CRM for the Holidays… don’t try this at home!

In the spastic miasma of acrimony that is apparently the new normal, one looks back fondly to Holidays past, the one time during the year where it would be possible to unplug, have a holiday movie on the TV in the background, and read cards with personal greetings from friends, with updates on what happened over the last year.

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Holiday Card

More ambitious senders might include a copy of a family portrait, often taken at a tool and underwear retailer called Sears.  If particularly well-organized, they would manage to get the cards to arrive by Christmas, maybe even a week early.

Sears Holiday

It was exciting to find these hand-addressed, slightly plump cards in the mail, and display them together as a visual totem of amity.  Yes, those were the good old ancient pre-Netflix days.

Addressed CardCards displayed

As holiday activity and accompanying stress levels continued to increase, some people turned to electronic greetings or stopped altogether, but cards remained for many an annual tradition they just couldn’t bear to discontinue.
Over time, the holiday card seemingly lost its soul, with a personal message replaced by an enclosed dossier of achievements of truly exceptional people (“Timmy was accepted into the ultra-selective XYZ Day Camp…”).
Cards became less reaching out to you, more about ‘let’s talk about me’.

Obnoxious letter

Finalist in Most Obnoxious Holiday Letter Competition

Ultimately, obligation overwhelmed the pleasure of friendships as the driving force behind the sending of holiday cards.

Pretentious Card 1

Today, if you can actually find any holiday cards hidden within an endless swamp of catalogs, what you’ll see has become quite different.  These cards, often custom-made for the occasion, are on high quality stock, with stunning retouched photography of a perfect family and a printed identifying caption, maybe addressed with printed labels or even faux calligraphy.  They are beautiful.  And they are coming in hot, ahead of schedule.

Business Holiday Card

Accountants.  Not grammarians.

(Businesses, on the other hand, have kept the same printed card M.O. for decades – often using the exact same printed cards).

There is a name for this perfection:  it’s called Customer Relationship Management.  CRM is an automated way for businesses to keep in touch with their customers, in the interest of maintaining relationships.  CRM uses something called Mass Customization – – the automatic inclusion of your name in a mass mailing – – you get these all the time and are no doubt moved near tears by the thoughtfulness of Credit Card Company X to think of you and include your very own name!

People are now basically adapting CRM for their personal cards.  (“It’s Holiday Card time – – grab the ‘friend’ spreadsheet, upload a photo and let’s check that box and go to Cancun!”)

The problem is that CRM is great for businesses, not so much for actual friends.
While the gesture is admirable, spectacular production values are just no match for a heartfelt greeting – – a personal touch lets the recipient instantly know that they’re not just on your holiday contact list.

Handwriting

If the message is business focused, perhaps to let a coworker or client know you’re thinking of them (in an appropriate way of course), some nice holiday greetings can be found here.

And if you still appreciate the spirit of sending personal cards to friends, we salute you.  And for those fellow scramblers whose cards are not yet out the door, try these humble curmudgeonly tips to help bring back some of the joyful connections of the Holidays (adding these steps will of course put even more pressure on you, but isn’t stress what the holidays are about?):

  • For the friends you actually care about, consider putting some actual ink on the cards – – even if just to write your name.  Typeset names on cards look a lot like “From the offices of…”
  • Deflate the humble-brag notes. Facebook built a multi-billion-dollar business by creating a platform for family highlight reels.  We’ve known for years that your Timmy is special and we naturally extend our deep admiration to you.  But that turf is now taken and your news is old!

Most importantly, above everything else, please please please – no glitter!

JFK signature

1958 – guess who?

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Can Technology Be More Human Than an Actual Human Interaction?

I recently had to actually drive to my bank to deposit a check.  Aside from 2 receptionists there wasn’t a single customer service person to be found (you may be familiar with the archaic term, ‘teller’ – – or the archaic term ‘check’).   At any rate, no tellers in this bank.

Video tellers

There was, however, a Las Vegas-style array of video tellers, and my instant reaction was ‘great, this is the bank version of phone customer service hell’.

My actual experience was terrific.

in this case, technology enabled a customer service interaction that was polite, competent, quick and personable.  What everyone wants, but without an actual face-to-face encounter.  Sounds almost blasphemous.

Video teller 2

Of course, this approach started as a way to cut costs, by pooling resources centrally and deploying dynamically based on demand, rather than having to staff a large number of branches.

Bank teller 3

How can what is essentially cost-saving technology surpass the traditional gold standard of a smiling face in front of you?

