Posts Tagged ‘Customer Interaction’

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Marketing Strategy: Comparethemeerkat.com

May 14, 2009

Alexander Mikhailovich Orlov was a Soviet espionage administrator, who defected to the U.S. in 1938, warned Leon Trotsky of his impending assassination (read more here). Nevertheless, for the last four months “Aleksandr Orlov” the meerkat with a Russian accent broadcasts on TV in order to reassure people that they should not get confused between the two pages; comparethemarket.com and comparethemeerkat.com. He explains that lately many people have been misspelling the words when looking for price-comparison site Compare The Market in search engines and landing on his page Compare The Meerkat when trying to find a cheap car insurance. If you have not seen the TV ad yet, please see it yourself:

I remember seeing that clip for the first time and wondering a little about its sense. However, despite some doubts the ad caught my attention as well as the attention of many others. Being curious I went to investigate a bit to find out more myself. Compare The Market is a price-comparison website, which aims to provide its customers with the most beneficial and cheapest quotes from various major organisations offering car, travel or home insurances; credit cards; mortgages; loans etc. Some examples of such organisations include The AA, HSBC, Nationwide and the Post Office. Compare The Meerkat is a site founded by the Russian meerkat entrepreneur Alexandr, who claims to be a member of the Russian aristocracy and lives in Moscow. His site provides information about various meerkats, their origins, hobbies and favourite activities. A month later another clip appears, where he claims that there is a big difference between his page, comparethemeerkat.com and the price-comparison site comparethemarket.com, by playing both jingles that sound pretty much identical.

Aleksandr Orlov's Twitter Page

Aleksandr Orlov's Twitter Page

After getting lots of positive response and people liking these adverts, Aleksander did not rest on his laurels. He created an account on social networking site Twitter gaining great response within only a few days and currently has 14,935 followers (see his page here). Hence, Aleksandr took advantage craftily of the numerous branding and social networking opportunities delivered by Twitter.

Matching his character his account provides funny and light-hearted content, which is also adding value through a personal touch to the brand itself as well as and additional level of online customer support. According to Revolutionmagazine Aleksandr even encouraged his Twitter followers to leave statements on how they like the business in order to create a testimonial area on Comparethemeerkat.com with their comments and photographs (read full story here).

Aleksandr also has created a Facebook page (here you can see his profile) with stunning 409,565 “fans” where he similarly to Twitter discusses funny stories and jokes with people who have signed up for him.

Aleksandr Orlov on Facebook

Aleksandr Orlov on Facebook

Both, Twitter and Facebook show high potential for customer interaction and also very high response rate from people involved. In marketing terms that can be seen as brand management and reputation building from a funny and relaxed perspective: people start to like Aleksandr and part of their affection will be transformed to Compare The Market eventually. Moreover, there is also a profile on YouTube (see here) where people have signed up as followers and leave comments on the videos. It seems that people are highly enthusiastic in communicating with Aleksandr. On all pages high interaction between customers and “Aleksandr” is apparent, which represents an essential element for successful social networking.

With reference to George Everett, the creator of the campaign states in Marketing Magazine:

“Facebook and Twitter are fantastic media for us as they allow us to build a conversation with consumers,’ he says. ‘People only insure their cars once a year but we will be at the front of mind.”

Only recently a new character has been introduced “Sergej” the one who is responsible for IT and seems to be an important part within Aleksandr’s company – and also gives the brand another mascot. His appearance gains greater importance and he has even received a role in the newest clip, that came out two weeks ago:

Compare The Market have created a spoof on their own name and perfectly combined online with offline efforts within their marketing concept by combining above-the-line advertisement such as print, TV and radio with below-the-line advertisement such as social networks and web pages. This shows that new media are even stronger if combined with traditional methods, if applied effectively so that one can boost the other in the most efficient way.

With reference to Marketingmagazine the responsible agency VCCP had the clear brief to boost the brand name “Compare The Market” in order to generate brand awareness and to stand out in a very crowded market. Hence, return on investment has been achieved clearly as brand recall is ensured massively – I am sure that people will definitely remember the brand, as VCCP have done a great job.

