How Healthy Is Your Brand?

I recently talked to Advertising Age about a topic that has become increasingly frustrating for many marketing leaders — how to more effectively manage their brand health in the wake of a tidal wave of consumer sentiment and data. Here's a shorter version of the article and the research.

Today, a brand's health is strengthened or weakened by every interaction and exposure with a consumer, which requires a more vigilant approach to managing brand perception. To keep track of your always-on, anytime, anywhere, unfettered-public-opinion-sharing customers, CMOs must demand a new dashboard to augment classic brand metrics. There are four factors of digital influence that CMOs must consider monitoring:

  • Volume. Brand perceptions are typically measured using representative samples of consumers. But why settle for a mere sample when more than 81% of US adults use social media to create at least 500-billion influence impressions on products and services?
  • Velocity. Marketers usually perform brand-tracking studies once a year or quarterly. But that's too infrequent to monitor the impact of real-time consumer opinion, as Kenneth Cole's Twitter fiasco demonstrated — resulting in a 64% decline in brand equity scores in just three days.
  • Visibility. Consumers are now empowered to voice their unfiltered opinions about a brand to the general public. Already, 25% of search results for the world's 20 largest brands are linked to user-generated content.
  • Volatility. Brand sentiment can be increasingly unpredictable in this digital age. Gap learned this the hard way with its new logo unveiling, which received such negative consumer response online that it returned to the old logo one week later.
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A New Pair Of Eyes On CI Services


Dave Frankland is an analyst’s analyst: a critical and perceptive forward-thinker with an encyclopedic knowledge of customer intelligence services and strategy. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he has taken over as our Research Director, with the mandate to oversee all research and ensure that we are as relevant and consistent as possible across the team.

Of course, that left some pretty sizable shoes to fill in our team’s research agenda. Now, maybe I’m a little TOO fond of a challenge, but I raised my hand and asked to be considered for the position.

I’m tremendously honored to announce that, effective immediately, I’ll be taking over Dave’s coverage of CI services (agencies, MSPs, data providers and consultants).

My first report in this new role will provide an assessment of alternate vendors to the recent Database MSP Wave. Then, keep an eye out for a forward-looking analysis of what we’re calling the “Personal Data Cloud.” Future reports will look at outsourcing versus insourcing, vendor selection processes, and the changing role of customer intelligence in traditionally non-CI-driven agencies.

I’m looking very forward to getting to know many of you better and to exploring the changing face of the services landscape. I invite you to engage with me via our Inquiry and/or Briefing teams and to track me down at some upcoming events:

  • Privacy Innovation Invention: May 19th – 20th (Santa Clara, CA)
  • Merkle CRM 2.0 Summit: June 6th – 8th (San Diego, CA)
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Mobile Services - Failure To Focus On Customer Needs Will Result In a "Miss"

I saw a story this morning on Mobile Commerce Daily: "Fontainbleau targets upscale, on-the-go consumers via mobile presence." I've been a guest at the hotel for the past day so I can't resist joining this conversation. I also happened to download this application while waiting in line for a smoothie at a restaurant yesterday -- between meetings, of course. Here's a quote from the article:

“Fontainebleau chose to launch this app to enhance the overall customer experience while giving them insight on the resort as well as the surrounding Miami Beach area,” said Philip Goldfarb, president and chief operating officer of Fontainebleau Miami Beach, Miami. “It is an extension of the brand’s commitment to providing its guests with the latest advances in the mobile marketplace.”

First, I'll offer -- I'm just a guest or customer here -- I haven't studied the business, but there are a few disconnects.  

Here's what is working well:

  • Fontainbleau does seem to have a tech-savvy customer base. As I walked through the pool area yesterday, I noticed quite a few iPads, Kindles, and smartphones -- guests definitely have their technology at the pool. And Wi-Fi works at the pool -- well done.
  • The application is promoted well. I noticed advertisements several places throughout the property. It uses a sweepstakes to promote the application with the prizes clearly listed.
  • Beautiful photographs -- this resort is amazing and is well represented by the media in the application.
  • There is a solid balance of content -- eat, shop, play, etc.
  • There was a lot of content re "what to do" nearby.
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What The Education Industry Should Learn From Retailers

I did two things recently:  I saw Waiting for Superman, and I looked online for educational content/tools for my daughters. In both cases, I was appalled by how difficult it was to find teaching supplements online (and in general). I’m not an expert on education, but I am a parent, and being part of an industry (i.e., retail) that has been transformed by the Internet and has fundamentally shifted how it engaged with its consumers, I think that educators could learn a few things from retailers:

  • The Web can give good teachers scale. One of the challenges of good schools is that there are a finite number of slots, just like there’s finite shelf space in a store. Sites like solved that problem by making the Web their storefront.  This enabled them to sell OPM (other people’s merchandise) and not incur the most expensive investments of stores — real estate and inventory. Why can’t the Web be our schoolhouse, or at least a new one? That way, there needn’t be a cap on the number of people who can, for instance, view a video of an award-winning teacher teaching. Why don’t we use the power of the Web to make talented teachers available to more students like web retailers have managed to make more products available to more people? Why are questionable for-profit universities the only ones doing this?
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Slacker And The Innovator's Dilemma

US personalized online radio provider Slacker has thrown its hat into the on-demand music ring by launching a $9.99 a month on-demand streaming music service with offline playlists. Yes, that is indeed akin to launching Spotify in the US before Spotify does. You can just imagine the grin on some of the faces on both sides of the negotiating table when Slacker tied up this deal with rights owners . . .

