Which did you answer subconsciously when you read the title? Do you consider your packaging to be a part of the product, protecting its contents and framing its on-shelf life? Or do you consider it to be an integral part of your connection with your customers at an important moment of truth, that of purchase and usage?
If you answered both, then I believe that you are making maximum use of your packaging or at least you recognise its potential for communication.
If you answered only one of the choices, then you may be missing an important opportunity. Let me explain, with a few examples.
People don’t read instructions
We all expect most things that we use or consume to be intuitive these days. In other words, we assume that we will understand how to build / cook / use them without reading the manual / instructions.
If you are like most people – myself included – this has nothing to do with the complexity of the product concerned . I myself will only turn to the instructions when something doesn’t work: I end up with left-over screws when mounting a flat-pack piece of furniture, or I can’t achieve multi-recordings on my smart TV or DVD recorder.
In the article How Likely Are You to Read the Instructions they they link behaviour to personality types. It makes an interesting read and offers at least some explanations why many (most?) of us still don’t read instructions.
As internet results in us having access to more and more information, we seem to be reading less and less. Therefore we need to ensure that any vital information is called out in some way on the packaging – and perhaps visually as well.
People do look at packs
Whether it is the cream we put on our faces, the cereal we eat for breakfast, or the dip that we offer to friends on match night, there are moments when we are faced with packaging for more than a split second. It is at these times that we are likely to read at least some of what is written on a pack.
It therefore makes sense to provide more than just a list of ingredients. After all you have your customer’s attention.
Here are a few examples I have come across recently:
Nestlé does a great job of providing useful information on their packs with their nutritional compass, which includes four different pieces of information.
What I particularly like about what Nestle has done, is to combine mandatory information on nutritional values, with useful information for the consumer. While they may not be the most consumer centric company around, at least they did think consumer first in the development of their compass.
Juvena of Switzerland: The short message to "Enjoy the smoothness" on the back of the Juvena hand cream sample tube I recently received makes the usage experience both more enjoyable and longer-lasting.
Users will almost certainly check out the promised smoothness after their application, bringing to their attention a benefit that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Clever.
Yucatan Guacamole: I love Mexican food and especially guacamole. The message I discovered on the inside of a tub I bought in the US, made me smile.
The manufacturer has turned what could have been perceived as a negative, into a healthy positive. I just love that.
While you may have to click on the image on the right to be able to read all of the message, their website is very clear. Now that's what I call impact!
Pringleshave done something similar with their “Bursting with flavour” message. Again it explains what some might have perceived as a negative – the bulging top – into a positive.
They used to put this only on the inside seal, but they have obviously understood the power of this message since they have now added it to the pack as well, as the photo on the left shows.
Heinz Tomato Ketchup: A final example, also from my trips to the US is a ketchup bottle that had a very important message on front of pack, as you can see from the photo on the right.
Heinz now uses their front label to announce many of their initiatives and promotions. It has become something that consumers are used to seeing - and reading.
A fun campaign they started running in 2019 with Ed Sheeran includes a pack label change - of course! The accompanying TVC ad shows Sheeran adding ketchup to a dish in an exclusive restaurant. While it is funny, I am not sure the anguish many will feel watching it is positive. What do you think?
These are just five examples of companies using their packaging more creatively. There are many others. If you have a favourite example then please share it in the comments below.
If you're not confident that your packs are optimised to connect with your customers, why not get us to run a pack audit? We will review all your packs and discuss how you can make them more customer centric. Why not communicate with your customers when they are ready to listen, as they use your product?
Creative messaging needn’t be limited to packaging of course. I came across this incredibly simple solution for gathering customer feedback in a Geneva airport toilet (restroom). That was five years ago, but they seem to be everywhere these days. This shows how instant customer feedback has become a necessity in so many industries.
What I liked about it, is its simplicity, it's fun look, and its lack of invasion of customer’s time in providing their feedback.
Our customers’ time is valuable and we should respect it. The information we provide must be relevant and useful for the customer; something they would like to know, not (just) something we want to tell them.
We also need to be careful to connect only when invited, or find other ways to provide information that a customer can access when they need it. This is why social media has become such an important element of the communications plan. However, packaging has not, as yet, met with the same level of consideration.
Our customers’ attention is pulled in all directions today, with thousands of messages pushed at them, from so many channels, products and services. Capturing their attention is more likely to be successful when they are open to learning about your product, that is to say, when they are actually using it. It therefore makes good business sense to use packaging more creatively; wouldn't you agree?
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Are you as shocked as I am, to think that there is a free communication channel which most marketers are not using effectively today?
So what is this incredible channel? The Internet? No. Social Media? No.
OK, so everyone is excited about the web and have jumped on board the digital train. But some are already seeing that online advertising is not the “safest” way to communicate.
Take P&G for example. A recent AdAge article stated that:
Procter & Gamble‘s concerns about where its ads were showing up online contributed to a $140 million cutback in the company’s digital ad spending last quarter…
P&G didn’t call out YouTube, the subject of many marketers’ ire earlier this year, … but did say digital ad spending fell because of choices to “temporarily restrict spending in digital forums where our ads were not being placed according to our standards and specifications.”
Will others follow? I don’t know. But I would like them all to reconsider their total advertising spend in light of this underutilised but highly effective channel that I’m about to share with you. Have you guessed what it is yet? It’s packaging!
