A recent HARO post, a reporter asked the following:
“Looking for experts on consumer behavior or branding strategies or even psychology to discuss how press/consumers develop an opinion about a company and whether/how that opinion can be swayed.”
It got me excited that someone may be looking for new ways to engage with consumers other than the same old shotgun marketing that has been going on. I focused on consumers, as that is my area of expertise.
Here was my response:
Consumers are influenced in their opinions of brands by many factors:
Engagement – a consumer’s actual experience with a brand. This usually but not always refers to their actual use of a brand’s product or service. Sometimes this can manifest itself in their experience with the brand’s customer service.
Marketing – of course marketing, advertising, coupons and the like are a big influencer, or brands wouldn’t spend the money! A fine example is Apple. They developed a product (iPod) that was marketed as hip, cool, and trendy. Their psychographic was not just people who were hip, cool, and trendy, but those who thought they were, and those who wished they were.
PR – this taps into the same channel as above, what people are reading or hearing about a product.
Peers – Peers have replaced celebrity endorsements in the mind of consumers. They’re not going to by a t-shirt because Michael Jordan wears it (much to Hanes’ chagrine), they are going to buy it because their big brother wears it. Consumers are much more likely to engage with a brand based on what kind of experience a close contact, friend or family, has had with the brand. This may mean that I’ll buy a CD (or more likely download an mp3) of a new artist because my buddy Roy likes them (he and I have similar, but not identical tastes), or I may decide not to make the purchase because my buddy Steve (whose tastes I can barely stand) recommended them.
Peripheral Peers – while these aren’t close contacts, they are other consumers with a similar psychographic makeup. For example, my wife and I are expecting our first child in February. She did not put a single item on our baby registry without reading every single review on the site of the company through which we’re making a list. Often she would double check the reviews on another site, say a portal like thebump.com, or with our neighbor who has a 6 month old (see Peers). While these influencers have less of an impact, they make it easier to get input from those with the same mindset. I’ve used Twitter recently to get feedback from my Followers on a video camera I’m looking to purchase. This gives me a broad range of honest, yet in-depth feedback. I have to take some with a grain of salt, like the podcast pro who only uses high end Canon products, or the 22 year old that just love, love, LOVES her Flip Mino (mostly because it’s pink I think).
As a side note, I use the term psychographic when discussing groups with similar interests or mindset. A 16 year old boy and a 60 year old woman wouldn’t necessarily be in the same demographic, yet when considering marketing for the New England Patriots, it is important to keep in mind that they belong to the same psychographic: New England Patriots fans. I find that targeting a psychographic is much smarter than targeting a demographic. A psychographic is a qualified lead, while and demographic is a quantity play. When I was 16 I knew many other 16 year olds, they were all very different with very different interests, why would anyone want to market to all of us the same way?
As for your question on whether or how a consumer or PR reps opinions can be swayed, it depends:
What has lead them to form an opinion? If their negative opinion is based on marketing a good Peripheral Peer review would do it. This or a Peer influencer would overcome almost all other types of influencers. My brother-in-law got an iPod that gave him endless trouble. He was totally turned off of Apple products. Yet, after a year of influence based on my own engagement with the brand (iPod, iPhone, Macs and home and work), he changed his mind. He has since bought a new iPod, an iBook and has been begging for an iPhone. Peer input is the strongest influencer, and in it’s absence, Peripheral Peer input. Both are hard to overcome, Peer being the hardest. Only ground breaking marketing and PR can change a negative Peer influence to positive.
I assume that the question pertained to changing a negative opinion to a positive one. That takes alot of work. However, changing a positive opinion to a negative one is pretty easy. All of the influencers I’ve mentioned above can very quickly change a consumer’s opinion about a brand. Recently a viral email was sent around showing images of dead chickens (not killed FOR selling, but long dead) being cleaned for sale to Walmart. I received it from several sources and forwarded it to many more. Regardless of any of the recipients’ past interaction with Walmart, I’d guess that few that saw the email would be very likely to go back to Walmart. PR mistakes, bad press, word of mouth or a bad personal exchange with any brand can very quickly change an opinion.
That being said, customer service goes a long way. I’ve had some trouble with my car and my computers. In each case, my frustration was quickly erased by excellent customer service. In every case, a similar engagement with a brand would have sent me to a competitor, not to mention negative word of mouth. However, thanks to excellent encounters with customer service, I’m an even bigger fan of the brands (signing up for their newsletter, becomming a brand ambassador).
