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Brands, Please Stop Sabotaging Yourself (Like @InoxLeisure did)

December 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Today, I went to watch a movie at the INOX cinemas in Bangalore with my extended family. There were five of us and a small kiddo. 

We bought Gold Class tickets and went and took our seats. The entire experience so far was neither too good not too bad. I was fine with that. 

The movie started and 10 minutes into the movie, someone came by and asked me to show my tickets so that he could verify if we indeed had Gold Class tickets. I let this go once. Then came the interval. We ordered some snacks and came back to watch the movie. 

10 mins into the movie, someone else came asking to check my tickets again. Now this made me furious and spoilt the entire movie watching experience as I had to take out the movie tickets in the dark and I missed an important scene in the movie. 

This was total self-sabotage. 

The movieplex already knew how many Gold Class seats they had sold and the seat numbers of these seats. If they wanted to check if there was an unauthorized usage of the Gold Class seats, all they needed to do was to cross-check the people seated with the tickets that they had sold and only go to someone who is sitting on a seat that was supposed to be empty, instead of spoiling the fun for all their customers, and at that, their most valuable customers, as the Gold Class seats are the most expensive in the cinema. 

Do you or your organization do something similar and sabotage yourself ?

Instead of augmenting the experience of your most important customers, do you annoy them?

This could be by asking them to fill in additional forms when you already have the information or making them wait in long queues or asking for information that you could find out by yourself or for that matter any other such trivial act that leaves your customers with a bad experience. 

Not many customers will provide you feedback about their experience, but most will talk about it to their friends and you know what that could mean for you and your brand. 

Instead of having fond memories about the movie, here I am writing about the bad treatment I got from INOX. 

Now what could they do differently?

What they should instead is the exact opposite.

Instead of policing if their customers are buying using Gold Class tickets without buying them, they should think of finding ways to upgrade some of these customers to use Gold Class seats if there are empty Gold Class seats still available at the start of the show.

In an earlier post, I had suggested that movieplexes could have monthly passes that could then be used to identify customers who could be upgraded. If that seems to be a challenge, at least have a regular CRM system (using points based on spending) to decide who gets the upgrades whenever these seats are available.

This will ensure that movie enthusiasts will not only continue to patronize your multiplexes, but will also be constantly left guessing if they will get upgraded seats.

I am sure that some of this also means that customers who might have bought Gold Class, might buy a cheaper ticket at times, but I am sure that the increase in the number of times these very customers choose to come to your cinema over other cinema choices will compensate for this.

This is also something that organizations that sell commodities that are time bound and are of no value if not sold by a specific date/time, for example, travel industry, hotel industry, theatres, cinemas, restaurants, etc.

Share your experiences

Have you experienced something similar where a good experience was spoiled by a brand themselves by doing something stupid or innocuous.

Please share your experience so that we can all learn from that as a community. 

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Burger King (Norway) Gives Away BigMacs to test the Loyalty of their Fans!

December 12, 2013 Leave a comment

Burger King has attempted a coup of sorts.. Their Norway operations decided that they wanted to identify and engage with their true fans who would not trade their whoppers for anything. 

They decided to test the loyalty of their facebook fans (~ 38000 of them). All their fans on Facebook got an offer, the “Whopper Sellout”:  

Burger King gave their fans an option to get a free “BIG Mac” (a product of McDonald’s, their biggest competitor) and get banned for life on their fan page or to stay a fan and join the new facebook page for the true fan. 

They sent out 50$ vouchers to all those who opted to get the free BigMac. They also sent along a letter thanking and informing them that they are forever banned from the BK fan pages.  They seem to have lost about 30000 fans on their page leaving about 8000 true fans.. 

Watch this short video that tells the entire story: 

 

 

This experiment is important in a couple of ways: 

  • Not everyone who likes your facebook page or ReTweets your tweets is not a fan or loyal customer. 
  • Marketers are now realizing that just having a huge number of fan following them on social media alone is not a good metric to aim for.
  • Marketers and brands are maturing in how they use social media and the changes in the metrics being aimed for. 

