KPUMA Taxi Industry Tour: Reflections

Last Friday, I attended the KPUMA’s Taxi Industry Tour at the Taxi Advertising Agency in downtown Vancouver. With close to 40 students in attendance, the event was both inspiring and refreshing. The event reminded me how exciting careers in marketing communications can be.

Taxi Group Shot

The highlight of the tour for me was the discussion with the art director, account manager and planner on the client agency relationship. When I look back at my own work experience in marketing communications, the fundamentals have still not changed whether it is agency selection, hiring, creative briefing, etc. Fortunately, two of the courses that I teach – Managing the Communications Process, and Integrated Marketing Communications, cover the fundamentals that students need to know whether on the client or agency side.

I also appreciated the actual physical space that the agency operates in. Whenever I have visited advertising agencies, I’ve always felt they are at the forefront of creating a design space that inspires creativity and thought. This is food for thought for all other parts of an organization when developing their space to create an environment that fosters teamwork and great ideas.

Once again, a great event and thanks to the KPUMA for hosting and developing the event.

KPUMA Big Rock Urban Beer Brewery Tour is a Smash Sell-out!

I had the pleasure of attending the KPUMA’s most recent industry tour.
On November 12, 2015 the KPUMA hosted an industry tour with Big Rock Urban Beer Brewery in Vancouver. The event attracted 34 students in total who received insights on marketing in the competitive beverage industry here in B.C. With only 20 tickets originally for sale, attendance ultimately exceeded expectations.
Those who attended learned from knowledgeable staff about the process of making their beer product and the importance of consumer research and advertising in order to set themselves apart from the competition. Attendees also enjoyed some beer sampling, live music, and delicious food at the brewery’s onsite eatery location.
Great Beer. Great Company. Great Students. Great learning experience.Brewary Pic

Breaking: Branded Facebook content desperate for consumer engagement. #SummerAMA

The Effects of Branded Content on Consumer Engagement with Brands on Facebook
Andrew Stephen, Oxford University

Andrew Stephen is kind of blowing my mind. His research is looking at branded content on Facebook and is trying to come up with findings about what actually works.

As many of us already know, Facebook is the most popular platform for branded content. Today, it surpasses Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn. No question, it dominates this space. Marketers, however, are faced with a constant dilemma: as Andrew says, they are challenged to come up with an answer to, “how can we engage with our customers on Facebook?”

But think about this: while marketers want to get in front of an audience using the most dominant platform on the planet; consumers want to scroll past branded content as fast as they can when checking their newsfeed. Hmph. #dilemma

So, what should marketers do? Start with asking the following:

  1. What should we say?
  2. What will work best with respect to engagement?
  3. How should we say it?

Let’s now revisit what Andrew coins, “the anatomy of a branded Facebook post”:

  • text
  • link
  • hashtag
  • rich media: image or video

Next, let’s see what his research tells us about the main content characteristics of a branded post:

  • arousal (positivity and humour)
  • persuasion (relevance to the brand, clarity of message, advertising tone – conversational or persuasive?)
  • information (product related, value related, or brand related)
  • CTA (calls to engage, content entry requests)
  • references (non-brand references, holidays, pseudo-holidays)
  • media elements (Rich media, URLs)

Finally, let’s consider how the above content characteristics may affect consumer engagement with branded content on Facebook.

In other words, we should be able to answer the following: “how do consumers engage with content?”

  • likes (measure of positive attitudinal response)
  • negative comments (measure of negative attitudinal response)
  • exposure (total reach, or unique number of users served post)
  • feedback (unique number of comments)
  • WOM (unique number of shares)
  • web referrals (unique number of shares via clicks)

Fortunately for us, Andrew and his team at Oxford engaged in an extensive research study over an 18-month period where they analyzed data from 4,284 branded Facebook posts published by 9 brands across 4 industries.

