Tag Archives: wisdom

How Service Quality Can Make Or Break Your Brand With A Little Help From Social Media.

One of the last remaining weapons a brand has left to fight competitors with, is service. When there’s no real difference but the logo and the company behind it, it all comes down to how you reward or punish people for choosing you. See, I said people. Not customers, or consumers, or users, or clients. People.

People are real. They have feelings. They work hard for their money and they decide carefully how to spend it on most things. When something goes wrong with the service they paid for or the product they bought, they need help. You owe it to them.

Help does not mean waiting for half an hour in an automated call queue listening to canned muzak and being told every 30 seconds that the next available person will attend to one. Help does not mean getting through to someone in Bangalore reading from a script with no experience of the product or service and no way to solve one’s problem beyond grinding through a script. That is not Help. That is not service. That is torture.

Help is someone coming to one’s assistance who knows what one needs and can deliver on it immediately, or pretty soon thereafter. And get this, Help is part of your Brand.

If you choose the alternate path,  Torture becomes part of your brand.

The reality of managing a brand in the Social Media era is that your efforts to Help or Torture will not go unremarked upon and it is becoming easier to spread those remarks all the time.

They will appear across the Twitterverse, on YouTube, in Facebook, as Foursquare comments and in blogs and forums available everywhere. And there is nothing you can do to stop it.

So be nice. Or Fail.

If you don’t believe me, watch this:

And in case WordPress didn’t serve that to you well, search United Breaks Guitars on YouTube and follow the series.

How Job Insecurity & Professional Cowardice Made Bud Light Stumble For The First Time Ever.

Ads blamed for Bud Lite sales fall.

A  US Budweiser campaign, “Drinkability”, is being blamed for the first full year sales decline in Bud Lite history. This in a recession when beer sales are often one of few things that go up. A firm of consultants  was  involved. Apparently their recommendations became ad briefs which DDB and Euro anwered by coming up with the “Drinkability” campaign.

Lots of voices are now being heard from all quarters about why this happened and who is at fault.

A Wide Range Of Differing Opinions.

A number of points have been made including:

“Were the spots entertaining? No. Were they loaded with brief-filling, focus group-tested, chest-puffing talking points? Yes.” – Adman blog posting

“Consulting doesn’t boast creative expertise nor does it have any interest in “starting a turf war” with creative agencies.” – A consultancy spokesperson

“…some clients will pay consultants millions to rehash research and refine positioning, but then they pressure agencies to lower costs on the thinking/ideas that positions and builds awareness of a brand and ultimately sell products.” – online comment posting

“Unfortunately, too many people are willing to blindly accept whatever “dictate” trickles down and don’t bother to question the validity of the premise or invest themselves in its integrity. This is a cause for shame in our industry. It opens the door for spectators to broadly crucify agencies and consultants, wastes money, damages brands, and demoralizes everyone involved.” – online comment posting

“Agency creative directors tend to do more damage to brands if left unchecked. They too often develop high concept ads that win awards but do very little to motivate consumers in any way. The examples are endless.” – online comment posting

Others attribute the Bud Lite decline to Anheuser-Busch being bought by InBev.

Then of course there’s the question of whether one can or can’t directly correlate advertising and sales. Well, one can’t have it both ways.

All these points have merit to a greater or lesser degree. However, I think there’s a simpler, deeper issue behind all this.

When you’re scared you tend to make bad decisions.

Let’s face it, those ads are weak. The consultant-driven briefs that Budweiser Marketing pushed on DDB and Euro should have been declined immediately for what they clearly were: weak, lacking compelling beer consumer insights and likely to generate poor advertising harmful to Bud Lite in the competitive context.

Next, the agencies should have proposed better briefs, drawing on what was useful from the consultant reports, avoiding what wasn’t or was clearly going to harm the brand. At that point the Bud clients needed to listen carefully, debate it skillfully and collaborate on agreeing powerful briefs.

The Great Recession is partly to blame, as is unchecked Procurement thinking.

Budget cutbacks and the retrenchment of expensive but experienced ad talent have taken a toll. We seem to be left with scared ad agency people lacking the experience and the faith in their craft, and thus also the confidence in it, to do their jobs bravely and professionally. To say a professional “No” instead of an easy, but ultimately ruinous “Yes”.

Advertising is an industry with a high proportion of people eager to please and who are in fundamentally weak positions relative to their clients. As a result they are thus very vulnerable to being bullied by equally scared, inexperienced or under-qualified marketing staff.

The result of all of this seems to be increasing levels of professional cowardice. Among advertising people, and among Marketers too.

That old Young & Rubicam house ad nails it. The one that shows a spinal column from the neck to the coccyx with the headline, as I recall it:

“This is a backbone. You can’t run a good ad agency without one.”

Actually, you can’t run any good business without one.

(PS, if anyone has a copy or a link to that Y&R ad please link it in the comments below or email me. Tx.)

“You have 5 mins To Fix The Ad Agency Business Starting… NOW!”

Maybe they didn't notice 'cos it didn't tick...

Last week while I was posting  that ad agencies should innovate – perhaps even embrace crowdsourcing – something strange was happening at the Hilton Union Square, San Francisco. I wish I’d been there. Here’s what I’ve found out.

The AAAA (American Association Of Advertising Agencies) combined for the very first time their Leadership Conference (ad agency types) and their Media Conference (yep, media agency types) into one conference: “Transformations 2010”. Flailing to be seen as up to date, they called this “the mash-up (sic) of the association’s Media and Leadership Conferences”.

Are you struck by some puzzling questions? I was.