In SEO terms, which is the concept of optimising the ability of others to find your brand’s online appearance best possible when using a web search engine such as Google or Yahoo, Compare The Market have also succeeded. Having an account on the most popular social networks boosts a brand in extremely high positions on web search engines. By building brand awareness via social media, this also allows them to have a direct influence towards increasing online traffic and finally their sales.

This entire campaign is a brilliant piece achieving a viral effect that does not seem to stop spreading. Definitely an outbreak in promotion by combining online and offline efforts. It shows how successful a clear marketing strategy can be, when created properly by applying currently popular tools. They took advantage of the popularity of social networking sites Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in order to build a platform for interaction with their “fans”. I am sure some people may argue whether having lots of followers supports their business, but once more I believe that awareness creation, which is achieved perfectly in this case, has a long-lasting effect that will stay in mind. And if you ever should require cheap car insurance… I am sure you will remember Aleksandr and give their page a go – if this is not successful marketing, then please tell me why!

And because its so nice…here some more of Aleksandr!

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Rising from the Ashes? – Woolworths goes Online

April 11, 2009

The recession hit many businesses hard, even long established brand Woolworths, Britain’s major retailer, suffered massively and was forced into receivership and finally went into liquidation.

woolworths shut store

The high-street chain collapsed in November 2008, only one year before its centenary. Founded by Franklin Winfield Woolworth in 1909, Woolworths established into a 800 chain giant. Right from the start selling a variety of merchandise such as toys, sweets, children’s clothing and haberdashery. Thanks to mass production “Woolies” was able to be very price competitive and that is how they outperformed many British competitors when it came to china and glassware. According to Lavan from The Times Online,  in their first year of trade in Britain they offered free pots of tea to customers and introduced new shopping experiences through an American store layout encouraging to browse around (read more here).

woolworths-sheep-and-dog

But competing on price only is a risky game. Referring to the BBC , the main problems arose when it was heavily undermined by Amazon and large supermarkets like Tesco started selling non-food products (full story here).

Generations of shoppers commiserated with the sinking ship of Woolworths, a brand the grew up with, liked and trusted. A high amount of affection was shown when the brand’s followers on social networking sites started to increase when the recession started to kick in and Woolworths’ breakdown was covered all over the media. Referring to Marketingmagazine, Woolworth’s group on Facebook has rapidly increased exceeding a number of 23,000 members showing sympathy and sharing affection.

Whilst some were going under, investors caught interest and started to see potential business opportunities. A famous example is entrepreneur Theo Paphitis, who successfully turned around struggling and troubled retail businesses, such as the one of lingerie chain La Senza, which was one of his biggest successes (more). He is also known from the popular BBC programme “Dragons Den“, where according to BBC his focus belongs to the inheritance of his children and he is known for the sentence: “Why should I part with any of my children’s inheritance investing in this?”

woolworths-theo-paphitis

Finally, the company was bought by the Shop Direct Group and Woolworths’ are now back with a new customer focused and very interactive online strategy.  Shop Direct Group the result of a merger between Shop Direct companies and Littlewoods in 2005 is one of the UK’s largest online retailers. Despite Woolworths’ popularity critics were arguing that Woolies were “out-of-touch”, lacking customer focus, as well as interaction. With reference to Manning from the Mirror, Woolies had no real unique selling point: “It is a jack of all trades, but a master of none”.  He also refers to it as outdated in an era where online shopping is outperforming shopping in giant out-of-town centres (read more).

This shall all be changed with the new business model and a vibrant marketing strategy. Shop Direct Group’s new strategy is to reduce Woolworths’ operations on only online with a strong focus on customer information and involvement through interaction. Woolworths has been relaunched online with a very strong web presence.

