In today's society, I am noticing more and more the decline of people buying a product or service solely for the the sake of having that particular company's logo or brand affiliated with them. Instead, consumers are being more and more drawn to companies where they can use the proliferation of social tools available and engage in real conversations with these companies. And in a world where word-of-mouth marketing has gone digital, referrals are even more powerful - clearly stamping a company/brand as "good" or "bad" in search results connected with customer online reviews.
And now that I think more deeply on this - I urge you not to confuse brand communities with product communities.
Product CommunitiesProduct communities are different in that they envelop many brands that exist in a certain product group and help customers discover and increase their exposure to brands they like. They are the impartial reservoirs of knowledge for a specific product/service and offer customers the ability to interact and understand the right brand fit for them. For example, some product communities that I would recommend looking into include:
1.Goodreads - for the book worms who are looking for a better means to discover and keep track of all of their books. Goodreads overs users to interact with friends, interact with book authors, and join digital reading groups, and share their opinions or progress on a certain book via social media.
2. Untappd - aspiring beer aficionados are the ideal target users for digital beer communities like Untappd. You can find your next microbrew favorite using this app, as it allows you to find nearby bars, breweries, read reviews on specialty beers, and share what they drinking with friends on Facebook and Twitter, while earning "badges" on their account.
3. Fika - Fika is a relatively new mobile application that is available only for iPhone users. However, reading about it really makes me jealous and hoping they expand to Android in the future. The premise of the application is similar to Untappd but focuses on the education and discovery of new coffee and coffee brewing methods. On its website, Fika describes itself as the "social coffee journal" and, if you're a fellow Android user eager to try out the app, I encourage you to at least read more about the company and check out Fika's coffee blog, as I've already learned enough about coffee to shame my local Starbucks barista. (Thanks, Fika).
4. Foursquare - and of course, let's not forget the giant social discovery community - FourSquare. FourSquare encompasses many different product communities and has pretty much established itself as the hub of social discovery. But chances are, you're already using/have used FourSquare, so that's all I'll really touch on regarding this service for now.
Brand CommunitiesWhile I've briefly explained the differences between product and brand communities, I guess if I had to give it a definition, brand communities are linkages among consumers and companies/brands, both online and offline, that facilitate a discussion between the customer and company, and ultimately, leads to a product/service that is better tailored to the customer.
Of the top of my head, some companies that have done a great job of creating a strong brand culture full of customer value include:
1. Frito Lay - With their "Lays Do Us a Flavor" campaign, this company has successfully embraced putting the ball in their customers court and allowing them to speak up in the conversation with the products they want. From new products like Greektown Gyro, Truffle Fries, and Rueben-flavored potato chips, Lays has proved to be a brand that listens and eager to change - which allows them to be more successful and make customers happier.
2. Nike - Nike has differentiated itself from being just another company holding onto its iconic logo and has transitioned into a successful social company with the popularity of its Nike+Running application. Nike has proven to be a true competitor to other running applications (i.e. MapMyRun, RunKeeper, Strava), by offering users a sleek interface, personalization, music integration, and social sharing options.
3. TheClymb - In addition to being a site for the nature/outdoors enthusiast, as well as being a sucessful e-commerce company working in a hip area, TheClymb already earned a special place in my heart and blog. However, in addition to selling outdoors equipment at discount prices, they've also developed a thriving brand community. TheClymb is run by people who are passionate about being active and making their life a series of adventures. And its reflected not only in their blog, but also in their products they offer and customer support. TheClymb doesn't really do the "hard sell" (with the prices it offers, it doesn't really have to), but instead aims to educate its consumers and offer value to fellow outdoor enthusiasts. If you visit the site, I recommend the blog and outdoor adventure packages.
While I will agree that there are some companies that maintain their customer loyalty simply with the strong brand identity or logos that resonate with customers, I think that kind of customer loyalty is much less permanent. I strongly believe, in most cases, it will be the companies that leverage technology and work towards creative solutions to better connect with customers that will be the most successful in the long run.
What product/brand communities did I miss? Let me know in the comments below!
With the end of summer comes students reuniting on campus with their classmates, and friends catching up after spending summers away on trips, internships, or summer programs. During this time, we identify the changes our friends/colleagues have undergone during their absence away from us. Maybe their summer trip really highlighted their desire to move to Boston, or their internship completely changed their mind about their major, forcing them to start from square one. Whatever the reason, its a time to reconnect and get better acquainted with one another again. I consider Google a friend. It's always been there for me, offering me advice (directions, information, random facts and statistics), its easily accessible (products that works seamlessly on any device), and it just gets me , (I'm a big fan of its "Google Now" service). But lately, I feel as if our relationship is strained and I really don't know Google as well as I thought. What exactly am I talking about? I'm glad you asked:
*I also just wanted to apologize in advance to any Johnnys, Jonathans, or people who enjoy espresso, philosophy, or The Smiths that I might have offended - I don't have anything against any of those things - it was just for example purposes.
