How to improve “Why this ad?”

I was reading an article today about Google’s efforts to put more transparency into their advertising, by offering a ‘Why this ad?’ link on text ads that appear in your search. I mean, I think we’ve all gotten weird, random ads from time to time, and thought ‘how the hell did this find its way onto my screen?’ So good for you, Google. But I have one suggestion – do more.

What do I mean by more? Glad you asked. Well, it seems to me that Google probably already knows enough about us through our search behavior and actions online, that it can offer more ‘Why’ services to us, to help us get through everyday things that require a bit more transparency.

For example, your boss sends you a curt email telling you to put everything aside and get those reports by 5 pm. Wouldn’t you love to have a ‘Why is he picking on me?’ link to help you out?

Or what about watching a movie online? Have you ever watched with your girlfriend who always asks annoying questions during the best parts? Wouldn’t you rather she had access to a ‘Why is he after the hero now?’ link to keep her quiet?

Or how about when you buy something online and in the shopping cart there are a few of those mysterious fees and taxes (I’m looking in your direction, rental car companies, airlines and Ticketmaster). I think a ‘Why are you charging me a facility fee’ link would come in pretty handy, too.

So keep up the good work, Google. But next time you offer this link, don’t think so small. Go big and start offering a ‘why’ link to everyone and everything online. Why, you ask? Because you’ll make my life a whole lot easier.

How do you say “bad marketing” in French?

Razor1I don’t claim to be the savviest marketer in the world, but as a consumer, I do know what annoys me – and generally it falls in the category of being mis-targeted. I can forgive traditional media for its transgressions by showing me commercials that aren’t meant for me (hey, we’ve all mistakenly watched a full year of Grey’s Anatomy before, right guys?). But when online ads are blowing it, I blow my lid.

With all of the information that I am giving away through my email account – where I received this electric razor ad (click here to read my article on Google reading your mail) – How is it, in this era of enhanced targeting and data capture that I could possibly receive a display ad in French? Is it because I’m Canadian?

For those who aren’t aware, Canada is bilingual, so French is on everything. I remember 25 years ago when growing up in Canada I had a McDonald’s t-shirt featuring the lovable, purple, milkshake-addicted Grimace. Only on my shirt, his name wasn’t Grimace, it was Le Grosse Douceur. Even my favorite cereal, Rice Krispies, had French on it. The boxes weren’t always adorned by Snap! Crackle! and Pop! Sometimes they were replaced by an exuberant trio of elves called Cric! Crac! and Croc! 25 years ago we were used to seeing French stuff on things.

But this isn’t 1984. This is 2009, and I don’t want to see French anymore. And the fact that I no longer live in Canada makes this online ad even worse. So if I were the good folks at Remmington or whoever created this display ad, I’d ask for an explanation from my media agency. Especially if they’re being charged by CPM. Because if I don’t understand it, I’m not going to buy it.

Obviously I’m not the only one who is put off by bad targeting. This is a funny post about Facebook’s Ad Fail.

Social Media = car. Brand = gas.

social-mediaOnline Spin just released an article about succeeding with Social Media and how the answer isn’t in advertising, Facebook pages or Twitter profiles. To this statement I only have one thing to say:

Duh.

Online Spin has it right. But is this such a revelation? Why is it that so many social media ‘experts’ out there don’t understand the fundamentals of brand engagement? When people talk about your brand, or friend/fan your brand, or tweet about your brand, it’s because they have bonded with your brand, not because you simply exist. The principles of brand strategy and engagement have never been more essential today, yet these social media tacticians have many clients believing that they’ll reap financial rewards if they just set up a fan page on MySpace.

The only companies that do well in social media without clear brand support are the ones who innovate in social media. Companies like Naked Pizza who put up a Twitter billboard out front of their location to give followers special deals. The desired brand effect was a pizza for early adopters (go figure, the pizza is 100% organic).

If you’re living up to your brand promises at every touch point and creating advocacy with your customers, then your elevated presence in social media is assured. Not only will people flock to your social media sites, but they may even create their own fan sites as well. I recently flew Virgin America and loved it so much, I devoted a whole article to it. And I don’t even know if Virgin has a Twitter profile.

My advice is this: get your brand in order and build some loyalty. Until you do, your social media presence won’t do much for you. Think of it this way. Social media is the car and your brand engagement is the gas. Without people who love you, your social media ain’t goin’ no where.

9 Reasons why your CRM sucks

Thumbs downI have been working with clients and their CRM programs for some time, and I have always been pretty amazed at how lousy so many of them are. Not that these companies aren’t interested in having more loyal customers (after all, loyalty = increased share of wallet), it’s just that other factors seem to come into play that impede that progress, or they just break some simple rules. So here are some issues with CRM I have come across, and a few suggestions how companies can improve their programs.

