An Appreciation of The Consumer Decision Journey with Data Points! (Bonus!!)

“Increasingly, online experiences with companies and products have reinforced the loyalty loop in the consumer decision cycle.  In addition, with today’s online existence, these customers can be a strong extension of your marketing/sales efforts by recommending your products/services to others and defending you when issues/problems arise.”

“According to ORC (Opinion Research Corporation), companies are welcome into the social network communities as long as you follow the rules:
* 51% said companies should have a presence but shouldonly interact with consumers as needed or by request
* 34% feel companies should be in social media and interact regularly
* 15% say companies should sit in the balcony or stay home

According to a recent Razorfish study, an impressive 64% of connected consumers had made their first purchase because of their digital experience.  In addition:
* 60% consider the brand favorably when they are in the market for a product/service in that category
* 40% recommend the brand to others

Cone Research found:
* 74% who interact with the company/product online usually have a more positive impression of the company, product/service
* 72% feel a stronger connection with the company/brand because they can interact with the company online
* 70% feel better served when they have an online discussion with the company
* 68%have improved their opinion of the company/product because of friend’s recommendations
* 64% become followers, friends, fans of companies/brands because they showcase my personality/interests online

Constantly strengthen your relationship with your best customers online.  Develop new/different ideas, share thoughts/concepts, listen.

People who go online to research a product/service will almost unanimously place customer care/customer service high in their decision making process.  IDC research found:
* 74% choose companies/brands based on others’ customer-care experience shared online
* 72% research companies’ customer care online before purchasing at least some of the time
* 84% consider the quality of customer care in their purchasing decision
* 81% say blogs, online rating systems, discussion forums give consumers a greater voice in customer care
* 33% believe companies take customers’ opinions seriously
* Search engines are their most valuable research tool followed by social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, microblogs”

via Social Media #6.

Depth On Demand Needs “The 5 NEW Rules Of Social Media Optimization (SMO)” or FAIL!

Influential Marketing Blog: The 5 NEW Rules Of Social Media Optimization (SMO).

Long ago Google began saying “atomize and distribute” content on the web to gain influence among engaged audiences (or consumers). So, instead of putting all your marketing effort behind a large-scale destination website and spending an enormous amount of money, time and human capital driving traffic to it, you’d generate content modules and spread them throughout social networks and community sites for people to discover and share them at will.

Back in the old days (of a few years ago) when destination websites ruled the web, usability ruled the roost. Giving people a clear, unambiguous path from the home page into the parcels of content they want was the ultimate goal.

Now that content is both aggregated at a brand site (remember, we live in an “and” world now) and distributed through social networks widely across the web, findability is singularly most important. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the foundation for making content findable. And social media optimization (SMO) is ever more important in this context.

Discovering a relevant, useful chunk of branded content online gives consumers a reason to go deep with a brand. Whether they do depends on persuasion — good old-fashioned advertising salesmanship will never become irrelevant. Never.

As the debate between brand “story” vs. brand “utility” gets more and more blurry thanks to digital convergence, the only answer is to stop debating in the first place. Story “and” utility must complement each other in order to persuade consumers to take one or more steps that lean into the brand — the only way to go deep is to choose (or click) for oneself.

Rohit Bhargava’s blog post about Social Media Optimization hits the relevance and importance of this new practice in the sweet spot.

Odopod – Utility Marketing: Usefulness Creates Connections … for Depth On Demand™

What San Francisco-based agency Odopod calls utility marketing, I call branding applications. To me, there are only two forms of persuasive content — branded (narrative) content and branding (utiltiy) applications.

What I love about this excerpt is how the author connects the branding app/utility to the brand promise. The brand becomes an experience through interaction. The metaphor I’ve long liked to use is “The propaganda of the deed” attributed to Mikhail Bakunin but actually written by another 19th century anarchist.

“Here are a few examples of utility marketing that do just that.

1. The Snow Report by The North FaceAn iPhone application that allows users to select their favorite ski/snow resorts and receive real-time snow and weather conditions along with trail maps, directions and site links.
Supports the brand promise: Being prepared to enjoy the outdoors.

2. SitOrSquat sponsored by Charmin.The SitOrSquat Website and mobile application allows users to find a public toilet anywhere in the world – plus add and rate bathrooms that they find.
Supports the brand promise: An enjoyable bathroom experience.

3. HP’s print function for MySpace.HP is developing a “click to print” function for MySpace enabling users to turn their library of pictures into tangible photos, photo books, postcards and posters.
Supports the brand promise: Making printing easy.

4. Samsung Mobile Charging Station.Samsung Mobile have installed charging stations many US airports. The stations include outlets and a handy shelf where travelers can rest their devices.
Supports the brand promise: Empowering technology on the go.

