Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Three Branding Lessons from Binge Watching

Recently, I had some time to catch up on what, for me, was a new TV show. Since I’ve seen every LAW AND ORDER marathon, this chunk of time was dedicated to watching the first three seasons of HOMELAND. With talented actors and a plot filled with twists and turns, I was immediately drawn into the action. Afterward, this experience left me pondering the impact of binge watching on branding, brand experiences, and customer experience marketing.


According to the BBC, "Collins English Dictionary has chosen binge-watch as its 2015 Word of the Year. Meaning to watch a large number of television programs (especially all the shows from one series) in succession, it reflects a marked change in viewing habits, due to subscription services like Netflix. Lexicographers noticed that its usage was up 200% on 2014. Helen Newstead, Head of Language Content at Collins, said, ‘The rise in usage of binge-watch is clearly linked to the biggest sea change in our viewing habits since the advent of the video recorder nearly 40 years ago. It's not uncommon for viewers to binge-watch a whole season of programs such as House of Cards or Breaking Bad in just a couple of evenings - something that, in the past, would have taken months - then discuss their binge-watching on social media.’"

Here are three branding lessons any brand can learn from binge watching:

If a TV series has an unexpected plot twist, viewers may get so upset that they stop watching the series completely. This not only impacts ratings and ad dollars, but it also damages the TV show’s brand equity. I won’t include any spoilers here, but suffice it say, the end of series three of HOMELAND featured an unexpected surprise. Some fans may have wondered if the series would be the same in series four and beyond, and some may have stopped watching. In January 2017, series six begins if you’d like to see how the series has evolved.

Before you make any change to your brand, whether it’s a logo change (recall The Gap and Instagram) or a change in the product’s taste (recall New Coke), it’s critical to consider both positive and negative “what if” scenarios. And, if the negative scenarios could result in going out of business (or in the case of a TV show, getting cancelled), by all means, don’t make the change.

On the other side of the coin, think back to the TV show DALLAS and the third season finale, its “Who Shot JR?” episode, that aired in March 1980. That episode’s mystery lasted throughout the summer of 1980, and the shooter was not revealed until the following season’s fourth episode in November 1980. Everyone had an opinion about JR’s shooter. And, actor Larry Hagman as JR Ewing even turned up on the cover of TIME magazine in August 1980.

In the event that your plot twist or brand change becomes big news, make sure that you have the bandwidth to be inclusive. One major reason that this show’s mystery was such a success was that there were so many possible shooters. Everyone had an opinion and could participate in the discussion.

Back to binge watching, what drew me to the particular show? The plot? The actors? A large chunk of available time? I chose to watch HOMELAND for all of those reasons, but there could have been others.

Understand that your viewers, fans, or new customers can encounter your brand with no previous knowledge about your competitive advantage. With that in mind, provide some basic information about your brand at the outset as a form of introduction.

Have you ever binge watched? What TV show? Please chime in.

If you’d like to read about all seasons of HOMELAND, check out the recaps here:

Oh, and does anyone know where I can get the first and second seasons of the Canadian police drama MOTIVE? Currently, each episode can be purchased separately on Amazon, which is not a user-friendly option.

Image Credits: Exstreamist and Time Magazine

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Brand Experiences, Brand Ambassadors and Brand Advocates, Oh My!

The subset of marketing known as branding, brand-building, brand engagement, brand experiences, and brand equity is my passion, so when I run into someone who shares this passion, I like to talk shop. Years ago, I had the pleasure to meet Elaine Fogel as a result of our social media activity, and over the years, I've enjoyed her blog and insights on Twitter. Recently, I invited Elaine to participate as a featured guest in a TweetChat for a nonprofit organization for communications and PR pros for whom I serve as a Board Member, and her Tweets provided much value to the chat. In case you don't know Elaine, a brief bio appears at the end of this post, which contains highlights from our recent discussion about branding.

How do you define a brand experience?
ELAINE FOGEL: A brand experience is any interaction one has with a brand. Brand experiences include a range of touchpoints including transactions (sales), website visits, inbound inquiries, communications, product or service usage, customer service, and more.

What makes a successful brand experience, and please provide three examples of your favorite brand experiences.
ELAINE FOGEL: A successful brand experience is when one’s interaction with a brand is easy, friendly, customer-oriented, and produces a positive result for the individual. As I wrote in my book, “Your brand is more than its logo, look, and colors. It emanates from the mindsets, attitudes, and behaviors of anyone and everyone involved in it. And, since success depends on its brand reputation, it’s critical that you do everything possible to ensure that your customers’ experiences are amazing.” No matter what we call it, anytime we interact with a brand, it is an experience.

