Bill Nichols

26 February 2015

Bill Nichols

If You Can’t Get No Satisfaction (Ad Astra 022 – 26 February 2015)

For many firms, Satisfaction is an obsession.  They follow Mick Jagger’s  mantra:  “I try and I try and…”  They make it the judge-and-jury.  They blazon it on the corporate balanced scorecard.

But, guess what, customers still defect.  Including 65-85% of the satisfied ones, as marketing guru Fred Reichheld demonstrated nearly 20 years ago.

Many grumbling CEOs probably agree with Mick’s later sentiment in ‘I Can’t Get No..’.  It’s all “some useless information/Supposed to fire my imagination”.

But before you ‘fire’ satisfaction – and try some new fad – here’s a cunning thought (and some new research)…

The Wrong Sort of Satisfaction

….You’re probably measuring the wrong sort of Satisfaction.   (Like the old British railway joke about the ‘wrong sort of snow’).

Last Train to Satisfaction Junction

Last Train to Satisfaction Junction

Your sort, you see, is probably the rational one.  Most Satisfaction measures presume rational, reflective assessments of utility and value.  They apply the ‘disconfirmation paradigm’.   This model subtracts your pre-purchase expectations from your post-purchase perceptions.

The Rational Way

Imagine.  Your new partner invites you out to dinner.  You expect, say, a perfectly acceptable, average French restaurant.  You get:

  • The Ritz.   You are blown away.  On every aspect. This is positive disconfirmation;
  • Greasy ‘Fish-and-Chips’ at the local down-market pub.   Serious problem: negative disconfirmation.
Mine's A Pint of Satisfaction

Mine’s A Pint of  Disconfirmation!

All fine so far as it goes.  Scorecard happy!  Unfortunately, this sort of Satisfaction is only a short-term (weeks) predictor of retention and repurchase.  Like a blip on the chart.  And highly susceptible to competitive advertising (*1).

The Emotional Way

Marketers, of course, focus long-term.  Established research on the emotional side of Satisfaction demonstrates that we connect, enjoy richer experiences and are far more likely to remain loyal if

…If we feel fair treatment, pleasure, ‘belongingness’.

Such feelings take longer to nurture. No scorecard surge.  But they are far more robust.

Imagine:

  • Your partner is really rather fond of that pub. A ‘regular’ for years and usually meets most of his/her friends there.  The conversation is good and the food generally ok.

So the morning after your disaster?  OK your partner is temporarily dissatisfied.   But a few weeks later? They’re just as regular (and happy) as before.  You’re even getting used to it yourself!

What To Do?

The recent research summary (*1) highlights four beneficial emotional engagements.  To:

  1. Adopt and promote customer values e.g. social responsibility (pub charity event?)
  2. Invest in image campaigns which increase prestige and reflect well on customers (pub chains are usually poor here)
  3. Embed customers in networks which consult on products and in special events (darts, music, quiz nights)
  4. Encourage front-line employees to communicate positives and foster company-customer identification. (After all a good barman is worth 1000 pints!).

Caveat:  you may find some texts call this second sort of emotional satisfaction something different.  Don’t worry:  it’s the right sort!

-ends-

Bill Nichols

30 January 2015

Bill Nichols

Leader Communications: The 3Cs of Motivation (February 2015)

Leader communications often retreats behind platitudes and, evidence suggests, is seriously damaging to business or cause (writes Dr Bill Nichols).  Easily embarrassing and irritating too.

So how do leaders ‘make dreams come alive’? (To quote guru Warren Bennis in an earlier Ad Astra blog). The solution, recent research finds (*1), is 3Cs.

That’s the balanced melding of content, context and colour.  Here’s why they matter – and how.

Power of Leader Communications

Leadership is a hot management topic.  If you have lifetimes available, check out all those airport pot-boilers, academic texts, blogs and manuals.

Leadership’s exact definition generates extensive debate.  But we know that it:

  • Is linked positively to business performance – both operationally and financially
  • Requires effective leader communications of a clear strategic vision.
  • Can generate positive reputation, attract talent and win wider stakeholder support.

‘How’ – Content and Context

But ‘effective’?  That ‘how’ is seriously murky.  Magic, charisma, dark art?   Or carefully-structured crafting?

Effective leader-communicators (or their speech-writers) integrate three major dimensions (3Cs).  Each dimension, suggests recent analysis, is mutually reinforcing.  Each must also break the sterility of management ‘wordzak’ (my coinage, cp. ‘muzak’).

