a conceptual framework (below) that aims to help with mapping the main moments that consumers' encounter a brand.

The Brand PDD™ framework is a useful way to help teams to identify the brand experiences that an organisation needs to deliver to move consumers through the following stages on the Path to Advocacy:

Notice is when a brand gets on the radar of a consumer; when they see/hear about it and consider whether it is right for them.

Choose is the process the consumer goes through when trying to decide what brand(s) makes it to their short list – usually based on ability to meet functional and/or emotional needs.

Buy is when the consumer enters the store (on or of-line) and goes through the process of purchasing the brand – sometimes referred to as the first ‘moment of truth.’

Use is when the consumer uses the brand; not just when they unpack and use it for the first time (second ‘moment of truth’), but every time it is used.

Be Loyal is when the consumer buys again.

Be a Fan is what a consumer becomes when they have been well treated and feel valued by a brand organisation

Advocate is when a consumer proactively talks about the brand in a positive way to friends, families, etc.

Once the optimum brand experiences have been identified for each stage then gap analysis can provide insight into levers (opportunities to explore) and blocks (issues to fix).

The process of doing this, that I call Brand Experience Management (BEM), is a good way to get silo departments to collaborate so they understand the contribution they can make to drive advocacy; and why it needs to be joined-up with other department’s efforts to be most effective.

One of the main purposes of this blog is to share my views about brands that are delivering winning brand experience strategies and brands that are not; using the PDD framework to highlight why.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Does sponsoring a film on YouTube (aka going viral) work?

I have just seen the new “Evolution of Dance’ film on YouTube. It’s fun but not as good as the original, a view that is pretty consistent with most of the viewer comments.

I noticed that it is sponsored by Savelogy (an American price comparison site) and wondered whether it will work.

This film has so far had around 2 million hits. The original film achieving a staggering 110 million hits so it probably does make commercial sense.

An interesting benchmark is the original ‘Where the Hell is Matt’ video (one of my all time favourites) which got less hits than its 2008 sequel (12 vs 17 million hits).

I don’t think this will do much for Savelogy, in terms of positive brand experience, but based on potential eyeballs if this film can get even close to the originals 110 million hits I guess it will be judged a success.

I shall track the results with interest.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Apple understand the importance of in-store Delivery and Delight

There is a superb article by Peter Blackshaw about the brand experience you get when visiting an Apple store, and how the "service is marketing" mantra pervades every aspect of the experience.

Apple really are masters at delivering and delighting because they fully understand the effect it can have on driving consumer advocacy.

These are some of the key lesson from Apple’s approach:
  • Service is marketing and may well be the easiest way to engage consumers.

  • Solving problems is an opportunity to deliver a powerful brand experience that can reassure, show compassion (for the pain and frustration) and delight consumers.

  • When employees ‘walk the talk’ (through showing passion and evangelism) credibility goes up -- and credibility drives persuasion.

It is powerful stuff.

Marketer’s should make a point of visiting an Apple store to get a real feel for the brand experiences being delivered..then reflect on how they could re-apply what they learn to their business.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

The new Norwich Union campaign shows they understand their target audience

The current UK car insurance advertising campaign by Norwich Union (soon to be Aviva) is great (watch TV ad).

On face value it could be seen as rash to let potential buyers, when getting a quote from their website, see how their prices compares with other cheaper competitors.

To me it shows that Norwich Union really understand how consumers behave when it comes to buying car insurance.

They know that they will never be the cheapest. They know that car insurance is bought mainly on price. They know that most people shop around on-line before they buy car insurance, often using price aggregators (Go Compare, Money Supermarket, etc).

Armed with this insight they have faced the issue head-on and deliver a great brand experience on-line.

How effective this campaign is remains to be seen but I am sure there will be sufficient consumers who like the brand promise and are less price sensitive. These consumers will reward Norwich Union’s honesty and buy.

I think it is naïve for brands to ignore the fact that consumers are referring on-line more and more to check out pricing before they buy. The credit crunch will accelerate this behaviour.

Many categories could learn a thing to two from Norwich Union.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Stay positive in these turbulent times

This quote from Norman Vincent Peale sums-up why I think being positive is important.

"People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things. When they believe in themselves they have the first secret of success."

Brands that are delivered by positive teams succeed.
  • These brands know what the consumer wants.
  • These brands make promises they deliver.
  • These brands find ways to delight consumers.

They know that when consumers get great delivery they will buy again. They know when they delight consumers they are likely to become advocates.

Stay positive as you work out how to survive in these turbulent times. It will pay-back.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Collaboration is key to building a successful brand

All too often brand organisations operate in departmental silos.

Marketing departments rarely talk to sales and no one talks to the customer service department. Digital are the new kids on the block and no one knows how to talk to them.

Then there are the agency partners. Clients ask their agencies to work together but they usually because they don’t know how to, and/or too insecure; and/or not rewarded, and/or are desperate to protect their miniscule margins, etc.

