olympics2

Alright, you got us, yet another ‘subtle’ attempt to bring a coffee theme to a post.

A lot of people are attracted to the idea of advertising because it offers a chance to be involved in creating ideas and moments that go far beyond themselves. It’s a chance to influence, spread messages and effect change. That’s a pretty powerful thing. By and large, those moments are commercial; the bottom line of advertising is always about ‘the sell’.

There’s nothing wrong in that, hey it’s what led to the creative industry contributing £13.9bn to the UK economy last year.  But despite the commercial aspect, or perhaps because of it, any opportunity to focus on a charitable or ‘good cause’ in advertising is often jumped on faster than you can shout ‘incoming bandwagon’. You know what I’m thinking… Sochi.

The intention to contribute to something positive is admirable. Not only that, with today’s focus on customer-driven communications, riding popular sentiment with your brand can be good business sense and a smart way to engage your customers.

When it’s done right.

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customer_satisfaction

 

I never thought I would say this. I am a loyal Starbucks customer. It’s true. That’s not to say that I don’t drink coffee elsewhere if the moment presents itself (it’s 2014 remember, customer loyalty isn’t quite as clear-cut as it once was), but given the choice between Starbucks or one of the other Big Three, I’d go for Starbucks. Perhaps If I’d been a regular for sometime that wouldn’t mean anything, but considering I didn’t let my feet darken their doorway for years, it’s pretty significant.

So what led to my conversion? This is not an ode to Starbucks or a cunning scheme to ensure a lifetime of free lattes (wait, hold that thought…). There was no one moment or transaction that sealed the deal; in a sense this is a case study of the different factors that can affect loyalty and perhaps a reminder that there is no set recipe for it. If there was ever a time where customer loyalty could be created and controlled through one aspect of a business alone, those days are certainly gone. Who says that’s a bad thing? Demanding customers -who will let you know though one of the many channels available to them, when something falls short of their expectations- provide an unprecedented opportunity to create products and brands that people really care about.

Where it all began.

The holy tenet of marketing; product differentiation. Does it still mean anything? It’s true, all of the major coffee chains have similar if not identical offerings in terms of drinks. I know what you’re thinking, in such a saturated market is differentiation even possible? And yet Starbucks is the only one that makes a Caramel Macchiato in that particular way, that reminds me of cafés in Seoul, South Korea, that served a particularly sweet but unusual coffee that I haven’t tasted anywhere since. Granted, that is about as personal and emotive as you will ever get when it comes to customer expectations and trying to predict that particular combination of circumstances alone is going to end in an unhappy journey, pursuing a nonexistent holy grail of retail. Yet it goes to show that it is always worth the continued effort to focus on producing exactly what a customer wants in order to create an emotive connection. The rewards are worth it when you do.

Service please.

There’s no escaping this one. Sure, create a bad experience and you’re far more likely to hear about it than when you create a satisfactory one. Create an excellent one though, and the odds start to move in your favour. I can probably recall on one hand the times that I’ve experienced excellent, stand-out customer service. That’s a wasted opportunity right there. We can’t keep pretending that we still live in a time where the day-to-day customer experience can be segmented and removed from the overall impression of a brand; it’s just too important. So how do you make those moments? In the case of one Starbuck’s employee that meant giving me a coffee free-of-charge on the day I lost my purse. He certainly wasn’t supposed to and I’m not advocating breaking the rules to make everyone happy, but I won’t forget it all the same. In that instance I felt relief, gratitude, and yes, you guessed it, loyalty.

Business (not) as usual.

This is all powerful stuff, creating those moments and connections with your customers can override objections they may have with other aspects of your brand, if you only give them a reason. But it also needs to be easy; easier and more enjoyable than anywhere else, for them to walk through your door, and purchase your product.

Companies are often preoccupied by new customers. There’s nothing wrong with that on the face of things.  I like meeting new people too, who doesn’t? But I’d be a poor friend if I abandoned all my friends for the tall dark stranger in the corner every time we went to a party and the same goes for brands.

Here’s my card:

Enter the beleaguered and often misunderstood customer loyalty scheme. A brilliant opportunity to attract and retain customers and yet I can only think of two customer loyalty programs (outside of the supermarket realm) that I actually value and use on an almost daily basis. Boots -because their scheme is older than time itself and offers a better points to purchase ratio than competitors- and…Starbucks. Because they have combined innovation, user experience and branding in a way that’s unprecedented.

