Sunday, 31 May 2009

On-line (retailer site) brand experiences are a turn-off

There is an excellent post [read at Retail Customer Experience] about how most on-line retail sites are uninspired, technically driven and over analysed.

 ...”a tempting brand experience they are not”

 This article provides a number of clear reasons why they disappoint. To me one comment really resonated:

 “The most important of the day’s experiences are human interactions.”

I could not agree more. It is virtually impossible to beat a human interaction (provided it is a positive one), but these days more and more interactions are becoming automated (telephone, on-line, vending, etc).

The problem is that when brand organisations reduce head-count and increase reliance on automated solution - to ‘increase efficiency’ - it inevitably means that they lose the opportunity to create powerful interactions that can truly delight consumers on an emotional level.

Brands that know what brand experiences will delight consumers and how to deliver them will gain competitive advantage, as they are likely to be brands that consumers are loyal to and will talk about. 

How do you delight on-line? - it isn't easy.

There are clearly times when an on-line solution is vital. If you are in this situation, as suggested in the above post, look closely at how iTunes works and think about how you can replicate the inspired interface they have created.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Fun with South West Airlines

This is fun.

During a shareholder meeting this is a great way to cover-off the dull matter of: ‘Generally Accepted Accounting Principles’ (GAAP). [watch video]

I think it's targeted more at YouTube than the shareholders.

It's a clever way to get noticed.

I don’t travel much in America but if I did I would consider South West Airlines.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Brand Experiences that gets brands noticed

The first stage of the Path to Advocacy is to get your brand noticed. Noticed by both potential consumers (to try to persuade them to consider buying) and existing consumers (to help make them feel positive about their decision to buy).

I define notice as the moment a brand gets on the radar of a consumer; when they see/hear about the brand and consider whether it might be something they need.

In years gone by this was about shouting at consumers. It was all about intrusion, cut-through and impact....the more a brand spent the better chance it had to get noticed.

As we all know, the world has changed. Consumers are in control so a big budget no longer guarantees success.

Brands therefore have to behave differently.

To get noticed they need to deliver brand experiences that talk to consumers in a way that will resonate and persuade them to pay some attention to what you want to say.

It’s about being engaging, appealing and relevant.

Here are some approaches that I think help get noticed:

If you can add to this list let me know.

What is Brand Experience?

A brand is a collection of perceptions in the mind of a consumer that has been shaped by the accumulation of every encounter that consumer has ever had with the brand.

I call each of these encounters a Brand Experience.

Brand Experiences are therefore delivered by all touchpoints, e.g. traditional advertising, packaging, shop staff, memories of previous usage, customer service, word of mouth, etc.

The aim of all brands is to gain competitive advantage. To sell more stuff, to achieve greater loyalty, to get talked about and build sustainable profitability.

Brands should be aiming to gain a competitive advantage by delivering brand experiences that are better than their competitors.

Not only that, brands should ensure that their operation delivers brand experiences that embody what the brand stands for (brand personality, character, values, etc) each and every time a consumer encounters it.

The Path to Advocacy (and PDD Framework) is a useful way to look at how consumers’ are encountering/interacting with a brand and to help brand organsiations work-out how to deliver better Brand Experiences.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

T-Mobile - Trafalgar Square event - Part 2

I went to the T-Mobile's Trafalgar Square event and watched 13,500 doing karaoke.

It achieved great PR and the TV ad [see film] has enjoyed a lot of positive editorial [Read: my friend Faris – 'Bring people together and see what they do' and Futurelab– ‘T-Mobile gets it’].

I like the ad and think it nicely captures the ‘Life’s for Sharing’ idea in a warm and engaging way.

Good work T-Mobile.

The challenge for them now is to build on the positive goodwill and buzz created through the current activity by ensuring they deliver brand experiences to existing users that live-up to the Life’s For Sharing promise.

My advice to T-Mobile is to:

  a)  Ensure they deliver customer service excellence.

  b)  Find ways to delight customers by adding some magic to the relationship.

I believe to win brands need to ensure they deliver positive brand experience at every touchpoint - from the brand promise (advertising) to brand delivery (usage experience) to delighting consumers. If they can do that it is very likely they will move consumers down the Path to Advocacy – a proven success strategy.

This is something O2 seems to do very well. [see case study]

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Packaging problems for make-up brands

It is well understood that a key role for packaging is to successfully deliver a compelling brand experience in-store (at the first moment of truth), where it needs to standout, appeal to the consumer and clearly communicate the brand proposition and values.

The other critical role for packaging is to continue to deliver great brand experiences during the usage stage (the second moment of truth), when it is unpack and used.

In most categories this is fairly straightforward.

However, with make-up it isn’t.

I read a great post on the Marketing & Strategy Innovation Blog by Marina Natanova that highlights the challenges most make-up brands have.

Marina explains: “A lot of premium or even luxury brands don’t have a package which keeps them looking good during usage.”

And why don’t they stay looking good?

…because of the handbag.

I’m not in the habit of rummaging around in ladies handbags – in fact what goes into them has always been a bit of a mystery to me – but what I do know is that they are generally full of stuff…loads of stuff…stuff that tends to get shoved in and shaken around.

This makes it really tough for most make-up items to continue to look good.

I talked before about how one of the most powerful ways to drive advocacy is to deliver compelling brand experiences every time a consumer encounters a brand.

It isn’t easy but in the Make-up category brands that can pass the ‘handbag test’ should get talked about more than their less robust competitors.

I think this is a competitive advantage worth investing in.

[read previous post about other packaging challenges]

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Full marks to Marks & Spencer

M&S in UK has (rightly) been getting a rough ride from newspapers and social media because they were charging ‘larger’ customers extra for DD size bras.

I don't shop that much at M&S (and never buy bras there!) but, like most people in UK, I have great affection for them. I guess the coverage could have started to erode this affection.

Last week they ran a ‘We Boobed’ ad admitting that they got it wrong.

It reminded me of how Richard Branson cleverly handled a serious letter of complaint from a very unhappy flier. [read story here]

M&S are a smart brand organisation. They read the signals well and decided to do a u-turn.

Good move.

Their sensible handling of this issue turned a potential business disaster into a positive brand experience for us bystanders in this issue.

I smiled when I saw it.

That must be a good thing for the M&S brand. 

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Brands can build a sustainable competitive advantage by showing they care

Why is it that customers are often treated so badly, even in these challenging times?

I read recently that research conducted by Better Business Bureau in US revealed that customer complaints had increased 7% - 2008 vs 2007.

This is pretty shocking.

The same post quotes Professor Michael Solomon, director of the Centre for Consumer Research at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia:

 "Too many companies have their eye on the short-term bottom line and they're sacrificing tremendous amounts of goodwill by becoming more 'efficient’...

....I believe this is a true source of competitive advantage for companies that choose to stand out by showing they care about their customers -- and this is exacerbated in a deep recession where consumers shed their brand "acquaintances" and remember who their true "friends" are."

This is great advice.

To survive and thrive brands’ must show their consumers they care.

If you work in the marketing department at a brand organisation don’t focus your time only on developing brand experiences that make a promise saying that you care. It is vital to also invest effort making sure the organisation collaborates to deliver brands experiences that genuinely delight existing customers.

That is how you will build loyalty and maybe positive advocacy for your brand.

Building advocacy is a proven way to win.