Here are their main findings:

1. Persuasion-oriented content characteristics are important

  • relevance helps (stay on-brand!)
  • “over-persuasion” attempts backfire (e.g. when a post feels more like an ad)
  • less-clear messages actually helps; lower processing ability means that consumers might attend to posts more to try to understand them

2. Different types of information content work in different ways

  • just “being informative” is not enough – need to pick your goals
  • specific, product-related information can increase Likes and Reach but nothing else
  • General, brand-related information can decrease Negatives and increase Shares, but nothing else

3. Current “best practices” might not in fact be the best

  • references to holidays never matter! Nobody cares about your brand participating in “Pirate Day” after all. Go figure.
  • rich media; little evidence to suggest it makes a difference
  • calls to action: either have no effect or a negative one

4. Boosting/audience mix plays a subtle yet important role

  • content characteristics are much more important
  • only fans (e.g. instead of the wider audience) is more sensitive to post content, less forgiving of “bad behaviour” by brands, prefer brand-level information, and less responsive to rich media (this means no, you don’t always need the eye-candy, folks)

Great research for brands to follow. But will they?

Why we like Trojan “69” but hate Trojan “86”? #SummerAMA

How Associations of Products with Numbers in Brand Names Affect Consumer Attitudes
Research presented by: Timucin (“Tim”) Ozcan, Southern Illinois University

Have you ever stopped to think about why some brands use numbers in their names? No? Me neither. And that’s why we should all be thankful that someone out there, in this case Tim, is researching these implications and presenting his findings. Tim’s research looks at how the associations of products with numbers in brand names affect consumer attitudes.

Either we love them, or hate them. Let’s see why.

Think about some popular brands with numbers in the name:

Examples: 3M, 7up, BMW X5

Some of the earliest studies about products with numbers in brand names suggested that familiarity plays an important role for consumers: most of these studies, however were qualitative and lacked empirical evidence.

How numbers work

In China, lucky numbers are favourable in use with brands. For example, the number “8” means luck (compared to the dreaded number “4” which represents death). In most western cultures, number fluency leads to higher brand-liking. For example: Volvo S16, Volvo S29.

What this means to the brand manager is this: “the higher the better”. Consumers will often perceive higher numbers with superior brand attributes, ultimately leading to better perceptions.

Some examples of what that looks like: AMD64 (64 bit processing), Audi A8 (larger car than A4)

So, even though the higher alpha-numerical number could be a worst feature product, consumers don’t care! What, really? It’s true – research suggests that they still perceive them as superior products within the brand family.

Now if I was a brand manager I’d start asking myself this: “If I should use a number, how do I know what number to choose?”

Let’s look at the number “550” – it has been used in so many product categories:

  • Mercedes
  • Canon Powershot
  • Bobcat
  • Mustang
  • Nikon Coolpix
  • Yamaha DVD
  • Sony Bluray
  • and more…

This may make you want to ask, “what is the association between the brand and the number?” Well, simply put, these associations develop over time. And often, number selection is purely random, and sometimes it’s intentional and reflective of something symbolic.

Random: Levi’s – 301 (arbitrary)
Symbolic: HDTV – 1080 (pixel count)

Let’s look at the theory behind creating strong numeric-brand associations. The special sauce for determining brand-preference seems to point to 3 factors:

  1. Repeated exposure
  2. Usage frequency
  3. Cultural familiarity, personal dispositions, and semantic associations

We can then break-down the preferences into different categories which I summarize this way:

  • we like rounded numbers (10’s and 20’s) – which are familiar to us in areas of measurement such as metric, height, weight, volume, length, area
  • we like numbers that are factors of 60 – often seen in geometry, astronomy, and other sciences
  • we like numbers that are factors of 12’s – time/clocks, calendars, calling things by the “dozen”, some measurements

More often than not, the research conducted showed that numbers ending in “0” and “5” have higher use – we really like round numbers. But sometimes we like numbers that are symbolic and have cultural reference to us. Take condoms for example.

I’m serious – Trojan Condoms. In his study, Tim examined consumers’ attitudes and preference for Trojan Condoms in association with different number sets.

Trojan Condoms -”69” worked well! Of course it would, “69” has cultural reference to sexuality so this makes perfect sense.

But not 86 or 101! Those results were, er, flaccid (excuse the pun).

But guess what? Remember how much we like nice big round numbers? It turns out, Trojan “100” worked even better!