If you create a loyalty scheme that offers nothing different over your competitors why would you expect your customer to take the time to enquire about, acquire and join or register for your program? Getting a customer to start using the scheme is much harder than convincing them to pick up a leaflet in-store. Once they do, it’s a habit, it’s easy and there are incentives to keep up. Before they’ve registered, it’s just another piece of plastic (please say it’s plastic, I think most of us have enough little scraps of card floating around in coat pockets and bags to last a lifetime) in the bottom of their purse that has failed to gain any significance to them.

I’m certainly not the first to praise Starbucks’ mobile payment strategy and it’s easy to gloss over the incredibly advantageous position that allowed them to experiment and implement such a strategy in the first place, but the result is a customer loyalty scheme like no other major coffee retailer’s. And that means I’m unlikely to pick up a competitor’s card anytime soon… until they catch up and give me a reason to take notice.

Einstein

Advertising. Its success is as much to do with timing, chance and external influence, as it is with insight, research and planning. Sure, you can measure sentiment, you can track buying behaviour and, to an extent, you can identify the best channel to promote yourself through – but despite this, advertising will always be more about the moment than it is about the maths.

Of course, with a vast amount of data at your fingertips you can now measure, learn and adapt much faster. The point is that you still aren’t able to account for the factors which remain outside of your control. You can’t be sure. You can’t predict and you can’t ‘know’ the response.

Fact is, advertising is reliant on understanding and manipulating human nature, which means science can only take you so far.

Last year the average Super Bowl commercial cost $4 million for a 30 second spot, yet many would argue the most memorable moment was Oreo’s “dunk in the dark” tweet – sure it’s an overused example – but only because it’s so pertinent.

Are you really saying all the insight we have means nothing?

To say advertising is not a science, is not to say that you don’t apply some of the same logic. Through insight, understanding and intelligence your chances of being successful will inevitably increase. There’s a lot to be said for implementing a more scientific approach when working in a creative environment – validating a hypothesis is not a bad place to start…

Too many assumptions will only mean the execution of a campaign which won’t engage the people it was intended for. Good advertising encompasses research, testing and the power of conviction. A good idea is not just about the intelligence and the approach but the unique take a creative has on the insight you have. Great campaigns rarely have anything to do with a budget allocation, a client’s approval process, or an account manager’s taste in design.

At the end of the day advertising is still about imagination. You can’t learn to see things differently, you can’t make yourself think outside the box, and you can’t train yourself to spot a gap or grab the moment. Ultimately you, like me, will always need to recruit talent, the ‘can’t be learned skills’ of a creative individual.

My summary? If you know your audience then you’ve got a good chance – if you can be in the right place, at the right time, with a big idea, then you might just score a touchdown…

Get A Big Idea from Cafecreate – for a fixed transparent price.

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You know what you want and you’re happy to pay for what you like. The age of the consumer is here and woe betide those who think that they’re above embracing it.

Fact is, brands will never regain the position of safety that they once had, and they will never be able to sell the way they used to either. Customers don’t want to listen anymore, they want it their way and, thanks to the easy, fast technology brought on by the age of the price comparison meerkat; they can have it.

Of course, it’s about more than just a simple price comparison – your audience is far too savvy for that (see blog). No, it’s about ‘the fit’. The brand, the price, the relationship – the product. You need to tick all their boxes, you have to let them dictate and you must give them what they want; whenever they ask for it – whatever industry you’re in.

Is she really saying commoditise creativity?!

Think about it, it’s really not that great a leap. The hospitality industry has always had to cater for their customers – sure it’s a defined menu, but it’s a menu formed from demand.

Only this lunchtime a Barista from a major high street café chain near you, mistakenly served me the Christmas Special gingerbread AND cream latte when I’d only wanted a gingerbread latte. They knew the drill; a word from me and without a moments hesitation, it was poured away and started afresh. Yep – I’m also the girl that the one shot, peppermint, half fat, no cream, grande mocha was made for, and you know what, I’m very happy to pay a premium for that too. That’s the point, to commoditise something isn’t to undervalue it.

Like me, most of Café’s clients want something appealing, simple and commercially desirable.  Fixing prices doesn’t mean the offering is cheap, it just means the customer knows the value attached to it from the outset. As an agency we’re not afraid to step up and embrace that. We can deliver unrivalled creativity – whether the customer is looking for a feast or something bite size to take-away.

Offering a menu doesn’t work against creativity – it doesn’t become stifled because it’s easier to buy. A commoditised approach is actually about providing a better understanding of the creative process, for the benefit of the client, as much as the agency. It means deliverables are fully aligned with customer needs and that measurement can be better understood. Add to that a total alignment of expectations and the customer walking away with exactly what they wanted, and it all starts to sound pretty sensible.

 

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