"Email, TV, print, mobile, social… it’s all the same. ROI is media-agnostic. Once you realize that your measurement should focus on the relationship between the activity and the outcome(s), the medium becomes a detail. ROI is ROI, regardless of the channel or the technology or the platform."
Mike says: Wonderful clarity and simplicity in this argument. Social media is a medium that needs to serve business needs. Whether you choose to engage for financial, reputational or customer service motives is a matter for individual businesses. Once this decision is made it is possible to start measuring the business impact of your efforts in the space.
I tried my best not to but in the end I did tweet this photo. Maybe grill’d and one green bean were betting that if they dared us not to tweet, we would out of sheer defiance. They certainly have the right audience to bait. Is this the vice trigger - one of Jonah Lehrer’s seven fascination triggers? The motivation is simple - sometimes people don’t want to do what they are told. Sometimes we just want to defy our traditional patterns of compliance and obedience. If you want to hear about this concept from someone far more knowledgeable than me, listen to the Social Triggers Insider podcast. Worth the half hour.
Red Bull, Jäger and Vegemite are much loved products for many punters in Australia and beyond. Have you ever thought how bizarre this is? It’s fair to say all three are naturally repulsive to the tastebuds - at least at first tasting.
When Dietrich Mateschitz first tested Red Bull with consumers the responses were off the charts. Participants hated it, some claimed it was the worst thing they’d ever tasted.
Rather than refining the formula, Mateschitz decided to invest in building the cult brand that we know as Red Bull today. Mateschitz understood the bigger beverage companies could always formulate a more appealing taste. He stopped wasting time on the formula and invested in building a brand experience none of them could match. Red Bull stands for fun, energy and adventure. People drink it because they want to get more out of their day - or at least show others that they do.
Even more perplexing than the Red Bull case is that of Jägermeister. Nobody drinks Jäger because it tastes nice. I don’t need to know the secret ingredients in Jager to tell you it tastes horrendous. But that’s not the point.
You drink Jager as a bonding ritual with your friends. The god awful taste is to be endured not enjoyed. And then you dare your mate to endure another. Jäger is a great brand experience. It fulfils a primal urge to endure a painful experience in front of an audience.
The last product I’ll talk about is a bit harder for me to understand. I’ve been conditioned from day dot to like it - and I do. A lot. But I can’t let this bias distort the reality. I’m talking about the iconic Vegemite.
Tell any rational person to eat a salt yeast extract and they’d likely tell you to bugger off. What was the response like the last time you saw an overseas visitor eat Vegemite (Kiwis exempt)? For most it triggers an instinctive pursing of the lips and squinting of the eyes. It is a sensory assault to be sure - but certainly not a good one.
Still, millions of Australians eat Vegemite each morning as part of their daily routine because it’s an enjoyable brand experience. Because the tradition is passed down through the generations it has a wonderful nostalgic value. So you wake up, pop in some toast, spread the Vegemite and enjoy a few minutes of comfort before taking on the day. What an amazing psychological experience to deliver.
Which leads to the point of this post. Brand experience and the context in which we consume products are remarkably powerful. So powerful in fact, that they can rewire your brain to enjoy things that by rights you should reject.
This is important to remember in an era where product development seems to rule the business roost. I have no doubt betting the house on product can set a business up for success. But as these cult brands prove, sometimes your money is better invested in cultivating unique and valuable brand experiences for customers.
Andy Lark, Chief Marketing & Online Officer, Commonwealth Bank of Australia presented the afternoon keynote.
Lark has an engaging and passionate presentation style that oozes authority. The work CBA is doing on digital content is really clever. Surprisingly though, I’d never heard about it prior to his presentation.
Liked his section about purpose driven organisations and how they outperform profit driven organisations. Great example at SouthWest airlines where all staff have bought in to the company’s purpose so much the baggage handlers will tell you they’re job is giving people the freedom to fly rather than ‘moving baggage.’ Similarly, the employees at Dell are so committed to the purpose, almost all of them could blog for the company.
Lark’s clearly excited about the future of marketing and what he calls the death of transmission. He believes that the new forms of marketing will be more democratic and user centred.
I liked all the directions he spoke of today so I’m hoping they come to fruition.
A similar theme is emerging in all talks - marketing is going to get harder not easier. But those who innovate and put customer first will win.
Great topic and fantastic insights from a range of panellists.
Key take outs for each below.
Andrew Giles (Canon)
All roads start and end with consumer. Canon invest a lot in researching their consumers’ needs and use insights to develop marketing strategy. Saw the need for photographers to gather in a community and offered a space for the community to share their work.
Suzie O’Carroll (Google)
Content might be king, but distribution is god almighty. Google+ ripples is a great tool to watch - gives brands a graphic representation of how content is shared. Also, Google hangouts could become a useful platform for rich brand content.
