Category word of mouth advertising

Why Customer Experience Is More Important Than Ever Before

Photo credit: Alex Holyoake on Flickr.No matter what product or service you sell, every business is your competition.

While this has always been the case, current trends are forcing companies to face the reality that their customers now have the ability to spend their finite monetary resources in an unlimited number of ways. When they choose to spend their hard-earned dollars on one thing, that money is no longer available to be spent on another product or service.

This means that a company that makes designer clothing not only has to compete with other clothing brands, it is also competing with companies that make smartphones, computers, household supplies, automobiles, and a number of other products that consumers purchase each and every day.

To make matters worse, they also are competing with restaurants, bars, hotels, spas, movie theaters, amusement parks, and a number of other businesses that are selling experiences rather than products. In fact, the statistics show that, in recent years, consumers are more likely to spend their money on these experiences rather than tangible products.

Customer Experience Expectations Have Risen

Your business is not only competing with every other product and service for consumers’ finite monetary resources, your customers are also comparing the interactions they have with your business against every other business that they interact with.

This means that if any business is able to provide a great customer experience, their customers will begin to expect other businesses to do the same, even if they are selling a different product or service.

“Once we experience a standard of excellence, we begin to expect that same standard, circumstances or company policies be damned,” writes Jay Baer in his book, “Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers.”

“It doesn’t matter what you and your direct competitors are doing, or prefer to do, in the realm of customer experience,” writes Baer. “The greatest businesses in the world are training your customers on what to expect, and they will eventually demand that you also meet that standard.”

Final Thoughts

Every business is your competition.

With this in mind, businesses of all types need to focus not only on creating and selling a quality product or service, but also on making sure that the buying process is enjoyable and that the experience that customers have after the sale is favorable.

This will not only lead to repeat customers, but can also hopefully turn customers into a brand advocates. And, as we know, this is more important than ever before.

Therfore, it’s not surprising that many businesses already recognize the importance of customer experience. And, even more will be putting more emphasis on customer experience in the not-so-distant future.

Photo credit: Alex Holyoake on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Your Online Content Might Reach More People Than You Think

Photo credit: magicatwork on Flickr.Digital marketers spend a lot of time assessing the effectiveness of their online content by looking at things that can be tracked and measured  (e.g., clicks, likes, shares, comments, etc.)

However, if we only pay attention to online metrics, we are most likely underestimating the reach and efficacy of our marketing messages.

This is due, in part, to the fact that we still “live” most of our lives offline.

Therefore, marketers really need to find additional ways to measure the success of our marketing activities.

However, because a lot marketers still create content for branding purposes, sometimes it is difficult to accurately judge the effectiveness of an individual piece of creative at all, because the influence of branding messages need to be evaluated over a longer period of time.  (This is something that Bob Hoffman, CEO of the Type A Group, pointed out in Episode 413 of The BeanCast Marketing Podcast.)

Most Word of Mouth Happens Offline

In his book, titled “Contagious: Why Things Catch On,” Dr. Jonah Berger, professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, points out that most word of mouth happens offline.

According to Dr. Berger, most people tend to think that around 50 percent of word of mouth happens online.

However, most people are wrong.

“The actual number is 7 percent. Not 47 percent, not 27 percent, but 7 percent,” writes Dr. Berger. “Research by the Keller Fay Group finds that only 7 percent of word of mouth happens online.”

Dr. Berger goes on to point out that even though we spend a lot of time sharing online, we spend more time offline and offline conversations are rarely documented.

Furthermore, he points out that while online conversations could potentially reach a lot more people, many of these potential recipients don’t actually see every online post.

What Gets Shared Online Is Also Shared Offline and Vice Versa

If the content that we create is compelling enough, people will share it.

The problem is, people share content the way that they want to.

That means that after you post something online it might get shared by people online.

However, a person who sees your content on one social networking site might share it on another social networking site.

Or, they might call people over to their computer or smartphone and say, “Hey, look at this.”

They might also just mention it in passing when talking to friends, family, or coworkers in their day-to-day conversations.

And, as other experts have pointed out, what is shared online could potentially reach the right person with the ability to spread the message through other more traditional media outlets.

For example, back in 2012, Tom Webster highlighted the fact that 80 percent of people claimed to have received information from Twitter because it was relayed to them in other media (e.g., television, radio, other websites, etc.) Even back then, 44 percent said that this happened almost every day.

I would guess that both of these numbers are higher today, given the fact that both of the current presidential candidates know that when they post something on Twitter there is a good chance that what they post will be cited in the evening news or in other media outlets.

While most businesses don’t get the attention that presidential candidates do, their posts still have a chance of being shared in many ways once it is posted online for everyone to see.

Final Thoughts

As the saying goes, “What gets measured gets done.”

Since business leaders often need to justify their budgets, it might be more accurate to say, “What gets measured gets funded.”

Because there are so many ways to measure the effectiveness of the content that we post online, measurement has become a very important part of the content creation process.

