Tag Archives: Consumer

This is a week for friends and family as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday. Most of what’s being advertised, based on my narrow sample of one, are cars and drugs. Admittedly, my viewing tends towards news and live sports with a smattering of public TV shows and other entertainment. I scroll through the commercials in the latter category but I can still get a sense of what’s being marketed.

Photo by +Simple on Unsplash

Why I raise this is that it seems to me to be a missed opportunity. As I initially stated, this is a week where friends and family gather, and when they’re not stuffing their faces or yelling at football, they talk. Among other things, I’m sure they talk about services they’ve used, places they’ve eaten, and prodcuts they’ve bought. It makes total sense that research shows that nearly three times as many people said content from friends and family influences their purchase decisions compared to content from celebrities. You can imagine how powerful it is when that “content” is delivered in person at Thanksgiving.

The research – The 2017 Consumer Content Report: Influence in the Digital Age, by Stakla – also found that

  • On average, people are able to identify if an image was created by a professional or brand vs. generated by a consumer, 70% of the time.
  • Consumers are three times more likely to say that content created by a consumer is authentic compared to content created by a brand
  • On average, 60% of consumers say content from a friend or family member influences their purchases decisions, while just 23% of consumers say content from celebrities influenced their purchasing decisions
  • People want to see content from people they know or that they can relate to.

I’m not suggesting that some brand co-opt Aunt Sally into being a hidden spokesperson nor that some product unleashes an army of Aunt Sallys into every table. I do think, however, that there is an opportunity around this time of year to focus your brand and your marketing so that you’re top of mind as the conversations are taking place. If sharing is caring, your customers need to care enough to do so and this is the best time of year for that to happen. What are you doing to help them with that?

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What’s In It For Me?

There are an awful lot of demands made for consumers‘ attention. Think about how often you’re assaulted by someone or something that’s begging you to pay attention. Nobody can pay attention to every one of these things so how can you have a better shot at being one of the chosen few? It’s by answering a simple question for the target- “what’s in it for me?”

I’ve written on a number of occasions about the need to solve someone’s problem. In fact, if you’re not identifying the problem you’re solving in your marketing materials, there is a high likelihood that those messages are being ignored by the people you most want to respond to them. Think about walking down the streets of a crowded city.  There is a lot of noise around you and yet it’s possible to have a quiet conversation with someone who is walking beside you.  You’ve both learned to tune out what’s unimportant.  That’s what consumers do to messages that don’t pique any interest. You need to engage consumers in a meaningful way.

One way to do this – and hopefully I’m doing it now – is to give those consumers something of value.  We humans have a strong need to reciprocate so by giving people something of value you encourage a more open mindset.  It can be information (Free Whitepaper!).  It can be a discount or a nicely targeted product (a free shirt to people buying shorts, for example). The point is to give them something to let them know what’s in it for them.  What you want back can be as simple as an email or something more complex.

Solve problems.  Give value.  Do both from the customer’s point of view.  Pretty simple, right?  Then let’s go!

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Pew, Privacy, and You

I think we all know that Big Brother is watching.  Putting aside what the government may or may not be doing (no politics here!), most people are aware that every move of their digital lives is cataloged, analyzed, and might be sold to someone.  The Pew folks released a study about how we (Americans) feel about that.  In Pew’s words: 

While many Americans are willing to share personal information in exchange for tangible benefits, they are often cautious about disclosing their information and frequently unhappy about what happens to that information once companies have collected it… Many people expressed concerns about the safety and security of their personal data in light of numerous high-profile data breaches. They also regularly expressed anger about the barrage of unsolicited emails, phone calls, customized ads or other contacts that inevitably arises when they elect to share some information about themselves.

Let’s drill down a bit.  The phrase “context-specific and contingent” is a good one to guide us as we think about how to set up a mutually beneficial relationship with the consumer.  First, what benefit is the visitor deriving from giving me their information?  Is it content?  If so, is that content so unique and of such high-quality that they feel it’s an equal exchange or is it just commodity content, something reprinted from some other source?  That contextual decision isn’t yours, by the way: it’s the consumer’s.

Second, what happens to that data after the consumer surrenders it?  Do consumers feel you are a trustworthy repository for their information or are you selling it to anyone regardless of what that third party’s intentions are? The consumer’s initial value exchange with you might be fine, but the subsequent actions by someone else may render that satisfaction null and void. Even if you’re retaining the data, are you doing “creepy” things with it such as constantly remarketing to the consumer so they feel as if they have a stalker in their lives?

