30 October 2019
Author: Daniel Lally
As Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg headed to Capitol Hill for his two days of ritual public humiliation over the 737 Max, his company took out full-page ads in several major newspapers. We’ll leave it to others to dissect the executive’s performance and the reaction of his brand, but the situation is a useful reminder that at some point every organization will face an angry, frustrated or just disappointed audience. Obviously, we can’t run around like a bunch of cartoon characters offering a heartfelt apology for every unfortunate circumstance. But when our own action or inaction clearly lead to an unpleasant outcome, an effective apology can help you (a neighbor, a spouse, an anthropomorphized brand) regain trust. Customers in general are open to forgiving a brand that takes responsibility and expresses regret for its own actions or failures—and it certainly beats blaming somebody else on this score. However, it’s only effective when done properly. These are polite norms that we all kinda, sorta know intuitively, but behavioral scientists Steven Martin and Joseph Marks codified them for us in their book Messengers. They state that an effective apology: Must be delivered quickly; Must be expressed sincerely; and Must demonstrate a commitment to change. Most of the public apologies we encounter these days fall down on at least one of these criteria. So, where do these less timely, insincere or noncommittal apologies go wrong? Often, it’s a matter of completeness. For example, the apologies lack any tangible or expressed commitment to change or to prevent the offense from happening again. More often, the person apologizing allows his or her personal pride to get between the expression and the whole point of the exercise. They know they need to apologize, but they don’t want to actually take any blame for anything personally. The result is usually some sort of excuse or qualified apology, which is to say, not an apology at all. I am sorry if my words were misunderstood. I apologize to anyone who may have been offended. I didn’t know you were going in there when I left my shoes in the middle of the room. That sort of thing. Knowing when and how to offer an apology can be the difference between regaining the trust of your customers and the public, or turning disappointment into rage. Or sleeping on the couch, for that matter.
23 October 2019
The hand that rocks the cradle, they say … Our mothers’ opinions become ours from a young age and when we’re old enough to have our own opinions, we often still trust that mother knows best. Or, at least she sets the starting point. So, where do today’s Millennial moms go when they need an expert opinion in these hyper-connected days? Where they’ve always gone: Other moms. For millennial moms, using social media as a way to reach out to other moms is second nature. What’s different is that instead of having just a close-knit group of mom friends in the family or the neighborhood, there are now thousands of online groups moms can join based on geography, age, special needs, interests … you name it. Every day, these groups are filled with posts by members, seeking and offering up recommendations on the best service providers, baby products, family-friendly entertainment, travel destinations and more. Millennial moms are particularly likely to trust recommendations of other parents on social media. One survey cited in Forbes showed them significantly more inclined to online referrals than even their Gen X older siblings. And these Millennial Moms control a lot of spending power, with mothers making the purchase decisions in four out of every five dollars spent on household products and services. So, as marketers, how can we make sure these uber-consumers know (and share) the advantages of what we’re offering? We need to be part of their communities, both online and in real life. That means building relationships that foster dialogue, not shouting slogans. That means listening more than you speak. We start by identifying the influencers in the market and reaching out personally to offer them something of value in their own lives. This can be a sample for trial, an experience that they can share with their own network, or even an offer they can share with their online followers and offline communities. It’s important that these interactions are conversations, not monologues. Aside from the opportunity to tell the community about your latest offering or enhancement, it’s a great opportunity to learn more about your customer and their lives. Join their communities by participating in online conversations. Your company and your brand have access to experiences from other consumers and other families that members will find useful. And when it comes to your own product, there can be no better source for how it’s best used or enjoyed. Influencers have a responsibility to their audience. The community gives them a platform. In return, members of that community rely on them to test products, try services and to share information they can use to simplify their own lives. Companies and brands that become trusted members of the community – that contribute more than just self-promotion – are gaining an advantage in earning the business of this Millennial generation. And the next one.
15 October 2019
If it doesn’t feel like we’re almost always in the middle of an election cycle or gearing up for one, you may not be paying close enough attention. It chews up your social media feed, shouts at you on your commute and dominates whichever screen you choose as a refuge in the evening. Nobody feels it more than marketers who need to navigate the complex world of media planning competing for placement with candidates for every office from township clerk to president. And the competition can be even more acute if your business relies on reaching consumers in a contested or (worst case) swing state in the general election. The key is in diversifying your media plan to ensure you’re reaching your customers without having to outbid some campaign or special interest group with deeper pockets. Careful planning early in the process can prevent unexpected costs or preemption later in the game, particularly in that 45-day window before the general election. A simple approach is to make sure you have a good media mix to target your consumers. One way to do this is to move out of higher-demand programming and cable networks that political ads will be buying up. New analytics help make this approach even more efficient. Using audience modeling, we can target the exact same consumers on other networks or programming to mirror the viewing habits we want. This also avoids putting your message in an environment where a flood of political ads sends consumers running out of the room at every commercial break. There’s no need to run away from traditional broadcast during an election. An option we can explore to put in the mix is sponsorships or sports packages, which are less pre-emptiable during election campaigns. While these come with time and budget commitments, they can complement your normal schedule to reach higher targeted-profile programming. An important thing to remember is to make sure you have an open communication with your media partners. By staying ahead of issues, you can work out any bumps in the campaign in advance. Streaming services—referred to in the trade as OTT or over-the-top—also present opportunities to communicate with your customers in a channel where election-year demand doesn’t create as much pressure. Because political campaigns need to focus their efforts on likely voters, your planning can be nimbler and take advantage of opportunities they pass on or simply overlook. OTT channels also aren’t bound by regulations requiring them to offer candidates for political office their lowest unit rates (LUR)—which means there’s more room for negotiation. Streaming audio channels offer many of the same advantages. Platforms like Spotify, Pandora or TuneIn deliver audiences that can be custom-targeted by both geography and interest, as well as by demographics. Campaign commercials may interrupt your favorite show or clutter up your news feed, but a well-considered plan can make sure they don’t spoil your marketing.