And, the good thing is that some very smart people are constantly working on ways to improve the accuracy of the analytics that marketers use each and every day.

However, as I have tried to point out in this post, we still have a long way to go, particularly when examining how content is shared.

It is therefore often necessary to find alternative ways to measure how effective your content is in accomplishing the desired goal in order to justify creating it in the first place.

That said, in some cases it might never be possible to measure all the ways that your content influences your bottom line even when there are some analytics to help guide you along the way.

That is, unless you stop creating content altogether and measure the decrease in sales over time.

The problem with this is that it probably will allow your competitors to grab the attention of your potential customers.

Therefore, this is clearly not the best solution.

Instead, the best solution is often to measure what we can, but realize that our content might be influencing sales in immeasurable ways.

Photo credit: magicatwork on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Note to Marketers: Holidays Help Connect Us to Others… and Every Day Is a Holiday

Photo credit: Qfamily on Flickr.The idea of creating a marketing campaign that is focused on a holiday is nothing new.

Businesses have been doing this for years.

They do it because it works.

Part of the reason why it works is because people often want to feel a connection to the world around them, and holidays tap into that need.

In a 2013 post on the Everyday Sociology Blog, Dr. Karen Sternheimer, sociologist at the University of Southern California, points out that the rituals associated with the end-of-year holiday season help us feel connected to the rest of society.

As she writes, “Sociologist Emile Durkheim saw rituals as a form of social glue, holding societies together. Shared experiences, like religious and secular celebrations may help create a feeling of commonality. As sociologist Diana Kendall discusses in her book Framing Class, during the holidays media coverage tends to highlight giving to the less fortunate more than other times of year. She found that news stories tend to be more sympathetic and less critical of the poor, highlighting their humanity and stressing our common bonds.”

“Whether the rituals are gift giving, religious worship, or other cultural practices, they serve to unite us with the people we celebrate them with,” she continues. “Wishing strangers “Happy Holidays,” “Merry Christmas,” or “Happy New Year,” extends these bonds beyond our immediate social group.”

Every Day Is a Holiday

While Dr. Sternheimer was talking about the end-of-year holiday season, this enhanced feeling of connection to others as a result of celebrating holidays can happen during any time of the year.

And, marketers are in luck, as there are many reasons to celebrate all year long.

In fact, as you will find with a quick Google search, every day is a holiday.

Sure, you might think that many of these obscure holidays seem hokey or just plain made up. And, it’s okay to think that because many of them are.

In fact, many of these holidays were made up by the man who founded the Foodimentary website.

However, people often celebrate these made-up holidays.

Peeps Aren’t Just for Easter

In an effort to expand their sales beyond the Easter season, Peeps, the brand of marshmallow candies that is over six decades old, introduced Peeps Minis with a marketing campaign that attempted to link the brand to some of the more quirky and obscure holidays.

According to a 2014 New York Times article, “Todd Condie, a copywriter with the Terri & Sandy Solution, said the concept for the campaign sprang from the idea that Peeps were associated with special occasions.”

“What we kept coming back to was that what really defined Peeps as a product was the fact that it was associated with special times, so we tried to figure out what made every day special,” Mr. Condie is quoted as saying in the article. “And it set us off into this world of weird, quirky holidays that really fit the quirky nature of the Peeps brand.”

Fast forward two years and it looks like Peeps Minis did not go over so well.

However, if you visit their Twitter page or any of their other social media accounts, you will notice that the people in charge of marketing Peeps haven’t abandoned the idea of using holidays to sell their tasty treats.

Using Holidays to Fuel Your Social Media Marketing Campaigns

Given the fact that holidays tend to make us feel more connected to each other, it makes sense that brands use holidays in their social media marketing campaigns, as social media is all about connecting and sharing with others.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that in the Market Motive/Simplilearn Advanced Social Media Certification Training, Jennifer Cario, President of SugarSpun Marketing and Author of Pinterest Marketing: An Hour a Day, suggests incorporating holidays into a business’s content mix to catch the attention of current and potential customers.

As she states, “Do you have some type of holiday tie-in? If you sell GPSs, can you do something around Columbus Day that’s got some humor to it? Do you want to push your specific candy as the perfect topper on National Ice Cream Day? There are legions of websites out there that list every single sub-holiday that exists.”

“National Tweed Day and, again, National Ice Cream Day, and Share a Hug Day,” she continues. “There’s millions of those, and there’s the opportunity to produce content around all of them. Then to creatively use some promotion and some viralized concepts and feeding things out to influencers to get people talking just based off the excuse of what’s basically a made up holiday.”

“But, again, if it gets people interested, and it catches their attention, it can be a fun way to put some content together,” says Cario.

Final Thoughts

As Dr. Karen Sternheimer pointed out, the rituals associated with holidays unite us with others and extend bonds beyond our immediate social groups.

This is something that brands have taken advantage of when creating marketing and advertising campaigns over the years.