Here are my faves:
I am an Amazon brand loyalist. Every time I purchase products, the experience is consistently positive. Once when I ordered a marble bathroom accessory set (tumbler and toothbrush holder), the tumbler arrived in pieces. I contacted the seller company and advised it of the situation. I assumed that I would have to return the set with the broken pieces to prove the damage. I was surprised when the customer service rep apologized and told me that it wasn’t necessary. She would credit my credit card for the full amount, and I could keep the toothbrush holder. Now, that experience went beyond my expectations.

Jet Blue Airlines is another example of a successful brand. I will always remember the flight attendants’ style on a flight several years ago. They were jovial and welcoming, making wisecracks and jokes in their announcements. Every seat was comfortable (and leather) and seat backs had individual TVs on which we could watch FREE movies or TV. No nickel and diming here. (That was before it became a common feature.) The flight departure was delayed quite a bit from its original time, and as compensation for our patience, the airline awarded passengers a few thousand miles to our frequent flyer accounts. This proactive approach delighted everyone and made the delay a distant memory.

This last brand experience was shared with me when I was conducting a customer service presentation for internal staff. Once you read it, you’ll know why I never forgot it. A man and woman checked into a luxury hotel. As with many luxury properties, the service was impeccable. After they checked out, the housekeeper noticed the woman’s nightgown hanging behind the bathroom door. So, one of the staff members called the male guest’s phone number to ask how the hotel could return the nightgown. When the woman answered, he explained that she had forgotten her nightgown in the room and he wanted to make arrangements to return it to her. Turns out the woman who answered the phone was NOT the woman her husband was with at the hotel! So, was it a successful brand experience when the intention was to offer 5-star service? What do you think?

How would you define the difference between a brand ambassador and a brand advocate?
ELAINE FOGEL: Brand ambassadors may or may not be compensated to serve as spokespeople for a brand. For example, in the corporate world, brand ambassadors can be experts related to the brand’s products or services. They may have access to "insider" information and be part of an external product team.

Paid celebrity spokespeople are another type of ambassador such as when a professional athlete does a TV spot for a local car dealership. An example of unpaid brand ambassadorship is when a charity’s board members and volunteers toot its horn and help it fulfill its mission.

Brand advocates are the people who absolutely love the brand and engage with it, talk about it, and share their passion.

With all the buzz surrounding social ROI, what metrics are important to you in the social space, and why?
ELAINE FOGEL: This is an interesting question because several studies I’ve read indicate that determining social ROI has been very difficult. In enterprises, there are teams devoted to social media in which they use top analytical tools to evaluate their tactics. For those of us without big budgets, there are many free and cheap tools available.

As a Hootsuite user (and affiliate), I have access to all my social media accounts in one dashboard. It’s much easier to engage with my connections and post links to my blog posts simultaneously. I have access to reports on my Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ engagement, clicks by region, direct referrers, and which are my popular links.

I also measure how many people follow my calls to action through social media. This is even more important to me as it’s how I capture email subscribers and sell my book.

What do you think will be the central focus of our social media marketing discussions a year from now?
ELAINE FOGEL: I think the discussion will still focus on the ROI for the time and effort we devote to social media marketing. Even though I participate in it wholeheartedly, I admit that I have been somewhat skeptical all along. Is it producing results equivalent or close to what we put in? Could we be better off spending some of that time and money on more traditional channels? Multi-channel marketing based on a sound marketing plan can be much more effective than relying on one channel like social media marketing.

Much gratitude to Elaine for appearing here on my blog and applause for sharing my passion for branding!

Here's Elaine's Bio:
Elaine is a professional speaker, marketer, brand and customer experience evangelist, educator, and consultant. She has been a contributing writer to The Business Journal, and contributes to MarketingProfs, SmallBizClub (founded by NFL Hall of Famer and author, Fran Tarkenton), Business2Community, and Kingged.com. People in 100+ countries have read her blog, Totally Uncorked on Marketing (http://elainefogel.net/), and her articles have appeared in many print and digital publications. She is also the author of the award-winning book, Beyond Your Logo: 7 Brand Ideas That Matter Most For Small Business Success (http://elainefogel.com/books/beyond-your-logo/). I highly recommend that you follow Elaine on Twitter at @Elaine_Fogel (https://www.twitter.com/Elaine_Fogel).

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via FreeDigitalPhotos.net.