Martin Walsh (Macquarie Telecom)
Social media is great for monitoring sentiment. Uses monitoring tools to analyse sentiment and share of voice compared to key competitors. Mentioned 80% of social media efforts fail. Walsh suggested this was caused by not having a strategy. Conversations have to be curated and the best way to stoke these conversations is content.
Jessica Mitchell (founder BreadNButter Digital)
Excited about digital measurement capabilities. Believes social media is a commitment not a campaign. Made a great point about paid media being good for facilitating the spread of content. But the content still needs to be remarkable to spread organically (what we call earned media).
There can be no doubting that the ‘just do it’ line from Wieden+Kennedy has been an inspirational and transformational cultural force. It is a powerful and universal call to action that demands you stop making excuses for inaction and get on with it.
In the context it was intended to apply - personal fitness - the logic is irrefutable. But where I have trouble with ‘just do it’ thinking is when it enters the workplace.
If you’ve ever been to Southeast Asia this photo will be a familiar sight. There are crowded market places teeming with vendors, all of whom sell almost exactly the same stock, everywhere you go. This has long been a source of fascination to me. Why doesn’t anybody try to sell something different? Why doesn’t anybody try to stand out from the crowd?
One of the oft-cited truisms of communications theory and influence is knowing your audience. This is more complicated than it seems because often your audience is made up of wide and disparate groups. At times, the only thing they may hold as a common interest is your product or service. Our industry spends a lot of money trying to learn more about our audience (or customers) in the form of expensive market research. It appears to be a wise investment because it enables us to better tailor our communications to our audience. It also gives us a mildly theoretical framework with which we can make decisions - something that senior people in other disciplines demand.
Rage against the research machine
Much of the marketing industry’s trade press is littered with commentary about the ineffectiveness of market research in determining the likely success of a campaign. Some of this comes from disgruntled creatives who are sick of seeing fresh and compelling ideas being consumer tested into mediocrity. George Parker, in his book Confessions of a Mad Man, laments the lack of faith in a top-notch Creative Director’s gut instinct. He talks about the iconic 1984 Mac TVC and refers to how it tested poorly but went on to become one of the most successful commercials ever produced.
The general thesis I have detected from a wide source of articles is broadly this:
People will naturally reject the new and different in consumer testing because it is instinctive to reject what we don’t know on first view. You can only really monitor sentiment when the idea has gone to market.
To a large extent I agree with this. It makes eminent sense to me. Unfortunately it doesn’t wash with Chief Marketing Officers and the bean counters who demand accountability.
An audience I understand
I’d like to share another view. My view is empathetic toward the plight of agencies, planner and creatives in all sorts of industries. Sometimes we can know our audience intimately but still fail to persuade them. Research is often focused on finding out the best influencing tactics for a pre-defined behaviour change strategy rather than on what we can reasonably expect to shift.
I’m asking for your permission to personalise this point - keep reading if you care. The two blokes in the photo below are some of my oldest friends and I have known them for over 10 years.
It is fair to assume that I have more insights and a better understanding of this audience than I’ll ever have of any target markets I communicate with en masse.
Given my insights, am I 100 per cent successful in persuading them to my preferred action or behaviour? No.
Okay, that’s a tough ask. Let’s reframe and ask, am I successful more than half the time? Maybe.
Let’s start with some wins. I can usually persuade them to do the following:
drink beers at inconvenient hours of the week
persuade them to go out of their way to meet me at a bar on the other side of town
have them host a gathering at their houses for a sporting event.
All of this is very handy.
I understand, yet I still fail you
Conversely, the list of things I can’t persuade them to do, even with my intimate knowledge of how they think and what they want, is decidedly bigger. A sample of these includes:
playing golf when hungover
committing, in advance, to attending drinks, dinner or a gathering at my place
convincing them that talking to girls you’ve never met isn’t all that hard
persuading them to share their expert opinion on economics and finance in their spare time
convincing them that not wearing sunscreen in scorching heat is a really bad idea
I can’t persuade them to do these things because they don’t align with their personal attitudes, beliefs and desires.
Too often, communicators miss this crucial element of understanding an audience. We are so wound up in our own drive to alter behaviour in ways that suits our organisation, that we completely forget about what suits the audience. We spend all our time fine tuning the superficial tools of influence - aesthetics and language - instead of actually confronting the true problem. No matter how good your messaging is, your audience will not be driven to act if it only benefits you.
Stop being selfish and start caring
It is a fairly selfish way to think about influencing when you look at it through the lens of a personal relationship. I’ve stopped asking my friends to do things I know they have no interest in doing. Partly because it is a waste of my time, but also because it is disrespectful.
If I want them to do something, I make sure it aligns with what they want to do. If this means I have to compromise or give up on some elements of the action I’m asking them to do, so be it.
So let’s start the compromise. Let’s treat our target audiences with the same respect and care we extend to our friends. We’ll stop wasting money and we’ll begin to earn the goodwill of our customers.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say social marketing has its fair share of critics. At worst, we’re called nanny state moralisers. At best, we make a difference to behaviour and it is discarded as coincidental. A story published in The Saturday Age seems to point to a big win in the social marketer’s battle to encourage people to take regular cancer detection tests.
