Our Blog – Arkside

10
Aug

Disney Gets Harsh Reminder that It Needs Advertising

There are those who believe that some businesses are so well known that they don’t have to advertise. The notion of “too big to fail” may only apply to banks, because The Walt Disney Company was reminded in calendar Q3 2019 that even the Mouse needs advertising to reach the public.

The Power of Disney Branding

Audiences are certainly familiar with names such as “Avengers: Endgame”, , Star Wars, The Disney Channel, ESPN, Disneyland, and “Toy Story 4”. That familiarity is the result of long-term effective marketing. Jingles, vivid images, emotional storytelling, positive customer experiences, and merchandise investments all make for the largest entertainment company on Earth. They generated US$20.25 billion in the second calendar quarter of 2019 alone.

It may seem natural that a behemoth could skimp on some marketing here and there. When you combine such beloved brands as Disneyland (the most famous theme park in the world) and Star Wars (arguably the most famous science fiction franchise in the world), advertising was considered optional – something that could be skipped because the public was already addicted. This is what Disney tried to do with the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge attraction at Disneyland. Tried – and failed.

Despite Disney’s colossal box office success in generating US$8 billion so far this year and the new Star Wars-themed areas in Disneyland and Disney World in Florida, the company’s fiscal Q3 (Apr-Jun 2019) earnings were far below analysts’ expectations and theme park attendance was off 3%.

“Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger had said he didn’t even need to advertise the new attraction, since anticipation among Star Wars fans was so high. But the company has since stepped up promotions of Galaxy’s Edge on billboards and social media.”

Christopher Palmeri of Bloomberg

Marketing is Mandated

So what happened? How did two iconic brands miss the mark? How did the most expensive upgrade in Disneyland history not put feet in lines?

As CEO Iger said, they thought the people knew and cared enough. They failed to account for the negative effects that higher ticket costs, long lines, and boosted food prices would have on affordability. There was also a significant over-correction for enthusiasm. Iger believed interest would be so high that they needed to persuade potential visitors not to come. Competition also stepped up their attacks by spending more on marketing and offering discounted ticket prices.

Assumptions are risky and Disney’s blew up in their face. The public didn’t materialize as expected and posts abounded on social media of the nearly empty new Star Wars land. Not great for a billion-dollar product launch.

Every brand must advertise. The public not only deserves to know about your product, but they also must be comfortable choosing to use your product. This is where Disney failed. People were concerned about affordability and experience. Mickey and his friends didn’t effectively communicate with their audience because they believed they didn’t need to. Thankfully this has changed.

Digital and Traditional Media Save the Day

Disney is now advertising the new land in digital and traditional media. Even the marketing titan of Disney with their billions of dollars and millions of media tools understand the value of a media mix. It could be assumed that Disney would only need to go digital. Everyone is sharing experiences on social media, using the official Disneyland app, and searching for tickets online. But billboards, television, and radio remain prominent and trusted parts of daily life for hundreds of millions of Americans.

So don’t repeat Disney’s mistakes. If the Avengers, the Sith, Hakuna Matata, and Buzz Lightyear require multimedia marketing to get the job done, so do you.

19
Feb

How Politics Influence Purchase Preferences

The American Marketing Association recently published six studies about the luxury goods purchasing differences between American conservatives and liberals. For those in the automotive, travel, and other affluent-targeting industries, knowing this information can greatly improve the ROI of your marketing efforts.

A Symbol of Status

One of the key functions of a luxury good is to communicate the owner’s social status. Wealth, ability, and personal network power are examples of status that can be visually demonstrated with a luxury item.

Conservatives and liberals buy different luxury items

As Rolex puts it: “Wearing a Rolex watch enables entry into a world of unlimited possibilities.”

Or from a rival watchmaker: “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.”

Dubai-based DAMAC says their luxury real estate properties “complement your stature”.

In each of these instances, the object under consideration does not elevate your status – it maintains it. They show what you have already achieved. Status-maintenance is a vital component to how political ideology can influence purchasing decisions. Conservatives and liberals in the United States view and approach status-maintenance differently. In the AMA research, a total of six studies were conducted to analyze the differences and the result they have on the purchase of luxury goods.

Conservatives Prioritize Status-Maintenance

We recently developed a magazine for a luxury car dealership. As part of the design process, we discussed with them the idea of placing an “aspirational” vehicle on the cover – the type of vehicle that one would literally dream of owning. For example, many people may want to own a Mercedes-Benz, but it is something else entirely to own a Mercedes-AMG® S 63.

Status is an integral part of desire. It shapes how we define ourselves, both in terms of our own self-worth and how others see us. For marketing purposes, it is important to understand how consumers perceive their own status because of its influence on desire for luxury goods.

For the purposes of the AMA research, “political ideology refers to beliefs and principles that reflect a person’s views on how society should be governed.”

Ball and Dagger 2006

As noted in the research, political conservatives tend to favor the status quo. They are more comfortable with lifestyle elements which are familiar to them. They are more likely to evaluate a person’s social status than to evaluate the system in which that status is ranked. Therefore, it is important to note their preference for status-maintenance over status-advancement. It was also shown that the more politically conservative a person is, the more they valued not only status-maintenance, but luxury status-maintenance.

Scientifically, the studies did not seek to measure a contrasting behavior by liberals or their specific preferences. It was noted that liberals favored status advancement, but that was not a specific goal.

Selling luxury cars to conservatives.

Luxury Automotive Purchases by Conservatives

The participants in one study were sent a survey 3-4 months after the purchase of their vehicle and asked to self-identify their political affiliation. Vehicles were categorized as luxury or non-luxury. A total of 21,999 observations were made. According to the data, affluent conservatives are 35% more likely to purchase luxury vehicles than affluent liberals. The luxury car is a status symbol. It communicates their stature to the wider world.