What needs to be seen is if this is considered to be a great marketing ploy or a tactical blunder! 

In my opinion, this was a great move by BK. This campaign did them well in the following dimensions: 

  • They have connected with their “TRUE Fans”, which means that the level of engagement will significantly improve. 
  • This entire campaign was also tongue-in-cheek and hence was able to garner a lot of free publicity (like me writing this blog ;-))
  • Sending the letter along with the vouchers could potentially be a great idea. No one likes to be told that they are banned from a site for life. 

By running this experiment, have they opened a pandora’s box? Will other brands follow suit? 

Or will this be relegated to be an interesting experiment in the social media space. 

We will get to know soon enough.. What do you think about this? Share your thoughts by commenting on the blog.. 

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Some Possibilities for Re-inventing Video Advertisements

September 20, 2013 4 comments

One of the most sacred piece of consumer advertising in the past was the 6 second spot in Television. Advertisers qued up to buy the spots and display their advertisements. Ad agencies and spot buyers were in vogue as they were the levers that enabled brands in their quest for more consumers.

All this is about to change and the advertising agencies are in for a disruption. This opinion of mine is based on the following trends that I see playing out in the markets:

  • Despite having changed medium (Television to online streaming videos), video advertising did not change. They still play advertisements either at the start of the video or in the middle of the video, just as in Television, maybe with a little more control on the target audience.
  • Compare this with the evolution of online advertisements. From the old banner ads to targeted, contextual advertisements even within your email client (Gmail) or promoted tweets in your twitter stream.
  • Most brands have now become content creators and act more like media houses online. Most of the brands have their own content team and continuously generate content.
  • Recent announcement of no-cash deal between Kit Kat and Google to name their latest Android release Kit-Kat.
  • More and more brands want to create original content to get the attention of a specific niche of the consumer market. From streaming content created by the studios to creating their own original series, Netflix has come a long way. Same is the case with Coca Cola. The amount of original video content that they develop and share online has increased multiple fold.
  • Advertisement free content (ad free HBO) is becoming more prevalent now than ever before.

All of these trends point to a future of video advertising which is very different from the current 6 second or 20 second ads.

I think that based on the existing trends, we shall see the following:

  • More brands will come together and plan joint campaigns. For example a washing machine brand, a detergent brand can come together and do joint campaigns. IF brands can tie up with other brands that can be logically coupled (same consumer, part of the same “jobs to be done” family of tasks, similar positioning, etc).
  • Brand placements inside of the movies and Television series has been around for a long time but never became mainstay. This will change. We shall start seeing more and more brand placements in original content.
  • This could then potentially lead to original content being created around these brands. For example, there could be a series like Friends, where every time the friends sit together and share memories, they do it with a can of Coke. Every time they speak on a phone, they use an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy S4. It the story requires them to go out for a trip, they could visit India (of course sponsored by the Indian Tourism Industry). You get the point. What is even more interesting is that It might even cost much less to create these content than to pay for a six second spot during the program for the brands. This also enables the brands to have control on the audience segment that they want to create the content for.

So, you can see a host of original video content being produced by some of the leading brands.

Is that good or bad for the brand, I don’t know. However, this is great news for all the artists who have ideas and want to convert them into original series. They will have a lot more people willing to invest in them to create good high quality content.

As a consumer, I don’t mind who creates the content as long as the content is interesting and engaging and I am not interrupted in between the program to show some advertisements.

So, this does create a positive cycle for everyone involved.

Do you think this is what we shall see in the near future or if my understanding is totally flawed? Lets discuss this as comments on this blog or on twitter.

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Brands Beware! We can turn the tables on You!

September 10, 2013 Leave a comment

Complaining about a brand, that fails to deliver on its promise on social media is now a given. A consumer has now taken this practice to a totally new level.

When businessman Hasan Syed got fed up with the inept handling of his complain about his father’s lost luggage, he decided to take action against the airline. Rather than just tweeting his complain, he decided to promote the tweet. He chose the market that hurts the airline the most – New York & UK.

