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Posts Tagged ‘Word of Mouth’

Compassion Core for Fan Brands

July 1st, 2009 No comments

compassion

**Image Pier Madonia for the International Red Cross**

One topic that I have written about extensively in this blog is consumer relationships with brands and, in special cases, Brands Worthy of a Weekend (BWOW).  When I started writing about BWOW, it was still a relatively lofty  bar – a brand for which you care so deeply that you would spend a weekend away from your family to connect with other people who feel the same way about this brand, learn more about the “inside” of the business, meet the people who make the magic happen, etc.   With the seismic shift in the blogosphere, however, brand “weekends” have become more and more common, but with a major difference – they are largely designed for influential voices versus passionate fans.   In the mom blogger space in particular, these events are happening in rapid fire succession with some players covering  multiple per month.  While these executions absolutely hold water as communications strategies – at least for the time being – they are no longer about “passion”.  I would argue it is very difficult to be truly passionate about more than a handful of things.

Enter compassion.  I’d never stopped to give compassion much thought, but having begun work on a project that centers on compassion, I am now hyperconscious of it in the world around me and there are a lot of business applications.  While we expect compassion in/from our fellow human beings, we don’t expect companies – with their one-size-fits-all policies and protocols for front line reps – to want or choose to show compassion.    But upon further reflection,  a lot of brand fan creation stories have an act of compassion at their core.  A couple of examples:

  • This weekend, the waitress at Inside Park at St. Barts who came outside (where I was exiled with my toddler-gone-wild) to chat with me, suggest some places where I could entertain him, and take my order on the go made me a fan.
  • My St. John Knit fan creation story is ALL about a VP of Customer Service reading my letter and breaking the rules to help a desperate bride (now customer for life).
  • Every Twitter/online customer redemption listening story – from @comcastcares to the Dell outreach team or non-tech areas like the Vermont Teddy Bear Company reading a complaint I had made about some spam affiliate marketing and correcting the problem (that turned me into a supporter of their sister venture Pajamagram).

The first step in codifying compassion into your business or brand as witnessed above is listening.  You can not understand “the other” or “walk in their shoes” unless you pause to try to understand and consider an issue, opportunity or problem from their point of view.  In the examples above, “listening” took the forms of watching a situation visually, reading a letter from a customer, and blogosphere monitoring respectively (note: great post on active listening from John Bell here).

The second element is trusting those human beings who do represent your brand with the power to act.  Ritz Carlton famously gives front line reps a budget from which they can do whatever they need to do to correct any problems in a customer’s stay and send them away happy.  That not only creates customer evangelists, it proves that the brand trusts the human beings that they have selected to embody the brand.

So, next time something happens that turns you into a positive-WOM machine for a company or a brand, think about the role compassion plays and whether or not you are in turn entrusting your team with the power to pass it along to your own customers.

The JFK Principle

February 25th, 2009 1 comment

In my WeMedia talk this afternoon, I will be mentioning the JFK principle.

I am often asked – in and out of work – about how to get fans, customers, ambassadors, bloggers to do something FOR US.  This very approach is why most communities and outreach efforts never get off the ground and the disconnect that Mack Collier discussed in this blog post.  Most community building efforts fail because they are created in order to be monetized, yet communities will not grow and thrive around the concept of monetization.

In order for you to grow a community, you need find a core set of people who will find disproportionate value from what you can provide.  This could be information, a space to gather, entertainment, or a willing ear.  That audience will be the ones to offer you feedback and guidance on how to build a community (or any sort of engagement program) and the ones who will talk about it, help you recruit, etc.  So how do you find ask your core audience?  By asking (with apologies to JFK):

Ask not what your audience can do for you, but what you can do for your audience.

This is similar to the advice that we as a community offered to Recipecomparison.com here, but it is applicable in any number of social media strategies where you are trying to find your talkers.

Try taking this audience-centric approach and find the people for whom you can do the most.  They just might be the ones who can do the most for you regardless of their “influence levels”.

Nau: Why They’re Fans

February 10th, 2008 No comments

While I am a fan of what Nau stands for, I thought it would be better to turn over Nau’s “Why I’m A Fan” post to the folks who wear the clothes and truly get it.

catch up ladyCatchUp Lady, whose post was my first exposure to Nau.

“I would definitely spend a weekend with the Nau brand. With so many companies “green washing” and merely paying lip service to corporate social responsibility it’s nice to see a company that actually IS doing no evil. I think a company like Nau that walks the walk really resonates with my generation – and I’ll bet we see more companies following their lead in the future. Plus, my cousin works for Nau (disclaimer!) and if I took a weekend out there I’d actually get to both experience a great brand AND spend time with family!”

Chris WojdaChris Wojda of the Incite Kitchen

In his nomination of Nau as a Brand Worthy of a Weeekend: Think Patagonia with a little more Patagonia sprinkled on top. Then add a strong twist of Calvin Klein and Armani design aesthetic… and there you have it. Masters at building a sense of community rather than a marketing campaign.

