My blog is about exchanging ideas and best practices on all things marketing and communications related. I'm interested in your thoughts, feedback, additions, arguments and point of view.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

When customer loyalty from Bell Mobility fails to Connect.

Before you read my story, here's the lesson in it - sometimes it's better to do nothing – to not make a decision to buy something new or trade in the old. Sometimes doing nothing is a reward in itself.

Such was the case this past week, when I was thinking of upgrading my cell phone to one of the “mobile” varieties from Bell Canada. You see I’ve owned the same one for 5 years and it basically does one thing very well – make phone calls. But getting a mobile, on the other hand – opens me up to a new world of digital possibilities.

“I’m ready for this,” I convinced myself – a mobile lets me do everything – download music, take photos, text friends, check my LinkedIn and Facebook accounts, watch podcasts – even be at the ready to shoot video just in case... of escaping circus elephants rampaging down Yonge Street. I imagined taking that esteemed position on YouTube – owner of the most downloaded video in history. I can’t wait any longer, I thought – where do I go to sign up...?!

The timing was perfect too. I just received a friendly letter from Bell Mobility telling me I had been a “valued” customer for more than 5 years – 3 of these without a contract to bind us together. It seemed because I had chosen to be with them, they recognized this and were about to reward my loyalty big time.

The letter went on -“we would like to thank you for your business.... so we’ll give you a credit worth up to $250 as a bonus renewal offer towards the purchase of a new phone or PDA when you renew your service agreement...“thank you for choosing us.”

Sweet, I thought - I can get a really cool mobile for next to nothing and gladly surrender to a three year term with the beavers until the next generation of mobiles comes along.

Well, here’s what happened.

I went into a nearby Bell World retail store, letter in hand, and was met by a pleasant sales person named Wanda. I told Wanda I was ready to make my move to mobile, and even had a $250 bonus credit as a renewal offer to work with. I explained I’d been a loyal customer for five years and just got this special letter saying as much. “Wanda, I said - only show me the best and latest of everything you’ve got. I’m ready!”

“Well actually,” Wanda said, “the price you see beside each model is the price you pay – we’ve already factored in the discount – the $250 credit in this letter anyone can get.” Oh I see. So I asked Wanda to check my account. Surely there’s a notation saying how loyal a customer I have been and to give this golden apple whatever he asks for....

She looked up my details and paused...hmmm, she said, slightly puzzled, “it says here DO NOT RENEW.” “What? I asked, what does that mean?”

“Well, she explained, you have a really good mobile rate we don’t offer anymore, so when we get you in here and sell you a new mobile phone, we put you into a “current (read: more expensive) rate plan.”

My hopes of going mobile were quickly fading like a weak transmission signal...

With either of us not ready to give up, Wanda took me through the latest models, asking lots of good questions in order to point me towards a model and monthly plan that we thought would suit my needs.

I thought to myself, well I’m already here, Wanda is helpful, I love this mobile model she showed me, and it’s not that much more a month – I’ll just suck it up and get it.

We made our way back to the register when she dropped another one. “I wanted to mention that you’ll also have to pay a $35 ‘upgrade fee’ because you’re getting a new model.”

Call me crazy, Wanda, but can we summarize here?

1. The $250 bonus renewal offer I received is available to anyone – not just us “valuable clients?”
2. I still have to pay the net cost of the phone ($49.99 for the model I wanted)?
3. If I do get a new mobile, I have to go into a more expensive monthly rate plan?
4. I have to pay an upgrade fee on top of the $49.99 for the phone?
5. I'm a valued client of Bell Mobility - a loyal customer?

How sad - I did understand all this correctly. Oh sure, I could call an 800 number, wait on hold for 20 minutes and then complain to the customer rep on the other side of the world that I feel totally taken advantage of. But why bother? If they don’t get it... why bother??

I have two points of view here on how I’m feeling after this experience.

As a Marketer
I see the revenue and profitability potential with this program. It probably went something like this: Generate a list of active GTA subscribers with expired contracts. Send them a letter with a $250 phone credit as incentive to drive them in store. Then upgrade their model and monthly plan.

I’m sure the ROI on this program is through the roof – the DM piece was less than $1 and the lifetime value of my business is in the thousands of dollars.

What is the effect on long term customer satisfaction with these types of programs? Did anyone really scrutinize the offer copy and come to the conclusion that it was in fact no offer at all? What's the cost of losing a high value customer (me) to their bottom line?