As experts have pointed out, marketers don’t need to wait until the next big holiday to tap into the positive feelings associated with the major holidays sprinkled throughout the year, because every day is a holiday.

In fact, there is a holiday for just about everything.

While some of the holidays seem a bit hokey or contrived, that’s okay.

If celebrating the holiday fits the brand’s image, creating content built around the holiday can still create the sense of unity.

This will help connect the brand with current and potential and customers in a light-hearted way that will likely be a welcome distraction given some of the more heavy and somber issues that people need to deal with in their everyday lives.

Photo credit: Qfamily on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Customers Love Coupons, but Hate the Fine Print

Photo credit: torbakhopper on Flickr.There is a lot of evidence out there that coupons help drive sales.

This is partially due to the fact that customers like coupons.

In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that customers love coupons. They love to receive them and the love to use them.

This is supported by a 2014 study that was conducted by Forrester Research on behalf of RetailMeNot.

According to an article on marketingcharts.com that cites this study, “Some 68% of respondents agreed (top-2 on a 5-point scale) that they are likely to tell a friend about a company that uses online coupons or promotion codes, and an equal 68% agreed that they are more likely to be loyal to a brand that offers online coupons or promotion codes. Lest that loyalty be to price rather than brand, the survey also indicates that half are more likely to buy a product or service at full price later from a company that offers online coupons or promotion codes.”

And, while the percentages vary, most sources indicate that nearly all consumers will use coupons at least once in a while.

Furthermore, according to a press release found on Quotient.com, research conducted by GfK on behalf of Coupons.com found that, “heavy digital coupon users shop 47 percent more often than the average shopper, spending $6,081 annually on groceries and household goods alone — an incredible 114 percent more than the national average.”

Research has even found that coupons make customers happier.

However, while customers do love coupons and even expect retailers to offer them, there is one aspect of a coupon that can provoke ire in even the most loyal customer.

It’s in the Fine Print

If you ask any retail employee, they could no doubt list a countless number of times when customers were happy with the savings that coupons provide.

On the other hand, they could also point out the many times when customers left dissatisfied with the store because they found out that the items that they intended to purchase were excluded. And, the only way to find that out was to read the fine print. Which, by the way, they probably didn’t do, so they brought the items to the register and were forced to pay full price or abandon the purchase.

Matt Brownell, consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance.com, summarized the frustrations that many consumers have in a 2013 post.

In the post, he states, “When retailers run sales and coupons, they include fine print that limits what the deal actually applies to. In most cases, it’s relatively harmless — it defines the effective dates of the promotion, and may exclude select items like gift cards and jewelry.”

“But problems arise when retailers go totally overboard and try to exclude half the store,” he continues. “Department stores like Sears (SHLD) and Macy’s (M) tend to hold sales that exclude dozens of brands from the discount, and earlier this year Guitar Center took some heat for a coupon that excluded more than 300 brands.”

He goes on to say, “Sure, in a perfect world everyone would read and understand the fine print. But it’s not unreasonable for someone to see ‘20 percent off everything’ and assume that it applies to most of the merchandise in the store.”

And, he’s not the only one to point this out.

Here are some of the tweets that I found posted on Twitter in the last few months.

If these people got mad enough to vent their frustration on Twitter, it is more than likely that there are countless others who just walk away feeling a little less satisfied with the store.

Some businesses have acknowledged the frustration that customers have with the fine print by adding a little humor.

It’s Not Always the Retailer that Is to Blame

A 2015 article by John Matarese for WCPO in Cincinnati also highlights the frustrations that consumers can experience when trying to use coupons.

As he points out in the article, “Perhaps it would be easiest if the coupons simply listed the brands where you can use them.”

However, he also lets retailers, in this case Dick’s Sporting Goods, defend themselves.

According the article, Dicks explained that “manufacturers, not the store, make the rules, and typically do not allow markdowns on current season merchandise.”

Nevertheless, most customers don’t know this and it is the retailer, not the brand, that often takes the hit in customer satisfaction, trust, and brand loyalty.

Final Thoughts

Customers love coupons.

Research has shown that not only do they drive sales and lead to increased brand loyalty, but they could also lead to future sales for full-price items. Researchers have also found that customers who are heavy digital coupon users shop more than the average shopper does.

Therefore, there is no question that coupons are good for business.

However, retailers need to keep in mind that when they offer a coupon that excludes too many of the brands that shoppers really want, it can backfire and actually harm the store’s reputation.

Photo credit: torbakhopper on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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User-Generated Content Is Fuel for Recommendation Engines

Photo credit: Andri Koolme on Flickr.By now, most business leaders have heard that word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family play a large role in the decision making process for many consumers.

With this in mind, many of these same business leaders have also accepted that social media should be leveraged, and have thus established a presence on the most-used social networking sites. Many have even gone the extra mile and actually engage with their customers on these sites.