Marketing Impact: Such data should influence campaign elements including image choice, copywriting, and media selection. Elements such as high-brow patriotism (Colin Powell, not Larry the Cable Guy), affluence, and support for the military and law enforcement will work well. It is important to note that law-and-order support should be evidenced through actions as well as words. If you intend to claim you support first responders, have a partnership with local police or fire departments in your community. If you want to say you support the military, volunteer time for welcome returning soldiers or financially sponsoring a local VFW. You are more likely to permanently lose business if your words are not backed by actions.

Conservative Marketing = Conservative Sales?

The important message here is the difference between status-maintenance and status-advancement. American political conservatives aren’t buying luxury products because they are conservative. Every decision is an emotional one. The ownership (or perceived ownership) of a luxury product helps a conservative feel as though they are maintaining status in their network.

“You earned it” is more effective than “You will earn it”.

“The trip your friends wish they could take” is more effective than “the trip you’ve always wanted to take”.

Simple draping a flag over something or getting an endorsement from Tomi Lahren isn’t the key to your success. If you know your prospect is politically conservative, tailor your message to meet their expectations and respect their beliefs.

30
Jan

Humanizing the Inhuman

Here’s your word of the day: anthropomorphism. It means “the attribution of human characteristics or behavior to a god, animal, or object.” Have fun casually dropping that six syllable word into daily conversation; but you might find it easier than you expect. Why? Because millions of Americans are having daily conversations with inanimate objects. Even more interesting is that we are humanizing the inhuman products with genders, voices, and names. Their genders are female, their voices are soft, and their names are Alexa, Home, and Siri. But what do these assistants embedded in a smart speaker tell us about customer behavior?

Picking Gender Isn’t Just for Parents

It should come as no surprise that we humans like to socialize. We’re generally social creatures, even from birth. We like to look at each other, hear each other, and on occasion, speak to each other. So when we bring something into our home, we want to be as comfortable with it as possible.

Ever caught a friend, family member, or even yourself referring to a smart speaker as “her” or “she”? It is a fascinating observation the first time it happens. “Wow. I just called a speaker ‘she’.” You gave an appliance the same gender as your daughter or mother.

Isn’t that strange?

Not historically. Men, especially, have assigned the female gender to many of the things they love most: cars, ships, planes, countries, guns, oceans, and much more.

Now combine centuries of tradition with modern smart speakers. According to the “Smart Audio Report” conducted by NPR and Edison Research, people love their smart speakers:

  • 65% of smart speaker owners would not want to go back to their lives before getting one
  • Some participants joked that Alexa was a ‘girlfriend’ or ‘granddaughter’
  • 57% of owners have made a purchase through one

This is the root of our anthropomorphism of smart speakers and the artificial intelligence inside them. The designers of these systems are very intentional. Research repeatedly shows that men and women prefer female voices when receiving “customer service”. If women appeal to women, and women appeal to men, it is logical to craft a smart speaker as female. It is the gender and personality we trust most. Amazon, Google, and Apple want you to really like their device! For the record, there are some exceptions in preference for highly technical products (vehicles, computers) or services (medicine, accounting), but generally we prefer a woman’s voice. Maybe Freud was right and everything is about our mothers.

There is a fun video by “rusty78609” in which he asks an Amazon Echo and Google Home if they are male or female. Their answers are crafty.

The Value of Personality

Gender is one thing, but machines can be boring regardless of their voice.
So why did Amazon spend money on jokes? Sarcasm? An attitude?

Amazon’s Alexa & Echo did not come into existence cheaply. Thousands of hours and millions of dollars went into their development. From AI programming and internet connectivity to product design and voice selection, every minute of work was expensive.

Adding a personality to the AI voice was actually a smart yet simple choice: “enjoyability”. With a personality, the assistant known as Alexa (or Siri or Google) becomes more:

  • relatable
  • fun
  • warm
  • human

Since some people are referring to their smart speaker as a “girlfriend” or “granddaughter”, that sort of affinity would never occur if it was just a machine. The famous HAL 9000 had an AI personality (even if it was creepy and eventually murderous). It helps with human morale. Furbies were a hugely popular child’s toy that had the ability to speak. The voice and personality help us view objects as something with which we can connect on an emotional level.

Anthropomorphism Without a Voice

Although the smart speakers of today have voices and personalities, companies have done excellent jobs of applying human characteristics to non-human objects to achieve connections with their audience.

Remember “Clippy”? Formally known as the Microsoft Office Assistant, Clippy is now more than 20 years old and was an amazing example of how a company wanted to humanize something so that people felt comfortable working with it. Learning how to use Microsoft Office was daunting, so Clippy was there to help and make it more interesting (and easy).

In the early 2010s, Nathan Greenberg was the Director of Marketing for Moss Bros. Auto Group. At the time, they represented twelve different manufacturers with nine dealerships in three cities.

He and the owner discussed a new reason for customers to choose Moss Bros. over the competition. The idea of a “Lifetime Oil & Filter Change” program was chosen. Nathan was tasked with developing the outline of the program. But he wanted to ensure Mr. Moss’ vision came to life. So he worked with his in-house agency team and developed “Olly the Oil Drop”: a personified drop of clean oil that customers could connect with. He would teach them about the importance of regular maintenance, educate kids on environmental stewardship, and make customers feel more comfortable about dealership service.

Two years after the program launched -with Olly at the front of all marketing- 10-25% of customers said it was the #1 reason they purchased from Moss Bros. Of course, the free oil changes helped, but the response to happy, friendly Olly from dealership employees and the public was resoundingly positive. And he never spoke a word.

Humanity Improves the Bottom Line

Every purchase ever made has been based on emotion. The quantity and intensity may vary, but ultimately a human being has to “like” one choice over another. Product A or Product B, this vendor or no vendor at all, the blue dress or the gold dress…it all came down to choice.

If you can influence their choice by turning your company or product into something relatable, you are more likely to be the preferred choice. This enables you to earn more marketshare, increase sales, and drive up revenue. This is true for B2C and B2B companies because every transaction is H2H: human-to-human.