As a Customer

I feel like I was tricked into coming into the store – duped by a letter implying I was entitled to a reward for my loyalty that didn’t even exist. I feel cynical about what it means to be called a "valued customer" and what a "bonus renewal" offer really means.

That day, my goodwill towards this company dried up quicker than fresh rain on a desert floor. So I did absolutely nothing – I walked out of Bell World with my old, trusted and reliable cellular, knowing that every month I get a bill for services that I’m paying less than Bell Canada wants me to.

I guess I do get a little reward after all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Take a bite out of this creative...

I was sent this billboard ad from and it made me laugh.
on Ads of the World. This one is for Formula Toothcare.

Now, this billboard will definitely get noticed, but will it work to drive sales? I don’t know about that. Of course, it may be the perspective of the photo, but the copy seems very small. Without that copy and the photo of the Formula Toothcare product, it would be difficult to know what this ad is for. It could be for any toothpaste brand or a variety of different products.

What do you think?

Monday, October 22, 2007

How's this for direct mail?

A colleague sent this to me at work today. We were debating whether or not this was an actual DM piece from Papa John's or something funny that someone put together. Joke or not, it's a good way to surprise someone next time they look out their peep hole...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Mobile technology gets personal...

This month, the Kelsey Group released its “Mobile Marketing View” tracking study of mobile user behaviour, including asking what customers want to do most. Number one on the list – better Internet capabilities. Almost half of those asked, 44.7%, say a mobile phone with better Internet functionality and a cheaper internet plan are tops. According to the survey, only 26 percent of mobile phone service subscribers currently opt for an Internet access plan.

“The combination of unlimited data plans and next-generation Internet-enabled mobile devices, like Apple’s iPhone, suggests mobile Web access will grow to become ubiquitous,” said Matt Booth, a senior vice president at The Kelsey Group. And what do customers want to do with those unlimited connection times? Search for local businesses along with a custom map and turn by turn directions. Travel across the Pacific ocean to Japan, however, and you'll find they're way beyond having a cell phone point out landmarks or the nearest takeout restaurant.

Introducing the Wellness Navigator – a touch screen slider phone manufactured by Mitsubishi. It was shown off earlier this month at CEATEC 2007 in Tokyo. Among other personalized coaching features like counting calories and offering up motivational messages, the phone has a built-in bad breath meter that lets you know if you have the halitosis. You simply cup the receiver with your hand and huff – and your personal stink sensor goes into action –alerting you to pop a mint or that it’s ok to have another piece of garlic bread. The phone has a built in pulse meter and body fat analyzer which sends a weak electrical signal through your body to assess your paunch.

My New Best Friend..?
The mobile phone continues to evolve as a personal device. For many, it’s within reach at every waking moment, customized with photos and ring tones (one for each friend!) as it securely transmits our most intimate conversations into another person’s eardrum. Therefore, it's inevitable for some that mobile technology take on more human traits.

But many of these offerings with a ‘softer side’ have been slow to find a North American market. Why? Some observers believe that it’s because we draw the line on what we allow technology to do for us. Buying movie tickets with our mobile is one thing – being told to lay off the double cheese pizza is another.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Integrated Marketing Communications – Taking the 360 degree approach.

I had lunch with our agency account director this past Friday. It had been a while, so we had a lot to catch up on - a mutual friend’s promotion, what we did over summer holidays and celebrating the completion of a marcom project.

But there was one topic we spent a lot of time on, starting with our entrees right through to cappuccinos and waiting for the bill – the growing importance of integrated marketing communications, (IMC) and the challenges for the modern day marketing officer and advertising agency.

According to a recent report published by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, developing integrated marketing communications is the number one concern of senior marketing executives (followed by accountability, aligning their marketing organization with innovation and building strong brands). Of those surveyed, 91% believe that an integrated campaign is of critical importance to their success; however only 21% believe that their organization actually does a great job delivering it.

Taking a 360° view.
The answer for a growing number of marketers is to take a 360° approach, zeroing in on a target group likely to be receptive to a message – and surrounding it from every angle, using a variety of media to touch customers at different points along the decision-to-buy pathway.

Although it began as a media planning tool, 360° has since expanded to embrace the entire process of communicating with customers and prospects. In our new media world – having moved from manufacturer-controlled to consumer-managed, companies have been forced to rethink how to reach people. “If you are talking about reaching the consumer, you are missing the point,” says Wenda Harris Millard, chief sales officer at Yahoo! Inc. “You can reach anybody. The challenge now, because of media multitasking, is connecting with consumers.”