While people are used to the notion that privacy is a disappearing concept (for better or for worse), that fact doesn’t mean that they don’t care.  As Pew found, they do care.  I think there is always room for a company to gain an advantage by being transparent and respectful about how they are using the data consumers share with them.  You?

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Coffee, Burned

Foodie Friday has come around again and this week it brings us coffee. The folks at Keurig manufacture coffee makers and the pods that hold the coffee itself. They had an earnings call the other day and it brought out some very valuable lessons for all of us. Keurig’s financial results were not good and their stock has been hammered subsequent to the announcement. That’s not so instructive but the reasons why certainly are.

You might have one of these machines. If you do, you’re aware that the pods are both very expensive and not particularly earth-friendly. As what I consider to be a consumer-friendly nod to that, Keurig also makes a little reusable pod that you can fill with your favorite coffee. It’s less expensive, I find it makes better coffee, and the coffee grounds are the only trash. Of course if you want to go the single use pod route, there are lots of sources for them other than the “official” Keurig partners.

Keurig introduced its new flagship machine recently and there were some changes. First, the machine would only accept “official” Keurig pods – sort of Coffee Rights Management. The interwebs quickly figured out how to bypass this but the fact that it was deployed at all demonstrated Keurig’s thinking. Next, the reusable pod doesn’t fit in the new machine nor has Keurig made one. You MUST buy disposable pods.

Why would Keurig do this? Simple – the profit margin on the pods is huge. The results? Sales of coffee machines and accessories are down 23% in the last year and Keurig was forced to lower its 2015 sales forecast. Oops.

Of course, it’s not Keurig’s fault, at least not in their minds. “Some of this was due to consumer confusion around pod compatibility.” That’s the CEO on the earnings call.  OK, we’re dumb, but at least you admit you were too:

…we took the My K-cup away and quite honestly we’re wrong. We missed, we didn’t – we underestimated, it’s the easiest way to say, we underestimated the passion that consumer had for this. And when we did it, and we realized it, we’re bringing it back because it was we missed it.

The lessons are pretty apparent.  Don’t build your business around a plan that conflicts with your customers.  If they like a product, make it better or less expensive, or both.  Don’t take it away because you think it might improve your profits.  When something you’ve done isn’t accepted or working the way you planned, alluding to “consumer confusion” without admitting you caused it is narcissistic.  Frankly, for many people I know their morning K-Cup is not consumed with a desire for great coffee – it’s fast, it’s convenient, and they get over their guilt about polluting by the time they race out the door.  Getting those people angry by taking away choice in what they put into the machine isn’t growing the business – quite the opposite.

No business can overcome crappy product reviews (the new machine failed miserably) and consumer resentment over less choice.  Keurig’s results demonstrate that very well.  Any questions?

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What Price Ethics?

So here is an interesting question for you.  I was reading the results of a study conducted by the good folks from Trade Extensions that concerned how consumers view ethics and sustainability and how they affect purchasing decisions.  When you ask people how important it is that companies behave ethically and with an eye towards sustainability, four out of five consumers regard it as important.  That would suggest that doing the right thing (whatever that may be) is a critical factor in purchasing, right?

Not so much:

When asked to rank the three most important attributes when shopping, the most important factor is price – 40% of consumers ranked this number one.  The second most important factor is value for money – 30% ranked this number one. And the third most important factor is quality –  16% ranked this number one.  Choosing an ethical company or brand when shopping is the most important factor and ranked number one for 2% of UK and US consumers.

Hmm.  So is that a license for a company to do whatever they want as long as prices are low?  Given some of the voices speaking out against Walmart, for example, over things such as foreign product sourcing, treatment of product suppliers, environmental practices, etc., apparently not.  Like most things in business, it’s not quite that black and white.  The research shows a desire from consumers to buy ethically but ultimately price, value and quality are the deciding factors.

Other studies have shown similar results.  One from Accenture found that sales and competitive pricing (61%) are by far the most critical factors in getting consumers to make a purchase. Superior products (36%) and customer experience (35%) are also key, according to respondents, followed closely by customer loyalty programs (31%) and relevant promotions (26%). Ad campaigns and celebrity endorsements trailed by a significant margin, presumably as they’re more influential in driving awareness than completed purchases.

So back to ethical behavior.  Can any company afford to ignore it?  I suspect it’s very possible to do good while doing well and to enhance the quality of consumer’s lives in an honorable way.  Maybe it’s not much of a selling point because so few companies have that focus?  What is your take?

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Filed under Consulting, Reality checks, Thinking Aloud

I Need To Know

I was reading about a study done by the Nielsen folks which measured how people are influenced by different sources of information.

