marketing Archives - at home in... w| Gerald Zhang-Schmidt

at home in... w| Gerald Zhang-Schmidt

Look Closer, Learn More, #GetAtHome In This World

Tag: marketing

Performing Magic, Bought in Products?

For all the complaints about our dull lives, we still find a lot of magic – in the marketing of products. What about active living and exploratory lifestyles, though?

snappy-dresserAs I stand here, in blazer and pants made of a softshell material, promising comfort and a cool look, performance and a certain classiness, writing on a shiny notebook delivering great performance in a thin chassis, I am only too well aware that this is something of a performance.

Even if it is just for myself, it is an attempt at projecting a certain image and taking on its attributes. It’s close to notions of sympathetic magic, only that it’s not a voodoo doll being poked, it’s me myself being dressed up for work.

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Real People… The Oversight of Social (Media) Marketing

Marketing and corporate communications on social networks are all the rage, I’m somewhat involved and impressed myself (and available for hire) – but something of the social is constantly overlooked: Even as all those communications are supposed to circle around the individual, provide and prove corporate social engagement, and tap into the power of word-of-mouth, there is all too much advertising and audience-building, and all too little real social interaction with actual people.

In particular, this plays out in two arenas:

  1. the social interaction between brand representatives and interested potential customers in real life, and
  2. the interaction that is invited when people publicly express their interest in a brand/product, not least by/in blogs.

The problem is this: if you are Target  and you can track the purchases of your customers in order to data-mine them and tailor your offers, then you may be in the position that social media marketers wanted to achieve. You have insight into your customers’ behaviors and you can “speak” to them in just the ways they are susceptible to – even if those cases require rather more *in*direct approaches so as not to scare everyone off.

As another – more common – kind of company with (hitherto) less direct interaction, you can continue to use advertising. It can work well enough if your target group is well-defined and reachable, but otherwise just spreads information widely and hopes enough of it will stick somewhere it results in sales – meaning that even companies who pay millions for Superbowl ads still get ~70% of their (new) sales from word-of-mouth (as is the number often peddled but seemingly not very well corroborated).
Or, you can go onto social media and get more direct interaction that will (supposedly) result in a deeper relationship, direct feedback, word-of-mouth marketing driving sales, ponies and rainbows.

Looking at the statistics on what effect companies are achieving via social media, though, there is quite the disconnect between corporate and customer expectations:

What customers want from the companies, apart from the basic information about their products and (maybe) help in deciding about a purchase or if there are problems post-sale, is nothing much more than rebates. Special offers. Many, if not most, company updates are just noise.

The number of “likes” thus doesn’t mean a thing, it’s a marketing “one night stand“.

Just consider where you’d look for detailed reviews and reports on the actual usage of a product you are interested in. Probably, it would be on retail/review websites or personal blogs on which people actively and deeply describe their experiences, not on any site, let alone social media profile, under the company’s direct control.

There’s the rub.

Such portals to user’s minds, especially in the case of blogs that allow commenting, would be invitations to connect. An entry on a company’s Facebook wall or a tag in a public status update are admonishments to get in touch.

So, when there are questions, comments, or complaints done like that, company representatives are welcome – if not outright expected – to provide answers and participate in the discussion; and giving at least the impression that customer complaints and suggestions are proactively sought out would raise the company profile tremendously – if done right.

It would have to be as one discussion partner among others, though (even if with – hopefully – good/better answers from the inside), not as a marketer.

Companies, however, all too often prefer sticking to the social media platforms where they can control the discussion, stick to marketing speak and the corporate communications line, rather than get into the more open ways of actual conversations – and thus they miss a chance to interact with users who are really engaged, to help along the word-of-mouth marketing they are supposedly on the Web 2.0 to promote, to gain valuable feedback and show that the company is listening (and that they are not “a company” but actual people who make a product they themselves care about).

The problems go deeper, though, as the real social aspects of business appear to be getting lost more and more. Especially as companies get bigger, and social media promise more chances of talking to customers and letting them amplify “the message,” there is more of a search to reach “the greatest audience” rather than influence actual, individual, people.

The hope is that there will be more and more “likes” and “followers,” an advertisement will go viral – but meanwhile, quality of products and enthusiasm of gatekeepers would be the real driver.

