WELCOME TO OUR BLOG!

The posts here represent the opinions of CMB employees and guests—not necessarily the company as a whole. 

Subscribe to Email Updates

BROWSE BY TAG

see all

Kate Zilla-Ba

Recent Posts

Sponsorship Advertising: Odd Couples That May Succeed

Posted by Kate Zilla-Ba

Wed, May 28, 2014

advertising sponsorships

We are constantly talking with companies about how their positive and desired brand messages—from all possible sources—need to match up with the experience their customers have when interacting with them.  Our approach to brand tracking is based on the premise that movement along the customer journey is driven by customers’ perceptions and is informed by what is promised as well as what is delivered. However, some experiences are obviously more in the control of the company than others. And one place where a company can really have impact is via sponsorships in advertising—and some of these partnerships aren’t always as straightforward as beer and football.We’ve all seen unusual pairings.  One recent example is Meb Keflezighi, the 2014 men’s Boston Marathon winner, who is now sponsored by Skechers.  This has drawn some attention as Skechers has not historically been a brand associated with running—much less elite running.  In fact, some might associate Skechers as more of a soccer mom brand. (Remember those rocking walking shoes from a few years back?)  But this new partnership certainly has the makings of a game changer for their “GoRun” line now that Keflezighi has catapulted them onto this new scene.

Here’s another seemingly odd-ball combination that is hitting the stage this summer.  The Colorado Symphony has a three show concert series coming up sponsored by the cannabis industry (which was recently made legal there for recreational use).  They already have numerous concerts that look to be targeting a younger demographic, such as a Harry Potter themed concert and their “Beethoven and Brews” series. This new concert series called “Classically Cannabis” appears to be just another attempt to draw in a new audience while keeping their art alive and kicking (not to mention that the cannabis industry has increasingly deep pockets).  It has certainly drawn media attention, and their online explanations via an FAQ are thoughtfully done, regardless of your stance on this issue. 

But what does this new series do to the Colorado Symphony as a brand as it currently exists? Presumably, they have researched whether or not this will cause damage to their brand image by alienating loyal customers, and moreover, whether this will in fact be appreciated by those loyal listeners as well as expand their existing audience with new listeners. 

Let’s shift to the world of high fashion. Fashion Week has both some expected and perhaps unusual sponsors.   Mercedes—check.  Office Max—huh?  Apparently, the latter had some “fashionable office supplies” to put out on the runway.  According to reports of those who work with Fashion Week sponsors, those brands do need to have a relevant story to tell, which in this case may well be true.   Understanding the impact or ROI of an ad sponsorship can be tricky, but should always happen and be taken into consideration.

There’s also outer space—the final frontier.  We’ve probably all seen or heard about the private rocket companies (e.g., SpaceX) that are building and sending people or satellites up into the nether sphere.  But one of the most outlandish companies may be Mars One, a non-profit company with plans to “establish a permanent human settlement on Mars.”  This venture is to be funded through crowd-sourcing, TV rights, and sponsorships. 

The plan is to launch teams of four on a one-way ticket to a pre-established mission, which will begin to be set up in the next few years with the first manned launch currently planned for 2024.  So we could see Pepsi on Mars, although most sponsors thus far are technology firms.  Taking the hypothetical (at the moment) notion of cola on Mars:  what does that potentially do for the brand sponsor?  Perhaps it could be a way to reinvigorate their brand with a sense of adventure or a way to evoke emotions of excitement.  

How about Mars candy on Mars?  Of course, I am not the first to make this connection.  Though I strongly suspect that the rockets sent out on that journey will be stocked up with water and nutrient-rich supplies instead of candy bars—or so I hope for those brave enough (some may say stupid enough—but they probably said the same of Columbus or his fellow “explorers” once upon a time) to sign up.  Apparently, there have been many to volunteer—upwards of 200k of which 700 or so are still in the running. 

It will be fascinating to see what unexpected brands might sponsor Mars One over time.  However, once arrived on the red planet, there’s no guarantee that the participants will keep the cameras on and the sponsored items in view.  Now there’s a risky proposition. 

