Fixing your customer’s pain with soft innovation

Soft InnovationFor as long as I can remember ATMs in the Czech Republic have been a constant source of annoyance for anyone who uses them (setting aside the fees they charge) because the ATM’s programming was designed to optimise its use of banknotes.

Withdraw 2000 Czech Koruna (Kc), which is approximately $100/£66, and you’ll be furnished with a crisp 2000kc note. Now go and buy something for 150Kc and you’ll get a fairly understandable ‘Don’t you have anything smaller?’ and sometimes a flat refusal to take your money because it will wipe out their change float. You might ask ‘why not just withdraw 2 x 1000Kc?’ but with a fee per withdrawal why should you?

In a perfect example of soft innovation, finally this spring a couple of banks have taken notice and their ATMs have been updated (with software). Now you can choose the denominations of banknotes when you make a withdrawal. With one simple change they’ve removed a common cause of anxiety and annoyance for their customers.

What pain points can you solve for your customers?

Think about how your customers use the products and services you provide. The pain point doesn’t have to be with what you do but maybe it’s what they do with it next. The immediate things banks might look to fix with ATMs would be making sure they’re always stocked with cash, not out of service, in safe locations, not what people do with the cash once they’ve taken it out. At a travel company I work for we’ve been looking at what we can do to make our guests travels even smoother by providing useful items like US to European plug adapters and various other things in their welcome pack. The great thing about soft innovation is that it’s inexpensive to implement but can have a very significant impact on your customers’ experience.

Stand for Something

You’ve probably read about how your company should ‘bring meaning’ or ‘have a greater purpose’ but often it’s difficult to see how you relate that to your own market or product.

The family-owned Bernard brewery in Humpolec Czech Republic doesn’t seem to have a problem articulating themselves in their issue-based advertising campaigns.

They pick their battles and take aim at issues in their market that trouble them and their customers – people who like good beer.

In the first ad they’re campaigning against beer being sold in PET (plastic) bottles. Whether it truly affects the taste or not is a matter for debate but Bernard’s signature bottle style contrasts with the plastic bottle, implying quality.

In the second the brewery’s mascot, Bernard is dressed as a border guard, protecting the country from the invasion of ‘Eurobeer’ – a poke at the effects of foreign management of Czech breweries by multinational brewery groups.

It’s worth noting that Bernard have built a solid fan base and a reputation for being independently run and outspoken. If your brand doesn’t have that kind of history then your work will be tougher!

LogoSpotting: Sushi Time

Sushi Time LogoThis Prague sushi joint (though originating in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia) has one of my favourite logos of recent years.

So simple (4 vector objects) yet conveying so much. The red sun from the Japanese flag, a plate, chopsticks, a cross section of a maki roll and the hands of a clock. Perfect.

Now I need to find out what came first, the name or the logo.

Credit where its due

How to attribute credit to your brand building and offline efforts in Google Analytics

logosAn often mocked excuse given by non direct response advertising media and its proponents when charged that such advertising is wasteful is that the money spent on the ads ‘builds brand awareness’ or ‘improves brand recall’.

Did you know it’s actually pretty easy to measure that online? Instead of the credit going to ‘search’, where it’s far too easy to think that the traffic is down to online efforts such as SEO, you can measure the traffic coming from branded searches and direct web address type-ins.

What you need to do is set up an Advanced Segment, called “Brand Traffic” in Google Analytics that matches:

All organic traffic where the keyword is one of your brand terms

This is all the people typing in your brand search terms into Google, Bing et al. This is called a ‘navigational’ search. Don’t forget to include a keyword that matches your domain name, you’d be surprised by how many people get the location bar and the search box confused.

PLUS

All direct traffic

This is everyone who comes to your website from a bookmark, a link in email from a friend (unless they were using webmail client, then the referrer will be the domain that they were browsing on. If you want to get more specific about separating that traffic out, then add some more lines to your filter) or a link clicked from a twitter client rather than the twitter web site, when the link doesn’t have any utm parameters on it to reclassify the traffic.

