Here are all of the posts tagged ‘brands’.

Social Brands: Augmented Experiences

by Simon Kemp in News

When people buy brands, they’re usually paying for something more than a core product or service.

For example, they don’t really pay for the liquid inside a shampoo bottle; they pay for beautiful hair, and for the confidence which that brings.

Ultimately, people pay for benefits; products and services are simply a means to an end.

The most successful brands understand that broader, benefit-led marketing allows them to extend their impact beyond core products and services to deliver ‘augmented’ offerings that create far greater value to both them and their audiences.

This approach applies to brands across almost all categories:

  • Nike sees large-scale participative events like its We Run races as core revenue streams in their own right, not just activities designed to increase sales of the brand’s apparel.
  • Apple’s App Stores and iTunes Store move the brand from a manufacturer to a lifestyle brand whose impact extends well beyond the technology sector.
  • Madonna purportedly earns more money from concert ticket and merchandise sales than she does from album sales.
  • Red Bull has gone so far as to reposition itself as a ‘media and experiences company’, using its ‘extreme stimulation’ proposition to extend the brand’s offering well beyond its heritage of energy drinks.
  • American Express doesn’t just offer payment services to its merchants; it uses activities like its OPEN forum and Small Business Saturday initiatives to become an overall ‘partner in success’.

It’s clear to see why this approach works: augmented experiences offer people something more than a mere means to an end, and as a result, they succeed in delivering a differentiated value proposition that people are willing to pay more for.

Moreover, these experiences are inherently more ‘social’ than simple products and services too – it’s easier for people to share an experience than it is for them to share most products.

Critically, there are also more compelling reasons for people to talk about great experiences than there are for them to recommend specific products.

As a result, augmented experiences can inspire a social media impact that extends well beyond the reach of customer reviews or the brand’s own social media posts.

So, when it comes to your brand’s social media, don’t just think about how you’ll drive greater engagement with your own social media posts; use augmented experiences to inspire organic audience conversations, and become a brand that’s always worth talking about.

Read more in the Social Brands series by clicking here.

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Social Brands: Listen and Learn

by Simon Kemp in News

As we saw in a previous post in this Social Brands series, marketing is all about creating mutually beneficial exchanges of value.

The nature of that value exchange will vary between brands and audiences and over time, but in order for marketers to deliver maximum value to their brands, it holds that they need to understand what value looks like for their audiences.

This isn’t just a case of asking people what they want, though; as Steve Jobs astutely pointed out,

It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” (from this great collection of Jobs quotes)

If you want to deliver real value to people, you need to understand them as people: their behaviour, their attitudes and beliefs, their motivations… In short, you need to understand their lives.

Conventional marketing research is great at finding specific answers to specific questions, but the real magic for marketers lies in modern-day anthropology – not the 19th Century ‘home-stay in Borneo’ variety, but a fresh, always-on digital approach to meaningful people-watching.

Enter Social Media Listening
Every day, hundreds of millions of people all over the world share valuable insights and information about themselves via publicly accessible social media.

Not all of these posts mention brands, but that doesn’t mean they’re not of value to marketers.

Indeed, almost all public posts can help inquisitive marketers to build a rich understanding of their audiences that they couldn’t gather elsewhere.

Even the much-bemoaned practice of posting “photos of my lunch” can reveal powerful insights into an audiences’ worldview: do they opt for expensive restaurants? Do they look for healthy alternatives? Do they mention brand names or generic topics?

When we explore people’s social media activities with an open mind, we’re almost certain to find something of value.

However, almost all marketers miss this value, because they’re too busy ‘listening’ for explicit mentions of brand names or campaign hashtags.

As a result, we’re leaving far too many rich insights uncovered in the feed.

Big Data vs Big Insights
One of the reasons we’re missing this value is that marketers are often too egocentric when it comes to their brands.

This isn’t a judgment on marketers as people, mind – more often than not, this selfish focus is driven by a the demands of the quarterly sales cycle, and the quick wins that are invariably the easiest ways to achieve short-term targets often come at the cost of seeing (or seizing) bigger, longer-term opportunities.

This focus on ‘delivering the numbers’ means marketers spend too much time looking for ways to insert themselves into conversation.

Put simply, we spend too much time looking for opportunities to interrupt people.

