Turn Those Upset Customers Around: Best Practices For Customer Service Recovery

How do Marriott employees handle angry customers?  They call it LEARN, at Starbucks it’s called LATTE (of course) … both offer excellent examples of how to respond when there is a need for effective and immediate customer service.

In the article below Micah Solomon calls it “customer service recovery’.  Whatever term is used, it’s more important than ever to resolve a customer issue before it hits social media and you have to work much harder to erase a bad image.

Turn Those Upset Customers Around:

Best Practices For Customer Service Recovery

Every business needs a framework for customer service recovery–a sequence of best practices–for those times when the situation hits the fan and the customer hits the roof.

Before I get to my recommended customer service recovery framework, let’s talk about why you need one.

First, because even in the best of times, it’s hard for most of us to improvise entirely from scratch, without a framework to guide us and to fall back upon.

Second, because a situation that calls for service recovery is far from the best of times. When things haven’t gone smoothly, and a customer is upset, you’re likely feeling embarrassed or defensive, or put-upon, or angry (or all of these, at once). With so much emotion flying around, it’s hard for even the most seasoned and equanimous customer service professionals among us to do their best.

Third, because some of our human instincts are flat-out wrong, and need to be moderated or even turned around by what has, over time, proven to work in these situations; for example, getting past the tendency of professionals, including customer service professionals, to want to decide for themselves what an appropriate solution entails, rather than taking the time to get there together with the customer.

Every great business has a framework for customer service recovery. At Starbucks (where they have an acronym for most everything, to help employees mentally walk through the steps when struggling with a situation), it’s LATTE:

Listen to the customer

Acknowledge the problem/situation

Take action and solve the problem

Thank the customer

Explain what you did

At Marriott, it’s LEARN:

Listen

Empathize

Apologize

Respond

Notify

At the triple Five Star Broadmoor resort in Colorado, it’s HEART:

Hear

Empathize

Apologize

Respond

Take Action

Follow up (Yeah, maybe this means it should be HEARTF, but that’s a lot less effective as a mnemonic.)

Any one of these time-tested sequences will stand you in good stead.  And, as you’ve probably noticed, they’re all pretty similar.

However, if you’re not already hooked on a competing system, let me brazenly offer you my own five-step AWARE™ service recovery framework, devised and refined during my time working with great companies as a customer service consultant, listening to the concerns of thousands of customers, and observing the best practices used by hundreds of customer service professionals in such situations.

If you’d like printable version of this, email me at micah@micahsolomon.com and I’m happy to hook you up. (This is an update of prior versions I’ve published in these pages and elsewhere.)

Micah’s AWARE System for Customer Service Recovery

Acknowledge

Widen

Agree

Resolve

Evaluate

Acknowledge

• Immediately stop whatever you’re doing.

• Acknowledge the situation and apologize sincerely. Even if you have no reason to think you’re at fault, you can—and should—start off by immediately apologizing for the confusion or the situation. Convey that you recognize and regret what your customer has been through.

Note: If this situation calls for a larger apology (by which I mean that the customer feels it calls for such an apology, whether or not you think it does), make it a real apology, not a fake “I’m sorry if you feel that way.” The key to an effective apology, to getting back on the right foot with your customer, is to convey from the very outset that you are going to take the customer’s side and share the customer’s viewpoint.

• Don’t interrupt with questions or explanations.

• Learn more about the situation by probing for what the customer is specifically upset about; encourage and assist the customer in explaining what’s gone wrong from the customer’s point of

• Widen your viewpoint to be open to the “other side” or a different/unexpected side of the situation: a viewpoint that is not only different than yours, but may be one that you had never thought of in this context before.

• Include your customer in the process of developing a solution that works for them (and is something that is possible for you).

Note: You may, in the course of this widening step, discover that the customer is entirely mistaken in their assumptions about the cause of the situation, but under no circumstances—other than safety- or health-related misunderstandings—should you baldly say that the customer is wrong.

Agree

• Assure your customer that you take their concerns seriously, and that you will personally and immediately take definitive action.

• Spell out the agreed-on solution to your customer, as you understand it.

• Commit to exactly what you will do to resolve the issue, and by when.

Repair

• Take care of the issue as promised.

• Follow up with anyone you assigned it to.

• Follow up with the customer to ensure all is well.

Evaluate

• Document the error in two separate places, both of them important:

a) the customer’s profile

b) your company’s QC (quality control) system.

• Examine the error with an eye toward identifying systemic issues and choke points (for example, repeated complaints of long lines on Tuesdays).

• Strive to learn from the error and, where appropriate, to make it a part of staff training and systems.