Think about it. Packaging communicates in-store, on the shelf as shoppers pass by.
Both of these posts provide some great examples of companies which have used their packaging to communicate with their consumers. However they are a couple of years old now, so I wanted to update my thoughts on the packaging channel opportunities, as well as the examples I share.
After all, customers have become more demanding in recent years and want to know far more about the products they purchase.
The F&B category has seen and continues to see the introduction of a lot of packaging laws.
When Nestle launched its "Compass" way back in 2005, most other food manufacturers were keeping things simple. Some had colour codes like traffic lights to indicate calorie content, while others had five or seven bullets on front of pack that showed the ingredient breakdown in terms of daily limits of fat, protein, sugar, carbohydrates etc.
Today, purchasers check far more details on labels in-store before buying. According to research by Prepared Foodsand BevNet, they are looking for very specific guarantees in addition to mere ingredients, such as:
gluten free, dairy or nut free.
no additives or preservatives
healthier packaging materials
functional properties such as a good source of calcium, fiber, antioxidants, protein, omega 3 or probiotics.
Unfortunately with such demands for so much information on pack, there is little room for anything else. That is why manufacturers are getting creative with their packaging.
There are so many new ways to use packs for communications, but here are three of the most on-trend tactics today.
It has always amused me that we spend time reading product contents, but still try to connect electronics or build flat-pack furniture without reading the instructions! Clearly we think we understand technology and furniture better than food, or at least we think we do! Therefore thank goodness that smart packaging is now available!
Smart packaging, including NFC (near field communication) tags, transforms conventional packaging into a digital communication channel with customers. Not only does it transmit information at the point of sale, but also after purchase in the home, with such benefits as refill reminders, freshness alerts or usage tips.
Connected packaging is a real win-win for both manufacturers and customers. It can collect consumer habits and behavior that provides brands with a new level of understanding which can then be used to develop future products.
According to Research and Markets, the global smart packaging market is expected to grow to $52 billion by 2025, thanks to adoption in categories such as personal care, beauty, food, healthcare and pharmaceuticals.
Smart packaging works by tapping on the pack with your smartphone, to receive information about the product, usage suggestions, sourcing and ingredients. This brings an intimacy with the customer that will differentiate the brand from its competitors and hopefully increase loyalty. It also provides a guarantee of authenticity, which is an added benefit in certain categories plagued by counterfeits.
As packaging is also required to show more information on pack, and in multiple languages as sourcing goes global, smart packs have arrived just in time to save the customer from needing a magnifying glass to read what's printed on them. With the aging population in most developed countries today, this is an additional benefit.
People love to be the first to share a new purchase when it is out-of-the-ordinary in terms of colour, shape or usefulness. It's a matter of forget the contents - at least the time of a YouTube video clip - and love the look of the pack!
The success of Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign proved that people can’t get enough of personalisation.
However as they also point out, personalisation is not really "personal" since so many people have the same name around the world.
Enter the trial of true personalisation. Heinz offered their soup range with a "Get well soon ... " message.
Although it was almost twice the usual price per can, the reasons it worked were many. It included a donation to charity for every one sold. It communicated online rather than on TV, adding to the personalised feel of the campaign.
Also in the second year they even allowed fans to vote for their favourite soup to join the tomato and chicken flavours they already offered. (potato and leek won, by the way)
One company that has had less success with its own attempts to copy Coke is Nestle. They proposed a pop-up "KitKat Chocolatory" in London's Westfield shopping mall.
It was built on Coke’s naming trend and the success KitKat had with the concept in Japan.
Although the personalisation went beyond the name, with customised toppings and flavours too, it made a number of basic mistakes:
The UK is not Japan. KitKat is a cult brand there and has been for years, especially for gifting.
The process was digitalised, so people didn't get the chance to make nor even see the bar being made for them - unless they hung around for an hour or so.
Purchasers had to wait (at least) 90 minutes before their personalised bar was ready.
The "experience" added up to a few moments using a touchscreen; neither personal nor very exciting.
It cost seven pounds!
I believe most of these points could have been corrected if they'd bothered to be a little more customer centric. The text message sent when the bar was ready, while a nice touch, meant providing Nestle with additional information about the purchaser, which no doubt they will use in the future to contact them, whether they like it or not!
Like VeggiePret, the KitKat example does include a personalised product offer too. But that's not new. Many food and confectionary brands have been offering these for many years on a promotional basis. Again the prices are higher, but the impact of the product too is greater. At least that was one thing Nestle did get right.
In some industries we are seeing a return to non-packaged products where the customer provides their own containers.
Bulk offering of essentials has been used for years for washing powders, chocolates, candy, juices, wine, vinegar, olive oil etc, but with the crackdown on recycling, many purchasers are leaving the cardboard outers in the shops.
Manufacturers will have to get smarter in the way they communicate, when their outer no longer exists. It will certainly make communicating even more difficult unless manufacturers follow the trend to smart packaging.
What do you see as the future of packaging? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
As you have no doubt already noticed, my Blog posts and those of many other Bloggers too, are often prompted by real-world experiences. This week is no exception.