First content or ‘meaning-making language’ (posh: ‘locutionary’).  This layer is more than facts alone. Content confirms starting points (organisational ‘beliefs’).  Creates shared ‘mental models’ to help us engage.  And finally highlights simple goals that everyone can grasp.  Compare:

  • Classic wordzak: “This year our priority is to deliver unsurpassed customer satisfaction”.
  • 3C Clarity: “Customers make pay-days. Every time we touch a customer (even by simplest email) we can make or break those pay-days. Customer satisfaction means their satisfaction with every contact, every day.”

Second context or direction-giving language (posh: ‘perlocutionary’).  Context dispels ambiguity in leader communications. It identifies tasks that put content into practice.  And it usually links rewards to goals:

  • Wordzak: “We will deliver satisfaction by focusing on continuous innovation at the boundaries of service”.
  • 3C Clarity: “We recognise that every client has special needs. So every day we all learn and share more about meeting those needs.  Together we adapt and improve.  And we understand that the more we contribute, the more we progress as individuals.”

How – Colour

Content and context take us a long way.  But fully effective leader communications requires orchestration.

So third and finally comes colour, the feeling or empathetic language (posh: ‘illocutionary’).  Colour is often notable by its absence.  Sometimes superficial.  Sometimes cringe-making.  But, properly wrought, it adds controlled and motivating emotion.  If, as leader, you want others to ‘believe’, you must yourself ‘believe’.  And you must show it personally:

  • Wordzak: “We will create a service of which we can all be proud and which will be a shining example for others”.
  • 3C Clarity: “For me every time my ‘phone rings, I’m conscious that everything we do is potentially ‘on the line’. To me, every failure feels personal. That way customers sense that we ‘get it’.  That we don’t just tick boxes.  That, if they need us to, we’ll throw those boxes away.  That’s satisfaction.”

Three Cs in Practice

So next time you craft leader communications – formal or impromptu – check:  content, context and colour.  Good and bad examples equally welcome here please.

 

(*1) The underlying theory here is MLT – motivating language theory.  See Mayfield, J. et al (2015), “Strategic vision and values in top leaders’ communications: motivating language at a higher level”. International Journal of Business Communication, 52 (1) 97:121.  Originally: Sullivan, J. (1988), “Three roles of language in motivation theory”, Academy of Management Review, 13 104:115.

Bill Nichols

26 January 2015

Bill Nichols

Justifiable Ambiguity: Shades of Grey in Strategic-Communications (January 2015)

Working in strategic-communications, is it ever acceptable to lie? (writes Dr Bill Nichols).

If strategic-communications is confronted by say terrorism, financial implosion or executive misdemeanour? When unvarnished truth meets e.g. risk of public panic, loss of jobs or investment damage?

Note this is a double challenge: acquiescence in falsehood and strategic purpose.  The conflict lies at the heart of PR’s classic dilemma.  Is the PR executive ‘truth-guardian’ or ‘client-advocate’.   The ‘lie-test’ demands a strict ‘no’. But it also prompts a compelling – and exceptional – case to deploy ‘justifiable ambiguity’.

In this zone of conflict ‘should’ tussles with ‘is’.  Resolution, in my view, marks a mature profession.

Here’s why and how.

 ‘The Truth, The Whole Truth…’

The ethics ‘lie-test’ is commonplace in my University PR classes. At first pass, it’s black-and-white. Most day-to-day PR emphasises clarity.  It serves and engages the information-recipient as ‘customer’.  It does not require the ‘dark arts’.  I.e. the “stunts, spin, lies and assorted PR ‘b******t” – dismissed with alacrity by most students.  Frequently, indeed, PR practice is undermined by them.

But ‘shades of grey’? Pause for thought

Duty and Justifiable Ambiguity

‘Should’ inclined textbooks and codes generally deny this issue.  PR’s excellence tradition exhorts us to embed ethics in planning and to become guardians.  Ultimately promoting ethics “will result in your helping the organisation to improve not only its image but its reality…. the real duty of a strategic communications manager (*1)” .   This approach leads, for example, to active and thoughtful corporate social responsibility (per my earlier blog).

But, as a thoughtful new case-based study evidences, this ‘guardian’ duty ultimately must defer to the real game-shifter.  It’s the ‘S’ word.  Strategic – properly understood – spotlights organisational purpose, intent and, consequently, selection.