But, what is often most important is what customers do and say online.

The beautiful product photos, positive reviews, and check-ins that customers post spread awareness about the businesses, products, and services that they use and hopefully like.

What they also do is leave a permanent record of a positive (or negative) interaction that a customer had with a brand.

As you know, if it is posted on the Internet, it can possibly live on forever.

What we don’t often think about is that these posts can lead to future sales by helping recommendations engines provide more targeted and accurate suggestions to future customers.

What is a recommendation engine?

In the context of what I am referring to, it is an information filtering system that helps a business recommend items to customers that they might be interested in. For additional information, Wikipedia has a good explanation.

If you want to see an example of a business effectively using a recommendation engine to help its customers find products, visit Amazon.com. The Amazon.com recommendation engine uses a combination of several input data, including past purchases, product ratings, and social media data.

Social Networking Sites Offer Suggestions

Several social networking sites understand that the data that they collect can be very useful and have harnessed it to offer recommendations to users directly within the site.

Foursquare is a great example.

In his book, “Mobile Influence: The New Power of the Consumer,” Chuck Martin describes how Foursquare is using its data to offer better suggestions to its users.

In the book, Eric Friedman, director of sales and revenue operations at Foursquare, states, “From the very first check-in, we get smarter at what we recommend. If you check in to a series of places, we will make a better guess at what you are looking for. If you love small coffee shops and you go to a city and type in ‘coffee shop,’ guess what we are going to recommend? A small, independent coffee shop. If you are a guy that loves a big coffee house and you go to a different city or country and type in ‘coffee,’ we are going to give you recommendations based on your history. If we were friends on Foursquare and I was in downtown Boston and I saw Chuck had been to a cheeseburger place five times, that is a great signal for me to go to the same place for lunch because I know Chuck and he knows good cheeseburger places and I like Chuck.”

The book goes on to explain other ways that Foursquare is using its app and the data it collects to give its users targeted and relevant suggestions based on their location, past check in history, and the check in history of the people who they are connected to.

If you want another example, check out Yelp.

As you are probably aware, Yelp is an online review site that allows users to review businesses that have a brick-and-mortar location. This data can be used directly within the site to find a specific type of business based on its location and the reviews that it gets from Yelp’s users.

Yelp has an algorithm that that helps surface the most trusted reviews from the most reliable sources.

It is also noteworthy that Yelp reviews often show up in the results that users get when they search for information on Google.

Every Post on a Social Networking Site Could Potentially Be a Source of Data

The examples that I gave demonstrated how social media can be used to help users find businesses based on data collected within the social networking site itself.

However, everything that users post on social networking sites can be used by a third party to help consumers make purchase decisions. (As mentioned, Yelp reviews show up in Google SERPs.)

To illustrate this further, think about all the photos of the delicious meals that users post on Instagram.

A photo posted by Chad Thiele (@chadjthiele) on

Knowing that people often post photos of their food, the app MyFab5 encourages users to use these Instagram photos to rank the five best places for a specific type of food in a specific city.

The concept is rather simple (i.e., use food photos to rank the five best places for a specific type of food in a specific city.) The app then uses an algorithm to surface the best places to get a specific type of food based on users rankings. For example, according to MyFab5, here is a list of the best places for burgers in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

While this data again leads back to a brick-and-mortar location, it shows that anything that users post is fair game.

Given the vast amount of data out there, there will be other businesses that will harness other types of user-generated content to help make recommendations to other consumers based on hashtags, keywords, geotags, or other data that are included in posts on social networking sites.

Therefore, it is important that businesses find ways to ensure that these recommendation engines find more positive posts than negative ones.

Final Thoughts

As I have pointed out, the product photos, reviews, check-ins, and other posts on social networking sites not only work to influence the people who are connected to the users who create the content, but they also can have a larger impact on future sales when they are used to fuel recommendation engines.

So what can businesses do to help encourage customers to create user-generated content that displays the brand in a positive light?

The answer to that question depends on the situation.

However, the most important thing is to provide great products and services to customers.

Providing excellent customer service is also key.

In the end, businesses not only want customers to use their products and services, but they want the experience that they have with the brand to be positive. So positive that customers can’t help but share the love of the brand online.

Because what is posted online can live on forever and we can’t predict how other businesses will use that data in the future.

Photo credit: Andri Koolme on Flickr and chadjthiele on Instagram.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Sometimes It’s What a Brand Doesn’t Do That Loses the Sale

Photo credit: Ron Bennetts on Flickr.In almost every instance where a business is trying to sell a product or service, it takes multiple positive interactions before a prospect becomes a paying customer.

The average number of positive interactions, or touches at various touchpoints, required typically varies by the type of product or service being sold.

Furthermore, while multiple positive interactions with a brand can lead to a sale, the reality is that negative interactions can also prevent a sale from taking place.

Sometimes it is something that the brand has no control over that causes a prospect to choose the competitor’s product or service.

