• Left Brains.

  • Right Brains.

  • Brand Soul.

Monthly Archives: June 2011


Customer Advocacy and Company Blasphemy

Posted on June 29, 2011 by butch

Last week when I realized we were out of bottled water in our offices at Force 5 a few hours before a potential client was stopping by, I decided to make a quick run to the grocery store.  After loading my cart with some H2O, I quickly made my way to the checkout register.  Along the way I noticed my favorite cookies - old fashioned sugar cookies.   I grabbed a tray and thought, “our guest will like these, and if not, our staff will.”  (Yep, staff members are the most important brand ambassadors you have; so treat them well.)  

So, I’m in line to pay and Ethyl the cashier says, “Look at that!” as she points to the price tag on the cookies, “those cookies are $3.59!”

“I know,” I say, “but man, are they good!”  (I’d bought them at least 5 times before.)

She picks up the clear container and starts for count them out for me, “two, four, six … eightcookies!  I can’t believe how expensive they are.  I wouldn't pay that for just eight  cookies.”

I just smiled and bought my cookies.  I smiled at her manager too, who had listened to the entire conversation. 

Ok.  Ethyl meant well.  She wanted for me what she valued for herself – maximum cookie quantity per dollar spent.  Ethyl wanted me to be happy.   

Unfortunately, Ethyl did the opposite.  In this exchange Ethyl communicated three pretty awful things:

1) You must like to waste money.

2) Apparently you can’t read or count or make decisions.

3) Be careful.  Unless I was here to protect you, this place would screw you over every chance it gets.

There’s a fine line between customer advocacy and company blasphemy.  I’ve found throughout my career that sales people who understand the difference are the ones who are the most successful.  Have you ever run across a salesperson like this and how did they make you feel as a buyer?


Here a brand touchpoint, there a brand touchpoint

Posted on June 27, 2011 by ddefreeuw

This weekend was not unlike many others. Running errands, working in the yard and the garden. Also common, was a trip to the store for supplies. On one such trip to Lowe's, I was impressed by the customer service. While wandering the many aisles, looking lost, I was asked if I needed help, I certainly did. After being taken to the appropriate place for window well covers I went looking for tomato stakes. On my way across the store carrying cumbersome window well covers I was asked if I needed a cart. At this point I felt really good about my shopping experience. After all, I have a number of shopping options for these same items, but I came here. Finding what I needed in the nursery, I ordered mulch. While waiting for help getting the mulch, I notice a group of employees standing around by the registers - waiting to help customers, but also very involved in their own conversation. Part of the conversation went something like this, "hey, you know that lady that comes in here all the time, the one with the accent, really skinny?" "Yeah." "Well, you won't believe what she did..." I am thinking to myself, wow, I wonder if they talk about all their customers? Aside from that uncomfortable conversation, this group was more concerned with their own conversation than really taking care of the customer. Up to this point, I was very impressed with the great service (a brand touchpoint) I had received and that was quickly damaged by this experience. This experience just underscores the importance of brand touchpoints, how one "miss" can damage the brand.


Pent Up

Posted on June 23, 2011 by butch

I read in a brief  from Ad-ology that nearly 35% of U.S. adults said they intend to buy a new or used car in the next 12 months. One explanation is pent up demand.  This means consumers have been holding back on their spending  like a corralled stallion and now they are finally going to let that stud burst out of its pen in a money-spending whirlwind of hooves and mane.

I am hopeful this is the reason that people will be buying cars this year.  Pent up demand suggests that consumers who were once caution-filled about the economy are now optimistic enough to let go of their cash or comfortable enough to take on debt.   This type of demand reflects consumer confidence. 

Another explanation as to why consumers will purchase cars this year is simply because they have to.  That is, they are neither confident nor do they have any greater belief they will remain employed long tern or have more disposable income; they must buy a car.  Their current car is just too old and worn out and to get to work, or to the unemployment office, they need a car.  This type of demand, a replacement demand, reflects consumer fear.

Now don’t get me wrong, regardless of the reason, people buying cars or any product or service will be good for our economy.  Demand creates production, which creates jobs, which encourages spending which creates more demand.  Wonderful!

The challenge for marketers will be determining the latent, emotional cause for their customer's demand:  do customers want to buy or do they have to buy?   The marketing message you send to someone who is afraid should be much different than to someone buying eagerly.  Helping our clients determine their audience and the message they should send them is part of our  Soul Searching™  process here at Force 5 and we'd welcome the opportunity to talk with you about our methodology. Feel free to contact us.