Keep the human element in mind as you develop your logo, create a company mascot, or design your product packaging. Giving it warm eyes and a gleaming smile might be the tipping point between a four-star and a five-star review or earning repeat business.

18
Dec

Why the Nike Colin Kaepernick Ad Inspired our Card

If you are one of the hundreds of people receiving the Arkside end-of-the-year card, you may be wondering why -or even what- it is. I thought it best to take a moment to share the brainstorms and actions that went into our card. We take our end-of-the-year card very seriously. The discussions and designs include our entire team. How did we end up summarizing the whole of marketing in 2018 with inspiration from the now-famous Nike Colin Kaepernick ad?

First, it is important to recognize the controversy surrounding the ad, its talent, and our message. I will clear up a few things here:

  1. The Colin Kaepernick ad is arguably the most talked-about spot of the year. It prompted millions of difficult but important conversations – both in the marketing industry and the general public.
  2. Retail continues to experience seismic shifts and evolution impacting stores like Toys ‘R Us and brands like Nike.
  3. The message from Kaepernick and/or Nike are not our focus. Our card encapsulates the topics of the year. Our card does not cast votes, take sides, or play favorites.

The Controversy of Colin Kaepernick’s Actions

The image above is not the start of the controversy but it is the peak of discussion when it comes to marketing. The work comes from accomplished ad agency Wieden + Kennedy as part of Nike’s 30th anniversary celebration of their “Just Do It” tagline. (And congratulations to the W+K team on being named Adweek’s 2018 U.S. Agency of the Year.) The idea is fueled by Kaepernick’s kneeling protest during the national anthem before NFL games. It cost him a considerable amount of money and, ultimately, his job as an NFL quarterback. He receives love and hate daily for his choices. He is accused of dishonoring the United States military and citizens, while simultaneously receiving praise for using his amplified voice for the cause of justice. His choice is nothing if not polarizing.

When Mr. Kaepernick first tweeted the image of the new Nike ad campaign, it instantly went viral. The news media grabbed on with both hands. Much like his protest, the controversy and conversation were multi-layered. Does Nike want to dishonor America too? Does Kaepernick’s hate now have corporate support? Why would Nike do something so incredibly politically incorrect?

Know Your Audience

Again, I’m not here to discuss the controversy in a vacuum. My aim as a marketer is to look at the scenario from a variety of angles and analyze the successes or failures of the marketing effort.

Nike knows its audience. The Colin Kaepernick ad campaign exists to connect with that audience in a moving, personal way. I have spoken to companies for years about the need to be “human”. Audiences want to work with real people who are relatable. Corporate thoughts and prayers, routine answers to unique problems, and hiding behind policies doesn’t sit well with today’s consumer.

Where other brands may be about status, Nike is about empowerment. Nike encourages customers to be the best runner or ball player or neighborhood walker in the history of whatever-the-customer-is-doing. They want you to think big. That requires big ideas and big risks. Kaepernick took a big risk.

Risks can bring rewards. Let’s go back to my second bullet point above. Every tier of retail is struggling to adapt, evolve, survive, and thrive. Nike is no exception. They’ve had good quarters and bad quarters. But they continue to survive -and in some cases thrive- by knowing their audience. It is this knowledge that informs their marketing decisions. They know their target market is not a conservative Caucasian baby boomer.  Their ardent fans tend to be young men of color. Their growth opportunities are in markets around the world while the US market stagnates. Alignment with a young man of color who speaks to a global audience about social justice is natural.

Colin and Connections

Nike was faced with a decision. Do they risk intensely negative PR from half the country -including the President of the United States and his son– to speak with a clear voice to their audience?

Yes.

Nike was almost immediately hammered with boycotts, media attacks, and a drop in their stock price. But the protest and the stock drop were temporary. Soon, it was estimated that their sales were up 31%. The stock climbed to a 52-week high within days. (It is now back to where it was at the end of June 2018.) And CEO Mark Parker said the campaign generated “record engagement with the brand”. They took a risk and reaped the rewards.

Inspiring the Arkside 2018 Card

So after all of that controversy, how did Nike inspire our end-of-the-year card? Quite simply: it didn’t. At least not at first. As our team gathered and listed some major events of the year -the #MeToo movement, Russian interference, cannabis, bankruptcies, celebrities, etc.- a theme slowly became clear: massive change.

Legendary businesses like Remington, Sears, and Toys ‘R Us collapsed. Weight Watchers (now WW), Dunkin’ Donuts (now Dunkin’), and even Kanye West (temporarily Ye) shortened their names. So did Arkside Marketing (now Arkside).

We couldn’t ignore the Nike controversy, but we didn’t see how it fit. Ultimately, one member of the team realized that the brands under discussion did what they believed in and the results were a sacrifice of everything. They certainly didn’t intend bankruptcy, but their lack of evolution brought about the final change: end.

The design of our cover was difficult. As you may imagine, there are not many photos of Geoffrey the Giraffe in the same position as Colin Kaepernick in the Nike ad. Furthermore, at that angle in black and white, it was hard to distinguish Geoffrey from a horse or just a creepy, big-eyed stuffed animal. That forced some variations from the original Kaepernick ad but the quote, black background, and overall layout remained.

About Marketing, Always

Our 2018 card is like those that came before it: about the year we experienced alongside you and the world of marketing. It is not about taking sides. It is not about support or attack. It is a reminder of what has happened. It is about the message. Interpretation is personal.

I hope you had an amazing, educational, and successful 2018. I hope 2019 brings you new opportunities along with good health. Thank you for taking time to read this. If nothing else, I’m proud that we took a risk to make a card unlike any other you may see.

