Archive for the ‘Relationship Marketing’ Category

Are you the kind of person who enjoys reading product packaging at the table?

I am. I’ll read anything, even if I don’t eat it. The story of how my natural Sea Salt gets from the sun drenched shores of the Mediterranean Sea to my table. The instructions on how to properly fold a US Flag as part of a Leann Rimes/US Flag promotion on the back of a Kelloggs Corn Flakes box. The exotic ingredients below the parrot on the beautiful label of a bottle of tangy Pickapeppa Sauce from Shooters Hill, Jamaica. (Mangoes and raisins? Mmmm.)

Recently I was reading the side of the Silk Soy Milk carton while having breakfast with my family, and found myself first educated, then disappointed and finally, offended.

Now don’t get me wrong. Silk has a great story, which I learned from reading the side of the carton. I quote, “Did you know that every delicious drop of silk is powered by clean, renewable wind energy?” On the carton I also discovered that Silk has 11 essential vitamins and minerals, natural Omega-3s and antioxidants, 20% less fat and calories than 1% milk, 30% of your daily calcium per serving, and 6.25grams of soy protein per serving.

So I’m thinking now I’m an expert on Silk Soy Milk. I could answer any Soy-based question they asked me on Jeopardy, even one in Final Jeopardy for all the marbles. I could be the lifeline a friend calls on “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire” when the question is “How many grams of protein are in an 8 oz. glass of Silk Soy Milk?”

And then I get to the “Test Your Soy-Q” side of the box. Man, am I ready to rock or what?

What follows is the actual copy on the carton (and as such I’m sure is Copyright 2008 by Silk or whoever owns it now):

  1. Silk is full of surprises — including some flavors and varieties you might not expect. Can you spot the imposter in a Silk Soymilk lineup?   A) Silk Light Vanilla   B) Silk Banana   C) Silk Chai   D) Silk Plus Fiber
  2. Silk’s so delicious, it’s easy to get carried away. However, Silk is not intended for use in:  A) Coffee   B) Macaroni & Cheese   C) The Bath   D) Smoothies
  3. Nine out of ten Silk drinkers agree that SIlk tastes best:   A) Nice and cold   B) Among friends   C) On weekends   D) All of the above

Not done learning? Good for you! Visit http://www.silksoymilk.com

Answers:

  1. B — Yes, we have no banana. But we do have Vanilla, Very Vanilla, Chocolate Mocha, Cofee, Plain and unsweetened — Plus a few more that we can’t squeeze on this carton. (Visit us online to learn more!)
  2. C — Although we’ve heard some stories.
  3. D — The tenth guy thinks it tastes best in the bath.

Shockingly, I didn’t get a single answer correct. So, why am I disappointed and offended by this cheesy yet innocuous piece of drivel on the side of a box of liquid squeezed out of a bean masquerading as the fluid produced by the mammary glands of a mammal?

Because as a marketer, I was disappointed that Silk wasted the most interactive, engaging element on their packaging with bad jokes and incompetent cross sell. As a customer, I’m offended because Silk enticed me with the tasty promise of ego gratification based on my ingestion of their product attributes and then made me feel stupid for swallowing it. (Plus, I know if I’d just studied the right material prior to the exam, my Soy-Q would be considerably higher than it is now. Oh, the shame, the shame!)

But really, aren’t I making too much of this? I thought I might be, which was why I held off writing this particular post. Until I read a post by Seth Godin the other day about political spin, media outlets and marketers. Speaking of politicians lying, he says, “The spinners lie constantly. They lie with a straight face. They lie sentence after sentence, relentlessly…we don’t really know what to do in the face of non-stop lying. Is this person an alien? Do they think we’re stupid? How are we supposed to respond to the onslaught of disrespect?”

“Do they think we’re stupid?” And then it hit me. I felt personally disrespected by the Silk Soy Milk box.

Sure, as a marketer I care that Silk missed an opportunity to interactively engage their customers. And that if they’d actually asked some interesting and even challenging questions, customers might actually have been “Not done learning?” and “visited us online to learn more!”, thereby increasing site visits, deepening relationship and creating more and better developed opportunities for cross sell and product trial.

