Thursday, 17 January 2008

How to engage with your customers?

I've been using a couple of great real-world examples of how brands can learn (yes learn!) from online opinions and engage with communities for everyones greater good, but importantly to gain an increase in both brand perception (and therefore perceived brand value) as well as generate those all important shareholder returns.

The best example of how TO do it was Cadbury, who learned that there was mounting opinion urging them to reinstate the Wispa bar. They listened to the chatter, engaged with the audience and discovered they had a really loyal and approachable customer base that they could use to bounce ideas off and therefore help with product development. They reinstated the Wispa bar, but also used this new channel to converse freely with a wide range of people crossing all demographics. By feeding this marketing information back into product development, they now have a unique opportunity to harness the chatter and build better products that people already want to buy!

On the how NOT TO do it side is HSBC, who, on finding there was a huge gathering of negative opinion regarding their decision to abolish interest free overdrafts on Facebook, eventually agreed to reverse their decision and refund the students. All sounds great, except the way they went about it has been perceived as a cave-in from the giant bank in blogs and forums the world over. Surely not the result the brand and marketing director would have planned!

And today, another example - Facebook have been asked to pull Scrabulous by Scrabble manufacturers Mattel and Hasbro. Now, dont get me wrong, I think copyright is an important and necessary principle, though it is one that continues to generate debate with the advance of the digital media, but here again Mattel / Hasbro appear to have run scared and simply quashed a really popular application (some 600,000 are registered to it) when there must surely have been another way. Now there are "Save Scrabulous" groups appearing all over Facebook and lots of negative sentiment toward the big brands involved.

Come on guys, wake up, listen to your "customers" and put their needs first occasionally!

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