Oh, and before I begin, for the record, I want to be clear about what I believe CRM is for – it’s to build advocacy for your brand. In essence, it’s communicating with your 10,000 customers in a way that makes them feel like you’ve only got 10.

Okay, with that said, here we go.

9 Reasons why your CRM sucks:

mailbox1. You think CRM is a just direct mail program. How many times, as a consumer, have you received a direct mail offer from a company that ‘knows’ you, but they’ve sent you something ill timed (like a limited time, 15% off oil change coupon, the week after you got your oil changed) or offering you something you don’t want or need (like a product you’ve already bought)? The reason why this happens is that many companies believe that CRM is just a database for addresses, and to cut down on the cost of developing several communications, they use the entire list to blast out blanket offers.

I’ve been told several times to send out a direct mail offer with multiple offers to the entire list, because at least one of the offers applies to everyone on the list.

This doesn’t create customer loyalty. It’s an inauthentic offer that makes us feel like customer number 9,872.

garbage-can2. Garbage in = Garbage out. Many companies don’t do a good job of purging customers after they have bought a certain product or service. Generally because this is a manual process and some one just didn’t get to it. As a result, customers get offers for things they already have. What’s worse, the offers they receive generally offer a better deal than they originally received. This is a good example of how a company can actually pay money to piss their customers off. So always make sure that you have a quality assurance mechanism in place for data entry or find a way to automate it.

woman shouting3. You communicate too much. I hate to call a company out, but Amazon, if you’re listening, stop with the emails already. I probably receive an email offer once every two days from Amazon. I’m sorry, but I don’t read books that fast. If I did, I’d be much smarter. All this extra communication does is annoy me and makes me immediately delete your emails. Good thing for Amazon is that they’re too big to care. But if you’re not a monopoly, please heed this advice: Unless you’re my best friend (which you’re not), don’t talk to me all the time.

salesman4. Everything is an offer. If you want to build loyalty with me, offer me something that isn’t an offer. I wrote a post about this a while ago about the power of ‘Thank You’. If you want me to like you more, next time you speak with me, try giving me helpful advice on what I have just bought (reinforce my good decision to go with you), or give me something I’m not expecting, or, better yet, connect me to others who have bought the same thing. Perhaps we can build a community of brand advocates for you.

Win5. You use contests to collect addresses. Not good. More often than not people will enter your contest to win the contest. They have no interest in your products or services. That whole “No Purchase Necessary” thing is hard to distinguish between who is interested and who isn’t. But if you have to run a contest, here’s a good tip, start your list with with the people who actually bought something.

Of course another way to build up your list is to offer a discount on a future purchase, and don’t just make it a blanket offer. If possible, make the discount relevant to their purchase. For example, if you’re a cable provider, offer a free on demand movie or discount on a specialty channel. Don’t offer a 25% discount on your phone service.

stopwatch6. You think short term. Many companies make the mistake of believing that CRM is something that migrates customers from interested to engaged to advocacy in 6 months. It doesn’t work like that. How long do you date someone before asking them to marry you? CRM takes time. And remember the goal – advocacy. It may not mean an increase in share of wallet, but it could mean an increase in WOM and new customers. So don’t be pushy. Customers are a skeptical lot to start out with.

not-listening7. You didn’t talk to actual customers before offering them something. When you get together with friends and talk about companies, you either praise them or kill them with respect to their: customer service, call center, product, locations, parking, price, etc. Everyone’s got an opinion. So why is it that so many companies embark on CRM programs without talking to a single soul first? If you want to know how to improve your relationships with your customers, try talking to them. And here, qualitative trumps quantitative results. Get to know what your customers really want before you begin.

And don’t just use tools like Twitter Search, Google Alerts or BingTweets to eavesdrop on them. You can use those tools to find out if you’re doing a good job or not. But don’t use them as the foundation of your CRM program.

trespass_sign8. Your CRM program doesn’t include other inbound/outbound areas. Cardinal sin. If your call centers do not have access to customer information or if your direct mail agency doesn’t have access to what transpired on your Twitter feed, you stand a very good chance of making yourself look like you don’t listen. Make sure any time there is a communication with a customer that his/her record is updated (if it is relevant). If something was solved in the call center, but the customer’s record isn’t de-duped for it, they can receive a communication about the same thing, thereby eliminating the two-way conversation we’re all trying to create.

Life_Ring9. You’re not really listening or helping. This is my last point, but it’s pretty significant. One of the ways to build loyalty through CRM is to create a dialogue with your customers. If they feel like you’re listening, that makes them feel like they are important to you. Do not make the critical mistake of giving them avenues to reach you, like a call center, then putting them on hold for 30 minutes, making them listen to the pre-recorded message “You call is important to us…”. If you want to build some loyalty, you have to give them a reason to be loyal. And being helpful helps. Perhaps one of the benefits of your CRM program could be immediate access to a representative when they call, or anticipating problems they may have and delivering solutions to them proactively. Don’t make them come to you. Show them that you care.

