‘Share a Coke’ Credited With a Pop in Sales

Coke

From The Wall Street Journal:

How do you get Americans to drink soda again? Put their names on bottles and cans.

Coca-Cola Co. KO +1.01% ‘s carbonated soft-drink sales in the U.S. have risen more than 2% after the world’s most-famous beverage brand began labeling Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero this summer with names of individuals, from Aaron to Sarah to Zach.

The labels—which also included warm-and-fuzzy terms like “Friends,” “BFF,” and “Family”—were launched in the U.S. in June.

After falling 11 years in a row, Coke’s U.S. soft-drink volumes rose 0.4% for the 12 weeks through August from the same period a year ago, according to Wells Fargo, which cited Nielsen store-scanner data. Sales rose 2.5% in dollar terms. Over the same time period, soda volume and dollar sales remained negative at rivals PepsiCoInc. PEP +0.50% and Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. DPS +0.16%

Personalization is such a powerful marketing device. It seems even the old Coke dog can learn a few new tricks.

I found out personally about how strong an attractor personalization marketing can be, when Seth Godin’s book, Tribes, was released in 2008. Seth reached out to his social networks before the book was released, asking for avatars that might be included on the inside book jacket.

I, along with a few thousand other people, sent in our pictures. When the book came out, lo and behold, my avatar was in the upper left hand of the inside jacket.

Tribes

And – unsurprisingly – I bought a copy of the book.

Well played, Mr. Godin. Well. Played.

Sure, who hasn’t been pitched a leather bound copy of Who’s Who in American Whateveritz?

Still.

Personalization works. Just ask Coke.

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Why mobile web apps are slow

Mobile Phone with cloud of application icons flying arround
Why mobile web apps are slow.

A great fact-driven discussion, on the challenges facing mobile application developers, with regard to speed and memory management.

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If You Cant Measure It…

Measurement

This is the last post in a series I started last week, on how great marketing is actually just great storytelling; more specifically, I’d like to write today on the importance of assessment and measurement in your marketing efforts, and how measurement ascertains the success  – or failure – of your product storytelling efforts.

The saying “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” is (perhaps erroneously) attributed to management consultant Peter Drucker. The idea being, of course, that if you can’t properly assess an activity using some objective methodology, then there is no way that you can determine how to effectively control the success of that activity (other than relying upon plain ol’ blind luck).

I agree – in part – to this statement. But it doesn’t go far enough in the importance of assessment to merely claim that we must be able to measure an activity.

Effective measurement goes beyond cold, statistical stock-taking; it requires reflective assessment on the meaning behind the feedback that you are gleaning from your data, not just the data itself.

Soak time, if you will.

Back in a far-distant part of my consulting career, I worked with a large polling organization and a large publicly traded hospital chain on patient satisfaction surveys. We were examining the rates of satisfaction from patients who were attended to in emergency rooms, and later admitted to the hospital, as well as those patients admitted to the hospital without going to the emergency room, first.

What was staggeringly obvious was that those patients who first went to the emergency room, and were then admitted, had a significantly poorer reflection on their quality of care than those patients admitted directly to the hospital, sans ER visit.

What was going on here?

Well, ERs are notorious for the long waits they impose upon (most) patients. But more importantly, you typically don’t go to the ER electively – you go because you are experiencing a real medical crisis. The trauma of the ER experience was being transferred onto the subsequent hospital stay, fairly or not.

Had the satisfaction data not been assessed from the story aspect of what was happening (patient to ER to Hospital), the context of what was actually happening was not readily apparent.

After the fact assessment is truly important to gauge the success of a product story; however, assessing and measuring engagement success while the story is being told is equally – if not more than – important. If you’re telling a story in front of an audience, you can tell the success of engagement through the feedback of yawns, smiles, claps, or raspberries you receive.

Likewise, a well crafted product or brand campaign will measure in real time the efficacy of the message as it is received.

Now – truly with traditional media, it is difficult to do this. How can one measure how well a magazine ad or billboard is performing? But for digital media, this barrier does not exist. In fact, real time measurement is one of the biggest force multipliers of any type of digital channel over traditional media.

Feedback and assessment must be baked into your brand story from the onset of the first strategy meeting. Otherwise, how can you react when you’re campaign isn’t producing the desired result you intended, if there is no way to gauge feedback? Or worse, your campaign has caused an unintended PR nightmare for being out of touch with 21st century social norms? Even though Kenny Rogers famously sang “there’ll be time enough for countin’, when the dealin’s done“, that can be death to a brand – or company – if you wait until the end of a campaign, to react to what your story is doing in the world.

I’ve purposefully shied away from talking about specific tools for digital campaign measurement and assessment, for the same reason that I find the phone that Michael Douglas uses in Wall Street to be amusing, now. Time marches on, and new tools will always be coming along.