I want to share with you some examples of how companies jeopardise the loyalty of their customers and also seriously limit their chances of getting repeat purchases. But manufacturers aren’t the only guilty party; there have been some interesting comments on retail loyalty as well these past few weeks, so I will touch upon that too.
Promising More than the Customer Gets
This week I bought a new br and of bacon; I fancied a real English breakfast for once. When I opened the pack up, I was shocked to see that under the first three or four deliciously lean slices, was a pack of rather fatty, poor quality meat. Now why would a company do this? To make the sale of course. Seeing such great quality you would rightly expect the pack to contain similar meats to the front slices.
Another example which uses a similar ploy involves packaging. How often have you been enticed into buying a new product because of the picture on the pack? Or perhaps it was in an advertisement showing a delicious-looking meal or an amazing improvement to the skin or hair? Sometimes the pack content or product result may be acceptable, but when it’s not, you’re disappointed rather than delighted, aren’t you? (I previously wrote about one such experience in a post on br and honestyhere) Again, why would a manufacturer set themselves up to deceive the customer into buying – once?!
Are such behaviours customer-centric? Certainly not! They are deceitful tricks used to sell customers less than they were led to expect. Yes you may get the sale, but you won’t get repurchase and certainly not loyalty. Which do you want? One, several or long-term purchases?
Raising Prices without Saying so
Most major markets have seen low rises in their CPIs (consumer price index) in 2014 with Switzerl andactually in the current situation of a deflation! However that hasn’t stopped several manufacturers from increasing their prices. Or should I say decreasing the content of their packs, as that seems to be the more usual response of many of them? This is not a very customer-centric approach to pricing.
The shopper is buying the same br and at the same price, but the contents, which the consumer rarely verifies, have decreased. If the reduction is significant, consumers may notice that the pack is significantly larger than the contents inside, which may then prompt them to check the actual weight they have bought.
A recent article in the UKs “The Telegraph” talked about some of the most noticeable offenders, including Birds Eye (Pirmira’s Iglo Group) and Twix (Mars) c andy bars. However many categories were using the same method of hidden price rises.
A survey of 1,257 UK’s Which? members found that over half (58%) said theywould rather prices rose than packs got smaller. A further 37% would rather the pack shrank, but only if they were told. (>>Tweet this<<)
M andatory Sign-ups for Free Products
There are hundreds of new offers on the internet every day, trying to entice new customers to “try before you buy”. However some sites dem and m andatory sign-up to the paid program before allowing their customers to test their service. Credit card details and other personal information is requested, supposedly to “help the customer to subscribe more easily” should they decide to buy after the trial period.
However there is also most likely an automated transfer included from the free to a paid service should the customer forget to cancel in time. They then find themselves in the situation of buying a paid suscription without full knowledge of it. Is this customer centric? Of course not. If a customer decides to buy, he would be much happier to provide the necessary information to do so at the time of purchase. Again, you may have sold one more membership, but are extremely unlikely to get a happy or loyal customer.
Cheap isn’t Always Less Expensive
More and more airlines and hotels are selling their services “on the cheap” or at least that’s what it looks like. However, when you start adding on the extras, those attractive prices don’t seem quite so cheap anymore.
Take a low-cost flight for instance; in Europe that would probably be with Ryanair or EasyJet, and in the US with SouthWest Airlines or JetBlue. In addition to the cost of the flight, you will often pay for hold luggage and sometimes carry-on items too, as well as food on board, priority boarding, seat reservation, pillows, blankets, headphones and even entertainment.
Hotels will add on charges to guarantee bed type, taxes, WiFi, breakfast, gym use, bag storage, resort fees and even m andatory gratuities.
Retail advertising and promotions are other areas where shoppers need to have their wits about them and a calculator on h and. The old adage that bigger is better no longer seems to apply. If several sizes are offered purchasers really need to check prices per 4 ozs or 100 gms. The BOGOF (buy-one-get-one-free) and BOGO promotions can also sometimes work out more expensive than buying one pack at the usual price charged.
One of my favourite promotional ads of all time is one I photographed in the UK at the local Pound Store, the equivalent of the Dollar Store in the US. See the photo above. Now that really is a bargain!
Consumers are Getting Wiser
The above are just a few examples of “tricks” that manufacturers and retailers play on their customers. It’s almost as if they are trying to see just how far they can go before their clients notice. Well, I think we have noticed, and this is confirmed in an article on CMO.com that caught my eye last week. It mentioned a panel discussion at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York City. Faisal Masud, Staples’ chief digital officer and EVP of e-commerce, who was part of a panel discussion at the event, made the following comment:
“Consumers are agnostic to where they shop. The days of window shopping and just paying the price you think is fair are gone. A lot of folks don’t even want to interact with people or companies. They just want their goods fast and at the lowest possible price. For that reason, a lot of the retail loyalty programs are a little bit doomed.”
I would add that a lot of br and loyalty will go the same way if practices such as those mentioned in this article continue. I believe these behaviours are short-terms acts of desperation of a losing br and. In fact I spoke in detail about using pricing in another post called “Are you on the way to br and heaven or hell?”
Winners treat their customers as important people who have a choice and to whom they offer the best product or service they can, to satisfy, delight and why not also surprise them? If you are still thinking of such trickery as a way out of your current br and decline think again. It’s just not customer centric.
