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posted by Will Weatherly May 11,2016 @ 04:28PM

A CliffsNotes on CX

In case you haven’t heard, it’s all the rage in the marketing world right now. In fact, just last night our local AMA Columbia chapter hosted an event dedicated to the topic. 

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Palmetto Health's Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Todd Miller discussing experiential marketing at the AMA Columbia meeting on May 10.

CX = Customer Experience

I suppose the abbreviation originated to play off its fancier-sounding cousin slash mentor-discipline in the tech world, UX (user experience), while cleverly facilitating a natural extension of the company C-Suite… the CEO, the CMO, and now the CXO.

CX began building noticeable buzz around 2011, the same year the CXPA was founded and the same year the world lost a man who had become synonymous with customer-centricity. In fact, it’s the very mantra of Jobs himself, and variations by other big business mavens like Musk and Bezos, that seem to have fueled the movement.

“Start with the customer.”

Over the past few years, CX has manifested through the formalizing and operationalizing of that creed by thought leaders whose backgrounds are often in customer service or the aforementiond design field of user experience or human-computer interaction -- both of course dealing with the needs of humans. 

Now, what’s all this got to do with marketing? Well, everything obviously.

A Tale of Three Paradigms

Marketing has changed. It’s not what it once was. It used to be a rehearsed monologue brands delivered from a stage loudly and clearly to target audiences with attention to spare. 

#1 - Always On 

But today, the marketing conversation is multi-channel and multi-directional. Social media, customer reviews, online influencers -- these force brands to keep on their toes every minute of every day. 

#2 - Smartketing

Data mining, lead scoring, and automation have fused sales and marketing, making mass-personalization and "funnels-of-one" the growing expectation of consumers as their relationships with brands become increasingly digital.

#3 - Template-ification

With brands and media channels now crowding the marketplace, it's harder than ever to get audience attention, and it's easier than ever to look and sound like every other brand out there. 

All About Intentionality

In my 2014 post, I mentioned that every touchpoint is an opportunity. CX is rooted in this idea, recognizing that in a crowded market and media landscape, some of the best differentiation with the greatest ROI happens during and immediately after the sale. Great customer experiences do not only drive loyalty, they also drive the kind of marketing long-known for being the most trusted in the marketplace -- word of mouth.

Using data, collaboration, and communication, the CX field is unifying traditionally siloed business sectors like sales, marketing, customer service, and operations to hone all possible consumer interactions into effortless, delightful, branded experiences. 

Baby Stepping Your Way To Great CX 

Baby Step #1 - Read The Effortless Experience or Outside In

Baby Step #2 - Consider whether your company is really, truly standing on a strong enough brand promise or distinctive point of difference.

Baby Step #3 - Get to know your customers' perceptions of and interactions with you -- persona interviews, surveys, and journey maps are the appropriate tools here.

Baby Step #4 - Identify the most critical touchpoints you have with your consumer.

Baby Step #5 - Carefully, conscientiously craft these touchpoints into memorable moments that accentuate your brand.  

posted by Julie Turner Apr 18,2016 @ 02:04PM

NEW WORK: Crafting a Digital Toolbox For a Construction Leader

Who knew construction and creative strategy had so much in common?

In the building trades, surprises are often expensive and time consuming for clients. When you’re sweating bullets over a multi-million dollar project on a tight deadline neither variable is particularly welcome.

Our client McCrory Construction is one of the most respected builders in the Southeast. One reason more than 90 percent of clients choose to work with them again is the ability to prevent those unexpected surprises and hurdles. Quite simply, the work they do before the build has built them an uncommon reputation. Fortunately, we can relate.

As communicators, we’re big believers in the value of the "before-you-build" focus. The magic of the creative process isn’t just the ideas generated by it, but what’s used to power creative engines, too. Discovery isn’t just a line item on an invoice; it’s the necessary investment in making a relevant, sales generating impact on your target audience.

 

mc_before_after_web.gifClick to view the new mccroryconstruction.com 

developed with Mad Monkey

 

So rather than simply create a new, responsive web presence to refresh their longstanding brand, we took the deeper dive and strengthened their market position in the process. Enter McCrory Construction; Nobody's Better Before You Build.

 

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Click to visit @McCroryConst

 

 

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posted by Cathy Monetti Apr 13,2016 @ 04:08PM

The First Principle of Branding


IN 1974, THE PHYSICIST Richard Feynman gave a commencement address to graduating scientists at Caltech during which he said: The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that.

The speech, titled The Cargo Cult Science, is now a rather famous one in which the Nobel Prize winner makes the case for integrity over righteousness and sensationalism. As Maria Popova points out on her wonderful Brain Pickings blog, the message is “all the timlier today as the fear of being wrong has swelled into an epidemic and media sensationalism continues to peddle pseudoscience to laymen ill-equipped or unwilling to apply the necessary critical thinking.”

Pseudoscience, certainly, but I would suggest it is equally timely when applied to business or mass communications or brand building. Feynman went on to say, After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.

Whoa, as my daughter would say.

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THERE IS SUCH POIGNANCE to the language Feynman chose to use. I love his calling out of our head talk--the internal dialog that takes place between our true selves and that voice in our head that endlessly chatters, the one with which we debate and eliminate and calculate and conclude. This thought process is meant to lead to resolution, much in the way scientific experimentation is meant to lead to conclusion. But we should always be suspect: the voice in our head nearly always offering a limited view, an ulterior motive, a foregone conclusion with which it intends to shape outcome without our true selves ever noticing. And so it is that we come to create our own stories, our own version of the truth, based on our own limited, and admittedly biased, worldview.

You must not fool yourself, he warned students who would have the benefit of science to prove their conclusions. Let’s just imagine how easy it is to fall prey when you are talking about the nebulous business of branding.