@rubigodi@BritishAirways@British_Airways Yes. I’m promoting my tweets to all BA followers since their Customer Service is horrendous.

—  (@HVSVN) September 2, 2013

Though this has cost him a thousand dollars, he has hurt the brand much more than that.

Whats even more hilarious is the response that he got. BBC reports that the airline indicated that their tweets are only monitored during working hours only.

This idea of using the same technology that brands use to target customers to turn against them was truly ingenious. Now imagine if there are more customers who start following Hasan and turn to technology against the very same corporates and brands, every one of such actions will damage the brand much more than what it would cost to avoid the mistakes.

In this world, world class execution doesn’t become a competitive advantage but table stakes. Speed of response to any complain becomes even more critical, which means that brands need to develop rapid response teams. This also means that the front line employees and their importance for brands  becomes even more critical as any slip ups from them could snowball into a major catastrophe for a brand if they don’t respond and contain it swiftly.

This definitely pushes brands to start planning their move towards becoming a real-time enterprise.

The critical question here is will there be enough people who use this option to create a critical mass that can push brands to get their act together. I guess we will get to know about it sooner than later!

Till then, brands beware! Tables could turn against you anytime!

Two Kinds of Loyalty Programs

September 10, 2013 1 comment

There are two types loyalty programs that a brand can run:

  1. Bought Loyalty: All loyalty programs that rely on points and freebies against the points are trying buy loyalty through these freebies and lock-ins. For example, flight operators want to lock people in with their Frequent Flier Plans. This is the reason, that you find customers of these organizations complain about the service provided but at the same time continue to use their services. These kinds of programs are in reality not creating loyalty. All they are doing is dangling the carrot in front of the customer and thereby encouraging repeat behavior.
  2. Earned Loyalty: These are programs that are designed with the ultimate goal of making their customers relate to them emotionally. Most often, these encompass everything from product/service development, marketing and sales execution. Building this kind of loyalty is much more difficult, takes a lot of thought and time.

I would not argue that one is better than the other. However, it is important that as a brand we know what kind of loyalty programs we are running and act accordingly. In my opinion, the cost of running both kinds of programs work out to be similar in the long term.

If you are running a loyalty program of the 1st kind, it is important that you focus on the efficiency of the program and put in place processes that ensure flawless execution. The most important reason why a customer will move out of the program is if the execution starts to fall apart. That is when the lock-in seems to start hurting and customers start considering other options.

If you are running a loyalty program where you want to earn customer loyalty, you need to continuously work on improving employee engagement & empowerment, minute attention to details and flawless execution would be the areas to focus on.

If you want to develop customer loyalty as your competitive advantage, you need to be able to do both of these programs well. You will ensure that your customers are able to take the benefits of the freebies more often than any other similar programs offer; have products or services that they aspire for but do not generally buy by themselves in the freebies, etc. You have processes and systems in place that allow your employees (highly engaged employees) to delight your customers with their service levels. That is when, your customers will find that you are not only easy to do business with but are also a delight to do business with. This is when, you would have turned customer loyalty into a competitive advantage that your competitors will find very difficult to replicate/surpass.

Do understand your loyalty program and focus accordingly to make the maximum impact for your customers as well as your organization.

Do let me know your thoughts on this matter by commenting below.

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PS: A tale of a Cab driver told by Shep Hyken

 

Lessons in Great Customer Service from Richard Branson:

Don’t Just Create Content, Create Curiosity

August 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Nothing has had more impact on the amount of content being created than the advent and growth of social media.

There has been a growing consensus that every single brand is now a media by itself.

Every brand is continuing to generate content at a speed at which their consumers are not even able to consume the content.

The shelf life of any content is reducing drastically and for most of the content it is just a couple of hours from the time it was created or promoted. This has led to a slew of promotion of content, across media, which is not necessarily good or bad by itself. Its just like shouting loud in a crowded bazaar so that our customers can discover us and our content.

