One irritated customer meets one annoyed customer service rep and all hell breaks loose. It's amazing how far and wide this little incident has spread thanks to the internet. We all know how snarky box office folks can be. Are you just one rude moment away from your own customer relations nightmare?
We always talk about getting people in seats to get the word-of-mouth started. But what we don't do is think enough about identifying the right kind of people to get the word-of-mouth started. We used to think it was hairdressers, since they talk to people all day. But the missing element there is credibility...do you really care what shows or movies your hairdresser likes? Do you think your tastes and likes/dislikes are really the same as your hairdresser?
Here is an excerpt of the review/synopsis of the book from the Journal of Consumer Marketing (click here for 3 free issues):
Influentials are the catalyst for adoption and diffusion among the early majority. This book takes a concrete look at who the Influentials are and their mindset (chapters 1 and 2), how they select and spread their ideas (chapter 3), their leadership role (chapter 4), their vision of the future (chapter 5), and finally, how to develop an influential strategy, whether you work for a private business, government or a non-profit organization (chapter 6).
The influentials, that comprise about one-tenth of the American adult population (or 20 million), are the most socially and politically active members of their communities. They are thought leaders, trendsetters, and bellwethers at the leading edge of what Americans are thinking, doing, and buying. This group exercises influence across the board. RoperASW, which has been tracking them for three decades, describes them as "better connected, better read, and better informed" (p. 15); if they do not know something, they know someone who does.
The typical influential is a middle-aged, middle American, who has had the most life experiences, and is ahead of the pack politically, in the adoption of computer technology, and in financial savings. They have an activist orientation to life; they are active in their communities and active in their leisure, which spans a wide variety of interests and hobbies. But beware of creating a stereotype because they occupy a broad range of ages, income levels, and occupations. And they are everywhere: in your neighbourhood, at your PTA meeting, church, workplace, and political meetings. In fact, "[t]hey are connected to nearly twice as many groups as the average American" (p. 280). Influentials are the ones who can sift through issues, who believe in growth and change, who balance community and individual interests, and who value family and community. In essence, their orientation creates a natural "spiral of influence" (p. 125).
CHICAGO -- Marketers at Ad:Tech Tuesday indicated a deep ambivalence towards blogs, saying that their companies urgently want a blog presence but, at the same time, fear the consequences of letting consumers freely express their opinions.
Steve Pinetti, senior vice president of marketing at Kimpton Hotels, expressed a sentiment seemingly shared by many when he told the audience that, "the blog, as a form of word of mouth marketing, is something we're very, very focused on, and we're doing our homework right now."
Yet, he added, with 60 percent of the hotels' business coming from word of mouth referrals, unflattering comments can be devastating. When consumers start bad-mouthing his hotels on the Web, he doesn't respond well. "I have a heart attack," he said during a panel discussion on the online marketing issues that most concern chief marketing officers.
Catherine Muriel, chief marketing officer of E-Loan, countered that the free publicity conferred by bloggers outweighs any potential negative comments. "If you have a heart attack every time someone writes something that's not nice about you, you're going to be ... spending a lot of time at the cardiologist," she said.
That tension between, on one hand, wanting to increase visibility and consumer engagement, and, on the other, fearing bad publicity, appeared repeatedly at Ad:Tech Tuesday.
From my man Joe Jaffe's blog today is this little piece of brilliance. The marketing folks behind the new movie "Wedding Crashers" have posted a trailer online with the ability for anyone to modify using their own pictures. They call it "Trailer Crashers" and it is pure genius. Of course you have to try it. You simply upload one or two pictures, it puts your pictures in the trailer and then creates a link so you can spread it virally. You have fun, your friends get a laugh, and everyone sees the trailer to the new movie. Love it! Love it! Love it!
It meets all the criteria for an effective viral campaign: it's funny, it's unexpected, it's entertaining, engaging, not hard sell, etc.
Here's the link to the trailer I made. It stars me (naturally) and my running partner Manny, best known to my friends as "Running Boy."