Looking forward,

Nathan Greenberg, CEO

2
Sep

The Power of Words in Advertising

The power of words is especially important in all human cultures and must be thoroughly understood for effective advertising. Regardless of which language is spoken by which people, we are in awe of the impact word choice can have.  “The pen is mightier than the sword,” according to English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton. All of existence began with “the Word” according the Old Testament, which also begins with the Word. The Persian poet Rumi once said, “Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” The First Amendment to the United States Constitution deals entirely with the protection and importance of self-expression. So what impact does the power of words have on your marketing efforts and the perception of your brand?

All Media Interpreted as Words

In today’s fast-paced, digitally-obsessed world it can be easy to forget the complexity and fundamental nature of language. Marketers are constantly hearing from social media platforms, designers, and ad agency executives that visual cues matter most. Video reigns supreme on social. People love to capture a moment in a photo for a succinct communication of its impact. But have you ever stopped to think about the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”? The importance is the relationship. The picture is defined in terms of words – not the other way around. No one ever said “one thousand words are worth a selfie”. Words are the foundation of our understanding. They are the foundation of our communication.

All advertising is a means of communication. Marketers use every media available to communicate a message, story, and emotion to their intended audience. People receive and process each attempt into words. A deaf person learns to communicate with visual words. A blind person learns to communicate with tactile words. It is our words that matter in advertising so that we can achieve the desired result.

Word Choice

As mentioned before, the power of marketing can and should elicit an emotion. The emotion could be the joy of saving money or the nostalgia of the past or anything in between. Every purchase decision ever made is rooted in an emotion. Now take a look at the following two words and the difference their meaning may have:

Discover
Learn

Both could be used as a call-to-action in an advertisement. “Discover the new Porsche 911 today” or “Learn about the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class today”. The difference lies is the imagery evoked by the words. “Discover” offers a connotation of adventure, exploration, and excitement. “Learn” delivers recollections of classrooms, tutors, and textbooks. Both words imply the acquisition of knowledge, but in very different ways.

One important tactic for marketing success is to understand that context matters. If the audience is comprised of engineers, programmers, or other professionals with a technical skill set, the word “learn” may be the best choice. “Discover” would serve a better purpose if the audience is young skydivers looking to purchase apparel. Knowing the psychology of an audience is vital to effective word choice.

Professor Gerald Zaltman is a Professor Emeritus at the Harvard Business School, and author of Marketing Metaphoria. He has spent years teaching the customer mind to his students and using metaphors to better interact with those customers. There is an understanding among qualitative market researchers about how people process and associate images and experiences through the power of words. That is the goal of successful marketing.

The Power of Words to Affect Action and Recall

Metaphors have been famously used in advertising jingles for decades. Chevrolet was “Like a rock”. State Farm is “Like a good neighbor”. Such phrases conjure easily understood imagery. The power of words can actually produce a chemical reaction in the brain. If powerful words are used to trigger an emotional reaction they can prompt the release of dopamine. That dopamine enhances the brain’s ability to remember. A good call-to-action is a memorable one. The audience should be directed to embark on a single action after receiving the stimulation of the advertisement. Effective branding includes recall rate and top-of-mind awareness. For the audience to remember the advertiser and what they were asked to do, they need an emotional stimulant.

According to a 1959 study by J.A. Easterbrook, high levels of emotional arousal result in narrowing of attention and stronger commitment of that experience to memory. Today’s consumer is more easily distracted than ever. They require greater stimuli to capture their attention. The average American transient attention span is 8.5 seconds. A goldfish has 8.0 seconds. Their attention must be captured and then acted upon.

10 Words That Make an Impact

Now for the cheat sheet. Here are 10 words that you can use in your marketing campaigns.

  • Love – The only emotion arguably more powerful is fear. Love is a positive emotional connection.
  • Free – Stimulation of the desire to save. Most people want to make smart financial decisions (even if they don’t always do so).
  • Unique – Exclusivity makes a consumer feel special. The word can also be used to describe a product or service feature. Doing this separates the offer from competition.
  • Opportunity – The positive version of a risk. Opportunities are discovered. Risks are stumbled upon.
  • Guarantee – Providing a sense of security to the customer. Also denotes stability from the advertiser. Remember Kia’s 10-year warranty announcement?
  • Win – Depending on context, this may resonate more strongly with men than women. But both genders want to avoid losing!
  • Increase/more – People seek to optimize what they already have or do. The product or service that delivers such results gets the win.
  • Real – A statement of genuine materials, processes, or results. Break down the walls of artificial promises or ingredients.
  • Now – Reduces hesitation before action or confusion about timing.

The 10th word on this list is the most powerful of them all. It changes the intent and interpretation of the statement. Most importantly, it personalizes everything within it.

You

“You” forms a connection with an individual. It encourages them to place themselves along the path you want them to follow. In radio, it is a key component of the “theater of the mind”. Humanizing a product, service, or even a result can make a substantial difference in ad recall, action, and revenue. By including the word “you” in marketing, the audience immediately thinks of what the product or service does for and with them. A separation from the group and focus on the individual. This is a shining example of the power of words.

Language in Tomorrow’s Marketing

Technology and data are being combined to create the most personalized and customized marketing in history. Marketers have the ability to know their customers on a very personal level. As this capability advances, marketers must be ever more aware of the power of words and the language used in each media.

As you depart this blog, remember:
At Arkside, our winning knowledge is free because we love you and offer guaranteed access to unique wisdom now and in the future so you can increase your real ROI at every opportunity.

27
Aug

Facebook Stops 5 Star Rating System

Much like Yelp, the business community has a love-hate relationship with Facebook. Recent actions may make that more hate than love. Over the last few months, Facebook has been adjusting how businesses are “rated” and how it is shared with their more-than two billion users. Their trial with 10 stars didn’t go over well. The latest shift walks away from the Facebook 5 star rating system almost completely and now focuses on “Recommendations”. What does this mean for users and businesses?