There are some things that can be done to combat this problem. However, it does require some effort.

To illustrate this point, I am once again going to use my recent smartphone purchase as an example.

The Incumbents: Motorola and Verizon Wireless

I have been a loyal Verizon Wireless customer since I moved to Louisiana back in 2006.

When I moved there, I asked some of the local residents what provider they recommended since U.S. Cellular wasn’t an option in the area, at least at that time.

Nearly everyone who I talked to suggested Verizon Wireless, because they felt that Verizon Wireless had done the best job getting service restored after hurricane’s Katrina and Rita.

I took the advice of the residents of Louisiana and 10 years and two states later, I am still a customer.

As for the device, I think that all the cellular phones that I have owned up until this year were Motorola phones. (Some of my earliest cellular phones might have been made by Nokia, but I am not sure.)

Something that I am absolutely sure of is that the phone that I purchased when I move to Louisiana was a Motorola, as were my first two smartphones. And, my satisfaction with the brand was extremely high.

That was, until Motorola and its parent company, Lenovo, announced that they plan to phase out Motorola and only offer the Moto phones.

The Choice: Motorola Droid Turbo 2 or Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

I was now faced with the option of getting one last Motorola phone or make the inevitable switch to Samsung.

During my initial visit to the Verizon Wireless store, the salespeople who I talked to spoke highly of both phones, but seemed to slightly favor the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.

Needless to say, I left the store that day still undecided.

So, I did what many people do and asked for advice on Twitter.

As you can see, the only response that I received was from the Sprint Forward Twitter account.

They recommended the Samsung Galaxy S7.

I then got a promoted tweet from Verizon Wireless offering a free Samsung Gear VR headset with a purchase of a Samsung Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge. (At the time, Best Buy was offering a similar promotion.) (Note: I think that this was the promoted tweet from Verizon Wireless. If it wasn’t, it was very similar.)

That was it, I was almost certain that I would make the switch to Samsung.

I only needed to check out some product reviews from CNET and a few other sources. All of which confirmed that Samsung was the best option available at the time.

The Choice: Sprint or Verizon Wireless

Given my past experience with Verizon Wireless, it was going to take more than a contact on Twitter to get me to switch to Sprint.

That said, if my past experiences with Verizon Wireless hadn’t been so positive, I might have switched to Sprint or even went to Best Buy to purchase the smartphone.

And, Sprint definitely has my attention if for some reason I need to change wireless carriers in the future.

But, Verizon Wireless did offer a good data plan, had a great offer, and has provided excellent customer service—so I remained a customer.

Final Thoughts

Had Motorola reached out on Twitter or if someone would have recommended it, I might have purchased the Motorola Droid Turbo 2, if for no other reason than to get one last Motorola phone. But, nobody did.

And, Motorola already made the decision to phase out the brand that I was loyal to, so it made my decision to switch that much easier.

In this case, the brand lost a loyal customer because of what they did (plan to phase out Motorola phones), what they didn’t do (reach out on social media or anywhere else at right time), and what other people did (recommend the competition.)

In contrast, while Verizon Wireless didn’t reach out this time, they at least did use a promoted tweet to get my attention on Twitter and create awareness of a great offer. And, to their credit, they did reach out to me a few years ago when I wrote a post about how access to high speed wireless data can have an effect on a brand’s mobile marketing campaigns.

But, in reality, it was the fact that they have always provided great customer service in the past that kept me a customer. That, and the fact that their data plans are competitive with the other carriers.

What this example shows is that in the same transaction, one brand kept a loyal customer by providing competitive pricing combined with great customer service, while another lost my business because of what they did, what they didn’t do, and what other people did.

As pointed out, sometimes it is something that the brand has no control over that can have a negative effect on a sale.

With a little foresight, there are things that brands can do to combat this problem and bring in new customers and retain existing ones.

However, it does require some effort.

Photo credit: Ron Bennetts on Flickr.

 

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Luxury Shopping Bags: Status Symbols and Social Media Props

Photo credit: Sofy Marquez on Flickr.People love to shop and they love to let people know about it.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that for many years luxury retailers have given their customers the ability to let their friends, neighbors, and just about anyone else know that they have just spent some of their hard-earned money by providing trendy shopping bags to carry proudly as they walk through a busy mall or city street.

As Maggie Lange pointed out in a 2013 article on The Cut, “The shopping bag isn’t just utilitarian, it’s symbolic of taste, preferences, and pursuits. In his book Living It Up, author James Twitchell compares people holding shopping bags to “the powder on the heinies of migrating bees as they moved from hive to hive.” It’s a souvenir of where you went and a glossy declaration of conspicuous consumption.”

With the rise of image-driven social networking sites like Instagram and Pinterest, the design of these shopping bags might be more important than ever before.

The Shopping Bag Should Reflect the Brand’s Image

In a 2011 Luxury Daily post, Kayla Hutzler highlights the fact that luxury shopping bags are visible to many consumers and therefore should positively convey the image and feel of the brand.