”New authors traditionally are nurtured by bookstore personnel, especially in independent bookstores. These people literally hand sell books to their customers, by saying, “I’ve read this. I think you’re going to love it.” Not to mention the fact that a bookstore is a small cultural center in a community. That’s definitely a loss.” ~Scott Turow, Why We Should Fear Amazon

The situation with books (see the quote) applies to most products that are available in a wide range of choices and require quite some deliberation: The best “social medium” to help a customer decide what to get is an experienced friend, a knowledgeable reviewer, or an enthusiastic salesperson. People who know the product well, are excited about it, and are able and willing to listen and help…

There’s a reason why the highest luxury and quality is not found off-the-rack, but in the skillful customization for the individual done in bespoke production, after all. With the higher number of hardly-distinct products and the higher options for customization, the real social interaction behind sales, based on competent advice and real conversation as well as obvious enthusiasm about the product and care about the customer becomes ever more important.

We are not just “likers” and “followers,” let alone mere customers, after all – we are human beings.

The 3 Ways of Social Media (Marketing)

Social media are all the rage, every company seems to be getting onto Facebook and other social networks to interact with customers and find potential new recruits – and, transfixed by the new technology, the developments that are currently bringing about changes are misunderstood.

Some companies have not yet arrived in the present world of social media contacts, most companies and people have not yet come around to an understanding of what living in this world, especially ecologically, means.

In effect, there are now three different ways of corporate social interaction, from the social media strategies that amount to nothing much more than standard marketing using additional channels, via the social businesses that try to realize they actually consist of people, to the socialization of businesses as constructive members of societies (which still tends to be more of a hope and proposal for future success than a reality).

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Google+ Pages and Brand Socialization

Brands have been clamoring to get on the social media bandwagon. They are, by and large, still lagging behind, still misunderstanding why their conversation partners (not just customers, but also potential employees, ‘brand ambassadors’, etc.) actually engage with them – and today’s launch of Google+ pages has the potential to leave slow brands, as well as ordinary social marketing experts, even further in the dust.Google+

The stand-out feature that makes me think so is the inclusion of video hangouts, along with circles, also on the Pages.

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Quit Advertising, Answer Questions – Companies and Social Media Conversation

Advertising, PR, and all that, continues to be big business. More money seems to be spent (percentage-wise) on a product’s marketing than on its development, let alone manufacture (e.g. with the iPhone…). PR has even been reaching into politics and international diplomacy, where spin doctors and experts in “nation branding” roam.

Meanwhile, even as online marketing is trying to target its audiences ever more exactly and bring that same personalization into the public (think Minority Report), many a customer is getting better at simply ignoring the onslaught of ad messages. (When was the last time you really noticed one of the ads on Facebook?).

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Sports and the Chinese Customer

Nike, as the Wall Street Journal reports, plans to expand its sales in China greatly. The only problem? Everyday sports for recreation are not what Chinese do… and so, Nike needs to “alter ideas of fashion and help foster a culture of everyday-citizen sports.

If only it were that simple.

The case of the sports industry in China nicely illustrates how it is not just people who want to be ‘at home’ somewhere. Companies also need to make themselves ‘at home’ if they are to reach their customers. Local contexts, however, can differ greatly, and have to be understood deeply.

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Be a Good Company, Or Else – Intersections of Social Media, Public Opinion, and Market Success

In recent times, we have been witnessing social media become a force of change.

Dictators have been toppled; at least one autocratic government (even as it strongly censors messages) keeps reacting to the public sentiment expressed via social networking services; Americans are wondering what’s really up with the Occupy Wall Street protests, but they are pointing discussions in a different direction, at least.

Having seen the impact that social media have on purchasing decisions in China, knowing of the same from ‘the West’, working on my own little campaign for better living – “for yourself and, incidentally, for ‘the planet,’ too” – with the ecology of happiness, I wonder what we may yet see happen in regards to ‘the economy.’

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Marketing by Asshole

Getting to be “at home” in a place needn’t mean that you accept everything, but maybe will make you wish that others understood better what you see in that place. Democracy, freedom of speech, Asian oddities and Western failure to understand – there are enough issues of note here. There is also enough to like and cherish.

Whether in China or Europe, whether about Japan or the USA, it seems pretty apparent, though, that you become known best when you act as an asshole.

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Time to build up the reputation of Chinese brands [Global Times commentary]

Global Times, May 14, 2009

Walking through shopping areas in China is an interesting experience. There is a combination of brands that is quite peculiar. What one does not find elsewhere, and what catches the foreigner’s eye most, are those labels that try to look like a Western brand, but obviously aren’t.

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