Maybe Mars One could look to the example of the Colorado Symphony if they really wanted something unusual.   And, if they want CMB to measure the degree to which that is compatible with their overall strategy and goals—BEAM ME UP!  

Kate is a Project Director, working with clients across many industries at CMB. She has been known to perform in local musical theater here and there, speaks three languages well and a few others passably, and would never sign up for a Mars mission. 

Click the button below to subscribe to our monthly eZine and get the scoop on the latest webinars, conferences, and insights. 

Subscribe Here!

Topics: advertising, marketing strategy, brand health and positioning

Customer Experience Time Machine—Back to the 50's

Posted by Kate Zilla-Ba

Wed, Dec 18, 2013

Last year, when Gizmodo released a copy of Apple’s Genius Bar training manual, there was much talk that the company was educating Geniuses to engage in a type of psychological manipulation. Why were so many people distressed by these sales and marketing techniques? Using these techniques to “frame” the customer experience is hardly a new concept. Maybe it was because Apple’s product and service offerings are so strong and so beloved, some people forgot that the Apple Store is just that, a store, where things are bought and sold. 

This led me to wonder about how such training approaches have changed over the years –after all we’re so much more highly evolved nowadays, right? Ha! Enter the 1950 Packard Service Management Training Manual. Obvious cultural tags of the times aside (“That’s a swell idea.”), there’s almost nothing Apple purportedly tells Geniuses to do that Packard didn’t tell its employees 60+ years ago!

Take this line: “Although the merchandise and services we have to offer consists of: parts, accessories, lubrication and service labor, they are not the items the owner is buying. The owner wants to buy results. So, let’s sell him results such as: economy, safety, performance, comfort, convenience, and pride of ownership.”

Translated to a modern day perspective with a swap of only a few words:  “Although the merchandise and services we have to offer consist of: [smartphones, MP3 players], accessories, and service, they are not the items the owner is buying. The owner wants to buy results. So, let’s sell [her] results such as: performance, convenience, and pride of ownership.” This could be Apple, or many other consumer-oriented service companies.

A hilarious 1950-style exchange…

Packard Manual

This brings me full circle to 2013 and Amazon’s Vine reviewer program—a program which provides an elite group of customers products to review, and often to keep.  The program has drawn a bit of attention lately, including a recent NPR piece. Some commenters are ambivalent, and a good number take a strong position that this is manipulative or biased (even if they sometimes sound envious), and a few defend it. In 1950, Packard reps were told to focus on their town doctors, and the logic holds up—doctors needed their cars to make house calls, they were highly respected community members and, guess what, they were the ones with money to buy new Packards! Was this strategic or manipulative? Or did it just feed off of basic human nature, for better or worse?

Speaking of worse, one thing that has changed across the decades is that individual sales and marketers aren’t allowed to take responsibility for, or acknowledge mistakes directly. As a Packard rep in 1950 you were encouraged to take responsibility for errors, omissions, or other flaws by directly addressing them with the customer. Nowadays legal compliance departments appear to have outlawed use of any terms that imply responsibility. 

So what’s a marketer to do? How to be honest while simultaneously “framing” your product/service strategically? Well, it helps to start with a solid offering (yes, I am a fan of Apple). If your product doesn’t meet the basic promises, don’t expect to build success on that with brilliant service—it won’t ring true. Measure the connection of what you promise and what customers perceive so that you can focus on what matters.

We help clients do this every day with customer studies—call them voice of the customer, customer experience, customer satisfaction, even call them customer journey mapping or NPS. Our focus is on providing the insights from customers that will answer business questions like:  What motivates customers to advocate our brand/product and how can we drive more of it? Or, Where are customers getting “stuck” in their “journey” with us and how do we remove barriers to repeat purchase?

But sadly, none of this work is of much use other than for a self-satisfied pat on the back if employees are telling customers to give a high score, instead of just earning it and allowing the process to work to get the real feedback for change. I cringe when staff say things like, “You will be getting a survey and we must get all 10s or I will (fill in the blank: be fired, lose a bonus, etc.).” They are seriously undermining the premise that this research is being done to learn what to improve and make better customer experiences. And even if I loved the service, I will then often not want to complete the survey.