  • Instant gratification. Because there are a lot of them in one location, a customer service rep was immediately available. No wait = good.
  • Great video quality – – clear enough so that facial expressions were easily visible, in either direction. So a good percentage of the personal interaction was preserved.
  • It happened to be my birthday (yes, and visiting a bank made it even more special) – – and to my surprise my CSR wished me a Happy Birthday.  My account info apparently flagged this on her end, and gave her the opportunity to delight the customer – – which she did, in a very cheerful way.  Sometimes it’s the little things that count, and this one gave my CSR the opportunity to make a personal connection – – which she did.

Compare this with the traditional experience of potentially waiting for a clerk, who then might mechanically take care of your business because he or she does this a thousand times a day.

Bored Teller

Maybe, just maybe, as technology and data use continue to mature, there may actually be hope that we won’t totally have to discard our humanity just to get a little service.

Now let’s see if we can do something about humanizing customer service experience just about everywhere else.

Don’t Overlook Podcasts!

I’ve been wasting valuable time listening to podcasts, and I bet your target audience has been, too.  Why not take advantage of this and reach out to them?

Last Podcast on the Left

In the ever-shifting world of digital advertising, podcasts – serialized audio shows – are a fast-growing medium worth considering:

  • Allows targeting by attitude / preference / affinity rather than simple demographics
  • Highly engaged (addicted) audience – self-selected by interest in the subject matter
  • Loyal audience – regularly tune in to serial episodes – facilitating multiple exposures
  • Multi-platform accessibility – web, mobile, etc. – because listeners need continuity
  • Personal reading of ads by host(s) – ideally live reads – are more authentic and compelling
  • Bite-sized – typically 15-60 minutes per episode

SerialFor example, I listen to Casefile, one of the many true crime podcasts.  The ads seem to fit the tenor of the podcast, and because they are read live in a conversational style by the host, they seem more genuine and less likely to be skipped.Casefile_A_True_Crime_Podcast

My behavior has changed because of this podcast – – I’m more likely to walk the dog (plus!) for some alone time with my podcast.  More likely to ignore family members, professional obligations, personal growth (minus!) by finding excuses to listen to my podcast.  Ultimately, though, I’m listening attentively to who murdered whom, and I pay more attention to the ads than I would in other settings.

According to iab research, podcast advertising spending is growing fast – – from $169 million in 2016, it almost doubled to $314 million in 2017, and is expected to double again to $659 million by 2020.  At some point it will level off, but for now it is an evolving advertising option in growth mode.

Planet Money

Podcasts can help you get smart (or distracted) on topics ranging from personal finance to true crime to trends in medicine to true crime to politics to true crime to business to true crime.  Not surprisingly, podcast audiences vary widely by subject matter.

Stitcher is one of several sites that rank listenership of podcasts, among other things. Most podcasts have well-defined audiences. Top-rated My Favorite Murder, for example, has female hosts and skews highly female, while its true-crime male-hosted counterpart Last Podcast on the Left, skews more male. Mostly because those guys can be pretty disgusting. https://www.stitcher.com/stitcher-list/all-podcasts-top-showsFreakonomicsMore interesting, podcast audiences also vary widely by geography.  Why Illinois prefers Felonious Florida and neighboring Indiana prefers Stuff You Should Know, may remain a mystery.

Podcast Ranking

At any rate, mark this as a medium that’s on the rise.  If you haven’t listened to a podcast, audit one from the Stitcher list.

MyFavoriteMurder

One caution – normal FCC language restrictions don’t apply.  So be careful – – some of these podcasts can get quite earthy.

An additional trigger warning: they can be addicting.  My 20-something daughters referred me to the aforementioned My Favorite Murder, hosted by two very talented female improvisational comedians, and which consists of 50% true crime and 50% random stuff that women apparently discuss among themselves and which should have zero appeal. (“ate 2 pints of Halo Top, stayed in my sweats all day, that’s ok, right?”,  etc.)

Rationally I shouldn’t be that interested.  But now I need my fix.

Which is great for the dog, and great for advertisers.

It’s Dunkin’. How You Like Us Now?

Change happens.  Brands must adapt.

Dunking a Toffee Coffee

As a company’s offerings evolve, a brand should keep up and not perpetuate a narrower or outdated image.

Thus:
Weight Watchers becomes WW (health)
Starbucks Coffee becomes Starbucks (more than coffee)
Apple Computer becomes Apple (obvious)
Kentucky Fried Chicken becomes KFC (downplay ‘fried’)
Boston Chicken becomes Boston Market (broader menu)
Jo-Ann Fabrics becomes Joann (whatever they are, not just fabrics, apparently)

In these cases, the ‘new’ names clarified the company’s position and formalized names already commonly used.

Quincy Dunkin' DonutsQuincy DD - external Quincy, MA Dunkin’ Donuts – 1950s

Dunkin’ Donuts started as a coffee and doughnut joint around 1950 in Massachusetts.  It was customary in those giddy post-war years to actually ‘sit on a stool’ at a ‘counter’, eat a doughnut served on a ‘plate’ and ‘dunk’ it in a heavy ‘ceramic mug’ of coffee from time to time.  Ah, those were innocent times with a cavalier attitude toward carbs.  You can’t really dunk while driving.  No one dunks.  It is a meaningless word.