But why I’m really offended, what I really care about, is that they have so little respect for me, as a customer, that they think they can treat me like an idiot, and I’ll lap it up. It’s the same way I feel when Ellen Degeneres, whom I adore, tries to tell me that she doesn’t have any “people” who can get her into a Beyonce concert in that stupid American Express commercial. (Full Disclosure:  I have multiple Amex Cards, I love the company, and I wish Ellen and Portia all the best in their marriage.)

These are not companies who are ignorant of customer relationships. Far from it — both were built because they understood what their customers wanted and gave them something other companies did not. And they usually engage with their customers and prospects in an intelligent way. (After all, it’s not like we’re not talking about Budweiser, here.)

So can someone please explain to me why even good marketers sometimes create advertising that assumes their customers are too stupid to tell when they’re being treated like morons?

Direct To Consumer (DTC) prescription drug ads don’t work according to an article this morning in the Washington Post. The Post reported on a five year study of Direct to Consumer advertising by prescription drug companies which concluded that those ads had little impact on sales. The study was pretty clever — it looked at Canadians who were exposed to US ads in English, and used French-speakers in Quebec as the control group. DTC advertising is illegal in Canada (According to the Post, only the US and New Zealand allow it), but English speaking Canadians are exposed to the ads through US media. They looked at 3 prescription drugs:  Enbrel, for rheumatoid arthritis, Nasonex for nasal allergies, and Zelnorm, for irritable bowel syndrome. In the first two there was no difference in patterns. In the third, after an initial spike, usage leveled off between the two groups. The Post article quotes a Harvard Med School professor and principal investigator in the study, Steven Soumerai:  ‘Advertising prescription drugs is “not line popcorn, cereal and hair sprays.”‘

I agree with Professor Soumerai, and this study makes sense to me. The study tests the impact of Direct To Consumer TV and print advertising, the ultimate shotgun approach to interruptive advertising. Shout your message out to the widest possible audience (in this case, so loudly they hear you all the way in Canada!). Then hope that some percentage of them are your targets.

Even worse, no matter how loud you do shout, people eventually start tuning you out. This article about consumer recall of prescription drug ads in AdWeek says that over the last year, Nielsen IAG has determined that those ads are getting less memorable. The article places the blame on slashed budgets, stale creative and other woes, and says that those that remain wouldn’t have made the top 10 based on last year’s recall scores.

My agency doesn’t do any pharmaceutical advertising, but in 2006 we did do a direct mail customer acquisition campaign for a legitimate nutritional supplement (for joint pain) that happened to target a similar group to one of the drugs. We had an overall response/conversion rate of 0.75% and our best cells had response/conversion rates as high as 1.81%. (For response rate here, we mean paid product trial, but since it represents an actual order, I’m equating it to a conversion rate as well. For you internet-only types, direct mail response is different than a click thru, since by definition it actually means an order!) We had a first refill rate of 16.82%, meaning 16.82% of those initial customers ordered a second time. Of those, 68.1% became long term customers, ordering over and over. In other words, our direct mail worked to drive increased sales where big pharma’s DTC seemingly did not.

Why? Because we applied solid direct marketing principals to our client’s product. We found the right groups of people, people who through a variety of means told us they were interested in what we had to offer. We tested the lists, the offers and the messages to find the right mix, and then maximized our learning to achieve solid results. This is why direct marketing often succeeds where other forms of advertising fail, and works especially well for companies with smaller budgets that have to work harder.

Since 1997, when the FDA began allowing DTC advertising, the pharmaceutical companies have thrown a ton of money at consumers — $5 Billion in 2006 alone, again according to the Post. Now, to be fair, some of it has also gone to direct marketing in one form or another. Pharma has been a pioneer in building online communities, providing information and educational resources online, all in an effort to get consumers to request their drugs from their doctors. But as we all know from watching TV, much of it has gone into the airwaves. (I can hear that darn Antonio Banderas sounding Nasonex bee buzzing around as I write this. Oh wait, according to Wikipedia, it is Antonio Banderas!)