The announcement of the new Google logo is just a few days old, published September 1st, 2015 by Google's Tamar Yehoshua, VP, Product Management & Bobby Nath, Director of User Experience. They explain that as Google constantly changes and evolves, so does the creative focus behind the company's branding: its logo. You can view a brief overview of the evolution of Google's logo below:
The new Google logo, transitioning from an image to a GIF, reflects how Google works to make information more accessible for its users (searching via typing, mobile use, and voice commands). Finally, Google tags this logo change as branding Google not just for the present, but for the future. In summary, there have been lots of exciting announcement from Google regarding its new identity and focus. But with such huge changes comes a mix of feedback from business experts and customers. For example, a typography expert reporting on Business Insider, Gerry Leonidas, argues that the logo is full of errors and lack of creative strategy - suggesting that the branding agency in charge of this project completely abandoned the identity that Google had built throughout its long tenure as one of the world's largest tech giants. While Mashable explains that Google's new logo is friendly, a visual embodiment of its commitment to its customers by connecting the dots of all the products and offering a much more sleek design aligned with the style of its products.
So what do you think of Google's new identity? Let me know in the poll and comments below!
First things first - I'm fairly new subscription box services - partly because I'm still discovering which ones I like best/have a use for and partly because,` being a recent college graduate, money is a bit tight. That being said, I've been wanting to write about my thoughts on this unique business model and the few experiences I have had with the services I've subscribed to.
Trunk Club. There, we explored the company's space, met with designers and employees, and learned how they were able to simplify shopping for men without their customers needing to step into a store. (At the time, Trunk Club was exclusively a subscription service for men, but according to an article published earlier this summer from TechCrunch, Trunk Club has expanded to women's clothing).
Overall, the process to get a trunk is very simple and focused on making things as easy for the customer as possible. Users sign up, fill out some information regarding their tastes and current fashion style, and then are matched with a personal stylist. Trunk Club stylists reach out to prospective customers via e-mail or telephone to get a better understanding of what the user is looking for in their trunk. The stylist then gathers items based on the users budget, style, and that stylists personal suggestions. A trunk is then shipped to the user to try on and then ship back (for free) any clothing items they weren't happy with. One of the biggest things that has impressed me about Trunk Club is unlike some competitors that charge you a flat rate, Trunk Club stylists really seem to work with their customers to make sure they're happy with the items and the trunk's costs can vary based on what customers decide to keep. Not a bad arrangement for the time-poor professional or student ... (or the fashion-challenged marketing blogger).
Bud Trunk Club isn't the only player in the subscription box service game - there have been plenty of other e-commerce companies who have emerged targeting various markets and product groups. For example, Dr. Squatch Soap Co. (natural soaps for men) and Bespoke Post (various products, samples, and unique supplies for men) are two companies I have subscribed to in the past.
Want to learn more about the different types of subscription boxes? Check out Buzzfeed's article on the top subscription box services.
In the business world today, focusing on the customer is probably the most important thing companies can do. Don't believe me, ask Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and customer experience advocate. In this blog post alone, you'll probably hear me use the term 'customer experience' at least 7 times. It's that important.
So, what exactly do I mean by customer experience? If you're a techie, you might immediately think of user experience (UX) and your favorite smart device or mobile application. While customer experience and user experience share similar characteristics and probably overlap quite a bit (in order to have a positive customer experience with a product, the user experience, meaning the way the phone or application works - the design, navigability, ease-of-use, all need too be very polished and user friendly).
No, today, I want to highlight Starbucks and its ability to innovate not just on the digital and e-commerce side of its business, but also on how it physically adapts its stores to its diverse customer base and avoids a "cookie cutter"-like design strategy. See below the an image I found of the first ever Starbucks store on Wikipedia:
Now, if you're not a Starbucks regular like myself (in fact - I sit here writing this post at the Starbucks location in Northville, Michigan), you might question the whole premise of this blog post, saying "Tim, that honestly doesn't look too different from other Starbucks I've passed on my morning commute". And you're probably right. In the coffee retailing industry, Starbucks faces fierce competition, from companies like Dunkin Donuts and McDonald's to franchises and independent coffee shops. As a result, in order to ensure that a customer can identify with Starbucks and become brand loyal, there are certain characteristics of their storefronts that need to communicate a consistent message (logo, colors, merchandise). However, its the differentiation Starbucks is doing with their interior that is really impressing me. Just last week, Starbucks released an news article entitled Back to Campus: Starbucks Store Designs Perfect for Hitting the Books. In the article, Starbucks talks about the design processes it took for adapting its stores to the students of George Mason University in Virginia, American University in Washington D.C., and George Washington University in Washington D.C. Check out the store layouts tailored to the studious Starbucks-er here.
