Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Harry Potter Marketing

Graham Hill's reference to the concept of "Harry Potter Marketing", while talking about marketers not taking the passage of time into account when marketing to loyal customers made interesting reading.The insensitivity of organisations in changing their product offerings to their loyal customers as they age is appalling.

The Harvard Business Review's February edition had a long article about Breakthrough Ideas. One of the ideas was keeping the brand (and its marketing) relevant to customers as they age by changing its value propositions, marketing messages and delivery capabilities. This the authors called 'Harry Potter Marketing' in recognition of the way the character both stays the same (at the core) but changes (in behaviour) as he ages.

Harry Potter Marketing defined-The concept of changing value propositions, marketing messages and delivery capabilities to loyal customers with time, while keeping the brand loyalty intact.

Businesses need to do the necessary cleaning up and updation of data time and again to keep abreast of developments. Besides, it is high time organisations stopped taking their loyal customers for granted!!!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Walmart-Embracing CGM for better Search Engine Rankings?

Another new addition to the world of Consumer Generated Media...Walmart allows it's consumers to post product ratings and reviews
'Real Opinions-Smart shopping-See what walmart customers from coast to coast are saying about our huge selection of products.'

Chief Marketing Officer Cathy Halligan was quoted in a Reuters report as saying the opportunity to review products is the No. 1 customer-requested feature. Being the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart has been putting up efforts in the last few weeks to integrate its Web site more closely with its stores.

According to the Wal-Mart estimates, roughly 130 million customers visit one of its stores or its Web site every week and 75 percent of those customers are active online.

So what are the benefits Walmart can hope to accrue from this move?

1.Better Search Engine RankingsAs per an adage article, the real outcome maybe an improved performance with respect to search engine rankings-a crucial factor in the performance of online retailers.

The reviews give Wal-Mart thousands of additional pages of content to be indexed by major search engines, which look favorably on unique content, such as reviews, compared with pages with basic product details that any retailer could have.
"Searches related to product reviews typically get a high volume of queries, so Wal-Mart could see a material increase in organic search traffic to its site," said Peter Hershberg, managing partner at the search-marketing firm Reprise Media.

2.Increased consumer loyalty

3.Encouragement to consumers to return to the website more often.

4.Incorporation of consumer feedback to facilitate product-decisions.

5.Influencing consumer purchase as large no. of consumers depend on peer reviews

The above endeavours usually lead to better consumer engagement which eventually leads to increased purchase intentions. How much these will impact sales, only time will tell.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The correlation between Consumer Generated Media and Sales

As the democratisation of consumer expression leads to a viral proliferation of information online, the newage communication ecosystem has prompted the need for a careful evaluation of the potential of CGM or buzz as it is called. With each passing day, consumers find innovative ways to express their satisfaction/dissatisfaction about a product or brand.

An investigation of the relationship between blog buzz, market promotion and sales in the Consumer Packaged Goods(CPG) industry, by Nielsen Buzzmatrix revealed the following-

1.CGM has the potential to influence and generate incremental publicity for products, enough to effect their commercial prospects, specially in the CPG category.

2.CPG Marketers should consider the role of Buzz in their Marketing Mix, with respect to New product communication plans.

3.Ad spend is a large factor involved in generating CPG buzz.

4.There is a strong correlation between buzz and sales.

5.Buzz helps in generating accurate forecasts.

6.Buzz Magnitude: Top 10 % of products were responsible for over 85% of total buzz generated. Buzz is higher

7.Buzz Timing: Buzz usually precedes product launch and sales and is usually highest in the initial stages

As the above reiterates the prime motivational factor for consumers to create and post CGM-To be on the forefront of something new, it is profoundly clear that CGM will need to be an intrinsic component of the new product communication plans for marketers.

Interesting way to express Consumer Dissatisfaction

Expressing dissatisfaction over the way cheese is inserted in a sandwich at Subway, this cartoon from Lefthandedtoons is an interesting way to use the power of Consumer Generated Media. Source:ADAGE

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Food Marketers and the society

More society concious corporates are venturing out to publically pledge their resolves not to advertise food products not meeting requisite nutritional standards to children under 12. As per an adage article on More Major food marketers establish food advertising limits', several major corporates like Cadbury Adams,Campbell,Coca-Cola,General Mills, Hershey,Kellogg's ,Kraft, Mars,McDonald's,Pepsi and Unilever are the coalition of companies who have decided to curb spending on unhealthy foods....

