Word of Mouth » Archive

Continentals Ads boast the newest planes in the sky, but theyve been around long enough to gather some dust. This is a shot of the panel above my seat. Yuck.

Continental's Ads boast the newest planes in the sky, but they've been around long enough to gather some dust. This is a shot of the panel above my seat. Yuck.

When passengers on Captain Denny Flanagan’s United Airlines flights encounter an unexpected delay, they have an experience they are sure to tell all of their friends and families. But, these passengers aren’t talking about the delay, they’re raving about how Capt. Flanagan left the plane to find a McDonald’s in the terminal and returned with a bag of 200 hamburgers to pass out on the plane. Last week, when my Continental Airlines flight was diverted from Newark to Pittsburgh, we sat on the plane hungry for 9 hours total without being allowed to deplane. Now, I know Continental can’t control the weather, and I’m grateful they aren’t allowed to try to land the plane in a lightning storm, but they can learn from the experiences Capt. Flanagan provides his passengers that turn bad experiences into Word of Mouth opportunities.

The next leg of the trip saw another 4-hour delay, where I sat in the hot terminal with no seats, no free wi-fi, and nowhere to plug in my fading iPhone. Again, I don’t expect you to take off with no co-pilot or flight attendant (who were delayed out of Michigan), but throw us a bone here.

In bad times, invest a small amount of time and money in making your passengers happy. The return on your investment can be a fleet of shiny brand loyalists who will evangelize their experience to friends and families. Here are some ways an Airline can turn a bad experience into a bearable one and get people talking:

  • WWDD (What Would Denny Do?): Read the WSJ article on how Captain Flanagan treats his passengers. Create a corporate culture that inspires similar behavior. Make sure pilots know they can expense 200 cheeseburgers and empower them with the tools to treat passengers like valued customers.
  • Information: Look, the FAA is in charge here, most of us know that. But, let us know what’s going on. If we understand the situation, we can deal with it better. In Newark, there were very few seats in the terminal, and you had to find one even if it meant going to a different gate. Information at the gate was sparse, but if you weren’t there you got nothing. How can you keep us better informed?
  • Connectivity: In Newark, you had to pay for wireless internet service (some airports offer this free). If I were running Continental Airlines, I’d make an arrangement with Boingo (Newark’s wi-fi provider) to buy wi-fi passes in bulk. It’s a small investment for a large return… Time passes much faster when we are playing Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook.
  • Buy Some Power Strips and Extension Cords: We hate being stuck in an airport because we feel cut off. Our phones and laptops help alleviate that feeling (see Connectivity above), but there are about 12 outlets in the whole terminal. If I were you, I’d buy a bunch of extension cords and power strips, providing more outlets and locations to plug in. It’s a low-tech solution, but, trust me, we’ll REALLY appreciate it.
  • Liquor? I Barely Know Her: Sorry, but free headphones for the remake of Escape from Witch Mountain only makes matters worse. Offer to buy us a drink. We won’t all accept it, but it’s the thought that counts. I’m not suggesting turning the airplane into a keg party. One drink – it will take the edge off for a few people, and the gesture will be appreciated.

I should mention that Continental isn’t the only offender. I mean, look at US Airways… When the best PR you’ve had in a decade is crashing a plane in the Hudson, you’re not doing it right. Even Captain Flanagan’s airline got in major social media trouble for breaking guitars:

Airlines, you’re in a tough situation. We hate to travel, and it’s only become more annoying in the last 8 years. We’re tired, we’re cranky, and we just want to get to where we’re going. But, creating a corporate culture that encourages your staff to make it just a little better will do wonders for your positive Word of Mouth. McDonald’s doesn’t even make a great burger, but if you buy us one, we’ll talk about how much we enjoyed it.

So, you have a great product, and people are ready and willing to tell their friends. Why not make it easier for them. Giving people who want to share easy access to tools that will help them share is a great way to encourage positive Word of Mouth. Widgets – when done right – provide a great tool for sharing an experience.

I’m going to New York in a week to go to my good friend Clayton’s wedding, and while I’m there I’m going to take in a Broadway show. The producers of Billy Elliot created this widget for me to share my experience:

Notice there’s a link to click to find out more information about the show. Now that you know I’m going, you might ask me about the experience after I’ve seen it. The widget sets up the opportunity for Word of Mouth both before and after the show. You’ll also find Billy Elliot on Facebook and Twitter.

I’ll let you know how I like the show.

Sometimes it’s nice to hear your favorite band stripped down of all of the production and amplification often heard on recordings and in concert. This is how you really get to know their talent; it’s the most authentic performance.

