FOUR REASONS WHY WORD OF MOUTH IS MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD’
Word of mouth is the original ‘viral’: forget about sharing something to Facebook – if you’re motivated enough about something to tell ten other people about it in real life, that demonstrates a level of engagement and advocacy that money can’t (normally) buy. Second, word of mouth takes what might initially be a marketing message and elevates it to social currency. In effect, you want to tell someone something because it reflects well on you. That’s pretty powerful.
Third, we are hard-wired to trust people we identify with, including our friends and colleagues. This means we’ll listen to our friend’s opinion about a film or restaurant – even though we know they have no taste in films or food – and ignore the thoughtful review by an experienced, paid critic. Many new companies and economies rely on metrics of trust and reputation. Amazon’s rating system was one of the early ones, and now Uber, AirBnB, and many other companies of the collaboration economy are built on the reputation of its providers – and without that, they fall down. Recent major economic, social and political cataclysms (such as the GFC or the Snowden dossiers) have come at a time of more readily available and transparent media – so there is the sense that governments and corporations need now to earn the trust that previously they were given unconditionally. And, for those of you who have been counting, the fourth reason the mouth is mightier than the sword? Money – or rather, the lack of it. If people are advocating on behalf of your brand, product, or campaign and you’re not paying for it, then you know something is working! As Walt Disney said: ‘Do what you do so well that people can’t resist telling others about you.’
There has been a lot of debate about whether programmatic software platforms in advertising will kill the big ad campaign.
The idea of an ‘ad campaign’ is a concept as old as advertising. Over the course of history, led by television, brands ran ad campaigns over a specific time period, such as a month or a quarter.
Post the campaign, the client and the media agency would assess whether their creative and media mix was working. The dominant metric was whether product was moving off the shelf.
Marketers took this approach out of necessity. Television buys had to be lined up weeks or months in advance and getting back accurate data on effective reach, brand lift and sales results could be an arduous process.
And now, the automated approach is turning this model on its head.
With software, advertisers can see results in real time and leverage actionable insights to constantly test and learn. Agency trading desks and their platform partners are testing and iterating campaigns quickly. There is now a greater intolerance if something doesn’t work. New-age campaigns fail fast but they learn quickly and optimisations can be made from day one. Software is enabling this new approach to brand advertising.
Given this, many advertisers are now embracing an approach where the campaign never stops, allowing for iteration of creative and media strategy based on real-time data rather than fragmented insights.
A TubeMogul research study last year brought home the story for us. We gathered data across 6,000 campaigns and measured more than 6.3 billion impressions.
By adopting an always-on approach where you are constantly testing and learning, advertisers achieve quantifiable results in terms of cost efficiency, product awareness and viewability, and the ability of the ad served to be seen by a target consumer.
The main results that we tracked related to three key metrics that brand advertisers should measure at a minimum, in alwayson digital video advertising: completion rate, brand lift (product awareness) and the cost per viewable impression.
Our survey showed that always-on campaigns are more than three times as effective at driving product awareness, and that completion rates for 15- and 30-second ads were higher.
Also, the power of platform learnings, optimisation and constant iteration delivered an 87.2 percent lower cost per viewable impression.
It’s worth pointing out that adopting an always-on approach does not necessarily mean that advertisers are spreading out their ad spending evenly throughout the year. Seasonality is obviously important to many brands, as is driving up frequency during new product launches.
Programmatic software delivers advantages that television simply cannot currently match. The entire buying process—from campaign strategy and targeting, to optimisation and brand safety—is universally managed throughout the life of the campaign and can be adjusted at any time to drive the best possible performance.
The next evolution of advertising will involve brands taking a truly cross-screen approach, which will focus on how to secure the best yield and performance from their overall marketing spend. As viewing habits continue to change and content is increasingly delivered digitally, marketers will look at video in terms of screens—where television is just another screen, along with tablets, smartphones and desktop computers. The focus will move to targeting audiences at scale, across any screen, underpinned by unique ad executions for different devices.
Before that model of digital advertising becomes firmly established, brand advertisers and their partners will experiment, tweak and innovate.
In the dynamic and fast moving world of digital engagement, creating a model where brands never stop engaging with consumers makes a lot of sense. The ad campaign is far from dead. Its delivery, execution and targeting will become much smarter in terms of reaching the right audience.
You can easily make the mistake of assuming that once you have solved a particular problem, you have the answer to how to solve it again and again. Sure it gives you an insight into potentially how you might tackle it again but be careful of the cookie cutter solution. It can lead you up the expensive, unrewarding or ineffective garden path.
One of the great aspects of being a designer is the insight you get into organisations, quickly needing to assess the problems they face and understanding how you can apply your knowledge. Past experience is a great framework for assessing a problem or opportunity but, as our experience with city identities has taught us, it doesn’t instantly provide us with the right solution.
