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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


This is a 5 star blog post

21 Sep

This is a 5 star blog post… or is it a 1 star blog post? Well you’re reading it, you decide. The star rating is the grandfather of social validation and review mechanisms. Migrating from the hospitality industry it moved to the entertainment industry before slipping effortlessly onto websites where it makes perfect sense for our attention deficit, fragmented, time-poor online world.

Copeland image: The problem with star ratings.With a single click you can sum up your entire experience of a product, service, or entity and be off to your next online destination. Conversely, no time to investigate a product? Just check the star rating. Everyone wins? Well no, and for the typical implementation of star rating systems here’s why:

It’s too democratic
The leveling power of the Internet has done some wonderful things. Bypassing the media, it has given a voice to people where previously their frustrations and delight would be confined to a small circle of friends and peers.

Mainstream social media hasn’t addressed this yet, but its problem is that in many ways influence and positioning vastly overshadow experience & knowledge. That’s for another post, but in the context of star ratings it means that everyone has the same level of authority when they rate something. So what’s wrong with that?

Well, should you really be allowed to rate something if you’ve never actually bought the product or experienced the service yourself? Why should you have the power to influence others based on hear-say, or worse, in the pursuit of an ill-informed agenda? Especially considering your star rating is elevated to the same level of influence as someone who actually paid for the product or service.

A star rating for a meal or movie accounts for a passive activity with a very short timeline. Should it be applied to a complex product or service with which you interact for a period of months or years? The blanket democracy takes no account of whether you read the instructions, ignored the warnings, let alone whether you paid for the product.

It’s open to abuse
Running a campaign or launching a product? Why not just buy 5 star reviews. Or go the extra step and buy 1 star reviews to be applied to your competitors.

Electronic Arts suffered the wrath of agenda driven star rating abuse when they released Spore, a PC game with what was seen by consumers as having  draconian anti-piracy measures. An organised backlash resulted in 837 1 star reviews being posted on Amazon within days, many by people who had never bought the game. Maybe this was a fair rating of the anti-piracy features, but it tarred every aspect of the product with the same brush.

It amplifies inherent bias.
If you pass my imaginary gate for people who have actually paid for the product then we run into the next huge failing. Inherent bias.
If you’ve committed to the point where you shell out money for a product or service then you’re pre-disposed to like it. There’s also the documented need to validate our decision. If you’ve ever looked for a review of a movie after you’ve watched it, or searched for a product review for the gadget sitting next to you on your sofa, as I have, then you’re probably looking for approval via social validation. You’ll be inclined to leave a higher rating as a result.

At the other end of the scale are those looking to assuage their anger with a 1 star review. What star ratings don’t show is the vast majority of people who find the product satisfactory. Have you ever taken the time to rate, or review  something that you were mildly pleased with, or was satisfactory? This evangelism amplifies both end of the scale, leaving the middle ground in a vacuum. It’s the reason youtube is looking for alternatives to star ratings. And if they are I’d wager the big e-commerce sites are as well.

No I’m not going to visit your Facebook page to “find out more” about your stupid contest

28 Jul

It doesn’t matter what kind of product or service is being advertised, there has to be a contest attached now where you’re encouraged to go to Facebook to win the big prize.

Typically – and you’ve seen them so you know – the contest involves submitting photos or videos or stories. People Like the entries. You win or lose based on Likes.

That’s the worst thing about the collision of social media and advertising. The knee-jerking. There have no doubt been massively successful contests using this tried and true method. But for how much longer?

A typical Facebook Contest

What was exciting about Facebook 3 years ago was all the unexplored territory for smart marketing ideas. The same opportunities still exist, although you would guess that every idea has already been done, given the uniformity of most major contests.

An example of a killer Facebook contest is Burger King’s Sacrifice a Friend.

Operating under the campaign banner Friendship is strong, but the Whopper is stronger, un-Friending 10 people through a Facebook application earned you a free Whopper. Even more diabolical, your friends were notified.

“Tom Hammarberg just sacrificed Doug Brown for a Whopper.” (Man, I immediately wanted it to say one-tenth of  a Whopper. Much more fun.)

Burger King shut down the campaign just ten days after it launched, pressured by Facebook to do so.

But in its brief, glorious dash to immortality, 233,000 Friends had been sacrificed.

Let’s continue to strive to be original with these things. Or else stick a fork in them.

Is Miracle Whip’s new campaign brilliant or suicidal?

4 Mar

Across the wires this morning comes this article about Kraft Miracle Whip’s brave – or foolhardy – new marketing campaign: We’re Not For Everyone.

They are inviting the public, through traditional and social media channels, to be brutally honest about the taste.

