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Posts tagged ‘advertising’

why I’m worried that brands are losing their power

June 22, 2012

fransiweinstein

I’ve grown up (personally and professionally) in the glory days of brands; and advertising, for that matter.

A time when companies spent millions of dollars every year to create powerful, meaningful, engaging brands.  Brands that really resonated with consumers.  Brands that conjured up memories of childhood, favourite family recipes and good times (Kraft).  Brands that united people, regardless of where in the world you happened to live (Coke).   Brands that made ugly, desirable (Volkswagon).

A time when advertisers took chances; and hired agencies based on their ability and willingness to take chances.  A time when agencies and clients alike hired people for their business savvy, strategic insights and creative talent — and created environments where they could be nurtured, where they would thrive and grow.

A time when everyone knew that it was brands that attracted, and kept, customers.  Products and services could, and would, come and go.  But brands … brands were aspirational.  And it was the values that brands stood for, the images they conveyed that meant something.  Brands were the reason why consumers picked one product over another, chose Company A over the competition.  And stayed loyal.

Can you say that now?  Not so much, in my opinion.  Today it seems to be all about slashing prices.

Don’t get me wrong.  I know companies are having a very tough time staying afloat.  But I don’t see businesses booming, even with all the headlines that scream “deep discounts, prices slashed, save up to 70%”, etc.

What I see is the killing of brands.  It saddens me.  And it worries me, because I know all about the power they have.

If you’ve got to put something on sale, put it on sale.  But don’t do it at the expense of your greatest asset — your brand.  Let’s say, for example, that you run a luxury hotel and have too much inventory.  In an attempt to increase bookings you decide to discount rooms or create special promotions.  All I’m saying is, do it strategically — within the parameter of your brand — so that your ‘luxury’ positioning doesn’t become a lie.

A strategy that should apply, by the way,  to any business category and every price point, regardless of whether you’re Holt Renfrew or Target, BMW or Kia, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts or Embassy Suites, Bell or Wind Mobile, Special K or a no-name cereal.

We have to stop training consumers to forsake brands for cheap prices because all they’ll do is comparison shop.  And no amount of advertising will ever get them back.

twitter to the rescue (and a smart CEO)

February 23, 2012

fransiweinstein

Can’t tell you how many conferences and seminars I’ve attended in the last couple of years where I’ve listened to marketers going on and on about how consumers are using social media to complain; and how important they think it is for their companies to have a social media presence — as if that would solve the problem.  As if a page on Facebook, a video on YouTube or tweeting about your latest commercial or product will make your customers and prospects ‘like’ you.  As if that would make up for a bad experience.

I know this is heresy, but I’ve got to tell you, as far as I’m concerned the jury is still out on the effectiveness of social media.  At least in terms of building brands, creating customer loyalty and attracting new customers.  And from my own experience, I’ve yet to see it used properly when it comes to resolving customer complaints and frustrations.

Until this past Tuesday.

But first, the back story.  I like reggae and, in particular, Bob Marley’s music.  A friend read an article about 2 weeks ago that, as part of Black History Month, the ROM was showing a documentary about Rastas that featured Bob Marley’s granddaughter — and there was also going to be a concert with another of Bob Marley’s relatives — a brother, I think.  There are other events as well, but those are the 2 that really appealed to us.  The article she read said that details could be found on the ROM website.  Because I’m a member I volunteered to get the information.

Suffice to say it wasn’t the best experience:  A lack of information on the website, several 5+ minute waits (over several days) to be connected to a human on the phone and volunteers and staff in the museum who were, although extremely polite, uninformed and, therefore, unable to help.  So eventually, last Tuesday, I started googling, looking for a Board Member I might know or the Director.  Amazingly I not only found the Director’s name, I also found out how to reach her on Twitter.

Limited to 140 characters I had to be pretty succinct.  To the point.  And compelling.  So essentially I said I was having a bad experience and my membership was in jeopardy.  Did I expect anything to come of this?  I wondered.  I hoped.  But judging from the experiences of others (not with the ROM) I wouldn’t have bet on it.

Well get ready to be impressed.

  • It took mere minutes for her to tweet me back!  Equally succinctly she asked me to explain, promising she would do her best to resolve my issues.
  • I tweeted back that it was difficult to do that in 140 characters — but I did thank her for her quick response.
  • She immediately sent me a message with her email address, again saying she wanted to help if she could (brilliant because until she knew what my problems were promising to do something that she might not be able to do would only have exacerbated the problem).
  • I sent her an email that outlined everything that had happened.
  • Within 30 minutes I heard back from her.  She thanked me for giving them the feedback.  She thanked me for giving them a chance to put things right.  She told me she was going into several meetings but had forwarded my email to 2 of her senior colleagues — the Head of Membership and Sales and the VP of Visitor Relations.  She copied them on the email she sent me so I had their names and email addresses.  She told me I’d hear from them.  And then she promised to check in with them personally, to make sure they’d received my email and had followed up with me.