Reprinted in its entirety with permission from Micah Solomon.

SUPER Influencers A Key To Super-Success

Influencer marketing is without a doubt a trending area for marketers and public relations professionals.

In retail, travel and entertainment, savvy marketers are connecting with people who have a great number of followers — and influence — and compensating them with cash, gifts or an experience, such as a stay in a resort or a cameo in a show.

The idea of connecting with the right people and working those relationships is both a refreshing and seemingly simple approach. However, how does influencer marketing apply to complex selling environments, such as within regulated industries (financial or healthcare, for example) or with enterprise software sales?

Without exception, a pithy Instagram post or a Tweet from an influencer is not going to have a meaningful impact on shortening long sales cycles or getting a chief security officer (CSO) to narrow solutions they’re considering for their global operations. In my experience, there are, however, people and organizations that have pull with buyers and industry organizations that are worth investing in relationships with.

This article comes with thanks to Forbes and Scott Mills, a member of the Forbes Agency Council.  

 Your team’s success is made easier with positive relationships with outside influencers.

To use the financial industry for illustration, which is one I’m quite familiar with, reaching and persuading bankers to buy into new concepts, strategies and solutions is without a doubt a difficult assignment. When selling something that represents a sizeable investment for the financial organization, it is likely that the company has to accomplish several things. It must:

1. Sell the business-side leader (head of retail banking).

2. Satisfy a host of people involved in the decision, which may include the board of directors, IT department and procurement.

3. Assure the bankers they will remain in compliance (not run afoul of regulators).

4. Demonstrate that your company is financially stable enough to satisfy the client.

For technology sellers, companies are also faced with demonstrating integration with at least one other existing critical system, such as a “core” platform and demonstrating that the company is operationally mature and disciplined enough to handle the prospect’s business.

Marketing to everyone within a bank who needs to buy — or at least sign off on — the agreement requires a highly coordinated effort. It is made easier by reaching third parties who have influence with the prospect and the industry as a whole.

Who are the super-influencers?

Super-influencers are people who advise or provide services to your prospects. They are trusted industry authorities or other vendors that are already serving the bank. Some examples of super-influencers include:

• Attorneys who advise bank boards.

• Accountants who serve the risk committee and CFO.

• Consultants hired to manage a transition or guide strategy.

• Executives of industry associations who drive education and governmental affairs.

• Industry analysts covering specific operational areas.

• Regulators who advise what changes would be acceptable to them.

• Key vendors that are already entrenched in the bank.

• Media who drive conference agendas and what topics are elevated within their channels.

While media is often the target for public relations outreach, trade media is frequently made up of industry experts in their own right. These people deserve an intelligent approach to building relationships.

Super influencers typically have the power to sway a decision. As such, super-influencer marketing is a programmatic approach to identify them, reach out and build relationships.

A super influencer’s value is based on their reputation.

Just as you expect a trusted friend or mentor to provide sound counsel, so do those who turn to their accountants, attorneys and key executives for professional services. As such, these super influencers continue to invest in their development and understanding of forces shaping their industries. Doctors read about new treatments. Researchers seek answers to challenging questions. And educators study, write and publish to broaden their understanding and to influence others. This quest for knowledge is the basis for connecting with super influencers. So is the story you want to deliver. When determining the story, consider the following:

• How are you changing the industry?

• Is there an example of a client company that is achieving outstanding results?

• Are you applying lessons from another industry?

• Do you have research that suggests a shift in the market?

• Is your solution reducing risk? If so, what kind?

Regardless of the channel or communications tactics, the underlying strategy for reaching super influencers has to be based on appealing to their curiosity, helping them broaden their understanding of their industry and doing a better job for their customers and business community.

Many super influencers are paid to recommend the right solution or company or provide an informed opinion or guidance. Consider the people and organizations you know with strong reputations — protecting their reputation drives their actions and decisions. The bottom line is that tactics found in retail or entertainment influencer marketing programs do not translate well to business-to-business (B2B) super influencers because they do not trade their reputation for short-term profits or trivial gifts.

In broad strokes, utilizing super-influencer marketing requires you to build and prioritize audiences, determine what assets or content you’ll need for them and continually foster mutually beneficial relationships.

So, what is fair game for leveraging these relationships?

While some relationships can be based on information sharing or leads, others can provide opportunities to work together on projects that would reflect well on both parties. For example, an attorney and PR practitioner could collaborate on articles about crisis planning and responses. An accountant and consulting firm might create webinars that address operational risks associated with new regulations. And two complementary software companies might create co-branded educational materials about transforming a segment of the industry.