As Chris Turbyfill, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Design Packaging, is quoted as saying, “That bag reminds consumers of the brand and [therefore] it should look like the store. It is all involved in what we call the customer experience.”

“That bag needs to reflect the imagery and feel of the brand,” says Turbyfill. “And when consumers go home and put the bag on the table, it is a subtle reminder of what happened in the store.”

The post goes on to point out that the shopping bag can be seen by many people as customers walk around in public, particularly in major metropolises.

However, the post doesn’t mention another role that the shopping bag can play.

Use the Shopping Bag to Get Included

As Juliet Carnoy, Marketing Manager at Pixlee, writes in a post on the Pixlee blog, “Customer photos of your products are the purest form of earned media. When a customer posts a post-purchase photo of your product on social media, it’s a 5-star visual review of your brand.

For the brands that make the products, this is great.

However, the retailer that sold the products might get left out if they don’t give the customer some way to visually represent the store in the photo. This is where a visually appealing shopping bag can play the role of photo prop and help get the retailer included in the story.

In some cases, if the shopping bag is really visually appealing or is a part of pop culture, customers will post photos of the shopping bag alone just to commemorate the shopping experience.

When a photo of the shopping bag is posted on social networking sites, it will not only be seen by all the people that that customer passes on the way home from the store, it could potentially be seen by thousands of people online.

A photo posted by Chad Thiele (@chadjthiele) on

Personal Case Study

One of the best ways to explain something is to give an example. And, what a better way than to give an example from my own personal experience.

About two weeks ago, I visited the local Verizon Wireless store with the intent of renewing my contract and purchasing a new smartphone.

The phone that I was looking for was actually sold out at the local store. Instead of waiting for the next shipment, I drove to the nearest store that had one available.

The customer service at both Verizon Wireless stores that I visited was excellent, and I walked out of the second store with a new Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.

In keeping with the current trend, I prepared to take a photo of my purchase so that I could post it on Instagram.

This could have just been a photo of my new smartphone.

However, Verizon Wireless had just given me this beautiful shopping bag with the purchase that just begged to be included in the photo. So, I did just that.

After posting the photo, the marketer in me realized that by giving me the shopping bag, Verizon Wireless had found a way get included in what would have been user-generated content that advertised Samsung. By adding the shopping bag, it made it a user-generated ad for both Verizon Wireless and Samsung, if not primarily Verizon Wireless.

In my opinion, that was brilliant.

If only they had included a hashtag on the shopping bag, it would have been perfect. This not only would have encouraged customers to take photos of the shopping bag, but it would have also helped customers connect with other customers, brand advocates, and the brand.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes, it is the smallest details that can help get customers to mention and indirectly endorse brands on social networking sites.

And, as study after study has shown, consumers trust recommendations from people they know more than other traditional advertising methods that brands have relied on in the past.

By offering customers trendy shopping bags that properly reflect the brand’s image, retailers can now be included in the post-purchase photos that customers upload to social networking sites after a long day of shopping.

Photo credit: Sofy Marquez on Flickr and @chadjthiele on Instagram.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Using #Hashtags to Connect to Consumers on Social Networking Sites

Photo credit: Alan Levine on Flickr.In the United States, there are a lot of consumers who use social networking sites, many of whom access them on a mobile device. And, these numbers continue to increase as time goes on.

Knowing how to connect to these consumers is a very important skill for all marketers to have.

While there are many tactics that marketers can use, having a basic understanding of hashtags is a must. Knowing how to effectively use hashtags can be an important way to reach consumers on social media.

A Brief History of the Hashtag

A 2014 post on the Adweek SocialTimes blog gives a brief history of the hashtag.

As the post points out, while Twitter popularized the hashtag, it didn’t invent it.

“Once more commonly referred to as the pound sign, online use of the hashtag began on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) in the late 1990s, where it was used to categorise items into groups,” writes Shea Bennett. “In August 2007, designer Chris Messina asked his followers how they felt about using the pound sign to group conversations on the micro-blogging platform, and thus became the first person to use the hashtag on Twitter.”

“After that, Twitter never looked back, and the hashtag was eventually adopted by Instagram, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and seemingly every other major digital platform,” the article continues. “Today, hashtags are everywhere and an important part of every modern marketing strategy.”

What Hashtags Can Do for Business

In almost every social networking site, hashtags help users find content by linking posts with the same hashtag. In other words, users can search for similar content by clicking on the hashtag to get access to other posts that use that hashtag.

With this functionality in mind, it is important to research what hashtags your customers and prospects will find.

This includes finding out what hashtags your customers, prospects, and influencers are using to talk about your brand, your products or services, your competitors’ products or services, or anything else that relates to your products or services or the industry that you are in.

