When Taglines Go Bad – The Best Buy Saga

So there I was minding my own business when I came across an article on Fast Company entitled What Every CEO Can Learn From Best Buy’s (Continued) Branding Mistakes. Written by David Brier, who I know to be not only a great writer but also a branding expert, the article made reference to the new tagline the much-maligned Best Buy recently trotted out after what was surely an exhaustive 18-month odyssey. Truth be told the 18 months was spent “working to reframe the retailer’s brand proposition” and the new tagline was one item that came out of said reframing.

The new tagline for Best Buy is, wait for it “Making technology work for you.”

In his article Brier refers to the tagline as “not only tired, it is a death sentence that is bland, old, worn, uninspired and not reflective of a single strand of your customer’s aspirations.” He also, quite correctly I might add, says the tagline “reeks of “marketing speak” and “committee-itis.”

He goes on to talk about branding in general but I want to focus squarely on this horrifically bad tagline.

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Are Your Customers Lying to You? How Can You REALLY Tell What They’re Thinking?

In John Nosta’sThinkology blog post, “The Fundamental Marketing Dilemma: Language is a Lie,” he discusses books like Malcom Gladwell’sBlink and Tor Norretranders’s The User Illusion, which explore the ideas of how we perceive things. These authors assert that our first impressions are processed not by conscious thought and language, but by much faster processes that are rooted in our reptilian and mammalian brains.

Nosta’s take is that language is really “a corrupted surrogate for what’s REALLY happening.” He says that maybe we shouldn’t be asking our customers what they’re thinking. Maybe we would get more and/or better information by trying to measure direct neural function such as eye tracking, facial coding and other biometrics.

What about surveys and focus groups? Bunk! According to Nosta, people’s thought processes pollute their first impressions about a product or service to the point that the language expression we get in response to asking a question isn’t reliable—and yet 90% of market research focuses on verbal communication, while verbal accounts for only 23% of most communication.

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Want More from Social? Empower Your Employees as Brand Advocates/Evangelists!

Brands have it tough these days. Many are trying to make the “social leap,” but are still stuck in the traditional marketing thought process of “controlling the message.” It can be a bit hard to switch gears, especially when Madison Avenue still feeds us the same old lines; however, Madison Avenue doesn’t get it either. The days of handing your marketing over to a bunch of agency wonks without getting involved and staying involved are quickly coming to an end—at least if you want real results. Companies must be hands-on now, and be willing to jump into the conversation and participate, because that’s what their customers demand. Social is where your audience lives. It’s how they want to communicate with each other and where they share brand experience—YOUR brand experience.

So what’s the fastest way to devolve from the old “agency” way of thinking to social communication? Empower those who work for you to create conversation and represent your brand—especially those who have a customer service or customer-facing role. If they build it, service it or sell it, they’re in a perfect position to communicate with your audience in a way that humanizes your brand, but only if you let them.

Many companies that are fearful of social media put muzzles on their employees in an effort to control the social conversation. However, if you’re going to have a social presence at all, just the opposite needs to happen.

In a Networking Exchange Blog post “Brands Under Pressure,” digital and social strategist Cheryl Burgess highlights Apple’s “Genius Bar,” which is the ultimate in employee branding for retail. She notes that the genius bar is “… a lynchpin of the most successful retail concepts and innovative employee brand relationships of our time.  Apple simply gets it,” she writes…” employee branding matters.”

Check it out for yourself. Go into any Apple store and count the number of blue shirts milling about in the retail space. It’s astonishing—and each one is an Apple genius whose sole purpose is to communicate with customers, answer questions and share knowledge one-on-one. However, you don’t get a hard sell. The emphasis is on providing helpful information. In doing so, each employee puts a “face” on the Apple brand, and turns a shopping excursion into a human experience.

The great thing is, you don’t have to hire a zillion blue-shirts to stand around your company store to do the same thing for your brand. With a little guidance, your current employees can be blue-shirts for you in social circles.

The key word here is guidance! This includes having a written social media policy for your employees, going over it with them, and involving them in the process. Your employees can be your best advocates and a natural extension of your brand that gives you much better Return on Relationship™ than advertising ever could—but you need to switch your thinking by opening up your internal communications first.