If you are a B2B marketer operating within a complex environment or regulated industry, you know there are no shortcuts. Embrace the complicated and practice these super-influencer marketing tactics — together they represent your competitive advantage.

Note from Bennett – there is a fine line between paying someone to support your PR campaign, and finding mutual benefits with no payment.  This is not a new trend as celebrity endorsements have been around as long as we’ve had speech – an outstanding tool, maybe even SUPER if used with intelligence and as one portion of a well-considered campaign.

Smarketing – Finally!

When you saw “smarketing” did you think: 

“oh yes that is a combination of Smart and Marketing”. 

Or did you immediately know it was a combination of Sales and Marketing?

Let’s just say we finally have a term for Smart Marketers Who Are The Crucial Element In Sales!

Here’s the article from Forbes, (https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2017/09/26/why-b2b-companies-need-to-embrace-a-smarketing-approach/#6dcaeeef42db) and see what you think.

We all know that marketing and sales are rarely aligned, right? I can see your heads nodding in agreement now. In fact, you don’t have to spend more than two minutes on Google to find numerous articles written about the cost of sales and marketing misalignment to businesses.

Factor in the new interest surrounding account-based marketing and you quickly realize that, despite entrenched thinking that marketing and sales will forever be at odds, it’s time to consider that we might need to find a way to align them.

According to Grad Conn in Adweek, “the relationship with the prospect is [now] based on value—through relevant content or through tailored experiences which have value to the prospect. It’s a ‘give/get’ model, with the seller making the first value move. This pay-it-forward approach to sales is anathema to the cold-calling Glengarry Glen Ross-style selling of the past.”

 It has become clear that sales and marketing alignment is necessary today, particularly for business-to-business (B2B) enterprises.

We live in a post-consumer world.

Business-to-consumer (B2C) but also B2B companies have to compete on the value they offer in our post-consumer world — a world in which there are more products and services than there are people and companies to buy them. That’s why value, not false promises or merely good-enough products and services, is what will ultimately sell consumers on your goods.

What do companies need to do to communicate value from the first touch to the last? At my company, we call it “smarketing” (sales + marketing): the combined and aligned effort of marketing and sales to communicate the value of any product or service from the first touch to the last. Smarketing is the idea of marketing and sales working together so closely that it merits a new word. It is the antithesis of the standard and assumed misalignment between marketing and sales.

It’s time to kill the trope.

Companies can no longer afford to tolerate the push and pull between marketing and sales. Gone are the days of marketing bringing in leads with clever headlines and unverified promises and then throwing them over the wall to sales. Cutting through the noise to grab the attention of and engage with prospects is too expensive for marketing to neglect after sending them to sales.

Add fierce competition to the hard reality that marketing must touch a prospect 13+ times to achieve engagement, and you’ll suddenly be willing to kill the trope that marketing and sales never see eye to eye, let alone work together.

Do You Know Your Lemons? … and other #creative hashtag campaigns

Thank you Sprout Social for this well written article about engaging your customers through creative hashtag campaigns. #lovethis!

The hashtag frenzy has been an important element in the rise of social media. It’s hard to achieve true brand awareness without at least one or two hashtags in your repertoire.

Not only does the right hashtag help you to connect with targeted audiences on social media, but a branded hashtag can also help give life to your digital identity, providing additional reach, impact and personality.

With approximately 81% of Americans using social media in 2018, companies can’t afford to overlook one of the most important resources in social.

But it’s not always as easy as it looks to craft, create and strategize your hashtag campaign. But don’t worry–we have you covered. To help inspire you for your next hashtag campaign, let’s look at eight creative campaigns in the last year or so:

1. #KnowYourLemons: Worldwide Breast Cancer

Often the best branded campaigns on social media are those with an important and meaningful purpose. In 2017, the Worldwide Breast Cancer organization launched its hashtag campaign #KnowYourLemons to convince women to check their breasts for signs of cancer more frequently.

The catchy concept went viral almost instantly. It was a fun and interesting way to give women the important information they needed to spot the lesser-known symptoms of cancer. The charity launched its own Facebook member’s page where people could take part in conversations about the subject. This extra step made the experience more engaging for everyone involved.

#KnowYourLemons Infographic

What We Loved About It:

The creativity in this hashtag campaign was a fantastic way to raise awareness for an important cause. However, the most exciting element of the strategy was that it made crucial information accessible to everyone. You didn’t need a doctorate or a high literacy level to learn more about breast cancer.

Using a light-hearted concept to convey a message about a serious subject, the Worldwide Breast Cancer group exceeded their Just Giving fundraising target by 317%.

