Tuesday, January 30, 2018

An Amazing Amazon Experience – But It Didn’t Start That Way

We’ve all heard the stories about Amazon. The service is exceptional. The employees love their jobs. The company sells everything except the Moon. But can any company really be everything positive? Well, I have a story that just might convince you that the answer to that question is yes.

Like many brand-loyal consumers, I often place orders from online retailers. Sometimes, I shop from a specific retailer, and other times, I buy from Amazon. When it comes to books, though, I always go directly to Amazon.com. 

Last December, I placed an order for four books from Amazon. The four books included a non-fiction book for one family member, one fiction book for another family member, and two fiction books for another family member. The genres were different, so it was possible that Amazon might have needed more than one shipment to complete my order.

Two weeks passed, and two of the fiction books arrived. Since the new year had just started, I forgot about the remaining two books. Two more weeks passed. There were no more packages from Amazon – and even stranger, no emails nor communications of any kind indicating that anything was amiss.

Six weeks after my order, I checked the order status on Amazon’s website and learned that “Your package may be lost.” This language was noted for both of the missing books. I wondered, why hadn’t Amazon contacted me? But odder still, if Amazon suspected that my package containing two books was lost, why hadn’t a replacement package been sent?

I wrote to Amazon indicating that my two books had never arrived and, upon checking my order status, saw Amazon’s note that “Your package may be lost.” I asked for assistance. Less than six hours later, I received the following message:

I am so sorry to hear that you didn’t receive your two books. This usually doesn’t happen. To make things right, I’ve created a replacement for the missing items at no additional charge with the fastest shipping method possible (one-day shipping with no extra cost). Here is your tracking number (included). However, if in case you want a full refund instead, let us know. To make up for the inconvenience, I’ve issued a $5 promotional certificate to your Amazon.com account, which will automatically apply the next time you order an item sold and shipped by Amazon.com. It is our privilege to have you as our valued customer and would like to thank you for your continued support. We look forward to a very warm and fruitful association with you. Have a nice day.

Let’s recap: Amazon’s employees acknowledged that two books had apparently been lost in shipment. They ordered replacement books on my behalf. They did not charge me for the replacement books. They coordinated quick shipment – and the books arrived within 24 hours of my initial email. And, they provided a $5 gift certificate for a future purchase.

Amazon employees did not have to check high up the food chain for approval to handle my situation. They did not send numerous emails asking for proof that my books had not arrived. They did not waffle on how to resolve the situation. I am a repeat customer and only wanted the books that I had ordered.

Talk about an amazing customer experience! Amazon, I will buy from you any day!

Image Credit: Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, January 19, 2018

A Not-So-Sweet Brand Story

Did you hear the food industry news this past week? Nestle, the world’s largest food company according to Forbes, sold its U.S. confectionery business to Italian chocolatier Ferrero. You may be familiar with Nestle’s iconic American sweets including Nestle Crunch, Butterfinger, Baby Ruth, Raisinets, Nips, Skinny Cow, and Laffy Taffy.

Nestle’s mission is “Enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future.” With U.S. confectionery sales just 3% of the overall company’s sales during 2016, CEO Mark Schneider explained, “This move allows Nestle to invest and innovate across a range of categories where we see strong future growth and hold leadership positions, such as pet care, bottled water, coffee, frozen meals, and infant nutrition.” Nestle’s brands in these categories include Purina, Coffee-Mate, Gerber, and Stouffer’s.

New owner Ferrero, headquartered in Luxembourg, is best known for Ferrero Rocher chocolates as well as Nutella and TicTacs. This acquisition will make Ferrero the third-largest chocolate confectionery in the world, according to London-based market research company Euromonitor International. And now, Ferrero will become a well-known brand in the United States.

What do you think? Has Nestle diluted its brand equity as a result of this sale? Do you associate Nestle with sweet brands and confections? The company began in 1866 as a milk and infant cereal company, and in 1875, began making milk chocolate. Whether you agree or disagree with the sale, it will be hard to see Nestle products under the umbrella of another brand.

Image Credit: Nestle.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Ten Useful Brand Marketing Hashtags

Thanks to social media, hashtags have become an excellent marketing tool when reaching out to customers and potential customers. Whenever a hashtag or number sign (#) is inserted in front of a word or phrase, it brings attention to the word or phrase and facilitates online searches. Hashtags have become useful throughout social media but are most widely used on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Google Plus.

According to Wikipedia, a hashtag "makes it possible for (people) to easily find a specific theme or content...If promoted by enough individuals, a hashtag can 'trend' and attract more individual users...Because of its widespread use, ‘hashtag’ was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in June 2014."

