Excellent post on AdAge's critique of EthicMark and its criticism of neuromarketing... EthicMark... the train has left the station and is heading in the right direction. Recommend you join the 21st century. Click here for the full text of the post
"You never write! You never call" is the typical refrain I hear from my mother once I finally do write
or pick up the phone. Too little, too late I guess. Or I hear, "How come you don't help me when I need it rather than when its convenient?" is another Mom fav.
... now swap out "mother" for "customer"...
Sound familiar? Customers hate when you deliver them content that is meaningless to their situations... they really hate it when it has little value to their lives, whether personally or professionally.
Why is it so easy to fall into this trap? So many of us treat our customers as if one size fits all... segmentation my friends is more important than ever when it comes to content marketing. Not just straight up firmographics but a segmentation that tells you something about the customer you are talking with and goes to the next level and addresses common value drivers and concerns of that sub-segment of your market. In addition to segmentation, you have to avoid the trap of delivering voluminous, erratic, or valueless content. If not, you end up with a lot of irate mothers... and customers.
Customers deserve continuity, they deserve consistency in relationships with the brands they love. Most of all, they deserve an ongoing, consistent and value-based conversation with those brands. A content marketing strategy with a fully fleshed out editorial agenda coupled with a fully fleshed out conversational agenda is the only way to achieve this.
Most of the thoughts that influence a consumer's purchasing behavior are UNCONSCIOUS and developing an understanding of consumer thoughts and behaviors requires an understanding of how the brain functions.
Customers generally can’t understand or explain why they make choices they make, and that efforts to uncover those motivations thru Q&A and other standard ethnographic techniques typically fail.
Consumers do not live their lives in silo-like fashions by which businesses typically organizes themselves... and this causes problems with the way we engage with our consumers
Marketing strategies which are based on self-reported feelings, preferences, desires or statements of customers significantly underperform as well.
Incenting customers to utilize metaphors as they are probed about the products and services they love/hate is a key enabler for truly understanding their feelings around a brand and should be utilized
Metaphors make it much easier for the researcher to engage in a conversation with the consumer -- the consumer is more receptive to such a discussion. Zaltman discusses techniques to elicit such metaphors in a meaningful way
Focus group failures are a regular occurrence with the output of such efforts typically mis-aligning with the actual consumer intention.
Memory is quite fallible -- being selective, altered by new information, influenced by the way a person feels and is generally too much relied upon even though it is generally NOT reliable.
In the book Zaltman lays out the case that the words that people use when talking about a subject reveal as much as the content. For example, “Liquid” metaphors -- words such as “spout, leak, poour, spit, brim over, dry up, in midstream,torrent, stream,” say as much if not more than the actual subject matter content. Zaltman recounts a CEO's comment related to creativity:
One breakthrough idea can be a tidal wave sending people scurrying to higher ground for protection… But people are just afraid to swim in moving waters, they prefer wading in a stagnant pool.
The quote above is just dripping with metaphors (sorry, I couldn't resist). But you get the point, the words used to describe a thought, action or feeling are just as important if not more important than the the thought or feeling itself.
This book is a manual for how to understand what's going on in our consumer's minds thru the use of psychology, neuroscience, sociology, and linguistics coupled with real-world results. A must read or re-read for those of us interested in truly understanding the mind of our consumers.
As a former neuroscientist, Neuromarketing is close to my heart. At its essence, its leveraging how consumers store, represent and respond to information about a product or service in their heads. And to do so in such a way as to stimulate reactions in the key areas of the brain. And because we react
differently to stimuli in our world, dependent on which neurological structure is activated, its important to understand the brain and its functions.
The evolution of the brain occurred in three primary stages (image courtesy of Noah Laith's blog). The most rudimentary component of the brain- and the oldest is the Reptilian brain, where basic impulses, instincts and even our rituals reside. It helps us meet very fundamental needs - to survive, to dominate our environment and to mate.
The second stage of neural evolution was the development of the Limbic system - the mammalian brain. The Limbic system is the seat of emotion and bonding. When a child is attaching to a parent, its the Limbic system that's highly active. The stronger the emotional charge connected to a perception (or a Brand), the quicker a person can retain that information in long-term memory. And the easier that information is to retrieve.
The most recent evolution of the human brain is the Neocortex, where rational thought, logic, reasoning, and language resides.