The one caveat I'll add to this is that, unfortunately, some of the best ideas come for some of the worst shows. This movie looks dreadful, and this crash-able movie trailer was probably born more out of desperation than anything else. Successful and effective word-of-mouth still requires a good product in order to work. Yes, people are going to forward this trailer all over the place, and to that end, this campaign will be successful. But like me, how many people who view it will have absolutely no intention of ever seeing this movie? As is often the case in the world of Broadway and off-Broadway, the advertising is sometimes better than the actual show.
This morning Kerwin and I walked into a Prescott Starbucks and both ordered their strong-brew coffee of the day to then find it was free. The barista at the cash register motioned over to a gentleman sitting in an animated discussion with a group of about six others, and said, “Your coffee is on Mr. Perez this morning.” As Kerwin stirred cream and sugar into his coffee, we read a poster on the wall right above the condiment station with a picture of Mr. Perez’s smiling face explaining that every Wednesday morning from 8:30am-9:30am he buys coffee at that Starbucks for all his customers and anyone else who wants to talk story with him about investment banking and Prescott’s promising future. Why offer free coffee in your office waiting room, when you can use Starbucks? This Starbucks in Prescott is clearly a happening place, and one of those coffeeshop locations where there is unlimited parking and lots of café table seating available inside as a respite from the Arizona heat. One glance at him holding court and you could see that Mr. Perez is brilliant. He was also enjoying himself immensely. What a great way to work.
The second idea comes from The Gap (via BusinessBits). When The Gap started redesigning stores in Colorado, they did this:
On April 15, tax day, all parking meters in downtown Denver were free. The bags over the meters said: Change is good. Keep yours. Pardon our dust, the Gap.
Now neither of these two ideas are terribly expensive. But I bet they were remembered by many people long afterwards. Imagine if a Broadway or off-Broadway show bought everyone coffee one morning during the early morning rush at the Starbucks next door to the theatre (pretty soon, there WILL be a Starbucks next door to EVERY theatre, it's just a matter of time). Hand each person a flyer that says "while you enjoy your free cup of coffee, we hope you'll take a minute to read what the critics are saying about our show." Now every time they walk into that Starbucks, they're going to remember the time you bought their coffee for them. And every time they pass your theatre, they're going to think twice about the nice folks inside, and maybe take an extra second or two to actually read all that stuff posted on the walls and doors. And they're also likely to tell people about you as well.
There are probably lots of other examples: pay tolls one morning for the bridge and tunnel crowd on their commute into the city(Chitty Chitty Bang Bang); pay library fines for a day (The Color Purple); pay for marriage licenses for a day (Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding); hair cuts (Steel Magnolias, Sweeney Todd); shoe shines (Stomp).
"Now, a growing number of marketers are using new technology to analyze blogs and other 'consumer-generated media' -- a category that includes chat groups, message boards and electronic forums -- to hear what is being said online about new products, old ad campaigns and aging brands. Purveyors of the new methodology and their clients say blog-watching can be cheaper, faster and less biased than such staples of consumer research as focus groups and surveys."
And here all this time I thought I was supposed to be looking for a significant other, now I need to be looking for my "twinsumer."
As a follow-up to yesterday's post about mass culture giving way to mass niches, here are two more extremely interesting and insightful articles from Trendwatching.com. The first is along the same lines of yesterday's post, about exploiting the niches "as a road to riches." With catchy phrases like Nouveau Niches, Masters of the Youniverse, and Massclusivity, there are lots of examples here of niches that companies are going after. It's like the Theatre Subscription Series' that organizations are using with varying success. Roundabout seems to be one of the more successful in this arena, with their Teachers' Series (early curtain for teachers who see shows on a school night) and others. Various companies have had tried singles nights, gay singles nights, wine-tasting nights and so on, with mixed results. The niche nights also allow for more sponsorship possibilities.
The 2nd exciting article today, also from Trendwatching.com, is about Twinsumers, or finding consumers just like you for effective word-of-mouth sharing. What good is it to get a recommendation for a new CD if you're a 14-year-old boy and the anonymous online review is being written by a 65-year-old grandmother? In order to effectively build a community of your peers online, you need to know about the people you're connecting with, beyond just their screen names. I really encourage you to find a few minutes to read through the whole article. There is amazing work being done in this area, and it's definitely the direction in which everything is moving.
