Start Up Blog

Brand in decline – Qantas

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 5, 2012

I’ve been loyal to Qantas for a very long time. Initially because it was superior (certainly in the post Ansett environment) more recently because of irrational reasons and lack of choice. These days are now officially over. But rather than bore you with the number of brand fails I have had to endure, I’ll share with you the catalyst event which has now resulted in my decision.

Qantas regards itself as a full service airline. For these reasons I have been a loyal brand user – to the point where I have become a Gold Frequent Flyer. The bundle of benefits included features like high frequency of flights, safety record (although that is questionable now), lounge access at airports, on board service, on board entertainment, a global alliance flying scheme to name a few things.

When traveling on business I really like knowing I will get a meal when leaving directly from work, time is limited and it is one less thing I need to think about. It was good to know my 7pm flight two days ago included ‘Dinner‘ pre-flight as can be seen below. So there can be no disputing, what Qantas believe they are providing.

Unfortunately when dinner arrived – it didn’t quite meet my expectations.

In fact, I feel insulted by Qantas that they call this dinner. It’s plan rude. If you asked someone out for dinner – would you buy them a sandwich? If you had people over for dinner, would you give them a sandwich?

When you insult customers they eventually take their business elsewhere.

This decision to save less than $5 on a hot dinner has resulted in Qantas losing my $25,000 I spend on air tickets per year. As now I will fly Virgin Australia domestically (now full service with decent lounges) and Singapore Airlines when going overseas (who are now linked to Virgin in Frequent Flyer schemes).

Yes, by trying to save $5, Qantas have just lost $25,000 from a Gold frequent Flyer.

For me it comes down to brand promise. It isn’t that I want too much, but what I do want what the brand promises me. And when the brand attempts to deceive, or save cost against their promise – that is when I look to other providers.

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An advertising lullaby

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on December 29, 2010

Some more brilliance from George Carlin. For marketers and entrepreneurs alike it’s a great reminder of the value of language and how that can be used to create a benefit perception in peoples minds. Although, I’d recommend the picture we create is one of authenticity. Enjoy!

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Simultaneous radness

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on December 22, 2010

So how do we leverage a human revolution from a commercial perspective? It’s a big question. And even though the web has gone a long way in deconstructing power bases,  business and human evolution are still inextricably linked. So I thought I’d post a few things that matter in a digital world so all players (people and commerce) can create value for each other simultaneously.

Rules of engagement

  1. Authenticity pays. Be real, don’t pretend to be something, or someone your not. Brand respect comes from understanding the rules and respecting the on line world as the real world and vice versa.
  2. Speak with a human voice. We don’t listen to Corpi-speak. We listen to voices from people. We ten must personify our brands.
  3. Engage the crowd. They own our brands. You want proof. When they stop feeding our brand (buying) it dies. We must pay the respect the real brand owners deserve. It’s always been this way, but we didn’t know…. because we couldn’t hear their voices. Now they they have a voice, we must act on it. We have to let our people hijack our brands. User Generated Content and Crowd Sourcing is where it’s at.
  4. Compound effort. Benefits take longer to garner in the new world. It’s not like the old days of a large media campaign with instant results. We are moving from a low human capital, high financial capital environ, to a large human capital, low financial capital world.
  5. Learn on the job – it can’t be strategized. It’s too unorganized and changeable… the web is humanity in digital form. Then they only way to play is to embrace the chaos and be part of the conversation. It can’t be justified to a board room, but the companies and brands who choose not to play will be wondering what happened a few short years from now.

Most of all, have fun doing it.

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The authentic phone message challenge

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 16, 2010

I’ll start by saying the concept of getting customers to “hold” on a telephone is a pretty bad idea. Then I’ll tell this story….

Today I was on hold for Optus telecommunications, which gave me a reasonably standard phone message:

“Your call is important to us. At this time we experiencing high demand for our telephone support staff, and we’ll be with you as quickly as we can. Please hold the line for the first available operator.”

