Social Media in action – a case study

For whatever reason, a guy in the UK called Richard Neill posted a comment on the Facebook page of Bodyform, the manufacturer of female hygiene product Maxipad.

Richard complained that Bodyform had lied to him through their advertising. Apparently Richard watched Bodyform commercials on a regular basis as a child and young man and couldn’t wait to get his first girlfriend to experience all the wonderful experiences shown in the commercials.

Alas it wasn’t as portrayed and he took it out on the company on their Facebook page. You can read his short rant here. The comment has so far got over 100,000 likes and nearly 5,000 people took time to post a comment.

Bodyform could have left the story to fizzle out but they decided to respond with a clever video that featured an actress in the role of CEO Caroline Williams who apologized to Richard and went on to say that they needed to protect men.

The video has received nearly 5 million views and over 8,000 likes.

There is a lot of chat online about how good was the response from Bodyform. What do you think? Did the company do the right thing? Was the content right? Were they right to use an actress or should the real CEO have engaged Richard? Was it just a bit of fun between a company and a consumer?

Personally I think it was a clever use of social media by the company and reflects how to engage consumers on a more personal level. The company has engaged with the writer, and the millions of people who have dropped by to see what all the fuss is about in a like minded way. No airs and graces, confident and light hearted. My only minor criticsm is that the real CEO should have presented the video.

Of course the major question now is “How can the company leverage its new position in the minds of consumers?”


Stop advertising and start branding part II

A fascinating insight into the social media and mobile shopping habits of consumers in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Singapore has just been released by SDL in the UK.

The survey size is a little small – 4,000 people in four countries – but the results unearth new data on how social media and mobile are influencing how consumers interact and build relations with brands.

Singapore participant breakdown
Singapore participant breakdown

Findings include:

33% of respondents from all four countries have acted on promotions seen on social media.

58% of respondents have shared positive experiences online and have sought advice from friends and family when talking about brands on social media.

U.K. respondents are more likely than respondents from the other four countries to complain about service on social.

When respondents express feedback, Facebook is the most popular platform to do this.

Showrooming (visiting a physical location to evaluate products and services even when you know you will buy online at another time) is increasingly prevalent as 77% of participants showroom.

Experiential branding key to branding success
Experiential branding key to branding success

62% of the participants use a mobile device when in stores to compare product prices.

69% of respondents from all four countries expect a brand’s online store, mobile app, and physical store to offer the same pricing, discounts and sales.

Pricing consistency is expected in all countries
Pricing consistency is expected in all countries

What can brands learn from this thought provoking survey?

They need to understand their relationship with consumers and what resonates with those consumers.

Brands that ensure parity in pricing and products across multiple channels will have to place greater emphasis on the customer experience and experiential branding if they want to win and retain business. Those that compete on price alone will soon be out of business.

Department stores and other retail outlets that represent multiple brands will have to work harder to engage consumers and ensure a positive brand experience otherwise they face the prospect of losing customers, possibly forever.

Mobiles are changing the way consumers research and learn about brands.

Brands that take the time to build relationships with core fans or brand evangelists will see their brands promoted to thousands of fans for minimal financial investment.

Those brands with digital brand strategies that go beyond tactical campaigns online are increasing sales through loyalty and advocacy.

Brands that try to control content and manage corporate driven messages and ignore consumers are unlikely to last very long in the consumer economy of today.

Telling the brand story online should be done across Facebook and other popular platforms with the ongoing development of corporate and consumer content.

When is the best time to use Twitter?

Whether we like it or not – and despite the fact that there are 500 million Twitter users of whom 200 million are active users, far too many companies refuse to take Twitter seriously. Preferring instead to continue to use traditional channels – Twitter is an increasingly important tool for brand building.

It allows firms to distribute real time content to people that are interested in that content. It provides access to celebrities and other people of (significant) influence.

It also allows brands to lay the foundations for and build stronger business relationships, address negative issues in a transparent manner and thereby improve customer service and help retain customers that could have been lost.

But one of the drawbacks of Twitter is not knowing when and when not to use it. Not any more. Thanks to this excellent infographic from linchpinseo you can time your tweets to perfection!

Perfect tweet times
Perfect tweet times

Can poor customer engagement across social media destroy a brand?

I came across a remarkable story about how a brand failed to deliver on its promise and the result of that failure. You can read the full story here

In a nutshell, it’s the story of a gamers attempt to buy an add-on for video game console controllers. The tool, known as the Avenger and invented by N-Control was announced in November 2011, word soon spread across social media and demand went through the roof.