Do you have other examples you have seen of behaviour that is not customer centric? If so, I would love to hear about them.
And if you would like help in finding a solution to your own current business issue I would love to help. Just contact me for a chat and let’s see where it takes us.
C³Centricity used an image from Microsoft in this post.
Price wars are a st andard challenge of marketers, whether working on the retail or manufacturing side. They have become more frequent in the last couple of years following the recession. Consumers are today even more price sensitive and are searching for great value and even greater deals. However as most retailers are now claiming lower prices, it becomes less of a differentiator. I therefore read with interest that Walmart is moving from its emphasis on low prices to one on sourcing.
In 2007 Walmart replaced its “Always Low Prices, Always” slogan by “Save Money Live Better”, so this new push with the message “Made in the US” is worth noting. This latest announcement is made in conjunction with its promise of an additional $10 million in grants to non-profits focused on “on-shoring” manufacturing efforts.
Target announced last October its plans to introduce the “Target Sustainable Product St andard” which was developed to “establish a common language, definition, and process for qualifying what makes a product more sustainable.” Target will ask vendors to complete an assessment that is designed to determine a sustainability score for their products. Products will be assigned a score of between zero and 100 “based on the sustainability of ingredients, ingredient transparency, and overall environmental impact”.
Both these initiatives show a move to a more caring retail environment. A study run by the Boston Consulting Group at the end of last year, found that more than half of companies with sales greater than $1 billion are actively planning or considering to bring production back from China to the U.S. This rise from a mere 37% just six months earlier shows a significant shift in American sensitivity.
Jumping across the “pond” to the UK, something similar is happening in terms of shifting attention from price to value, or should I say values?
Tesco recently introduced their “Price Promise”, a pledge to match the price of a basket of both own-label and br anded products at Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons, or to offer customers a voucher at the till for the difference. Sainsbury’s has appealed to the Advertising St andards Authority, arguing that this claim was misleading customers. However, their wrath was, in part at least, sparked by the fact that this new Tesco pledge came in response to their own highly successful “Br and Match” scheme, although the latter only compares br anded products.
Sainsbury’s has now retaliated with the launch of a new campaign with the title “Same price, Different values”, a possible dig at the fact that although Tesco won the ASA appeal, Sainsbury’s might appeal as they claim that their own-label products cannot be compared since many are locally produced. To support this position, the National Farmers’ Union has now taken a stance, backing Sainsbury’s. In light of last year’s horse-meat sc andal, the values of retailers and the sourcing of food has become even more crucial, and Sainsbury’s sees this latest row as an opportunity to emphasise the difference between itself and Tesco.
If pricing has become (still is?) the entry stakes for retailers today, what else can they do to differentiate themselves and propose a viable alternative that appeals to today’s shoppers? Here are a few I came up with, based upon some of the more interesting initiatives and current trends in societal sensitivities:
Individualism: I live alone, as do a large minority of people in the developed world (47% in Sweden according to Euromonitor) How about offering smaller packs and individual servings? I would happily pay more for the convenience and the guilt avoidance. (I throw out vast quantities of food that is past its sell-buy date)
Localism: the horsemeat and other food sc andals have made people wary of buying from countries where they are unsure of their controls, hygiene or ethics. Identified sourcing and traceabilitybrings trust and reassurance.
Fairness: This helps eliminate the guilt attached to buying (too) cheap products. We now know that products from the East are in general cheaper than products from the West. However, we still want reassurance that workers are being treated fairly. Fair Trade associations and the end to child-labour are causes most shoppers would be will to pay (a little) more for.
Sustainability: Recent weather changes have finally convinced everyone of the need to look after and protect our planet from further degradation. Therefore sustainability has become something to fight for. Whether this is reducing the use of palm oil to protectIndonesian rainforestsor finding alternatives to bottled water which both wastes resources and pollutes the l and, people are dem anding more of manufacturers.
Packaging: Packs are no longer just for protection and shelf-impact, they provide information on ingredients, sourcing and links to apps that provide more about the company who made it or give access to reviews from other buyers.
Services: Some retailers are offering schools for cooking, home repairs, creative pursuits or decorating (see Loew’s virtual room designer as a great example of this). No longer is it sufficient to sell products, people are getting help with making the best use of them and thus getting more value from their purchase.
These are just a few of the ways that retailers are building their relationships with their shoppers. They may come for price, but that is an unsustainable competitive advantage in today’s world. Retailers that maintain the loyalty of their customers will be offering more in terms of support and services to keep them coming back.
If you would like to update your own retail environment and services, why not contact us for an informal chat? We can provide shopper journey mapping, in-store eye-tracking, at shelf facial imaging and many more forward-thinking tools.
C3Centricity used images from Dreamstime and named company websites.
I got an email today that irritated me, I mean it really insulted me, and prompted this post on customer centricity. I am sure it would have annoyed you too; in fact you have probably already received it or at least something similar yourself in the past.
It announced a “massive 46-page eBook” that I had been chosen to receive for free. It sounded as if I should be happy and feel privileged to receive it. I wasn’t. I don’t know about you, but I don’t call 46 pages massive. A jumbo jet is massive; War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy is massive; not a measly 46 pages – even if it was for free.