To that end, kudos to Jiffy Lube, for whom I recently took a post-service satisfaction study where they explicitly asked if their rep had told me to give a good score. Probably as a research geek I noticed this in a way that the average person would not. Nevertheless, it was refreshing! It allowed me to give true customer feedback and feel confident the company really wanted to know what I thought, not just check a box, so they could make it better for the next person.  Satisfying as a customer and as a researcher.

Topics: marketing strategy, brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty

Can an App Make Improving Customer Experience a Snap?

Posted by Kate Zilla-Ba

Wed, May 22, 2013

taco bell snapchatIf you're over the age of 25, are childless, and have any idea of what Snapchat is, kudos on your tech hipster status. For those with tweens or teens, you may have been allowed to see a brief glimpse of this world, and maybe some of you have even heard it called a “sexting” app.Don’t we love our flow of both successful and flash-in-the-pan communication tools!  YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…and now there’s Snapchat. Will it have the longevity of these household names?  It’s hard to say. But there’s been phenomenal adoption for this app that allows instant communication gratification. One of the key selling points of Snapchat appears to be its “self-destruct” feature.  That is, when you take a picture and send it via Snapchat the recipient has, say, 10 seconds to view it once opened before it, poof, vanishes. The idea is that the communication happens but there’s no record—incriminating or otherwise.

Now, a recipient can take a screen shot of the image (the sender is notified in this case), or if they were so inclined could use another device to take a picture of the image showing on the phone… Whew, that’s a lot of work with 50 million snaps a day already flying around as of last December (for reference, 300 million images are uploaded to Facebook a day).  

So with Snapchat, users take pictures or videos of themselves or their surroundings and send them (with a message if desired) to a contact. Once viewed, the recipient’s device in theory no longer retains the image.  This purports to alleviate concerns over the public trail left on Twitter or Facebook, and it has already been used for branding. 

A frozen yogurt shop in NYC, 16 Handles, was reportedly the first to use it for an instant couponing program—if a customer was in the right store and the right time they could get an instant coupon to flash to the salesperson for a discount. It was essentially gamification of the mobile social local aspect of the app – adding something fun and interactive. Early this month, Taco Bell joined the action, urging their fans to add them on Snapchat and reintroducing the Beefy Crunch Taco via the app.

How can other brands use this app to help manage and measure customer experiences? Much like Google Surveys says you can ask a whole survey worth of questions, pieced together one question per respondent at a time, to make the whole picture, instant messaging apps could be used to piece together a more holistic picture of how customers experience and interact with a brand.

mobileOr, shh, what about Whisper—another app phenomenon that recently got $3m in start-up funding. This one allows anonymous posting of secrets. It’s not the first idea of its kind, but it is apparently heavily moderated—good. And here’s where the generation gap really kicks in. Whisper users need this app on a psychosocial level because they have pressure to live such curated lives on Facebook. Living up to the self-brand they create is too much. Whisper is supposedly an outlet for being “real.”

That sounds even more like something that could be a source plumbed for customer experience insights, although their terms and conditions currently say clearly that you may not use the site to mine data. What about a Whisper business account that asked consumers what they secretly do, or wish they could do, with their next vacation, car rental, computer purchase, etc.?

It’s conceivable that the future could be mapped through compiling many blips of information into a coherent story. It is big data of a whole different kind. Yet, a word to the wise: there will always be newer and cleverer platforms, apps, or gadgets to let you connect with customers, but you still need to know your audience’s wants and needs—that’s been the same for centuries!

Kate is a Project Director, working with clients across many industries at CMB. She has been known to perform in local musical theater here and there, speaks three languages well and a few others passably, and loves coincidence.