Where ends and means conflict, ‘strategic’ shows us the communicator’s first duty to his organisation. It is – to paraphrase St AugustineSt. Augustine’s famous concept of the just war – to seek ‘order, the right disposition of things according to their proper end’.  War is acceptable if it serves peace.  We should also observe J S Mill’s framing of liberty: ensuring that our exercise of liberty does not make ‘a nuisance to other people’.

So, in making the best possible presentation, corporate communicator-advocates must not lie. But conversely they are neither judge nor jury.  They must deal in shades of grey which embrace both ‘ambiguity and deception’ (*2).

The Practice of Ambiguity

The practice of justifiable ambiguity, suggests the new study, comes in three flavours: syntactical,  the crafted positioning of phrase or clause; lexical, the precise practice of semantics; and pragmatic, the visual production of mitigating context and indicative image.

More on strategic-communications practice and ambiguity in a future blog. Your examples, ideas and feedback are hugely welcome here.

-ends-

*1 Powell, M (2011), Ethics and the Public Relations Process in Moss D., and DeSanto, B (eds) Public Relations: A Managerial Perspective. London UK: Sage.

*2 Dulek, R.E., and Campbell, K.S. (2015). On the Dark Side of Strategic Communication, International Journal of Business Communication, 52 122:142

Bill Nichols

10 December 2014

Bill Nichols

019 All Headlines and No Narrative: The Obesity ‘Epidemic’ (December 2014)

Obesity headlines? You may have seen the recent attention-grabbing – if depressing – fusillade.

Here’s a quick rehearsal.  Nearly 30% of the global population, or 2.1 billion individuals, is overweight or obese.  (UK = 37%).  Collectively they cost the world economy ~$2 trillion, or 2.8% lost output, annually.  That’s less only than smoking and armed conflict (McKinsey, November 14).

One third of Year 6 UK primary schoolchildren is already overweight or obese (Health and Social Care Information Centre). More than 70% will become obese adults (Association for the Study of Obesity).   And 70% of obese youth also have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CDC, US).

Enough, you cry!  Your point?

Answer: it’s partly a communications’ challenge.  (And one we’re exploring at the Bucks Centre for Health Communications and Research (CHCR)).  Specifically this week’s visit to govtoday’s excellent London conference, Obesity: A National Epidemic, convinced me.

Under a heavy collateral data bombardment, I learned quite simply: there is no single narrative.  And without one, this epidemic (or pandemic) will always slip quickly off the news-agenda.  Why?

Villains and Heroes

For speedy analysis, I like the ‘villain-hero-conflict-solution-outcome’ tool. Try it on Ebola and you’ll quickly see why it stays so successfully on the agenda.  Its narrative is clear and effective.  But obesity?

First up, find a villain or ‘dark lord’?  Mmm: spoilt for choice.   You could fairly audition food processors, fast-food outlets, regulators, lobbyists, poverty/deprivation, the tax-man and (in the UK) the NHS.  Or try money out of your pocket. Some suggest that obesity and its consequences cost the NHS £10 billion annually.  If so, then this villain ‘robs’ everyone of over £160 per year. As Public Health England points out, revert obesity to 1993 levels and it will save at least £1.2 billion per year. (George Osborne, please note).

Lost already?  What about a hero?   OK there’s ‘Sir Health Of Well-Being’.  He’s a lovely chap. Very well-intentioned.  But lacks charisma.  Too ‘nicey, nicey’.   And be honest, humankind tolerates only so much good behaviour.  An individual, or single front or campaigning body, is required to lead the charge.

Next it gets byzantine: the conflict. This battleground is more complex than the Syrian Civil War or 3D chess!  Obesity, say the experts, is a consequence of: a) genetics, b) environment (we live now in an ‘obesegenic’ world), c) psychology, d) behavioural factors and/or e) some combination of the above.   Try pitching all that in the ‘elevator’!  In the current state-of-knowledge, it’s not even clear which dimension has the strongest weighting!

Solution?   Seriously, who knows?  There are far too many variables in play and issues outstanding.

So outcome?  A super-healthy society would be nice.  And pigs are flying in massed formation over my office.

Sadly, depressingly, we all ‘get’ the question.  But without a narrative, this looks set to drift – and escalate.

So, all joking apart, before you settle down to that Christmas turkey, obesity narrative anyone?

And do please leave a reply below!

-ends-

Bill Nichols

15 September 2014

Bill Nichols

Devolution for All

018 – 15 September 2014

It’s almost done (the independence debate).  But (devolution) far from dusted.