Friday, July 13, 2007

Consumer Behaviour-Engagement and the purchase decision

A comment on my post on Peer Reviews influence Consumer Behaviour, on my blog at Customer Think yielded an interesting discussion- That accepted that social media influences consumer behaviour, but are consumers really concerned about developing relationships with companies..while Graham Hill thought otherwise,
John's theory on the value of customer engagement and his citation from the Economic Intelligence Unit Study,

"Increasingly, executives are finding that the winning differentiator is no longer the product or price, but the level of engagement—the degree to which a company succeeds in creating intimate long-term relationships with the customer or external stakeholder.
…engagement refers to the creation of a deeper, more meaningful connection between the company and the customer, and one that endures over time. Engagement is also seen as a way to create customer interaction and participation."

was thought provoking.

My take on this....

The value of product features and pricing cannot be disregarded at all, but engagement definitely adds a measure of trust to the buying environment and the payoff yielded by this engagement eventually is increased purchase intention.

Besides, why would consumers not be interested in building relationships with the companies?
studies reveal that in the case of the B2C category, emotional associations create a comfort,familiarity and convenience, leading to purchase decisions and in the B2B category, consumers want to partner with businesses that are reliable, fair, consistent, and cooperative-the key outcomes of relationship building.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

NDTV more courageous than IBN?

As discussed earlier, Consumer Generated media, the voice of the empowered consumer and what he feels about products procured from companies has another dimension to it. When the product under discussion is NEWS, MEDIA and INFORMATION, another form of CGM is being tracked...Termed as 'Citizen Journalism', this form of CGM allows people to share their views about common issues and participate by contributing their thoughts on a particular subject.

As per Wikipedia,

"Citizen journalism, also known as "participatory journalism," or "people journalism" is the act of citizens "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information," .....
Citizen journalism is a specific form of citizen media as well as user generated content."

Browsing to take a look at how Indian News Corporates had taken to this form of CGM, I came across the NDTV Blogs-NDTV allows users to host their blogs, upload content, videos, photos etc.From serious political analysis and literary criticism to frivolous personal chatter and over-the-top protestations, blogs allow you to create your own private niche in the big and not-too-bad world of the Internet." Interesting!!

With sections across business, health, education etc. etc. etc., NDTV appears to be hosting a multitude of bloggers. Haven't taken a look at the content, but this definitely appears to be a positive act of NDTV in the wake of rising criticism of bloggers, as a community and the quality of content they generate, by journalists per se.

The IBN blogs have contributions only from CNN-IBN employees. Is fairly impressive...but that's what the job of a journalist is-to be articulate and informed. However, as knowledgeable citizens from the elite qualified communities adopt this media, to share and voice their thoughts, journalists are no doubt sitting up, fearing a competitive tirade.

The quality of content as produced by a qualified/enlightened journalist and an ordinary citizen may or may not differ, however, it is the voice of the common masses which matters more when companies need to evaluate CGM from a strategical perspective.

Journalists have jobs that are bound to stay, but here is a breed of consumers of media who want to be heard and there is no way the echo of their voices can be submerged, considering the offerings of collaborationware leading to technology facilitated network building.The more condescending ones like NDTV simply embrace this voice. Maybe the other counterparts need to take note!!!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Wikipedia's popularity

As google trend analysis indicates the volume of usage of a query,it can at times be interesting to see how the search of certain terms has evolved over time. A google trend for the word ' Wikipedia' yielded this graph.

Absence of data on the vertical scale does not give the exact number of searches in 2007, but definitely is indicative enough of how the trend has caught on.
Had to be so..Wikipedia is the primary source of information on various issues today and the very fact that it is positioned as an encyclopedia, adds to the credibility factor. I do understand debates are on over the relevance and accuracy of content hosted at the site, but that is beside the point.

Digging deeper, a Technorati search for wikipedia yielded 375,522 blog posts and a blogpulse trend for wikipedia indicated an interesting trend.

The jump in April 2007 probably coincided with April Fool's day-Wikipedia's thorough compilation of April Fool's day coverage across newspapers, websites, magazines.It also included television shows corresponding to the day. The single page dedicated to April Fool's day had 436 outbound links.Considering that wikipedia's article structure encourages linking within and outside wikipedia,and that the prime factor in Google's search results algorithm is the no. of links connected to a given webpage, wikipedia gets a shot at very high rankings on keyword queries.

No wonder then, that the Report published by Pew Internet and American Life Project in conjunction with Hitwise lists Wikipedia as one of the most heavily visited websites on the internet, courtesy the vastness of data on the site, the American affinity to search engines and the convenience of search.

Maybe someone can still throw more light on why Wikipedia's blogpulse graph shows the upswing in April 2007.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Consumer Generated Media - How peer reviews highly influence consumer buying behaviour

Here is something which corroborates my thoughts on Opinion Leaders and CGM and The era of the empowered consumers-
A report published at about Online Buyers scouring for deals

The findings of the report include-

1. More and more online buyers are turning to peer-reviews for product related advice, before adopting a product.

"When asked to note their most trusted information source, sixty per cent of online buyers said consumer reviews compared to 31 per cent who said newspapers or magazines."