Here’s what I seriously would prefer to hear:

“We’ve made a deliberate choice to only have X number of people to answer our phones. They are incredibly expensive and having any more than this would impact our profit too much. We’ve done studies which have worked out the number of people that hang up for waiting too long, and how much revenue the average phone call generates or loses for us. The number of people employed to answer our phones is just about optimal. We check this every few months. The average wait is about 5 minutes, so it’s a cool idea to put the phone on load speaker while you wait. Then you can do other stuff. If we answer and you’re not at the phone immediately, we’ll do you the the same favour of waiting a bit while you run to the phone to talk to us once we actually answer. We hope you appreciate our honesty. We reckon it’s better than giving you a load of shit that tells you how important you are. Cheers.

And so the challenge goes out to any startup or business is prepared to develop the worlds first authentic phone message be sure to let us know here at Startup blog so we can spread the awesomeness.

There’ll also be a prize for the best comment with a phone number to a company that has a message of this ilk – and the prize is $100 Amazon gift voucher.

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Losing touch

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 5, 2010

The rock band U2 stood out in the 1980’s for many reasons. One of them was the willingness to shun to excess of the 80’s. Things like Stadium rock, over produced music, expensive film clips and overdressing. U2 had something to say, rather than something to see.

It all changed at the birth of Zoo TV with the Achtung Baby album which was a brilliant parody of the impact television had had on music politics and consumerism…. Sadly U2 have become the parody they first exposed.

Here’s some quote from Bono himself:

‘Sometime the best way to expose the lies is to live them yourself’

‘All I’ve got is a red guitar, 2 chords and the truth’

It seems his memory has failed him as their latest 360 tour includes 390 tonnes of stage production equipment, 200 tonnes of amplifiers, 248 shipping containers filled with the staging systems and requires 6 Boeing 747 freighters to transport it. They claim the band is buying carbon offsets, but the real kicker is that Bono then has the audacity to ask people to car pool to “cut down on carbon emissions”.

The whole thing just feels very wrong. It’s not the U2 I knew and loved. In many ways the stage is making up for the lack of good songs (They haven’t had a top 10 in America since 2004). Certainly, they’re DNA has changed and its reflected in their record sales which have been reduced. I preferred it when they’re stage shows were simpler, and their music better.

The lesson for startups is this:

The things that made us successful, are probably the same things that will keep us there.

How not to run a promotion – the Chef’s Hat

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 4, 2010

I had a discussion with Luke Waldren who had a very poor customer service experience from the Chef’s Hat in Melbourne. For those who don’t know, the Chef’s Hat is regardred as the premier retailer in our city for restraunters, cafe owners and hard core Foodies. They sell a range of appliances and all things related to food retailing – except for the actual food.

Luke went down to buy a a Kitchen Aid appliance, for which he knew there was a promotion at the Chef’s Hat retail store. The offer was pretty simple: Buy a Kitchen Aid blender and recieve a free Kicthen Aid knife worth $49.95. A nice bonus offer for consumers. The offer is below – which mind you is on the front page of their website.

So when Luke arrives at the cash register to pay, there is no mention of the free knife. He then proceeds to ask and says. “Hey, isn’t there a free knife that comes with the blender.” The retail assistant claims no knowledge of the promotion. But luke brings out the iPhone and shows the bonus offer straight from their website as proof. The retail assistant then asks for the manager over the load speaker to come and help. When the manager arrives this is the conversation that transpired:

Retail assistant: “Are we giving away knives with these blenders?”

Manager: “if we have to…”

The manager then leans over to a draw filled with said knives, grabs one and throws it across the table to give to Luke. As though he got caught out. As though he lost one of his precious inventory to god forbid, a customer who entered the store because of the promotion.

If you are going to run a promotion. You have to mean it.

We have to advise those who didn’t know about it. We need to share the benefit with delight. We have to share the message that we go the extra mile and create more value than our competitors. If we are going to act like we don’t really want to participate, then we shouldn’t. Or worse, if we are going to treat our customers with disdain, then we’ll end up on blogs like this spreading the bad word.

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How to run a corporate Twitter account

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 8, 2010

I was writing a guide for a social startup Abbostford Biscuits on how to approach twitter. Here’s a little snippet I thought was worth sharing for anyone wanting to embrace twitter in their company.