If the ‘No’ camp scrapes home on Thursday, it is critical that the UK’s citizens have the opportunity at the next General Election to press a long overdue ‘reset’ button. And to create a balanced federal constitution and devolution settlement for this united kingdom’s nations and regions.

Most of us did not vote for, or support, the inept, illogical 1997 devolution settlement which led inexorably to today’s situation.  A classic case of the ‘Lonminster Elite’ peeping out from its bubble and, under pressure, handing out ‘sweeties’.

None of us voted for Gordon Brown’s new ‘devo-max’ offer to the Scots.  More sweeties like a panicked parent.  And I’ll wager that few support the ‘sweeties to the major cities’ proposal by deputy PM, Nick Clegg.  (PS Nick: check the preamble to your party’s constitution.  It commits to “a democratic federal framework within which as much power as feasible is exercised by the nations and regions of the United Kingdom”.)  .

Yet we must all live with the consequences of these foolish interventions.  If ‘yes’ massive political and economic disruption over months and years. If ‘no’ – and Lonminster is left to its own devices we will suffer a byzantine muddled settlement.  Substitute ‘Any Small Town in England’ for Tam Dalyell’s still-unanswered 1977 ‘West Lothian’  question.   Call it – in tribute to my home – the ‘Farnham Question’.

Instead???  A new federal constitution will re-set things nicely.  Standard devo-max for say 10 equally balanced nations and regions (including Greater London – first minister, Boris Johnson?). It will  give us all an equal say, stimulate regional economies and provide the Scots with eight potential buddies next time Lonminster gets out of hand.   It will allow very divergent approaches to flourish (check out the US) if that’s what the voters want.  And it will also provide a logical basis upon which to reform the House of Lords as a working federal senate.

PR aficionados, meanwhile, win out whatever happens.  What a wonderful case-study!  Narrative (yes) vs. Messaging (no).  Careful planning – a repeat of the last Scottish election manoeuvre by Salmond,  undoubtedly the finest politician of his generation (not a compliment) – and apparently none.  Did Darling & Co undertake any scenario planning? Heigh ho.

-ends-

Bill Nichols

18 August 2014

Bill Nichols

Variations on Leadership – Tribute to Warren Bennis 

017 – August 2014

Are you over-managed? Or perhaps over-led? (Under-paid, for sure!).

Leadership guru, Warren Bennis, sadly died at end-July. Most famously, I was reminded in an obit, he charged that “failing organisations are usually over-managed and under-led”.   This, he attributed in part (and rightly) to an increasingly scientific and research-orientated business school curriculum.

True and agreed, too many ‘Theorists’, immediately chimed my 35 years’ client experience.

Hang on, replied cooler reflection, at least in larger firms.  In practice, fading smaller entrepreneurial players – especially PR-type ones – manifest the reverse. Those ‘Creatives’ are often under-managed and over-led.  They’ve bags of vision and direction: but are poor on execution and detail.

Leadership and Management Quadrant

 Leadership Box

And what about larger public sector organisations (e.g. higher education)? They’re often characteristically both under-managed and under-led.  These ‘Zombies’ function, tick boxes and linger uncomfortably.

So, prompted reflection, there must be a fourth dimension?  But over and over?  Easy: a succinct definition, surely, of organisations suffering political interference.  They are the ‘Politicals’.

And, you ask, is there then a perfect middle?

“True leaders,” added Bennis, “make dreams come alive”.  They manage, he said, four competencies: attention, meaning, trust and ‘oneself’. That’s leadership.

Amen.

 

 

Bill Nichols

2 May 2014

Bill Nichols

016 – May 2014

Social Influence – Three Key Touch-Points

You know that social media stuff works.  It’s always worth a punt.  But you’re not quite sure when, how or in what combination with other tactics you get ‘influence’.  Should you ‘pension off’ some old tools – like classic direct marketing – completely.

So what exactly do we know?  So far we have: firm principles; clear integration models for the process of exposure, feedback and engagement and exchange; and, from telecoms to pharma and online retailing, mounting evidence.  Research confirms the positive effects of social influence (or, unattractively, ‘social contagion’) on adoption.

As a result, social network marketing is part of the marketer’s canon.

Now new tech-product based research (*) offers more.  More than a direction of travel.  More than a punt. It’s founded on analysis of interactions and influence among relevant consumers.  It suggests three key touch-points to begin to manipulate social influence with some precision.