New Facebook Recommendations for Business

Users who want to comment on a business are now presented with a first step: “Do you recommend [business name]?” According to Facebook’s guidance, “Select ‘Yes’ to share what you love about a Page. Select ‘No’ to tell them how to improve”. If the answer is “Yes”, it becomes a Recommendation. If the answer is “No”, it becomes a review. Only after you have made this choice can you enter a rating or comments.

Facebook Recommendation promptA Recommendation is supposed to answer the question “What do you recommend about [business name]?” Users are welcome to enter any comment they like. Now this is where things become even more interesting. Recommendations are treated like a post to the user News Feed. They type their message, select a privacy setting, and then press Post. If they select any privacy setting other than Public, the review will not be shown to the world, nor will it count toward a Facebook Page’s score. But if “Public” is selected, it will go to the Page’s Reviews (or Recommendations) tab and be shown to all users. The same is true for a (negative) review.

If the user doesn’t want to give the business a Recommendation, they press “No” and leave a review. They will be prompted with “How could [business name] improve?”. The opportunity for comments, privacy, and posting will be the same.

The Quality of Facebook Page Feedback

Assuming Facebook is trying to improve the overall quality of the Recommendations system, they have instituted a minimum character requirement. Recommendations or reviews cannot be less than 25 characters. This would prevent such typical spam as “Love it!” or “this place sucks”. A side effect of a Recommendation system instead of stars is that Facebook Business Page managers will have spend more time asking for feedback, not just “5 stars”. They will also have to read that feedback to learn from it, not just brag to a CEO that the company has a high score and assume their job is done.

The unfortunate side effect of this new Facebook rating system is that fence-sitters may be left out. The experience may not have been awesome or terrible. Just a middle-of-the-road situation. They no longer have three stars to choose. They are forced to go to one extreme or the other and must also share a comment about their experience. This could dissuade “lurkers” or introverts from contributing.

How to Report a Facebook Review

The changes discussed so far will represent a significant shift to how most businesses interact with their customers, solicit feedback, and set their own KPIs. Whether they are good or bad for business is negotiable. One new feature is a definite win for businesses: reporting inaccurate reviews. Removing a bad Facebook review is easier under the new system. Facebook Page administrators and regular users can now report Facebook reviews for a variety of reasons. According to Facebook, they are doing this to ensure more “authentic” recommendations. Reviews can be reported for:

  • Recommendation not relevant
  • Unfair recommendation
  • Nudity
  • Violence
  • Harassment
  • Suicide or Self-injury
  • Spam
  • Drugs
  • Hate Speech

Facebook Review Change Aftermath

You may have noticed that businesses still have a score. Facebook has not deleted previous ratings. According to Facebook, scores are now a combination of previous ratings and new Recommendations and Reviews. There are rumors that response time may also be somehow included, but those have not been confirmed.  All of these changes mean a few things for business owners and reputation managers: stop asking for stars, thoroughly read and learn from “authentic” customer feedback, and gauge your success or failure on new standards.

If your organization is looking for professional guidance on how to effectively use this new system, contact our office to learn more about Arkside’s social media management and reputation management services.

13
Jul

“Pay Your Age” Turns to Rage

Growing up, did you have a special teddy bear or stuffed animal? I remember one of my first stuffed animals was a teddy bear gifted to me from my mom. It was the perfect size, sat up on its own, and was covered with the softest brown fur. Now more than 20 years later, I still have that bear. She survived trips back and forth to college, moving, and even getting a dog who has an affinity for stuffed creatures. Her fur isn’t nearly as soft anymore, her eyes have become dull, there’s a chip in her nose, and while she doesn’t adorn my bed anymore she sits on my dresser as a reminder of my childhood and as a bit of a security blanket as I move through my adult life. While my bear wasn’t a Build-A-Bear, I felt that little bit of magic that Build-A-Bear aims to bring into this world on the day that I got her.

Build-A-Bear Logo

About Build-A-Bear 

Build-A-Bear Workshop was founded in 1997 by Maxine Clark. In case you aren’t familiar with Build-A-Bear, it is a teddy-bear themed retail experience where children (and adults) can pick out their own stuffed animal, watch it be stuffed, put a “heart” in it, and dress it in various outfits. Just the stuffed animal alone can range anywhere from $6 for a 5 inch mini stuffed animal to $75 for a 36 inch jumbo stuffed friend. Now you might be starting to see why the Pay Your Age promotion was so popular.

The Pay Your Age Promotion

Build-A-Bear created their Pay Your Age promotion to draw awareness to their Count Your Candles offer. The Count Your Candles offer allows Build-A-Bear: Birthday Treat Bearchildren 14 and under to pay their age for the special Birthday Treat Bear during their birthday month. The Pay Your Age Promotion was an expansion of this program for one day only. This promotion allowed a child to pay their age for almost any furry friend in the store. Prices ranged from $1, for expectant mothers and children 1 and under, to $29, for the kid at heart. As long as someone 18 and older in the party was a member of the Build-A-Bear Bonus Club, the deal would apply to any member of the party who wanted to partake in the special. Have 2 kids and still have your eye on a special bear for yourself? You’d pay their ages plus $29 for your bear. Pretty exciting for a bear that could easily exceed $50.

This is where things started to go south. Build-A-Bear claims they underestimated the amount of interest the promotion was going to get, but if social media was any prediction of the way things were going to go, Build-A-Bear should have sensed trouble coming and made a backup plan. One of Build-A-Bear’s original Facebook Posts announcing the Pay Your Age promotion received about 111K comments, 191K Shares, and 37K Reactions. One of the original Tweets announcing the promotion was not nearly as impressive but above average for Build-A-Bear, with 486 comments, 1.5K Retweets, and 3.9K Likes. For a company who normally gets under 50 Likes on a Tweet and under 1,000 Reactions on a Facebook posts, this kind of attention should have started setting off alarm bells.