Sit down and talk to your employees about how they can communicate your company mission and values. Open up a dialogue. Get their opinions. Involve them in the process of creating a social media policy so they feel empowered to spread the word about you within the right framework. But make sure that you do not overcomplicate the process and make them feel they are under a microscope.

Opening internal lines of communication and building healthy employer-employee relationships is the first step. The next is figuring out how to train them to communicate externally.

Cheryl’s blog post includes a handy infographic by Mindflash.com on How to Train Your Employees to Handle Social Media. It’s a visual primer on the basics, such as how to identify your employees’ social temperament, ideas on what to share and what not to share on personal as well as corporate social platforms, etc. If you’re just starting to wrap your mind around this concept, it’s a good place to start.

The short of all this is that in today’s digital age, you can’t afford to try to control your company’s brand. You need to learn to let go and become involved in the conversation already going on about you in the social space—and let your employees help you. Otherwise, the cost in market share is steep, because competitors that “get it” are already out there eating your lunch.

Now, I’m not saying you should let go of all the reins; there must be some structure and planning involved. However, a good social strategy MUST involve your employees. Give them some leeway. Educate them about your core values, and about what’s appropriate to share in social circles. Train them to be your brand evangelists and you’ll be amazed at the resulting Return on Relationship!

Originally posted at TedRubin.com

When Relationships Go South: Dealing with Negative Fallout Online

After my post on Relationship Killers, I received a great comment from Zach Rosenberg, who brings up another relationship killer—telling the customer they’re full of beans. Here’s what he had to say:

One of the relationship killers I’ve been seeing a lot is brands engaging incorrectly – namely, publicly telling a consumer that they’re wrong, or have somehow used their product wrong. If you’re addressing a customer in public – GREAT! But if you’re addressing them in public and telling them that they’re too dumb for your product somehow…then you’re letting them and everyone else within earshot know that you think your customers are idiots.

For example, loosely-related to another father-blogger’s recent experience – a customer frustratingly tweets something like “@Company’s online stock check sucks” The worst thing a brand can do is reply with something like “well it’s not really representative of the store’s stock. Did you call???”

This sort of brand interaction is toxic. An employee is so rah-rah about how great their retail establishment is that they’ve forgotten that customer experience is the reason why the technology exists…

Zach’s absolutely right—and this reaction isn’t limited to online relationships. We’ve all seen examples of terrible face-to-face customer service interaction, or have been victims of it. The trouble with having the same type of interaction with people online is that the audience “within earshot” is much bigger, and so is the potential fallout for your brand. But don’t think “in-store” interactions aren’t being shared online as well. Better train all employees who are consumer facing and make sure they understand how quickly how they behave can affect your brand.


In my opinion, here are three ways brands can avoid this issue:

  1. Carefully screen your online customer facing representatives: If you’re going to outsource your social customer service or assign it to someone in-house, make sure the assignee has the right personality for the job. They should be customer-friendly, naturally helpful and sympathetic. This is generally NOT the job for your IT or development staff or a part-time intern. Just because they set up your profile, doesn’t mean they’re good at dealing with people. AND… train them properly and make sure they understand the ramifications of what they do.
  2. Don’t add customer service to an already overloaded individual: Stress is one of the biggest contributors to reactionary responses. Don’t be tempted to add customer service to someone’s plate when they already have a full-time job. It’s hard to keep your game face on when you’re pulled in too many directions, and this type of interaction requires focus and calm.
  3. Have a written plan in place for dealing with possible negative posts: It helps to sit down and brainstorm all the possible complaints or objections people could have to your product or service before you run into them. Rather than being surprised when something comes up, and not knowing what to say or having a knee-jerk reaction, plan out your responses for given situations. Be honest with yourself here, and put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Get with your legal department that is necessary in your industry for this exercise, but trust me—having a written guide for how to formulate responses by type will help tremendously. But for heaven’s sake, don’t send a “form letter type response” in a social setting. Personalize every response!