The act of buying and owning anything has emotional, instinctual and rational elements to it. Buying a car, for instance, evokes strong emotional responses from our brains, especially our reptilian brain. Own or have a passion for a Hummer? It's a war machine. It says if you want to fight, I can fight. SUVs evoke similar feelings in individuals. In the neocortex, where rational thought resides, we all realize that tall SUVs are more likely to roll over than a smaller car. Yet the reptilian brain, feels that being up higher makes you feel bigger and taller, and thus safer. There's a constant struggle within our different brain structures when we are marketed to. That's why successful neuromarketing evokes powerful thoughts, emotions and responses in each major functional area in the brain.
Products, brands and marketing programs which appeal to all three evolutionary components of the brain outperform those which don't. The goal of which is to move the consumer closer to buying the product by leveraging positive memories of the product and the emotion associated with it.
Memory is important because if the brand or product isn't memorable, you won't buy it and you won't tell someone else about it. Emotion is important because all perceptions go through the amygdala, the seat of emotion, before they go to the cortex . The amygdala checks all perceptions for emotional relevance. The stronger the emotion, the more we pay attention to it. To make our brand part of your customer’s social identity, we have to make our customers feel different than the people who use competitive solutions. The sharper the distinction (even if in real terms it’s not all that meaningful), the more effective this strategy will be.
The LexisNexis Real Law Campaign is one of our top performing campaigns to date. Why? Its infused with neuromarketing principles. Each campaign, besides having a content marketing element, has what we call, a Real Law Haiku, a three pronged argument which is structured to appeal to a rational, emotional and instinctual thought process. As an example,
"This is waking up at 5 AM" (purely an emotional appeal...we all know what it feels like to have to wake up early and if you do, how motivated you are)
"This is creating the perfect argument on behalf of your client" (a logical appeal)
"This is winning your case" (a reptillian appeal to dominate, and an emotional appeal related to the rewards that come from winning)
This approach is then followed up on the Real Law hub where individuals can read posts that appeal to them on a variety of cognitive levels, emotional, logical and impulsive/instinctual. This content management strategy is critical to successful neurmarketing.
So if you're not thinking about appealing to the human and beast in your marketing efforts, its time to start... its the human thing to do.
The passing of Steve Jobs, his subseqent biography and the recent HBR article on his management
Photo credit: courtesy of Catapult Global
principles has stoked tremendous interest in the importance of design in building great products and companies. Designing great products is a brilliant notion... hard to do but easy to see how effective it is when it comes to delivering a compelling customer experience.
But don't make the mistake that great design is a substitue for great engineering. You need both. Jony Ive, Apple's lead industrial designer is constantly pushing development to deliver great products within the framework of great design. In fact, one could argue that great engineering in and of itself is a feat of great design.
So when it comes to engineering software for instance, what is the proper place for design and design thinking -- a process which emphasizes empathy with user needs and reflecting those user needs back in the design of the products which are produced?
During the last few years, the practice of "design thinking" has become popular among some enterprise practitioners and observers. Design thinking helps structure team interactions to cultivate greater inclusiveness, foster creativity, and align participants around specific goals and results.
Chirag goes on to make the point that design thinking can leveraged by teams to avoid many of the common issues which drive IT projects into the pit of despair:
Having followed Michael Krigsman's analysis of IT project failures, it became evident that design thinking can play an important role in improving enterprise software development and implementation. The design thinking approach offers a means to address the underlying causes of many project failures -- poor communication, rigid thinking, propensity toward tunnel vision, and information silos.
Clearly, infusing design thinking into the traditional software engineering realm can have a substantial impact on the success of development projects.
While design and design thinking have become popular (I've read numerous posts on how startups are looking for founders with deep design experience), and that organizations are trying to implement design thinking in to mainstream businesss, its also important to recognize that design cannot only be used to improve products and services but to invent or re-invent new markets. Need an example? Well again, looking back to how Apple with their insane focus on design ended up transforming or creating new markets, including the personal computing industry, animated movies, the music industry, phones, tablet computing, brick and mortar retailing... not to mention digital publishing.
The national engagement data reveal that businesses in the U.S. -- and in turn, the U.S. economy as a whole -- might not be reaching maximum worker performance because of the high percentage of not engaged and actively disengaged employees. Increasing the percentage of engaged workers in the U.S. could spur a significant amount of job growth, as detailed in Gallup's latest book, The Coming Jobs War.
Why is it important to have engaged employees? Well, its kinda like that customer experience thing I like to talk about -- you know, the one where you create an emotional bond between a brand and a customer? Only on the internal side. When an employee is engaged, he/she feels a connection to their company and they have passion for it, they become rabid evangelists for the brand. Its got be a huge bummer to get up every day and go to work for a company that you don't feel passionate about. And for the brand, they're not reaching near enough their productivity potential from their employees, hence are losing a critical competitive weapon.
