Archive for January, 2010


Social media case study “plays in Peoria”

I started in marketing working on consumer packaged goods brands.  New products always had to prove themselves in mid-West test markets.  The logic was, if a new product demonstrated success in a place considered a typical American city, it would be a hit nationally.  But, first, it had to “play in Peoria.”

Companies went to great length and considerable expense to find these middle-ground markets and replicate the exact environment to occur for a national launch.

Now, the learning and formula for success is more expedient.  A restaurant in Milwaukee, WI,  used Twitter and now it accounts for 75% of business.   The restaurant is AJ Bombers and that’s a large percentage.  Its owner, Joe Sorge, says AJ Bombers wouldn’t be in business without Twitter.  Joe says it keeps relationships alive.  It gives him the ability to communicate with customers every day, thank them, and, if they ever have a bad experience, he has the chance, through Twitter, to make it right, right away.

Frankly, what Joe just described is good business strategy through any media channel.  But I have a feeling it’s one of many you’ll be hearing from social media.  Here’s Joe’s testimonial; one that “plays in Peoria.”

This story tweeted by my friend, Steve Haweeli, whose company on the East end of Long Island, WordHampton PR, knows about PR, social media, restaurant marketing and good business strategy, like Joe’s.


Worst practices

It’s a bloggers prerogative to vent, occasionally.

Toyota makes great cars but their customer care in financial services is the worst.  I’m a Toyota advocate.

We have a 2007 Toyota Highlander.  My son, a sophomore at Rochester Institute of Technology, decided to buy a car with his own money.  He decided on a Toyota Corolla.  I’m a proud and grateful parent but, when billing problems occurred, I was not proud of Toyota Financial Services.

Here are “worst practices:”

1. 800 NUMBER – We’re here for you…maybe. The 800 number for questions is on the bill but they don’t mention the number only works from 8 am to 8 pm.  If you call other than these times, you get a pre-recorded message about “debt relief” and get disconnected.

2. CALL CENTER – Have a great experience on our terms. If you persist (obviously I did), you get a “User Experience Number,” a call center where Toyota says its goal is to give every customer a “positive experience,” with NINE automated prompts to listen, remember and think about.  Isn’t a positive user experience with nine prompts a contradiction in terms?

3.  SURVEY – Only tell us how great we are. After listening to the nine prompts and completing your call, you can take a survey.  Toyota emphasizes again they want you to have a “positive experience.”  I finally got to a real person to explain my situation and take the survey.  They thanked me for the call and hung up.  I guess to make sure Toyota has a “positive experience.”

Most significant, we are being double-billed with late fees and left with the impression – we sold you the car; now, we don’t care.

Companies boast about “best practices.”  But what if they go astray?  I don’t believe our experience was intentional.  It’s the result of committee decisions to serve too many agendas to save money at the cost of caring for customers.

Hey, Toyota, wake up!  Don’t treat people like this and think we won’t speak up, especially when it’s a blogger prerogative to vent.

Care to share your story on “worst practices” and make the (business) world a better place?


“People don’t trust big companies, they do trust their friends”

This quote comes from Jim Farley, Group VP of Marketing at Ford, who this year moved 25% of his marketing budget out of traditional media and into digital marketing and social media.  According to Jim, when new products like the Ford Fiesta are pivotal to company growth,  “the company must rely on others to tell the story.”  That’s Jim’s company on the left and his constituents on the right.  Who would you believe?  For Ann Handley’s full interview with Jim, go to

In a related move,  Pepsi, for the first time in 23 years, will not have any commercials in the Super Bowl. Instead, the company is spending $20 million on a social media campaign called, The Pepsi Refresh Project, where users give ideas to Pepsi for ways to refresh their communities.

It’s a coincidence there are so many numbers in the 20’s in the first two paragraph, but there’s nothing coincidental about the facts that:

  • 90% of all purchase decisions begin online
  • 75% of people shop online before they buy offline
  • 85% are looking for an independent review
  • They have an average of 130 friends on Facebook; an average of 127 followers on Twitter (again, just a coincidence the number are so close) I think 🙂
  • Positive perceptions of a company increase by 36% if there’s a blog on their website
  • 14% of people trust advertising
  • Only 18% of TV ad campaign ever generate a positive return on investment and Pepsi spent over 142,000,000 on Super Bowl ads over the last decade

Now I think Pepsi’s Super Bowl commercials are some of the most iconic advertising, ever, and believe their effectiveness was probably much greater than average.  I’m sorry and sad to see them exit the Super Bowl, altogether.

But, for those 86% who don’t trust advertising, now they’ll hear about Pepsi from who they do trust, their friends.

Remember that Google Trends chart 2 posts down on Jan. 4 (see below).  Well, do you think the year is off to an interesting start?  Would you agree with these companies decisions?


Harley, human behavior and Saab

Believe it or not, in the mid 1980’s, Harley-Davidson was on the brink of bankruptcy.

Founded in 1917, Harley flourished during World War I as the first motorcycle to be broadly adopted for combat services.  By the 1970’s, the design had remained basically unchanged. The bikes were expensive and far inferior in performance, handling, and quality to Japanese motorcycles.  The brand name was mocked as “Hardly Able.”

But, as the Harvard Business Review tells it, after examining every aspect of their business, “Harley management recognized the brand had developed as a ‘community-based phenomenon.’  The ‘brotherhood’ of riders, united by a shared ethos, offered Harley the basis for a strategic repositioning as the one motorcycle manufacturer that understood bikers on their own terms.”

Executives were required to spend time in the field with customers and bring their insights back to the firm.  What they discovered, after looking at everything, was the company’s most valuable asset and future was its advocates.

In the early 2000’s, with their landmark study on brand communities, Thomas O’Guinn and Alfred Muniz concluded it’s part of our DNA as human beings to share our brand experiences with others, especially if they’re favorable.  Maybe that’s why 4 out of 5 people write positive reviews online (source: Groundswell).

Today, one of the more visible manifestations of Harley’s comeback is a brand community called  Here, Harley owners share pictures, their vacations, jokes, where to get hard to find parts, buy and sell Harleys and 7 Harley mechanics are online.

It’s a community of over 26,500 built by Harley loyalists, not the company, and maintained entirely with user-generated content.  And they welcome every new member by name, including their newest, SpyDer Monkey.  The brand community is a negligible marketing expense and a major source of business vitality.

Do you think Saab could have concluded the same thing?  And, if they had taken similar steps at the right time, might things have been different? Do you know the value of your advocates and steps you could be taking to nurture and show appreciation for the backbone of your brand?

January 2010
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