Another reason for this enormous increase in content is the change in buying behavior or most consumers/customers. Now, before we even contact our supplier or decide to buy a brand, we go to the social media and want to read or find out what our friends have to say about the product. We want to know what experts say about the brand. What do other customers who have bought the product say about their experience.

What this forces the marketers to do is to attempt to create content that can answer almost any question that we might have. The content also then becomes a vehicle to sell the brand promise to us.

Among all of these challenges, marketers, forget the most basic tenet of marketing. They have forgotten that the first step in any marketing campaign is to create curiosity; Curiosity in us to find out more; curiosity in us to explore more.

In the recent times, I think Elon Musk did a great job of creating curiosity about his HyperLoop. He started creating curiosity months before he actually unveiled his idea. And when he did present the idea, the publicity that he got was unbelievable. No amount of money or advertising or great content could have bought him the kind of attention and engagement he got on this topic.

Though a lot of this could be attributed to him being who he was, but still I would consider this event as a clear indication that curiosity will always trump content.

It is in human nature to be curious. So, smart marketers will realize this and tap into this aspect of being human and find way to create curiosity.

We become curious when we get to know about something just enough to want to know more. This is where good marketers can rely on the art of story telling. You reveal only so much that people want to know more about it and then some more.

Lady Gaga creates curiosity about her outfits, songs and gigs in every interview she gives.

Apple does this to a certain extent as well. They ensure that there is all kinds of speculation going on about what it is that they are going to unveil every time they are about to do it.

Have you come across a campaign that has used curiosity to get their customers/prospects hooked and wanting for more? Please share these stories with us. We can all learn from these stories.

You can connect with me on twitter, linkedin, facebook or email.

PS: There is a lot that marketers can learn from master story tellers like Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, etc.. Here is a clip where he talks about cinematic tension. This is exactly what marketers need to master to get their customers/prospects to keep coming back to them. Enjoy!

Are Twitter Contests the Next Big thing in Customer Engagement?

August 21, 2013 Leave a comment

In the last 2 weeks, I have seen a flurry of twitter contests being run by various brands, including news channels (ABP News), Software Marketers, Film studios, Fashion brands, TV stations, Online retailers, Comedy shows and a lot more.

The common themes in all these contests were:

–       You are enticed to participate in the competition via the possibility to win a gift coupon or some sort of prize

–       You are required to follow the brand’s twitter ID.

–       You are required to answer a set of questions and retweet the questions to your followers

In my opinion, the primary aim of all these contests seems to be:

–       Get more people to follow them

–       Get more impressions (through RT’s)

–       Get their brands to trend on twitter

These are easy to measure metrics, which they can then use to show brand engagement and the Returns on the Investment.

This seems to be a quick win for the brands as the participation levels in most of these contests seem to be quite good and they are able to add significant number of followers to the brands twitter handle (though, that by itself should not be the primary aim for the brands).

What is not known so far is the potential for continued engagement of these people with the brand?

In my opinion, the questions that these brands need to answer are the following:

–       How do we continue to engage with the gained followers post the contest?

–       Do we make such contests a recurring event (weekly or fortnightly) so that the amount of engagement continues to be high? How long can this momentum be maintained?

–       How can we tie these contents to the other marketing campaigns that the brand is considering?

–       Is it possible for the brand to be able to tie these contests to a social cause that the brand can associate with so that, not only does the brand gain more impressions on twitter but is able to support a cause while at the same time get some good PR.

PS: Some brands that did run twitter contests this month are Audi India, Dalal Street Journal, Disney India, Domino’s Pizza, Dreamscape Film Co, Elle, Garnier, ICICI Lombard, Jockey India, Kiehl’s India, L’Oréal Paris India, Lakme India, LP – Louis Philippe, MadOverDonuts, MaxIndiaLtd, MaybellineIndia, Micromax Mobile, Myntra.com, Nissan India, OUATIM Dobaara (movie), Tata Nano, Veet India, Zee Studio, SAP India, ABP News, Apollo Hospitals, AXN India

Just the variety of brands indicates that this has been successful across sectors, industries and business models.