The important things to take away are:

  • You need to design in your marketing measurement methodology from the start;
  • You need to continuously measure – and react – while your story is being told;
  • and You need to assess the overall efficacy of the campaign once your story is complete.

I welcome the chance to hear your feedback on these posts, and listen to your thoughts on what I got right – and where I missed the mark entirely.

Happy Marketing – and, Happy Storytelling.

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Engage!

Engage

Last week, I started a series of posts (here, here, and here), on great marketing, with the proposition that a great marketer is essentially a great storyteller.

Today I want to discuss engagement; how to do it, and how not to do it.

You share photos with friends. You ask colleagues for professional help. You seek recommendations from trusted sources for a product you’re interested in. We all seek validation, support, help, guidance from people we know, love, and trust.

Engagement is the feedback loop, that will either reinforce these trusted connections – or will amplify all that is already wrong with your existing relationships.

I want to speak more generally about engagement, to probe it at its essence, rather than simply concentrate on the social media tools being used to drive engagement. Some of the following examples that I will use will certainly reference particular social media platforms, but this discussion isn’t meant to be a Pinterest “how to”, or a Facebook “how to”, or a Twitter “how to.”

I want to think about the thinking that did – or didn’t –  go into attempts at engaging customers.

Crisis Communications

Often, when engagement is discussed, it’s couched in a conversation about outreach to customers.

But what happens when your customers are reaching out to you? Or more specifically, what happens when your customers are reaching out to you in the midst of a major PR storm, or an on campus emergency, or a significant crisis, in which your brand is the responsible party?

One has to look no further than recent events in the NFL to know that crisis communications, handled ineptly, can sink the public perception of a brand.

But they aren’t the first to mishandle crisis communications.

I think most would agree that British Petroleum made a fair mess of their communications during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Domino’s Pizza did a less than stellar job handling the PR disaster following the release of videos showing employees doing disgusting things to food to be served to customers. And, arguably, the largest crisis communication debacle in recent memory has to be the case of the disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines flight over the Indian Ocean earlier this year.

Crisis communications never come when expected (hence, crisis communications) – all the more reason to prepare a plan for engaging a crisis, before it’s needed.

Every crisis will be unique. But in almost every case, to be effective and successful, a good crisis communication plan needs the following:

  • Accountability
  • Contacts to be Reached, First
  • Publicizing and Providing Access to Official Communication Channels
  • Timely Information Release
  • Transparency and Accuracy in Reporting Information
  • A Plan for Ongoing Updates until the Crisis Passes

Of these, keep the following attributes in mind: access, timeliness, accuracy, and transparency. You’ll be seeing them again.

Where you have seen major breakdowns in crisis communications, it almost always involves an absence of information, or conflicting information being released, or blatantly false information publicized.

PR Debacles

PR debacles are themselves, crisis communications. To be handled successfully, PR disasters should be addressed timely, accurately, and transparently. And, access to authorized spokespeople should be relatively straightforward.

The NFL over the past few weeks has failed on number fronts with this approach. The crisis there is still unravelling, with seemingly daily stories of how the league and the Ravens have tried to cover up the facts of the original incident, and the lack of proper oversight, judgement, and responsibility applied.

And, not meaning to continue bashing football culture, but Jameis Winston has been a one-man PR disaster machine for Florida State this past year. In an already overly long post, I’ll leave it to you, gentle reader, to further dive into this story of police corruption, administrators intent on keeping their Heisman Trophy winner playing at all costs, and a general don’t-care-as-long-as-we-win attitude.

Even big PR firms, that should know better, get it wrong – very wrong.

Again, a dose of authentic, timely, and accountable voice in a developing dialog means the difference between being viewed as sincerely speaking to the effects and aftermath of negative news, or being phony and untrustworthy. The failure for doing so is devastating to a brand.

Happy Thoughts

Let’s turn our thoughts to something lighter – how does one positively engage one’s customers, to best effect?

The answer, as it turns out, is precisely identical to how you handle crisis communications – by being authentic, timely, transparent, and accurate in your communications.

I will add two additional, vital ingredients: knowing your audience. And: never, ever, communicate on autopilot.

Let’s take a few more examples, from social media, showing how not knowing your audience, and putting your messaging in zombie mode, are recipes for disaster.

Back in 2012, McDonald’s paid for a Twitter promoted hashtag – #McDStories – that turned into a promotional nightmare. Instead of great stories about the brand, it turned into a litany of brand bashing and culinary calumny. Who could have predicted this would happen (hint: anyone who has been on the internet).

On the day of the Aurora, CO shooting, the NRA Twitter account tweeted “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?”

And just this week, the Instagram account of Joan Rivers (who passed away September 4th), seemingly posted from beyond the grave, raving about what a badass her iPhone was.

Wait – Where are the Happy Thoughts Again?

Sorry – I got distracted. Long post fatigue is a thing.