Why do companies continue to think that they can treat people like idiots? In my opinion, it can only be a very short-lived business strategy. People will quickly learn the truth, especially in today’s connected world. Or should I blame the advertising agencies for coming up with these “lies”? However, it seems to me to be just a little too close for comfort to the “misleading claims” from which the Advertising St andards Authority in most countries should be protecting us.
If you are looking to be truly customer centric, here are some other examples that you are hopefully NOT doing.
The above illustration is just one example of many exaggerated claims which seem to have become prevalent these days. This is most probably because the internet makes it so easy to reach new, “naive” customers, who still trust organisations to do the right thing. Why do so many companies use overly attractive adjectives that their product or service can’t live up to? They are setting themselves up to disappoint their potential customers, especially if they don’t register what comes after that word before buying.
Massive, mouth-watering, heart-stopping, mind-blowing, huge discount, best price ever; most of the time the products are not, which is probably why they feel they have to use such words. Customer centric companies don’t use these claims unless they can substantiate them.
One area that often suffers from exaggeration is packaging. How many packs have you opened to find the product sitting miserably in the lower half of it? What a disappointment from the promise of the packaging. Or worse still in my opinion, are companies whose packs have been discretely reduced in contents over time. Companies may print the weight of the product that is inside the pack, but customers recognise and buy the pack without checking its weight each time they buy.
What is particularly offensive in this example is that it is the company’s most loyalcustomers who are being cheated. The company reduces the pack’s quantity but not its price; they are getting a price increase without informing their customers. That isn’t customer centric.
Another area that often suffers from exaggerated claims is price value. I was recently offered access online to a video “worth more than US$ 997” for just US$49.99. I don’t know any videos, even those of the classics or Oscar-winning films, that are worth that amount, and certainly no such offers proposed on the internet.
To paraphrase the infamous quote of Oliver Platt:
“Value is in the eye of the beholder, not the seller” (>>Tweet this<<)
How are you pricing your own product and service offerings? Do you base it on company cost or customer value? If not the latter, you may also be leaving a lot of money on the table, as your offer might actually be worth more than you are charging for it. The most important information you need to decide on your price is what your customer is prepared to pay for it; that is what value is all about. Customer centric companies know and apply this on a daily basis
Promising but not delivering
Airlines are renowned for this, especially the low-cost ones. They advertise flights at ridiculously low prices that few, if any, end up paying, since you need to add on the cost of paying by credit card, booking your seat, taking a bag on board etc. etc. Yes the advertised price attracts attention, but once you have made a few attempts at reserving these low prices, you underst and the “game” and compare before buying. And most of the time the “normal” airlines are cheaper. As I’m sure you’re heard many times and to quote Thomas (Tom) J. Peters:
“The formula for success is to under-promise and over-deliver” (>>Tweet this<<)
Amazon and Zappos are two companies who regularly do this; in fact it’s a part of their business model. They occasionally provide priority delivery at no extra cost, as a delightful surprise for their customers. Amazon also proposes useful suggestions of other books, music or other products to buy whilst you are surfing their website to purchase something. Yes, I know it is in their interest to get you to buy something else, but it is a service and highly valued by most people. Customer centric behaviour is always a win-win for both the customer and the company.
You subscribe to a service on a free trial basis, or a one-off monthly fee as many Telecom companies now offer. What you don’t notice or remember, is that it is automatically renewed at the end of the trial period unless cancelled. Yes I know it’s written in the terms and conditions or at the very bottom of the online page if you scroll down, but I don’t read font 8 very easily, even with my glasses! And be honest, none of us reads to the very end of the terms and conditions, and the companies that use this tactic are counting on it.
Of course, when you are informed that your subscription has been renewed, you realise what has happened and immediately cancel, with hopefully only a one month and not an annual unwanted payment. Yes the company has gotten a payment it probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, but they certainly didn’t make us a loyal and happy customer, did they?
If you are using this type of “hidden selling” to get customers, please stop. Customer centric companies invite people to continue their subscription, perhaps at a special price. In this way they will get almost as many customers, but they will most certainly be happier and more likely to continue to purchase from them.
These are just a few examples of how companies are intentionally aiming to get customers to buy something that is not worth the money being asked in many cases. If the product or service they propose did offer true value, then people would buy or repurchase without the need for such tricks. As Peter Drucker said:
“The aim of marketing is to know and underst and the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself” (<<Tweet this<<)
I would go one step further and say that it is the aim of customer centric businesses.
With today’s ease of sharing experiences on the web, why do companies continue to try to cheat unsuspecting customers? It is most definitely a short-term business strategy. Unhappy customers used to tell ten people, now they tell tens of millions, with a simple Tweet. And if there are several unhappy customers who Tweet about similar experiences, then others will start to see the trend and become wary. Whilst there will always be a few disgruntled customers who complain, more than that will highlight a real issue.
This reminds me; I hate doing it but I am one of the people who have tweeted about poor customerservice because I am not getting an answer when using the provided phone and email contacts. Customer service is all about taking the customers’ perspective (>>Tweet this<<) and offering multiple ways to be contacted and then responding quickly. Companies do respond to negative tweets, usually in record time and certainly faster than connections by other means. Why are companies forcing their customers to go public with their dissatisfaction to get heard? Most would be happy and would probably prefer to share their complaints with the company in private – IF they get a quick response.