2.Large no. of online buyers indulge in comparison shopping and use social networking sites to do so.

3.Online buyers are early adopters of social networking such as writing or reading blogs, customer reviews, and community websites. They're more likely to share their opinions and give reviews online than people who shop the old-fashioned way.

4.As social netwroking sites abound with users, they will be areas of most potential for e-commerce.

5.Embracing advertising in the web's community sites appears to be very promising for marketers.

Hope the heads of the organisations (The customer was king....)hesitant to adopt CGM as a promotional tool are listening!!!!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Social media and the iphone

The Apple iphone has been an explicit example of how social media was used to create a buzz around a product, in the pre-launch phase, as a marketing strategy.
Blogpulse graphs are a clear indicator that the buzz about iphone at the time of launch was higher as compared to the one around the time of release. With as many as 244,626 blog posts about the iphone being tracked by technorati as per date, it will be important to monitor the for the same post-adoption by consumers, as CGM will come into play to showcase the positive as well as negative reactions as product-users.

Case study on buzz created through social media for iphone posted by Nielson Buzzmatrix,is a graphic account tracing the amount of impact of social media as a marketing tool for a product.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Consumers can make or break brands

In the words of Chris Ward, Commercial Director, Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions,

"Social networking has changed the rules of the game and consumers now have the power to make or break a brand. This type of relationship provides a two way dialogue where the brand receives feedback and the social networker could be monetised for their efforts – positive or negative.”

It is common knowledge now that the huge traffic on social networks has made them very interesting marketspaces for marketers ineterested in brand building and product positioning. The changing attitudes to social communication and research figures hugely indicative of the potential of these networks has not only made these social networks important components of the value chain but also a complete market segment that needs to be targetted.

As advertisers move to understand the dynamics of this media,the consumer demographics and behavioural aspects, it is important to understand that groups of people interacting socially observe an etiquette and targetting them will need to be sensitively planned and executed.

Some recent usage trends of social media by corporates have been -

1. The Apple iphone has a myspace profile and as of date, already has 469 friends.It may be recalled that the Apple ipod pink nano which had a profile to promote the product, had amassed as many as 80,000 friends on myspace, before the site was removed. Nice promotional strategy by Apple

2.UK based Topshop by maintaining an online profile on Myspace through a participation in the community, special offers and discounts was able to generate a sizeable amount of visits, as per a report from Hitwise.

3.SouthWest Airlines has a group on myspace,having over 1000 members for those working/associated with southwest airleins. This includes the loyal southwest fyers.The idea is to form a community to share information, plan trips, share travel tips and network.

4.Creation of virtual spaces by VOLVO and MSN on windows live spaces.Consumers were invited to write about their exciting experiences and adventures in a Volvo-brande "What's your story" area.
Here Volvo was able to tap into the motivational factors behind an individual seeking to be an opinion leader feeling like anempowered consumer.

In view of the need to engage the online consumers,Microsoft has released the ‘Word of the Mouse’ Advertising Guidelines recommendations for usage of social networks for proliferation of their brands.

1. Understand consumer’s motivations for using social networks
- 75% of British users use the sites to keep in touch with friends and family
- Approximately half use it to express opinions and views on topics of interest
- 49% use social networks to deepen relationships with like-minded people.

2. Express themselves as a brand
People are using social networks to express their individuality. Networks can be used to express a side of a brand people don’t normally see and encourage them to interact with it – but it needs to remain authentic.

3. Create and maintain good conversations
Individuals are powerful in this environment – they are the content creators, conversation creators and community creators. Brands that are willing to have a dialogue could benefit.

4. Empower participants
You are entering a world of empowered participants who control their own content, are expressing their individuality and would welcome having this power over branded properties on their Space.

5. Identify online brand advocates
Advertisers need to identify relevant networking sites i.e. a site which includes people who already use/buy a company’s product and align to this audience and existing customer segmentation models.
By researching blogging habits or comments on a product in this environment, advertisers can reach out to influentials and begin a dialogue, for example by offering free samples or advanced product releases.

6. Behave like a social networker
A fundamental principle is that the best advertisers on Spaces will behave like the best Spaces owners by:
- Being creative
- Being honest and courteous (ask permission)
- Being individual
- Being conscious of the audience
- Updating regularly

As Advertisers understand that they need to gradually focus on the networked aspects of these communities and use them for spreading messages virally, these social networks provide profound relationship building opportunities with the consumers.