The unquestioned champion of positive engagement is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The campaign connected friends, family members, colleague, and frenemies in a viral challenge that raised millions, and vital awareness, for their organization. It was positive, it leveraged latent support for social cause, and used video to push virality past all seen-to-date limits. How successful was it? About $100 million additional funds raised in the U.S.

Why was this campaign so successful, when so many other social media attempts at engagement are just – well – horrible?

Because it was personal. And it touched people, individually, by calling them out by name.

You don’t engage audiences. You engage people.

We become so enveloped with the idea of scale and reliable reach, that we forget that we are trying to influence individuals, not masses. Crowds are indeterminate – but individuals are identifiable, and reachable.

In short, you can’t shortcut your way to great engagement. It is a high-touch, and a high-cost, endeavor. Some may claim otherwise, but it’s not.

Otherwise, you’d have scores of Nordstrom’s, with their fiercely loyal customer base.

Costco seems also to be a company with it’s business heart in the right place, with regard to customers and employees.

So – What Makes Great Engagement?

I spoke last week about the need to be authentic, to build trust between our audience and ourselves.

Engagement is the mechanism by which digital trust is built, because it constitutes the very actions that our customers judge us by.

That’s it.

And I’m sorry I made you read so much, just to say it.

Tomorrow, I plan to wrap this series, with a (hopefully, much shorter) post on measurement.

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A Beginning, A Middle, and an End

Once Upon a Time

This week, I’ve been discussing the secret to great marketing; namely, that great marketing is actually great storytelling. Today, I’d like to discuss how the process of your storytelling can affect the efficacy of your message.

All really good stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

You don’t always have to start your story at the “beginning”, or end your story at the “end”, but you absolutely have to have a process for telling your story.

Let’s look at some interesting television, cinematic, and literary examples of innovative storytelling, that illustrate narrative process, and then see if we can apply those lessons to a marketing plan.

The Greeks were the first to play around with changing up the order of telling a story. They used the narrative technique of in medias res (“in the midst of things”), to jump into a story arc in progress, and then backfill preceding exposition before continuing to the end. Homer’s The Odyssey is probably the best known literary example of this non-linear storytelling technique.

In cinema, there are more than a few examples of in media res and disjointed temporal storytelling. Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction are two famous examples of a narrative occurring in vignettes, out of order in time. In Pulp Fiction, the vignettes initially seem to be totally unconnected to the larger narrative until we begin to recognize the connective tissue with later episodes.

Season 4 of the television series Arrested Development tells its story over the same time frame, but uses different character’s points-of-view to complete the overall narrative, with successive POVs filling in more information on what is happening in the story.

Christopher Nolan’s Memento, is told from the point of view of a man with no short term memory, who leaves himself post-it notes before going to bed, and tattoos himself in order to try and remember who killed his wife – in effect, rebooting and reliving his life with each new day.

George R. R. Martin’s massive set of tomes, A Song of Ice and Fire (the source material for HBO’s wildly popular Game of Thrones) is told from the point of view of an army of POV characters, beginning at the death of the Hand of the King Jon Aryn, and backfilling a world and a history through periscopes, flashbacks, prophecies, memories, and unreliable narrators.

And just one more literary example before I (finally!) get on with discussing storytelling process: Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell. Cloud Atlas nests six different episodes, across hundreds of years of time, to tell a larger story of human injustice, perseverance, and love. Each story line – preceding the middle of the narrative – ends, with the subsequent episode harkening back to the preceding through some recorded medium (a half-torn book; a record of music; an investigative report; a movie; a holographic recording). Ultimately, the story unwinds the nested storylines, to reveal the larger themes of the novel.

While the jumbled temporality of all of the preceding examples makes each of these stories compelling to read or to watch, they do all have one thing in common: each story began with a plan, and a process for how to tell these stories in entirely unorthodox ways.

The very process of how stories are told, is as much an “actor” in a compelling narrative, as are the stories themselves.

Let’s look at some distinctive marketing examples, where the process of the product storytelling was as much a character as the story items.

Probably the most notable recent high profile example I can think of is the Oreo Social Media Super Bowl XLVII Ad:

During the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII when a power outage at the Superdome caused some of the lights to go out for 34 minutes, the sandwich cookie’s social media team jumped on the cultural moment, tweeting an ad that read “Power Out? No problem” with a starkly-lit image of a solitary Oreo and the caption, “You can still dunk in the dark.”

Powerful? You bet. Accidental? No freakin’ way.

These folks had a plan – and a cadre of people ready to act on the plan. They were monitoring an event they knew millions of people would be engaged in, they had the right people with the right tools ready to act, and they had the permission – and most importantly, trust – of the brand they represented (Oreo) to tell a story on the fly. The fact that they were able to beautifully and forcefully message, in real time, was perhaps a marketing Black Swan event, not soon to be repeated.