If social media wasn’t enough of a prediction, Build-A-Bear could have turned to Black Friday and Nutella Riots in France to give them an idea of just how excited people get for a good deal. As the Marketing Director at the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Gemma Butler, said, “This was an ill thought-out and unprofessional promotional execution, one that not only risks their own brand reputation, but has the potential to bring the wider marketing sector into disrepute.”

Everyone wants a Build-A-Bear

On the afternoon of July 11th, just a few short hours before the Pay Your Age Madness began, Build-A-Bear may have started to see the error of their ways. They issued statements on both Facebook and Twitter stating:

Thank you for the unprecedented response over the last 24 hours to our Pay Your Age Day event! As a result, we want to let you know that we are anticipating the potential of long lines and wait times. We will make every effort to help as many Guests as possible participate in this first-time event”…”We sincerely appreciate the incredible interest and heartfelt excitement and want to thank everyone in advance for your patience.

Keep in mind, our new Count Your Candles program is available to Bonus Club members all year long and allows children under 14 to pay their age for our special Birthday Treat Bear during the month of their birthday.”

However, this still didn’t seem to warn them that the lines would be chaotic. Build-A-Bear had to close lines for their Pay Your Age Day Event at 8 AM Pacific, before many stores on the West Coast had even opened for the day. This quickly started the wave of disappointment and tears that would continue throughout the day. By mid-morning people were beginning to be turned away. While some were offered $15 off vouchers others were given nothing.

So You Didn’t Get a Build-A-Bear

Yesterday afternoon, Build-A-Bear finally uncovered their eyes, issued a public relations statement regarding their failed promotion, and tried to make things right. They issued the following statement across social media and on their website.

ST. LOUIS – July 12, 2018 – Build-A-Bear Workshop’s Pay Your Age Day event generated an overwhelming response, resulting in long lines, extensive waits and disappointed Guests. We feel it is important to share that, based on the information available to us before the day began, we could not have predicted this reaction to our Pay Your Age Day event. We understand that many Guests were turned away as, due to safety concerns created by the crowds, authorities in certain locations closed Build-A-Bear stores and, in other locations, we were forced to limit the line. Unfortunately, given these circumstances, we were unable to serve all of our Guests for the Pay Your Age Day event.

In response, we distributed vouchers to Guests, who were present in lines, to be redeemed for a future purchase. We are now making vouchers available to our Build-A-Bear Bonus Club members in the U.S. and Canada who log into their account by midnight on July 15, 2018. Vouchers related to this event will be honored through August 31, 2018.

It is our sincere desire for all of our Guests to enjoy the best Build-A-Bear experience possible. As such, our goal with the voucher extension is to enable us to better flow traffic to the stores over the next several weeks to avoid long lines and wait times as much as possible. Therefore, we strongly encourage Guests to consider delaying their trip to Build-A-Bear, and we appreciate everyone’s understanding and patience in this matter.

Build-A-Bear Workshop takes seriously the privilege of providing our valued Guests with an opportunity to make a furry friend. It is with that spirit that we created our Pay Your Age Day event and the new, year-long Count Your Candles birthday program, where kids 14 and under can “pay their age” for our new Birthday Treat Bear during their birthday month.

Thank you for your passion and continued support.

While their statement was well written it was greatly lacking. Everyone was able to predict that the reaction to the Pay Your Age promotion was going to be overwhelming. One did not need to have marketing or retail experience to know that a discount of this magnitude would encourage insane crowds, fighting, and general chaos. If the average human could predict this kind of chaos, why couldn’t Build-A-Bear?

So What About that Coupon?

Build-A-Bear did issue a coupon just like they said they would. The coupon is only valid for Bonus Club members, does offer $15 off certain furry friends, and is good July 13th through August 31st. However, there is a major problem. The disclaimer says, “Limit one coupon per Bonus Club membership account. Limit one coupon per transaction.” That’s a major change from the Pay Your Age Event. Remember our family, the one with 2 kids and the adult wanting a bear of their own. Well, bad news for them- only one of their little angels will be getting the $15 OFF their Furry-Friend. While the parent, could simply use 3 different email address so all members of their family could use the coupon, that’s 3 different Build-A-Bear Bonus Club accounts and a lot of juggling. The discount also doesn’t come close to the discount that could have been obtained during the Pay Your Age Day event.

The Teddy Bear Walk of Shame

The day after the failed Pay Your Age Event, the CEO of Build-A-Bear, Sharon Price John, apologized on the Today show. While John does apologize for the failed event and admits they wanted to “increase accessibility for kids to make their own Furry Friend and take it home.” Numerous times during the interview, John claims “There was no way for us to have estimated the kind of impact, those kind of crowds. It far surpassed anything we ever could’ve known.”

That’s a problem. This situation was easy to predict. It was easy to predict that chaos was going to come from discounts this steep. It was easy to see that Build-A-Bear was not going to be able to meet the demands of this event. While everyone else was able to see this coming, Build-A-Bear was seemingly unable to put two and two together and make the connection. Whatever the reason, their ignorance to audience response to their Pay You Age Event is inexcusable.

While John’s apology does seem heartfelt, it’s not enough to make up for their naïve lack of knowledge and the way they handled this chaos. They took what they claim is “the most fun you’ll ever make” and turned it into a disastrous event that as one little boy in New York said “was not worth it!”

What Could Build-A-Bear Have Done Differently?

While the Pay Your Age Day event did have the possibility to make Build-A-Bear more accessible to children and families of all walks of life, the attention that a discount of this magnitude receives is always intense. Build-A-Bear could have done a number of things differently. Some ways they could have changed their event to make it a success are:

  • Host a Pay Your Age Week
  • Set up an RSVP system that required interested parties to pre-register for the event. This would have allowed them to limit it to the number of people they could handle per hour and the number of hours the store was open that particular day.
  • They could have held a lottery (or multiple lotteries) to randomly select members from their Bonus Club to receive an invitation to this special event.