Today's enterprise 2.0 tools offer solutions to help employees stay connected with each other and with the brand as whole but from the looks of things many enterprises aren't driving the connectedness that's needed to help drive passion. Now granted, unless you've got some Mosaic talents, you can't get water from a stone. Some dogs just won't hunt. Some fish you can't fry... and the metaphors go on and on... you just can't elicit passion in employees, there has to be something for them to get excited about... something for them to get hooked by. So before you load up on more E2.0 solutions, make sure you discover the passions that run deep in your company and surface them thru conversational tactics.
Deploying E2.0 tools can address a host of employee maladies and actually foster an environment where employees are:
Inspired and productive
Develop networks around their individual passions
Gain needed support from other workers
Create rather than churn
Generate novel ideas that can help the organiztation succeed
E2.0 is not a panacea. It won't address all the issues around a passionless, disconnected work force. But its a significant start.
This post is dedicated to Molly Miller, my soon to be former VP of Customer Discovery & Innovation, whose passion for uncovering the needs of customers and developing innovations that meet those needs is unmatched.
For those of you that don't know what ethnography is, its the act of immersing yourself in the customer's context and understand them from their perspective. Companies which do great ethnography develop a 360 view of their customers...not just the products they use or their attitudes or their usage patterns for instance but everything. Great ethnography yields great insights and when linked up to the innovation pipeline of a company, yields great monetary value as well. And while ethnographic techniques take longer than traditional market research methods, IMHO they yield superior insights that when coupled with quantitative analysis really works!
Back in 2008, LexisNexis started its customer ethnography efforts. But it was just a glimmer in Molly Miller's eye at that point. Today the team is a powerhouse that actually marries Customer Advocacy with the Customer Experience:
This notion of defining an organization that addresses lifecycle issues of customers, while not new is rarely implemented well. The LexisNexis CDI team kills it with dedicated teams for each stage in the process and supported by a killer operations team.
In this case, ethnography is a foundational building block for crafting a great customer experience, which is key to building a compelling brand. In fact, customer experience builds brand perception when you:
Take the time to understand why customers should beleive in you
Know your customer touch points
Understand what elements of the experience reinforce the brand propositon
Make sure the promise of the brand is reinforced by the customer experience.
While brand guidelines, its visuals and the voice your organization uses matter, its the customer experience and its touch points with the customer that truly drives brand value. It has to include everything from the initial marketing touch, sales experience, product usage, support and follow up communications from a brand. And to optimize it? It all begins with ethnography.
The pace of change in the online world is causing organizations to struggle to keep up with their online interactions with their customers. More and more of these interactions happen nowadays via the Interweb. While these digital interfaces serve consumers everywhere, the user experience these consumers have shapes how they view the brands in their lives. These visual interfaces and the user experiences they convey represent the the digital persona of a given brand. This means that the role of a Marketing Executive is more difficult and their influence must reach further into the organization than ever before.
First off, consumer expectations are much higher. Many folks have lost patience with technology… they don’t want to learn, they want to do! To use technology that performs to expectations whether it’s a TiVo, a Mac Book Pro, iPad or TouchPad (whoops no worries about that device any more). This impatience with user experiences has extended well beyond the consumer sphere and into enterprise applications as well.
Why is this happening??? Its because we have made great gains in user experience in the consumer space that individuals have expectations that those experiences be as engaging and intuitive in their work environments and why not? It’s an entirely reasonable expectation. The question you have to ask and answer is: How can I as a marketer connect customers to my brand and by influencing product developments inspire lasting engagement?
Digital Interfaces live on and on
While marketing campaigns can change at a rapid pace, digital interfaces can live for years, sometimes decades, before undergoing major identity changes. SaaS solutions can change much more rapidly but do you want that? If you change an interface too quickly, the user will never master the interface and guess what… they’ll be just as frustrated with a continually evolving interface as one that’s just plain awful to use. Visual interfaces need to express and utilize what I like to call Iconic Implicature – a sense of intuitiveness that occurs just by looking at the graphical representations in that interface as well as timelessness – a consistency that the user can count on so that the digital persona of the brand isn’t constantly changing.