Click here to read our 2013 Consumer Pulse-The Mobile Moment: Barriers and Opportunities for Mobile Wallet

Topics: big data, mobile, millennials, social media, customer experience and loyalty

My Inbox Overfloweth: Adventures in Unsubscribing

Posted by Kate Zilla-Ba

Wed, Dec 12, 2012

computer handshakeBlack Friday, Cyber Monday, Tech Tuesday… the offers keep rolling in, and this year, I cracked.  Yes, I still love you LL Bean, Lands’ End, Williams Sonoma, and Wal-mart.  But I can’t take your daily barrage anymore; it’s time to purge.Despite my innate skepticism—no matter what you do or say, you can’t get off a mailing list–I forged ahead to try to staunch some of the flow.  I mean, if I am spending even 10 seconds on each of the 100-odd commercial emails I get a day, couldn’t I find a better use of my time, like baking cookies?  Not to mention, I remember reading somewhere about how much energy an email takes to generate, send and store, etc.  So really this was a green effort on my part. 

But I digress.   As I got rolling, I noticed several unsubscribe methods.  And it got me thinking about how they—the marketers, should keep contact with me—the consumer, while not annoying me (yes, me over here with the credit card at the ready!). Because, as I mentioned, I still love those guys for the most part. 

And so here’s how the world of unsubs breaks down in my recent experience:

The Clean Cut and Run: This is the one I wonder about the outcome of most.  While everyone pretty much has to offer the unsubscribe option when they email you, my suspicious side makes me think they are actually validating my email when I click through and unsubscribe.  I am, after all, confirming my existence with a live email address.  Sometimes you hear back that, “yes, you are off the list now,” while at other times it feels like you’re shouting into the void.  The latter situation leaves me with a less than positive feeling.

The Good Bye and Good Luck: This is when they say something like, “Aw shucks!  We’ll miss you.”  And you feel a moment’s regret, but know in your heart of hearts they will be back someday… well maybe.  At least you parted on good terms.

The Really?  Good-bye?: They will let you go, but not without a last ditch effort to ask, “Why?  How could you do this to me?  You’re really are breaking up with me?”  And you might, if not doggedly persistent, find yourself caving and not following through on the unsub.

The But wait, there’s more: Here’s where the real genius starts to kick in (or is it just common sense).  I click the unsubscribe link, get to a page that says something to the effect of:  “OK so how often would you like to get emails from us?  Is once a week too much, how about once every two weeks or once a month? Would you be willing to get a quarterly update?  You don’t want to never get them, right?” And chances are I don’t want to cut them off completely, but I sincerely do want to de-clutter.  So I end up saying, sure, you can keep sending me something once in a great while.  

Then there was one with the option to choose a contact timeframe, and the options were:

Multiple times a day
Once a day
2-3 times a week
Once a week
Never

Umm.  I have to say “never” wins here.  Who is clicking an unsubscribe link only to say, “Yes, please send me emails several times a day?”  Fact is, and this is undoubtedly personality driven, if I am going to shop, chances are I already know what I am looking for and I start from Amazon or the retailer’s page directly, not from an advermail.  They probably have some offer right there on their home page after all.  It’s not as if I truly believe they are only sending me the alert that they have a 10% off + free shipping deal underway… plus there’s always RetailMeNot for a coupon code!

unsubscribe button resized 600But I think my favorite unsub result may be when you get an email confirming you just said you didn’t want any more emails.  Granted, I really DID need to purge that pizza joint from a trip 2 years ago to DC.  I live in Boston and good as it may be, their pizza won’t be delivered all the way up north. 

So at the risk of dismaying some email marketers with my Scrooge-like email purge, just know I feel fresh and invigorated again now in the anticipation of a clean start to the New Year.  Some of you marketers made me feel listened to and heard.  And I am grateful for it.  Maybe even grateful in a way that reminds me to check you out next time I need a new blender, or a pair of fingerless gloves.

Kate is a Project Director, working with clients across many industries at CMB. She has been known to perform in local musical theater here and there, speaks three languages well and a few others passably, and loves coincidence.

Learn more about why people subscribe to emails (or don't) with our Consumer Pulse: 10 Quick Facts about How and Why Consumers "Like" and Subscribe.

Topics: marketing strategy, customer experience and loyalty, retail research