In Twitter, hashtags often show up in the trending topics if they are used by enough users. If the topic is relevant to the brand, you should consider using the hashtag. However, keep in mind that this tactic can backfire if your posts seem too self-promotional, off topic, or if joining the conversation is just generally in bad taste. (Note: There are also similar ways that trending hashtags will show up in other social networking sites, as well. The same things need to be considered on these social networking sites, too.)

Hashtags can also show up in a search engine results page (SERP) on Google or any of the other search engines. Furthermore, there are tools that can be used to find the most used hashtags on various social networking sites. This is another way that hashtags help increase the reach of your content.

If you create a hashtag with the intention of getting users to engage with your brand or share your content, be aware that just because you want users to use the hashtag, doesn’t guarantee that they will.

Furthermore, as several brands have found out, creating the wrong hashtag can backfire by encouraging people to share negative things about your brand. Therefore you need to proceed with caution.

Finally, it is important to realize that hashtags can also be used to convey a message to users even if they don’t use them for their ability to search for other content (e.g., #fail, #lol, #tgif, etc.) This is particularly important on social networking sites like Twitter, where brevity is often encouraged or even required. (If you haven’t seen it, you need to check out the YouTube video featuring Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake that parodies this concept.)

A Few Ways to Integrate Hashtags Into Your Other Marketing Campaigns

As already mentioned, hashtags help encourage customers to share their thoughts about your brand on social networking sites.

If done correctly, hashtags can help customers connect with the brand and other customers, thus building a community around the brand.

Photo credit: Mike Mozart on Flickr.By including a predetermined hashtag on your packaging, it can encourage customers to use it when they share the love of your products on social media.

Including hashtags on your advertising in other media (e.g., television ads, print ads, webpages, etc.) can help increase the reach of these campaigns and continue the conversation about the brand.

You can also run a contest on various social networking sites and offer a prize to users who share a specific type of content and use your predetermined hashtag.

Finally, if you are organizing an event or gathering where customers and prospects would benefit from hearing what other attendees are saying about the event or topic being covered, create a hashtag that allows them to connect and share with each other on various social networking sites. This content can then be displayed on a video screen so that people who do don’t use the specific social networking site can also see what other attendees are saying.

Last year, Ceci Dadisman, Consultant and President of Cardinal + Company, wrote an article on ArtsHacker.com that gives further examples of how to use hashtags for audience engagement. You might want to check it out.

Final Thoughts

Hashtags have become a part of the way that consumers communicate with each other on social networking sites. Using them can also be a way for customers and prospects to communicate with your business.

Given the fact that smartphones have given customers the ability to access social networking sites wherever they are, social media and the proper use of hashtags should be something that all marketers are aware of and trained on.

If used incorrectly, hashtags can backfire and encourage people to share negative comments about your brand. Therefore, it is important to monitor what people are saying on social networking sites and, if appropriate, respond accordingly.

When used correctly, hashtags can help increase the reach of your messages, create a community, and give customers a place to share the love of your products or services.

 

Photo credits: Alan Levine and Mike Mozart on Flickr.

Video credit: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on YouTube.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Green Is Good for Business

In his book, “An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It,” Al Gore makes a strong case for addressing the issue of (human-caused) global warming before it is too late.

It should be noted that there are skeptics out there who say that the science that Gore uses to support his argument is biased.

That said, you need to look at the motives of all of the people involved before making the final decision as to what you believe to be true.

In a blog post, titled “Global warming consensus: Agreement among scientists confirmed, again,” Erik Conway explains that market research has shown that many people think that government should take action on controversial issues similar to this one only after the science is settled. Therefore, it is in the best interest of those entities that are adding to the problem to challenge the science to make it look like there isn’t a consensus about the whether or not human-caused global warming is a reality, in order to prevent action.

There is a lot of evidence out there to support the argument that human-caused global warming is a reality. In addition to Gore’s book, a documentary hosted by Tom Brokaw, titled “Global Warming: What You Need to Know,” and a website that was created by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) provide some of this evidence.

What Do Your Customers Believe?

Although I do believe that there is definitely some validity to the argument that human-caused global warming is a reality, what I think is not really the point.

In fact, when you are making business decisions that relate to how your company handles this issue, what you think is also irrelevant.

When looking at human-caused global warming from a business perspective, the people who really matter the most are your customers and potential customers.

As Al Ries and Jack Trout point out in their book, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” what you tell consumers doesn’t really matter.  What really matters is what they believe about your product or service and your company or brand. This is what is going to influence whether or not they make a purchase.

If the people who could potentially buy your products and services believe that human-caused global warming is real and your company is heavily contributing to the problem, then there is a good chance that they will eventually take their business elsewhere, if they haven’t already.

Our Children Are the Future

Our children and their children are the ones who are going to be living here on Earth 50 to 100 years from now. Therefore, it is not surprising that whether or not a product or service is eco-friendly has become more important to young consumers.

A study that was mentioned in an Adweek article on October 24, 2012 highlights the fact that, in 2012, a greater percentage of young consumers thought that factors like “sustainable” and “eco-friendly” were important to them when buying products than young consumers did just five years earlier.

