Marketing is having a Listening Problem!

Is Marketing having a Listening Problem?
Yes, you heard that right. Marketing has a listening problem…definitely looks like- but the problem isn’t a matter of not hearing the voice of the customer. The problem is understanding what all the noise actually means.
An unintentional tone-deafness has led marketers to realise that they are not just struggling to aggregate the right data or struggling to identify the moments of opportunity to deliver exceptional experiences to their customers. Marketers admit that the biggest challenge the organisation faces while working to develop lasting customer relationships is actually remembering the relationship itself and not solely focusing on getting campaigns out the door.
 
Organisations have settled for passive hearing instead of active listening.
When it comes to aggregating the true voice of the customer, many marketers continue to rely on passive channels bringing in reactionary signals intentionally sent to the organisation. This leaves little opportunity to aggregate, let alone understand, real-time behaviours and cues being left behind by the customer across the omni-channel landscape. Consider where marketers believe insights, cues and indicators are being left: Email, Social, Sales Rep Interactions, Forms, Service & Support. While this list seems reasonable and an appropriate collection of customer signal sources, when sorted into categories of active, realtime, customer-driven signals versus post-engagement, reactionary or company-controlled environments, the picture of where marketers listen for signals begins to point to channels of known, structured comfort.
Where do customers actually leave cues?
Not in the known, structured comfort but in places like Social Media, User Generated Content, IoT Sensors, Chatbot sessions, Mobile Device detection etc
Data doubts are holding back advancement of the omni-channel experience. 
Without question, marketing has spent the past decade (or more) actively investing in expanding the omni-channel toolkit, identifying new ways to reach and engage with the connected customer. Each experience advancement heightens the need for actionable insights and a clear signal based on customer voice and data. But few marketers feel they are able to unlock the opportunity in the channels and the data already in use. This doubt is contributing to a hesitancy to expand and further explore what is new in omni-channel engagement.
Getting small could get us back to the customer.
 
The criticality of small data sits with the insights that reveal the “why” – why is the customer here today, why are they searching, why are the buying, why are they NOT buying? 
Marketers are waiting for complaints or opportunities to improve experiences through answering issues or questions rather than leveraging more complex data to proactively meet the customer with experiences that add value and delight. But marketers are also looking to get a better view of what the customer actually wants. Marketers need to understand the “why.”
Are they most prepared to take advantage of small data to turn noise into signals from the customer. Marketers are also confident they will finally reach the “why” behind customer’s actions and behaviours.
“Why” is also fuelling the marketer’s aspirations. When you try to identify brands across any industry that customers admired for their ability to deliver on real-time, personalised customer engagements, some key brands consistently rose to the top: Amazon, Apple, Google, Starbucks and Nike. 
What these brands also do well is connect with people and engage with customers like individuals, not just transact with campaigns.The biggest differentiator of these leading brands is their ability to treat every individual like a friend or confidante.The ability to initiate conversations in a manner that reflects the customers needs helps differentiate the brand. In essence, these brands never loose sight of the fact that their customers are core to their business…and that their customers are people first, buyers second.
It is time for marketing to lead the charge to treat people like people. It is time for marketing to champion being human. It sounds fundamental…that our customers are people. But as we have already seen, marketers admit that remembering that the organisation is engaging with people and not just data sets or individual records can be challenging.
The tools and technology are available. The data is abundant. The missing piece has been the voice of the customer. It is time for Marketing to champion the shift back to human…driving profit and opportunity along the way.
ENDS
 
www.groupisd.com/story
 
www.brandknewmag.com

Your call (isn’t) important to us and will(not) be attended to shortly!

Customer journey. Customer experience. Customer expectation.Customer delight. Customer service. All old wine in new bottles but as should have naturally been the case, things have not matured with age. On the contrary, getting genuine attention(just like paying attention) in an attention starved economy is becoming increasingly difficult and going from bad to worse.
As ordinary mortals, often times we have to deal with banks, financial services, utility companies, car rental brands etc. And we reluctantly take a call on making a call to the epicentre of under delivery– the omni present but care absent  ‘ call centre ‘.
Technology has made rapid strides and from a security perspective ‘ voice recognition ‘ is the harbinger of hope( or so we hoped) for customers expecting to avoid the seven and a half minute hold listening to tastelessly chosen recorded music. And you thought your voice will be heard– tough luck- once you are past that process, you go back in time(yes, literally) and field the 5 security questions to ensure that you are who you are and you are not from a different mother as originally envisaged. And you are left wondering why was the voice recognition used in the first place if the process was to lead to further questioning and endless hold. A lot of questions and certainly no convincing answers.
Pardon my sequencing here- I overlooked to mention the two biggest lies floating around that brands have been propagating blatantly, namely:-
– Your call is important to us and will be attended to shortly
 