Aside from the preparation and planning that this marketing team laid out ahead of time, to fantastic effect, was their recognition that the viewing process of the Super Bowl (and television in general, for that fact) has changed. It is no longer a single screen experience. We binge-and-appointment-watch our favorite shows, while texting our friends and scanning our social media feeds.

Watching is now a participatory experience.

I will relate one more personal anecdote on marketing process, related to my time as CIO at Hendrix College.

In January of 2014, we purchased a new MakerBot Replicator 2 3D Printer, that we intended to use as the genesis for a Maker Space in our Student Life and Technology Center.

But before doing that, we realized that we needed to have a plan in place to tell the story of what the printer was, what it was supposed to do (and mean), and how it would be deployed at Hendrix – as well as to open up a larger discussion of what Maker Spaces are, and what they can mean to the liberal arts.

I gathered together our Media Center, our Marketing and Communications Team, our student workers, and our on campus 3D printer advocates, and we formulated a plan to tell the story of the printer (goofy as it may sound when you write it out like this) – from unboxing the equipment, to staging the printer in a prominent place in our space, to planning a series of articles and webcasts discussing the printer and maker spaces in general, to storyboarding and creating a video detailing the virtues and application of the printer, to inviting local middle school kids to campus, to speaking at local civic groups… you get the idea.

We incorporated a multi-discipline process to craft a compelling story, that was non-linear, and could be repurposed modularly to tell our story in a plethora of channels. The long and short form videos created from the effort are something that I am extremely proud of.

Before leaving the topic on the importance of process in storytelling, let me emphatically say that just because you have a process, doesn’t mean that your storytelling will become rote, routine, or predictable. A stable marketing process enables everyone to be on the same page with regard to messaging, it allows everyone to know “where we’re going”, and – if done correctly – can lead to replicable success, time and time again.

Monday, I intend to discuss how engagement can make the difference between campaigns that soar, and those that leave their brands running for cover.

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Are campus mergers rising?

davidjhinson:

Thoughts from Bryan Alexander on Campus Mergers. It tracks with my post from this morning on eCampus Weekly, Consortial change – it takes more than missionaries.

Originally posted on Bryan Alexander:

How can colleges and universities cope with today’s financial and enrollment challenges? Perhaps by merging.  Former university president Susan Resneck Pierce offers a sobering and thoughtful list of institutions currently exploring mergers.

Pierce also provides good advice for leaders thinking about linking up with other campuses.

I’d call this another datapoint for the peak higher education theory.  Note how many of the proposed merger schools face the same pressures: finance, enrollment, local demographics.  Combining institutions to realize efficiencies and/or complement each other’s strengths can be a wise move.

(via Roger Schonfeld)

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Why Voice Matters

Finding Your Voice

This week, I’ve been discussing great marketing, and how all great marketing is really great storytelling.

Today I’d like to talk about the importance of voice.

I’m not just talking simply about the tone in which we convey our messaging; what I mean when I say voice with regard to marketing is really more akin to the concept of persona

A persona is a role. It is an entity that carries a back story, character, standing, and authenticity. Your marketing voice is the persona that you create to tell your product story.

Many brands will use a prominent founder or a famous personality as the voice of their line. And, while this can create extensive audience reach when that person has a huge pre-existing following, this approach is fraught with peril. What happens when the spokesperson is embroiled in a scandal, or goes to jail, or has a serious turn of popularity? If the spokesperson is synonymous with the product, the brand will suffer – or worse, die – along with the rep of the pitch person. This list isn’t all inclusive, but there are plenty examples of this very real pitfall that has kneecapped many brands (Martha Stewart, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, and most recently – and still happening in real time – U2).

Most of us will never have a celebrity spokesperson. But we still need to craft a voice for our product.

The target market that you wish to sell into will largely dictate the type of personality that you will need to consider when crafting your product voice. Should we be Quirky? Staid? Academic? Rebellious? These are all good questions to start the thinking behind the voice you wish to convey. But you’ll need to dig deeper.

The team that you build to support your product will need to be constantly on message with regard to the voice that you are creating. If any member of the team goes too far off script, the brand persona falls apart, and all of the work that you and your team have done building the brand voice is for naught.

A set of coherent talking points will help your team stay on message. This will be the conversational framework for your persona, the ego of your product persona, if you will.

Why is all of this important?

Your product voice must be believable. It needs to be trustworthy. Consistent. Authentic.

It needs to fulfill your brand promise.

Because people will not buy products from companies they don’t trust. And trust is built upon experience, and relationship.

Your consistent, reliable brand voice is what your audience will latch onto when they internalize their relationship to your brand. If that facade is destroyed, so is your audience’s commitment to your brand.

It’s really as simple as that.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about the importance of process in your marketing plan, and it’s effect in telling your product story.

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