Month: April 2012

Posting a profit

source Likeability has both a top-line and a bottom-line. Social monitoring tends to focus on the top-line: mentions; retweets; likes; comments. Top-line likeability is important because it monitors partiality towards your brand – the prevailing emotion at that moment. But it can be easily swayed, by offers, for example, or news. Bottom-line likeability is the measure of how much and/or how often consumers buy. It’s the money that drips or floods out the bottom of the sales funnel. The other p – profitability. But just as you can be famous and broke, so your brand can have strong top-line likeability without proportionally strong financial returns. And indeed, vice versa. Part of the problem, as Brian Solis has astutely observed in this recent post, is that chasing the “soft metrics” of top-line likeability has become as addictive to organisations as chasing top-line revenue can be for sales teams. It provides numbers, sometimes giddy numbers, but not “the insights necessary to glean ROI or deep understanding of what people do and do not want, need or value.” And …

Brands at the speed of life

see What a pleasure to discover the writings of Simon Graj. I very much enjoyed this post on how changes in the speed at which consumers see and recognise brands affect the nature and manner of the relationship. Graj suggests brands are on a collision course with consumer habits because while brand creators and managers feel increasingly inclined to engineer complexity into their stories in order to give them depth and dimension, consumers are looking for “elegant, plug-and-play simplicity” – brands that are clear, attractive, binding and capable of being absorbed at an increasingly frenetic pace as we dash to work, check our phones and pursue our lives. “Brands are now something we experience out of the corners of our eyes,” he says. That suggests that in “a world that rockets us from experience to experience”, brands need to be able to collapse their symbolism into smaller and smaller bytes of information. As Graj observes, the 30 second sit and watch platform has all but disappeared. Brands appear in the margins of our search engines, in …

Loyal – to what point?

As I write this, I’m sitting about six rows back from where I normally sit on this flight. The space around me feels like it has shrunk – again. They haven’t offered me the nice headphones. I didn’t get a newspaper like I used to. I’m not grizzling. After all, they’re such little things aren’t they? And they’re a formula. If you’re a gold flier you get this. If you fly even more frequently than that, you get this. The thing is that formula of recognition is now well entrenched in my flying experience. I’ve gotten used to it – to the point where I usually don’t even notice when it happens, but I very quickly notice when it doesn’t. That got me thinking – What happens when your business model clashes with the economics of rewarding your customers? What do you do when it seems like your brand can no longer afford to give people who buy from you the “bonuses” that they are so used to? First of all, I think it’s important …

Twinkle, twinkle, twinkle …

Markets today operate in a vicious circle of increasing assumption. The more companies deliver, the more customers expect. Business as expected is all the things you must do to confirm your place in the crowd. All that effort doesn’t inspire loyalty, it doesn’t even change the relationship, because it doesn’t change the way you’re seen. And yet it’s a critical underpin. If this part isn’t right, nothing works. We could probably debate how important this “constant and consistent improvement” element is, and it probably varies according to sectors, but I’m going to suggest that it constitutes 70 – 85% of a deeply competitive brand. The remaining 15 – 30% is less predictable. It has to be, because what really alters how much you are valued is what you deliver that’s surprising. Business as unexpected are those things that your customers actually want but may not even have realised they wanted – until they were presented with them. A surprise could be an idea they agree with that no-one else in the sector champions, an attitude …

Reading the minds of millions

Social markets, just like their financial counterparts, are driven by sentiment and the interactions of many. What’s being said about you now – right now – on Twitter, Facebook et al represents your likeability in real time. Some days you’ll trend up – meaning people generally feel good about you. At other times, the mass of opinion will be negative, impartial or absent. Same for your competitors. A spike in your Likes does not automatically correspond to a surge in your brand equity. Equally, a hail of comments is not necessarily a condemnation or an endorsement. It is a reaction. Understanding the sentiments behind these shifts in collective mood, quantifying them and responding to them is important – and yet what you’re seeing through your analytics feeds is often just momentary. They can mean as little as instant celebrity. Your brand is the subject of a meme – and then it’s not. The risk of reading too much into the numbers is that you essentially treat social media as polling booths for your brand strategy, …

The business of cloning

There has been a carbon copy approach to business for some time, and business schools are  at least partly to blame. Management is now a taught vocation. OK – we all have to learn, but the problem is that everyone’s taught the same things and taught to work in the same ways. Same ideas. Same principles. Same rules. As Dr Dan Herman observes, “All  those managers who are supposed to compete with one another … are using the same data; they conduct the same focus groups and the same surveys, analyse the data with the same tools, and use the same concepts and approaches in order to create distinctive products and brands. The result? … [they] achieve the same results, simply because they think the same way. In other words, they are MBA clones.” Today, we teach process rather than the ability to process information. We form models rather than opinions. We rely on frameworks rather than asking people to extrapolate by drawing on experience. In this context, differentiation is a risk. Too many managers, …

Credentials as comfort food

How does the fact that I’m travelling on the world’s biggest airline change my travelling experience? Or the world’s biggest cruise liner? How does the fact that I’m working with the world’s biggest professional services firm change what I get from the lawyer, accountant, engineer etc assigned to me? What more do I get from buying a bottle from the world’s biggest winemaker? Or a toy from the world’s biggest department store? It makes no difference. And yet brands love to emphasise their size or the number of countries they operate in or the projects that they’ve been involved in. They think it provides reassurance. They think it gives them a storyline. It doesn’t. It gives them big numbers but in most cases, it says nothing at all. Credentials in my view are much over-used and much over-rated. They don’t add to the excitement that consumers feel. And, given the complexity of most corporate structures, it could be argued that they often don’t ameliorate the risk of dealing with many entities. Credentials might feel important …

Highs and lows: the new value equation in the social economy?

The dynamics of customer service are shifting. Not so long enough, the ultimate goal was to deliver customers “high tech, high touch” – a highly digital experience that was nevertheless comforting and personalised. Increasingly that framework is becoming a paradox I believe as brands sort new economic models for dealing with cross-channel customers. The current trend of sift online, buy offline is unsustainable in so many circumstances. High tech is jeopardising the economics of high touch. It encourages customers to price hunt, and then to bargain down prices in a physical environment using what they’ve found online as a cost index. The implied “plus” between high tech and high touch doesn’t work. So I think we’re going to increasingly see it change to “or”. And with that shift will come more delineated choices for consumers. Brands will seek to attract customers by experience or by engagement. In fact, the separation of those two thoughts – engagement (focused on cost conscious availability) and experience (focused on one-on-one immediacy) is interesting because it suggests that rather than …