– This call maybe recorded for quality and assurance purposes
I say these are the biggest lies for a couple of reasons:
– When was the last time you actually found a call centre personnel sufficiently empowered to resolve your problem? Even if your imagination runs riot, you will be chasing a mirage only.
– On multiple occasions we have put forth our suggestions, frustrations etc on these ‘ recorded for quality & assurance purposes ‘ calls and the customer experience slide has only degenerated further south. Maybe it was ‘ just for the record ‘.
– Have you ever received from a ‘ Relationship Manager ‘ of your bank based in a distant call centre(who is clueless about where you are based) on a Friday afternoon when you have just settled into your afternoon weekend siesta? I have, many times over. This after copious amount of information has been shared to them in the KYC(Know Your Customer!). It should be more like NO, YOU DON’T KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER!
– Have you received calls from an over enthusiastic telecom provider calling you three times in a day(atleast) to ask you for payment(which falls due two weeks hence)? I have. It leaves you wondering ‘ Do(I let phonetics play its part here in let you deciphering who) they have to do that? ‘
Of course there are exceptions and we have heard about the experiences that the likes of Zappos etc provide to their customers that is now part of folklore. But all that seem to be happening on a different planet.
A caveat here before you may misinterpret my vitriol: I don’t belong to that tribe who echoes the sentiment ‘ The customer is always right ‘- its certainly not the case.
The sanctum mantra that brand owners, marketing heads and guardians have been acting on endlessly has been ‘ call to action ‘. But, when the shoe is on the other foot, it seems more like a ‘ call to inaction ‘. And you just can’t seem to shoe that away!
ENDS
 
www.brandknewmag.com
 
www.groupisd.com/story
Image:userlike.com

Your brand’s worth is in your own hands!

Your brand’s worth is in your own hands!
You do not have to look far ahead into the horizon to read that businesses are facing an uncertain economic landscape across multiple markets around the globe. We are amidst a landscape in which brand worth has never faced fiercer scrutiny.
 
Moreover, in this environment, a power shift has taken place as price-conscious shoppers have seized control. Price loyalty or brand loyalty?
 
The done to death strategy(dare we call it that?) that brands have been resorting to, to drive volumes has been, no prizes for guessing, discounting. Not only is it a short term strategy but it also does both the brand and the business serious damage in the longer term. Turning the model upside down, research has shown that a 1% price increase can drive a 12-15% increase in profit. That is three times the profit increase seen by boosting sales the same amount. Which shows that the commercial impact of protecting prices can outweigh cutting them to drive volume.
 
Just like most buying decisions are not rational, so is consumers perception of price, which too leans towards the irrational. Behavioural economics studies show that when you flip the context, re bundle your output and shift the focus from price to value through added layers of experience, consumers are willing to pay disproportionately more for it. This, in some way, also endorses the oft used observation that price is the yardstick of quality.
 
By combining data-led pricing strategies with the creativity and behavioural science of a modern agency(be it ISD Global or any other), brands can dramatically outperform the competition in a commoditised market. 
 
Brands can increase their price perception in the eyes of the customer through a 3C Model of Create(through rituals, theatre, value added services)-Connect(establish a culture where customers are happy to pay more like Frappuccino from Starbucks)-Convert( Optimum sales balancing value and volumes, omni channel, something like what hotel chain IHG does).
 
For the community of marketers everywhere, it is time to seize back control of the most ignored, most impactful lever in the marketing mixPricing.
 
 
ENDS
 
www.groupisd.com/story
 
www.brandknewmag.com

Time to change your default settings!

A legacy approach might be stifling you, without you even realising it.Best practices may not be that best(or better) at all. In fact there is scope to abandon best practice as the ‘ practice ‘ as it used to exist has changed altogether.

Your current marketing and customer strategies may unknowingly be rooted in old patterns. It may be time for a change.

The purpose of business—creating a customer—and your customers—at a human level—aren’t changing. That, irrespective of all the tectonic shifts happening around them.

But for many businesses, it’s time to make a change toward having a deep understanding of their true purpose and their customers.

The terms consumer and customer are often used interchangeably but they signify very different relationships. Etymologically, consumer stems from a word that means “one who squanders or wastes,” whereas customer stems from a word meaning “a person with whom one has dealings,” with the implication that it is an ongoing relationship.

As Stanley Marcus, of Neiman Marcus, wrote, “Customers are people; consumers are statistics.”