2. #TeamVisa: Visa

At the beginning of 2018, Visa jumped on the Olympic fever bandwagon for the winter games. Since 2000, Visa has earned a reputation for accepting athletes around the globe into its “Team Visa” program. The program provides people with the resources they need to achieve their sporting ambitions. Ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics, Visa launched a special campaign to demonstrate how athletes can get involved with #TeamVisa.

The great thing about Visa’s campaign is that it takes advantage of a trending topic to draw attention to an existing product. The company teamed up with influencers who were sure to get plenty of attention around the winter games. Everyone from Billy Morgan to Elise Christie got involved.

3. #BrandBowl: Twitter

While there are 330 million monthly active users on Twitter, some experts suggest this social media platform isn’t seeing as much growth as its competitors. Fortunately, the channel decided to tackle this problem with a hashtag campaign of their own at the beginning of 2018.

Twitter announced at the end of January they would launch their #BrandBowl campaign alongside the Super Bowl. This was perfect timing to be involved with one of the most talked-about events on social media. The #BrandBowl campaign was a social contest designed to award companies for different achievements, like:

  • The brand with the highest number of tweets
  • The brand with the highest tweet per minute score
  • The brand with the most retweets

View image on Twitter

What We Loved About It:

To help improve engagement, Twitter combined the excitement of a social media contest with the appeal of an important trending topic. #BrandBowl gamified the concept of talking about companies, to ensure that everyone was chatting on Twitter during one of the most important sporting events of the year.

4. #ORIGINALis: Adidas

2017 was a highly successful year for Adidas. The company managed to cement its position as both a fashion icon and thought leader with its #ORIGINALis hashtag campaign. The promotion centered around the new Adidas Originals line, and asked people to re-think the concept of being unique.

Adidas partnered with some of the biggest names in the hip-hop world, including Stormzy, Snoop Dogg and ASAP Ferg to promote their new lineup. The brand even created a video to help link its products back to the idea of hip-hop culture.

What We Loved About It:

The first thing that makes the #ORIGINALis hashtag campaign so effective is it’s targeted appeal to Adidas fans. On top of that, in a world where influencer marketing is one of the best ways to generate trust for a company, Adidas managed to partner with some of the most influential figures in the hip-hop environment.

Overall, Adidas just goes to show that the best brand hashtags can help to establish credibility for a company and elevate its position in any marketplace.

5. #WeAccept: Airbnb

Sometimes the best brand hashtags are the simplest. And that’s certainly the case with Airbnb’s campaign from 2017 revolving around the hashtag #WeAccept. This popular branded hashtag was a great way for the travel giant to share the universal nature of their company while showing their support for a crucial ethical issue.

The campaign began with an inspirational video posted on the Airbnb branded social media feed. It continued with a selection of emotional photos delivered by people from different backgrounds and places around the world.

What We Loved About It:

It’s not always easy to produce an effective political campaign. This is particularly true on social media where everyone has an opinion that they’re ready to share. Fortunately, this hashtag campaign saw an incredible response, with hundreds of thousands of supportive likes and comments.

The theme of acceptance helped Airbnb to present themselves as a more approachable and authentic company on social media.

6. #WhatsInYourBag: RYU

People don’t just visit social media for information and news. We also use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to add a little bit of fun into our lives! That’s why building an Instagram hashtag campaign around a giveaway or competition can be such a great idea for building engagement. Ryu did this with #WhatsInYourBag campaign.

Ryu’s campaign was a great example of a social photo contest that leveraged the trend of Instagram Stories to increase their follower count to well over 20,000.

What We Loved About It:

Hashtag campaigns with gamified elements like competitions or giveaways are a great way to build engagement for a company and encourage your customers to share user-generated content on your behalf. Ryu’s branded hashtag prompted people to share more photos in relation to the brand. This instantly expanded awareness for the company and helped to add a little fun to their identity.

7. #TrippinWithTarte: Tarte Cosmetics

It seems like everyone is investing in the power of influencer marketing lately and Tarte Cosmetics are no exception. In 2017, the company flew a gang of fitness and makeup influencers to an island off the coast of Australia and followed up with them with plenty of Instagram-able excursions like candlelit dinners, yoga, hikes and more.

The hashtag #TrippinWithTarte also encouraged followers of the makeup brand to get involved with their own outdoor experiences, sharing photos that highlighted the versatile nature of the company.

What We Loved About It:

Not only did this creative campaign give Tarte Cosmetics plenty of great content to share on social, it also presented a great opportunity to reach out to new audiences. The influencers were all picked carefully based on their follower count and industry niche, meaning that Tarte could connect with thousands of new users within a matter of weeks!