There’s no such thing as 100% accuracy

One of the first things to accept about web analytics is that there’s no such thing as 100% accuracy. There will always be cases when things aren’t tracked properly but we’re not really looking for exact numbers, just a trend.

Watch your branded traffic trend

When you’re done with setting up this advanced segment you’ll have an idea of the change in time of your web traffic that is the result of your brand building efforts outside of search. Make sure you use the Annotations feature of Analytics to mark any big offline efforts you’re involved in.

 

Image credit: All my life’s logos by captcreate via Creative Commons on Flickr.

Optimising your web pages for being shared on facebook

Sharing links on Facebook is a growth activity. Is your website optimised for it?

Have you noticed when you share a link on Facebook, you can choose a thumbnail image. Facebook get the list of images by scanning the URL you want to share for any images that are placed on the page. Sometimes that works well, other times it doesn’t pick the image you want.

How would you like to be able to choose what image is selected as the thumbnail for your page when it’s shared?

Facebook’s page of advice on how to best format your page for sharing on their site

http://www.facebook.com/share_partners.php – recommends putting in the head are of the html document something like the following:

<link rel=”image_src” href=”images/my-thumbnail.jpg” />

There are further options for multiple media types and they’re worth looking into if your site is sharing audio or video files.

If your pages aren’t hand-coded (and whose are), press your CMS/eCommerce site provider to give you control to decide which image on a page should be the chosen thumbnail, or set a site-wide default (your logo perhaps?).

If you’re using WordPress and your theme makes use of the (new since WordPress 2.9) post thumbnail feature, there’s a handy plugin that makes sure your post thumbnail is the image that shows up.

Missing the point about Pepsi’s Before you Score App?

click to enlarge
click to enlarge

Lots of vitriol being poured out about Pepsico’s AMP UP Before You Score branded app (see Twitter search results to the left) and this Mashable piece.

Most of the opinion (most of which is just people retweeting) is overwhelmingly negative, but then how many people of these people have actually tried it out?

I did, and this app has its tongue placed very firmly in its cheek. Would a branded app supporting a fairly bland energy drink have got this much coverage or attention if it didn’t pose as misogynistic?

Based on the branding of the product it’s pretty obviously male-targeted anyway . Maybe Pepsi should have been less obvious about their involvement (PepsiCo stated as the developer and copyright holder on the App Store page [screengrab]) but then that would have come out at some point anyway – their name is on the cans.

The criticism on Twitter, using the #pepsifail hashtag, in the reviews on the iTunes Store and in other places amounts to ‘Pepsi don’t want women to buy from them’. Some are calling it a fiasco. Just like Motrin moms and countless other ‘storm in a social teacup’ incidents, this will blow itself out before the end of the week. People (the mass market/general public) will be unaffected and life will go on as normal, but a lot more people will know what AMP is. Not quite the fail that the voices of protest wish it would be. More to the point the outrage is going to nothing more than fuel the popularity/notoriety of the effort.

Update: Mashable post on Pepsi’s apology for ‘bad taste’

Flipper invites you to dinner

It’s Friday, time for a light-hearted post with this example of cultural differences. This is a brand of ‘fish with paprika in oil’ I saw in a Tesco supermarket in Slovakia. Something about it seemed not quite right. When you think about though, dolphins eat fish, they’re intelligent friendly creatures, why wouldn’t they offer to share some with you?

flipper

Maybe it’s the fixation the West has with dolphin friendly tuna (with good reason) that means this would be a branding error in some countries, but passes without notice in others. As a land-locked country Slovakia in general doesn’t pay much attention to issues like marine conservation. If the manufacturers tried exporting this product to the UK they might see some resistance though.

Is paid search the height of responsibility?

In response to The Irresponsible Marketer

awesomeHaving just read Mitch Joel’s latest post, I was going to post this as a comment, then when I got to writing it and it grew to longer than would be polite, or even that readable, as a comment.