Marketing isn’t about selling to the customer; that’s a byproduct. As the legendary Peter Drucker observed, “The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself. Ideally, marketing should result in a customer who is ready to buy.

It’s the time to break old tendencies. Its the time to be aware, to rebel, to kill old habits and to seek change.

Not changing is a default tendency. Change the default settings!

The Big Trap for Brands: A Sea of Sameness!

The Big Trap for Brands: A Sea of Sameness
Normal needs a new normalising!
Since there is so much interest, let me start from the bottom line. It is no coincidence that damn near everything that you and me buy or want to buy, seems to have a label ‘ Made in China ‘. Now, that includes airplane wings …as well as caps!
Instant knock offs-with excellence- have become the norm. From shoes to sweaters to computers to restaurants. The quality of damn near everything is terrific. Things that work well are not unusual. Things that don’t work are unusual.
By design or accident, we are afloat, awash, adrift…in a Sea of Sameness. High-quality sameness, but sameness nonethless.
An idea that has legs ..lasts only a few weeks, a few months at best. Then the sequel. And the sequel that follows the sequel. And so on.
Sure heard this before. Herd mentality. We race around. Follow each other’s tails. From Hollywood to Silicon Valley to Madison Avenue to Jamal Abdul Nasar Street.
As Swedish business professors  Kjell Nordstrom and Jonas Ridderstrale brilliantly articulated in their book ‘ Funky Business ‘, ” The surplus society has a surplus of similar companies, employing similar people, with almost similar educational backgrounds..coming up with similar ideas, producing similar things, with similar prices..and similar qualities “. Ouch, that is painful!
The 10X/10X theory on that is that you could be 10 times better. While being ten times less different.
The basic idea that I am echoing here is that ‘ Good Stuff ‘ is commonplace.”



“. It’s no longer exceptional for stuff (anything, everything ) to work. Which means the bar for ” standing out ” has risen dramatically.

In a winner takes all world, Normal = Nothing. So time to stop being goddamn normal.
Dovetailing seamlessly into this line of thought is the Danish marketing phenomenon Jesper Kunde’s articulation ” Companies have defined so much best practice that they are now more or less identical. ” It’s commoditised. Instead, how about ” It’s yet to be practiced “?
In other words, the only way to make a difference is to, well, “ Make a Difference “.
Standing out in a world where most everything works is stupefying difficult. And yet some companies are making a go of it. How I hate the word ‘ normal ‘.
We are in a ” Don’t just sit there economy ” – so, embrace abnormal. Never mind if you are first mover, last mover, first follower or fast follower. Go for it!
ENDS
www.groupisd.com/story
 
www.brandknewmag.com

The PRomise, The PRospect, The PoweR of Celebrity PRanding!

It’s PRime Time!
The PRomise, The PRospect, The PoweR of Celebrity PRanding
A layer. Then another layer. The stack effect. A double whammy. A literal celebrity brandwagon. 
Amitabh Bachchan. Prabhu. Nagarjuna. Manju Warrier. With the cult following that these icons have nationally and regionally in star struck India, one would have imagined that brand Kalyan had enough and more star power to spin many a convincing yarn. But it seems to be a summer of (dis)content.
What else explains that such a powerhouse brand like Kalyan would want to add more horse power(and how) by getting King Badshah Khan(SRK) to inaugurate its new showroom in the heart beat of India in Dubai(read Meena Bazaar).
Sizzling mercury and sapping humidity levels of the early Thursday afternoon were no impediments to the fan frenzy on display, that started a good three hours before King Khan came to the scene. That is what brand marketers would define as ‘ pure brand advocacy ‘.
” Till such time I am alive, he will be my God. Nothing oblique but a direct reference to SRK. After my lifetime, I would consider God in any other form, till then it will be him “, avered a lady fan waiting for the heavyweight superstar. FANatic, surely. Just a small indication of the power, the aura, the charisma, the clout of Badshah Khan.
Strategically, we believe that this is a tactical master stroke by the Kalyan brand. Cause a major ripple by bringing SRK on board in small rushes, spike up attention and recall and then let the sustaining be done by their existing crop of brand ambassadors.
Needless to say wherever there is serious brand power(personal or otherwise), ISD Global(groupisd.com/story) is right in the thick of it. Our band of passionate hustlers and story tellers(#NikhilThekkomkottathil#SalinduSadishan) were at hand, up close and personal to augment and amplify.
The stage was set. And SRK was all the rage.
ENDS
 
www.brandknewmag.com
 
www.groupisd.com/story

Marketing the new ‘Terms ‘ of endearment

Marketing the New ‘Terms’ of Endearment

Over the years, tried and oft used terms in the world of business and marketing have transcended convention. We seem to be in a perennial state of having to come to terms with these terms. Here is the term sheet on that.