We’re always searching for authenticity in marketing. Sometimes the best way to find it is to pull the plug on your marketing efforts as well. Finding the ways to generate offline word of mouth can be the trickiest, but also the most valuable. It starts, of course, with offering an amazing product (or service). It continues with high quality customer service. And, it all comes together by being different than the rest. If you can offer your customers a unique, easy, exceptional customer experience, they will talk.

Last week, I began to talk about a company that didn’t even finish the job. Efficient Attic Systems provided me an estimate for adding much needed insulation to my hot Phoenix home. The installers showed up the next morning ready to tackle my historic home. After spending some time in my attic, they came down and explained that due to the old design of my home – particularly the low pitch of the roof – they didn’t believe they would be able to properly install the insulation in a way that would offer me a reasonable benefit for the cost. They sent a manager out to inspect and confirm, apologized profusely, and left.

Now, I know next to nothing about insulation. They could have spent a couple hours in my attic, sprayed some foam around, collected their money and left. I never would have known the difference. Times are tough, and I know the company lost money spending half a day at my house for no payment. They showed great integrity in their honesty, and although I’m disappointed that the job couldn’t be completed, I find them incredibly worthy of my praise and recommendation.

They earned Word of Mouth simply by offering a unique experience – a home improvement company more concerned about treating their customers fairly than their bottom line.

Here’s the catch, though: If U2 only performed unplugged for small crowds – no albums, no sold-out arenas – they wouldn’t have the success they have today. Bands need to turn up the volume to build support. And so it goes with Word of Mouth marketing.

Using social media shouldn’t be the reason your customers are talking about you. Social media is the amplification that helps them get heard by a broader audience. When combined properly, on- and offline Word of Mouth efforts generate authentic, positive experiences, and expand their reach further and faster than ever before.

What kind of customer experiences do you provide to encourage offline Word of Mouth?

Below, enjoy an “Unplugged” performance, courtesy of The Office’s David Brent:

This weekend, I went to visit my buddy Gordon who recently moved to Napa. Gordon works in the wine industry, so he planned a weekend of wine tasting and great food. In three days, I tasted more than 96 wines. (I say “more than,” because, although I took copious notes, there came a point Friday evening when my note taking skills became a little fuzzy. Ninety-six wines were documented, and I paced myself better on Saturday.)

For the meals, I tried Oysters at Bouchon the first night. We also ate at Bottega, Redd, Ad Hoc, and local burger hangout, Taylor’s Automatic Refresher. Every meal was incredible. If you get to Napa, don’t miss Bottega’s Wood Roasted Octopus or Shaved Brussels Sprout & Asparagus Salad. (And, before my brother Gregg makes a comment below, I weighed myself and actually dropped a pound over the weekend. Maybe all of the walking.)

Here is a list of the wineries we visited, and some highlights:
Grgich Hills – I really liked their Fume Blanc (2007).
Salvestrin – Very nice family-owned winery with a great Cabernet Sauvignon (2005).
Alpha Omega – Nice label and beautiful tasting facility, but wines didn’t blow me away.
Judd’s Hill – They’re doing some interesting stuff with social media, including online video.
Pine Ridge – Try the 2005 Cabernet Franc. Seriously.
Robert Sinskey Vineyards – They serve a little food with their tasting. Just a couple of small bites to compliment an incredible Cab from their Vandal Vineyard.
Plumpjack—Founded by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, they sampled some great wines, including the 2008 Cade Sauvignon Blanc.
Darioush – Housed in a Persian palace in Napa, don’t miss the “Fine Wines, Artisan Cheeses” tour to learn about and taste their great wine paired with the perfect cheeses (pictured below).
Z.D. – Their 2007 Rosa Lee Petit Sirah is worth the visit.
Trefethen – After tasting a strong Cab poured by Hailey Trefethen the night before at Cheers St. Helena, we visited her family’s winery to taste some more consistently delicious wines.

But, the highlight of wine tasting came at our very last stop, Elyse Winery. I liked many wines at each of our tastings, but Elyse was the only winery where I LOVED every single wine I tasted. We visited with Ray Coursen, winemaker and owner, a down to earth, fun guy who really, really knows how to make wine. They were all amazing, but the standouts for me were a 2007 L’Ingenue (Viogner) and the 2005 Jacob Franklin Cabernet Sauvignon. If you are anywhere that is pouring Elyse (or their other label Jacob Franklin), don’t hesitate ordering any of Ray’s wines. You won’t be disappointed.

So, that’s what I did on my summer vacation (or at least one of them). If you try any of these wines or visit any of the wineries, let me know what you think.