To paraphrase, Mitch is saying that marketers should put as much as they can into search marketing, spending “whatever is left over for your more general branding campaigns”. Now I’m sure that Mitch is trying to seed a discussion rather than truly believing that we should give up on all other kinds of marketing efforts to concentrate on the low-hanging fruit and maximising our Adwords spend and hiring SEO experts..

What about cumulative effects?

I think this is a perfect case for ‘with, not instead of’, to quote Mitch again. Paid search, and to almost the same extent, well done SEO/content marketing efforts are eminently trackable. But what drove that search? Reading this post I immediately thought of David Ogilvy’s belief that a consumer needs to see a message multiple times before they act on it (though as he was head of an ad agency, one might question the number of exposures required).

Search gets all the credit

Search gets all the credit because it is often the last link in the chain, starting with awareness. Whether it makes sense to go further back down that chain depends on your business model. If you’re a reseller of a low margin product then you absolutely need to be concentrating the bulk of your spend on paid search, getting the customer when they know what they want to buy and they’re just looking for the ‘where from’. It’s not your job to educate the customer on what they need, that’s a task for the manufacturer of the product, which is where the other, less measurable parts of marketing come into play.

Sometimes paid search isn’t a good idea

To take the local restaurant example given by Matt Shaw, his boss won’t be clicking on an advert on Google after searching for the restaurant by name, it’ll be the link to the restaurant’s own website, Google Local listing, Yelp or some other directory/review site. What that example points out isn’t the value of paid search but the value of having a well executed online strategy including content marketing, building and maintaining a presence, all  coupled with being damn good at your core business. What if the search was instead for a type of restaurant, with a search term of “Italian restaurant Minnesota”? In certain markets, particularly restaurants, adverts are the equivalent of paying someone to stand outside trying to attract custom, it will turn people off than convince them to dine with you. If on the other hand the restaurant has strong SEO and the all-important ‘being awesome‘ then it will do well for that generic search, because the independent reviews will bring in business more than even their own site will. You don’t become awesome by spending all your marketing budget on Adwords.

So what should we be doing?

Smart marketing is about targeting all of your efforts and measuring as much as you can and sometimes, going with your gut on something just because it feels right. It means working on multiple fronts, including paid and organic search to make sure you can be found for your business name and your important keywords. It means spending some of that budget on the customers you’ve already got, delighting them, getting them talking to their friends and colleagues about you and maximising word of mouth. It means more contact with your customers (yes, the marketing people might actually have to talk to a customer every now and then). It also means being smarter about asking the ‘what brought you to us’ question by allowing multiple answers, not giving all the credit to the latest one.

Image credit: Brianarn

Advertising Smarts

Marketing Smarts
Having liveried vehicles is an inexpensive way to advertise (and as long as they’re driven well, are unlikely to create any negative perceptions).
Using vehicles that stand out is an even more effective way of doing this. In Prague every year there’s a rally of Smart cars. Almost all of the ones there are company vehicles, portable billboards.
Here are a few I’ve snapped around town recently, I’ll add to the collection as I see more.

IMG_0254

Having liveried vehicles is an inexpensive way to advertise (and as long as they’re driven well, are unlikely to create any negative perceptions).

Using vehicles that stand out is an even more effective way of doing this. In Prague every year there’s a rally of Smart cars. Almost all of the ones there are company vehicles, portable billboards.

Here are a few I’ve snapped around town recently, I’ll add to the collection as I see more.

Window writing, sometimes it’s right but the Jury’s out on this one

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Earlier this month the Jury’s Inns hotel group opened their first property in Prague. It’s in a busy spot, opposite a metro interchange station, just on the border of Prague 1, the centre of the city.