Customer service is going to become a larger part of corporate marketing budgets in the future as products and services (as well as advertising) become more personalized how-the-economy-back-during-the-depression-of-2009-changed-the-world-part-8-marketing), advertising becomes trickier, and more brands are vying for the eye of every consumer.
One of the best low-cost ways to generate positive branding is to find brand ambassadors like myself, those with peripheral or direct peer influence, and take advantage of them. I hear and have experienced being a targeted blogger or Twitter user who is engaged by a brand. The brand would send products, ask for, or pay for reviews, hoping that the blog or Tweets would influence others. This is a demographic approach that doesn’t often work. Many bloggers won’t do it, often their readers will see through it. Rather than finding digital influencers in general, who will at best ineffectively market their product, brands should take the extra time to find those who are already fans, ambassadors or at least interested in their products and services. These are your influencers!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Posted on November 11, 2008. Filed under: advertising, consumer marketing, Social Media, Social Network, Twitter, User Generated Content, viral marketing, Web 2.0 | Tags: consumer, corporate, good will, hash tag, pay it forward, Twitter |
I’m reading an article in Fast Company Magazine (Oct. 08 – yes I still like print especially with nice paper covers) about thanking companies you appreciate (I Love You. Now What – Heath & Heath). The gist is that while companies have sunk millions into call centers to smooth the ruffled feathers or complaining customers, there is virtually no way to thank them. They go on to show the positive impact it has on employees of the company, if marketing shares the compliments.
While I could spend the rest of my ride on the T talking about ways that social media could be the medium to share the good will, no one is going to pay me for it, and with a recent layoff, I’m feeling much less gracious with my free marketing advice. The holidays are coming though and we should all be looking at what we’re grateful for, even if we need the Large Hadron Collider to test the theory of the existence of something to be grateful for. With the coming rush of holiday consumerism and travel I thought we should consider Paying it Forward to some of the companies we appreciate. Perhaps @GoodWill and @Karma will get the Tweet and our holiday season won’t be tarnished with bad company-customer interaction. Perhaps customers will be a bit more patient and understanding, and corporate employees will be extra diligent and helpful in their job execution.
So I’m asking readers to think of a company whose products or service they admire or have had a positive interaction with, and give them a shout out. A simple “hey, nice job” is enough. If you want be more expressive, feel free. Use whatever medium you feel comfortable with; post a video to YouTube, write a letter, call the service center, start a Facebook Fan page, post a Tweet (#iLuvBrandX), hug a stockboy!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
Posted on August 21, 2008. Filed under: Social Media, Social Network, Twitter | Tags: Bebo, Facebook, Fast Company, Gold, Hi5, marketing, MySpace, Olympics, Photoshop, PR, Scott Monty, Social Media, SoMe, Tittr, Twitter, Wired, YouTube |
My day job helped launch a new sports league near the beginning of the year. Because of their limited budget, assets, especially access to talent, we made a series of suggestions on how to engage social media to promote the league before the first game was played and the first player was drafted. While we were engaged with them we created a Facebook group, a MySpace page, a Twitter account, and a YouTube Channel. During the first months of the launch we shot a ton of video, interviews with fans, players and league executives as well as town-hall meetings. I Twittered the comments from the town-hall, the interviews, what famous players were stopping by the trade show booth to chat at the various shows where the league was represented. We quickly built a large site for the league that included the videos and links to the social network sites, blogs, etc. Time went on as it often does and the client decided to move. We turned over all of the social media logins, passwords, links etc. to the league to manage.
Because of the hype of the Olympics, sports has been on everyone’s mind, especially the league’s sport since several of the staff in our office played the sport in college. My boss and one of our account execs were streaming the latest event in his office, hooting and hollering at every missed opportunity or great play. I knew exactly what they were watching since I was getting a play-by-play from those I follow on Twitter. I heard the U.S. team one the Gold right before I heard a yell from the other room, apparently the video was buffering!
I instantly jumped over to my former client’s site to see if they had posted anything. I didn’t really expect them to have anything in the can, and figured it’d take them a few minutes to post something on their site. Sure enough, as I write this the posting went up. Excellent, they get about 9 thousand visits a month.
So I bounced back to their Twitter account to see if they had posted anything. Their last post was yesterday. I dropped them a quick note to remind them to post something. I wanted to do a quick search to see how many people were Twittering about the gold medal win. I didn’t have to go far. The front page of Twitscoop showed the sport as one of the top tag clouds, probably around the 6th or 7th most popular (it’s a little hard to tell, using Twitscoop is helpful but not very exact with it’s numbers. So went through with my search to see how many people were talking about the sport. Since this morning there were over 300 Tweets about the competition, that was BEFORE the Gold medal win. I’m literally writing this a few minutes past the win, so you can imagine how much buzz there is at the moment and will be for the rest of the day and week. The spike for comments related to the name of the sport is huge, never mind other terms related to the win.