For instance, Zach went on to give me an example of a different way to respond to the negative post mentioned in his comment:

“It’s more simple (and makes them look better) to say something like, ‘We apologize; it’s not a perfect system, but we’re working on it! What item were you looking for?’ Even if that employee on Twitter can’t actually solve the problem, they’ve not made the customer feel like they’re the problem.”

Do you see how following these steps would have helped in this situation? Getting the right people in customer-facing situations and arming them with a plan for possible complaint types can help you turn potentially bad situations around… online and off.

Look at a negative response as an opportunity to assist someone, to build your brand reputation… and do your best to kindly resolve the situation and show consumer you care. Remember, you’re on “Candid Camera,” when it comes to social activity. When others see that you responded positively and quickly to resolve an issue, they are more attracted to your brand. Everyone loves great customer service—so be as transparent as possible when you interact with negative comments online. A relationship restored will bring you many happy returns!

Originally posted at TedRubin.com

Three Of Four CMOs Say Social Media Impacts Sales

Not long ago I wrote an article on the use of social media among CEOs and how many often talk the social media talk on behalf of their brands/companies but very few actually walk the social media walk for their own personal use.

Today comes results of a survey conducted by Bazaarvoice of 100 members of The CMO Club. Now while I realize the sample size is small (100) it is worth nothing that 56.1% of the brands represented have more than $1 billion in annual revenue while another 36% have $100-999 million in annual revenue, and just 7.9% have annual revenue of $0-100 million.

Image representing Bazaarvoice as depicted in ...Entitled “Chief customer advocate: How social data elevates CMOs” the survey and subsequent white paper ”reveals the results of an online survey of 100 members of The CMO Club, which includes CMOs of business-to-consumer and business-to-business organizations.”Key findings include:
  • Social (media) data impacts decisions for nearly all CMOs. Almost half of CMOs have used social data to make predictions or forecasts, and nearly nine in 10 say this data has influenced their decisions.
  • CMOs use data to drive smarter decisions beyond marketing. While marketing teams and agencies most often uncover the data itself, insights are used in product development, customer experience, sales, and C-level discussions.
  • CMOs believe social reveals consumer sentiment and improves brand awareness. CMOs are most confident in social data analysis of product/service sentiment, and in its impact on overall brand loyalty and awareness.

As for the impact CMOs believe social media has on sales:

While I’m not sure why the folks behind this survey/white paper decided to “water down” the confidence quotient, if you will, by inserting the word “somewhat” in the subhead in the chart above, especially when they did not use the word in the headline – but regardless the fact that so many of the CMOs surveyed identified social media as having such a profound impact on sales, as well as brand  awareness and loyalty speaks volumes.

It speaks volumes in that CMOs, perhaps unlike their fellow C-suite residents (CEOs), realize that social media is here to stay – yes there are those still on “it’s a fad” bandwagon, and that it can have a significant impact the things that matter most, AKA the bottom line and brand loyalty.

It would also appear that CMOs realize that social media is a direct reflection on the world around them – the world where consumers live, work and play. While not crazy about the use of the word “somewhat” again, the graph below shows that a large number of CMOs surveyed believe that social media is effective for identifying discernible trends among consumers with the word “discernible” being the operative word for sure.

The graph also reveals how CMOs believe that social media does a great job at reflecting consumer sentiment.

CMOs Are “Customer Champions”

Erin Mulligan Nelson, CMO, Bazaarvoice used that term in discussing the findings of the survey, saying “In a consumer-obsessed C-suite, the CMOs are the chief customer advocates and social (media) data is their ultimate weapon. Social data lets CMOs truly know their customers and predict consumers’ future needs before they even have them. Nearly all CMOs now use this data to drive decisions. As the business world re-centers around serving and delighting consumers, social data is turning CMOs into customer champions — and heroes within the C-suite. And as an industry, we have just started to tap into the potential of social data.”

She is dead on when she says that we have just started to tap into the potential of all the social media data of course as we are just now beginning to realize the sheer magnitude and power and scope of the mounds of data. Given the fact that we as consumers now create as much information every two days as we did from the dawn of civilization to 2003, I would say Acxiom CMO Tim Sutherwas correct when he referred to it as a ”tsunami of data” in an article I wrote back in February entitled How To Rein In The Riches Of Big Data.