The implications for theatre are vast (and obvious). Who in the theatre community doesn't sneak a peek at TalkinBroadway.com from time to time to see what people are saying about our shows? The problem is, they're all doing it behind a veil of anonymity, making both rants and recommendations pretty meaningless since there is no context. At their recent Tony party, I was surprised to see that it was a much older crowd than I had expected from reading the posts online. Ann, the site moderator, told me that it's the older, more mature people who are the most civil and are not afraid of showing their faces offline; but the immature kids and those with axes to grind hide behind their anonymity. This is a hindrance to word-of-mouth, as it removes the key element of credibility; we only really believe recommendations from people whom we believe to be credible. I would urge Ann to consider adding user profiles to TalkinBroadway...but then the downside, of course, is that we may learn WAY more about some of those folks than we ever wanted to know (ha!).
Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine, has a blog called The Long Tail (you'll have to go to his site for the explanation of that concept). Today's topic is about how we're moving away from the water cooler culture to a nation of niches. In the water cooler culture, we all watched the same TV shows and movies, then gathered around the water cooler to discuss them. Now that we have gazillions of TV stations, websites and blogs, the chances of two people watching and reading the same thing gets more and more remote.
Anderson lists 10 internet phenomenon and asks how many you can identify. These are memes that have traveled in various circles. (I knew 6 out of 10).
The Star Wars Kid
Bert is Evil
Anderson: Rather than the scary fragmentation of our society into a nation of disconnected people doing their own thing, I think we're reforming into thousands of cultural tribes, connected less by geographic proximity and workplace chatter than by shared interests. Whether we think of it this way or not, each of us belongs to many different tribes simultaneously, often overlapping (geek culture and Lego), often not (tennis and punk-funk).
What's interesting is that the same Long Tail forces and technologies that are leading to an explosion of variety and abundant choice in the content we consume are also helping to connect us to other consumers, whether through Amazon and Netflix reviews, blogs, p2p networks or playlist sharing.
As a result, we can now treat culture not as one big blanket but as the superposition of many interwoven threads, each of which is individually addressable and and connects different groups of people simultaneously.
In short, we're seeing a shift from mass culture to massively parallel culture.
Today on his blog JaffeJuice he's covering one of my favorite topics--consumer generated content. And he lists some great examples of customers/fans creating their own ads for products they love. You may recall, I posted a Tiger Woods commercial a few weeks back. Joe Jaffe is the guy that created that spot. He did it within hours of the actual shot. Nike released theirs 3 weeks later and it wasn't nearly as good.
Jaffe cites several more examples of consumer generated advertising today, including one of the most famous examples, iPod lover and teacher George Masters' online campaign for the Apple Mini iPod. To think that someone would love their iPod so much as to create this amazing commercial just to convince others to buy one is mind-boggling. He was in no way affiliated with Apple and stood to gain nothing, but loved the darn little thing so much he just had to share it.
Another example of incredible fan creative comes from Boing Boing today. A new craze among online gamers is recreating the games as home movies, and they give an example of a Grand Theft Auto reenactment. Imagine if someone loved a play or musical so much they recreated pieces of it with friends in movie form to help promote it. (But then our friends at the copyright office would probably step in and tell them to cease and desist. Or the writer's agent would insist on payments.)
CVS just announced this week that they're going to start carrying disposable video cameras for $30. Between cell phones that take movies and these disposable cameras, anything is now possible. Cool, huh?
Here's a fascinating article about the rise and popularity of IM (instant messaging). I've tried it in the past and found it annoying, particularly the idea that it's always on and lets others see when you're online. If they know you're online and send you a message, it's hard to ignore them to continue what you were doing...I found it way too disruptive. But I'm a firm believer in its power as a marketing tool. When we launched the Little Women the musical fan site, I watched this one girl's points just skyrocket to the point that I had to email her and ask her what her strategy was. She said she just put a link on her instant messenger and suddenly all of her friends and contacts were clicking through to see what it was about. Jeff and I have started using it at work for all the many things we ask each other back and forth all day. It saves us having to call and find the other person on the phone or having to email and wait for the emails to make their way back and forth. Instant messaging is just so...instant! Anyway, back to the article. It says that instant messaging will surpass email by 2006, even though email had a 20 year head-start.