So using new media tools to deliver a 360° approach means understanding each one's relative strengths and ability to influence the consumer:

1. Talk to your media planners and understand the strengths and weaknesses of each - which ones work best at generating message reach? Conversion? Consideration? Purchase? Which offer efficient regional or local audience coverage?

2. New media options are creating new ways to measure engagement - and need to be included in the campaign metrics pages of your plan. For instance, what is the value to your brand of watching a video on You-Tube, writing on someone's wall on Face book, or collecting an email address?

3. Work closely with your research owls and see what the correlation of media usage is on conversion and purchase. What new media options are more efficient at delivering buyers than others? What's the cost per lead per vehicle?

4. And, since many of us see the poetry in program ROI calculations, it’s about getting the media investment to align cost-efficiently with the above insights.

To impress the marketing director with your dazzling command of the new media world, work with an agency that takes an agnostic approach to recommending different media. One clue - look for new agency roles including chief activation officer, or media integration planner as cues they understanding the new ways to connect with consumers.

I remember back in the day when I started my career in advertising. For those of us who didn’t go to OCA for a fine arts degree, a common way to get a foot in the door was through the media group. Spend a few years as a media estimator, then a media planner or buyer. Since the better paying jobs were in account services, in short order you were focussed on a role as an AE or Supervisor.

However today, with the amazing innovations in media, technology and the rapid pace of change, it seems to me some of the most important, coolest jobs found in any agency today are in the media group.

Now how 360° is that?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Facebook - Taking the Windows business model to the UGC world.

I have to admit - the first time I heard about Facebook was sadly, when the Virginia Tech School shooting occurred April 16th, 2007. Not being part of the 16-25 year old ‘millennial’ generation, I had never heard of it before.

But as I listened to news (on television), reporters continued to reference this ‘virtual meeting place’ as the primary means by which students located their friends and worried family, wrote messages and eye witness accounts on super walls (a feature that lets users create, draw and share messages with each other). Sadly, some walls became student memorials, with friends writing words of remembrance and condolence and commiserating about the senselessness of the act.

For me, this was Facebook’s debut as a mainstream online tool that captured my imagination - I got it and I wanted to try it out. Up to this point, I thought social networking sites were for exchanging personal dating profiles, hooking up, or a way to locate like-minded people passionate about, say, digital photography or baking with Splenda.

For those of your just joining us, Facebook is the number one social utility in Canada that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. In less than a year, Facebook has become the most popular online social network – and Canada is now number 1 in the world for users.

According to the latest Ipsos-Reid survey, nearly two-thirds of 18-34 year olds have visited an online social network or community – and 55% of them set up a profile. Facebook has the largest share at 65%, followed by 20% on and 15% on MySpace. And we’re spending huge amounts of time there as well - an average of 5.9 hours a week. When you consider Canadians spend about 10 hours per week online, social networking activities accounts for a huge chunk of time.

Why Them? Why Now?
In a recent interview with TIME magazine, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, all of 23 years old (don’t you love it?), the new poster boy for the Millennial generation, attributes the explosive growth to the launch of Facebook Platform.

Borrowing a page from Microsoft’s Windows developer playbook, Facebook's platform enables anyone, anywhere, to build complete applications that you can choose to use. “The possibilities are endless,” he says... “For the first time we're allowing developers who don't work at Facebook to develop applications just as if they were. That's a big deal because it means that all developers have a new way of doing business if they choose to take advantage of it.”

And it’s not a coincidence Microsoft has an exclusive deal to sell advertising on the network and reach Facebook’s 30 million users. They get the power of this business model too. With the strategy in place, users will be introduced to a steady stream of services, features and content innovations.

I think it boils down to this key challenge – generate enough positive interest to keep the growth momentum going and continue to deliver quality content (sponsored and otherwise), useful online apps and services.

Otherwise, Facebook will become stale with users, who will no doubt move on to the next online widget that shines light in their eyes.

Facebook is fast becoming the new Internet jump off point for the millennial generation. And when this company gets its IPO together (assuming it keeps saying no thank you to suitors including Yahoo! (who offered $1 billion) and Viacom ($750 million), Mark Zuckerberg, 23, will be the newest member of the billion dollar club.

I wonder if he shaves yet?