So, will your customers be buying from you like an unleashed stallion this year, or like some other creature?  We'd love to hear your thoughts.


Social Media Trends for 2011

Posted on June 21, 2011 by dmorgan

social mediaIn a May 2011 Report authored by Michael Stelzner and sponsored by Social media Examiner, the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report set out to uncover the "who, what, where, when and why" of social media marketing.

More than 3300 marketers provided insight on the latest trends in Social Media.

Here’s a quick summary of the findings:

Marketers place high value on social media-A significant 90% of marketers indicate that social media is important for their business.

Measurement and integration are top areas marketers want to master-One-third of all social media marketers want to know how to monitor and measure the return on investment (ROI) of social media and integrate their social media activities.

Social media marketing takes a lot of time -The majority of marketers (58%)are using social media for 6 hours or more each week, and more than a third(34%) invest 11 or more hours weekly.

Video marketing on the rise-A significant 77% of marketers plan on increasingtheir use of YouTube and video marketing, making it the top area marketers will invest in for 2011.

Marketers seek to learn more about Facebook and blogging-70% of marketers want to learn more about Facebook and 69% want to learn more about blogging.

The top benefits of social media marketing-The number-one advantage of social media marketing (by a long shot) is generating more business exposure,as indicated by 88% of marketers. Increased traffic (72%) and improved search rankings (62%) were also major advantages.

The top social media tools-Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs were the topfour social media tools used by marketers, in that order. Facebook has eclipsed Twitter to take the top spot since the 2010 study.

Social media outsourcing underutilized-Only 28% of businesses are outsourcing some portion of their social media marketing

You can find the original page for the report here.It’s a 40+ page read—probably not your “summer novel for the beach”—but important. When you can, look it over. At Force 5, we realize Social Media is a tool in the Marketing basket, and a moving target. Reports like this are important to review-Take some time and take a look.


South Bend needs Rebranding

Posted on June 20, 2011 by ddefreeuw

So much has been said about South Bend since it showed up on the "List of Dying Cities." A city much like ours in many ways, Grand Rapids, (also on the list…) put together an incredible video in response. I have lived in South Bend most of my life and I spent 4 years in Grand Rapids attending art school, so I know both cities well. Grand Rapids and South Bend are similar in many ways. They both have a river running through it, a downtown area that has struggled (they tried some things that worked, some that haven't) the arts, beautiful and troubled neighborhoods, great restaurants, theaters, shopping, colleges, etc. Grand Rapids had a great response. They didn’t whine, they didn’t roll over, they didn’t agree. So they developed a rebuttal- a video from people who believe in where they live. It came down to attitude, that positive, "bloom where you are planted" mentality.

There are a lot of great things about South Bend and plenty to do, if you look for them. There is the Morris Performing Arts Center, DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, South Bend Regional Museum of Art, LangLab, football (high school and college), Silver Hawks, Notre Dame, the Farmers Market, the Potawatomi Zoo, Sunburst, the East Race, Meet Me On The Island, Greekfest, Leeper Park Art Fair, Art Beat, etc. etc. We also have amazing restaurants, from fancy to local favorites; LaSalle Grill, Carriage House, Barnaby's, CJ's, The Vine, Trio's - the list goes on.

Do we have some things to work on? Sure, we could be so much more!

Are some of the problems significant? You bet.

So, South Bend needs rebranding! That’s the process of looking at yourself, finding what makes us unique, then look for the "brand gaps" and fill them. Rebranding isn't about slapping a shiny new tagline on the city and expecting things to get better. It's about promoting what's good about the city to our own residents and fixing the problems that need fixing.

Is it really an innovative city with a thriving business environment? If not, then how do we get there? When we can prove it , we can say it! In brand development, we tell our clients that we can’t make statements that aren't true. What we can do is take all the points of distinction and create the brand essence-the statement (with facts) about who we are, and what makes us unique a brand franchise-what we tell others, the “outward” facing statment and perhaps a positioning statement.

All this would be a great start. But we teach our clients that the really important - critical actually, element is brand enculturation. We need to communicate to our residents about our city, and allow them to believe in it as much as many of us do. Everyone needs to believe in the brand promise and become evangelists for the brand. Think Harley or Google—that’s what we mean by brand enculturation.

We need to change our attitude about where we live, I have heard so many people complain about living here. Let's hear some solutions. What do you think is missing? What are the problems that are making the city undesirable? Granted there are certain things we can't change, like the weather, but we have to look at the donut, not the hole.