Although the number of people diagnosed with cancer is increasing, their chance of survival is also much greater thanks largely to early prevention. Though the work of doctors and medical advances can’t be overlooked when looking at these figures, it would be remiss of any sensible observer to ignore the impact of a shift in public sentiment and attitude toward regular pap smears, breast scans and prostate checks. The continued efforts of health promotion agencies has shifted this attitude and must be given some of the credit for the increase in early detection.
I think the mark of a really good social marketing campaign is when you see a notable societal attitude shift towards the targeted behaviours. Of course, the classic example in the Australian context is the two decade long drink driving prevention efforts. Enforcement has a role as a significant deterrent, no doubt. But the marketing effort has added a social deterrent. It is, by and large, no longer socially acceptable to drink and drive.
If we aren’t already at a similar stage with cancer screenings and tests, I’m sure we’re not far away. I can imagine giving my mates grief for refusing to get their prostates tested in the future. I suspect there is already a fair bit of social pressure on females to keep on top of getting their mammograms and pap smears.
There was a good quote in the article from Todd Harper, CEO of the Cancer Council of Victoria, which showed how important public prevention campaigns are to the health agenda.
“We have the knowledge to prevent perhaps as many as one-third of all of cancers: we need to continue to invest in quality prevention campaigns — like Quit, Sun Smart and Pap screen — and we need to do more in terms of obesity and alcohol consumption.’’
I will watch with interest the new efforts to combat obesity and alcohol consumption, as they are seemingly intractable problems.
It is critically important that the sector remains confident in its ability to shift attitudes and behaviour over time.
Recent remarks from Trish Worth, chairwoman of lobby group Drinkwise, seem to indicate a defensive mindset and a lack of confidence in tackling problem behaviour.
Ms Worth said drinking around pools “was a difficult mindset to try to change through public campaigns because the risk of offending the target audience was high.”
The comments were made in responde to figures in The Age that showed 20 per cent of drownings in Victoria are related to alcohol consumption around pools.
“We can’t lay the blame or the people you want to listen will switch off,” Ms Worth concluded.
To be clear, I agree that a blame game approach is a horrible way to frame this issue. My point is that it is far from the only way to approach the behaviour problem.
If DrinkWise invited agencies to build a campaign to combat the issue, they might just be surprised by the creative and insightful ways the industry approaches it.
Guilt is a particularly powerful emotion because it can make people act against their own self interest. In criminal law, for example, guilt pushes people to confess to crimes which effectively condemns them to jail or in some cases death. So if it is such a powerful emotion, one that can make people act against rational self interest, would it be a good idea to use guilt as a customer retention strategy?
In my experience, small businesses are very good at this. I feel a terrible sense of guilt if I walk past my usual coffee haunt to meet someone at another cafe. This is remarkably irrational behaviour. I should feel no sense of allegiance or commitment to buy all my coffee from the one cafe. Though I’m well aware of this, I can’t suppress the guilt.
I suppose the next question is why? Do I worry that they will close if I stop buying coffee there? Am I concerned I’ll hurt the feelings of baristas who are passionate about their craft?
What I do know is the guilt plays out in one of two ways. The first thing I do is try to arrange all my coffee meetings at my favourite cafe. If I can’t do this, which happens if the other person has already nominated a cafe, I walk the long way to avoid being sighted by the baristas at my haunt.
But, of course, not all businesses illicit a feeling of guilt for shopping at a competitor. It takes a special kind of business with great people to make you feel this.
So, how does my local cafe cultivate guilt?
It starts with the baristas. They drop in remarks like “we haven’t seen you for a few days, have you been out of town?” Or when you walk past and they are out the front wiping down the tables and they ask, “where are you off to in such a hurry?” They make you feel like you’re cheating on them if you go somewhere else.
But they also offer amazing service way above what is required of them. The product is also better than the other cafes I visit.
And, finally, the place is familiar to me. I feel I belong there. The baristas always remember my name. They know what I order. They know the types of single origin coffees I like and recommend it when I come in. All of these small things combine to build a sense of loyalty to the place.
And maybe this is the rub. I don’t feel guilty for going to another cafe because I’m worried the cafe will cease to exist without me. I don’t think the barista will have a terrible lull in self confidence if they see me enjoying coffee at a rival’s cafe.
No, I feel guilty because it is like I’m betraying my loyalty to a cafe that cares deeply about my unique, personal and individual customer experience.
There is a key point that all businesses can take out of this, not just small business. If you make a sincere effort to provide the best customer experience you will reap the rewards of unprecedented customer loyalty. A loyalty that becomes so strong it transforms into guilt when your customer buys from a competitor.
It would be foolish to think there was a shortcut to this kind of loyalty. This will cost your business something, mostly time and effort. But if you put that time and effort in, your rewards will be long and sustaining.