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Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices

Monday, April 24, 2017

Dia&Co Chief Answers 4 Questions For Marketing Innovators

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CMO.com
Nadia Boujarwah is the co-founder and CEO of Dia&Co, an in-home shopping experience for women who wear sizes 14 and up. A lifelong fashionista, Boujarwah founded the company on the belief that style can act as a catalyst for self-love. Prior, she worked as an investment banker at Perella Weinberg Partners, and most recently served as COO and CFO of New York-based jewelry brand Frieda and Nellie.
Also of note, Boujarwah was the first Kuwaiti woman to graduate from Harvard Business School; she also holds a BSc in economics from the University of Pennsylvania.
Boujarwah recently participated in our "4 Questions for Marketing Innovators" series.
1. What is one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?
I’m obsessed with the importance of a strong brand promise. Before setting any marketing strategy, you must have a crystal-clear articulation of your commitment to the customer—and I highly recommend putting it in writing. At Dia&Co, ours is: “We promise to understand her better than anyone else will. We put her first, always.”
By codifying your commitment, you not only clarify the most foundational elements of your strategy for yourself, you also clarify it for your team. Put your brand promise at the end of every internal email. Put it on a sticky note on your laptop. Put it on your office walls. At the end of the day, upholding the brand promise is each employee’s most important job responsibility, and teams become much more aligned when that’s made explicitly clear.
Moreover, in my experience, teams also become more invested when they know that they’re part of a collective promise to the customer. It creates a powerful bond and a true sense of accountability. It becomes a part of the culture. “Earn the trust you are given” is one of our core values at Dia&Co—and it’s one that was suggested by our employees.
This core value has also become an intrinsic part of our hiring process. The one non-negotiable trait that all prospective employees must have is a commitment to our customer. We screen for that qualification explicitly; it’s built into our interview rubrics. Protecting and nurturing that internal culture is an imperative.
2. Why is this so important?
Our goal is to be the beloved brand in the lives of our customers. In a world with more and more options, only a singular focus on her makes this possible.
You earn loyalty from a customer the same way you earn loyalty from a friend: by building trust. To build trust with your customer, you must understand her better than anyone else will, you must clearly communicate the value that you will bring to her, and you must consistently exceed her expectations.
3. How can this improve the customer experience?
The process of defining your brand promise requires you to go beyond the data and to connect with your customer on a human level. I believe it’s critical for any B2C business to stay focused on the human need they serve. What sometimes gets lost in personalization is the person. It’s important to remember your customers are humans, driven by deep needs and desires, as we all are. To create successful personas, you need more than observations of behaviors. Your personas should be supported in data, yes, but more importantly, they should be rooted in the psychographics of your customer and the emotional benefit you are providing.
It may sound obvious, but it’s worth stating: To connect with your customers on a human level, you have to actually meet them. One way our team committed to this was by embarking on a six-city listening tour, where we traveled around the country to meet our customers and hear what they wanted from us, what was providing value, and where they thought we could improve. Listening is at the core of our business and the secret to providing unparalleled service. When a brand takes the time to understand you and treat you like a cherished friend, it creates a meaningful and positive connection.
This approach acknowledges that the most powerful customer experiences are rarely functional. The products we love most are products that have a real emotional benefit that we come to depend on.
4. How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
Focus begets success. Ultimately, the power of knowing your customer deeply and putting a fine point on the value you are committed to delivering is twofold: It allows you to make better decisions, and it allows you to move more quickly.
We all make dozens of judgment calls a day. Take some of the guesswork out of success by doing the most valuable work with your customer up front.
Bonus Question: What is your favorite activity outside of work?
In my free time, I love catching a spin class and cooking. My current dish of choice is a cauliflower rice risotto. It’s so delicious you won’t miss the real stuff!
For additional Marketing Innovator stories, click here.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Stop (ONLY) Marketing To Millennials