Some of the more memorable appraisals:

  • It tastes like sweet lotion
  • It’s like licking a shoe
  • Tastes like a 4-year old’s first food experiment (ok, that’s mine)

You can go to their Facebook page here and chose to either love it or hate it and then leave a comment. Then you are directed to YouTube to watch minor celebs earn their paycheque.

So, to the question: Is this outpouring of honesty a good thing?

Some are calling it brilliant. Many “marketing experts” think that honesty works with consumers (I agree with them). They believe this campaign will really entrench loyalty amongst those who already like it, and pique curiosity amongst those who are on the fence. Try it again and see for yourself! Click here to get your Free Sample!

Others, less fulsome in their praise, suggest that inviting the public to flog your product in such a manner only pushes those on the fence further away.

Here’s something else to consider: this is not about honesty at all. It’s about entertainment.

Do you think anyone believes Miracle Whip tastes like licking a shoe? Nah. But people will try hard to find something creative and damaging to say when invited. Human nature. Fence sitters may find it more entertaining to slag it off then prop it up.

Will the campaign work? I think so. Kraft is creating buzz by letting consumers have their say and not being defensive. These are the very principles upon which this great Cyber/Social Media Nation was founded.

What do you think? How would you describe it?

Which products are no good for crowdsourcing?

24 Feb

(Guest post by our Vancouver Island University intern Brad Tribbeck)

Crowdsourcing: trying to find a way of completing a task, a solution to a problem, etc. by asking a wide range of people or organisations if they can help, typically by using the Internet. (Macmillan Dictionary)

More brands have recently taken advantage of crowdsourcing, especially with social media making it easier to connect with the people who love brands and want to help shape their products.

Looking through successful examples of crowdsourcing, like the ones in this Mashable article, it’s obvious the type of products that are most likely best-suited to the crowdsourcing model: Lower cost products with a high level of brand loyalty. These loyal customers love what the brand has done in the past and are providing great insight by telling the brand what it would love even more from the products. Great stuff.

This got me thinking about what kind of products would not be good candidates for crowdsourcing. Personally, my first thought was a fast, expensive sports car. When someone purchases such an expensive and exclusive vehicle, would they have a more favorable view of it knowing that a group of strangers on the internet designed the interior upholstery fabric? Probably not. In the case of such a large purchase, the buyer is buying into the manufacturer’s choices because they are so exclusive and highly regarded. Buyers want a Ferrari, not John Doe’s idea of a Ferrari.

For certain products it is best not to give the customers control. What products would you rather not see crowdsourced?


Pull your head out of your ads

16 Jan

There’s a section in most advertising Creative Briefs that asks the question: How do we want our customers to react to the advertising?

You get a lot of poorly considered responses such as;

> This product is superior to other products in the category!

> I will have to run out and get this newly formulated product now.

> I love the new packaging! More reason to buy!

Now there is a site that offers up some funny examples of Things Real People Don’t Say About Advertising.

It’s a site that businesses and their ad agencies should take seriously.

As long as we continue to fool ourselves that shampooers get virtually orgasmic while they use our products, or that spouses high-five in the kitchen when we introduce a new cheese slice package design, we will continue to make a case for consumer-generated content.

Arrrghh…I hate Turtles

19 Nov

I’ve never liked those overly sweet, cheap-chocolate caramel reptiles.

Now I have a new reason to hate them: their advertising!

First they hit the consumer-generated content campaign trail a few years back to encourage Canadians to “Sing the Jingle” for a chance to appear in their TV advertising.

I love this quote from John Herbert, assistant brand manager at Nestlé Canada: “The Turtles jingle holds a special place in the hearts of Canadians,” he said. “I don’t know anyone who can’t sing along to “Mmm… I love Turtles™”.

“Mmm…I love Turtles trademark.” Catchy.

So we get a lot of tuneless, instant-fame wannabees playing into Nestle’s hands by singing about how much they love the product. Hey gang, the cliff’s over here!

Don’t even get me started on consumer-generated content. It was cute for about 6 minutes. A few years back. But when it’s orchestrated like a giant money shot all over the product?

I just caught their newest commercial on TV. It’s a spot about a guy visiting his girlfriend’s house at Christmas to meet her parents for the first time: He stands on the front step and practices what he’s going to say in a voice loud enough to set off car alarms. Rather than drop a piano on him, they invite him in. He brought Turtles as a gift! It’s going to be OK.

I tried to find it on YouTube to share with you, but it’s so bad they didn’t dare post it.

I hurled a sock at the TV and shouted “Stupidest commercial ever!”

Stupidest Commercial Ever™.