“Fine Wines, Artisan Cheeses” at Darioush

I’ll admit to having a major bias toward Childsplay. I was an actor there for 7 years, some of my closest friends work there, and I maintain a great relationship with the company; they are like family to me. But, there are plenty more reasons for having a Childsplay bias. Arizona residents don’t really know this like they should, but Childsplay is acclaimed for being one of the best theatres for young audiences in the world.

You have two more weekends to see Childsplay in action this season; The Never Ending Story is running at the Tempe Center for the Arts through May 17.  I saw the show earlier this week. I should let you know off the bat that my actor friends don’t always like me to come to their shows; they always tell me: “You don’t like anything.” I really liked The Never Ending Story, and my eight-year-old niece, Carly, LOVED it. So, I recommend you see it with or without some little ones… and I can help make it a little more affordable for you.

Childsplay is offering $12 tickets to the readers of the BlabberBlog. Seriously, for just a little more than the price of a movie ticket, you can see an internationally acclaimed theatre company. To reserve discounted tickets, click here to send an e-mail to Rosemary. Put BlabberBlog in the subject line and let her know which performance you’d like to see and how many tickets you’d like, and she’ll hook you up with $12 tickets.

I hope you go see this show. Let us know in the comments below what you think of it.

One of the best parts of starting Blabbermouth and working for myself has been the opportunity to decide which clients to work with. There is no better example of this than the opportunity to work with Expect More Arizona, which officially launches today. This client is truly a pleasure to work with, and allows me to play a small part in tackling a very important issue.

Expect More Arizona is a non-partisan public-private partnership with the uphill mission of working toward strengthening education in Arizona. As you may know, Arizona ranks toward the bottom of most education categories, including 49th in per student investment in K-12 education. We’re letting our students down. This isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue; we simply must do better for all Arizonans.

So, I urge you to become involved with Expect More Arizona today. Visit their Web site to learn how you can become active in the cause. And, of course, Word of Mouth will help too. Tell your friends, and share with your social networks.

Find and follow Expect More Arizona on these social networks:

Join me in telling our state that we expect more. Let’s hold ourselves, our state, and our students to the highest standards.

People are always asking me what I do at Blabbermouth, and – to be honest – I’m not great at answering that question yet. Blabbermouth is not even a few months old, and I haven’t figured out the best way to tell my story. Yet.

I came to the Ragan Social Media conference in Las Vegas to learn some more tactics to use in getting out the word about my clients. But, thanks to Blend Tec VP of Marketing George Wright, the best thing I learned today has me closer to answering the “What do you do?” question. 

Surely, most of you are familiar with Wright’s Will it Blend campaign, which has become one of the most viral marketing efforts in history. With a budget of $50, Wright created a campaign that has seen a 700% increase in sales of the Blend Tec consumer product.

Will it Blend was born like many great marketing ideas, by paying attention to what makes the brand unique. Blend Tec CEO Tom Dickson is diligent about testing his products. Regularly, he would take a 2×2 board to one of his blenders to make sure it was strong enough. Wright really wanted to watch his boss shove a board into a blender, and the light bulb went on over his head. If he wanted to watch that bad, surely others would too. It was an idea that was compelling and reinforced what made their products great.

The idea had been right there all along, with the sawdust all over the floor, but it took Wright’s vision to realize it. George Wright says, if you are looking for your next big marketing idea, ask yourself, “What’s the sawdust on my floor?”

That’s what I do at Blabbermouth. I help my clients figure out what their sawdust is, and then create ways for their consumers to tell others about it.

On another note, Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, gave a very inspirational opening keynote speech. In Hsieh’s opinion, there is no such thing as social media – it’s simply about creating a great culture and amazing customer service. The rest will follow. If I hadn’t just started Blabbermouth, I’d definitely be trying to get a job at Zappos right now. And, if I got hired, I most certainly wouldn’t accept the $2000 he offers new hires to quit!

While state budget cuts pose a major challenge to Arizona State University President Michael Crow’s vision for the New American University, ASU continues to find ways to innovate and work toward building a stronger community. One way in particular demonstrates a keen understanding of using the power of consumer participation to drive communication efforts and – ultimately – shape the scope and direction of an organization. ASU recently launched its Community Connect Web site to pool the minds and resources of its students, alumni, and community partners.

The site describes itself as “new pathways to information about programs and partnerships and services connected with ASU. And we designed the site to function as a tool for individuals to use to meet their objectives. The result is a link-based site, with very little rhetoric and a lot of choices. We hope this allows users to find what they want efficiently.”