After ordering 2 of the controllers, the gamer was told it would ship in early December 2011 however by the middle of the month he had heard nothing so emailed the president of marketing to enquire as to the shipping date and was told it would ship a day later than announced.

Unfortunately it didn’t. Then it was announced that anyone ordering the controller after December 26th would get a US$10 discount however, those who had ordered before December 26th and had still not received their controllers were not entitled to the discount.

By this stage the gamer was getting a bit annoyed and emailed the firm asking if he cancelled his original order, could he then qualify for the US$10 discount (don’t forget he’s ordered 2 of them).

The firm came back with this statement, “Feel free to cancel we need the units we’re back ordered 11,000 units so your 2 will be gone fast. Maybe I’ll put them on eBay for 150.00 myself. Have a good day Dan.”

By this stage the gamer was seething so he wrote again to the President of marketing but this time copied the email to organisers of major gaming conventions in the US. Amazingly the President of marketing responded by calling the gamer childish, laughing at his complaints, and dropping the names of numerous gaming conventions that they intended to attend, one of which was organised by the very company the email was CCd to.

The organiser took the side of the gamer and banned the company from taking a booth at their gaming convention. Then the story was posted online and went viral and this is when it really hit the fan. Because of the power of Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and others the story even crashed the site it originated from! You can see more information on how it went viral here

Soon after N-Control fired the President of marketing and made a US$10,000 donation to charity.

What lessons can be learned from such an event?

Promises made must be kept. If you don’t prepare to feel the wrath of the consumer.

Make sure the people who represent your brand live the brand.

N-Control is on the defensive and maybe for some time. It didn’t need to be in this situation. Know how to use the Internet.

Be careful when you offer discounts. Consumers who have paid pre discount rates expect value. If you don’t deliver, offer the discount to those who kick started your sales.

I believe that an event such as this may not bring down a brand but it could be extremely expensive and the fall out for N-Control will last for years. If they come up with a sub standard product they will really struggle.

And such an event can certainly cost people their jobs and quite possibly, as more and more employers trawl the Internet for information on potential hires, their careers.

Google+ Brand Pages is another critical social media tool for corporate brands

Back in June 2011, Google launched Google+ to counter the increasingly powerful and influential Facebook. According to Google, 40 million people have signed up for Google+ which equates to about 8 million new users a month. Not a bad effort but a long way to go to reach the 800 million Facebook users.

The launch of Google+ saw a number of complaints from consumers, especially related to applications whose functionality was changed or users being forced to give up pseudonyms to continue sharing.

Corporations also complained because they were unable to connect and build relationships with consumers, something they have been able to do and do successfully on Facebook.

Some companies did try to create business pages on Google+ but they were rejected, with a request to wait.

Well the wait is over with the launch today of Google+ Brand Pages. Now firms can connect and engage with consumers through corporate pages. Although Google+ Brand Pages doesn’t operate that differently from Facebook, it will have to form a part of any corporation’s social media strategy.

One neat feature not available on Facebook is Google+ Direct Connect. Simply by putting “+” in front of a brand’s name before making a Google search, will ensure searchers are directed to the firms Google+ page.

Google’s open approach also means that a brand can now have a business page that is integrated with Google search, Ad words, Google places and YouTube.

Critically, I also expect Google+ profiles to have a significant impact on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and search results. And once Google starts to provide metrics for pages via Google analytics, we may see Facebook’s crown slip.

How to brand a destination to attract investors, the right businesses, talent and tourists

The destination branding rewards are high in terms of investment, jobs, development, tourism, exports, domestic and even international influence. But building destination brands is harder today than ever before. There are over 1,000 national and regional economic development agencies in South East Asia alone and the ongoing global economic crisis, political interference and a fragmented, tactical approach to a strategic initiative all help complicate the process.

It’s also hard because most destinations attempt to build their brands on a platform of familiar marketing and advertising campaigns that include one-size-fits-all positioning strategies driven by advertising in mass media, that do little more than add to the advertising clutter increasingly ignored by consumers. And more often than not, those campaigns are led by tourism.

Tourism maybe about to become the number one industry in the world, but did Indonesia’s 2008 tourism campaign and the tagline “Celebrating 100 years of nation’s (That is not a typo) awakening.” influence South Korea’s Hankook Tire when it was looking for a location for a US$1.2 billion tyre plant? Of course it didn’t.

Hankook Tire sought a good location close to transport hubs, a secure source of quality rubber, abundant and cheap labour and probably the opportunity of an early crack at Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

Indonesia is on something of a roll at the moment and is expecting as much as US$10 billion of investment from South Korea alone over the next four years. And it’s not just Korean firms that are looking hard at the country.