The aforementioned article also speaks to the inherent dangers brands and businesses face when deciding what to do with all this new found data and the possible legal ramifications therein.

Sources: CMO.comBazaarvoiceThe CMO Club

Named one of the Top 100 Influencers In Social Media (#41) by Social Technology Review and a Top 50 Social Media Blogger by Kred, Steve Olenski is a freelance copywriter/blogger looking for full-time work. He has worked on some of the biggest brands in the world and has more than 20 years experience in advertising and marketing. He lives in Philly and can be reached via email,TwitterLinkedIn, or his website.


Don’t Wait for Holidays to Make People Feel Special

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day brings back a lot of memories for parents of teens and grown children, and sometimes those memories can be lessons for business relationships as well—namely, don’t wait for holidays!

A friend told me recently that her eldest daughter bought her a beautiful live orchid for Mother’s Day and a bunch of seeds to plant in her garden. Her youngest daughter (who has no money), picked a big bouquet of flowers from the garden for the table. Both were highly appreciated, and gave the mom warm fuzzies—but she pointed out that they would have given her the same feelings anytime, not just Mother’s Day. So the lesson here is toalways be thinking up ways to make your customers and/or individuals in your networks feel special. What can you do for them “just because?”

As my friend’s example illustrates, you don’t have to spend lots of money to generate warm feelings—it’s the thought that counts!

Can you send a gift? A coupon? A free e-book? Some of your time? Sure you can—you just have to decide it is important and make the effort to do so. The important thing to remember when you’re actually sending something, however, is that it should seem to be spontaneous; out of the blue.

For instance, you could develop a practice of sending thank-you cards to your mailing list when seasons change. We don’t often receive cards in the mail these days, so they get our attention. A nice card that says, “Thank-you for being such a great [friend, customer, client, etc.], we hope you’re enjoying the Spring weather!” is sure to give the recipient a lift.

Birthday cards are another example. Everyone likes receiving birthday cards. If you can hand-write them and stamp them, so much the better. In fact, personally acknowledging any kind of life event with a card is a good practice, whether it’s a positive event or sympathy for a loss. It helps us feel more connected.

What else can you do? Here are some socially-oriented ideas for individuals:

  • Give shout-outs: Tag the person in a public update with a short statement of why you value them
  • Send them a picture or helpful article: Post a picture or article link on the person’s personal profile or email it to them and say something like: “I saw this and thought of you, [give their name]”
  • Give a recommendation or testimonial: If your customer has a LinkedIn profile and you’re connected, send them a spontaneous recommendation (without asking for one in return)
  • Klout influence: If you know people in the Klout.com network, add them as influencers or give them +Ks in their area of expertise to help their Klout scores

These are just a few ideas of how to make your clients, customers and those in your networks feel appreciated. Can you think of more examples? Feel free to share!

Remember, giving out warm fuzzies should never be a chore—it should become a habit. The more you do it, the more natural it becomes, and the more fun you’ll have with it. Plus, the relationships you nourish with this attention will grow to be priceless and add significantly to your Return on Relationship.

Brands, don’t be routine with your interactions, be remarkable.

Originally posted at TedRubin.com

Relationship Killers: Four of the WORST Mistakes Brands Make in Social Media

The biggest goal for any brand delving into social media should be to develop quality, productive relationships. That’s the bottom line. However, many brands still “don’t get it,” and consistently make mistakes that are damaging to them in social media and therefore damaging to their brand. In my opinion, there are four big no-no’s that not only kill those all-important relationships, but also tarnish your reputation:

1. Broadcasting:  Blasting out sales messages rather than listening and engaging has got to be the number one relationship killer of all time. Bar none. People hate to be sold—especially on social channels, where their main objective is to talk, get opinions, relax and have fun, or find answers to pressing problems. When a brand spends the majority of its time broadcasting, it’s a clear message to followers that they’re not interested in real, two-way communication.

Listening should be your first priority, followed by engagement. Don’t try to sell to people until you’ve earned their trust!