Build-A-Bear could have also done their research to see that this event was going to be chaotic. Almost anyone who has ever been out in public would have been able to predict the chaos from an event like this.

Moving Forward

Build-A-Bear has made their den and now they need to sleep in it. They need to understand that what they did was wrong and ignorance is not a good enough excuse. Internally, they need to reexamine their teams and processes to make sure any event the attempt to host in the future is properly thought out and the crowd size is correctly estimated. Externally, Build-A-Bear needs to but the magic back in the Teddy Bear experience. They disappointed a lot of families and a single $15 off coupon will not suffice in restoring that level of trust.

25
Jun

IGTV: Not All Good News for Advertisers

The wait is over. IGTV is now public and offers a new capability to content creators and marketers like you to deliver long-form video on one of the most popular social media platforms. But how does this Facebook-owned technology impact the market?

No Longer Just an Instant Camera Telegram

For those who didn’t know, the name “Instagram” was a combination of “instant camera” and “telegram”. It was intended to be a purely visual platform without the clutter of sidebars or lengthy posts. Just square photos and a filter to share what you were doing at that moment. Instagram was very popular and earned its first million accounts in just two months.

It has since evolved, especially after being purchased by Facebook. It first launched exclusively on Apple phones and waited two years before releasing a version for Android. A very limited desktop version also came down the pike along with versions for Windows phones. Additional features such as messaging, posting multiple images in a single post, and Stories (to combat Snapchat) came later.

The new IGTV video feature is interesting because it makes two bold statements:

  1. That “instant” moment is no longer all that matters.
  2. Instagram is hunting for YouTube.

IGTV Video for Marketing

YouTube has always dominated the online video space. This is helped in no small part from its owner: Google. Its videos receive prime real estate in Google searches and it has built a massive dugout of content creators, corporate partnerships, and viewing audiences. Like Facebook, it is the 800lb. gorilla in the room that everyone must dance with at some point.

But Instagram is now courting YouTube content creators. They want to position themselves as a destination for new content and younger audiences that already use the platform for hours each day. For individual or corporate content creators whose target audience is an Instagram user, this is a great win. You now have a greater tool with which to connect with your audience. The measurement metrics will probably be insufficient for significant study of your audience, but it will be a start.  Instagram is trying to lure creators from YouTube to offer new brand placement opportunities, partnerships, and creativity. All of this equals revenue.

The long-form video format now allows creators to collaborate with each other and do so for more than 60 seconds. It allows interviews, comedy skits, and product demos not previously possible. Again, for marketers trying to reach Instagram users, all of these new tools are exciting. Keep in mind, a one hour IGTV video is not available to everyone. You must have a large following or a certified account to receive the maximum benefit.

The Downside of IGTV for Marketing

Yes, there is a downside. The biggest negative impact will be in platform diversity. IGTV is now a powerful contender in the realm of video destinations. You now have one more platform to which you need to direct your audience. So where does your video belong? YouTube? Facebook? Vimeo? IGTV? Obviously this means you need to understand your audience’s social media preferences as deeply as possible.

IGTV also limits how you use such videos in the future. There is no way to embed these videos on your website or in other social media platforms. You can embed YouTube videos nearly anywhere. Also, the only long-form video allowed on IGTV is something pre-recorded. That means no live long-form content. If you record for an hour, it will probably be another hour before it is done uploading.

Is IGTV Right for You?

This is actually easy to answer. If your audience prefers to consume content from Instagram over other platforms, the new IGTV is probably a strong addition to your media delivery options. You’ll have to be very particular about the type of content you place there, but your audience will appreciate the new videos.

If your audience is not primarily on Instagram, you can include it in the rare moments it may be ideal for a particular campaign, but avoid it the rest of the time. Also, keep in mind that good Instagram content may not make good IGTV content. Evolving a still image of a Mustang to a 15 minute test drive would be great. A still image of a Thanksgiving table may be enough so you don’t have to see your sketchy uncle unbutton his pants.

22
May

The Importance of Product Branding

by Christian Cuevas, Operations Assistant

What is product branding? Why is it important?

Branding refers to the way people perceive your business; these perceptions are a reflection of what your company means to them.  Company branding is often seen as something that may develop naturally throughout the life of the business; however, it is a very critical aspect to a companies success which requires going beyond getting the job done. Establishing an emotional connection between a person and the business he/she is dealing with is not an easy thing, especially in highly competitive markets. In competitive markets, businesses must find ways to differentiate themselves in order for consumers to easily determine where they are going to buy their good or service. Business owners often try achieving this differentiation through lowering the cost of their good or service. But they can also do so through well executed product branding.

Apple logo branding on iphoneThough consumers will generally respond positively towards a cheaper alternative, there is a reason people are willing to pay $1,000 for a smartphone that has the same functions as a phone that costs half of that price. As you read that last sentence,  your brain may have already automatically made a connection between a product and a company. Regardless if you are a fan of Apple or not, their immense popularity in the marketplace is undeniable. When Apple released their first iPhone, they took an existing product (the smartphone) and made it different.  Along with a new design, they created an operating system that provided people with a unique user interface and on the back of this product was the iconic Apple logo. Apple features their logo on every product making it easy for consumers to associate the bitten apple logo with all of the positive experiences and connotations that come with it. Apple is consistent with both the quality of their products and the unique experience they offer to each individual consumer. To many Apple users, the experience they have with products is so unique that they become extremely loyal to the company. Alternatives are not an option to these loyal customers, which gives the company an edge in their industry. Although much of the branding for Apple has come from their differentiation in the experience a consumer has with their products, the consistency in the use of their logo acts as a flag for their consumers to proudly wave.