This is a very cool example of how the internet and social media change, not only the ways we receive information, but how we share information, and most importantly collaborate with others we may not otherwise meet. I’m excited to watch the progress of ASU’s Community Connect Web site and see what it leads to for the university and the community. 

The second in my growing list of things that bug me on Facebook:

When you are labeling a picture of yourself and your mother, the correct caption is NEVER “Mom and I.” That’s bad grammar that was incorrectly jammed in your brain as a child. Subtract your mother from the equation, and it’s just a picture of you. Would you label it simply “I” if mom weren’t there? Of course not, you’d say “Me.” The picture of you and mom should be “Mom and me.” The exception is, “Mom and I went to the Eiffel Tower.” Again, subtract Mom. “I went to the Eiffel Tower.” See, it’s easy.

Okay. There, I’ve said it. I feel better, and I do have to say… That was a really nice picture of you and your mom at the Eiffel Tower.

Is there a Facebook Pet Peeve you’d like to get off your chest? Vent in the comments below.

Yesterday was the day after the Super Bowl, a national holiday in advertising when agencies nationwide (who have never made and will never make a Super Bowl ad) self-promote their expertise of TV’s most expensive commercials. This year, ad space sold for up to $3 million for a 30 second spot and NBC broke the all-time total ad revenue record with $206 million.

So, “Creative Directors” and “Strategy Gurus” go on morning shows and post blogs to tell us which ads will succeed and why (usually with lame football puns, like “Who scored the big touchdown?” or “Which ad fumbled?”). Of course, no one agrees on anything, and interest dissipates the next day – long before any definitive results and metrics can be acquired.

The folks at Park & Co, however, are taking a different angle this year. They’re looking specifically at how these ads extend their reach through the use of Word of Mouth, in particular social media, and they kindly included me on their panel of judges. It’s practically impossible for an ad agency to resist jumping on the Super Bandwagon, but I’m glad they chose to take a different look at the ads. I hope that they will revisit it later when they can compare the rankings with the results.

You can read all of the results released today on the Park & Co blog, but I wanted to expand on a couple of my comments here and look at why it isn’t the production costs or the big names or tremendous talent that necessarily drive the conversation.

First off, from a Word of Mouth perspective, the most talked about clip of the Super Bowl was only shown to Comcast viewers in the Tucson market, with their “accidental” 30 seconds of porn shown after the Cardinals’ final touchdown. I mention this, not only because it’s REALLY funny, but also because after several social media disasters, Comcast has recently been trying to use online media to improve its image and manage crises. It will be interesting to watch @comcastcares to see how they manage (or don’t manage) “Wiener-gate 2009.”

There are two brands that really caught my eye for their WOM potential. The first is Go Daddy. First, let me say that I’m no fan of  the misogyny  in their ads and I understand why people take offense (but, I am a fan of their service. Very reliable and amazing customer service). But as far as the ads’ strategy, they accomplish what other brands strive to do, using incredibly low production value: bad script, lame sets, and horrific acting. Go Daddy hints at risqué and then directs viewers to their Web site to see unrated content. Now, we’ve been teased with the possibility of seeing Danica Patrick drop the towel. So what? A lot of ads try to drive viewers to a Web site, right? Well, this time people may actually do it, and – the BIG difference – their Web site is their store. People are virtually walking into their stores to see much less than you’d see while watching football in Tucson.

For a completely different reason, I also thought the Hyundai spot titled Contract was incredibly compelling. The ad appeals directly to the uncertainty many feel in this unstable economy. It says that if you were to finance or lease a Hyundai and “if you lose your income in the next year, you can return it with no impact on your credit.” This is a bold offer for a desperate time. Sales are down; some aren’t buying because they’ve lost their jobs, but others are just being cautious because they don’t know what the future holds. Hyundai is appealing to the latter to come in and make a purchase in spite of the uncertainty by reducing the risk. I don’t know about you, but if I know people who need a new car and are in that situation, I will instantly recall this ad and tell them about Hyundai’s offer. I only wish Hyundai had done something to amplify the Word of Mouth potential, give us some tools to more easily pass on their message. But, the ad itself is very WOM-worthy. (I also think Denny’s pulled off a similar success by – shockingly – offering a free Grand Slam to everyone in America today. Now, they have to make sure their food and service make people want to come back and pay for it next time).

Having said all of that, I still think that creating and airing a Super Bowl ad is a giant waste of money. Even Hyundai and Go Daddy – as effective as I think those ads were – could have pulled off a lot more with a lot less, and pass those savings on to their consumers or sponsor a corporate retreat with AIG. What do you think? Does any ad justify the Super Bowl price tag? And, which do you think will generate the most long-term, effective Word of Mouth this year?

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