Start Up Blog

How a new brand can gain trust

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on February 25, 2014

This post by Seth Godin got me thinking about how to generate trust when we are a new brand or startup on the block. Here is what I think:

Building trust is simple. Create stories by doing things which exceed expectations. One customer at a time. When we do it, they share their good fortune to have done business with us. Trust never comes from the brand owner, but the interactions with the brand recipients. They then deliver that trust to others who buy the brand off them metaphorically. Thought they’d get X and they got X+1. They tell people about their win. We win by being generous.

Startup blog says: Generosity is the fulcrum of trust.

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Being friends with breakfast cereal is over

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on February 18, 2013

Attracting and serving fans has been a past time of brands for the past few years on Facebook. To the point where the accumulation itself became the objective. And while I keep looking for the cracks to appear in Facebook it seems to be able to continue to grow despite its huge size. Maybe the barriers to exit the service are too high for consumers to leave? Maybe the FOMO and connectedness matters too much? But one thing I am sure of is how I feel about it personally, and from a marketing perspective.

It made sense at first: After the 50 years of the top down TV industrial complex – a period when we got told and sold, it was novel to have a direct connection with the brands. To be able to talk to the big brands in town felt good. For once our opinion was more than a letter or ‘non caring’ customer service 1800 agent. I mean they had to care, it was all on display for everyone to see. A poor response from any brand would result in a digital lynch mob attack. Finally we had the respect we deserved as the supporters of the brands. It was the connection we always wanted. It seemed to make sense for both parties. So we all connected in every way we could – and filled our digital dance card.

Then we discovered we didn’t have much in common: Both us and the brands struggled with our new found direct connection, our co-operative digital love affair. We’d read each others stuff, try and be loyal to each other and support the give and take element in this new world. We even designed new products together, made advertisements for each other and really embraced the new tools we were afforded. But it got kinda boring. I mean how many conversations can we have about breakfast cereal, tomato sauce and canned tuna? So the brands took their lessons and got wise. They realised that they had to live a layer outside of what they sold in order to create value beyond what they actually sold. They realised they had become a resource and knowledge bank in related realms to thrive in a social world. So cereal became about diet and health. Frozen meals became about a life well lived and what’s on in the city and dish washing liquid became about tricks and tips around the house. The campaigns and related brand pages sprouted like mushrooms And all this worked out pretty well…..for a while.

Until it became a spam fest: At first, we got useful information and respected and rewarded brands in the process. So brands did what brands do. More of what works, and copied those who did it first and best. The great likenomics battle of 2010 and beyond…. Until everyone’s feed was so full of junk – it became like the letter box we have no joy in opening – A letter box just filled with flyers, bills and credit card offers. The dance floor wss too full, the music was too loud. In a social media marketing sense it is the equivalent of 3am and we all just want to get some sleep already. We are over it. I don’t think I am exaggerating here, it is probably how most of us feel right now. And I haven’t even touched on all the people we said ‘yes’ to on facebook, who we haven’t seen since grade school. Like I said, it was interesting and novel at the start, but it is very difficult to care for the babies of someone you have seen in decades.

So now I’m done: Yes, there are some brands I love. Some whose products and services really matter to me. But it is certain that none of these brands ever find their way into my shopping trolly, are my finance provider or power my home. Yes, non of them are boring products from the industrial era. The only brands I play with and want to converse with are those I spend my spare time with. That’s my current definition of where I draw the line on being ‘friends’ with a corporation. And I really think it’s over for most brands trying to make their way in the social sphere – even though the numbers and analysis on brand engagement on social forums probably don’t show it yet.

Yes, brands need social: It is foolish to think that brands shouldn’t be in social media, or use the tools. It is the first place we’ll go to find them – their facebook page, or find their twitter handle. And you can be certain we’ll want an answer within seconds. It is the new call centre and probably alot of other things as well. What it isn’t, and wont ever be, is part of peoples social life. I’m betting people will gravitate back to saving that for other humans.

It’s in our make up: There only so many relationships we can have in life. Whether they are people or personified brands, we are genetically programmed to only be able to manage so many interactions. Dunbars number is the simplest way to explain this phenomenon. It’s a basic safety mechanism that ensures stability and safety, and it’s what will drive us back to a limited number of social interactions (physical & virtual).