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CustomerThink.com
“There’s both ageism in our culture and ageism in our profession of marketing. But some of it’s not even malicious ageism. Some of it is just, ‘I want my brand to feel young and modern and youthful, and the only way to do that is to be targeting it to the young and modern and youthful.’ But that’s simplistic thinking.” This according to Denise Fedewa, Executive Vice President/Strategy Director, Leo Burnett.”
Many marketers have invested significant portions of their budget chasing the millennial consumer. But, here’s a fact that might make some rethink that strategy. According to DataMentors, while Millennials do make up the largest generation today (86 Million), Baby Boomers still take second place (77 Million.)
If marketers are putting all their chips on Millennials, they could be in for a surprising loss when they realize just how much they are leaving on the table by excluding other demographic groups in their marketing mix and messaging.
But marketers are just not marketing to this lucrative “older” consumer: “[Baby Boomers] can sustain and be a strong driver of the consumer economy over the next five to ten years especially the upper-income households. They have the money to spend. It’s a different mindset …now saying, I’ve got to spend it while I’m here,” says Doug Hermanson, principal economist at Kantar Retail.
  • The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) calculates that less than 15% of firms have developed a business strategy focused on the elderly.
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit found that only 31% of firms took increased longevity into account when making plans for sales and marketing.
  • A report by the McKinsey Global Institute points out that older consumers are one of the few engines of growth in an otherwise sluggish global economy.
  • According to DMN3, online research shows an overwhelming 82.3% of Boomers belong to at least once social networking site and over half of Boomers who use social networking sites will visit a company website or continue their search on a search engine as a result of seeing something on social media
According to Morgan Stanley, “As consumers age, their spending increases, with the U.S. consumer’s peak earnings, spending, and investing years between ages 35 and 55. Boomer generation will still maintain enormous spending muscle. In the next two decades, spending by Americans over 50 is projected to increase by 58%, whereas spending by Americans 25-50 will grow by 24%…”
In learnings from 15,000+ hours of VoC research interviews, consumers have told us again and again that they want needs-based personalization that connects with them at a human and genuine level. To develop relationships with all consumers, marketers need to devise personalization that drives engagement by increasing conversion rates and return visits because the consumer feels that the brand understands them. But unfortunately for many age brackets, this is not the case.
“Most of the female baby boomers feel as if marketers don’t really understand them, and they’re not making a really strong, concerted effort to speak to them as an individual,” says Dave Austin, managing director of marketing agency Influent50 “There’s this misnomer that boomers are not… digital-savvy, which is just not true. They’re one of the first generations to use technology in every portion of their life.”
However, a savvy few companies have tapped into the digital-loving Baby Boomer market, such as Stitch, an online dating, activity and travel community for those over 50. According to founder, Marcie Rogo, “[Boomers are] brand loyal. This is what I love about them. They like the real talk. If they trust you as a brand, they will stay with you. They’re not going to hop around like millennials.”
L’Oreal has recently announced that it has added 69 year old actress, Susan Sarandon, to its roster of over 50 brand ambassadors for its beauty product line, which has made a choice to have a representative from each generation to portray their message that beauty ‘transcends age’. In their “senior marketing” the company notes that their new brand ambassadors, “embody the new kind of radiant 60-something women.”
TakeAways:
1. Millennials represent significant buying power, but they are not the only ones. When marketers put most of their marketing eggs in one demographic basket they are missing opportunities and revenue from other segments that feel the brand does not want their business.
2. Marketers must make the effort to understand the needs, actions, and buying patterns of every demographic group.
3. Marketing needs to “speak” to consumers in a voice that is both authentic and genuine. If the message is stereotypical, consumers have no reason to identify with a brand they feel does not accurately understand their needs or lifestyle.
One of the key lines from Madonna’s Billboard “Woman of the Year” acceptance speech was, “The most controversial thing I’ve done is stick around.” Marketers have fallen in love with the pursuit of a digital demographic at the exclusion of other demographic age groups. Now, the key is for marketers to see past the obvious to gain a deeper understanding that all age groups are digital—and have big buying power.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Your Data Is Your Strategic Firewall Against Competition

