Month: August 2011

Getting your social approach right: protecting your brand from critics

A number of people have asked me this week about how they should prepare their brand for attacks from activist groups who criticise them in the media. I’ll leave the mechanics of crisis management to the legal and PR people who specialise at it – but here are some thoughts on simple things you can do as a brand to make sure you are as ready as you can be. 1. Don’t view advocates for another opinion or worldview as enemies. You may not like what they say, or the manner in which they say it, but, unless they are physically attacking your business, essentially they are competitors (and on occasions even potential allies) – and the reason why they are more like competitors is that they have the potential to take attention, influence and market share away from your brand. So treat them like you would any other competitor: get to know them, get to know what they believe in and the opinions they compete against you on. Draw up a watch list. Keep …

Connecting your brand and your social responsibility policies

Connecting your brand and your social responsibility policies

Almost every brand I work with has a community policy, an environmental policy, a sustainability policy … as they should. And everyone seems to acknowledge that the policy or policies they have form an important part of their reputation and their stakeholder relations … as they should. And yet precious few brands have actively connected those social responsibility activities with their brand.

Are you indecisive? I’m not sure …

Edward Boches pointed me in the direction of this thought-provoking article by John Tierney on “decision fatigue”. Decision fatigue happens when ordinary people are asked to make decision after decision after decision. Such processes run down the mental batteries that power our self control. Eventually it seems, we start looking for shortcuts – either by acting impulsively or by opting to do nothing. Research on what tires us out the most shows that people would rather compare and contrast options (without making a decision) or verify a decision that has already been made by someone else than make the decision themselves. Once consumers reach a certain level of mental tiredness they stop negotiating. Instead, they make decisions based on the thing that is most important to them. Decision fatigue, it seems, breaks down our reluctance to explore or commit. People soon opt for default settings or suggestions. And the more tough choices there are early in the process, the quicker people opt for the path of least resistance. All of this has major implications for …

The opportunity of dull

There are days when Alex really makes me laugh. I grinned merrily at her observation recently that if you really want to make significant changes as a brand, you should go all out and look for something … dull. That’s right, find something uneventful, even pedestrian – and poke it for opportunities. And the reasons, on reflection, are simple. Chances are people do whatever it is often. So it comes with scale and frequency. And secondly, if it’s that tedious, frankly the only way is up. High energy, exciting activities already have high EQ by their very nature. And they attract the most interest from brands. So the chances of doing anything breakthrough are so much harder. Dull stuff is out of the limelight. It’s dull and it stays dull for most people until someone does something to change that. So it’s actually a lot less difficult to make the boring better: to take something that people don’t want to do or don’t enjoy doing, and to inject new elements and ideas that surprise and …

Critical mass: understanding what drives fluctuations in likeability for brands

Whilst I continue to question the financial returns from social media for brands, there is no denying their ability to galvanise. In fact, social media is the driving force behind “critical mass” – the ability to bring together consumers from many places to form a significant mass of opinion, in support or against, based around an issue they consider critically important to them. For brands, critical mass can be a powerful forum for advocacy, feedback, testing, support and, perhaps most importantly, a way to stay directly attuned to what Mr and Mrs Consumer are feeling. But a critical mass also makes for a powerful enemy: as we’ve seen this past week, a group of people united by a single idea can turn on a brand with extraordinary ferocity. Critical masses flock and disperse in response to ideas. People join, leave and link at whim. So these groupings are constantly forming, dissolving and reforming on a global scale. They are not one constituency. And the density of the mass and its duration derives directly from the …

Time to rethink the business model of some NGO brands?

Brands like Toms with their “one for one” shoes programme have proven that companies can be both profitable and philanthropic. So why do so many NGO brands stick with a funding model that relies on, well, charity? Peter Salmon, MD at social innovation company NextPlays, certainly has his doubts about models based on grants and donations as opposed to “financed” business practices. Here are some of his thoughts on why “cause” brands need to stop begging for money and start putting up business cases for financing social change. The current models of financing social organisations are through philanthropic grants, equity investment, or conventional debt financing, he says, but the dominance of foundation and philanthropic grants creates an ineffectual social innovation sector that delivers poorer outcomes. 1. Both financing and grant approaches require well researched documentation but a grant application requires a proposal, whereas financing requires a business plan. These may seem like subtle differences, but one is far more open to innovation than the other. Grant applications are often judged to fit within already pre-determined …

Don’t be disappointed: why price underwrites the brand experience

What’s the difference between a budget airline and a pig? Pigs fly more often – and on time. Harsh perhaps, but it’s a reminder that in a market, there is always a price to pay, and the price is not just about money down. Some people will be happy with budget. It’s worth a cancelled flight or two for the savings they make. For others, that’s far too high a price to pay for a few dollars saved. Years ago, I was in a workshop where three people in the group were asked to make the business case for luxury over economy. The team made their case in a pointed and dramatic way. First, they invited the wider group into a huge open sunny space, where sofas were laid out. Each person was escorted to a sofa and provided with bubbles and canapes. There was a sign on the wall that read $3000. Then, we were invited into a second room. This room was smaller, and instead of couches there were seats. Each person was …

Everything to no-one

Great question by Paul Dunay: Is sentiment making brands stupid? As the writer points out we are increasingly obsessed with using monitoring tools as virtual tea leaves to try and read the sentiment of the markets towards our brands. Mentions have become the new money – and machines now break those mentions down into chunks of data and attach a ranking to them that brand managers read as gospel. But, Dunay argues, the premise is a false one because “most people can’t agree on the spirit or intention of a tweet anyway and they never will”, meaning brands could be giving greater credence than warrented to metrics that are easily lost in translation. The direct risk from such an approach is that brands essentially treat social media as polling booths for their strategy, and are then unduly influenced in their thinking by the flood of opinions ebbing and flowing across the social universe. It’s important to listen, we’re all agreed on that, but if brands then look to appease everyone and to compromise and tailor …

How brands lose sight of customers

Interesting observation in a meeting yesterday from Richard about service organisations, and specifically large service organisations and why they often lose sight of the customer and the shifting demands of a dynamic market. Everybody says they’re in business to serve the customer, but the people who are actually customer facing and customer serving are often those with the least experience, the least knowledge and the least authority because that lowers cost-per-serve. Unfortunately, it also lowers quality, depth, flexibility and engagement, compromising the brand experience and making service a commoditised set of processes that frontline staff are judged on their ability to conform to. The situation should logically resolve itself as people become more valuable to the organisation, and therefore gain what has been missing when they were on the frontline – experience, knowledge, authority, influence and networks. But what actually happens is that those people are shepherded into talent programmes that promote them further and further away from a direct relationship with customers – which is an increasing juxtaposition in itself – and their focus …

Intersections

At dinner the other night, the conversation turned to carpet ads. Why, someone asked, do retailers keep advertising carpet ads when most people only buy carpet once every 7 – 10 years? Because, they don’t all buy them at once, I reminded them. A brief explanation of interruption theory followed. Because so many retailers have neither the inclination or the resources to build and sustain relationships with their diverse customer bases, they basically rely on a marketing approach that pivots on informed chance. Reach and frequency advertising models depend on reaching a profiled consumer at a specific moment when that consumer might have an interest and a need for the product. It’s a scatter-gun approach (despite what the media planners might tell us) that relies on a machine-gun barrage of noise and repetition. Most of the time it has the majority reaching for the remote control to turn off the noise because whatever’s being talked about is “N/A” to their needs right now. But brands keep beaming ads in the hope that one day customer …