But it doesn’t need to be that way.

Indeed, this interruptive approach – even though it’s become ‘industry standard’ – contravenes one of the most important rules of effective communication: when you’re talking with someone, actively listen to what they’re saying, and don’t simply wait for your turn to speak.

Sadly, too many brands don’t even wait for their turn to speak though; they’ve become used to interrupting audiences whenever they have sufficient budget.

Even amongst those brands that do listen, most only do so on an ad-hoc basis, usually by using traditional market research techniques to ask a series of brand-oriented questions.

This approach does offer a certain value, of course, but the danger is that marketers only pay attention to a summary of aggregated findings, and miss out on the opportunity to dig deeper into the motivations and contexts behind people’s statements and behaviour.

In order to become more successful, marketers need to move beyond this ‘brand egocentrism’, and start to think of their brand’s activities in the broader context of people’s whole lives.

We need to spend more time actively getting to know our audiences, and being personally involved in the listening process.

Social Listening vs Social Monitoring
Fortunately, rich insights are readily available to marketers with the willingness to listen.

By paying attention to the statements and conversations that people share in public social media, we can gain a far deeper understanding of what people actually want, need and desire.

We don’t need to collect everything in one go, either; by spending just 5 minutes a day actively listening to the conversations of a subset of your audience, you’ll quickly gain an affinity for the things they care about.

More importantly, these insights can add value well beyond your social media activities too; most people (i.e. non-marketers) use social media to talk about a wide variety of their everyday lives, so proactive listening can inform every aspect of your brand’s value proposition: advertising, packaging, CSR opportunities, in-store activities, and even R&D:

We Are Social - Brand Value Via Social Listening

In order to do this effectively, though, we need to move beyond ‘ego monitoring’.

Instead of listening only to what people are saying about your brand, use more generic keyword terms in your searches.

For example, if you’re a shampoo brand, don’t just listen out for mentions of Pantene, Dove and Head & Shoulders; ultimately, people don’t pay for shampoo, they pay for beautiful hair, so listen out for the broader conversations they’re having about hair.

By adopting this broader approach, you’ll quickly gain insights into people’s problems and motivations, their preferences and their needs.

Furthermore, by moving beyond the simplistic measurement of ego metrics like share of voice or campaign engagement, you’ll start to find opportunities to join organic audience conversations where your brand can actually add real value, without needing to interrupt them.

We Are Social - Listen & Measure

The bigger opportunity in social media listening is that it can help us use communications to add value and become welcome participants in bigger conversations.

Getting Started
The first step towards uncovering these rich insights is to identify who you want to listen to.

Don’t restrict this definition to your consumers; listening to broader groups such as influencers, advocates, detractors and even NGOs and regulators can help add rich and unexpected insights.

Once you’ve defined your audience, you’ll need to find where they are in public social media.

You don’t need to find everyone in your audience of course, and you certainly don’t need to analyse every one of their posts.

The way I usually get started is to find a few dozen people talking about something generic (but brand-relevant) on Twitter, and then read through some of their other recent posts. Inevitably this will include some photos of lunch, but I start to get an affinity for who they are as real people.

Once you do this a few times, you’ll probably want to adopt a more systematic approach.

Start by putting together a simple list of keywords, and make a regular ‘appointment’ to listen to the people who’re talking about them.

Select a few people from these conversations at random, and take some time to listen to what they’re saying about other things too; this way, you’ll quickly build up an intuitive understanding of your audience that goes well beyond demographics.

Using social listening tools can help make your anthropological efforts more effective too; harness the power of always-on listening tools like Tweetdeck and HootSuite, as well as powerful aggregators like Sysomos and Radian6.

There’s a host of great, free listening tools out there too, so don’t let budgets stop you – I regularly use socialmention, addictomatic and twazzup, and great new tools launch all the time.

Once you have your tools set up, you’ll only need to listen for a few minutes every day before you start to identify new ways to add value to your audiences’ lives and to your brand’s bottom line.

Go on, try it out now.

This post first appeared on The Wall Blog. To read more in the Social Brands & The Future of Marketing series, click here.