5. Driving Guides from Michelin.Michelin guidebooks evaluate and recommend restaurants on a range of criteria across Europe, the US and Asia. They’ve recently launched a restaurant application for the iPhone.
Supports the brand promise: A better way to travel.

via Odopod – Utility Marketing: Usefulness Creates Connections.

The Consumer Decision Journey Begins With Search

How Consumers Interact with Brands on Social Networks – eMarketer.

People do what is easy and effective. I’ve called it “enlightened self interest.” Pushed too far, self interest becomes selfishness. But when we’re looking for a product to solve a problem or salve a discomfort, we just want something good.

How we go about finding these things, from low interest consumer goods to hot and sexy conspicuous brands, has changed (see Mike Troiano’s blog and read Sally Hogshead’s book — links in my blogroll). And discovery is a non-linear process. Still, the consumer journey needs to start somewhere.

I believe it begins most often with search. eMarketer cites several studies in today’s article (link and image above).

And why not?! Social networking has reached critical mass. So, search is beyond that. It’s normal to do what comes naturally for making good decisions for ourselves. Mostly, that leads to Google, Yahoo! or Bing.

So, brands need to pay closer attention to search engine optimization in order to improve rank, relevance and organic search results placements. To improve SEO, marketers and their agencies need to start caring about content strategy (Kristina Halvorson’s book Content Strategy is great, btw.).

Content strategy is a hard term to fathom. It lends itself to execution. Its practitioners want to be above all that. It’s a topic worth exploring in detail. Stay tuned.

Notes on The Consumer Decision Journey

I wrote this comment on Steve Schildwachter’s blog Ad Majoremhttp://bit.ly/awYxQN — and wanted to preserve it for my own reference over here.

“The crux of what the Consumer Decision Journey shows us is that the purchase decision is itself shifting from media-driven “brand awareness” and in-store “activation” to consumer-focused Active Evaluation in social networks, the blogosphere and self-directed media experiences.

Hardcore shopper marketing folks may disagree. But that’s a great starting point for a vigorous discussion.

However, 80 percent (or greater) of purchase decisions are still made at shelf — the critical point of decision remains constant. Understanding and mastering “retail” is critical for agency practitioners in that light.

Ultimately, integrated campaigns need to “pull” the consumer toward brand assets (social objects) throughout the self-directed, asymmetrical, non-linear course of Active Evaluation in order to close the sale on the aisle.

In sharp contrast, attempting to push consumers down the purchase funnel now looks inefficient and costly.

Agency practice leaders need to change their mindset from channel planning to experience planning that is informed by context planning, brand planning and content strategy.

Channel planning was how we weighed the relative value of each spoke on a spider chart. It led to divisive and artificial estimates of each channel based on its own perceived ROI. Hence, digital received (and often still receives) less than 10 percent of the total budget.

Meanwhile, consumers’ purchase decisions are increasingly being formulated by exposure to blogs, comments, reviews and social network content.

There’s a big disconnect, and I’ve heard from more than one client-side executive recently that they find themselves “way ahead” of their agencies on this matter. Agencies don’t realize that they’re giving their clients the impression that they’re either unwilling or, worse, unable to adjust to the new normal that consumers are defining for themselves.

But the CDJ is itself very new. And it’s not a panacea for correcting everything that’s wrong with integrated marketing circa 2010.

Agencies and clients still need to formulate a planning model that converges media, brand, context and content strategy to identify how brands should “inhabit the world” with consumers in order to provide true Depth On Demand™ as they enter into and explore the non-linear pathways of Active Evaluation.

Otherwise, we just don’t know what to build for a brand to engage with and activate consumers by pulling them toward brand experiences (assets like branded content and branding applications) along the journey toward the purchase decision.”

Traditional Agencies Can’t Afford Digital

Skillset.org Chart

Skillset.org posted this chart depicting an ideal digital project team.

All it takes, really, to make an advertising campaign is about four people — a creative team, an account manager and a media strategist. Now, agencies also provide account/brand planning, production and sundry services.

Not so much for digital. It takes far more people, many of whom possess specialized skills, with far more technical expertise than conventional advertising. Meanwhile, the budget allocation for digital remains a speck compared to television and print advertising. Ever wonder why?

Look no farther than the agency’s balance sheet.

Social Objects are the Currency of Depth On Demand™

Almost every form of media can be a social object. Television commercials are actually social objects. The best of them gain so much “buzz” and “talk value” that they enter into the vocabulary of every day life. Now that TV is itself a digital medium, we can add commercials to the arsenal.

Quick sidebar: My son queued up a recent episode of Modern Family on Hulu yesterday (the one in which the dad gets an iPad for his birthday), and the ad unit was an advergame. Surely this is foreshadowing of innovations to come on conventional television.