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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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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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Stop gazing at your own corporate reflection

New research out of the Zeno Research Group suggests that more than one-third of CEOs ignore their company’s social media reputation when making important business decisions.

Strong language

On another note, almost two-thirds of CEOs do pay attention to their company’s social media reputation when making important business decisions. Reputation measurement is still a fairly new science given that the majority of customer opinions are still not recorded online in many demographics. Two-thirds is a pretty good sign to me that the immediacy of social media feedback is making enough waves to turn the tide of brand-centric marketing towards a more customer-centric model.

All research is skewed in some way, but let’s presume that these results are absolute, that 34% of CEOs will never pay attention to their social media reputation. Why not?

– The Gratification of Self-Image –

It is a human flaw that we cannot see our own failings as clearly as others see them. It is not just related to self-esteem. It is also related to the monumental effort required to make a fundamental change. So we manage to overlook our bulges, emotional reflexes, proportional misalignments and project a demeanour that masks the flaws that lurk beneath.

This is also true of businesses that are, in many cases, extensions of their decision-makers’ persona. Ego hides what it doesn’t like to see because change is hard.

CEOs are emperors of their enterprise. It takes a huge amount of ego to rise to such a position – ego that can fight even its own intelligence to justify its decisions.

– Adjusting to Reality –

Social media conversations are immediate, blunt, and have no regard for ego. It is the classic case of the Emperor vs. The Mob. We see in the Middle East, imperial models crashing, proportionate to the rising use of Twitter, YouTube and Facebook in those countries. Social media coalesces one person’s opinion into millions of shared values.

The CEO model is imperial. The Social Media model is democratic. With the proliferation of conversations and their influence on market performance, an Emperor who doesn’t know how to listen will be replaced by a republic. In commercial terms, that means your customers will defect or your Board will take you out.

Social media helps to inform a CEO of a failure to execute properly within the ranks of the organization. This is a huge benefit. Self-policing an organization can be oppressive and de-motivating to the workforce. Embracing social media as your source for checks and balances is a relatively cost-efficient monitoring tool for the Enterprise and justifies to all parts of the organization the need for training and improvement.

Zappos has a good model to show how an organization empowers its employees to make key decisions at the time of customer engagement. It is an effective, self-policing model where the employee defines their own career satisfaction through dynamic engagement with customers. Its online reputation score is very high. The Twelpforce from Best Buy is another great example of empowering dynamic response at the lowest level of customer engagement.

– Change by Osmosis –

The one-third will change, or die. There are very few businesses that are immune to public opinion, unless they are a legislative monopoly. This time next year the Zeno Group will have to find something more pertinent to research.

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Social Media and other bubbles

Read Social Media Skeptic (MM 11/30/12), for the commentary on BJ Mendelson’s new book “Is Social Media Bull#*%!?”. It reads like a wail of dashed hopes and dreams. Once a social media neophyte, the author became jaded after a miserably-failed campaign in the cause of something great and beautiful. He calls a ‘crime’ the hoopla that surrounds any ‘next big thing’. There is a smack in his words of: “The more things change the more they remain the same”.

Yes, he may have a perspective, but the big question is: “Why do we have to pay money to read a book about a truth that has remained constant throughout human history?”

MORE, BETTER, FASTER ISN’T A GOAL IT IS A PROCESS. 

The goal is perfection. Perfection is unattainable. So the bubble is created out of human expectation.

I like expectation bubbles. They drive change. The reason they burst is because the expectation is either flawed in logic, or beyond the reach of achievement with the resources currently in place. Nobody likes a bubble to burst, but they do, eventually. Flawed logic can create a devastating burst (housing market in US, .com meltdown etc.)

BJ Mendelson saw his expectations pop when he followed the rules laid down for success and it did not work. He is pointing to a ‘flawed logic’ within the Social Media bubble. Does anybody really see Social Media so rosily-coloured? I hope not.

Social Media has created a dynamic platform of communication that can scale easily and rapidly. Exactly what content will scale is as predictable as rain in the Sahara. It is also more subject to the whim of influencers than to content creators. And what scales could equally be trivia or significant; of commercial value or zero value.

If your expectation is a guarantee of success then it is your individual logic that is flawed. If you can make money selling a book about it, good luck. You might save someone with logic as flawed as your own from investing in Social Media.

I don’t participate in Social Media much, because I personally don’t enjoy the interface. But I understand the genre of user that does. As humanity continues to bond with Digital Interfaces then Social Media platforms and their like will remain essential hubs of human interaction.

If the bubble bursts, it will be because something else evolves to create a higher expectation, not because the logic is flawed, as BJ Mendelson implies.

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The Religion and Politics of Branding

Credit to Chris Koentges for his article entitled “Can a brand speak to both the lunatic left and right? There is plenty of evidence of brand partisanship from political, social, environmental or religious perspectives.

The question we should really ask “what is the implication of defining consumers by their partisan leanings?”

 

There are many characteristics shared between opposing factions that gave John Lennon a reason to believe in the Brotherhood of Man: Hassidim use cell-phones , anarchists eat potato chips, and most men with two legs put on their pants one leg at a time. If you take religion, countries or politics out of the equation we have more in common than what divides us.

As a marketer we have some choices in how to align to customer values. Do you define a segment by what sets it apart, or by what unites it? Take single, overworked single Moms on low income as an example. If research states that 70% of them have strong socialist leanings, do you press that button for stronger brand affinity – or do you stay true to the broader human condition? If your competitor takes aim at a customer segment by sponsoring a cause, do you react, up the ante, go in a different direction?