8. #OpenYourWorld: Heineken

During 2017, Heineken decided to follow the trend of using social media to shed a light on important social concepts by conducting their very own experiment. The beer company used #OpenYourWorld to see how easy it was for people with opposite social and political views to accept each other when they went through a series of team-building activities together.

When everyone at the end of the experience shared their political or social views with the other, Heineken offered them the opportunity to share a beer and discuss their differences–something they all chose to accept.

What We Loved About It:

The #OpenYourWorld hashtag campaign addressed a meaningful concept in a new and heartwarming way. The first video achieved around 3 million views within the first week of its launch and around 50,000 shares in its first month too.

Heineken shows how addressing an important idea with your social media campaign can help to get people talking about your brand and strengthen new relationships.

 SproutSocial.com is one of my go-to resources for smart writing and great ideas – consider adding them to your must-read list too.

Then the assistant asked “what’s your favorite vegetable?”

https://www.fastcompany.com/40465774/10-questions-for-getting-to-know-your-direct-reports-faster?utm_source=postup&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Fast%20Company%20Daily&position=8&partner=newsletter&campaign_date=09182017

The other day my hairdresser’s new assistant asked me what my favorite vegetable was.  I thought she was asking in some context related to hair, but she told me she had a series of questions she was using to open conversations with the salon’s customers and thus improve her communication skills too.  That was a first, and it worked as we went on to talk about other topics and got to know one another.

The link above will take you to a Fast Company piece on using 10 questions you can use to get to know your team better… you might even learn they love artichokes!

When you hire a new team or inherit someone else’s, your first instinct as a manager might be to assess the situation for the best way to move forward–and fast. But if you aren’t careful, you’ll create more problems than solutions for you and your new team. Before you start diagnosing your team’s challenges and look for ways to improve, it’s crucial to take a step back and get to know your new direct reports.

The key is to learn how to support your team in the most effective way for them, not just for you. To do that, you have to listen first, diagnose second. Just as in relationships outside the workplace, the better you get to know someone, the better you can collaborate. That takes time, but there’s one way to jump-start the process: These 10 questions can help you quickly take the pulse on your new team members and their hopes for you as a manager.

1. WHAT ARE SOME FEATURES OF YOUR BEST WORKING RELATIONSHIPS WITH PREVIOUS MANAGERS?

Knowing what qualities your team admires in a manager can help you quickly adjust your style for each direct report. You may learn that they crave autonomy, or that they prefer more active support. This can help you graduate from instinctively providing the management support you prefer to intentionally providing the management support they prefer.

Plus, asking your team to describe traits they’ve admired in previous managers–rather than in the abstract–also ensures their answers are grounded in specific, real experiences, which may prove more actionable for you.

2. WHAT ARE SOME FEATURES OF YOUR WORST WORKING RELATIONSHIPS WITH PREVIOUS MANAGERS?

Learning about the bad side of your team’s past management experiences can be just as instructive as hearing what worked. Whatever created friction with previous managers is usually something to avoid, adjust to, or just keep an eye out for. And because it’s sometimes harder to articulate positive feedback than negative feedback, you may find you learn a lot more by asking this question than you do by asking about positive qualities (even though both are important).

3. HOW TRANSPARENT DO YOU PREFER MANAGERS TO BE?

Some teams prefer the full play-by-play as it happens. Others would rather skip the details and just be kept in the loop only as necessary. While some teammates love to follow every step of whatever changes might be happening, others find that distracting and even demoralizing. As a leader, you’ll be privy to information others won’t be. So finding out what level of transparency your team expects from you is an important factor in how, what, and when you communicate to your team.


4. HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO USE OUR ONE-ON-ONE TIME?

Every one-on-one meeting is different. While one team member may come to you with a list of updates and specific actions they need you to take, others may use the time to brainstorm solutions to a certain problem, while still others may arrive with no agenda at all. You can certainly find out your team members’ preferences by experience, but asking this question up front encourages them to think more intentionally about your time together, and how you can best support them.

5. HOW DO YOU LIKE TO RECEIVE PRAISE?

You expect your team to do great work–so how do they like to be celebrated when they do? Here, too, everyone you manage will be different. Where one person might love public recognition, another may cringe in the spotlight and prefer one-on-one or even written praise. Check in with them early on to avoid inadvertently embarrassing your direct reports.


 

6. HOW DO YOU LIKE TO RECEIVE CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK?

Feedback is essential to your direct reports’ growth, and it’s your job to help them improve in big ways and small. But depending on the person, feedback can be something they dread or something they hunger for. It may be something they prefer to hear in real time, or something they’d rather get after the fact so there’s time to reflect on it. There are many ways to deliver critical feedback. If you’re not sure what the best approach is for your direct reports, just ask.