Shop Direct Group, which is preparing for Woolworths’ relaunch in the upcoming summer is certainly doing a good job and improving main weaknesses. It seems like they have recognised the power and opportunities that lie in online social networks. As a sign of high interaction with customer they are collecting feedback and areas of interest through social network pages Facebook, Twitter, Spotify and last fm. They set up groups called “the first single I ever bought” and encourage users to list their experiences and create a “nostalgic playlist”. Marketingmagazine states that well renounced agencies Glue London and The Brooklyn Brothers have been appointed for Woolworths’ social media presence and engagement. In order to keep customers up to date with newest information they regularly put information on Twitter, Facebook or their newly created blog (www.woolworthsblog.co.uk). This move enables them to be much more transparent and automatically provides Woolworths with more closeness to its “followers” and their feedback. A great way for their online reputation management as well as a source for ideas or concerns from interested individuals.

On Twitter they recently tested if there is any demand for some of their new offerings and according to Marketingmagazine, Twitter followers were prompted to list their top five Woolworths’ products – a great way to conduct market research in order to detect customer’s favourites (Read more).

Moreover they have created a page specially for Easter (www.woolieswonderland.co.uk) – a page that encourages its visitors to find six virtual eggs in order to secure a place in a prize draw to win a family home entertainment system…and of course to drive web traffic and collect contacts, but don’t tell anyone 😀

woolieswunderland

All in all it seems that Woolworths is on the right course. By applying clever and strategic marketing techniques and using appropriate new media tools, they can reach their audience, engage with them and discover what are the right steps to do next in order to have a successful comeback as an online store.

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First Direct – A Fully Customer-Oriented Business Model

April 1, 2009

First Direct, one of Britain’s fastest growing banks, operate solely on a digital and phone basis (no branches) have managed to create a very impressive business model making use of new media and new technologies.

logo first direct

logo first direct

In banking, with reference to a Mintel report, there is a tendency towards customised and simplified business transactions, First Direct appears to be a simple and transparent service provider with a focus on its customers and with customer driven operations. It ticks all the boxes, of how a successful organisation should operate. Through brand differentiation, and as all their services are entirely built around customer needs. they have created something their customers can identify with. Marketing Strategist David Meerman Scott would approve of this, as he stresses the importance of creating content that solves people’s problems, rather than trying to promote the brand.

He states: You must unlearn the use of gobbledygook about your products and services. Instead start from the problems and needs of your buyer personas. (Read the full article here)

First Direct won several awards related to their operations such as: “Carbon Trust Standard” (They were the first bank to receive the Carbon Trust Standard award. More info), “Institute of Customer Services (ICS) Satisfaction Award“, “DADI podcast award” and many more. Not only that these awards improve First Direct’s brand reputation, but they certainly led also to positive publicity and word-of-mouth.

There are a two aspects I would like to consider a bit closer that give insight into First Direct’s business excellence.

Online / Telephone Banking

The benefit of operating online or via call centres is that every customer contact data is recorded and helps to develop a customer profile. This increases the quality of service as every employee servicing a customer has a wide range of technology available that provides full information about the person during the contact and thus, allows the  best possible service performance. Hence, there is opportunity for perfectly tailored database marketing to the customers. Moreover First Direct can make use of these data to learn more about their customers, make decisions about target markets for specific campaigns (customer segmentation), evaluate and compare customer values and finally, provide specialised offers for customers. Database marketing is invaluable, as it allows First Direct to create exceptionally tailored offers and services in a market based upon trust and confidence.

Telephone and Online banking can be perceived as a move towards a greener economy that supports the carbon footprint reduction. Having branches all over the country is related to high maintenance costs. In the case of First Direct these costs are limited to two headquarters and therefore the funds can be invested in consistent improvement of services, quality and technology. Besides,without the overhead of managing and maintaining branches First Direct are able to channel more resources into web development.