Our favourite numbers often look like this:

  • 100
  • 360
  • 24
  • 1000

One last experiment to highlight.

Everyone knows Baskin Robbins – “31” and Heinz Ketchup – “57”. Those have high familiarity because of repeated exposure. We also know these are symbolic numbers (“31 flavours”) and aren’t random.

So what would happen if we mixed these?

  • Baskin Robbins – 57
  • Heinz Ketchup – 31

Crazy, I know! Well, it turns out we hate them now. Consumers’ attitudes and preferences were much lower. But now what happens if we throw in our random but well-liked “100” alpha-numeric into the brand name?

  • Baskin Robbins – 100
  • Heinz Ketchup – 100

We love them again! Consumer preference studies showed that the “100’s” increased the chance of choice and had favourable preference.

So what does all this mean? Multi-context numbers have a real impact on consumer attitudes and preference.

Do kids matter? (hint: yes!) #SummerAMA

I’ve just listened to a session delivered by researchers from Long Island University (Tony Bao, Steven Chang, Alex Kim) entitled, An Empirical Study of Children’s Electronic Word of Mouth.

Wow. Okay, I’m not going to do this justice, but I am going to do my best to just summarize the key points.

Their study was largely driven by the following research questions:

  1. Is children’s eWOM different from that of adults?
  2. Does children’s eWOM increase business impact by increasing product sales
  3. How do receivers perceive and respond to children’s eWOM?

Looking at children’s review data on 21,283 Amazon products in book, DVD, music, and video categories (yes, amazon actually identifies which review comes from children), the researchers were able to conduct the necessary analysis to answer the above research questions.

<Data, data, crunch, crunch, model, data, more models regression, sensitivity, etc.>

Let’s look at the findings from their hard work:

  • Consumers can use children’s eWOM to help their buying decisions.
  • Companies could benefit from using children’s eWOM
  • Policy makers have a spontaneous empathetic environment towards children to work with

At the end of this, we can say with confidence that kids are smart. Kids have a homogeneous perspective about social economic decisions (we are all equal!). And, kids’ feedback is relevant and should be taken seriously by marketers.

Yay or Nay? Does using non-informative content in email marketing work. #SummerAMA

“Does non-informative content in email marketing work?”

For many online marketers this is a burning question. Maybe for you it’s not, but maybe one day it will be for your client, so listen up.

In this discussion, non-informative content includes either or both of the following:

  • the customer’s name
  • the customer’s company (employer) name

So, let’s first establish which are the most relevant email marketing outcomes that we should be paying attention to:

  • open rate (%)
  • sales leads (# and % who reply to email with intent to purchase)
  • unsubscription rate

Fortunately for us non-researchers, Pradeep Chintagunta (University of Chicago) has created the research plan, captured the data, crunched the results, and provided some results for marketing managers to ponder.

  1. Mentioning the company name in the subject line of an email message affects the outcome:
  • open rate and leads are improved (yay!)
  • unsubscribe rates decrease (big yay!)

2. Mentioning the company name in the body of an email message affects the outcome:

  • open rate doesn’t change (ok, no biggie)
  • leads are doubled (!!!)
  • fewer unsubscribe rates (bigger yay!)

In the case of the last point, Chintagunta found in his research work that unsubscribe rates actually decreased by 6% when the company name was used in the body of the email message.

This is insightful for those of us working on email marketing campaigns or guiding our students on these campaigns whether they’re in Intro e-Marketing or Integrated IMC. Personalization works!

Email marketing; how did they get my @#%$ address? #SummerAMA

Have you ever wondered how a company managed to get their hands on your email address in order to market directly to you? You never gave it to them, they probably didn’t even buy it off a list. So how did they find you?

Well, you probably gave it to them! As Pradeep Chintagunta (University of Chicago) has told us today at the Summer American Marketing Association 2015 conference – you’ve given it away without even realizing it.

These companies simply:

  • go to LinkedIn
  • match your name to your company (current employer)
  • test various alternatives:
    • first name (dot) last name at (employment)
    • first initial last name at (employment)
    • etc.

Eventually they figure it out and voila – you have an unwanted email in your inbox and they have you on a list. Happy unsubscribing!