Why wasn’t this always one event? Isn’t there just one purpose for all those people – to help build their clients’ business through marketing communications? Isn’t this symptomatic of why marketing communications, and the ad agency business in particular, are in turmoil?

To the A’s credit, they did invite some “digital” speakers. Carol Bartz and Arianna Huffington. Google, the giant of online advertising wasn’t there. Nor was Facebook, the next online ad giant. The mightiest of the search and social media players. Either of them is more important to the ad business now and for the future than Yahoo and Huffington Post combined. Maybe they couldn’t make it.

The 4As also didn’t invite BootB or IdeaBounty which I linked to in last week’s post. No surprise.

“The goal of the conference is gathering the entire media and marketing ecosystem into one room and onto the same page,” said 4A’s President and CEO Nancy Hill. “In a world where everything is digital and global, the conversations about the transformation of the business needs (sic) to be held together, so that we can cooperatively find solutions to the challenges ahead.”

For those of you without a Babel Fish in your ear that’s Adfolkian for “The ad agency business is screwed. Fine, we admit we don’t “get it” and that we really are all in the same business. Now, will you please explain where the life rafts are”.

The 4As also boasted of “18 women speakers, roughly one out of three, [which] marks the highest percentage and number of women in the history of 4A’s events”. Wow! In an industry where the proportion of women is closer to double that and those 18 speakers included outsiders Ms. Bartz and Ms. Huffington.

It sounds like the real highlights of the conference were the “seven guest, five-minute sessions from the winners of the 4A’s Transformers Contest, which asked users to submit their own ideas and concepts for revolutionizing the advertising industry”. That’s right: “You have 5 minutes to explain how to fix the massively screwed up Ad Industry. Starting…. NOW!”

Here’s the best I’ve seen or heard. Sean Boyle, Global Planning Director of JWT taking 2 deserved minutes longer than the 5 allowed for his witty, wise presentation: “The Stop/Start 10 Commandments”. It’s a hand-held wobbly vid, but worth it.

There’s a .pdf of Sean’s presentation here.

The 4As also included in the seven winners, to their credit, the uber-cranky George Parker of AdScam – think gonzo without Hunter T -who described last year’s 4As Leadership Conference as a “Giant Wank Fest!” Google him. That’s a  comment well to the “G” end of the Parker ranting-scale.

Here’s my own short rant:

I’ve built and run some ad agencies and I’ve co-founded and run a digital heavy hitter. I’ve run some media agencies, a network of CRM companies and two networks of “activation” companies. My conclusion from those nearly 360 degrees of experience is the only thing more mindless and unprofessional than scam ads is the silo-ed, paranoid, “We’re better than you are. Nyah nyah nyah nyaaah nyah” way those 5 disciplines have failed to pull together to build their clients’ business. Now, get on with it!

There is light, though.

Here’s how the 4As recognizes the mess when promoting their “highly successful and in-demand 4A’s workshop “Agency 2.5: How Agencies Are Transforming for the Future” [which] looks at the traditional agency model and discusses what to relinquish, what to rework, and what to reinvent”.

“It’s time for marketing communications firms to address the realities facing our industry:

  • There’s less demand for what agencies traditionally have to sell.

  • Clients need more help in online marketing, particularly social media, but agencies aren’t set up to provide it.

  • Agencies are spending their energies above-the-line while clients are spending their budgets below-the-line.
  • Agencies are stuck in a structure that churns out “advertising” ideas instead of “business-building” ideas.
  • Clients are hammering agencies on price and speed for work they perceive as a commodity.

  • There’s a strong movement toward accountability that agencies aren’t prepared to address”.

Now if only there was hint of this recognition, and of this commitment to doing something about it, among the ad industry in Asia.

5 Lessons Nelson Mandela Teaches Us About Leadership & Innovation

credit: South Africa. The Good News. www.sagoodnews.co.za

credit: South Africa The Good News. http://www.sagoodnews.co.za

Leadership & Innovation are really inseparable; parts of each other.

Leader/Innovators change their organizations, their countries and often the world. South Africa’s first democratically elected President faced a crisis of vast hostility and intense fear between the newly empowered black majority and the previously dominant whites. The Truth & Reconciliation Commission was an innovation which changed the course of history.

Here are five quotes from Nelson Mandela which have much to offer leaders & innovators everywhere.

1. “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Innovation is about making what does not exist today, exist tomorrow. No matter how hard it seems, no matter how impossible everyone says it is.

2. “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

This is a reality every leader faces, especially in a recession or a crisis. It is what the entrepreneur deals with in launching a business using all the money he can scrape together. It’s what the innovator embraces in leading an organization into a new area for success, away from the safety of the known.

3. “There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

A real leader helps us and the company we all work in, to grow as significant and as talented as we can be. How much more rewarding it is for leaders to help build people and their confidence in themselves, to live a life as large as they are capable of. The Innovator does not “settle” for what is, but strives for what can be and takes us there.

4. “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”

This goes to a key point in my posting yesterday. True leaders will grab the criticism and pass on the praise. Weak managers do the opposite. Innovation involves wrong turns, failures, mis-steps. All must be celebrated and learned from as much as the success. If there are no mistakes are being made it often means that nobody is trying anything new.

5. I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds there are many more hills to climb.

Probably the most vital insight into leadership and innovation is this: one makes mistakes, one recovers; challenges keep coming, one soldiers on. One has to keep going until you achieve the next goal and then the next and so on. Tenacity, stamina, even stubbornness are the order of the day.

This last quote is a bonus. I’ve included it because we’d all do well to remember this; believe this; BE this.

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”