blog: archives

Rebranding America: who’s buying?

From a marketing perspective the dramatic shift in how the world perceives America since it downgraded its rhetoric with Syria is an interesting study in the potential risks of rebranding, without fully determining the consequences across all your customer segments.

Politically speaking, America has, like any other country, 2 markets – domestic and export.

My interpretation of its brand message (since 1942) for export markets was: “WE TAKE THE FIGHT TO THE ENEMY.” Its brand message to its domestic market was: “FEND FOR YOURSELF.” That dual aggression translated into US commercial domination of global markets from the ‘50s through to the ‘90s.

My interpretation of the current domestic brand message for America is: “WE TAKE CARE OF OUR OWN” (as demonstrated by Healthcare reforms and quantitative easing). Its export brand message could be similarly interpreted as “WE DON’T WANT TO GET INVOLVED UNLESS IT’S ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.” It could be said that this was a reversion to America’s brand pre-1942.

I have no political agenda. I am simply interested in who is buying?

Domestically, US Government is shutdown through partisanship and the economic decline is skirting a fiscal cliff. In export markets, every country that recognized America as the ‘come out swinging’, ‘save the day’ brand is feeling the void and the main beneficiaries seem to be America’s ideological competition.

In 1942 America became a hero on the world stage. The arch-nemesis of USSR helped it mold its hero brand into a powerful marketing weapon both politically and economically. How does the hero transition into a stay-at-home family man? Is this not a cautionary tale to all marketers how to consider the broader implication of rebranding? Something to think about.

Reference: http://www.hydrogencreative.com/thinking-of-refreshing-your-brand/

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5 things I learned at the CMA National Convention 2013

  1. Failure is just one step back from success
  2. Bad habits feel good until good habits feel better
  3. Strange is the new normal
  4. There is such a thing as the “Accidental Entrepreneur”
  5. One idea shared is one idea squared

 

I also learned that Canadians love Sillicons. This promo drew 25% of show traffic to the Hydrogen booth and gave us a great opportunity to engage with serious people over some serious fun. Thank you CMA & The Art of Marketing for giving me that net takeaway.

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The significance of truth in advertising

Did you know, zero gms of trans fat may not be a perfect 0? FDA regulations state 0.5 gms is permitted to disclosed as zero. Yet nutritionists believe that more than 2 gms of trans fat per daily diet can be harmful. How harmful? Who can say? But the notion that 25% of a harmful level is negligible seems to be an acceptable lie. (See: Are Marketers Out Smarting Us, by Stating Zero Trans Fat? http://everydayhealthforlife.com/zero-trans-fat-doesnt-necessarily-mean-zero/). Also, since the Organic Trade Association lobbied Congress to allow toxic additives in organic foods, you can probably only get true organic produce if you grow/raise it in your own backyard (See: What Does the USDA Organic Label Really Mean? http://www.care2.com/causes/what-does-the-usda-organic-label-really-mean.html)

Can we handle the truth?

Can placing a veil over the truth in order to gain acceptance really be considered a sustainable business model? Even if there is a standard return policy on most advertised offers, and a 1-year defects warranty, does the customer really want to make choices based on those caveats? Should shareholders be concerned that a high-speed advertising train might run out of track at some undefinable point when consumers flee having felt they were misled? Or, like the character Cypher in the Matrix, would consumers bask more happily in the glow of an illusion that whatever they are buying today is better than what they are replacing.

Truth is subjective

Self-image sets the tone for all forms of rationalization in making decisions. Self-image rarely aligns with how one is perceived, creating a perpetual ‘truth dichotomy’. For example, celebrities struggle when their public persona is not in synch with their self-image. Young, talented musicians sing about their personal frailties, yet the public demands role models of perfection. Take that idea into the democracy of consumer markets: when a brand overstates its claim in order to maintain its public persona it can fall from grace as easily as a Starlet of today becomes the Tabloid mockery of tomorrow.

Perception is Reality

In marketing and sales we would say it a bit differently: Expectations, once created, are like Promises. If you advertise to build customer expectations, you have to deliver on that promise.

Truth is also highly experiential and therefore highly subjective. While Customer Experience Departments aim to make the brand honest, it doesn’t mean the customer will have their expectations met.

Risk in advertising

Generating lots of awareness and response is not a true measure of success if the advertising sets expectations that are not sustainable. I am not talking about grounds to sue. Most mice-type at the bottom of the page protects the marketer. I simply mean where customers believed the ad and couldn’t sustain that belief in the product, either pre- or post-purchase.

On whom does the burden of truth  fall: the ad agency or the marketer? Does a creative ad deserve industry recognition if the brand that it represents sees a high rate of customer churn? To say ‘Yes’ puts the onus on the client. Is there any responsibility on the agency to do due diligence and inform the client when there is a misalignment between the advertising promise and the product delivery? When advertising is regarded as entertainment at the Superbowl, perhaps we have already accepted that it has entered the realm of fantasy and we have adjusted to that. But when it comes to hard cash that we feel was not well-spent, whom do we blame? The manufacturer or the ad agency.

Truth is hard to find

Advertisers, politicians, lawyers, real estate agents, journalists: we live in a world where Truth is constantly subject to distortion, concealed, deleted or being reinvented. But, isn’t it refreshing when an advertiser starts telling the truth? How do agencies manage this process? I believe that customer-centric marketing is the best advocate for truth in advertising. When major brands like McDonald’s opens up the kimono on how it creates ads and delivers its service we see consumers sit up and pay attention. I like that.