Brands need to know where they belong: The key element to all this is knowing where we belong in peoples lives. I’m far more likely to interact with a brand that I invest my spare time with. The brands that play in my passion space. The other brands I am happy to purchase, need to understand that they are associates, micro interactions, whom I do not have time for or want dealings with outside of what they thing they actually deliver.

It’s time everyone (brands & people) realised where they belong, and took a human approach to our connections. If everyone tries to maximise social connections simply because the gates have been opened, we’ll end up with closed doors and reduced potential for trust with the connections we actually want to have.

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Advocacy

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on August 7, 2012

We don’t create advocates, we are advocates and then others join in and follow. Our social mission should define what we sell. If we attach a social cause to what we already sell, then we have got it back to front.

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Fan Culture

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 31, 2012

In the early years we had ‘customers’.

Then we invented demographics and started using that horrible word ‘consumers’.

We went on line and started talking about ‘users’. (Sound like drug addicts to me)

I rather prefer the word people….

But if we do really well we might even develop some fans. And fans are what we should be aiming for. This doco below on fan culture looks interesting. I’d be keen to know if anyone has seen it. I even hear Sean the Sports Geek might even be in it…

And before you watch this trailer it’s worth having think about the things, people, ideas and brands that you are a fan of and why. There are some nice clues in this thought experiment.

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Brand Play

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 2, 2012

I am seriously in love with the Google maps 8 bit – bit for April fools day. So much so, that immediately after I write this post I will be going to Google maps to get my street and suburb (Yarraville) in screen shots in their 8 Bit version. You should too.

And by the way – brands that know how to play are brands that win. Especially in a startup world.

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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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Non Products

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on December 24, 2011

Today I noticed an outdoor advertisement for the local lotto here in Australia.

Their New Years Eve lotto draw: 31 Million Megadraw. Cleverly placed on the 31st of December.

It got me thinking about what people are really buying. I don’t think it is the chance to win. I don’t even think people are buying into hope. I think people are outsourcing their worries – they are buying the right to imagine what it could be like.

There are a lot of what I call non-products that people buy. Products and services which have no ‘real utility’. In this instance, lotto, they have bought some time to imagine the possibilities. But in some ways we could do this without the ticket… because the reality is we are not going to win.

I wonder what other Non Products fit into this category?

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My dad’s chevy

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on December 6, 2011

Every now and again a brand crosses the chasm. A brand goes from being a thing, to being an emotional ingredient. These moments are usually personal, they are hard to capture and share. But occasionally it is captured, and it takes us to an entire new understanding of what is possible when we create things with the end user in mind. In this instance, the car was first created with driver in mind. And then, the acquisition was created with a dad in mind.

Another example of great narrative that would not be possible in the limited media of yesteryear. What a beautiful brand story to share – Kudos to all involved.

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The Service Shift

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 26, 2011

I recently tweeted something that, I think deserves a more detailed explanation:

This is true for a few reasons.

A direct world: all customers can and will contact brand controllers directly. Information services and direct brand channels such as twitter mean that customers deserve and expect direct answers and interaction. Something only traditional service companies would once provide.

The manufacturing gap: Every year the chasm between between brands and manufacturing is widening. In fact, many of the worlds most adored brands don’t make what they sell. They either design and direct (eg Apple) or only make information (Facebook / Google). In fact consumer manufacturing stalwarts like Kraft and Proctor & Gamble produce far less than they ever have. The gap between makers and marketers will only continue to widen. And require traditional brand owners to become more service oriented in the process.

The virtual replacing the physical: Increasingly we are making and selling virtual goods. Goods that are consumed intellectually. Think video games – and then think far wider. Just because we can’t touch something, it does not mean it doesn’t provide significant utility. Paid for mobile apps and software are great examples, as is music in digital format. The CD only provided utility in that it delivered the music, nothing more.

Recently Marc Andresseen, was quoted as saying ‘Software is eating everything’ which is a very important statement. The shift is happening, and even if we still make stuff – increasingly our service orientation will be how we win.

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