It’ll be interesting to see what Google trends has to say about the sport in the coming weeks.
All this leads me to the title of the article. Had we or another agency been running the social media engagement for the league, we would have earmarked the possibility of this event as a great time to engage with fans of the sport. We would have had articles ready to go on the site, into the various social network news, status or blogs. We’d be favoriting all of the pirated footage showing up n YouTube later today. We would have been Twittering every play and the news and interviews to follow the big win. The thing that differentiates an agency that is engaged in social media and a company like the league, or just about any other corporate entity, is that we live in social media, on YouTube, Facebook, Bebo, MySpace, Ning, Twitter, Tittr, Mashable, Digg, etc. Not that it’s the fault of a company. Their job is to run their company, it’s an agency be it a marketing agency, PR group, consultant, etc. to know the who, what , when, where, why and how of promoting their clients’ message.
Many colleagues I talk to have the same issue. Because their client has an intern with a Facebook account or their CFO has a MySpace, they think that is all that is needed to be able to appropriately engage the public through social media. It takes more than a copy of Fast Company or Wired and a computer to market using SoMe. This is not a big surprise though. I know plenty of graphic designers, and as one myself, who shudder when clients ask for source files, or decide to tackle graphic design themselves with a student copy of Photoshop. As with SoMe, it takes more than Photoshop to make great, even acceptable, graphic design. You need experience, talent and education to understand hierarchy of information, how to properly use a grid, typography, audience, etc.
This isn’t to say that all companies are void of employees that get SoMe. Some have smartly hired experts in the field, and will hopefully listen to them (Hello, ScottMonty). But certainly the majority of clients who think they’ll take it upon themselves to put some video clips up on YouTube or make the decision themselves that Bebo is a more appropriate point of engagement than Hi5 for their target audience (insert any SoNet in here, you get my point), are doing themselves a disservice.
They say that someone who represents themselves in court has a fool for a client. I’m a little burnt with new business pitches to come up with an appropriate clever line to replace this in regards to PR, marketing, advertising, graphic design, etc. Anyone? Beuller?
p.s. The opinions in this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer. No proprietary or private information is included and no names were mentioned (except Scott Monty’s) to protect the privacy of those individuals or corporations.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
Good points all around. An important thing to keep in mind is Form Follows Function. In other words, first it has to work, then it can be made to look pretty. Well, like it or not, MySpace works, despite the fact that it is not pretty. But pretty is a subjective term, while working is not. In order to work, in the realm of social networking and personalization, the user must be presented with the ability to make their site their own. That means supplying the function and letting them supply the form. If the MySpace example tells us anything it’s that most users have no taste! Any designer could tell you that! It takes skill, talent and education to know good design when you see it, much less create good design. If users were all capable of creating good design, we designers would be out of a job. MySpace decided that stopping at Function suited them just fine. With their user base and cash flow, who could argue with that?
Facebook, on the other hand, has taken a different point of view. They are providing the Function and 99% of the form. The only personalization there is your apps, your friends and your pictures.
Twitter and WordPress are in the middle. Twitter (who is obviously still working on their Function) allows a bit of form to be handled by their users, but not alot. Twitter allows users to add a picture as an icon and change their background and colors. Both merely complement the user interface. With WordPress, if you’re using their hosted version, you can choose from a variety of templates to change your layout, or you can design or have someone else design a WordPress template for you. This last is not easy for a layman, so it is often someone with design skills who does it. At worst, a WordPress design can be boring, but at least it’s not as hideous as what some MySpace users are doing.
So, allowing the Form portion of your social network’s user interface to fall into the hands of it’s users may not be pretty, but that’s what social networks are all about, What the User Wants. The user has become the designer, for better or worse, of their own experience. Who knows if this will be a continuing trend? Well, maybe we have a hint already. Users in droves have been flocking to Facebook over the last year or so, which offers much less freedom of expression, at least visually. What I’ve heard over and over from those that have abandoned MySpace for Facebook, besides that it’s for stalkers and spammers (thanks Big Media), is that Facebook looks better. Maybe users are smartening up, and realizing that they enjoy elegant design, maybe, with all the different aspects of their real and online lives, they are too busy to design their experience and prefer to have one handed to them.
We will see how it shakes out over the coming year.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )