Say Yes to Insight
Most digitally active brands still struggle with mastering metrics, insights, and optimization (except retailers). Once you unify the internal machine, unify and standardize a learning from the experiences created by that machine.
For well over a decade, retailers have carefully watched cart abandonment patterns, conversion rates, and average days to repurchase. They make scores, spot patterns, and tweak to optimize. They’ve extended this zeal to the omni-channel world, and it’s a case-in-point for all other industries. To present a seamless omni-channel, follow their lead.
Create a machine—people, tools, processes—that tracks interactions across the full network. Measure to identify the effect of behavior, tactics, life stages and seasons, channels, pricing, participation, and positioning. Experiment and watch response rates change. Integrate that insight for the future. Ask Amazon—they’ll tell you. Optimizing works.
A brand strategy designed for digital has to be both strong enough to sustain a high degree of access and contact, and flexible enough to open up the airwaves for experimental play (that’s casual-speak for tweaking and learning). Your brand’s universe should appear to customers as so universal that your company has one ‘department’. Theirs. Your brand is just always high-personality, ease, and delivery. Backstage, the underpinnings of every metric, budget, and line of seniority should be devotedly omni-channel. The latter creates the former.
Doing this takes streamlined processes and data analysis, but before that, it begins with the answer to a simple but vital question: how does the unique purpose and value of my brand intersect with my audience? We call this connection point the shared ideal. Know it and know your own brand’s pulse (and the pulse of the people who appreciate it most). It could be assumed that Patagonia’s audience, on-paper, may share a kindred appreciation for rock climbing and back-country skiing. But what’s underneath that? What else does Patagonia tap into as a brand? Adventure. Environmental activism. Endurance.
Your understanding of your customers’ ideals—and your projection of your brand’s ideals—is just as optimizable as any other element of your omni-channel approach. The more you pay attention and integrate that attention, the more you’ll know.November 21, 2013
Shopping Across Channels
For CMOs, it’s been a cardinal rule for years, touted by usability gurus like Jakob Nielsen—and it’s as true for customer experience as it is for website and ecommerce design. Whatever you do, don’t project an island-like reflection of your org chart.
Customers don’t shop in silos. But too often, brands appear to the world from the inside-out, reflecting their own organizational legacy more than how customers naturally do things. Different departments fund, build, own, and manage different silos, with success measured within and not across.
“Requirements of shoppers across channels and the customer shopping process should be guiding principles, rather than the ROI of multichannel initiatives.” —Mim Burt, research director at Gartner
Brands get what you’d expect of this disconnect—disparate, disconnected islands of interaction less than the sum of the parts. And as brands race to keep up with changing customer behavior by adding new channels and touchpoints to the mix, many of them are actually doing more harm than good, throwing away chances to engage, connect and convert. By letting an internal mishmash turn into an external one, it’s an uphill climb for brands to be memorable or meaningful in a way that translates to profit and retention.
“Inconsistent experiences across disconnected islands of interaction not only confuse consumers, but will dilute and ultimately undermine a brand.” —John Ounpuu, VP, Strategy, Blast Radius
Brands across the board have sometimes applied old methods to the new age. But there’s a lot of positive on-the-fly hacking that’s gone on as well—brands who have observed, integrated, and turned what could have been a misstep into opportunity. All from paying close attention to the experience they deliver by every-which-way.
Can customers see the seams of your interactions? Do they bump up against the edges of your silos? If any of the following is true for your brand, the answer to these questions is probably yes.
- Different teams run your website, campaigns, social channels, and mobile apps
- Those teams chug along with a coordination between efforts that’s inconsistent
- The systems, tools, technologies, and processes of each silo are disparate, disconnected, or both
- Customer-facing teams are often in competition for budgets, resources, or performance metrics
- Teams are held accountable to different metrics separately
- The customer experience is organized along lines that match your reporting structure
When reporting structures, incentives, and systems are unified among whomever touches the customer experience, the result is a lightness not replicable by old-age approaches. With this lightness, the welcome of a brand’s voice—what people encounter as they search and buy—has an ease and consistency about it that customers like to see. The sum of which is good show.October 9, 2013
Marketing in Real-Time
On hijacking, piggybacking, and borrowing relevance for brand relevance
Timeliness is godliness. To keep connected to the cultural zeitgeist in a way that generates social media brand momentum, you’ve got to be on time. But let’s say that’s a given. What else does it take to not only show up, but to be on-point?
Mature social is all about the staking of identity—real-time content feeds brand storytelling and vice-versa. That’s why it’s so important to do it well. As Sean Weller, Strategy Director at Blast Radius, says, every tweet, image share, or piece of commentary should aim for more than just short-term attention based on what’s happening in the news: “It’s about breaking your brand story down into hundreds of little pieces and making each of them relevant, timely, and worth sharing.”