In response to the question “Why are you a fan?”: I’m a fan of Nau because the brand has a clear purpose beyond making money. In my opinion, every great brand has a double or triple bottom line philosophy. They don’t rely on positioning and image, they rely on having a shared purpose with a core group of consumers to sell who they are to the rest of the world…All that said, their style is great. They not only make clothes that will perform while outdoors (freedom of movement, wick away sweat, keep you dry, breathable), their clothes are also made to perform indoors or in an urban environment (designed so that you don’t always look like you just got back from summiting Mt. Hood).

What would you expect from a weekend with Nau? I would expect a time where work and play were one in the same. As with most passionate people, the group at Nau seems to be the type that doesn’t separate work and pleasure because the two totally bleed into each other for them. They would be completely sold out to their brand and cause and very talkative about it. I’d expect a lot of Stumptown coffee (that’s another brand you should explore), a lot of people riding their bikes to and from the office, and a lot of conversation about affairs that on the surface have not a thing to do with selling apparel. They get their inspiration from a lot of places and clearly don’t chase cool. I’d expect a lot of collaboration in their office which would have few walls, few conference rooms, but a lot of sketches, articles, photos, ads, and other shit scattered through-out as inspiration. I wouldn’t expect them to be very secretive as they are more interested in collaboration than competition.

Nau: Sustainable Business Grows Sustainable WOM

February 9th, 2008 No comments

2 months ago, I was unaware that Nau existed. This is not terribly surprising as I am not the target audience for “technical outdoor items”. What I am in the market for is examples of companies that are creating fans from the inside out and Nau was sent to me as a recommendation just as I was learning about it in other venues. Nau doesn’t just fit the bill of a Brand Worthy of a Weekend, they change the game. Worthiness didn’t just happen here – it is the basis of the company’s founding.

Nau.comNau – a Polynesian word of welcome and inclusion – was formed in 2004 by former executives from high end outdoor & lifestyle brands (Nike, Patagonia, Adidas to name a few). They came together to build a company that found “a better way” for every product and business process. Here are just some of the core elements:

Product: Nau sells technical outdoor items and casual sportswear that express their design philosophy of beauty, performance and sustainability. Nau has engineered 24 of the 32 fabrics used in their clothing to ensure that they are paying off on all elements of the philosophy. Nau uses recycled materials in fabrics as well as biopolymers (polyester-like materials made from agricultural sources) in order to grow the demand for such developments. One the most interesting is PLA (polylactic acid) is a synthetic made from corn instead of petroleum. But before you worry that these are the next gen of hemp clothes – take a look. These new fabrics have the same feel and look of virgin fabrics and don’t require sacrifices on design or style. Like the company, their clothes are also built to last – engineered for multiple uses, easy care, and subtle color choices to stay in style.

Participation: Instead of just giving a percentage of sales to charity (as Target and others do), Nau gives a whopping 5% of sales to a handpicked group of organziations fighting for environmental and social change (vs. just dealing with the consequences of programs). At the time of purchase either online or in one of Nau’s webfronts, customers can select which of the organizations will directly benefit from their purchase. It may seem like a small gesture, but by soliciting participation in this way, Nau is truly benefitting their “Partners for Change” with awareness and co-ownership of the customers who chose to support them.

Sustainability: There is a lot of talk about sustainability these days, but Nau lives it. From a remarkable headquarters that uses passive ventilation, recycled wood, and natural light and heat control to hiring external auditors to ensure the practices of their manufacturing, sustainability is baked into everything Nau does. Nau distributes their own products and, in addition to online sales, has 4 “webfront” stores to offer a place for customers to experience the brand and be able to try on clothes. Like all of Nau’s practices, they are designed for maximum efficiency and minimum impact. At a mere 2,200 sq feet on average, they carry very little stock (reduced shipping impact) and require little to heat and cool. They company buys wind and solar credits to offset the impact from the stores and headquarters operation. When you purchase an item at the webfront, you are offered a 10% discount if you do not take the item with you and have one like it shipped to you in recognition of the savings to the store for not having to carry lots of inventory.

Influencers: Nau recognizes the importance of influencers to the growth of their business and even boasts a “VP of Influencers” who hails from Nike. Influencers are seen as the face of Nau in the field and the representation of the company spirit. They identify 3 major communities that map to the elements of Nau’s brand identity: athletes (technical outdoor performance), artists (beauty of design), and activists (environmental and social change). Influencers have the ability to purchase Nau at a substantial discount, offer feedback on improving product performance, and participate in shaping the brand by blogging on the Nau site.

How does all this drive WOM? There is so much conversational capital here that it’s hard to know where to start, but when I asked folks in marketing at Nau how new customers find out about them, here is how they responded:

“The goal of most of our marketing & PR efforts (and, in part, our work with out Partners for Change) is to facilitate conversations around our products, our company, and our environmental and social mission. One small example: We don’t put logos on our clothing. If someone likes your coat and wants to know what you’re wearing, they have to ask. Our hope is that we have designed our product and our company to be interesting enough to spark discussion without us having to be too heavy-handed about it.”

As I mentioned at the top of this post, Nau raises the bar. Giving your customers something to talk about is difficult anough in this cluttered world, but doing it while being as subtle as the colors of Nau’s clothing line takes far more finesse.

Check back tomorrow where I’ll be sharing the words of some of Nau’s biggest fans and why they’d spend a weekend with these folks….