This isn't really news for Starbucks, though. They've been adapting their stores to the tastes of their customers for years, see below for some of the most uniquely design Starbucks locations:
CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, like Amazon's Jeff Bezos, has always been adamant on customer experience and focusing on the customer, even in difficult times. Since the introduction of Starbucks, and by extension, a movement towards coffee education and appreciation within the United States, Schultz has referred to the Starbucks stores as "the third place". A place to deliver second-to-none customer experiences in a unique environment where people can wind down after work with a book, catch up with friends, or finish that term paper they've put off until the night before (or in my case, a blog post). I really admire the things Starbucks has done not just in the coffee industry, but as a company steadfast on delivering real value to their customers; I'm eager to see what's in store (no pun intended), for them.
Look out, Google, there's a new* player in the online advertising space. In a press release last week, the company's, Product Marketing Manager, Eric Farcas, announced some changes that Twitter is unveiling in its Twitter Audience Platform. (*Twitter isn't actually too new to the advertising space, many companies, like Macy's and Harman, have already seen positive results from using Twitter's advertising solutions.)
However, the big takeaways from this announcement include a focus to drive tweet and video views as well as offer advertisers more creative formats for their ads.
1. Driving tweet and video viewsAdvertisers now have the opportunity to integrating many of the targeting options available via Twitter (username, keywords, and interests), directly within the Twitter Audience Platform.
2. Connecting through creative ad formatsAdditionally, Twitter is offering advertisers opportunities to better engage with Twitter users by allowing them to interact directly with Twitter Audience Platform ads. Twitter has also included customizable call-to-actions on bother interstitial and native ads in hopes of more efficient conversions.
This announcement, published only a month or so after, Facebook announces its Pages e-commerce initiative, only highlights the opportunities these social networks have identified to become more profitable, as well as powerful tools for both businesses and consumers.
And who can argue with these numbers? Check out Fast Company's statistics about social media and e-commerce.
Although this blog is still fairly new, the idea is to showcase a new product/service review each Monday. So, to kick-off this initiative - I would like to talk about Kono, a brand new iOS and Android app that promises to make scheduling simpler through intuitive design and features. Although I've only been using the application for about a week or so, I already am enjoying it a lot and am noticing some characteristics that definitely set it apart from competitors. So, what exactly makes Kono so different?
1. Ease of useWhile the app seamlessly integrates users and invitees Google accounts and their calendars, Kono goes one step further to prompt users with meeting categories. Is this a business event - select "Meeting", catching up with a close friend? Better go with "Hang out". No matter what use you have for Kono - the app does a great job of addressing it and making it available so that you can quickly continue on to the next step. Additionally, Kono checks the calendars of both you and your invitees to offer the best time to meet. Lastly, it always helps when these scheduling apps are available for both Android and iPhone users. With so many people switching phones frequently, Kono retains optimal exposure through ensuring it works as consistently as possible on whichever device you have.
2. LearningYou may be thinking - "So far, this sounds like any other old scheduling app" - and if this was all I had to say about Kono, you'd probably be right. I think one of Kono's strongest competitive advantages is its intelligent learning. Kono's big pitch is that its personalized for you: meaning it delivers information on restaurants you might want to meet at based on your past meeting history; it also offers information on quickest routes to meeting locations (no need to break out those Map apps anymore).
3. NotificationsSure, like many other scheduling applications, Kono provides you with notifications ahead of time before a scheduled meeting. But it also gives users the heads up when you should leave, if you are running late, and the options to notify other users with an estimated ETA. Overall, I am very impressed with Kono with only a short time using the application. Their focus on the user is obvious through the simplistic and user friendly interface they have developed. I encourage anyone looking for a scheduler replacement to give Kono a shot.
First things first - I would like to start out by welcoming you to my website. I also apologize for the lack of blog content. I recently migrated from another web content service, but, as the articles on my previous blog are outdated, I figured I would just start fresh here. With that being said, I plan on updating this site at least three times a week - so check back soon.