From these humble beginnings it has now joined the name game and just announced a halving of its name to now just ‘Dunkin’’.

just call us dunkinThe reasons stated are to support their beverage-focused strategy, as well as to simplify the brand (they’ve already pared their menu 10%). Makes sense.

Dunkin’ hold-the-Donuts gets 60% of their sales from beverages, mostly coffee, but they want more.  Don’t worry, they will still sell their irresistible (or irresistable, depending on which website version you buy into) doughnuts.

Dunkin Irresistible.png

(In fact, Dunkin’ has been using largely the same menu for years, from time to time adding things like the healthier ‘DD Smart’ offerings, which will now likely have to be just ‘D-Smart’, which is a Turkish satellite TV company and no doubt trademarked.  These things do get complicated.  But we digress.)

The question is, is this a major step forward?  Is it worth the trouble and expense?  By itself, does Dunkin’ mean anything?  Is the value proposition really changed?

Considering that their locations, menu offerings, awesome circa-1973 logo font and color and pretty much everything else is staying the same*, it seems that this may be a very expensive PR play, nothing more.
*
apparently display fixtures will be undergoing a makeover.

Dunkin’ has long used ‘America Runs on Dunkin’’ as their tagline, and in their native New England, they apparently are fondly known as ‘Dunkin’’ or even ‘Dunkies’.

However, in the Midwest or Southeast I don’t recall ever referring to this chain as just ‘Dunkin’’ (or hearing anyone else do so).

It sounds a bit awkward and contrived, like when Radio Shack, in a last heaving gasp for survival, wanted to be known as ‘The Shack’. (it’s painfully true).

shack_promoSo, not sure that the name Dunkin’, by itself, is a game-changer.

Considering the vast franchisee-borne expense involved in re-outfitting 12,000+ international outlets, as well as rebranding pretty much every sign, coffee mug, drive-thru kiosk, menu, placemat, napkin, rest room signs and heaven only knows how many other things, you have to wonder how the calculations worked on this at some point being profit-positive.  (and this follows the relatively recent ‘Coffee & More’ signage).

Dunkin Coffee & More

And ultimately, profit is the point. 

It comes down to whether the absence of the word ‘Donuts’ will subconsciously, Jedi-style, draw new users in for non-doughnut beverage offerings as they drive past, or persuade current customers that it’s also ok to buy those other things on the menu.

Penetration vs buy rate, the primal existential growth question.

Dunkin traysIn the case of Weight Watchers, Boston Chicken and Jo-Ann Fabrics, a name change seems justified to align with a broader brand premise.  For Apple, Starbucks and KFC, arguably it formalizes what people already know, lets the CMO sleep at night knowing the brand is aligned, and is more of a check-the-box move.

Dunkin’ has tested this idea for more than a year so apparently the equation works.

I’m not so sure.

So you think your resume is finally done and perfect? Here are 6 reasons why it probably isn’t.

I have a superpower that’s also a curse – I see typos everywhere.  A dinner out isn’t complete until I find something wrong in the menu (insight: restaurateurs are not the greatest spellers. And I may not be the greatest dining companion).

Denver Energy 2

You may see a beautiful person with a beautiful smile – – all I notice is that little bit of spinach in her teeth.

You may not be like me – but someone reading your resume might be.  And much like spinach in one’s teeth, a CV that is 99.9% perfect can get discounted if an error is spotted by an OCD HR person or hiring manager (‘if they make a mistake on their most important document, what’s their attention to detail’?).  Unfortunately, sometimes that’s all it takes.proofreader 2

My suspicion was that there are a lot of errors out there – – so I decided to check it out.

I speed-proofed a sample of resumes from a large networking group to see if there were errors that could get someone’s resume discarded by a picky hiring manager or HR person.  These resumes are from very accomplished senior executives.

And there were indeed errors.  In fact, all resumes had errors that needed fixing – – and some of these were ‘final’, meaning a resume expert had helped them out and blessed the final product.  It’s natural – after checking your resume 5000 times, you’re sick of it and it becomes impossible to spot things.

Here are the 6 most frequent errors I found:

1) misspelling names of companies and brands (including in some cases the companies and brands that the person worked for!)

Screen Shot 2018-08-29 at 4.42.03 PM

2) sloppy formatting – dates don’t align on the right, formatting makes it tough to trace the career history, periods on some bullet points but not others, inconsistent capitalization, etc.