The twitter account should be open to all in the Abbotsford Biscuits organisation. Anyone should be allowed to tweet on behalf of the company. This is important because the aim is to share the company culture and values, so that you can build a following. The reality of any culture is that it is the amalgam of all viewpoints. If the brand twitter account is just maned by one person, then the personality will be too singular to truly display the organisations values. It also adds variety to the output and creates more interest with followers.

The team should be given a set of guidelines and then allowed to tweet as they please. This will also help with frequency of output, without impacting the general responsibility of staff and workers. They can do it on their breaks, or any time in or out of the office. The chaos of this proposed situation must be embraced or it simply wont work. For a true social media engagement control must be relinquished. The voice must be human, overtly honest and omnidirectional.

Your thoughts?

Mind your language – Hyperbole

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 25, 2009

Light, Low fat, no fat, fat free, rain forest alliance, low carb, high protein, calcium enriched, fair trade, retail partnership, heart foundation approved, recycled packing, reduced packing, no msg, low salt, low sodium, 5 star energy rating, green energy, eco, carbon offset, carbon free, carbon neutral, low sugar, no sugar, no trans fat, recycled materials, as seen on TV, television first, world premier, made for TV, made fresh, frozen fresh, real, all natural, nothing artificial, easy opening, 25% off, 10% extra, free, no added colors or flavours, diet, bite size, king size, sugar free, caffeine free, may contain nuts, dolphin safe, premium, value, gluten free, Low GI, lowers cholesterol, imported, made locally, no added sugar, made locally from imported ingredients, Australian owned, vitamin enriched, concentrated, biodegradable, recommended daily intake, enjoy responsibly….

Enough.

We’ve all read this oxymoronic language. But when we are using any of these words in our marketing we should step back and ask why?

Are we trying to ‘clean up’ our stuff?

Turns out most times people use these words to sell stuff, they are trying to ‘de-bad’ (from the startup blog dictionary) something. A banana doesn’t need any descriptors – we already know it’s biodegradable, easy opening, no artificial colors and isn’t passed it’s used by date just by looking at it. The point for startups is this – if we are using language of this ilk, we must ensure it is authentic.  If not, people will see right through it and will spread the ‘truth’ for us.

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Digital Footprints – the power of

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 25, 2009

Recently I took a photo in New York of something I thought to be particularly interesting. I uploaded it to twitpic and posted it on my twitter page. The net result was approx 100 views of the image. Here it is below:

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Fast forward 2 months and the image is ‘re-tweeted’ back to me from someone else after it has made the rounds and it now has more than 38,000 views. Holy Wow. (You can click the image to see the current view count)

How did it get 38,000+ views after only 100 people cared when I first posted it? Well the answer is simple, it’s digital, which means its footprint stays forever – the digital footprint. And when someone more influential on the web than me share’s it, it spreads in a compound fashion. Sure it got shared, call it viral, call it what you please. But the thing of true power here is the digital footprint. It wasn’t an instant in market reaction. The spreading happened 2 months after the launch. Not the day it went to air, like a TV advertisement.

The lesson for startups and marketers is simple. The real power of digital media is the footprint it leaves, the permanency, and the ability for people to catch up. This is something traditional media (newspapers, radio, billboards, Tv) just don’t have.

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Testimonials

Posted in Audience (Consumer), brands, business, entrepreneurship, Ideas, marketing, Marketing Insight, startups by Steve Sammartino on August 31, 2008

Testimonial pages are fairly predictable. Find a bunch of your best customers, get them to say something nice. Convince new customers you and your team are a bunch of trustworthy, nice people to do business with.

Problem is this: predictable = skeptical

Here’s an idea: Take a random sample of comments including ‘some’ bad. The implicit assumption here is that we have more good reviews than bad. If we don’t forget the testimonials and fix your stuff.

Once we’ve got a representative sample of testimonials including some negative what we’ve done is taken our brand into the realms of reality. Result: Increased levels of trust and reduced skepticism.

  • We are saying that we are real – we occasionally make mistakes.
  • We are saying we are honest – which is refreshing.
  • We are saying we can’t please everyone – which is authentic.

Startups out there – differentiate your self with some authenticity.

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