These days when I take a random poll of people I come across in my daily ventures, I ask them "What do you think of South Bend?" I get answers like, "I can't wait to leave it, there is nothing to do," "The public schools are crap," "It's boring." If I was from out of town and asked these questions, and got these kind of responses - what would I think?? These people live here and they aren't proud of their city.

After the city, and it's people, do the heaving lifting and fill the brand gaps, we turn our community around to a place people are proud to live -THEN we tell the world.

So, let's quit bellyaching and make some positive changes. At Force 5 we’re all about brand and community, we live here and have our business here - we're in it to win it, are you with us?

If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.
Henry Ford.


Be careful delivering that brand!

Posted on June 17, 2011 by ddefreeuw

I have to say I have a love-hate relationship with Jimmy John's. I love the sandwiches, they are good and freaky fast. The thing I am not so enamored with is walking into the restaurant and having the majority of the folks working behind the counter yell "HELLO" at me. Most don't even look up, it feels more like a pavlovian response to someone walking in the door rather than anyone really caring that I am there or not. The girl at the counter today didn't even look at me when she was taking my order. My sense is that they are trying to create a hustle-bustle, friendly atmosphere, and for me this misses the mark. Then, when I leave everyone yells "GOODBYE" to me - truthfully it makes me more uncomfortable than anything. I do my best to leave unnoticed if possible.

The lesson here is, if your business has a brand that is centered around a particular feeling or personality - make sure when it is delivered, it is genuine. People see right through it when it's not!


The Cost of Free

Posted on June 16, 2011 by butch

I emailed a respected marketer and he made a statement that was quite profound.  He said, “Free stuff we’ll take all day long.  But I also don’t want to work with somebody who gives away their products or services too cheap – if they can’t sell their own stuff, how can they help me sell mine?”

I loved his perspective in a time when open source code, free downloads, Groupons, free newsletters, “kids eat free,” are running rampant.  People seem to crave “free” and statistically, they move in big numbers when the see the word “free” attached to a marketing campaign.  However, I have big concerns with “free” (or the ridiculously reduced.)

As I wrote in an earlier post about scarcity, for things to be valuable people must perceive them as both a) useful and b) scarce.  So, when we say something is “free” (meaning zero monetary value) people intuit that the service or good is either not very useful to them or it is abundantly available to all.  Free lowers perceived value.

Another reason I am concerned about free is that people intrinsically intuit that “nothing is free.”  So, clients assume there are strings or other cost attached.  For example, our developers utilize an amazing open-source CMS/CMF called Drupal.  This PHP-based code is available to us and everyone for no cash outlay.  However, learning Drupal has been anything but free to Force 5.  Our team has invested scores and scores of unbillable R&D hours to learn this protocol.  “Free” usually has a cost attached - somewhere.

So, why are so many sales people and marketers using  “free” (or ridiculously under-priced)  to gain business?  For me, there are only four plausible explanations:

1) You are lowering the barrier to entry.  Free trials can lead to sales but they must be made scarce; meaning they are limited.  Free one time to get to know your product or service.  After that, it’s time to charge – drug dealers have known this for years.

2) You are relying on the social norm of reciprocity.  (You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.)  This is a risky approach.  As I mentioned, people usually assume “nothing is for free” so they will take and take from you with little compulsion to give you anything in return.

3) You don’t believe your product or service is really very valuable.  If this is the case, it’s time for a gut check.  It’s time to evaluate and change your product or service to meet the demands of a crazily competitive market.

4) You’re a little lazy or at least not very creative.  Free is easy.  Free is fast.  Free is simple. Free creates a lot of activity.  Free doesn't require you to make a compelling case for your product.  Maybe it's time to work on your marketing or selling skills, at least a little. 

So the question must be asked:  Are you overusing “free" and at what cost?


Hey Buddy, wanna deal?

Posted on June 14, 2011 by dmorgan

credit: Rocky Ayrawal

Hey, Want a deal? Ok, here it is….I’ll give you $2,500—1/3 now, 1/3 in 30 days, and the final 1/3 in 60. You give my customers $10,000 in retail business from your shop. How does that sound?

That’s a Groupon deal.

The “daily deal” industry structures their deals so that the retailer must be very careful about the deal they are getting.
Generally, a company like Groupon wants you to give a 50% deal ($10,000 worth of stuff for $5,000)—then they take 50% of the income from the sale of the coupons. Will you get customers in your door? Sure….But here are two questions you must consider.

1-Will the people who take advantage of my coupon be existing customers?
2-If they are new, will they return?