While there are countless marketing hashtags, here are ten focused on branding and brand-building:

[1] #BrandExperience
When talking about the impact a brand makes on its customers, fans, or stakeholders, the term is brand experience. A positive brand experience can create a customer for life, and by contrast, a negative brand experience can be a brand’s worst nightmare due to the power of word-of-mouth marketing. All brands should focus on their brand experience, and always walk a mile in their customers’ shoes. Use this hashtag to showcase your overall brand experience and to attract more fans, followers, and customers.

[2] #BrandStorytelling
What story does your brand tell? Consider Apple, Tiffany & Co., and Amazon. What are their stories? Their mission statements easily tell their stories. Use this hashtag to tell stories that will engage your followers and fans.

[3] #BrandPositioning
Is your brand an industry leader or a follower? How do you position your brand in the marketplace? Consider Avis and its tagline: “We're #2 – We Try Harder.” Avis may not be the biggest car rental agency, but its tagline sticks out. Consider the Energizer Bunny – who doesn’t think of the pink bunny when a wireless mouse or keyboard needs new batteries? And while the golden arches of McDonald’s appear on almost every corner around the world, Burger King’s emphasis on bigger and cheaper hamburgers have developed a large following. There are advantages to being #2. One advantage to being #2 is the ability to create unique product specifications and/or packaging since no one expects you to be different. Other advantages include the ability to tweak pricing, the ability to align or partner with totally unconventional companies or brands, and the ability to change packaging or advertising just to see how consumers react. Use this hashtag to explain your brand positioning and how you excel – wherever you fit into your industry.

[4] #BrandStrategy
According to Bernadette Jiwa (@bernadettejiwa), “We think our job is to change how people feel about our product or service. But, in fact, our job is to change how people feel about themselves when they use that product or service.” Use this hashtag to highlight some aspect of your brand marketing strategy.

[5] #BrandPromise
What is your brand’s competitive advantage? Do your employees know, and can all of them clearly articulate your brand promise? From the CEO on down, commit to delivering your brand promise to customers. Use this hashtag to highlight your brand promise and show how you deliver.

[6] #BrandConsistency
How do you present your brand to your target audiences? If you have a tagline, specific colors in your logo, or words that represent your brand, all must be included on a consistent basis whenever talking about your brand. If you’re inconsistent, not only will you confuse your audiences, but you may lose customers. Use this hashtag to demonstrate ways that your brand is consistent.

[7] #BrandVoice

How does your brand speak to all of your audiences? Do you use industry-specific jargon? Are you formal or informal? Are you consistent with your brand voice throughout all social platforms? Consider these questions as you build and maintain your digital brand. Use this hashtag when something you post/say is in line with all your other brand assets.

[8] #BrandRelevance
How relevant is your brand? While it may be top of mindshare to your employees and key stakeholders, it may not be well-known outside of your circle of influencers.  Use this hashtag to demonstrate the strengths and unique attributes you contribute to your industry and the community-at-large. You may be surprised by how your brand recognition grows.

[9] #BrandIdentity
According to David Aaker (@DavidAaker), “An extended identity can help a brand break out of the box…consider the strategic role of the Wells Fargo stagecoach in the brand’s awareness level.” Use this hashtag to explain elements in your brand story, as well as your values and culture.

[10] #BrandAmbassador
Today, every employee has the potential to represent your brand. Therefore, leaders must ask, “Do employees have enough information to explain our competitive advantage? Can they articulate the brand promise in one or two sentences? Do they know who handles customer service complaints or press inquiries?” If the answers to these questions are no, then ask yourself this important question: How can my employees be enthusiastic brand ambassadors? The answer may force leaders to create a culture where innovation is promoted and recognized, where questions are answered, where good work is rewarded, and where leadership is transparent. Engaged employees will emerge – people who will live and breathe your brand on a daily basis. Use this hashtag to provide assistance to create brand ambassadors – and to highlight and thank your existing ambassadors.

On a related note, there are two other hashtags that you should also keep in mind. #EmployerBranding is useful when looking for top quality candidates. Show job applicants that your company, business, or nonprofit cares about employees by being conscious of your employer brand. And #PersonalBranding is an important hashtag because every individual is a brand and has something unique to offer.

I’d like to end with my favorite quote about branding. Ken Peters (@brand_BIG) said it best, “Advertising shouts at you. Marketing talks to you. Branding connects with you.”

What do you think? Chime in with your fave brand marketing hashtag.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Top 10 Marketing Highlights of 2017

With 2017 now history, it's time for my annual "Top 10" marketing highlights post – incredible to believe this is my 8th annual post featuring annual marketing highlights. Without further ado, let's get to it! What campaigns were great? Which were duds? What stood out as marketing innovation, and what will go down in history as memorable as Apple's 1984 Super Bowl ad? What do you remember from the 2017 marketing reel?