Brand Owners, Advertisers and Marketers were once cosy with ‘ Mass Market ‘. Try and reach the maximum audience numbers through mass media. A lot of the times it was about Spray and Pray. Mass Market transitioned to ‘ Mass Customisation ‘ which went beyond one size fits all to one size fitting some. With the advent of Artificial IntelligenceMachine Learning and Data Science, we are now in an era of the ‘ Customer Segment of One ‘, where one individual as an audience is targeted with high degree of precision and success.

The disclaimers have been turned on its head as well. What used to be common place was a term going as ‘ Caveat Emptor ‘ which essentially was to say buyers beware. The entire onus and risk on buying a product or service was all on the buyer/end user. Now, in an over commoditised world, where we have moved on from push and control to pull and engage, where top down has given way to bottom up marketing, what is evident is ‘ Caveat Venditor ‘, where the accountability and responsibility rests fully on the seller. The wheel has gone a full circle.

Not until long ago, brands and their marketing plans were etched out keeping demographic groups in mind. A pre decided age group with a certain buyer persona was carved out and communication was created to influence and impact that community. The universe has changed dramatically. Brand marketers have now started addressing mindsets which throws conventional wisdom out of the window. As they have now begun to chant, RIP Demographics!

Consumer aspirations have taken a twist as well. Yesteryears we had all marketing and communication created to induce brand ownership. With so much millennial consumption happening, the entire paradigm has now shifted to owning experiences. The new brand mantra for marketers is CeX(Customer Experience) and the City. Ownership is passe, experience is the new aspiration.

Remember those days when the quintessential manna from heaven was ‘ brand loyalty ‘. Coveted, treasured, revered. Loyalty was royalty. In an era of surplus of goods, information, choices, services and a deficit of trust, attention and resources, ‘ customer infidelity ‘ has replaced loyalty. Cheaper, better, faster? Here we shift loyalties!

We were just coming to terms with the ‘ knowledge economy ‘ as it moved on from the  ‘ Industrial Economy ‘and before we knew it we were bang in the middle of the ‘sharing/collaborative economy‘. The dust had hardly settled on that and now the entire attention is rooted on the ‘ attention economy ‘. In an age of perennial distraction, attention is the new premium.

Since advent of marketing, and the quest for differentiation, the narrative has revolved around a USP(Unique Selling Proposition). That feature or benefit which makes your brand distinct or unique from other competitors in the eco system.Then came the not so holy communion onslaught- the SOS- Sea of Sameness. Nothing unique, nothing distinct, the herd mentality, the also ran, the me too. Which prompted our research at ISD Global to discover what we have come to label as UFP- Unique Feelings Proposition– where state of the heart is what brands are appealing to win trust, loyalty, mind and wallet space.

Am sure we will have more to chew on as the intersection of consumer behaviour, rapid evolution of technology and the ever changing socio economic landscape will throw up more perspectives that we have to come to terms with. Till then, au revoir.

ENDS

www.groupisd.com/story

www.brandknewmag.com

Con Tricks:Marketing Pros with their Cons..

I have been at the crossroads the past few weeks wondering what is the biggest marketing con job in the past few decades. After careful distilling, zeroed in on these three:-

Red Wine: With all of it’s anti oxidant properties spiel, filled enough guilt to ensure your heart reaches out to it. As for me, not so much the Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. I prefer Red Wine of the Neil Diamond variety.

Dhanteras: The compelling quest amongst many of us Indians for heavy metal- read ‘ jewellery ‘. The DAY to MUST buy, or else all sanctity will break loose. To me, if it’s heavy metal, give me Iron Maiden or Jethro Tull or Scorpion, any day.My Doors are open.

Valentine’s Day: 1 Day in the year when we get a Notification to drop everything else and express love.A reminder that there is a remainder. Do you see RED with this? What happened the other 364 Days? In an always on world, shouldn’t love be always on?

Take your pick. Or if you are piqued, feel free to disagree.

Just as I finish writing this post my good friend Goswami called from Calcutta wishing Happy Ballantine’s Day! Did not want to dampen his spirit and tell him that my taste lies elsewhere!

ENDS

www.groupisd.com

www.brandknewmag.com

Technology and Wisdom: In marketing, the twain can’t seem to meet!

Technology and Wisdom: In marketing, the twain can’t seem to meet!