7. ANYTHING I SHOULD KNOW ABOUT YOUR WORKING STYLE?

Working styles are highly individualized. Some people prefer meetings in the afternoons and thinking time in the morning. Others value getting home early enough to put their kids to bed. Where one direct report may crave structure, another may seek opportunity in chaos. What does it take for your team to do their best work? Ask your direct reports to self-reflect so you can identify what it takes to help them feel happy and productive.

8. WHAT EXPERIENCES MAKE YOU HAPPY AT WORK?

Which environments, situations, or projects get your team riled up? Do they enjoy projects that draw notice from elsewhere in the organization, or would they rather focus on work that makes an impact outside of the spotlight? Do they prefer to collaborate, or to keep their heads down to get the job done? Knowing these preferences early on helps you figure out which projects, staffing, meetings, or even desk areas best align with the types of things that make your direct reports happiest at work.

9. WHAT EXPERIENCES MAKE YOU STRESSED OR FRUSTRATED AT WORK?

On the flip side, what drains them? What makes one person jazzed can cause serious stress for another. For instance, too much socializing can be challenging for more introverted types on your team; too much solo work can make your more extroverted direct reports feel isolated. Knowing what triggers stress in the people you manage can help you avoid potentially frustrating scenarios before things get out of hand.

10. WHAT ARE SOME THINGS YOU’RE HOPING I CAN HELP WITH?

As a leader, you may have a mental list of your strengths and be ready to share them with your team. But the strengths you see in yourself may be different from the strengths your direct reports see in you–or the ones they need from you.

For instance, if relationship-building comes naturally to you, you may take it for granted (“that’s just who I am”)–but someone on your team may see and admire that quality in you, and hope to learn from you in that area. On the other hand, if you know you’re a strong presenter, you might be inclined to teach others that skill, too, when unbeknownst to you, what they really want your help in is running more effective meetings and setting better agendas. Asking this question helps you understand the delta between the help you’re preparing to offer and the help your team members are hoping to gain.

Needless to say, while these questions can be helpful, they’re just a humble start to getting to know your team. They’re not enough to replace your long-term efforts to build strong relationships with the people you manage. That takes time, but with this 10-question “intake form,” so to speak, you can get a running start on a process that might take other managers weeks or even months to begin.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ximena Vengoechea is a design researcher, writer, and illustrator whose work on personal and professional development has been published in Inc., Newsweek, and the Huffington Post. She currently works at Pinterest as a qualitative researcher.

I’d really like to ask Zimena about her job at Pinterest, perhaps that will be a future column … enjoy your day, and eat your vegetables!

You May Remember These 6 Advertising Campaigns That Actually Hurt Sales

For all of you who have been in a high energy brainstorming media where the idea is taking shape and your intuition is saying “there is something wrong with this”, I encourage you to follow your gut and say something before your team goes off the deep end.  

This well done article by Paul Suggett copied below, ran on thebalance.com website (full link below) and is an excellent review of moments when someone in the room MUST have said in their gut… “this is not good”.  Be sure you are the one in the rooming asking the question “Is there any reason the audience will NOT love this commercial?”.

Advertising has a number of jobs to do. It has to create awareness about a product, service, or brand. It can also add value to a product, making it more desirable. For instance, there is very little difference between the three major light beer brands, Coors Light, Miller Light, and Bud Light, as far as flavor goes. Consumers are buying the brand, which is built from advertising. And advertising also should inform. Here’s what this product or service does, and does well.

But by far the greatest role advertising plays is to increase sales. No advertising agency would ever pitch a campaign that knowingly hurt sales, or did not move the sales curve in the right direction. It would be suicide. However, ad campaigns fail all the time. And sometimes…they fail hard. Here are six of the biggest advertising fails that actually made the sales figures drop.

 1. Kenyan Runner – Just For Feet

Just For Feet
 Just For Feet. Brightcove

It’s hard to know where to start with this abomination, shown during the 1999 Super Bowl. Put out there are part of a $7 million campaign that would actually give away a brand-new Hummer (remember those?), this 30-second spot was offensive on so many levels. For a start, the spot opens with a bunch of white hunters, in a Hummer of course, getting ready to hunt down a barefoot black Kenyan runner.

You read that correctly. White men hunting a black man. If that scenario was pitched at any meeting anywhere in America, the response would almost certainly be “stop right there, that’s awful!” But the Just For Feet marketing team liked it. After that, the men offer the runner a cup of drugged water, which he drinks, and passes out. Then they force a pair of sneakers onto his feet, and drive away. To add insult to injury, the runner is yelling “no! no!” and shaking his feet. Because he can’t figure out how to untie shoelaces. The response was unprecedented.