First Up, Catching Earliest Adopters

In the product cycle, the research finds, it is the earliest customer adopters – properly the pioneers – who exert the greatest social influence.  Further, if stimulated by traditional direct marketing, their incidence and power is augmented.

Tactically, this combination offers maximum early market impact.

It’s like the match to a newly-laid fire.  Early investment in classic MGC (marketer-generated content) kindles UGC’s (user-generated content) influence.   But, it seems, traditional potency flickers and quickly dies.  After launch, marketers should cut spend rapidly.

Second, Extending Online Sharing

But there is no time ‘bar’ on social influence.  Intriguingly, irrespective of time of purchase, each new adopter contributes independent effects.  The quantum of individual power depends not on timing but on:

  • ·         ‘Strength of tie’ – where the unique aspect of virtual communities relates to help asked                        and provided and the desire to meet in person –
  • ·         And homophily (degree of similarity, the ‘birds of a feather’ principle). 

Solely for his or her own close personal connections, each new adopter is like a pioneer.  A new burning ember.  So, long after launch, to continue to stimulate online sharing behaviour with appropriate content and incentives is a viable mid-term strategy.

But important distinction:  simply to rely on cumulative positive adoption effects across a customer’s wider network is unlikely to succeed.  In line with the fading (even negative) effects of simply repeated messages reported in my recent blog, The Power of Three, traction is lost.   Sparks may fly but will not kindle.

Third, Referral Anytime

Finally, by extension, the constant potential of new adoptions indicates that referral campaigns may be effective at any point – even very late in the product cycle.  Rather than general social pressure, it is the one-to-one power of those with strong ties or homophilous contacts which generates results.  And the fire sustained.

It suggests that careful mapping of prospective customers is a great investment.

Contagious even!

-ends-

(*) Risselada, H., et al (2014), Dynamic Effects of Social Influence and Direct Marketing on the Adoption of High-Technology Products.   Journal of Marketing 78 (2).                                                

 

Bill Nichols

18 April 2014

Bill Nichols

015 – 22 April 2014

Hard-wired consumer responses:  Magic of Three Trumps Four Or More

We are hard-wired: especially our consumer responses.  Often more or less automated.  Up to 80% of the time, according to a top psychologist buddy.  So, in most situations, for communicators, it should be a case of press the button, trigger the receiver’s mental ‘software’ and await the outcome.

Should.  If only we know which buttons. And, not least, how intensively to make claims and to persuade.

On intensity, insightful new research (*), based on a sequence of carefully-controlled experiments, confirms what many might guess.   The answer: it’s three, stupid.

For most message-receivers most of the time, three data-points are sufficient to triangulate and infer meaning.  Whether positive or negative.  So only three assertions per press release or three claims per ad.    Stir gently… It’s enough.  Really.

This is crucial evidence for hard-pressed PR execs, advertising copywriters and online scribes wishing to push back on the client’s demands for ever more positive claims.  And sobering for politicians parroting the exact same answer again (and again!).

The Power of Three

Three of course resonates in our culture. It is, for example, the deep structure of rhetoric.  In medieval numerology and theology, three is God and the Trinity.  And nine (3×3) is the number of miracles.

St. Augustine, that great marketer of the early church, offers perhaps the richest insight.  Three, he suggested, in a passable advance draft of the Theory of Reasoned Action which has dominated consumer behaviour thinking over the past 30 years, speaks to and aligns the three parts of the human being.  That is, mind (attitude), spirit (normative beliefs) and will (motivation).

Selling, Unselling and ‘Persuasion Knowledge’

But if we abuse this magic?  Beyond three positive messages in a marketer-controlled persuasion setting, four or more triggers the receiver’s scepticism.  His defences kick-in.  In the jargon, you run his ‘persuasion knowledge’ software.  Like the anti-virus on your laptop, it functions as a coping strategy.  It mediates, and may negate, initial acceptance.

Make sense?  As every great salesman knows, at a certain point, the more you push, justify and promote, the more you ‘un-sell’.  Or, as every wise consultancy head knows, the more times you re-write that client proposal, the less likely you are to win.

Risks and Rewards of Social Media

Further, in an age in which we increasingly consume news by aggregating narrative across multiple-platforms, simple repetition is high risk. The over-zealous marketer who transmits the same message in the same format across multiple social platforms (say Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) triggers defences.  As the research authors note, “small changes in message design can have profound effects on message effectiveness”.

But there is good news too.  Information in a non-persuasion setting (e.g. customer chat, reviews and likes on social media) does not trigger the defence.  It adds authenticity.  That is the reward of social media.

