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Archive for March, 2010

When people think of “word of mouth marketing” or “experiential marketing” they instantly think of a guy in a gorilla suit running around acting crazy – wearing a T-shirt that is branded with a company logo on. I’m not saying this isn’t what some people do or that it isn’t “eye catching”…but this isn’t necessarily what we are doing.

Yes, we want to have our clients reach beyond traditional marketing. Let’s face it, we all see a million ads a day and very few of them actually stick out in our minds. So we do focus on what we call non-traditional methods such as WOM and experiential marketing. But to us, that means there is a solid strategy and foundation in mind behind each idea we come up with. It is still a campaign – just a slightly different end result.

Each and every marketing effort you make should be founded in the brand and the campaign goals, and should easily draw back to the target and product. No matter how different the idea or campaign strategy ends up being, if you can’t draw a clear line back to the point of the campaign, it is not going to work. Which is why we REALLY make it clear that we start the same way any other marketer would – with the product, goals and target in mind.

Just remember – wild marketing is just that, wild. Great non-traditional campaigns may be interesting and different, but they all come back to the strategy and make valid sense. That is why we do what we do, and it works.

/Alicia

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To continue our series of posts on social media, I’d like to address the issue of value. Where does the real value of social media lie? Financial companies tend to fixate on getting a tangible ROI from all marketing efforts, making this an important question to ask.

The answer might be difficult for many bank marketers to accept. The true value of having an long-term, consistent social media presence is building brand awareness and loyalty. When not connected to a particular campaign or promotion, the results of these networking efforts can be very difficult to establish. Countless blog posts and articles have been written about the struggle to measure results from social media marketing (SMM) efforts, but maybe people need to come to the realization that certain “soft factors” cannot be measured.

If you are using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to better communicate with customers and form stronger bonds, the success of this community involvement might be difficult to record in numbers. Some tracking is available, but how to you measure the value of answering a customer’s question? Or the value of customer recommendations and critique? Do you try to measure the ROI of answering the phone at your bank or credit union? How is using Twitter any different?

Ultimately the answer is a mixed bag. Depending on what you are using social networking sites for, you may or may not be able to reliably measure a return. But if your bank or credit union is using social media for general awareness and customer service, (not a specific promotion), then the value may very well lie in hard-to-measure results like perceived community involvement, openness and responsiveness.

/Maija

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Social networking sites are off-limits to anyone over 25, right? If you talked to banks about it, you might get that impression. In the financial industry, there seems to be a widespread notion that only young adults use social media, and that sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter only have a place in youth marketing. Wrong!

Datamonitor states, “The banking industry has held onto the belief that social media is the domain of teenagers and university students.” While teens and young adults were the early adopters of social networking tools, the biggest new user group is middle-age adults. Last year and the year before, 35-54 year-olds were the fastest growing demographic segment on Facebook. During the last 6 months of 2009, the growth rate of that group accelerated even more. On Twitter, most new users last year were between the ages of 25 and 54, and growth among people over 55 was greater than among people under 24.


image via Laughing out Loud

Banks and credit unions need to broaden their thinking and realize that adults of all ages are using social networking tools. And not only are they using them for interaction with friends – according to Datamonitor, “50% of UK consumers are using online tools to make their financial decisions.” It’s pretty reasonable to assume that the statistic in the United States and Canada is probably very similar.

So don’t limit yourself – social media can be an effective tool to connect and form relationships with consumers of all ages.

/Maija

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A lot organizations, including banks and credit unions, view social media as a great way to get the word out about themselves. They see networks like Facebook and Twitter as exceptional tools for passing along information and educating consumers – which they are. If your name is Best Buy and you have a ton of Twitter followers, then one tweet is a very effective way of speaking to a large group of people.

However, sometimes organizations forget that social media is even more beneficial as a learning tool, for gathering intelligent information about consumers. Fans, friends and followers on blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other networks are your best available focus group and source of information about the perceptions, wants and needs of your target audience.

With such an valuable resource available, it’s surprising that many banks and credit unions still insist upon censorship. In doing so, they hurt themselves in two ways:

1. Censoring comments and complaints, or not allowing responses at all, restricts learning by silencing consumers. You wouldn’t bring together a focus group and tell them they could only give positive responses, would you? People often feel the ability to speak more freely on social networking sites because they can do so anonymously, if they choose. What better way to gather honest answers and opinions to help you better shape your services or policies?

2. Censorship also casts the organization in a negative light because it appears fearful, defensive and authoritative. No one likes someone who restricts free speech. Restricting all responses can make the organization look like they expect many people to say bad things about them.

This isn’t to say that there should be no censorship. Completely off-topic posts, lewd or inappropriate comments and spam have no place on a message board or comment thread. In fact, they disrupt the reader experience.

A good rule of thumb is this:
Allow feedback – whether positive or negative – that adds value.

/Maija

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What was once just companies supporting the causes of their choosing has now morphed into an engaging and buzz-generating form of charity. In an effort to further connect with the consumer, large brands like Pepsi and Quaker have focused their energies on creating microsponsorship programs that give grants to the individual to fund small projects of their choosing. With Pepsi Refresh, for example, consumers can apply for grants up to $250,000.

Microsponsorships could be a great way for banks and credit unions to initiate conversation with consumers. Engaging people through social networks comes as a struggle to most financial institutions, and microsponsorships present a “much-needed icebreaker in social media” (Ad Age). Not only that, they are directly related to finances and banking products, such as loans.

On the downside, however, there is a loss of control that many companies – especially financial institutions – might be wary of. There’s the risk of being associated with an undesirable person or organization, the risk of looking like they’ve just “jumped on the bandwagon”, and the risk of losing differentiation. However, with 84% of consumers saying that “selecting their own cause is important when determining support for a company’s cause efforts,” microsponsorships just might be the way to go.

The most important rule to follow is: keep your sponsorship aligned with your brand and positioning. This might limit what projects people can put money towards, but it will ensure that the microsponsorships are as effective of a marketing tool as possible. Executed correctly and with enough controls and tracking in place, a microsponsorship program can be a brand-centric method of engaging consumers and generating word of mouth.

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