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3) use of proprietary acronyms and abbreviations that no reader is going to understand

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Screen Shot 2018-08-29 at 4.41.14 PM

4) inconsistent use of MM, M and millions (same for thousands and billions) – used one way in one place, another way elsewhere

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5) sloppy grammar – mixing past and present tense, missing connecting words, using ‘lead’ instead of ‘led’, etc.

Screen Shot 2018-08-29 at 4.42.14 PM

6) missing elements – not using the official name of a company, not consistently showing city/state for a job, etc.

Screen Shot 2018-08-29 at 4.39.32 PM

Trivial stuff, for sure, but it’s the real world.  You may well be the next Steve Jobs – – don’t unnecessarily give anyone a reason to think about anything other than your accomplishments.

NET – – for those in search mode, the resume you think is squeaky clean may have errors that someone may fixate on.

So — reach out to your annoying attention-to-detail friend (we all have one) and make double-sure you’re ready for prime time – remove that spinach!

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If you’ve read this far and found that your resume needed a correction, please let me know in the comments.

If you find that I made an error in this post, I don’t want to hear about it.

How A Lowly Can Opener is Messing with KitchenAid’s Brand

Posted on

UPDATE TO PREVIOUS POST

We all know that a brand is like the proverbial chain that is only as strong as its weakest link – – all aspects of the brand need to reflect its core value.  Ignoring even a small link can be dangerous to your brand’s integrity.

KA Can opener

Case in point: one of a well-regarded company’s least expensive products is constantly undermining the reputation of its expensive core product line – and management has apparently decided that this is ok.

KA Mixer

KitchenAid makes high quality, and in some cases iconic appliances that command premium prices (a status brand but not as expensive as SubZero or Viking).  We’re all familiar with the classic KitchenAid stand mixers in designer colors.  I recently purchased a KitchenAid double wall oven when my old one died.  A lot had to do with trust in the KitchenAid brand.

KA Product Line

So why would they go cheap on the most prosaic of items – the manual can opener?

can opener

When one of our kids stole our standard-issue metal can opener, we went on Amazon and splurged on a KitchenAid can opener in a designer color – it looks like the Hummer of can openers – a little affordable indulgence but one that should perform great and last a long time.  The Amazon ratings showed 4 stars and over 1000 reviews.  Safe territory.

Except it didn’t work.

06f06c94-bdfb-4455-832a-3b75973f99af
Within a few months, it stumbled, stopped opening cans, capable only of spastic puncture wounds, and we ended up buying a less fancy but perfectly serviceable replacement.

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 9.03.23 PM

Here is where you need to be familiar with the ‘Barbell Review’.

While the brand got a 4 star rating overall, the distribution showed about 30% of the reviews were one star.  Had we bothered to read these, we would have learned that this is a product with highly inconsistent quality, and when it goes, it’s completely useless.

Some review excerpts (and there are hundreds of them):
Really disappointed that this was a KitchenAid product that didn’t outlast an off-brand opener.”
…it was defective and I really expected more from the KitchenAid name”
I’m very disappointed. Typically I love KitchenAid brand and that is why I bought this particular can opener. I would not recommend it.

Do not trust the KitchenAid brand on this one.
Unfortunately I didn’t read the reviews first because well…KITCHENAID! You wouldn’t expect to have to read reviews it’s suppose to be a good brand, this thing sucks!!!

If you’ve invested time and money to build your brand, why would you want your brand dragged through the mud?

KitchenAid has outsourced this product (to a company called Lifetime Brands) and judging by the dates on the reviews (going back to at least 2012), they’ve not bothered to change this defective design in years – – despite a lot of disappointed buyers.

So who cares?

Well, if your first experience with KitchenAid was the lowly can opener, and it failed, you will be much less inclined to buy the more expensive appliances from which KitchenAid makes its money.  There are 500 negative reviews on just one version of this product on Amazon.

The lesson here: rarely, if ever, does it make sense to market a lower quality product under a high quality brand name.  (Cadillac Cimarron, anyone?)

This goes beyond product to every encounter a consumer has with your brand.  Whether your brand stands for premium, economical, effective, snarky, eco-friendly, high-tech or whatever, it all has to be consistent. Branding 101.

In a classic demonstration of good money chasing bad, we’re sending our crippled can opener back to Lifetime Brands, which has promised to replace it.  This is all in the interest of science.  Stay tuned.

can opener mailing

$10.62 to replace a $15 product

Moral of the story – keep your brand strong and consistent, and be alert to any potential ‘can openers’ in your organization.

blue can opener

And beware the dreaded barbell review.

6 Things Thailand Can Teach Us About Crisis Management

Posted on

Re-posting an article originally published on LinkedIn.

cave - cave

The more you learn about this rescue, the more amazing you realize it was.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/6-things-thailand-can-teach-us-crisis-management-dave-tuchler/