Tag Archives: customer experience

treat disease, not symptom

There have been lots of P.R. disasters lately (United, Pepsi, Fyre, etc). While the lesson in corporate communication on how to offer a proper apology is important, there is a more important takeaway from these dust ups.

Don’t have the disaster.

Sure, that’s easier said than done. But looking at most of these meltdowns, you can trace it back to violating one of the primary tenets of good marketing: Treat the customer right. Empower your employees to do the right thing instead of blindly following procedures.

Simple steps. But steps that can’t be slapped on with a press release. They have to be baked in to corporate culture.

Corporate marketing apology

taco bell routine republic goes up against mcdonalds

This “Routine Republic” ad campaign by Deutsch for Taco Bell is amazing. Ad types love it because they love dystopian ads reminiscent of the ad they all worship. But the Taco Bell ad actually works too. It takes the value propositions of Taco Bell’s breakfast menu against McDonalds and hits the nail on the head. It’s not subtle or hard to get.

Too bad my local Taco Bell doesn’t open until 7am and the clown dictator lets me in the door as early as 5:30a. I’ve stood outside the door at 7:05am at Taco Bell while the employees inside stared at me.

I guess the ad campaign is a waste if customers can’t get inside to buy.

I’ve said it time and time again. Operations, logistics, and customer service have a bigger impact (positive or negative) on branding and marketing than most ad campaigns do.

It is a good ad though. Reminds me of 1984.

living by the sword

A little over two years ago, Morton’s steakhouse pulled off a promotional stunt that generated tons of publicity by meeting a rabid Morton’s fan (who is also a social media celebrity) at the airport with a steak dinner after he tweeted he was hungry. It was talked about on social media for weeks and the story got picked up by national traditional media outlets.

This past weekend, the Morton’s in Nashville threw a cancer patient out of the restaurant for wearing a cap to cover his hair loss from chemotherapy. They are getting destroyed across all social media platforms and are in major crisis management control mode.

If you live by the sword, you’ll die by the sword.

I’ve said several times that the underlying key to social media success is simple. Invest less in the social media message and invest more in your people who are on the ground providing customer service. Customers will post both the good and the bad experiences they have. (TIP: You want the good to outnumber the bad.)

good design and UX

ios7
I hate to be one of those redesign resistant people, but at first glance I don’t like the design changes of iOS7 announced this week at WWDC.

My displeasure comes down to the loss of skeuomorphism and the flat design.

Aesthetics are all judged by opinions. And opinions are like belly buttons, everyone has one. But design goes beyond whether you “like” something or not. Design has rules and order.

Good design is intuitive. And most of our intuition comes from our life experiences. Round colorful circles don’t tell me what something does.

Contrast, color, and hierarchy provide a means for the designer to command the places for the user’s eye to go. With no depth, everything is equal.

It all comes back to something that I’m seeing more and more of. Design for the sake of design rather than for user experience. It’s fun and feels edgy for the newly hatched designer to smear a gradient across their screen and slap a thin font on it. Not so much for the user to who has to deal with it on a daily basis.

the popcorn button

Nearly every microwave you see has a “popcorn button”.

Nearly every package of microwave popcorn has a warning, “DO NOT USE THE POPCORN BUTTON”.

It’s an impasse.

popcorn buttonThe microwave has a sensor that monitors the moisture and other factors inside the microwave to tell it to shutdown when it senses that the popcorn is done. Meanwhile, the popcorn manufacturers don’t want you to rely on that automation and want you to use your own ears to monitor when the popping slows.

It seems both parties are trying to give you a decent serving of popcorn. (Actually if you want good popcorn, you use something like this.)

I’m sure both parties think they’re serving their customer. In reality, they are each looking out for their own interests and seeing the process from their own worldview. In the process, they’re confusing the real end user of both products.

Seth Godin had a great insight in Purple Cow about an innovation in paint cans from Dutch Boy … “People don’t buy paint, they buy painted walls.

And in this case, people don’t buy popcorn bags and microwaves. They buy corn that has been popped.

Are you looking at your business from your own perspective? Are you battling with an external force that has influence on the final marketing outcome? Instead of an impasse that the end user finds confusing or ridiculous, why not change something? Stalemates get stale.

jc penney failure

jc penney logoI’m typically not one to root for something to fail, but I will make exceptions.

Ever since the “rebranding” of JC Penney JCP back in February, I’ve boycotted the store and waited for the day that their marketing stupidity would result in marketing failure. That day was yesterday.

From the super annoying teaser spots back in January (Nooooooo!) to the vapid campaign that was heavy on style but lacking any substantive advertising strategy, the whole endeavor by JC Penney to abandon their heritage was sad.

The advertising campaign bothered me the most. Newspaper inserts were wasted empty brand building pieces sitting next to other stores’ inserts chock full of merchandise. JCP featured no products. The campaign delivered no message. JCP waded right into the culture wars with a spokesperson who many people find objectionable. The media placement and scheduling was infuriating to viewers. The creative was not original. It was like watching an advertising student recreate an ad from The GAP or Old Navy as a class project.

(Lack of substance is an issue with alot of advertising today. More ad people need to read this book.)

But advertising is temporal. If a campaign doesn’t work, you can shove it under the rug and start fresh with the next one. JC Penney’s bigger problem is they have irreparably damaged their two most valuable assets: their customer base and their brand.

They may not be sexy, but the 35-65 female demo buys most things in department stores. They have disposable income. They purchase clothes and other items for the kids and the rest of the family. This type of base customer was the loyal customer base of JC Penney. And JCP left them to chase after a younger woman.

The JC Penney brand was not broken, but did need an update and adjustment. Like so many companies instead of brand adjustments, they threw the baby out with the bathwater. Rebranding is rarely the answer. You only need to rebrand if the brand is damaged. (Phillip Morris, BP, etc)

Marketing execs need to learn that rebranding is like paying the mortgage on a house for 30 years then abandoning the house because you’re tired of the wallpaper and paint. The key to successfully moving the perception of a brand is to take the positive brand equity with you instead of abandoning it.

JC Penney faced an impossible task. You can’t change a 110-year-old brand in a few months. Maybe they began with good intentions. Moving away from constant sales, coupons, and promotions was a good idea, but they over reached by trying to reinvent language. People know what a “sale” is, but a normal person doesn’t understand what “month-long value” is. And who knew a “Best Price Friday” happens on Saturday and Sunday as well? In general, JCP should have been more delicate with the brand work.

So now what? JC Penney is caught between the dock and the boat. They’re going to have to decide whether to build on what they have or keep trying to reinvent. What would you do?

By the way, if any company is thinking of hiring someone to come in and destroy their brand in 9 months for $15 million, I’ll do it in 5 months for only $7 million!

(UPDATE: April 2013 – JCP has ousted the architect of failure and reinstalled the former head honcho. We’ll see if it’s too late to save the brand.)

(UPDATE: May 2013 – I’ve written a new post complete with the JC Penney mea culpa commercial.)

autopilot

According to the press release from American Airlines, their customers should see “no change in service” related to their bankruptcy filing today.

That’s a shame.

Might be a good time to start delivering better service so they don’t have to file for bankruptcy in the future.

Most airlines are living in customer service bankruptcy.

(From the archives: My favorite post about American Airlines – Eliminating the last olive)