The steel company Arcelor Mittal is currently considering a US$5 billion investment and China Investment Corp is rumoured to be considering an investment of as much as US$25 billion. A number of other deals are also in the works but although details a sketchy, one thing is for sure, none of them will be swayed by positioning statements or slick advertising campaigns featuring white sandy beaches, azure skies and crystal clear seas.

These companies will make their destination decisions, and this is particularly true of Indonesia but also applies to other Asian destinations, on political stability, a clearly defined long term plan to invest in railways, roads, power plants and distribution networks, ports, transportation and more as well as concerted attempts to tackle bureaucratic red tape, graft, and unfriendly labour laws.

Indonesia understands this and regional competitors would be wrong to ignore this sleeping giant. President Susilo recently instructed the relevant federal and state or regional authorities to speed up spending, particularly on infrastructure. Assurances from the central bank that it would not impose outright capital controls will do a lot more to convince potential investors than any expensive tagline or one-size-fits-all positioning statement.

Don’t get me wrong, tourism has an major role to play in the development of many destinations but an international one-size-fits-all positioning statement that attempts to speak to potential investors, tourists, talent and others from diverse parts of the world with one message is not the way forward.

So what can regions, states or cities do to build destination brands that will attract investors, businesses, talent and tourists?

Once the infrastructure is in place or the blueprint outlining the infrastructural development with timelines, responsibilities and milestones is determined, destinations must carry out research to identify channels, communities and influencers within those channels and communities and develop content that resonates with those influencers and those communities.

Prospects from different industries from different parts of the world have different requirements for value. Sarawak corridor of renewable energy (SCORE) on Borneo is targetting ten core industries. Those industries are as diverse as Aluminum, Aquaculture, Fishing, Glass, Timber and Tourism. Such diverse industries with their different requirements for value, will seek information from and be influenced by completely different environments.

Identifying those requirements is mission critical, without it destinations are guessing and the success of a destination brand should not rely on guesswork. So destinations must talk to prospects and customers from each segment. Find out what value they seek and determine if the destination can deliver that value.

To avoid wasting valuable resources on advertising and marketing that is lost in the clutter, it is important to determine what online communities they inhabit and who or what influences them. Also identify why investors chose the destination. And talk to lost customers and find out why they chose another destination over yours.

At the same time, internal brand research must identify what are the core brand values of the destination and how will they be communicated internally so that the whole organization is on brand and understands the role they play in the successful implementation of the brand. And it is critical that the core brand values are developed with customers in mind and not from the destinations point of view.

The analysis and data from this key research will form the foundations of the destination brand strategy. And only once the brand strategy is developed can the implementation begin. The implementation must not neglect citizens and their communities who will be impacted by the changes to their environments.

There will be positive and negative implications for communities and these must where possible be predicted and dealt with accordingly. If they cannot be predicted, they must be dealt with in a consistent, transparent and confident manner. It is important for destinations to understand from the outset that without citizen and other stakeholder buy in, the destination will not succeed.

Increasingly fragmented media, the Internet and an increase in leisure time activities make it harder to reach consumers via traditional media. Destinations must look past the traditional broadcast approach to generate interest in the destination.

One destination in South East Asia purchased a double page spread in the International Herald Tribune to market the destination. The feature was really well written, with top quality images and provided a comprehensive overview of the destination. But the feature made the common mistake of trying to tell everyone about everything.

This approach hopes that the advertisement or feature will be seen by the right people at the right time and that they will invest the time required to read through the substantial feature in the hope that there will be something relevant to them. The problem is that there are lots of competitors doing the same thing and moreover, how many senior executives are willing to invest time reading such articles?

This particular feature also made the mistake of not including any tracking tool to identify the number of responses. Any marketing efforts must include tools to measure their effectiveness because if you don’t track the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, how do you know which ones are working and which are not?

Communications must also take into account changes in consumer behaviour and look past the traditional media channels with an emphasis on the Internet and Social Media. And this will require a comprehensive change in the thinking of CEOs and others tasked with developing a destination brand as it requires ongoing engagement with consumers rather than a traditional broadcast approach.

To be successful, destination brands must now adapt to these emerging business and customer imperatives. Imperatives that include a special emphasis on the right research and the right data collection and analysis, effective customer, channel and employee communications, operational excellence, accountability, service and the ongoing ability to meet customer requirements.

The potential rewards are huge but the stakes too are high and with competition coming from all angles, destinations will only get one shot at building a successful destination brand.