Because both on-premise and Web-based applications have become more complex, we must balance style with usability in interface design. A good interface is a humble servant of functionality, but this means we have less opportunity to show a strong visual identity. Instead, the identity must live in the visual details, and the interactivity and usability become the memorable experience that the end user is seeking. But what about the brand? Well, the brand's identity can still be expressed through the consistency of that interface. Therefore, as Marketing Execs its incumbent upon you to extend your brand guidelines to those things well beyond creation of Direct Marketing or Email Marketing pieces but to the product themselves. As the true digital persona of the brand, these guidelines should guide interface designers to develop a consistent look and feel to your solution that is consistent, reliable and fun!
If your marketing organization is NOT involved in the look and feel of the solution, then get a SEAT AT THE TABLE.
The Marketeers Takeaway
Good design drives users to be more engaged with brands but don’t forget that how a product behaves irrespective of design also influences users to either be engaged or not. If you don’t focus on simplifying the complexities of a given solution and you are totally focused on the design then its just lipstick on a bulldog. If you think about it, a product’s design sets expectations as to the functional capability and usability of a product – if the interface is kludgy and complicated, then folks think the behavior of the product will be kludgy and complicated. If its easy to use then users expect the behavior of the product to be easy as well. To understand where on this ease of use continuum your product should reside means having a thorough understanding of your customer (more on this in another post).
As product marketers, if you were to recommend a completely simplistic and consistent experience you may miss entire segments of your market – that is to have your product speak to many different groups of users – each with unique goals and usage contexts. At the end of the day you will need to implement some sort of Experience strategy, which will enable you to define an interface for multiple market segments and multiple user types, yet still, using a standards-based guidelines approach to developing user experiences.
The EI's have been discussing the importance of branding the term "cloud." The actual question posed to the group was:
Since everyone is “cloud” today curious to see how everyone views it in the market. Is it becoming passé or in the words of Gartner has it entered the “drought of disillusionment”?
How important (or not) is cloud in a company’s marketing today?
Inquiring minds want to know…
Which is a great question and we had robust discussion on the various definitions of cloud and its importance in bringing a cloud-based solution to market. But it begs a rather important issue... namely how important is it to define terms for a market?
If you're a technology vendor... very. Afterall, as a vendor if you define terms such as "cloud-based" to align 100% with the solution your organization brings to market then, as a vendor, one of your marketing claims can obviously be that your organization provides a 100% cloud-based solution. If you're buyer has a technical bent, this could be very important to their buying process.
If you're an influencer of any ilk, its also extremely important. Afterall one of your jobs is to educate and to demonstrate your insight regarding a market, business model, technology, trend etc... You're being paid for your smarts...so again defining terms for your clients/readership is important.
What about you purists out there? Well if you care about creating and promulgating objective definitions of technologies or products then hell yeah, you want to get those definitions out there.
But if your thing is taking products to market... is defining terminology important? Well of course... but why? Well, I can think of two very good reasons...
(1) If you're role is to drive inquiries for your demand funnel, one of the key ways to stuff the top of the demand funnel is through market education... defining a promising term is valuable in that regard.
(2) But there's an even better reason... the best, surest way to win is not by going head to head in a crowded market but to create a new category of market, a new category of product, something your prospective customer absolutely has to have. To create a new category requires an extensive investment, not only in the product but in your go-to-market strategy. It demands a level of investment in market education and market building that is heavy but is sooo worth it because if done right, you're the only one in that market category and guess what, you're the leader!
An obvious example of category-building is what Apple has done, not only with the MP3 player market but by rejuvenating the Tablet market -- both were category building exercises and both have paid impressive dividends. The reason I believe customers are struggling with the market category of "cloud-based solutions" is that no one provider has created a compelling set of truths around this market definition. I think there a number of competing market truths out there.
But at the end of the day the only definition that's truly important is what's in your customer's head, so as marketers you should "vote early and vote often"... with every communication help your prospective customer to build an intelligent definition of the products that match your solutions.
In a surprise move, Marty Homlish has left SAP to join HP as its new CMO. What's not surprising is Leo Apotheker reaching out to Marty to join his team. They had a close working relationship while both were at SAP. And Marty does come out of the consumer hardware space having spent over 15 years @ Sony Corporation. After 1o years at SAP, Marty also now has an appreciation for the intricacies of B2B marketing in the enterprise technology space. Marty's strongest asset though is his ability to create and grow a strong brand for an organization.
Will he be able to pull off a strategy that can unify all of HP's disparate businesses and make them look like a unified brand? Will he be able to create a compelling customer experience - something he talks about often? Hope he builds a strong team.
I had thought Marty had had enough after ten years in "The Matrix." Guess not. (Hat tip to Ed Brice for coining "The Matrix" term as applied to SAP.