So coming back to my question, the answer is a resounding yes. Most companies now speak about the importance of being customer centric, but so many of them are still doing many of the practices mentioned above, which are most definitely NOT customer centric behaviour. Are you one of them? Do you have other examples that you yourself have experienced? Why not share them here?
C³Centricity used images from the ASA in the UK, Dreamstime and Microsoft in this post.
Two posts caught my eye this week as they both referred to the importance of multi-channel communications.
If you are looking for inspiration and new ideas in this area, then read on. In particular we will speak about the often forgotten opportunity for communicating through packaging.
The first article was by Jim Tierney at Loyalty360 in which he commented on the results of a new survey in the USA by IBM, concerning cross-channel integration. The research found that
“Only 35% of leading marketers currently integrate their campaigns across all channels, with 8% indicating they are not currently integrated at all. In comparison, only 12% of the remaining marketers surveyed currently integrate their campaigns across all channels, with 39% saying they are not currently integrated at all”.
The other post on the same topic was from Ginger Conlon, Editor-in-Chief at Direct Marketing News. In it she spoke of the recent Responsys Interact2013 event and the keynote speech by Scott Olrich Responsys’ President:
“Most marketers still cling to blast campaigns,” he said. “Smart marketers focus on digital and addressable.”
They’re now able to deliver on the promises of personalization made 10 years ago, Olrich added.
Why is doing so important? Customers today expect personalization, choice, and value—because they get it already from leaders such as Amazon, which is one company creating personalized experiences at mass scale.
One way to do this? Flip the model, said Steve Krause, SVP of product management at Responsys. Today most marketers start with the campaign, create an offer, schedule it, and send to mass audience; instead, Krause said during his presentation, marketers should start with customer, build profiles, design experiences, and personalized interactions.
As a customer centricity specialist myself, I particularly like Steve’s comment about starting with the customer. Do we still need reminding that this is the first business essential today? Perhaps we do. However, neither article spoke about the opportunity of communicating through packaging, so I would like to add my own thoughts.
I wrote a post last year about the opportunity packaging provides to connect directly with customers at the critical point of product trial. In that post, I gave some good examples from Kellogg’s Pringles and Nestlé’s Nutritional Compass. I include them below for completeness.
This time I would like to add a couple of other interesting examples I have come across recently, where the messaging has become even more personalized.
Inspiring Examples of Pack Communications
Pringles goes from allaying a negative to a full blown campaign
Who doesn’t know Pringles, the br and of potato- and wheat-based stackable snack crisps sold in 2012 by P&G to the Kellogg Company?
Pringles started using the freshness seal to communicate to their consumers, by printing “Bulging with flavour” to explain the swollen lid. At the time I was fascinated by the fact that Pringles had been able to turn what might have been perceived as a negative (bulging lid = altered product inside) into a positive, through this simple message.
Today, I am even happier to report that since then, Pringles have turned that short message into a full promotional campaign for the brand.
Food & Beverage manufacturers become more transparent
Nestlé has been communicating on-pack concerning the ingredients of their products since 2005. According to their website, the “Nutritional Compass” provides their consumers with four valuable pieces of information:
standardized nutrient table
“Good to Know” panel explaining ingredients or nutrients relating to the product
“Good to Remember” panel with tips for responsible product enjoyment
“Good to Talk” panel with contact details and links to consumer services.
By the end of 2008, they were claiming that its Nutritional Compass had been added to 98% of its global product packaging by total sales volume.
Arguably more appealing today, many other food & beverage companies have started using infographics to share similar information.
One example from :OTVETDESIGN in Russia and included in an interesting post at PATH, is from Selizharovo Cannery.
Selizharovo is using this approach to communicate the contents of its products, with clean and concise graphics that are an integral part of the branding. Innocent do something similar, but only for the list of their ingredients on the side panel.
By making the ingredient list so visual and key to the packaging execution, the brand projects transparency, honesty and authenticity – all important attributes for consumers tired of recent scandals concerning product misinformation. To read the full post and see more packaging examples using infographics, click HERE.
Newer, more personalized messaging
Recent uses of packaging for direct connection with the customers, show an exciting and much more personalized approach.
For example, Coca-Cola is putting people’s names on its bottles and cans this summer as part of its ‘Share a Coke’ campaign.
They will be printing the most popular names in each country, or using a simple “Him” and “Her” label, when this is not possible.
Many banks offer their clients the possibility to personalize their bank or credit cards.
Although this has been true for many, many years, there seems to have been a recent revival in emphasizing this personalized alternative to the standard cards.
The often forgotten media channel
Packaging is a wonderful medium for communicating with your audience and yet many companies still seem to be ignoring it. My question to all marketers is therefore “Are you aware you are doing this?” I am sure many of you see packaging as purely a product protection mechanism or a facilitator of shelf impact. Whilst both of these are of course important, the opportunity of engaging with your customers whilst they are in the process of using your product has enormous value. Isn’t it time you took another look at yours?
If your company is effectively using its packaging to communicate more than just its ingredients or usage instructions, why not share it below and let your brand get the recognition it deserves and shine in the spotlight? We would love to see even more best-practice examples.
Most companies have issues with their products at times. Often they don’t immediately correct them unless they are considered to be significant and could have a direct impact on sales.