When you do, the overall effect is a dimensionalization of your brand. A fuller breadth of identity, voice. As though we were all sitting next to Oreo at that game, chuckling at a sidelong bit of wit. Well-done, well-timed real-time marketing (RTM) transforms corporate entities into unique personalities, engaging stories, and points of view.
“We are trying to be a cellphone company with soul, a company that stands for something bigger and changes the relationship you have with the phone company.” —Ron Faris, head of brand marketing at Virgin Mobile USA, on RTM
The first step of on the path to striking the right RTM note is a clear content strategy rooted in your brand story. But remember—talking about yourself is nothing more than monologue. Don’t tell. Show. Demonstrate your brand story in a way that takes on life for your audience.
First, though, you’ve got to know: how do the unique values of your brand intersect with those of your audience? This connection point is the foundation. Here’s why:
- It directly drives topics, tone and voice.
- It ensures audience relevance (without which it won’t even make anyone’s newsfeed).
- It ensures focus on brand over too much product and promotion.
- It provides an anchor that ensures that despite the growing volume of content you’re publishing, it all comes from the same core.
For an example of this idea in action, look to the Nike Super Bowl ad. In his moment of victory, Joe Flacco wears a uniform made by Nike, but the brand logo isn’t visible. Why? Because it’s not selling product. It’s selling the beauty of human potential when unlocked by athletic devotion.
The timing of the post attaches the contemplation to a larger conversation, but the content doesn’t depend on this timeliness. It would have worked just as well as a print ad published two weeks later. That’s the point: the best RTM content is backed by the same amount of brand thinking and strategic rigor that goes into a 30-second TV spot.
That’s all well and good for Nike, you say. But we are not Nike.
Truth: you need to tell great stories. Every successful brand had to, in its infancy, connect with an audience in order to cumulatively build that success. Regardless of category, a smart brand forges relationships based on a common point-of-view and shared values, beliefs, and interests.September 5, 2013
We are what we share
Post by Sarah Dickinson, Strategy Director, and Brian Mitchinson, SVP Marketing
The conventional wisdom on social media is all around relationships and conversation. We connect. We relate. We find like minds and forge common ground. But these days, it’s not the two-way discourse or the community-making that’s most telling.
All this connection has brought us back to a second-generation wave of enthusiasm for the broadcasting of individuals. It’s all about us.
The three-degrees-of-separation thrill of the first social wave was all about shrinking the world. It’s the force that codified our offline relationships online. And it’s still an important part of the mix. But now that social has matured, it’s engrained in who we are and how we tell our stories.
It’s all about the expression of identity. We evangelize and explore who we are not only by how we look or what we stand for, but by what we associate with via purchasing, curating, and sharing on social platforms.
“Rather than a virtual or second life, social media is becoming life itself.” —Author Andrew Keen, Wired Magazine
For brands, this is the new language—or better put, the new billboard or TV spot. Attach to identity on a micro level for macro effect. A growing segment of the population looks online for the sum total of who we are. This is marketing’s new context, and this context has as much effect for how brands operate as much as people.
Do you curate with the sum total in mind, just like a young social native would? Do you associate mindfully? Is your online persona in line with how you are in life? Consider the last dozen things your brand shared on Facebook or Instagram. Do they add to your brand identity, or muddy it? Do they contribute to the story of what makes your brand special, unique, or different? They should. It’s like choosing what to say in that thirty-second spot you spent so much budget on. It’s important.July 16, 2013
Feel Goods Technology
Post from the Cannes Lions by Brian Mitchinson, SVP Marketing.
Will future generations look back at ours and marvel at our ability and willingness to buy products online when the process is so rudimentary? When we buy tactile goods like textiles without actually touching them? Are we taking a leap of faith in the name of convenience and impulse purchases by buying these things untouched?
Haptic technology addresses this limitation; promising to bring back the tactile experience to an otherwise smooth and flat digital world.
Currently, there is very limited haptic response from digital devices. What we experience is mostly confined to game controllers quaking in our hands or phone keyboards like the HTC One giving a little bump to say ‘good job, you’ve completed a small task’.
Looking forward, it’s easy to imagine the technology advancing to a point where increasingly detailed and realistic experiences will be created.
Want to touch a suit’s fabric? Or the softness of those leather shoes? Sure. Why not?
It’s a long way off, but still a tantalizing window into the future — one where consumers wouldn’t dream of buying a new blouse or sheets without feeling the silk or the thread count.
So what’s needed to bring this technology to the masses? A library of digital textures and corresponding physical experiences – don’t worry, it’s something our friends at IBM are already working on.
With the way technology continues to advance, it won’t be long before tomorrow’s kids will wonder how we purchased things without touching them – just like how today’s can’t understand why desktop computers don’t feature iPad-like swipes and zooms.June 27, 2013