The problem is we don’t know the answer. If we have a lot of number 1, we lose money. We just gave away a 75% deal…to an existing customer!
If we have a lot of the second group, and they don’t return, we lose money too. Are people returning? Its too early to tell. We know that Groupon is making money, but will you?

There are many more factors in the daily deal scenario that needs to be scrutenized by the savvy business person. So be careful. Usually, (and depending on your type of business) couponing isn’t a bad strategy---but how many 75% off deals can you afford?

To see the original article from Rocky Ayrawal, Tech Crunch


What I love about the internet

Posted on June 9, 2011 by ddefreeuw

For many of us, the internet is an integral part of our lives. Aside from my personal use to book trips, make online purchases and get directions through MapQuest, my focus is generally how it is used as a tool for businesses. I read about best practices in website building, the latest CMS technology, trends, internet marketing, etc. Recently, I have ran across a few examples of incredible websites which were focused on good works and realized that I love that aspect of the web, bringing a community together to help solve a problem.

The first example is 300house.com. “The goal is to design, build, and deploy a simple dwelling which keeps a family safe from the weather, allows them to sleep at night, and gives them a little bit of dignity. If we can give the poor a chance to live safely and build an inclusive ecosystem of services around them which includes, clean water, sanitation, health services, family planning, education, and micro enterprise, maybe we can start reducing the disease of poverty.” What an amazing goal. I joined their Google Group and love hearing about all the ideas and even hearing the naysayers point of view. I am learning about everything from cultural differences to building techniques. I hope a $300 house becomes a reality and the power of a community shines! In my mind, it already shines with the exchange of ideas and passion that people all over the world have to help end homelessness.

Another incredible site is Sparked.com, where people can microvolunteer! Nonprofits sign up and post their “challenges”. When a microvolunteer logs into Sparked, their challenge-matching engine recommends a series of challenges based on the person's skills and interests profile. The volunteer opportunities are meant to take only a short period of time.  It might be editing or copywriting an article, or upgrading their web copy.  It might be web research, design—something that might take just a few minutes.  Wouldn't it be great to impact the world from your desk while on a coffee break?  You can do that with the internet. 

So take a look at your community—that group of like minded folks that care about the things you do—whether that be animals, civil rights, health, poverty, or a host of other things.  Can you do something for your community through the internet?  Now there are more and more opportunities to make that happen. Take a few minutes today and help the world.


Friend us on Facebook!

Posted on June 8, 2011 by dmorgan

DiscoverForce5.comWe see this phrase all the time. But as we dive deeper into the motivations of social network users, we see folks connect with Brands for many different reasons.

I have a facebook friend that raves about a particular women’s clothing line. In my opinion, she’s a huge brand ambassador. So much so, that if I needed to purchase a woman’s clothing item for a gift, I’d check out their site. Before seeing my friend’s posts, I have never heard of this brand before. Her posts aren’t about deals or promotions, they’re about quality and style.

I thought about this from a brand perspective.

According to a Feb, 2011 Affluence Collaborative survey, wealthy internet users connect with brands on social networks for different reasons than the general population.

Among the general population, the main reason cited for connecting with brands on social networks was to receive deals and discounts. But this is a much lower priority for the wealthy. Their top reasons for following brands were due to a preexisting affinity for and a desire to be kept informed about the brand. (As a side note, the least-cited reason mentioned by all groups surveyed was to be entertained, suggesting that social media marketers still need to provide fans with value, even if it isn’t directly in the form of a coupon or sale.)

These findings coincide with earlier research from ExactTarget, which showed that a huge component of liking a brand on Facebook was due not just to an affinity, but as a means of self-expression for others to see. This promotional desire was more pronounced in Facebook users than Twitter followers or email subscribers. “Affluents” then, in their “love of the brands” they connect with, are largely acting as brand ambassadors.

Data from the study also reveals that the affluent aren’t using the same social networks as the general population. Facebook was the No. 1 social network used by all groups surveyed, but LinkedIn and Twitter attracted affluent internet users at nearly double the rate of the general population.

Our take away from the study?.... Any marketer targeting affluent consumers needs to know not only where to reach that audience, but what appeals to them. For wealthy internet users, connecting with a brand is largely about the brand itself, not gimmicks and offers. Affluents need to see a consistent message that makes following a brand meaningful for self-expression, just like when buying a brand in real life.
But I don’t think this idea just applies to the affluent—It’s the Brand ambassador we all want to be our friend. The person who “likes” us because of our brand-our quality, our customer service, our distinction in the marketplace.

Keep your brand consistent throughout all of your social media efforts. Your ambassadors, wealthy or not, expect it.