Interaction

First Direct make perfect use of their web page, a very fresh, creative and interactive offering – atypical for a bank in my opinion. The webpage provides podcasts with recent queries, concerns and expert information about interesting issues for their consumers (check it out). Moreover, one can find useful information about how to save energy at home. One podcast by “Energy Doctor” Mark London from “Energy Saving Trust“gives specific advice for energy savings in every household, by visiting a customer’s house (listen to the advice here). Not only are they are anxious to keep their own carbon footprint low, they also motivate their customers to take part as well as promote and encourage them to turn off the function of receiving paper bank statements in order to support their campaign “virtual forrest“. First Direct claim to plant one tree per 20 customers who switch onto paper-free transactions and let people vote where the tree should be planted. Another interesting approach is that they provide a section called “enthuse” with video clips of customers, who tell you their personal experiences with the bank and the reason why they are satisfied. These people can be seen as so called “brand advocates”, as they promote the bank by spreading their favourable perceptions and thereby generate greater brand awareness. It’s more credibe when someone like you and me gives you advice, rather than a brand trying to promote itself. This is supported by several consumer behaviour studies which identified higher confidence from consumers in personal recommendations amongst acquaintances than in advertisements.

These examples show how much more one can do with the help of new media tools, and how much more a customer may expect from a simple bank website. And as their side wouldn’t be already much more advanced that the ones from other banks, First Direct have only recently introduced a new tool: the little black book. This serves in form of a social network that is based on recommendations from First Direct customers to First Direct customers, where they can exchange information about travel, restaurants, bars, shops, services, money-saving tips etc. A great idea considering that a third of First Direct’s customers join via recommendations from existing customers, as stated in Chris Laweer’s article on FutureLab. First Direct state:

As first direct customers, you’ll know by now that we’re not like other banks. We tend to do things a little differently. We know you appreciate that – and that’s precisely why we wanted to create the Little Black Book.

Or rather, why we want you to create it. Because the Little Black Book isn’t just another review site. It’s more of a unique source of inspiration – a collection of interesting recommendations made by people like you for people like you that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else but here. And it’s exclusively for first direct customers.

A very smart move to engage with their customers! Not only did they build a social network for and with their customers, but also they gain further insight into interests and specific data about their customer. This in turn, will allow First Direct to create even better and more tailored offers for their customers. Imagine Mr X will show as being very proactive and keeps posting reviews of British heritage tours he’s made. First Direct needs some sort of reward for this customer. That they can tailor an offer, fully based on personal interests, in Mr X’s case probably a short trip to a place of interest – or even better, one that matches his interests, but it is not recorded that he has been there yet!

It appears that First Direct spends more time and effort in getting to know their customers in order to provide them with the expected services and added value. In essence, it excites me to think how great marketing opportunities must arise from all the customer data First Direct has access to. Unfortunately I don’t know anyone who is banking with them, and have no personal experience, so I cannot add any personal judgement. However, my impression stays the same. First Direct have created a very impressive business model, that seems to be a cutting-edge example for the creative and successfully implemented use of technology and new media means!

In that context, based on another statement from David Meerman Scott that says:“You must unlearn the idea that “leads” are the only way to measure your marketing efforts. Instead, consider how you are engaging your buyers and building a position as a trusted resource”, he may compliment First Direct’s efforts once more, as that is exactly what they are doing.

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Delete 10 of your friends on Facebook and get a FREE whopper!

March 27, 2009

What a shocking statement, but believe it or not, that was a recent Burger King Campaign in the USA.

Previously, in April 2005, Burger King landed a massive viral marketing hit (I have discussed viral marketing already in a previous article) with the campaign of the “Subservient Chicken“. The idea was simple, the success massive. A guy dressed in a quiet poor quality chicken costume standing in the middle of a random living room and performing a variety of commands, which can be inserted deliberately by the viewer. Nothing too special to be honest – but the web page turned out to be an enormous success.

Subservient Chicken

Subservient Chicken

According to an article of ViralBlog, Adweek reported that people got absolutely excited by submitting the weirdest commands, spent an average time of seven minutes on the page and also turned the subservent chicken into some sort of a “pop culture”.(read more here) It seems nearly impossible to find a command that bloody chicken does not do. From “jumping jack”, to “riverdance” to “handstand”… it even has a go when you type in “fly”.
According to AdWeek the page had over one million hits within the first day and 20 million hits within the first week. The entire campaign was launched because of Burger King’s, then newly launched, chicken sandwich that could be served the way customers wanted and thus, Crispin Porter‘s campaign for them.