In any event, what’s important to realize about CRM is this:

CRM is time consuming, frustrating to implement, and it costs money.

That’s why it’s so easy to do it badly or dump it when times get bad. But if Frederick Reichheld, the loyalty expert, is correct by saying, “the one thing successful companies have in common are customers who would recommend their company to others”, my question to you is, how can you not afford to do CRM, and do it well?

How the NFL should use Behavioral Targeting

NFL POPCORNThis past weekend the NFL offered free access to their new ‘all access’ channel RedZone, which is a football lover/ADD sufferer’s dream channel. It jumps around to every game where there is something significant happening (i.e. touchdown, turnover, team driving for a score, etc.). The allure of this channel is that there are no commercials, just action.

nfl-redzone-logoBut in the NFL’s ever continuing quest to make more money, I wonder how long it will take before they start interrupting play with advertising. They’ve sold RedZone by telling viewers there are no commercials, but that wouldn’t preclude them from putting sponsorship information on screen, would it?

Which made me think – based on situational events in football games, could they behaviorally target sponsorship information to viewers based on the action on the field? I call it ‘Situational Sponsorship’.

Here’s how it would work. In the NFL there are always things you can count on happening: Hard tackles, touchdown/victory celebrations, and gratuitous food/crowd shots among others (see: T.O. eating popcorn at top of post). So, the NFL could sell these ‘situations’ as media placements during games. Here are a few more ideas:

The NFL always has its share of injuries. The bigger the star (or injury) the longer they stay on the action. The viewer can’t help but think health at the time, so why not sell a portion of the screen to insurance companies?
NFL INJURY

The NFL can leverage some of its bigger-than-life personalities. You can’t tell me that every time you see Michael Vick, you don’t still think of his arrest for dog fighting. Some celebrities are more famous for their off-the-field behavior, so why not take advantage of what we’re all thinking in the first place?
NFL PETS

When your team doesn’t win, it’s natural to feel a little down. The NFL provides fans with a full range of emotions. And I don’t think fans are looking for a bridge to jump off of when their team loses, but some people don’t exactly take bad news well. And with the shocking rate that people are turning to prescription drugs, it provides a great opportunity for companies like Pfizer to remain top-of-mind.
NFL DEPRESSED

Come to think of it, in this new era of TIVO and PVRs, I’m surprised this isn’t already being done with regular programming. Forget product placement, where is situational sponsorship?

Stop asking for something ‘viral’

SprintThere seems to be a misnomer out there, shared in client circles (and exacerbated by the media), that they can ask their agencies to create viral campaigns for them. Mediapost has just written an article about Sprint’s new viral campaign, on the day it launched. They must know something I don’t because to me, viral is a result, not a tactic. Calling something viral before it has launched is like picking the Superbowl winner in March (congratulations Redskins).

If you’d like to see Sprint’s new campaign, click here – it’s geared towards mobile users who are frustrated with their cell phone carrier. You can get Sprint to change you to their network, and then send your mobile carrier a goodbye song. Not exactly a new idea (and not likely to go viral).

So clients: let’s agree on this distinction. Viral is something you see a campaign do, not something you can request, like out-of-home or radio commercials. And if you’d like to see something go viral, you’re going to have to stick your neck out a little and do something edgy or really innovative. A milquetoast campaign like Sprint’s isn’t going to cut it.

And by the way, I get the irony of distributing the link to a supposed viral campaign I am critical of.

How to erode brand trust – by Hyatt

firedI’m a fan of Hyatt Hotels. In fact one of my favorite hotels is the Hyatt Olive 8 in Seattle. As a customer I have always been pleased with their attentive service and care, which are strong pillars of their brand.

However, as a consumer, I was really disturbed to hear about Hyatt’s recent underhanded move to eliminate their housekeeper positions in Boston and replace them with a third party. I won’t go into details (click here for the story), but it hardly smacks of any care. And if any of it is true, how can they not think this erodes my trust in their brand?

In this day and age companies just can’t get away with acting out of brand character. You can’t tell consumers you’re one thing and then be completely opposite to your internal stakeholders. We’ll find out one way or another. And here’s the worst part. Due to social media proliferation this PR gaffe won’t be localized to the Boston area. It has the potential to affect Hyatt globally.

So what may have begun as a cost saving measure, has now become a costly crisis for Hyatt. And all because they didn’t think that their staff was a part of their brand.

Hyatt has responded to the negative press with a statement you can read here.