Let me whisper in your (other) ear

In my last article, I revealed the remarkable story of ‘Simple’. A small, British skin-care brand that dared to take on the global giants of the cosmetics industry…and win.

This minnow eclipsed even Nivea to become the No 2 brand in the facial skincare market. What’s more, this unprecedented performance was achieved without any conventional advertising. No glossy magazine spreads and not a single TV commercial. That’s the Simple truth!

Instead, management embraced the power of customer advocacy. They turned customers into brand ambassadors and, along the way, they also empowered them to influence critical decisions: logo design… new product development… product packaging and launches… marketing and advertising campaigns… as well as website design and content. Every area governing brand success was closely steered by a community of loyal, committed and very knowledgeable customers.

For an upstart to challenge the ‘Goliaths’ and beat them to brand supremacy is truly remarkable. To do so without the usual panoply of country-wide focus groups, costly PR campaigns and £multi-million advertising budgets almost beggars belief.

But, believe me, Simple was no accident or isolated success. In fact, Simple is a blueprint for future marketing. And, to prove the point, let me tell you how one innovation company is using mobile technology to take us to a new level of consumer and employee engagement.

Video Selfies – revealing real consumer attitudes

Ear-21A few months ago, I was introduced to a company that uses video selfies to capture customer attitudes at the critical moment of sale. Honest, emotive and deeply personal, they reveal inner feelings that are closed to conventional market analysis tools. Tone of voice, facial expressions, body language, physical surroundings – all provide non-verbal clues that take research to a new level of sophistication.

How do they do it? Well, this company can effectively engage with two crucial target audiences:

First, it can reveal the often hidden emotions and opinions of a client’s own customers or even their employees. Providing email addresses or mobile numbers are known, it can very rapidly reach out to them and understand the supressed feelings that conventional research rarely surfaces.

Second, it offers clients rapid access to a panel of 20,000 consumers spanning all demographics. And it can then mobilise this target audience to give instant reactions to some very direct questions. And when I say ‘instant’ I mean tens – and very often hundreds – of videos captured and analysed within a few hours!

That in itself is impressive – but it’s the way the answers are cut and diced that really impresses me. This is the clever stuff.

The audio track from each video is transcribed into text – in any language – and the sentiment of every message is then analysed to reveal core topics and themes. These provide top level insights but there is ample scope to dive deeper… much deeper.

Advanced tagging and filtering can reveal inconsistencies in verbal delivery and body language as well as subconscious inflexions of speech. What’s more, these subtle signals can be freeze-framed for clients to observe and note. Show reels can also be created to focus attention on sets of responses with consistent themes.

Furtive mystery shoppers and unreliable focus groups have been kicked into touch by such compelling video evidence. For the first time, senior executives can see real, raw responses rather than hygienically-processed research stats. Honest feedback that is always revealing and sometimes rather shocking.

<strong>Tariffs – a hot topic for Utility companies</strong>

With comparison sites turning homeowners into aware and often fickle customers, Utility tariffs have become a very hot topic. This is why one major Utility company seized the chance to test a proposed range of five new pricing plans. Would they appeal to such a cost-sensitive market? Would they win new customers and create the glue to hold old ones? And could definitive answers be found in under two days?

Cue the video selfie…

The brief was to target a select group of home-owning, utility bill-payers. Questions based around the proposed new tariffs were quickly constructed to cover key issues:

  • Which of the five proposed tariffs were the most cost-competitive
  • Which had the best features
  • Which were the easiest to understand
  • How did they compare with rival tariffs
  • Which options would persuade homeowners to switch suppliers?

A sub-panel of 50 carefully selected homeowners were then asked for their opinions. Within a few hours the answers were being scrutinised. In just 24 hours the client was able to see the video evidence and to study the high-level insights. And, in under 48 hours, a full report detailing each tariff’s strengths and weaknesses together with video highlights of key themes and learning points was in the client’s hands.

Try doing that with street surveys and focus groups!

<strong>Supermarket Wars</strong>

UK retailing has been rocked by the arrival of new cut-price supermarket chains from Europe. Peddling prices that undercut all of the established players, they have thrown down the gauntlet and threatened an increasingly bitter discount war.

One of the UK’s biggest supermarket brands has taken up the challenge. It is leading the fight back with an aggressive research-driven campaign – and the video selfie is its principal weapon.

The client needed answers to two fundamental questions:

  1. What do existing customers think of the biggest cut-price rival? On product range… quality… availability…store layout… service…convenience…brand  reputation… and, yes, on price, what did shoppers really think?
  1. What did customers think of this rival’s latest advertising campaign? Does the emphasis on heavily discounted popular brands really resonate with shoppers…  how price-driven are their buying decisions?

A panel of 100 customers – split into Gold, Silver and Bronze shoppers (dependent on the percentage of their average grocery ‘spend’ in store) – were selected. And, to prevent any brand loyalties from influencing responses, the client’s identity was never revealed.

The videos, however, were a revelation…

Impartial and incisive, the feedback showed where the rival was doing well and stealing customer share. Specifically, it pinpointed the areas of greatest vulnerability; the triggers that will induce loyal customers to ‘shop-away’. It made valuable – if somewhat sobering – viewing.

Response to the advertising was just as revealing. The honest feedback showed exactly where shoppers were most susceptible and precisely what messages would sway buying habits and loyalties. With forensic rigour, analysts were able to define why and where the cut-price rivals posed a major threat… and, just as importantly, where their marketing proposition and brand personality were inherently weak.

The results were a revelation. But, on reflection, possibly the greatest eye-opener of all was the video selfie. In the critical area of business intelligence, this tool has a unique ability to engage customers and deliver faster, sharper, deeper insights.

I hope you have found this interesting. I really would welcome your feedback and any suggestions on future topics.

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