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LEGO shows the way to true customer centricity

4 Mar

Smart companies know that they have to pay attention to their customers if they want them to hang around.

That can take many forms, from social media interaction, to research, to transactional data analysis.

The deeper your understanding of your customers’ attitudes, habits and needs, the deeper the engagement you can create with them. And the easier it becomes to get new customers.

Listening is critical. Asking your customers their opinions is even better.

Danish toy manufacturer LEGO has taken this a step further. They asked their customers to do their design work. The subsequent ideas and public vote on their website has led to the launch of a 369-piece replica of the Hayabusa asteroid explorer, the Japanese-designed space probe that collects samples from asteroids for study back here.

LEGO launches Hayabusa asteroid explorer

LEGO launches 369-piece Hayabusa asteroid explorer

It was probably not an idea that LEGO would have hit on, but their customers sure did. Imagine the kind of loyalty that will flow from LEGO’s openness to customer input.

One of the coolest features of this model is Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency mission supervisor Junichiro Kawaguchi recreated in miniature with two expressions: one for “everything’s great” and another for “%$&#*@!”

JAXA project manager Kawaguchi as a LEGO guy

JAXA project manager Kawaguchi as unhappy LEGO guy

Did the mad men of Mad Men deliberately provoke New Yorkers?

3 Mar

I was sorry to read that some families of the victims of 9/11 have been hurt by the latest out-of-home ads promoting Season 5 of Mad Men.

Falling man from controversial Mad Men Season 5 ad

As you can see, the ads depict a man in free-fall down the side of a building. This is a familiar image to fans of the show as it is essentially the narrative thread of the show’s opening sequence.

It is also a familiar image to people all over the world who watched men and women jump to their deaths from the burning towers.

9/11 falling man and falling man from Mad Men ad Season 5I do understand that people who had lost loved ones in that massacre would feel jarred by the sight of this on a building in New York. This is unfortunate for everyone involved, advertisers and audience alike.

The buzz out there is that the Mad Men promotions team was somehow looking to capitalize on New York sensitivity and could not have been unaware of the impact of this particular execution.

There are some ads out there that are deliberately designed to needle. This one for Benetton would fall into that category.

Unhate campaign by Benetton with Obama and Chavez kissing

But would the mad men of Mad Men feel it necessary to skewer the deepest sensitivities of New Yorkers on purpose like this? Or was this just an unfortunate miscalculation?

I’ll let you decide.

(Mad Men photos courtesy AMC)

Are you ignoring your best customers in hot pursuit of new ones?

28 Dec

cheating on your partner

The survival of any company is based not on how many new customers come through the door, but on its ability to retain existing customers.

The strategy for customer retention is called Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

Many large companies develop sophisticated CRM strategies, but you needn’t think like a big business to acquire a potent strategy. Think like a consumer instead.

While product innovation is important and price is always an issue, research shows that most people split for the competition because they didn’t like the way they were treated.

That means poor customer service. I would argue (not too stridently mind you, because my head is still delicate from an excess of holiday cheer) that bad communication is at the heart of the loss of loyal customers, or churn as we call it.

Businesses don’t have to offer all kinds of crazy stuff to keep their customers from churning. They just need to communicate to them wisely. When they mess up, they’ll find that hell hath no fury like a customer scorned!

As a consumer yourself, no doubt you’ve received an email or letter from your telecom company that has tried to upsell you to services you already subscribe to. How does that make you feel? That the company doesn’t even care enough about your business to find out what services they are already gouging you for, that’s what!

You’re now a ripe candidate for churn.

What kind of customer service might take you the other way?

Dear Mr. Brown

We note that you currently have your TV, Internet and phone services with us. This letter is to advise you that we have adjusted our monthly price to you so you can benefit from a bundling of these services. You save $3.77 per month. Thank you for being our customer.

Instant loyalty. And they bought it for less than $50 a year, which is going to be way cheaper than what they are investing in getting another telecom’s customer to switch.

That’s smart CRM.

The rise of the Super Consumer

16 Dec

Female superhero flying

If you’ve been paying attention over the past few years, you’ll have noticed that your passive, trusting, free-spending customer has been replaced by a demanding, attention-deficient control-freak.

The new Super Consumer is also just as likely to be a woman as a man. The stay-at-home mom is as connected to the marketplace as the career-gal, and the old stereotypes are long out the window.

She wants you to play ball according to her rules and if you don’t, you can expect to hear about it before she vocally moves on to your competition.

What does she want from you?

She wants you to win her over. You will have to offer her value on two fronts: price and authority. By authority, I mean that you are the go-to product or service in your market or category. She is willing to pay more to have a better experience, but she still wants you to duke it out with your rivals over price. Think iPhone.

She wants a long-term relationship. She wants to know that after you’ve wooed her, you are going to repeatedly make her feel that she made a good choice. Or else she’ll say goodbye. Say hello to Customer Relationship Management.

She wants you to play nice. By that I mean she wants to know you are a forward thinking and ecological company. Increasingly, she will look for evidence of it. Given a parity in price and product, she will turn to values to make up her mind. What shape are your business values in?

She wants you to listen. The new Super Consumer is connected in a way that was simply unimaginable 5 years ago. She will talk about you and expects you to pay attention. She will make purchase decisions based on what she hears about you in online social spaces, and she will not be shy in sharing her own views about your performance. Or lack of it.

She wants to be in control. Your customer has had it with your one-way advertising messages and chest-thumping. She’s in charge here and tunes you out when you fail to recognize that. The ways she sees it, she is creating her own experience with your brand through a blending of technology, information and opportunity. And you had better keep up, bucko.

(Photo Courtesy of iStock Photo)

Does this post make you uncomfortable? Good.

8 Dec

Cat sitting on a balcony railing

The most damning comment I can hear from a client after we present some creative work is: “I’m comfortable with this.”

My stock reaction is to apologize and promise we will do better when we bring back revised concepts. Invariably our client wonders what the heck happened between communicating that they liked the work to my suggestion that it hadn’t measured up.

Advertising that makes clients comfortable makes their audience comfortable too. Comfortable people snuggle down further into their blankies and fall asleep.

Brave advertising takes people out of their comfort zones. It shakes them up or inspires them or makes them roar with laughter or gets them reaching for the phone or hitting the click here button immediately.

Brave advertising should, therefore, make our clients a bit nervous. Not running-for-the-toilet nervous. But giddy-with-the-prospects nervous.

Might it cause complaints? Yes. That’s the risk of not being invisible. There will always be someone who gets upset by your advertising. I wrote about some of our complaints here. It’s impossible to please everyone, so never try.

But why would any business want to take the risks that come with brave advertising?

Simple: because it’s just as risky to put your audience to sleep. And there are no rewards for doing so.

Black Friday is a symbolic conclusion to the Occupy campaign

25 Nov

Shopping crowds on Black Friday

What sublime timing that as the last tents come down in Occupy camps around the continent, the doors swing open for the ultimate shopping day of the year.

Did the Occupy movement get it all wrong?

They’ve been targeting their message at Big Business and corporate greed, but as rampaging bargain hunters on this Black Friday make plain, greed is hardly the exclusive province of the vendors.

There is an old Chinese proverb that the fish rots from the head down. But Chinese medicine looks also to the feet to determine the health of the entire body.

When our society has gotten to the point where shoppers carry pepper spray on Black Friday to keep others away from the stuff they want to grab, and when store clerks can be trampled to death as they open their doors for business, it’s clear that more than a little examination of western society’s feet is required.

But just not today. You’ll be crushed under them.