So, would-be US music subscription customers are now spoilt for choice, with the top-tier options including stalwarts Rhapsody and Napster, newcomers MOG and rdio, and now Slacker. The only problem is that US consumers are lukewarm about subscriptions. No US service has broken the 1 million paying subscribers mark, despite years of trying, and others have simply given up completely, including the heavily funded Yahoo Music service.

Slacker will rightly argue that it is entering the market with a differentiated mix of complementary tiers: its free, ad-supported Pandora-esque personalized radio tier is a genuine complement to a premium on-demand tier in the way that a free, ad-supported, on-demand tier a-la-Spotify is not. The former helps drive discovery and meets different usage needs, while the latter is just a watered-down version of the premium tier.

But that still won’t be enough. The premium subscription market hasn’t failed to break through to the mainstream for all these years through a lack of availability or the quality of services (Rhapsody still makes a pretty good claim for being the best programmed music service out there). The reason consumers have held back is simple:

$9.99 subscription rentals are not a mass-market value proposition. 

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Using Net Promoter Scores To Inform Customer Service Strategy

The pro of Net Promoter Score (NPS) is that it is simple. The con is it’s too simple. But is that too simple a con?

For those of you not familiar with NPS, it is a feedback measurement that examines how customers view your company. Most commonly, NPS asks: "How likely is it that you would recommend [organization X] to a friend or colleague?" Respondents are asked to answer this question on scale from 0 (not at all likely) to 10 (extremely likely). Customers are classified as either promoters (answered 9 or 10), passives (answered 7 or 8), or detractors (answered 6 or less). The NPS is calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters.

Suhail Khan, vice president and head of customer experience at Philips, has written a Harvard Business Review blog post outlining how Philips uses Net Promoter Scores to understand customers. It began using Net Promoter Scores during an initial pilot in late 2006 and has since embraced the tool to try to become an "outside-in, customer-focused organization." One of the points Mr. Khan makes is how NPS impacts Philips’ customer service strategy, including driving the decision to extend the company’s customer care center to weekends. 

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HP's Earnings And The Post-PC Era

A reporter just asked me what I thought HP's earnings meant in the context of the post-PC era and I thought I'd share my response:

HP’s drop in PC shipments is not unique in the industry—Acer and other companies have also reported a drop in their recent quarters. And let me say this loud and clear: Tablet cannibalization is only a minor contributor to soft PC sales. The bigger factor is the Windows release cycle—so many consumers bought new PCs when Windows 7 came out, and without a new version of Windows this year, there isn’t the same catalyst to buy. Forrester’s data shows that 34% of US online consumers report having bought a PC in the past 12 months, and an additional 25% bought one 12-24 months ago. Tablet owners are actually more likely than US online consumers in general to have recently bought a PC: 44% in the past 12 months and 28% in the 12 months before that.

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Retailers Push The Envelope With Ratings & Reviews

Forrester recently released a document entitled “Ratings & Reviews: Q1 2011 Snapshot.” In it, we discuss how eBusiness professionals continue to create value for customers via user-generated product review content.  The next evolution of ratings and reviews should prove to be:

  • More flexible, as a multidimensional approach takes over.
  • More exposed, as social networks connect brands and consumers.
  • More pervasive, as retailers use multiple touchpoints to create coordination and consistency.
  • More strategic, as the information derived from ratings and reviews is utilized across the organization.

Of course, this research document is meant to serve as a snapshot, meant to launch a dialogue about what is happening in the space. With that in mind, what are you seeing in the world of ratings and reviews that wasn’t mentioned here? How are those technologies helping eBusiness professionals succeed? And of what we did highlight in the report, what are some examples you have seen of those being used to their fullest effect?

Read the full report here, and then comment on this post.

Patti Freeman Evans

Why Surveys Aren't The Best Tool For Designing Experiences

While most design researchers and practioners would agree that surveys aren't the best tool for designing experiences, I'm still suprised that we get pushback on the value of other (primarily qualitative) research methods from customer experience professionals and of course their business colleagues. While many of these people will argue to the grave that surveys are "better" than qualitative research methods because they mitigate risk by being both quantifiable and statistically significant, they don't realize that when designing experiences, surveys introduce "risk" well before a survey is analyzed. How? Well, surveys:

  • Limit responses. Most surveys (whether they're open-ended or offer restricted responses) ask users for their reaction or input to a specific question or situation. If you're asking for something that's relatively black and white, that's a perfect technique. But if you're asking people to explain why they did (or didn't do) something or about the nuances of how they did something, or if you want to see how their context influences their behavior, then surveys are difficult to craft because you essentially have to know the answers before you ask the question. And if you don't know all of the right answers, then you're introducing risk by guessing what they may be.
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The Gamification Of Loyalty: Starwood Preferred Guest Announces Partnership With Foursquare

[co-authored by Emily Murphy]

In recent inquiries and discussions with clients about intelligence-driven loyalty, my researcher Emily Murphy and I have gotten a lot of questions about gamification. Specifically, how they should — or shouldn’t — be incorporating it into their loyalty programs and strategies. Gamification is a pretty hot buzzword right now, and no matter what industry you’re in, you’ve probably noticed it being thrown around. Broadly, gamification is the application of gaming principles to a traditionally non-game activity in order to drive a desired behavior. As it relates to loyalty, gamification provides a way for marketers to encourage loyalty members to engage and to share information about themselves. For example, earning rewards points and badges for sharing products with friends on Twitter, filling out a poll about customer preferences, or checking-in on foursquare and Facebook Places.

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