To say that we are at the very forefront of cutting edge technology would be an understatement. Considering all the spectacular advances we see today in space travel, driverless cars, artificial intelligence, IOT, robotics, digital health, augmented reality, laser guided missiles etc, technology surely has motored along at more than a furious clip. Technology is ubiquitous, omni present, in the face and as they say, ‘ always on ‘.

Wisdom on the other hand is very much under the radar not because it cannot be droned up into the spotlight but there seems to be a tangible scarcity of it around. Most definitely in marketing.

In marketingtechnology and wisdom are at two opposite ends of the spectrum. And, unlike magnetic forces, these opposites don’t attract. On the contrary, they repel. Technology is always moving in linear progression. Wisdom, on the other hand, with all the associated ammunition of insights, experience, maturity, just does not. Cannot.

Not all technology is the domain of the young and not all wisdom comes with age. But, as a general rule, tech is the territory of youth, wisdom the territory of maturity. Though there is strong perception that technology equates wisdom, nothing that we see today in the world of marketing or advertising at least backs the argument even remotely. We are in an era of ‘ technology overload ‘ that causes ad frauds(US$16 Billion), intrusion of customer privacy, manipulation of public opinion, colossal wastage etc etc. And there is no wisdom in that.

We seem to have moved on from what the very wise advertising greats of the past including William Bernbach, Howard Gossage etc preached and practiced. With a great degree of success. Without any technology at their disposal.

Technology digs into collective bias. What is called for is a balance of technology with the scaffolding of wisdom, without which, sauce for the goose is not exactly sauce for the gander!

As T.S Eliot said ‘ Where is the wisdom we have lost in all the knowledge? Where is the knowledge that we have lost in all the information? And where is the life that we have lost in living? ”

ENDS

Image: ISD Global

www.groupisd.com

www.brandknewmag.com

No.The Customer is Not Always Right!

 

Does this article caption seem like sacrilege? Especially in the context of all the cacophony of narratives that float around viz Customer Service, Customer Delight, Customer Centricity, Customer Experience, Customer Journey...and all of that and more.

Over time, we have transgressed(not so effortlessly) from mass to mass customisation to personalisation to customer segment of one. And somewhere in between there is the Long Tail effect as well that encourages more granularity when it comes to addressing customers.

The phrase “ The customer is always right ” was originally coined in 1909 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store in London.Business was different, expectations were certainly so and organised retail was only at the embryonic stage. This line is typically used by businesses to convince customers that they will get good service at this company and convince employees to give customers good service.

Of course, there are plenty of examples of bad employees giving lousy customer service( the United Airlines incident last year involving a passenger last year stands out like a sore thumb) but trying to solve this by declaring the customer “always right” is counter-productive.

CEO Hal Rosenbluth(owner of Rosenbluth Corporate Travel, since acquired by American Express) wrote an excellent book about their approach called Put The Customer Second – Put your people first and watch’em kick butt. Rosenbluth argues that when you put the employees first, they put the customers first. It’s a chain reaction, often overlooked by organisations and brands.

In his book Customer CentricityPeter Fader(Marketing Professor at Wharton & Co-Director,The Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative) encourages business owners to focus on the customers who matter most: “Not all customers deserve your company’s best efforts. And despite what the old adage says, the customer is most definitely not always right. Because in the world of customer centricity, there are good customers…and then there is everybody else.”

To borrow the experience that Tim Ferris(author of the wildly popular The Four Hour Work Week book) where he realised he was spending far too much time attending to customers who were contributing very little to revenues but causing high amount of stress, only to recalibrate his energies and attention to customers that warranted it best.

Haven’t we heard this before: “The customer is always right, except when they’re wrong—and then, it’s our fault”.

A more balanced way of looking at it would be to respect the customer, as it’s not about who’s right; it’s about what’s best for your company and the customer together. It takes two to tango.

Another example was when Toblerone changed the shape of their iconic chocolate bars, customers went absolutely bananas. It wasn’t that the new shape of the bars was bad, per se. It was just different, and people HATE different. Customers like to maintain the norm.The status quo, be in the comfort zone..

When you make changes in your business, you will probably get some initial backlash, even if the change that you have made, is for the better. If you have the attitude that the customer is always right, you’ll never make healthy improvements to your business because the possibility of bad customer feedback will paralyse you.

Needless to say we all need to strive for excellent customer service, or delight or experience as the case may be. But, adopting a ‘ Customer is always right ‘ policy can end up actually hurting your business. You kill employee morale, empower rude customers, slow down innovation, and even create unhappy experiences for other customers.

A much better strategy would be to empower your team to make the right decisions. And, that would translate to” The Right Customer is Always Right “. That’s a much better place to be.

ENDS

Image: ISD Global

www.groupisd.com

www.brandknewmag.com