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19% of tweets mention brands

by Violette Vérité in News Google+

The hype around Twitter doesn’t seem to be slowing down, however few research papers have been published so far about it. So it’s with a gleeful smile that I welcomed the results of the academic study of the phenomenon published by Professor Jim Jansen and his team at Penn State University. They analysed nearly 150,000 tweets to understand how brands were mentioned on microblogging tools like Twitter.

I will focus this post on the results, but feel free to check for yourselves the methods that have been used, they’re very well detailed in the report paper.

Around 19% of tweets mention an organization or a product. Of these:

  • 1 out 5 tweets express a sentiment or an opinion, either positive (for 52% of them), negative (33%) or neutral (15%)
  • 4 out of 5 tweets are not associated with a sentiment, they are mostly questions and answers. People are seeking details missing from their usual source of information and helping others with their findings.

This latest data is additional proof that brands and products are at the heart of online conversations. Conversation strategies are a requirement for brands and it should be part of an overall strategy. A conversation strategy can be used, for example, to understand why a product is more popular than another, and what could be improved as far as service and customer relationship are concerned. It might also help to discover a problem with a product already on the market and identify what remedy could be taken; users generally have very insightful inputs that should be taken into account.

Listening and responding are even more important, in that they help brands greatly when they want to start a conversation with their customers, or any other people out there.

If most of the tweets about a brand are questions, brands themselves can provide fast and reliable information, which I have no doubt will have a positive impact on the prospect/brand relationship, and then on the client/brand relationship. That’s what Robin was saying when he explained that it was important to “engage in conversations in social media

Furthermore, the study shows that there can be a massive swing in sentiment from a studied period to another.

It’s probably obvious to all of you who are reading this, but conversations need constant monitoring, whether they happen on Twitter or elsewhere. It doesn’t stop at weekends: buying patterns and therefore exposure to corporate messages evolve constantly, and the strength of a brand is its ability to identify these variations and adapt to them. When We Are Social work on conversation audits for our clients, we often analyse the reactions of individuals to a brand at a precise moment, for example after the launch of a new TV ad campaign.

With the rise of microblogging, clients and individuals are exposed to a constant stream of information and opinions and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. These are rarely monitored by brands, so it’s high time for them to have a look and engage!

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What’s Next In Marketing & Advertising

by Robin Grant in News Google+

A nice reprise of the the classic What’s Next In Marketing & Advertising from Paul Isakson.

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Big brands embracing social media

by Chris Applegate in News Google+

Thinking Digital has been one of the most varied and stimulating events I’ve been to and it’s no surprise there’s been a lot of talk about social media and engaging your consumers.

Alex Hunter (@cubedweller on Twitter), who was also a panellist at the social media masterclass, had a talk of his own at the conference yesterday. Alex is head of web at Virgin Group, and a true social media evangelist. He talked about how he’s reshaping the Virgin Group website and transforming it into a social platform for Virgin’s customers. Much of his talk drew from the Cluetrain Manifesto but wasn’t just a rehash of that; he shared his own thoughts. He emphasised that people don’t want to talk to brands, they want to talk to people – and so Virgin has put people as part of its strategy, helped by the fact it’s one of the few brands already inextricably associated with a person, namely Richard Branson.

Interesting, of all the corporate blogs, Alex regards Digg‘s as the best – not just because it’s written by the guys at the top like Kevin Rose, but because there is a multiplicity of voices and they respond to their fans. But then, as a social media site, Digg know the audience they’re blogging for, and as a new brand they’re more confident in experimenting. It’s harder for non-tech brands, so I’d use Digg as one example of good corporate blogging, but not the only one.

Alex was evangelistic about embracing social media in the business word, and made it clear it works for brands big and small (citing Qype and Zappos as examples). We also got some insights in the new Virgin philosophy – they have “labs”-style projects at Explore Virgin, which has produced Virgin Eye a beautiful visualisation of mentions of their brands on the web (from over 5,000 sources).

This isn’t just dabbling, however. Virgin plan to relaunch their website as a social platform, opening up to allow people to talk about their brand and products and upload their own content. They’ve been savvy to link up with Digg and Facebook Connect to utilise existing social media properties rather than reinvent the wheel. They have also put an impressive effort into research – a year and a half listening, researching and creating before launching their new social platform to make sure it fits the people who use it. It was an impressive example to others: not just in how to embrace social media, but how important it is to know the community you want to build around.

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