Over recent years, we’ve worked with a number of local councils and government agencies to create city visual identities, brand tool boxes and communications platforms that fundamentally serve to engage in dialogue with local residents, inbound tourism or investment audiences.
In our experience the first question to ask is: ‘Where is the organisation in its visual identity evolution?’
Tararua District Council was new, created through boundary changes. I worked with them to develop two identities that were visually linked but quite independent. The first was a council iteration that residents paid rates to and identified services. The second was a tourism/investment identity that leveraged off the first but was much more expressive. This clear line allowed the two to talk to distinctly different audiences and it worked really well. This second identity was later evolved further to include a more regional focus.
The next example takes us further north to Tamaki, Auckland, a region with a long, proud history despite being quite young in terms of its visual identity. The region’s heritage was captured in a poem, ‘We are Tamaki,’ which we used to form a unified voice aimed at getting both the local community and government to support the vision for Tamaki Transformation. This objective meant the approach was quite different from Tararua, although both had been at a similar stage in their respective cycles.
The next question is: ‘What equity has the organisation already built?’ Albury City in New South Wales, Australia, was much more evolved as an identity. They had established their logo some time ago, representing the council but also the city. What they lacked were the tools to communicate under one identity to multiple audiences. We achieved this by developing a core brand story and visual idea for the city that could be expressed through a tool kit that could be dialled up or down depending on the audience they were speaking to. This gave them complete flexibility, and made it quite different from Tararua or Tamaki because of the much earlier strategic decision to represent the city and council under one identity.
After the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, the answer to the question of visual identity life cycle was obviously quite different. The ‘Garden City’ identity was in quite a different place. With so much equity lost and subsequent identity ‘noise’, the question was, ‘What do local residents need?’ Part of the solution was the development of a vibrant, optimistic and very much independent vehicle to engage locals about what was happening in their city, quite different from Tararua, Tamaki or Albury City.
We inherited a fledgling ‘Future Christchurch’ website and identity. The first thing we did was to develop a strategic framework unique for its purpose, giving the work that followed the foundation it needed. We took the bare essentials of the existing creative and stripped these back to a point where all that was left was the core existing name and the idea of using a broad colour palette, the key attributes that spoke to the strategic intent.
Working closely with a very positive client, we were able to evolve the name to be more regionally inclusive, and give the identity generous stretch. We consolidated this into a practical design system, adding a typographic set, an independent logotype, new visual language and distinctive tone of voice messaging. The new identity system allowed for broader communication and stretch across multiple channels. Packaging it up into a set of guidelines, with examples of how it worked, we then shared it with the various internal and external design teams to implement.
We’ve managed this collaborative brand rollout process with a few clients, finding the best way is open dialogue, working out strengths and weaknesses early on and being honest about them.
It’s one of the most positive experiences contributing to a city that is grappling with how to visually represent and express itself to its audiences. It’s very tangible and real.
You get to walk around and see your work in action. A uniquely special city required a unique solution that was right for them. Obviously having that background knowledge to city identities really helped us offer up, not a cookie cutter solution, but an approach right for Christchurch at their stage of the identity life cycle.
Digital marketing, especially on social networks like Facebook, continues to be driven by mobile, visual storytelling and video.
Entries in the recent Facebook Awards show that marketers and agencies are embracing the creative possibilities of these trends for brand building.
The Facebook Awards celebrate the best creative work on Facebook, as chosen by top global creatives. Entries come from every corner of the world. Twice the number of countries were represented this year, with entries from non-OECD countries making up 17 percent of the total. Emerging and Asian markets submitted the highest number of entries, even more than the USA.
Much of this growth in global creative work is due to the increased use of mobile phones and mobile marketing. In many developing markets, mobiles are the number one device for accessing the internet. In New Zealand, this may soon be the case too.
We are seeing a shift to visual language on Facebook, with people uploading more than 350 million photos every day and judging by the Facebook Award entries, brands are going visual too.
One brand-building example from this year’s submissions was Adobe’s ‘Photoshop Halloween Murder Mystery’ campaign, which challenged designers to use their skills to solve a murder mystery. The campaign successfully moved the dial on perception of Adobe’s Creative Cloud, with an increase in positive sentiment from 15 to 76 percent.
On Instagram, people have always communicated visually, posting more than 70 million photos and videos each day.
In the new Awards ‘Craft’ category, ‘Build a Mercedes GLA on Instagram’ by Razorfish brought to life building your own customised car. Users browsed through photos of the Mercedes’ components, eventually following a path to images of their very own customised car. It drove brand reappraisal for Mercedes and purchase consideration among consumers.
Video has also emerged this year as the dominant medium on Facebook. In just one year, the number of video posts per person on Facebook has increased 75 percent globally and 94 percent in the US. And, with the growth of 3G and 4G data, the majority of video viewing is now on mobile devices.