2. Taking Followers Offline to Resolve Issues:  If someone has a problem and comes to your social presence to try to get it resolved, the worst thing you can do is shunt them off to a customer service contact with a “form letter” response. Too often I see… “follow us so we can DM you,” on Twitter, or a quick move to traditional customer service channels on Facebook. People have an innate need to be validated—and “showing them the hand” is the fastest way to sour a customer relationship. Sometimes there are things that have to be resolved offline for legal issues, but the majority of complaints or requests for help should be addressed promptly and publicly in social channels. At the very least, if you MUST send them offline, do so in a friendly, personal manner. Address them by name, thank them for bringing the problem to your attention, and so on. Walk a mile in your customer’s shoes—how do you feel when you’re ignored or made to jump through hoops by a company you deal with?

Responding publicly has another important, beneficial, and cost saving benefit. Other people with the same issue, and you can/should assume there are many more, can receive resolution via your response, and see how you interact… and then make their own judgments about your brand character based on those interactions. If you’re doing it right, you will build brand advocates in the process, and when/if needed your best brand advocates will support you when they see that kind of open, honest communication.

3. Having No Brand Personality:  People who spend time on social media like to spend time with people—not logos. If you have a team of employees handling your social responses, don’t make them hide behind the brand logo when they interact with followers—give them a voice and a face. Ford does a great job of this with @ScottMonty building his personal brand along with theirs. Scott interacts with followers as himself, not the Ford brand. This humanizes the brand and fosters good communication. Being able to see the team members behind the company and interacting with them personally makes a big difference in fan loyalty.

When a company censors its employees and doesn’t allow them to participate in social discussion surrounding the brand, it’s usually because they’re afraid of “what might happen if…” They’re afraid they’ll spend too much time on social or say the wrong things. These issues can be resolved with a comprehensive social media policy so all employees know how and when they can and should interact. Remember, your employees should be some of your best advocates, and a natural extension of your “public face.”  You can’t do social right with employee censorship. Your people are your company’s personality. Let them shine for you. And… if you don’t trust your employees, maybe you have the wrong employees, or a business approach that will be difficult to sustain in this hyper-connected world.

4.  Making Social a Direct Marketing Channel:  Can you develop a relationship with a piece of direct mail? A TV commercial? A newspaper ad? An email blast? Of course not! Yet many brands treat social as an extension of their direct marketing efforts—mainly because that’s all they know. They’re used to handing off their marketing to an advertising agency and having them run with it so they can get on with their day. They think in terms of ROI formulas, but falter when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of one-on-one networking.  If that’s you, don’t feel too bad—it’s a habit that’s been drummed into you and hard to break. But you’ve got to break it! Adopt a whole new mindset around social, and think in terms of building relationships and an emotional connection to your brand, or you’ll always be frustrated with your results. Remember… Social Media drives engagement, engagement drives loyalty, and loyalty correlates directly to increased sales. Return on Relationship™ = ROI.

This goes back to the “Broadcasting” mistake I mentioned earlier. Think in terms of providing helpful content, fun ways to communicate, sharing information and asking questions. Leave the direct marketing stuff in traditional channels. Get a sense of who your audience is and give them what they’re looking for in your social communications, or you’ll get “un-followed” or ignored in a hurry.

What other “relationship killers” have you come across when dealing with brands online, and how do you think they could be avoided? Conversely, which brands have you noticed that are “getting it right” in social media when it comes to Return on Relationship™?

Social Commerce is Relationship Commerce

We’re hearing more and more about “Social Commerce” these days – but how many of us actually understand its implications?  I’ve spent years in the midst of the evolution of commerce: As traditional commerce shifted into a digital world, becoming e-commerce, and now evolving through the evolution of social media into Social Commerce. The implications here are huge because the maturing of Social Commerce is… Relationship Commerce.

There are some guiding principles to Relationship Commerce.  None seem drastically different on their own; though they seem radically new when applied to the realm of commerce:

  • Relationships matter.  Discovering something you love is great, learning about it from someone you trust is even better.
  • Buying from someone you like is way more fun and rewarding than buying from someone you either do not like, or have no feeling one way or the other.
  • Shopping can be better.

Relationship Commerce is simple yet novel, it’s buying from people, brands, and entities you know and trust and learning about through social channels in a way that is authentic, natural and a part of your daily interactions. If marketing is relevant, it is a “service” NOT a “promotion.”