With a quick nod to David Letterman for the format, here's my list:

Number 10: On January 1, 2017, residents of Los Angeles, California, were welcomed not by the well-known Hollywood sign over Hollywood, but instead, by a sign that read Hollyweed. With the legalization of recreational marijuana, some vandals thought they would play a joke on the city. Jokes of this magnitude are not funny, and law enforcement certainly didn't think so.

Number 9: In March, international brand Coca-Cola fired its chief marketing officer (CMO) and chose NOT to hire a new one. As a result, the role of the CMO was put into question not just at Coke, but at other businesses too - large and small, B2B and B2C.

According to Fergus Jarvis on Campaignlive.com, "Once upon a time, the chief marketing officer was a simple custodian of a brand. But the role is changing rapidly. Nowadays, they are more deeply involved in a business’ proposition, customer journey, technology and sales. Consequently, marketing functions face immense pressure on resources and bandwidth. But on the flip side, never before has the function been so business-critical or the CMO’s importance to the chief executive so self-evident. Ironically, while the function’s work is becoming more strategically important to the business, CMOs are running to keep up with the tactical demands of a vast and fast-changing digital landscape."

Number 8: In April, United Airlines forcefully removed a passenger from one of its airplanes, and in the modern social media and smartphone era, the violent action was taped by many passengers and picked up by major news sources. The public relations crisis that followed did nothing to restore the public's confidence in United Airlines or its personnel. According to Steve Barrett of PR Week, "Communication, especially in a service business such as an airline, starts with every member of staff that interacts with the public. You earn your reputational chops every day, from the CEO down."

Number 7: In May, after a year of working with guest hosts, Kelly Ripa of morning TV talk show fame finally welcomed a new co-host, Ryan Seacrest. The ABC morning show was quickly and seamlessly re-branded from "Live with Kelly" to "Live with Kelly and Ryan."

Number 6: In June, to celebrate the legacy of Adam West, better known by his alter ego Batman, the city of Los Angeles became Gotham City for one night, when the bat-signal was projected, aka, lit, against City Hall.

Number 5: In August, Discovery Channel's annual Shark Week launched a slew of co-branded partnerships - some more appropriate than others - that included Southwest Airlines, Oceana, Georgetown Cupcake, Lokai, Coldstone Creamery, and the National Aquarium located in Washington, D.C.

Number 4: Did you see the total solar eclipse in August? According to NASA, "Experiencing a total solar eclipse where you live happens about once in 375 years. So, unless modern medicine advances considerably in the next few years, you might not make it to the next one. The last time anyone in the United States witnessed a total solar eclipse was almost 40 years ago, on February 26, 1979. It's been even longer - 99 years - since a total solar eclipse crossed the country from the Pacific to the Atlantic. The total eclipse on June 8, 1918, passed from Washington to Florida." So, with all the buzz about the eclipse, how did brands capitalize on the buzz and also join in the fun? One brand in particular has hit a home run with its marketing campaign to promote the eclipse. For the first time, Krispy Kreme’s Original Glazed Doughnuts was "eclipsed by a mouth-watering chocolate glaze" that coincided with the solar eclipse on Monday, August 21, at participating United States shops. (Click here to read my post on the eclipse.)

Number 3: In September, Paris won the 2024 Olympics, and Los Angeles won the 2028 Olympics in an unprecedented joint decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). While the Paris logo incorporated the Eiffel Tower and was an overall good logo, the LA logo was not such a good choice. Designers explained that the setting sun was the inspiration, but it had no references to either the logo from the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics or the city overall.

Number 2: Also in September, Hillary Clinton's long-awaited book entitled WHAT HAPPENED about the 2016 presidential election was released. The title could have been What Happened? or even What Happened!, but without any punctuation, the title was not as powerful as it could have been. The jury remains out about the book, and as 2017 drew to a close, Hillary's impact on the future of the Democratic party was still unclear.

And Number 1 on my 2017 Marketing Highlights List:

Drum roll please...
While the expected birth of Prince William's third child and Prince Harry's engagement were announced during 2017, the birth and wedding will take place during 2018, and as a result, will appear on 2018's marketing highlights list since they will have countless marketing influences on products, news, and more. However, Pantone chose to highlight the royal family and its upcoming eventful year by naming the 2018 Color of the Year as Ultra Violet, otherwise known as purple - for royalty, perhaps?

According to Pantone's website: "A dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade, PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us toward the future. As individuals around the world become more fascinated with color and realize its ability to convey deep messages and meanings, designers and brands should feel empowered to use color to inspire and influence. The Color of the Year is one moment in time that provides strategic direction for the world of trend and design, reflecting the Pantone Color Institute’s year-round work doing the same for designers and brands."

What would you add to this list? Here's to 2018 and another year of marketing highlights. Happy New Year!

Image Credit: Pantone.