As people watched billions of World Cup and ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos in 2014, the nature of newsfeeds literally evolved before our eyes. This was reflected in the creative in the Facebook Award entries, with 70 percent of entries being video based.
We’ve seen agencies quickly adapt from solely image posts to video-based campaigns. And during this process, Instagram has become a central hub of brand creativity in both static images and video.
Lowe’s Home Improvement’s ‘Hypermade’ campaign, created by BBDO New York, embraced Instagram’s Hyperlapse app. Lowe’s has long used social media to help people discover new ways to improve their homes, and leapt on the chance to provide a richer customer experience offered by Hyperlapse. There was now an easy way to capture highquality time-lapse video in 15 seconds, which BBDO used to show the moments when a consumer has finished their home project and is appreciating the results of their work. To-date, HyperMade is the best performing social media content ever published by Lowe’s.
This rise of mobile is allowing brands from all parts of the world to tell their stories in new and creative ways and we can’t wait to see what’s next.
Most customers don’t want to be wowed or delighted. They simply want you to fix problems when they occur, so they can get back to doing whatever it was they were doing before the issue with your product or service interrupted them.
That is the finding of recent research by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), which after analysing responses from 97,000 people around the globe found that the commercial benefits of exceeding customer expectations in the service channel are virtually indistinguishable from simply meeting them.
Their contention, backed by facts, is that the most economically valuable thing you can do is ensure you are simply meeting the expectations of the majority of your customers.
Think about that for a moment. It’s not about wowing, inspiring or delighting them. You just need to meet their expectations by making the experience that allows them to achieve their desired outcome with you as easy as possible.
Don Peppers recently posted on a similar theme, calling for what he refers to as a frictionless experience: “For the vast majority of businesses, the ideal customer experience is not so much delightful or surprising as it is frictionless. That is, an experience that requires no extra time or effort and imposes the least possible burden on the customer.”
The need for an effortless experience is particularly true when you are talking about reactive experiences, i.e. when a customer is making contact with you because they need something.
A recent personal example again illustrated this to me quite clearly. During the school holidays, my household cracked our broadband data cap. Actually, smashed it would be a more accurate description. The kids were playing Minecraft, watching videos (about Minecraft) and generally spending far too much time on screens. We’d also been availing ourselves of the entertainment riches available via streaming services. Now our cap was burnt. And with no notification from our provider, it was left to me to work out why Spotify was suddenly cutting out at sporadic intervals.
With ten days until it reset, continuing to be throttled was not an option so I headed online to upgrade our plan. After messing about with passwords and searching about to find where on the self-service portal to actually do the upgrade, I discovered the pricing information presented was out of date. I finally sorted it out with a real human being via chat but by that stage I was frustrated and more than a little disgruntled. Here I am willing to give them more of my money. How hard are they making it?
With a bit of forethought all this could have been avoided. Something as simple as a proactive text letting me know I’m about to break the cap and offering to upgrade my plan if I respond ‘Yes’ would have been sufficient.
CEB found in these reactive situations that any customer service interaction is four times more likely to drive disloyalty— and this echoes findings from other studies: a 2011 Accenture study into the energy sector found that the more time people spent interacting with service representatives of their electricity provider over the past 12 months, the more their levels of satisfaction and engagement decreased.
This makes sense if you consider that a customer is most likely to contact their provider when they have an issue. In this reactive context the brand starts the interaction in deficit. Any interaction with the customer therefore needs to be designed to get the customer back to where they were before the problem, with as little effort on their part as possible.
Approaching experience design this way also makes absolute sense if you are trying to get a customer to buy from you. The job in this context is to make people’s decisions as simple as possible and helping them buy.
In our work with clients, we often find when we map the purchase pathway that the experience is poorly designed and leaves the potential customer frustrated and underwhelmed. Marketers focus on what they want to say rather than understanding customer needs at different stages of the purchase journey and providing content that meets the need and helps the customer to move closer to their purchase goal.
Silos within organisations can also mean that communications and the actual conversion journey are the responsibilities of different departments and aren’t designed as a seamless, end-to-end experience. The prospective customer is left to do the work. In today’s data rich, hyper-connected, highly trackable marketing environment there is simply no excuse for this.
All of which doesn’t mean that there are no situations where investing in an experience that exceeds expectations is the right thing to do. If you have the opportunity to be proactive on the customer’s behalf then surprising and delighting is a great strategy, but you should think of marketing as a service and develop experiences that build trust.
An example of this might be a telco proactively right-planning customers, particularly when it will save them money. It works in this context because the customer starts the interaction with no expectation. The trick is still making the experience as effortless as possible for the customer.
The test of true customer centricity isn’t whether you are willing to invest in a customer experience team, have a chief customer officer or a customer charter; it’s the willingness to do the hard work to understand what customers really want— and then making it as easy as possible for them to get it. Ideally without asking.