Chuck McBride, creative director of Wieden + Kennedy at that time, couldn’t believe what he was seeing. “The minute I saw it, I immediately went ‘Oh, shit,’ and I went, ‘This can’t go on.’ I just couldn’t believe that they had done this.” And famed advertising critic Bob Garfield, of Advertising Age, called the ad, “neo-colonialist … culturally imperialist, and probably racist. Have these people lost their minds?” The term Just For Racists was being spouted by people across the nation, and the reaction by the public was so bad, Just For Feet tried to sue the agency responsible, Saatchi and Saatchi, for $10 million. They later dropped the suit.

Just ten months later, in November 1999, Just For Feet filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, due to a combination of poor sales and accounting fraud. And by February 2000, Footstar Inc. purchased the Just For Feet name and the leases of 70 of its stores. Still, the damage had been done, and in 2004 Just For Feet stores closed forever.

The Spongemonkeys – Quiznos

Quiznos
 Quiznos. YouTube

What do you get when you cross a delicious toasted sandwich with a weird-looking hamster-thing with bizarre teeth and no singing voice? Well, not surprisingly, you get a campaign that puts sales of those toasted treats into the toilet. And the ad agency that did them, The Martin Agency, should have known better.

This was clearly a case of jumping on an internet bandwagon without really doing your homework. The original piece that The Martin Agency adapted was called “We Love The Moon,” created for the site rathergood.com. It’s bizarre. It’s funny. It’s shareable. But…does it pair well with a food product? Do you look at those weird things and think they should be the pitchmen for a sub? Someone at The Martin Agency did. This was the result…and it was a disaster.

Although the ads got a ton of buzz, no one felt hungry after watching them. Before the little singing rodent creations, the ads for Quiznos concentrated on the toasted quality of the sandwiches, and had mouth-watering shots of the melted cheese coming out from the toaster. Sure, the rodent spots had some nice shots at the end, but the main takeaway was Quiznos = weird rat things. Sales plummeted. Store managers everywhere complained. The ads were quickly pulled.

However, despite the awful performance of the ads, they are still beloved by people around the world.

Alka Seltzer
 Alka Seltzer. YouTube

You may be shocked to learn that one of the most memorable, and funny, ads of the modern advertising era was a failure, but it was. That’s a spicy meatball…but not a spicy result.

Now, the ad itself is fantastic. It’s creative. It’s wonderfully acted. It’s clever. It’s a wonderful piece of branding. What’s not to love? It has been featured on ad round-ups for decades, and that, in part, makes us all think it was a great ad. But, it did not help Alka Seltzer sell a lot of product. In fact, sales dropped.

The problem was partly due to the timing. The ad was ahead of its time. Remember, the ad revolution that started in the 1960s, aided by some fantastic work by DDB, was still evolving. The consumer had been brought up on ads that said “hey, buy this product, it’s great, here’s what it does, here’s a picture of it, and another, and here’s someone using it.” Smart ads with plot, and humor, were in short supply. And the 1969 Alka Seltzer spot spent almost all of the ad talking about meatballs and spaghetti sauce. So, the audience went out and bought meatballs and spaghetti sauce, and not boxes of Alka Seltzer.  More 

Energizer Bunny
 Energizer Bunny. YouTube

You no doubt know the ad campaign in question. A pink toy rabbit banging a drum comes on the screen, and walks from one side to the other. It goes on and on an on. The first Energizer Bunny ad featured a hoard of pink toy rabbits banging drums, parodying a famous ad done by Duracell in 1983. And what did that feature? A bunch of pink rabbits banging drums. The one with the Duracell battery lasted the longest.

Think about that for a second. At the time, Duracell was huge. Some bright spark decided that the best way to differentiate the Energizer battery from Duracell was to mimic, almost to the letter, its famous ad. They even used the same pink color. When you see the ad, you think Duracell. It doesn’t matter what the voice over it telling you.

People naturally got confused. After all, one pink bunny looks very much like another, and Duracell had already firmly established itself as “that battery that makes the pink bunny last the longest.” So, when it came time to buy batteries, people went with Duracell way more than Energizer. All the additional Energizer Bunny battery ads only served to strength their competitor’s brand. There was even a study done about this, examining the negative impact of repeating similar brand claims. So, despite the ad being wildly popular, 40% of the people who saw it thought it was a Duracell ad. Energizer sales actually went down.