To be totally honest by this point I was so impressed, any frustrations I might have had disappeared.  She had completely diffused the situation.  Here is someone who is not on Twitter because everyone else is.  She ‘uses’ it.  She obviously monitors the tweets she gets on a very regular basis (and no, I am not suggesting she gets lots of complaints).  And she acts.  Quickly and decisively.  She also listens.  And learns.  And communicates with people who are communicating with her.  Brilliant.

If you’re wondering, I did hear back from the Head of Membership and Sales — not long after I got the email from the Director and CEO of the ROM giving me her name.  We had a good conversation.  I sent an email letting the Director and CEO know that I had been contacted — and within minutes she acknowledged my email, thanked me again, gave me some information on other events relating to Black History Month they are hosting and said she hoped they could continue to count on my being a member.

You bet they can!

If anybody reading this blog knows the head of a company or the head of Marketing for a company please feel free to send them the link.  There is a great lesson here.

 

seems I’m in very good company …

January 26, 2012

fransiweinstein

Beth Comstock, SVP and CMO of GE recently had a great article on Forbes online:  “Innovation is a State of Mind”.  If you know nothing else about me, you do know that innovation is an absolute obsession of mine — and it’s nice to know that someone so successful and highly-regarded feels the same way.

She starts her piece with a quote from the great, late entrepreneur Robert Noyce:  “Optimism is an essential ingredient for innovation.  How else can the individual welcome change over security, adventure over staying in a safe place?”

I agree with this statement, but only to a point.  Absolutely, if you don’t believe in possibilities, opportunities and the fact that there is a way forward you might as well pack up your office and go home.  But I think that ‘acceptance’, ‘willingness’ and ‘courage’ are equally, if not more, important.  Why?  Well, okay, we all know that the economy is bad everywhere.  Unemployment is still high.  Jobs are still scarce.  Life is uncertain.

So let’s say that I run an ad agency.  New business is hard to come by.  Every time I answer the phone it’s a client calling to cancel a project or reduce a budget.  They are questioning every dime we spend and send us back to re-quote time and time again.  We have a hiring freeze.  My staff are stretched beyond their limits, tired, fed up and stressed.  Raises are out of the question.  Nobody’s having a good time.

On the positive side I know I have good people working for me.  They know how much I value them.  We do great work, consistently.  Despite all the budget issues we have good client relationships.  In my heart I believe that we will come out of this whole.  So yes, I am optimistic about the future.

What I have accepted is a problem that seems to be out of my control.  But have I accepted — or even asked myself — whether or not there is something in my control that needs fixing?  Do clients value what agencies do?  Do they consider that a lot of what we do is not as unique a skill or talent as we think — but is, in their opinion, a commodity?  Does the whole agency model need changing?

This soul-searching won’t change the economy overall, but are there more relevant services we could offer clients?  Would it help with new business?  Would clients be willing to pay more to get what they need and want and value?

All right.  So now I acknowledge and accept the fact that we should take a long, hard look at what we do, how we do it, how much (or how little) we charge for it, and what our clients might value more.

Am I willing to take this on?  It’s a lot of work.  It’s not easy to undo what an industry has been doing for 50, 60, 80+ years.  Generally people hate change.  It won’t be easy to sell it to my boss.  It won’t be easy to sell it to my staff.  Do I not have enough on my plate?  Do I really need to take this on?

Yep.  So far so good.  I am optimistic about the future and the future of my agency.  I accept the fact that some of our challenges are of our own doing.  I am willing to invest the time and the money to come up with innovative solutions.

So do I have the balls?

Because there are risks.  My boss could shoot it down.  My boss could get pissed off because instead of spending my days concentrating on making the agency we have successful, I am wasting my time day-dreaming.  Even if I got my boss onside, and even if we were to include our clients in the process, this wouldn’t be the first time a client endorsed an idea in theory and walked away from it when it became real.   Maybe we’d lose some staff who hate the idea — and also hate the fact that because we may have eliminated some services, we have also eliminated some jobs.  What if I miscalculated and it didn’t get us new business?

But on the other hand, what if it worked like a charm?  What if our new and innovative approach to what an ad agency could and should do for clients won us rave reviews from clients, prospects and the press?   What if profits soared?  What if we attracted, and hung on to, the industry’s top talent?  What if we couldn’t cope with all the new business that beat a path to our door?  What if we ended up on the cover of Forbes?

Without the courage to try, we’d never know.  Without the courage, willingness, acceptance and optimism.

There must be something to this idea of innovation — why else is it the theme at Davos this year?

 

 

 

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