When Burger King introduced another spicy version of the chicken sandwich, they created a campaign called “Chicken Fight” that was supposed to represent their two burgers fighting each other. Basically, a win-win situation for them, as Burger King never looses that way.

Chicken Fight

Chicken Fight

They wanted to express that their chicken burgers are outstanding and no one else but themselves represents competition. Some of you may even be familiar with the related spoof in Family Guy, where character “Peter Griffin” and  a giant cockerel fight each other meaninglessly over and over again without a clear winner, as the chicken to date has never died.

This second page (“chickenfight”) provided users the ability to vote on which chicken should win and also a game they could download and play. Unfortunately that page shut down in the meantime and does not exist anymore.

However, both of these sites showed high interaction potential from consumers by using new media, which appears to be an essential factor for successful viral campaigns. By taking part in the evolution of a multitasking chicken or by influencing a silly fight, fans got the feeling of being involved and engaged with the brand. According to Burger King the campaign was a great success and their web traffic increased massively.

With regard to Burger King’s return on investment AdWeek reports as follows:

“BK reported that sales had steadily increased an average of 9 percent a week. Since then, Geis says the company has seen “double-digit” growth of awareness of the TenderCrisp Chicken Sandwich and “significantly increased” chicken sandwich sales. And the TenderCrisp does sell better than the Original Chicken Sandwich.”

Burger King’s “Subservient Chicken” and “Chicken Fight” made it into several marketing textbooks filed as successful viral campaign. Critics were concerned about the long-term benefit of these campaigns, but Burger King’s sales have improved since then.

Now they are back with another unusual campaign that attracted plaudits as well as heavy criticism. In their “Whopper Sacrifice” campaign on social networking site Facebook, Burger King created a campaign within the US that motivated Facebook users to delete 10 of their friends in order to get a voucher for a free Whopper.

Friendship is strong but the Whopper is stronger

Friendship is strong but the Whopper is stronger

Deleted friends were notified through a humorous notification sent by the application about what had happened and received the opportunity to send each other heavily branded “Angry Grams”.  The campaign took off and people were deleting each other for the sake of getting a free burger and obviously, added each other afterwards yet again. With reference to Inside Facebook the campaign was forced down by Facebook and the “functionality for violating users” had to be removed. Some argue that Facebook did not like Burger King encouraging aggression and that also caused some negative publicity.

A Facebook spokesperson announced to Inside Facebook the following:

“We encourage creativity from developers and companies using Facebook Platform, but we also must ensure that applications meet users’ expectations. After constructive conversations with Burger King and the developer of the application, they have decided to conclude their campaign rather than continue with the restrictions we placed on their application.” (Read the full story here)

Burger King's Whopper Sacrifice

Burger King's Whopper Sacrifice

According to the magazine The Marketer some bloggers were labelling the “Whopper Sacrifice” campaign as “puerile” and “obnoxious”. It must definitely have caused some negative publicity, but to date it is unclear for what exact reasons Facebook decided to intervene. Referencing the New York Times, Burger King responded with the following statement:

“While Facebook was a great sport, they did ask for changes that would have resulted in a different approach to our application, counter to what we developed […] Ultimately, based on philosophical differences, we decided to conclude the campaign and chose to ‘sacrifice’ the application.” (Read more here)

This was another very successful online campaign that seems to have appealed to  Burger King’s target audience. However, this sort of promotion may not be appropriate for every brand; as such an irreverent approach carries high risks for serious damage in brand reputation. The fact is that Burger Kind did their job well in terms of evaluating in advance whether their target audience will appreciate or turn down the campaign. Brand awareness and web traffic were definitely increased. At the point of closure the campaign generated 234,000 “deleted friends” which counts for over 23,400 free Whopper coupons.

Given the low costs of the campaign and the also pretty low NET costs of a burger for Burger King, the campaign must have had a positive return on investment. Free online as well as offline media coverage and lots of buzz – what else do you want as a brand, when you know that your campaigns appeal to your target audience?

Now the very important question (please vote):