Managing the Message: Beware the Fourth

Over past decades, communicators have learnt much about message management.  They know about the power of source credibility.  The importance of aligning presentation to audience.  The contextual potency of e.g. price signals, message framing and message sequencing.  And the subliminal effects of environment.

Now add, if you like a posh phrase, the ‘theory of inference sufficiency’.  Or if you prefer, the ‘power of three’.

Three only!  Beware the fourth proposition and do not un-sell.  Whether you pitch a story, proposal or new product, close quickly and close early.  Hard wire those consumer responses.

-ends-

(*) Shu, S.B., and Carlson, K.A. (2014), Why Three Charms But Four Alarms: Identifying the Optimal Number of Claims in Persuasion Settings.  Journal of Marketing 78 (1).  

Bill Nichols

18 April 2014

Bill Nichols

014 – 2 April 2014

Practical Social Investment by SMEs – Making CSR Work

My anti-CSR recantation continues.  Here’s a special guest blog on how and why the careful application of the TAAR (trading, adapting, aligning, relating) formula works for SMEs.

A special guest blog on Trading for Good for Tim Grant.

Dr. Bill Nichols

Bill Nichols

24 February 2014

Bill Nichols

013 – 24 February 2014

Back to Basics: PR Product Reviews – Why and How Best

The humble product review is a staple of the PR business.  So ‘humble’, it’s barely mentioned in any standard text -book– even PR for Dummies!

It is – everyone seems to assume – obvious: one of those ‘good things’.

But does it work?  When, why and how?  A research check to fill this ‘black hole’ finds a surprisingly subtle tool – at its best for weaker brands and with four clear tips for best practice.

So what is it?  Properly it refers to a serious robust bench-test.  Not the re-mixed product news releases which, as the excellent Tom Foremski laments, sadly pass for journalism in so many quarters. And not the rather sexier ‘product placements’ whose merits and ethics garner much ink.

It covers anything and everything.  From cars to laptops, DVD players to smart-watches and heart-rate monitors for joggers. The world-over, junior AEs and press officers engage daily in punting out their wares for various outcomes:  traditional media bench-tests (MBs), online blogger reviews (OBRs) and online customer reviews (OCRs).  (My classification incidentally).  Four- and five-stars on Amazon is the new aspirational frontier.

And the value of reviews? 

Thirty years ago, an early agency boss obsessed about them.  They demanded: constant reviewer contact; great clarity and precision; and total care and attention to every aspect. They helped companies, he argued, ‘punch above their weight’.  And they achieved, he believed, greater PR RoI than any other output.   But that was 30 years ago.  Essentially gut-instinct and without evidence.

Wind forward 20 years.  Our Paris office was fast-disappearing under boxes and boxes of Apple kit.  Soon three of our four-strong account team worked full time to manage it all.  I was increasingly sceptical.  We were preaching to the converted.  Squeezing out far more valuable PR opportunities.   And my shins were badly bruised.  But hey, who argues with Apple?  And that was my gut-instinct…

One for the weak

Now today.  Well, smugly, we were both right (my old boss and I)!  New research (*) confirms that properly-conducted product-reviews deliver greatest benefits to weak brands.   They are the fast-track to stronger positioning.  Positive reviews for the weak create a virtuous circle.  More sales, increased brand equity etc.  Conversely negative reports are far less impactive on weaker brands because less visible.

Meantime, product reviews have minimal impact for stronger brands.  They simply reinforce the perceptions of loyalists and refuseniks alike.  While weaker brands make progress by ‘flipping the funnel’, once you are in the top brand tier with established equity, further major market shifts require high-visibility classic advertising and promotional tools.

Four tips to make reviews work

And the best techniques?

  1. Make comprehensive (non-promotional) information available and easily accessible for reviewers.  As separate confidential Henley research I supervised confirmed, social media will set colour, context and muzak but hard data will create the final shape.
  2. Establish brand communities and early adopter clubs.  Perceived customer privilege will provide ‘seed’ positive feedback and enable rapid modification to address the ‘negative’.
  3. Consciously seek out expert review sites.  They often set the review editorial agenda for others.
  4. Incentivise your evangelists to post early reviews.

And, last but far from least, beware subterfuge!  In the social media age, if you’re found out posting negative reviews for competitors, you can create a tsunami for yourself…

Not so humble after all those product reviews…

-ends-

(*) Ho Dac, N.N, Carson, S.J and Moore, W.L.  Journal of Marketing, November 2013.