There is no right or wrong except by measure of results. Some products will relate better to an ideology and some to a basic human need, but brands don’t determine personal values. So do you have a rule of strategy, or do you just play along with an opportunistic grin.

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How does customer service fit into your marketing mix?

This question was asked by Marketing Magazine to Longo’s Grocery Chain (see the November Special Issue on Customer Service).

I didn’t get to the answer. The question short-circuited my frontal lobe so I stopped reading. Let me explain.

I have, for the past 16 years, had a mania about customer-centric marketing. I have also been a critic of brand-centric marketing. I have never had a problem selling the strategy, but I have sometimes been a bit disappointed by the casual observation that “It doesn’t look much different”.

It has been a splinter in my brain to characterize the contrast between the science of customer-centric marketing and brand marketing without reaming off thousands of words.

Don’t breathe!  I may have found a solution. I am going to reword Marketing Magazine’s question:

HOW DOES MARKETING MIX FIT INTO YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE?

(I feel a bit dizzy. Need to take a moment.)

Customer-centric marketing takes brand ego out of the equation and replaces it with brand empathy, at every touch-point. It focuses your value proposition, media execution, product delivery, customer service and relationship management on the customer’s values.

“How does Customer Service Fit into your Marketing Mix?” vs. “How does Marketing Mix fit into your Customer Service?” It is an 180 degree flip. And it is a mind-set. Perhaps you can’t see the difference until you feel the difference.

Is it easy to make the transition?
No.

Is it so obvious when you have?
It may not be so noticeable to the casual observer, but it is very significant to the target audience and to your customer retention, share of wallet, marginal cost of marketing and all those other important variables.

So, how does your marketing mix fit into your customer service?

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5 reasons why your marketing might cost more than you think

Regardless of staying inside creative, media, production, programming, and fulfilment budgets

In this article we will try to look under the hood to reveal some hidden costs and reasons why marketing projects can fail to achieve the maxim of “Quality, delivered on time and to budget”.

1. Unclear expectations

Different expectations that were not properly communicated early in the process can derail a project until everyone’s expectations are met. These delays have a significant impact on ‘time to market’.

Remedy: It is essential that all the stakeholder expectations are documented, that they are agreed upon upfront, they are reasonable and that they form the blueprint for the delivery.

2. Too much rush

Rush has become the norm. Rushing increases the risk that important details will be missed and that quality will suffer. Less time does not mean less cost. When you pay more to get less you depreciate your marketing investment.

Remedy: Rush may be unavoidable. But the stakeholders need to be flexible, to either spread or focus resources within the timeline. Workload that can be shared should be spread across the group. Specialized tasks should be handed to those with that capability. Be sure to relieve them of distractions so that they can focus on those critical tasks. It takes a collective responsibility to make sure that rush projects receive the care and attention they need to succeed.

3. Process-driven to distraction

Too much process can also drive up cost and reduce efficiency. Rush projects should not be decapitated by too much bureaucracy. Larger projects that involve more stakeholders need more process, checks and balances, but the stakeholders are not always familiar with the rules.

Remedy: Don’t apply one process map to all projects. Prepare a fast-track and an optimal process for project management, to engage each situation efficiently. Make sure that the stakeholders understand the scope and nature of the project they are undertaking and how it affects the organization so they can learn and benefit from the process instead of being bogged down by it.

4. No thought to the financial cost of delay

Most organizations equate the ‘cost of delay’ with ‘loss of potential revenue’. In fact it goes much deeper.

Use a simple equation: Divide your labour cost for each project by its timeline to calculate your cost per day of delay. Then add it to your budget for the project after final delivery to see the true cost. For example, $100,000 over 10 months, if the work continues to the 11th month you have just invested an additional $10,000 to that project and lost 1 month of potential revenue.

Your agency is also affected when paid per-project. Your agency anticipates its revenue according to the project period. Delays will affect its cash-flow even if no additional work is done. If your agency is on a retainer you could actually be paying them a bonus for your delay. These are also hidden costs to add to the equation.

When you can’t achieve your objectives within the time and resources allocated, other projects in the pipeline get deferred, stacked, or are given less attention than they need. Agencies and clients feel these effects, but they don’t usually monetize the impact on their bottom line.

Remedy: The solution is to track this and then review at appropriate intervals. When you start to measure the cost of delay and discuss their implications it brings your team closer to understand how to maximize efficiency in the future to become more productive with less effort. When you have a good audit trail to measure you might consider using bonuses as an incentive for meeting performance expectations.

5. Getting it right; but not first time

How much effort does it take to get creative that is on-strategy, and then push it to final approval? If the creative and content is not in alignment, progress can be painfully slow and require multiple revisions to get what you need. If your agency demands too much of your time to get final approval, add this to the cost of your marketing investment.

Remedy: The greatest efficiency is where all agencies are in tune with the needs of the business, with only fine-tuning required at each stage of review. If you are not achieving this then it is time to either review your team or review your agency.

Conclusion

It may require some time and some careful crafting to build a marketing engine that flows smoothly through your department and your external agencies, but the productivity rewards makes it worthwhile to build. If you are not tracking these intangible costs you won’t know which changes could reduce your overall cost of marketing.

Hydrogen Creative believes in producing the right creative, first time. We engage fluid processes to enable more success at less cost. Engage us to experience the difference and see how well we stand by these beliefs.

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