Recently, the Energizer Bunny was featured in a serious of new ads, using a digitally-animated pink bunny. Perhaps now, many many years after the original Duracell ad has faded from memory, the Energizer Bunny can finally own the space. It’s hard to recall a Duracell ad, and the Energizer Bunny has definitely earned a place in pop culture.

Holiday Inn
 Holiday Inn. YouTube

Back in 1997, Holiday Inn locations underwent over $1 billion in renovations. Now that’s a fact worth bragging about, and to do it, Holiday Inn ran a spot called Bob Johnson during the Super Bowl. It turned out to be so offensive to people that it had to be pulled from the air after just a few days.

What was so bad about it? Well, let’s start with the content of the ad. It features a beautiful woman walking through a class reunion, while a snarky male voiceover tells you about the cosmetic surgery she’s had over the years. “New nose, $6,000. Lips, $3,000. New chest, $8,000.” So, right there you can see the tone being set. Then we see the woman talk to that guy who played Kenny Bania on Seinfeld. He struggles to place her, before finally realizing she used to be a he. It’s Bob Johnson. His face is one of confusion and disbelief – and not in a good way. And then the VO says, “It’s amazing the changes you can make with a few thousand dollars; imagine what Holiday Inns will look like when we’ve spent a billion.”

Immediately, the LGBTQ community was appalled. To make light of a life-changing event in such a crass way was tone deaf. The calls of complaint jammed the lines. But, aside from the awful ad, it was the focus that was wrong, too. Holiday Inns are known for great service, comfort, and convenience. But on this crass ad, they spent a ton of money on cosmetic changes, and they didn’t even show them. And here’s something else to ponder; will the customers who go to a Holiday Inn react as negatively as this guy did when he saw his old high school buddy Bob? A massive fail that did nothing but tarnish the hotel’s image.

California Raisins
 
A quick Google search for California Raisins yields almost 1.5 million results. Clearly, they had an impact and people remember them. The ads took some classic Motown and rock hits, and paired them with some Emmy-award winning stop motion animation. They even had a Billboard Hot 100 hit. And if you saw Straight Outta Compton recently, they were mentioned in that movie. What’s not to love, right? Well, The California Raisin Board had plenty of reasons to grumble.

The first issue was that the funky little raisin characters were not exactly attractive. A wrinkly rabbit dropping with arms and legs is hardly a great way to advertise a food product. But the bigger issue was that the characters and songs overshadowed the actual product. People were digging the ads, and loving the music and the charm of it all. But, they did not go out in droves and buy boxes of raisins. The ads didn’t really do anything to inform people about the uses of raisins, the nutritional benefit, or anything else. Instead, people just took away some cute singing raisin creatures and bought their records.

The campaign proved to be popular, and sales did increase slightly while the campaign ran. But, the price to do the production was exorbitant, costing the CRB almost twice their annual earnings. And when the ads were pulled from the air, sales actually dropped. Needless to say, this is another case of “nice ad, shame about the results.”

To see the California Raisins song on YouTube, click here

Full article:  https://www.thebalance.com/advertising-campaigns-that-actually-hurt-sales-4148155?utm_campaign=smbinfo&utm_medium=email&utm_source=cn_nl&utm_content=10421234&utm_term=

How much do you love your work? This simple question can tell you.

Would you?

Would you clean the toilet if a big client or VIP was coming and the bathroom needed cleaning?

Imagine an important person–a client, a potential hire, an investor, someone you wanted to impress — is coming to the office.  You discover the bathroom needs cleaning, and there’s no time to call someone else to clean it.

When you feel that sense of ownership, when something has to be done and no one else will do it, you do it.

When there’s no alternative, would you tackle the toilet and clean the bathroom?

What it takes to succeed

Why?

Because paying attention to details and having passion for the entire mission is what it takes to succeed.

Because when the meaning of your work is your vision, everything you do is a part of realizing that vision. If that means running across town at 2am because that’s the only place still open to drop off a proposal or make the copies you need, you do it.

The important part is the sense of ownership and vision.

Meaning and purpose

Does the work’s meaning and purpose come from inside or does the work require big external incentives?

What you’ll clean the bathroom for means a project and result you care about, even love. What you have to be paid a lot of money for or you won’t do it… how much can you love it?

Would you clean the bathroom for your work?

If not, and not that you’d enjoy it, but do you wish you loved your work so much that you would?

Leadership and instilling ownership

If you lead a team, can you give your teammates such a sense of ownership that they’d do what it took to get the job done?

If you weren’t a team leader, do you think if you had the skills to inspire that passion in your teammates that you’d become a leader?

 

With thanks to INC magazine, written by Joshua Spodek, author of ‘Leadership Step by Step’.

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