The recession will change everything.

I hope one good outcome will be that brand organisations and agencies will learn how to collaborate.

If they do it should result in improved brand experience being delivered to the consumer.

This is a vital step to move the consumer along the path to advocacy.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Marketing departments must look beyond making the Brand Promise

For years marketing department focus – in terms of time and money – has been on promoting the Brand Promise (typically via traditional media).

This is the stage where the brand is making a promise to the consumer about what the brand will deliver.

This stage has two parts. The first part, and the very least a brand wants to do, is to get noticed, to get on the radar of the consumer (i.e. they see it/hear about it) so they will give some though as to whether it is right for them.

The next part of this stage is to persuade the consumer to select their brand. This is the part where consumers are actively making choices about which brands they want to buy.

Successful marketing people have a clear view, and are involved with, the delivery and also the delight part of the business because they know consumers will not be duped. It’s simple, if consumers don't get what they are expecting, they will not buy again.

Successful marketing people also know that when a brand delights a consumers it they will talk about it. The explosive growth of the internet has given these advocates a platform that makes them even more powerful.

The worry is that many marketing people don’t consider the delivery and delight parts of their business. They leave it to the sales and customer service people (who have different KPIs).

The world has changed. This provides a great opportunity for brands operations to re-evaluate their operational processes and if necessary to change.

A good place to start is to review your operational balance using the PDD framework, and consider ways to collaborate closely with other parts of the business that play a role in moving the consumer through the path to advocacy.

Bad service and grumpy britons put UK jobs at risk

This headline in the UK newspapers today is shocking.

I’m not surprised but I really hope that UK hoteliers sort themselves out.

The concern weak hoteliers must have is the deeper problems their business may have as a result of the current recession.

However, the opportunity [and being positive is vital] provided by the weak sterling means that all hotels should have a good year thanks to more tourist (enjoying cheap deals) and more Brits (not travelling overseas).

If I were in the hotel businesses I would be focusing on Delivery and Delight parts of the PDD framework.

Delivery will require some investment in a lick of paint and some new fluffy towels.

Delight will require a more customer friendly approach that genuinely delivers winning brand experiences to consumers.

It is simple. Delight consumers and they should return. They may even tell their friends about you.

To get teams to deliver winning brand experiences to the consumer should not require heavy investment.

What it requires is strong leadership and good Brand Experience Management.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Gut feelings are driven by brand experiences

I really love how Marty Neumeir’s (The Brand Gap) defines of a brand:

“A brand is not a logo, identity or product…a brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organisation.

(.. a person because brands are defined by individuals not companies.....gut feeling because people are emotional, intuitive being..”)

Marty goes on to say:

“In other words it is not what you say it is what they say it is.”

I have said before (see link), I think actual brand experience is the key. Brand experience drive perceptions; which will shape what consumers do and say (about a brand).

The power of the consumer is increasing. It is therefore vital to get brand strategy right.

Why is it that brands so often get it wrong?

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Delight consumers. Show you care. Make them talk about you.

Delight…this is what brands should be doing to their consumers - but sadly they often don’t.

This is the final D of the PDD model.

It can be the magical part.

Brands that genuinely delight their consumers tend to get rewarded by securing greater levels of consumer loyalty and advocacy.

It is simple.

They make a compelling promise and deliver it…then aim higher by finding surprising ways to delight their consumers. Brands that do delight are generally the ones that win (as evidenced by the Net Promoter work done by Fred Reichheld).

The challenge for all brands is to find ways to delight their consumers. To show that they care…to surprise them…to reward them…

This work is often in the hands of customer care departments and not integrated into the strategic efforts of the marketing team.

This needs to change.

The global turmoil is changing everything. Consumer confidence and spending has fallen off a cliff. As a result brand organisations are looking closer than ever before at marketing budgets and effectiveness.

In these difficult times it is sensible to ask whether you are delivering winning brand experiences at each stage of consumer journey to advocacy. Do you have the right PDD balance?

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Brand Delivery - the moments of truth

This stage of the PDD framework is simply about the brand delivering the (brand) promise that has been made to the consumer.

The first part of it occurs when they go into the store to buy. Ideally they buy without distractions of competitor brand offers. It is sometimes referred to as the first 'moment of truth’ because it is the first time the consumer discovers whether the brand delivers the promise.

The second part (‘second moment of truth’) is when the consumer uses the brand; not just when they unpack and use for the first time, but every time they use it.

The delivery at both these parts is vital. If the consumer intents to buy but is switched to a competitor brand, or the brand doesn’t deliver when being used, then the marketing effort is wasted.

If a brand is successfully delivering the promise then the next thing it should focus on is delighting the consumer, to cement consumer loyalty and motivate them to become advocates.

Sounds straightforward…but why do so many brands get it wrong?