Tom Petty

Since it’s Tuesday and we usually turn it into TunesDay, the song that popped into my head is Tom Petty‘s “I Need To Know.” OK, maybe not my best musical connection to a business point ever, but I think you’ll see why I chose it.

The Nielsen/inPowered MediaLab study measured the impact of product reviews by users, experts and brands to understand if one form provided a higher impact with consumers than another.  You can read about the study here.  The results show that expert content— credible, third-party articles and reviews—is the most effective source of information in impacting consumers along all stages of the purchase process across product categories. Frankly, the results gave me hope.  After all, many of the marketing tactics I see suggested by some of my less scrupulous peers seem not to have the sort of impact their advocates would suggest.  Advertising disguised as content, fake reviews, or even “unbiased” product information on the company website seem to have been sussed out and dismissed by consumers if one believes the data.  I particularly liked this:

The perceived partiality of the source was especially critical in setting expert content and branded content apart. The third-party element was important to consumers: 50% indicated that they wouldn’t trust a product’s branded website for an unbiased assessment of a product, and 61% were less likely to trust product reviews paid for by the company selling the product. Expert content can provide an unbiased and honest assessment of a product, particularly important during the final stage of purchase consideration.

There are cases such as with video game reviews where user comments and reviews are perceived highly.  Obviously someone who has played the game has the low-level of expertise needed to be reliable and trustworthy.  As the report I read states:

The report concludes by noting that, overall, the research suggests that there is a higher degree of trust from consumers when they are reading content from credible, third-party experts. This trust is demonstrated by the higher lift scores with regard to product familiarity, affinity and purchase intent and its perception of being highly informative and unbiased.

So what the song says is appropriate because consumers do need to know and do a lot of research to find out:

I need to know, I need to know
Cause I don’t know how long I can hold on
If you’re making me wait, if you’re leadin’ me on
I need to know

Even if the above refers to a romantic relationship and not to a purchase.  Then again, isn’t that sort of what a product purchase is?

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Most Read Posts Of 2013 – Part 5

For our final installment of last year’s most read posts, I present one that was published way back in January.  This was the most read post I wrote last year which I find surprising. Given that it was originally called “The Most Effective Marketing Words” (link bait alert!), maybe not.  As I read it again today I realize that it’s a good basic overview of a few of the marketing tenets I hold near and dear.  Let’s see if they resonate with you.

Since I seem to be emptying my “possible posts” research folder this week, here is something recent that comes to us from the good folks at Weber Shandwick.

It’s a study called “Buy It, Try It, Rate It” and you can read the study here.  While this may fall into the “duh” category of research, the study found that consumer reviewers trump professional reviewers as the key purchase influencers and further shows that 65 percent of potential consumer electronics purchasers are inspired by a consumer review to select a brand that had not been in their original consideration set.  It turns out that the average buyer consults 11 consumer reviews as they get ready to purchase.   A few other key findings:

  • Consumers report that they pay more attention to consumer reviews (77 percent) than professional critic reviews (23 percent). The gap between consumer and professional reviews closes noticeably, but not entirely, for more advanced technologies like tablets and computers.
  • The most influential reviews include certain elements. In consumer reviews, the most helpful ones are those that seem fair and reasonable (32 percent), are well-written (27 percent) and contain statistics, specifications and technical data (25 percent).
  • Shoppers trust consumer reviews on Amazon.com (84 percent) and BestBuy.com (75 percent) the most, topping Consumer Reports (72 percent). Consumers show no apparent discomfort in getting their research from a seller of the products they’re considering.

This gets to the notion of authenticity.  I’ve remarked to some people that the next review I find in a golf magazine which gives a bad review to a piece of equipment will be the first.  It’s pretty obvious that without golf manufacturers advertising in the books most of the publications would be in deep financial trouble.  Professionally generated content about electronics, cars, and other goods can have the same skew, or at least raise the issue in consumers‘ minds as the study shows.  What can you do as a brand?

First, be transparent.  This means, among other things, don’t do everything you can to have negative reviews pulled down and certainly don’t censor them on your own site.  Second, as the study suggests,

companies need dedicated resources to manage social network communities for purposes that go beyond branded content. An online community manager should be encouraging customers to review products, disseminating positive customer and professional reviews through social channels, and working in tandem with customer service to respond to customer feedback or issues quickly.

Third, be authentic.  Don’t use marketing speak – write as if you are a consumer.  Finally, don’t be afraid to engage on other sites – Amazon, for example – which have become so influential in the process.  Do so openly though.

The most effective marketing words are those coming out of consumers’  mouths.  While we as marketers can’t put them there, we can listen carefully and respond honestly   That can help make sure those words are positive.  You agree?

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