You could argue that this will always be the case eventually, so better resolve them as soon as they are identified. Some companies however are creative enough to turn what others might see as an issue into a competitive advantage. Let me give you a couple of examples.
Pringles Freshness Seal
Most consumers associate bulging lids and packs with a product that has deteriorated in some way. This is not at all the case of Pringles, for which a bulging seal under the plastic cap is a sign of freshness apparently, or at least is a normal phenomenon.
What I love about the br and is that whereas in the past the seal’s surface was used for communicating promotions and competitions, it is now used to send a positive message to their consumers about this situation.
On a pack I recently bought the seal was printed with the words “Bursting with flavour”. How is that for making a positive out of what might have been perceived as a negative? I love it! It adds to the br and’s image and also to the taste and pleasure expectations for the consumer who is about to open the pack. I can imagine that this came directly out of consumer insights, to answer a query about why the seal was always bulging, which as I already mentioned would usually be associated with a product that had “gone off”.
Heinz Tomato Ketchup
Another br and which has recently started using the “Bursting with Flavour” tag on their pack is Heinz. However I am not sure whether it has the same impact as it does on Pringles. Heinz started inverting their ketchup bottles in 2003, because their product was so thick it took time to slide down the bottle and onto the plate. This resulted in impatient consumers banging the bottom of the bottle, leading to the product being shaken out in a burst of splashes, not only on the plate but the consumer and tablecloth too! Perhaps this is where they got the original idea for the slogan.
Whilst I admire Heinz for putting different, and usually very relevant, messages on their ketchup bottles, the lastest one I saw didn’t live up to the others in my opinion. Why? Because the product is now much thinner and slides easily when the bottleis upturned. In fact it is so thin it doesn’t even need to be turned upside down anymore. As for bursting with flavour; it might have been appropriate in the past, but not any longer for this thin sauce. Pity.
The strange taste of Marmite
In contrast to Heinz, another well-documented example of a product that converted an issue to its advantage, is that of Unilever’s Marmite. Marmite claims to be a nutritious savoury spread, although non-Brits would describe it more as a very strange tasting concoction. Even UK consumers are divided in their opinion of it; they either love it or hate and there is apparently no half-way sentiment here.
Marmite created a very successful campaign around this love / hate relationship with the product which has now become a social phenomenon, and this divide has even been emphasised in their advertising and on the web. In the UK they even sell Marmite flavoured food – chocolate and cashew nuts – as well as br anded T Shirts, Kitchenware, Books, Cooking, Merch andise and more. How would you like your consumers to pay their hard earned money not only for your products, but for br anded promotional goods too?
In 2011, Unilever took the love / hate relationship into the kitchen, by developing and sharing simple recipes using Marmite for people who hate to cook. Each commercial of the campaign, called “Haute Cuisine, Love Marmite Recipes” ends with the “u” in Haute being blocked by a jar of Marmite, making “Hate Cuisine” and continuing the love / hate theme with which Marmite has become associated. If you would like to see some of the ads from the campaign, you can find them here and their website is www.marmite.co.uk .
These are just three examples of creative messaging but there are many more br ands that have turned a negative into a positive and made it an appealing competitive advantage. Does your br and have an issue and if so could you turn it into a strength? Do you have any other examples you can think of? I would love to hear about your ideas.
This post has been adapted from one first published on March 29th 2012
Customer centricity has many organisations buzzing in anticipation today. Everyone seems to be talking about it and saying how important it is to the success of their business.
We are all trying to satisfy our customers as best we can, but all too often we continue to take our own perspective, instead of theirs. Here are ten things your customers wished you knew about them.
#1. I’m sometimes irrational
Don’t ask me why I do what I do. Sometimes I don’t even know why I do things myself! If you really want to underst and me, don’t ask me questions, be a part of my life to underst and things from my own personal perspective.
#2. I like gifts
Yes I know I won’t tell you I bought something because I saw it advertised, but the promise of a gift really does help. We never get enough gifts, especially as an adult. Even if I know it is not that special, it makes ME feel special on an otherwise ordinary day, so go on, give me an unexpected treat.
#3. I like advertising
Yes I know I tell you it doesn’t matter, but I really do like watching some ads on television. Especially if they make me laugh or tell me something I didn’t know, or entertain me. I will watch them and even more than once, so your br and name might just be in my head when I next go shopping.
#4. I don’t like being taken for a fool
I know prices are going up all the time, but don’t try and fool me by putting less and less in the pack whilst maintaining the same pack size and price. One day I’ll notice and I won’t be happy – at all!
#5. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver
Also, don’t try to fool me by promising something on the pack you can’t or don’t deliver. OK you need to make your product or service look appealing to me, but if you over-promise and under-deliver it will only make any negative feelings I might have become even stronger. Even if I buy once, it’s doubtful that I’ll buy again if you have disappointed me.
#6. I’m just not that into you
With very few exceptions that I am really passionate about, most products and services I buy satisfy a need that I am looking to fulfil. There are usually choices available to me, so don’t take my loyalty for granted. Every purchase is a decision for me, so make it easy by always satisfying my continually exp anding needs. If you don’t, one of your competitors can probably do just as good a job as you do.