Think About the Future Before It’s Too Late

Although it is not always possible, the long-term health of the company should be considered when making decisions in an effort to reach short-term goals.

With that in mind, what happens if the scientists who are predicting that human-caused global warming is a problem are actually correct?

What if in the year 2100 we experience effects of human-caused global warming that makes life unbearable for many consumers?

Who are they going to blame?

If your company didn’t do anything to prevent the problem when it had the chance, will consumers be forgiving?

What if these problems happen sooner?

Final Thoughts

Human-caused global warming is an issue that is often talked about on national news programs. However, the problem hasn’t reached a point where action is being demanded… yet.

That doesn’t mean that your business should ignore the issue.

As John Lindsay once said, “In politics, the perception is the reality.”

In their book, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” Ries and Trout point out that the same is true in advertising, business, and in life.

Therefore, even if you think that human-caused global warming is absolute nonsense, it still is a good idea to take steps to make your business green.

Making sure that your business has a minimal negative impact on the global and local environment not only helps keep existing customers happy, it can also be used as a selling point when trying to gain new customers.

Furthermore, as many thought leaders have pointed out, making your business green can actually increase the bottom line in other ways (e.g., lowering operating expenses, leading to new products or business partnerships, helping secure government contracts, etc.)

In the end, having a green business is good business and good for business.

Photo credits: Paladin Zhang and John LeGear on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Oreo Knows the Only Winning Move Is Not to Play the Game

After being challenged to a game of tic-tac-toe by Kit Kat, Oreo wisely declined in a way that would make fictional characters Dr. Stephen Falken and David Lightman proud.

As I explained in a recent post, movies often contain lessons mixed in with the car chases and beautiful people living extraordinary lives.

If you grew up in the 1980’s, you probably remember that in the 1983 movie “WarGames,” David Lightman, a young computer hacker played by Matthew Broderick, unwittingly accessed WOPR, a United States military supercomputer that was designed by Dr. Stephen Falken to predict possible outcomes of nuclear war. In the process, Lightman unknowingly almost starts World War III.

At the climax of the movie, Dr. Falken and Lightman try to teach WOPR that nobody wins in a war. The first lesson begins with multiple games of tic-tac-toe before moving on to war simulations.

In the end, the computer ends the war simulations and writes, “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”

Well said. Lesson learned. (Click here to watch that scene on YouTube.)

Competing for Laura Ellen’s Love

If you follow social media marketing news at all, you know that Oreo earned praise for the tweet they sent out after the power went out at the Superdome during this year’s Super Bowl. They also had success with this real-time marketing strategy during the airing of the 85th Academy Awards.

Other brands are taking note and are trying to replicate Oreo’s success.

Therefore, it is not surprising that when Laura Ellen, a Twitter user from Manchester, UK, tweeted that she was following both Kit Kat and Oreo on Twitter, Kit Kat jumped at the chance to challenge Oreo to a friendly game of tic-tac-toe in an effort to fight for Ms. Ellen’s affections.

As a post on Mashable.com points out, this scored huge points with Ms. Ellen. And, judging from the number of retweets and favorites, with the clever use of Kit Kats for Xs and (potentially) Oreos for Os, Kit Kat also scored points with the general public.

How About a Nice Game of Chess?

When faced with the option of playing Kit Kat in a public game of tic-tac-toe, Oreo decided to decline with style and grace. In my opinion, that was a brilliant move.

As Lauren Indvik points out in the article on Mashable.com, there are possible negative consequences of being the loser in a game that could get old real fast.

Furthermore, as the folks at ADVERVE point out, just because brands are rivals doesn’t mean they can’t have a little fun at the same time. As they ask, “Is it so unreasonable to think that there are Kit Kat lovers in the Oreo camp, or vice-versa?”

By declining to play the game by complimenting the taste of Kit Kats, Oreo found a way to create a win-win situation. Kit Kat gets a compliment, and Oreo gets some free advertising from Kit Kat, not to mention all the free publicity it received by the media covering the ad campaign.

As an added bonus, I would be willing to bet that this ad campaign made many people think of the movie WarGames. Knowing that this is a movie that is beloved by tech geeks around the world, this was a perfect move for Oreo to make in a social media ad campaign. Was it intended? Only the digital agencies involved could tell you that for sure.

Final Thoughts

With some things in life, nobody ever wins. In those cases, the best solution is not to play the game.

In the 1980’s movie WarGames, we learned that nobody wins in a nuclear war.

The same could often be said in head-to-head competition in the marketplace.

In the case of the Kit Kat tic-tac-toe challenge, Oreo proved wise enough to demonstrate that there is room enough for both brands in the marketplace, and that there is no need to show its skill in a game that often ends in a stalemate.

By declining the game in the way that they did, they created a win-win scenario for both brands.

Photo credit: Torben Bjørn Hansen on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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