Apologies for the poor quality of the image, it was snapped with my iPhone from the other side of the street, but you should be able to make out on the right hand side of the image, some fluoro window writing. Window writing is pretty popular here, lower-end restaurants use it to announce their specials or entice customers with an offer. This window writing says ‘Dvouchodove Business Menu, 120Kc’, that first word is the Czech for ‘two-course’. The incongruity of this struck me on several levels:
1) Jury’s Inn is a mid-range hotel chain in the UK & Ireland, I’d have thought them above tacky window writing
2) The wording and price are off. Mixing Czech and English like this is nonsensical, putting “Business Menu” but not having “two-course” in English simply doesn’t make sense. If you’re trying to attract the ‘right kind of people’ to have lunch there (120Kc is a full 20% more than the average lunch menu price for the area) then you can be pretty sure that even if they’re Czech, they’re not going to have a problem deciphering “two-course”. If you’re targeting those kind of people, put the price up to 150Kc just to make sure. As soon as someone’s broken the 100Kc barrier another 30Kc (about £1/€1/$1.50) isn’t going to turn them away and is more likely to infer a greater value perception.
3) Right next to it is a sign that appears to have been produced locally. Couldn’t a sign advertising the business menu have also been produced? If covering up the window is a problem, then get it professionally produced, or printed on clear single sided adhesive film, it’s not ‘that’ expensive.
I’m not denying there’s a place for window writing as a medium, it’s just that it sets certain expectations and assumptions. It says “we’re rather informal, so much so that we don’t mind scrawling on our windows to tell you about what we offer”.
Perhaps I’m just being obsessive in my expectation that all a company’s messaging should be ‘on-brand’. Maybe this is perfectly fine. One of my spells of work experience was with Hilton International’s Corporate Communications department so I’ve experienced first hand the conflict that can arise between a head office marketing department and property level management over branding. Maybe the Jury’s Inn brand manager has no idea that this is in the window of their newest property, it’s impossible to have eyes everywhere.

Earlier this month the Jury’s Inns hotel group opened their first property in Prague. It’s in a busy spot, opposite a metro interchange station, just on the border of Prague 1, the centre of the city.

Apologies for the poor quality of the image, it was snapped with my iPhone from the other side of the street, but you should be able to make out on the right hand side of the image, some fluoro window writing. Window writing is pretty popular here, lower-end restaurants use it to announce their specials or entice customers with an offer. This window writing says ‘Dvouchodove Business Menu, 120Kc’, that first word is the Czech for ‘two-course’. The incongruity of this struck me on several levels:

1) Jury’s Inn is a mid-range hotel chain in the UK & Ireland, I’d have thought them above tacky window writing

2) The wording and price are off. Mixing Czech and English like this is nonsensical, putting “Business Menu” but not having “two-course” in English simply doesn’t make sense. If you’re trying to attract the ‘right kind of people’ to have lunch there (120Kc is a full 20% more than the average lunch menu price for the area) then you can be pretty sure that even if they’re Czech, they’re not going to have a problem deciphering “two-course”. If you’re targeting those kind of people, put the price up to 150Kc just to make sure. As soon as someone’s broken the 100Kc barrier another 30Kc (about £1/€1/$1.50) isn’t going to turn them away and is more likely to infer a greater value perception.

3) Right next to it is a sign that appears to have been produced locally. Couldn’t a sign advertising the business menu have also been produced? If covering up the window is a problem, then get it professionally produced, or printed on clear single sided adhesive film, it’s not ‘that’ expensive.

I’m not denying there’s a place for window writing as a medium, it’s just that it sets certain expectations and assumptions. It says “we’re rather informal, so much so that we don’t mind scrawling on our windows to tell you about what we offer”.

Perhaps I’m just being obsessive in my expectation that all a company’s messaging should be ‘on-brand’. Maybe this is perfectly fine. One of my spells of work experience was with Hilton International’s Corporate Communications department so I’ve experienced first hand the conflict that can arise between a head office marketing department and property level management over branding. Maybe the Jury’s Inn brand manager has no idea that this is in the window of their newest property, it’s impossible to have eyes everywhere.