How Asian firms and politicians can adopt social media into their strategy

When TV first started, commercials consisted of a presenter standing in front of a microphone reading from a script. Why? Because that was how it had always been done on radio. It took companies a few years to leverage the power of TV but eventually they did and now TV ad spend is estimated to be in the region of US$500 billion annually.

And in the same way as first the radio and then the television changed the way companies pass on information to consumers in the 20th century, social media is changing the way consumers source information about businesses in the 21st century. But social media will have an even bigger impact than radio and television because social media is not only changing the way we make decisions related to brands, social medial is changing the way we do business.

Consumers receive up to 5,000 messages a day
Back in the day, companies used radio and then TV to build brands by developing a one-size-fits-all message and broadcasting that message to as many consumers as possible as often as required. All communications were one way and the messages contained only the information the company wanted to share and the consumer was expected to accept this information and not dispute it. In a more trusting world, with limited competition and smaller markets, consumers were accommodating. Unfortunately, more and more companies adopted the same strategy. Soon consumers were inundated with up to 5,000 messages a day, many of them making increasingly outrageous claims.

Companies were unable to follow through on the promises made in advertising and trust, the key element of any relationship, was eroded. Repeatedly let down, consumers began to look elsewhere for independent information and the truth. They found it with other consumers. Consumers now source their information on brands from other consumers. Today, consumers have the power to make a brand succeed or fail. As consumers learn the truth about a brand, the reputation of companies and their brands is being determined, shaped, altered and increasingly discarded by consumers.

Dynamic process
And it is an ongoing, dynamic process. At any given time, consumers are searching for information on a product or service that has caught their eye. But they are not sourcing that information from TV commercials, the radio or the company website, they are looking to other consumers for the information they require.

And they are doing it, on the whole via social media. And social media is yet another tool that organizations must embrace because it is replacing marketers and the marketing department and other barriers between the organization and the consumer.

Social media cost of entry is low
Social media is not a fad. Those companies that don’t buy into social media will be left behind. But a lot of companies in Malaysia are going to be intimidated at the prospect of opening their virtual doors and giving the general public the opportunity to interface directly with them. But they are going to be talked about anyway so they might as well be part of the conversation. That way at least, they will have the chance to contribute a corporate take on all issues. And the good news is that the cost of entry is low and there are very few barriers to participation.

So what should Malaysian firms do to leverage social media?

1. The first thing they have to understand is that social media is not about you. It is not PR and it is not advertising. Social media is not for the hard sell, it is for engaging prospects and customers and for entering into two way conversations with them. Do this, and you will get opinions on issues that are important to an audience who is interested in your product. If you listen and use this information wisely, you will be able to match your product attributes to your customer requirements for value.

2. Identify which social media platforms you intend to use and develop a strategy to use them. Transparency, consistency, honesty and longevity are key so don’t just jump in and fire away for a fortnight of frantic activity and then get bored and stop communicating.

3. Do some research and find out how your customers are using social media, what platforms and so on. 350,000,000 million people read blogs. Identify which ones your prospects and customers are reading and how can you get involved by responding to articles.

4. Offer forums on your website that allow customers to express freely their experiences of using your products. You’ll be astonished at how valuable the feedback will be as you listen to what really matters to consumers and incorporate the feedback into your strategy.

5. Over time, develop a formal process to monitor and review what consumers are saying about you and where they are saying it. This monitoring will allow you to enter into dialogues that are very personal and transparent. It will also allow you to address negative issues as they arise and before they develop into crises. Casual monitoring will give you a real time view of what is being said but it is resource consuming and may not be as effective as a more formal program via a third party such as BuzzMetrics.

6. Set up blogs for key customer facing departments. Blogs are a great sounding board and instantly engage prospects and customers. Be honest, develop a personality but don’t try to sell your products. Don’t worry if your opinions differ to those of the audience. Open and transparent responses are what your audience is looking for.

7. Social media requires a fresh approach to content. Too many Malaysian firms are simply paying ‘lip service’ to social media. One government agency simply copied and pasted its website onto its Facebook page and then left it for nine months!

8. Social media is a platform for communication and collaboration, not a soapbox. Some companies simply tell followers about special offers. A number of politicians use Twitter to tell everyone what they are doing yet ignore specific issues raised by voters.

So as you embark on your social media strategy, remember that the digital environment is immense and fluid. Understand that you must change the corporate approach of one that aims to push messages onto consumers, to one that aims to listen to what they have and then responds to those issues. Take these first steps and you’ll soon learn to leverage the powers of social media and throw away the script.