 

WE ARE SO QUICK to move to communications without doing the hard work of “proving” what the thing is all about in the first place. This requires dissection, challenge, and alignment on questions that are not always easy to answer. It also requires brutal honesty, a “true self” assessment that is neither overinflated nor overindulged thanks to our own head story or the one perpetuated in the halls and social media feeds of our businesses.

These questions are a good place to start. (And keep in mind they must be answered time and time again over the life of a company.)

 

What is the problem we want our business to solve?

Who has this problem? Who cares about it?

How can we make a difference?

Is someone else already doing this?

Can we/are we doing it differently?

How do we prove it?

Do our employees/associates know this? Are they passionate about it?

 

This is not the kind of exercise a CEO or marketing director can typically sit down and knock out. Instead it takes the varied perspective and insights of people throughout an organization who come together for conversation and discovery, sometimes with a trained facilitator who can probe dark corners and encourage open discussion. Very often primary and/or secondary research is helpful, providing a more scientific, well-rounded and fact-based dimension to the process. This might include market evaluations, competitive analyses, and interviews with current and former customers, as well as conversations with prospects you haven’t successfully converted.

It’s hard work, needless to say, but healthy labor that leads to clear purpose and ultimately an honest, trustworthy brand.

 

AFTER YOU’VE NOT FOOLED YOURSELF, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. Perhaps this is the more powerful point, or at least the more comforting one. Because once you’ve done the hard work of building an honest brand your communications strategy will come more easily. Remember to develop and share content that reflects and demonstrates your brand’s values--particularly in digital mediums, where the ability to go direct results in a more personal interaction.

 

SEVERAL YEARS AGO we were working with a client whose large, established business was going through significant change. New competitors were eating into the established customer base, product lines were shifting to meet changing market demand, and leadership of the company was moving from one generation to the next. We sat through a couple of meetings during which the founder couldn’t seem to offer anything more than a list of random marketing tactics he’d like us to get right on.

We advised that given the significant change taking place, a reshape of the brand was in order. Item One would be the formation of a brand team to do the heavy lifting in answering questions simliar to those above.

“Why would I ever do that?” came the leader’s response. “I mean, what would I do if I didn’t like their answers?”

Yes, we could only say. Yes, exactly.

posted by Alexandra Frazier Jan 14,2016 @ 07:36PM

On brands that take their sweet time

A large stone fireplace dominates my aunt's keeping room. During family visits, there is no better way to greet the morning than to curl up on her leather loveseat and read one of the half-dozen cookbooks that tend to pile the end tables. Fire blazing, a steaming mug of coffee in hand and her furry smudge of a dachshund in lap, the space invites savory journeys of the imagination. 

It was here, a few months ago, that I began flipping through a Napa bakery's guide to recreating its most popular pastry and desserts. From the sundrenched photos of layer cakes and lemon squares to the author's description of her shop's temperamental brick ovens, it was easy to envision the bakery's perfect treats coming from my own less-than-perfect kitchen. 

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And yet, despite the book's many calls for ungodly amounts of European butter, there was nary a greasy thumbprint among its blush-colored pages. I asked my aunt about this—no cookbook worth its literal and figurative salt should be so pristine—to which she replied that the recipes, though lovely, were too long and labor-intensive. Too much effort, she said. I asked to take the book home anyway.  

As a maker of both baked goods and branded content, I can't help but connect the prep work and precision required of baking to the process-driven means by which we bring brand strategy to life. In the office and the kitchen, we plan, mix, wait and bake until we've created a product worthy of consumers' attentions and appetites. It's not easy, exactly. It takes effort.

My aunt was right in that the recipes I've tested so far are long, and they do take time. Lots of it. That said, the resulting confections have been decadent, intensely flavored, and frequently Instagrammable. More importantly, they've been worthy of sharing with the people I care about. Perhaps there's a lesson there. 

We live in a world that values convenience over quality, a place where food is fast and technology faster. The pressure to take whatever shortcuts necessary to keep pace is intense. But, just as your taste buds can tell the lovingly homemade from the pre-packaged, audiences can quickly discern original thought from canned content. Only one merits sharing. 

When what your brand says aligns with what it stands for, when its purpose is the star ingredient of all your communications—that's when your audiences will take notice. The real stuff takes longer, obviously. However, if you're doing it right, consumers will always come back for second helpings.

posted by Kevin Archie Apr 01,2015 @ 07:50AM

a reflection of brand values

Volvo has long been a company intent on making the world a safer place. Responsible for such innovations as the 3-point safety belt, rearward-facing child safety seats, the Lambda Sond (a device that reduces harmful exhaust emissions by 90%), side-impact airbags, and smart technology systems that can detect objects in blind spots or even pedestrians near cars—Volvo has stood by its philosophy to always put people first. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that Volvo's latest innovation has nothing to do with their cars—at least not directly.

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Enter LifePaint, a unique reflective safety spray invisible by day but bright and reflective in the glare of headlights at night. This clear removable spray can be applied to a cyclists bike and gear to increase visibility on roads. In other words, a multi-billion dollar car company invented a can of spray paint to help protect cyclists from getting hit by the very thing that company creates: cars.

LifePaint is yet another demonstration of Volvo's relentless commitment to safety for all—even those who choose not to buy their cars. This commitment extends even further with the company's bold vision to see no person killed or seriously injured by or in a new Volvo by the year 2020.

How refreshing it is to see a company so in tune with its core values that everything it says and does perfectly reflects those values; to see the inner workings of a brand brought to light through the very way it interacts with the people around it, whether they buy its product or not. Our aim here at Riggs is to achieve that same brand clarity for every client.

 

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