Product Branding

Not all companies can brand the same way that Apple has branded themselves. There are some companies that have products that largely vary in target audiences. Apple’s products appeal to a very large group of people, making the user experience very uniform among most product users. The buyer of an iPhone may also want an iPad. In other cases user experiences are purposely made to vary because the audience is very different. For example, a car company is not going to brand a minivan the way they brand their high performance sports car. This is simple because the feelings that consumers expect and want from the vehicles are completely different. A person looking for a new family van may desire most the feeling of safety and comfort, while the person looking for that high performance sports car is most interested in the feeling of adrenaline and excitement. Perhaps the company is dedicated to mostly make family oriented vehicles, but they also produce that one sports car; in that case it would be wise to brand the sports car differently from how the car company as a whole has been branded. Show below, you can see the front ends of two sports cars from different competitors. Although both cars are respectively very beautiful, well-designed performance vehicles, one has an element of branding that may have already allowed you to picture the entire car.

Mustang branding on a grille

The emblem on top comes from the front end of a Ford Mustang, while the bottom one comes from the front end of a Chevrolet Camaro.  Can you guess which has been branded better? In 1965 when the first year of Mustangs were produced, rather than being badged with the standard company badges the Mustang was badged with a symbol representing power, endurance, and speed. This symbol is still placed all over modern day Mustangs. Both consistency and repetition are crucial when creating a connection between a symbol and a customer. The Chevrolet Camaro has had various redesigns in their logo since the first year it was created, which made its brand a bit unclear over the years. Today, we will see Camaros badged with the same logos that you can find on any of Chevrolet’s vehicles, reducing the vehicles unique qualities. In comparison, Ford has taken a different approach in how they uniquely tailored their Mustang product branding. The logo is not only seen on the front and rear of the car, but it is also placed on the middle of the steering wheel to greet the driver as they enter the vehicle. Though it is a small difference, it is the small branding details that can make a difference when a person is looking to make a purchase. In this case, since both vehicles are similar in performance, it may just be the brand that may persuade a consumer to buy a particular car.  Building unique experiences that allow consumers to develop an emotional connection to your product or service is essential to establishing customer loyalty.

3
Feb

The Product Placement that Killed Jack Pearson

Brands love product placements. The perfect product placement can do wonders for introducing a new audience to brand or gain a brand new attention. One famous example of this is the relationship between Hershey and ET. When Mars passed on the chance to have M&Ms featured in the film, the path was cleared for Hershey and Reese’s Pieces. Within two weeks of the film’s release, Reese’s Pieces sales tripled. But what happens when a brand doesn’t ask for a product placement and that placement kills a beloved TV character? Crock-Pot recently found out when one of their devices was the cause of the fire that killed American’s most beloved father, Jack Pearson, on This Is Us.

This Is Us became America’s new favorite TV show in September of 2016. With emotional twists to rival those in Shondaland (Grey’s Anatomy and How To Get Away With Murder) and the lovable likeness of Parenthood, Americans fell in love with the Pearson family and the show that followed them on the journey of life. It was revealed in the first season that Jack Pearson, the father, had passed away tragically before the Pearson children went away to college and that his absence greatly impacted them years later. Through flashbacks, viewers got a sense of who Jack was and began to fall more and more in love with the character. As season 1 continued, Americans became more and more curious about how the beloved father met his demise.

Americans got their answer on January 23rd, 2018. Viewers watched as Jack went about cleaning the kitchen, turned off the Crock-Pot, tidied up the rest of the home, turned off the light in the living room, said goodnight to the dog, and threw a red towel up against the Crock-Pot. After turning out the lights and going to bed, viewers see the day the Pearsons’ were gifted the Crock-Pot and the original owner telling them about the wonky switch. It is only then that viewers watched in horror as the Pearson family home catches fire as the family sleeps on, unaware that anything is amiss.

Backlash for Crock-Pot began swiftly after the episode as Crock-Pot owners reached for their Crock-Pots to deposit them safely in the trash. Backlash continued on social media flooding both Twitter and Facebook with messages about #JusticeForJack and promises to never use their Crock-Pot again.

Crock-Pot acted quickly to attempt to put out the firestorm around them and their beloved slow cookers. Previously not on Twitter, Crock-Pot created the Twitter handle @crockpotcares to respond to frightened Crock-Pot owners and those placing blame on the company for killing off their favorite character. They began using hashtags like #TrustTheCrock and #CrockPotIsInnocent to help dispel fear and garner support for the brand. Dan Fogelman, writer and producer for This Is Us, even took to Twitter to remind fans of the show that “it was a 20 year old fictional crockpot with an already funky switch”.

On Facebook, Crock-Pot continued to respond to comments from scared Crock-Pot users to help assure them that the trusted Crock-Pot they had been using was perfectly safe. Crock-Pot also responded thanking dedicated Crock-Pot fans for their continued support. While some responses were the same, they tried to personalize each message and tied in something about This Is Us and Jack Pearson to try to connect with scared fans. Crock-Pot issued a statement January 25th on Facebook two days after the episode aired to try to stop the spread of the Crock-Pot disaster and reassure fans that Crock-Pots were safe to use.

The faulty Crock-Pot was a shock to many This Is Us fans and an even bigger shock to Crock-Pot. From their first response to a negative review, it is clear Crock-Pot was unware of the firestorm headed their way and were innocently sleeping while social media went into a frenzy. When they awoke from their peaceful slumber they took action to attempt to put out the firestorm directed at them. Crock-Pot was quick to get themselves on Twitter and replied to a handful of Tweets directed at their brand. They continued this strategy mainly on Facebook where they had more of an established presence and were better equipped to handle the amount of fallout coming their way.

While Crock-Pot did a great job quickly handling an unforeseen situation, they could have responded quicker and more efficiently if they had had the right tools in their arsenal from the start. Having software that listens for brand name mentions can help quickly identify references and let the responsible party respond quickly through one platform. Some programs even offer suggested responses that can help speed up response time and give the person managing social media something to work with.

Crock-Pot still needs to stay on their toes as another wave of Crock-Pot-hating could be on the way when the next episode airs after the Big Game. Good Luck Crock-Pot. We hope you use more than just Facebook in the future.