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A Report on the Customer Experience Conference, CMA – 11-04-2013

Overall: an uplifting event demonstrating that customer-centric marketing has come of age, albeit rushed through teen adolescence at light-speed, by the power of social media.

Some very strong presentations and some surprises:

GO Transit wins the award for a Public Agency teaching private enterprise how to go about their business: for putting customer experience at the front of the line and driving up commuter volumes. Their customer research, segmentation and designing their brand promise entirely around the customer’s values of ‘easy’ rather than a transportation value of ‘efficient’ is as customer-centric as can be. How far apart are easy and efficient? We usually separate them with a comma − easy, efficient − it rolls off the tongue. Go-Transit learned the hard way, that when you separate ‘efficient’ from ‘easy’ an entire customer base can fall through the cracks. Great job learning that and fixing it in such a comprehensive and successful way!

1-800-Got-Junk? also rates top marks for walking the walk in customer-centric marketing. Compensating your franchisees based on the degree of positive customer feedback is a brilliant incentive, and immediately measurable through use of the net promoter score service. And then turning each high-score customer into a brand ambassador for lead-generation −very slick. If only all business models were so simple.

Other key ambassadors of integrated customer-centric business models, Porter Airlines and Miele Canada were very powerful reinforcements of the core value of the strategy.

It was very exciting to learn how Microsoft, Samsung and Canadian Tire have re-focused their energies on customer experience. If these Mega-brands in their respective markets have taken this on board, it is very encouraging to contemplate how customer-centric marketing will start to influence all aspects of delivering on the brand promise for marketers.

Most encouragingly, the conference was packed. Well done CMA for planning and hosting.

Written By |B2B, B2C, Customer Focus, In the News, Marketing Strategy, Relationship Marketing|Comments Off on A Report on the Customer Experience Conference, CMA – 11-04-2013

My Google AdPicker, My Choice

When “Single Women Want You” ads started to appear in so many of the news and information sites I was browsing at my office, I became suspicious. Before that it was ads for a downtown hotel with a good reputation. I am not suggesting there was a connection, but my web-browsing exists solely for business (at home I prefer to read books), I am 25-years happily married, and have no reason to stay downtown in a hotel, so I was mystified why I was being haunted by these ads.

In Firefox I tweaked a few settings, so that now my cookies delete daily and the Women vanished.

Big news: Microsoft’s web browser default is now set to “Do not track”. This has earned the resentment of advertisers in general, because being able to track and insert ads wherever the customer searches and browses gives the advertiser a lot of impressions.

The beauty of Remarketing online is that the advertiser doesn’t have to pay Google until there is a click-through. Remarketing means your ad will follow an online web user through their successive browsing experience until you stop decide to stop paying for the campaign. This earns lots of impressions at no cost. Google is supposed to manage it so that the insertion of ads from sites you have visited does not become obvious or annoying. I don’t remember visiting any dating web-sites, but in my business I do a lot of research on advertisers, so it is possible I did, but not as a punter. Any tab left open in a browser, the duration-of-site-visit is clocked, even if you don’t look at the page. If my advertising market research tripped Google’s Remarketing program, then it became a very annoying feature!

Will this type of campaign flourish, or will the Do Not Track caucus win out?

Here is where I think the online ad universe is headed:

Users will start to set their browser privacy settings to “Do not track”. A lot of online advertisers will get bummed off.

Google will then present me with a personalized database of advertiser opt-ins called MyGoogleAdPicker so I can elect which ads to view based on my search and browse history, to enrich my daily browsing experience. I will also be able to add my own list of opt-ins of anything trending in Social Media, or word-on-the-street. Google will also be able to suggest – based on my search history, and some canny algorithm using demographic assumptions – any marketers that I might also find of interest under the category of MyGoogleAdPicker Plus. Google will offer incentives to use MyGoogleAdPicker Plus that will be charged back to the advertisers like an inverted PPC model.

Within this model, as an Internet-browser, I will have the expectation that every online banner I see is tailored to my interest. The advertiser will get a highly-qualified conversion rate and the web will have less clutter to worry about. You can’t get more customer-centric than that.

What is the down-side? Why isn’t this happening yet? Because the consumer market is not yet that savvy. It hasn’t pushed Google to take the initiative. But it will and they will. Not soon enough for single women perhaps. If the concept is my invention I’ll be happy take a percentage, but I hope someone is already hacking away at this model, because I am happy to appreciate the benefit, like every other Internet user.

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Customer Experience: a Roadmap for Marketers

Please take a look at the Canadian Marketing Association’s most-recently published whitepaper Customer Experience: a Roadmap for Marketers. It aligns very closely to our own publications on customer-centric marketing and many of the blog posts in this site.

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PLANNING OUT YOUR PRODUCT LAUNCH

Planning Out Your Product Launch —

Avoid 3 common mistakes that could reduce your chances of success.

3 common mistakes that inventors, entrepreneurs and even experienced marketers make bringing products to market are:

  1. Falling head-over-heels in love with the idea
  2. Not properly defining the target market
  3. Under-estimating the amount of effort involved

 

These mistakes are easy to make in the excitement of launching a new product. But with good guidance and teamwork they can be avoided and your vision can translate more easily into success.

See more: http://www.hydrogencreative.com/planning-out-your-product-launch

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Jon Sherrington

Owner, Strategist, Writer – Hydrogen Creative Inc.

May 1996 – Present

My role is to provide strategic marketing guidance to clients to ensure their objectives are attainable, remain in focus and the communications solutions work.

My expertise is in how to realign goals-oriented brands, products, services or businesses to customer values to build loyalty, frequency and continuity.