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CMO.com
“Rivals cannot unlock or simulate your data. Data is the defensible barrier—not algorithms.” These are the words of Andrew Ng of Chinese search giant Baidu in a recent New York Times article.
The article also stated: “For decades, dominance in the technology industry was based on software or hardware. Now it is increasingly based on who owns the best data.”
Data Is A Competitive Advantage—If Used To Improve Customer Experience
Data is the competitive differentiator in terms of preference-driven customer experience and personalization. It is also a strategic firewall against competition.
Your competition cannot duplicate or simulate your data. But data sitting idly in your servers or used only for sales messaging will not catapult your company to the next level. It is the customer insights in your data that are your competitive uniqueness. Success will be based not only on the quality of data, but its creative utilization.
In an Infosys whitepaper, “Transforming Big Data Analytics into a Competitive Advantage for Insurers,” it was noted: “Having access to rich sources of data and using that data to enable effective decision-making are two separate aspects.”
Per VoC research conducted by our firm, today’s personalization is broken. It relies on implicit data, i.e., web browsing behavior, data mined from social media, data modeling, and purchase-based behaviors. These are not providing the necessary depth of information to drive relevant communications and offers. As a result, most attempts at personalization simply do not drive the expected increases in response.
Marketers must now make a profound shift and move to human data, which is based on explicit, self-profiled, opt-in preference data. Human data personalization is unique in that it lends itself to segmentation based on self-described personality types, attitudes, and life stages. Human data-based personalization is consistently driving double-digit response rates.
New Data Collaboration Partnerships Are Essential
The acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft was an innovative strategic data-based move. With the acquisition, Microsoft can now leverage the approximately 467 million names in LinkedIn’s database to market its products, such as Office 365. According to Bill Phillips, vice president business applications at Microsoft, the LinkedIn database along with other sources “will power a set of insights that we think is unprecedented.”
Realizing the importance of the data it has mined, Progressive Insurance joined forces with European insurance company The Generali Group to enter into a research and development collaboration to improve their individual data analytics capabilities.
“Collaborating internationally with Generali allows us to further expand and deepen our customer insights,“ said Pat Callahan, personal lines president of Progressive Insurance. And Valter Trevisani, chief insurance officer of Generali, said: “The collaboration with Progressive allows Generali to accelerate the execution of the strategy in regards to connected insurance and advanced analytics.”
Advanced Human Data: The Ultimate Tool For Preference And Customization
In a McKinsey & Company report, the following points were noted:
  • “Advanced data analytics is a means to an end. It’s a discriminating tool to identify, and then implement, a value-driving answer. And you’re much likelier to land on a meaningful [answer] if you’re clear on the purpose of your data.”
  • “The impact of big data analytics is often manifested by ... incrementally small improvements. If an organization can atomize a single process into its smallest parts and implement advances where possible, the payoffs can be profound.”
There is a consumer expectation gap between what consumers want delivered and what is actually being presented to them. In findings from our own VoC research, we have identified the following requirements:
  • Marketers must rethink data strategies to provide “smart” personalization that goes past short-term implicit data to long-term, relationship-building human data.
  • Every department and channel must respect customer preferences.
  • B2B and B2C customers are willing to provide trusted brands with deep business and personal information in exchange for more personalized offers and communications.
Sportswear manufacturer Adidas has committed to improving customer relationships by merging previously siloed data to enable the company to move away from atomistic bits of data to an interconnected 360-degree approach. Per senior project manager Sokratis Kartelias, the data overhaul uses “shared metadata service to deliver the most compelling, relevant, and relatable content to the right consumers. The company plans to do this by processing their consumers’ responses database to continually update personalization to be as relevant as possible.”
For years, data was something collected and used primarily for outbound sales. Recently, marketers are expanding the vast possibilities that human data provides for customer insights, product development, new channels of engagement, deep-level personalization, and so much more. This high-value data will help propel your business to the next level and serve as a formidable firewall against competition.