So in the face of dwindling budgets, shrinking attention and studies like these, can someone please explain to me why big pharma continues to throw billions of dollars at consumers by trying to interrupt them when it could spend far less just connecting with them?

My family loves pizza. One of our favorites is Uno Chicago Grill, which we still can’t stop thinking of as Pizzeria Uno. But whenever we would go there, I would cringe. You see, I have a sensitivity to Canola Oil, that seemingly ubiquitous liquid lipid that has insidiously insinuated itself into prepared food everywhere. Whenever we would go to Uno, I would get ill.

But recently, Uno went from dangerous to desirable, all thanks to the little computer kiosk in their vestibule and the ability to search a full ingredients list for every item on their menu. While waiting to be seated, which can take longer than it does to grow the tomatoes from which their sauce is made, I noticed the kiosk and figured I’d check it out.

With just a few clicks, I was able to discover that, in terms of canola, Spinocolli Deep Dish Pizza was good, Farmer’s Market Vegetable was bad. Simple, unassuming Cheese & Tomato Deep Dish was actually cool, canola-wise, while my old standby, Four Cheese Deep Dish, was catastrophically uncool.

Fascinated, and with nothing better to do, I read virtually every potentially non-meat item on the menu, and found some which I never would have tried before that I could now order with abandon. (Crispy Cheese Dippers and Shrimp and Crab Fondue good; Roasted Vegetable Quesadillas and 4 Flavor Veggie Pot Stickers with Peanut Sauce, both bad, bad, bad.)

Uno turned a pain point (a long wait) into a deeply immersive engagement that deepened my relationship with their organization (and turned a foe into a friend.)

They’re also in step with the trends. With more and more people reading ingredients labels, there’s clearly a growing concern over ingredients, nutritional breakdowns, etc. The labels of prescription drugs often include long lists of food ingredients to avoid when taking them. State and municipal governments are mandating various levels of disclosure, from calories and fat to more, and even banning the use of many ingredients.

It makes sense for restaurants to drop their drawers and let consumers get a good look inside. I think Uno is missing a few tricks, though.

Imagine if I could have typed in the ingredients or allergens I wanted to avoid, rather than having to look through the whole menu, and have all the “safe items” pop up? It might be less effective in terms of time of engagement, but more effective in terms of product trial and loyalty.

What if there were kiosks at every table, so that people with concerns could check out a menu item from their multi-page menu rather than having to ask a server? After all, we’re there to eat. We’re going to order something. Why not make sure it’s the right something, so we leave happy and come back wanting more?

Why not give everyone a wireless menu pad when they walk in the door, so customers could check out the ingredients while waiting and order directly from the pad afterwards? You could still have the order confirmed by a live server, and only activated after people were seated, to avoid scheduling issues, allow for suggestive cross- and up-sell and maintain a level of friendly server/customer interaction. Plus, Uno would never need to print another menu — just download the new one onto the pad.

Some of these ideas are almost certainly cost-prohibitive right now. But since a recent study on Marketing Sherpa just found that customer service is the most important aspect of consumer loyalty, the return on investment may actually pay off.

to customers, customer service wins!

Marketing Sherpa found that customers and vendors disagree over loyalty drivers: to customers, customer service wins!

As the chart shows, many vendors don’t get it. I’m betting Uno does, and they’re milking it for everything it’s worth. Not only will you find the same nutritional breakdowns on their website, but you’ll also find that as of this writing the most prominent real estate on their home page touts their accolades: named “America’s #1 Healthiest Chain Restaurant” by Health Magazine, “1 of the top 10 family restaurants” by Parents Magazine, and Prevention Magazine’s “Guilt-Free Favorite Pizza” (which, by the way, I can’t eat, thanks to… canola oil!).

There are many benefits to taking advantage of the growing consumer hunger to know exactly what we’re putting into our bodies. So can someone please explain to me why most restaurants insist on serving us mystery meals?