But in a fast paced, digital world, defining and maintaining our relationships has become unexpectedly difficult.  Social Media has enabled us to connect with an infinite number of individuals; it has given us the tools to extend relationships that years ago would have been impossible.  But in many respects we are failing and simply starting to believe that a “follow” or “like” is a relationship and after that we can simply move on to the next. This is not an email list or a database. We must be certain to remember: “Social Media is a facilitator of relationships, but it is not the relationship itself.”  You have to give to get. No relationship can survive without trust; it’s so simple in concept yet not always easy to execute.

With effort, a relationship may begin from the request of a Facebook friend or following someone on Twitter; but make no mistake – that initial request or follow will never create the relationship.  Trust is built upon interaction, when you’re true to your word, authentic, and genuine. To build relationships online, you (as a brand or individual) have to offer value in return. Be it via valuable information and content, or personal introductions, engagement and interaction… connection will remain key.

By asking questions and proposing ideas, you can engage your followers in such a way to give them the ability and reason to respond. Then when they do respond, interact with them to solidify your relationship, lest it fade away. Directly acknowledge their response, ask follow-up questions and share their insights with others.  Follow me on Twitter (@tedrubin) and you’ll see what I mean. The more responsive you are to your audience, the more responsive they’ll be to you. And that’s where relationships are born. It is this interpersonal exchange, the relationship, which differentiates Relationship Commerce.  You might even consider picking up the phone sometime and actually talking to someone… or even to many. Life is not just about financial exchange, and neither is commerce… especially in today’s hyper-connected “click here to share” world.

The way I see it, we’re overdue for a revolution in retail.  So many of us have been sharing our passions and discoveries, it’s about time brands and retailers took notice, gave us a voice, embraced the consumers perspective, and realized how our social presence can enhance their bottom line.

Originally posted at Collective Bias

Looking for Growth in Lean Times? Look North to Canada!

There’s no getting around it, times are tough and we may still be in for more of these lean times for years to come. Every company is looking for that elusive source of growth to keep driving the top line, or at least to replace any shrinkage in business from the downturn.

But in difficult times growth can be a hard thing to find and merchants both online and offline need to be creative and on the lookout for any potential sources of new growth. For those in the United States still struggling to find growth in the aftermath of the real estate and banking meltdown I have one word which may be the answer and that is … CANADA!

Canada you say? What’s different about the situation north of the 49th parallel that might make it a growth opportunity for me? Well to borrow a phrase well worn south of the border the first answer is “It’s the economy stupid!” On whichever metric one compares, Unemployment, GDP, Inflation or Currency, Canada has fared better during this downturn. Relative to Unemployment, at the start of the downturn Canada and the US were both tracking an Unemployment rate of roughly 6% and since that time the spread has grown to 1.5% with roughly 9% in the US versus 7.5% in Canada. Looking at GDP, Canada and the US both went negative in 2008 and based on aggressive stimulus both returned to roughly 3% in 2011, however since that time there is about a 1% spread with Canada at 2.75% and US at 1.75%.

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Twitter basics… In My Humble Opinion

The mistakes I see being made is trying to measure Social engagement with the same tools we measure every other digital touch point. In my view email, search, even banner ads, have spoiled marketers into thinking everything can be and must be measured with the metrics used to gauge success in other mediums. I am not sure of what the next stage will be for you, but in the beginning, when you are building your Social Media audience, and testing, I have three stages with which I measure… #1 is Audience growth, #2 is Reactivity… getting them to take an action, and #3 Stickiness… keeping them coming back, engaged and interacting. After you achieve all these I feel measurement will easily follow depending upon what is important to you and your brand.

If you want to continue to reach your market in this social media age, the marketing focus needs to be on building relationships, and metrics need to expand beyond ROI (Return on Investment) to include ROR: Return on Relationship™. If you are not engaging in your field of expertise on Twitter someone else is, so the first issue is that you are missing that opportunity and handing it to others. Second… if you are not talking about your business, your customers and prospects probably are, and you are not there to participate, engage, interact and most important for your business… listen and lead.

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