#7. Don’t confuse me with statistics
Whether it is offering different pack sizes at differing prices, or calculating fat / sugar content by weight instead of calories, I check your maths with my smart-phone today. I believe I should get larger sizes for less money per gram, and lower fat / sugar content for less calorie intake. I will check your claims, so don’t play the numbers game with me.
#8. Be happy when I complain
If I complain about something it means I care. You should be happy that I care enough to actually tell you when I am dissatisfied. Make it easy for me to contact you, give me a choice of mediums and make damn sure you satisfy me completely when you listen and respond. I will not only take my business elsewhere if I am unhappy with your response, but will probably tell the whole world about it on social media too.
#9. Respect my ignorance
I like to know what you are offering me. What ingredients you use; where they come from; are they from sustainable sources; can I trust you? Give me the information I need, when I need it. Don’t bombard me with too much, or hide less positive things from me. Discuss with me as an equal, don’t talk down to me, after all I pay your wages.
#10. Be thankful I’m not satisfied
I know I may sometimes be a pain, but be thankful that I buy from you, tell you what I think of it and ask for more, better, larger, smaller etc etc. My need for constant change and improvements will challenge you to greater things and if you satisfy my rational needs and emotional desires, I might just stay loyal. Oh yes, and don’t believe everything I say; as I said in the beginning I can be irrational, so underst and not what I am saying, but what I mean by what I say.
What are your customers saying to you? Are you listening? No-one knows them better than they do themselves, even if they don’t know how to express what they are feeling / thinking in many cases. They might not always know what they want, but they can always tell you what they don’t want.
What have you heard lately? Please share the surprising comments your have listened to recently.
Last week I spoke about how companies can become more customer centric, but in ways that will differentiate them from their competitors. This week I want to give some more concrete examples of actions, inspired by the latest results of McKinsey’s recent survey on the economic outlook.
As their chart below shows, whilst sovereign-debt defaults, economic volatility and geopolitical instability are considered to potentially be the biggest threats globally, low consumer dem and continues to be seen as the greatest barrier to business growth at a local level.
This has been the case in the last six months of results, so I thought it would be a good time to share some thoughts on what organisations can do to offset this (potential) threat to their renewed growth.
# 1 Customers
This should be the starting point for all strategy and plan development, but is so often only an afterthought. Tough times have a nasty habit of showing up an organisation’s incomplete or total lack of underst anding of their target customer. If there are any areas of your customers’ life of which you do not have a deep underst anding, including how they are likely to react in turbulent times, then this must be what you start to investigate, before going to the other five points.
Are your customers pretty resilient to price? Do they often switch br ands, products or outlets? Are they portfolio purchasers or highly loyal? The answers to these questions and more, will help you to be better prepared for tight times and to know how to respond to their specific needs better than anyone else.
# 2 Value
Many companies have reacted to lower sales by reducing price and increasing promotions. In most cases, this has been a waste of time, unless they have always been selling at a price higher than their value. If you don’t know what your customers believe is your true value to them, then you need to run some research urgently to find out, and only then, if your value is below your current price, should you consider either of these actions.
# 3 Offer
In an attempt to maintain pricing, some other organisations have been reducing the size or quality of their products and services, usually without making this clear to their customers. Whilst this might work in the short term, your customers eventually look at the details of the pack content or their service agreement, and realise they are no longer getting what they thought they were. This will both annoy them and make them lose trust in your company; you are at risk of also losing their business too, sometimes forever.
Instead of making reductions in your current product, why not empathise with your customers by offering smaller packs or reduced services for a lower price. In this way, should they decide to switch, it will at least be to another of your products / services, so they can remain loyal and hopefully return to the offering they previously purchased, when times become less difficult. You will also be building their trust and appreciation of your company and br and, by showing them that you underst and their pain and have searched to find a relevant solution.
# 4 Promotion
As previously mentioned, some companies are offering cheaper prices if a customer is willing to buy more of the product, as in a BOGOF or “3 for 2” promotion. Whilst this may make the price per unit less, it is also asking the customer to actually spend more than he / she usually does on the product.
A much better way, especially for companies manufacturing products in multiple categories, is to offer bundled products. In this way you are not necessarily asking your customers to buy more, just differently, whilst also giving some of them a chance of buying a product that they may not as yet have tried. A wonderful win-win for you both.
# 5 Outlet
As customers become more sensitive to what and at what price they are making purchases, many will have decided to shop around or even change outlets. This means you need to stay connected to them and monitor their place of purchase in order to react should their habits change.
# 6 Communications
Are you one of the marketers who has faced a budget cut in the recent past? Unfortunately, when organisations are looking for money, advertising is often one of the first budgets to be cut. In the short term this often goes unnoticed, but by the time the reduction has an impact on sales, as it will, the slippery slope of share decline is often too difficult to reverse.
A much better reaction to hard times is to maintain or even increase advertising, since it can often be bought at a discount, due to lower dem and. Therefore you can get even more for the same budget and also increase awareness due to less competition and thus also a higher share of voice.
Have you already started thinking about what you can do to offset your own customers’ lower dem and for your products and services? Do your actions include any of the above, or have you decided on a different approach? Either way, we would love to hear about it; why not share your own story below?
One of my recent posts was prompted by a pack of Pringles, where the freshness seal was printed with the words “Bulging with flavour” to explain the swollen lid.
You may remember that I mentioned being fascinated by the fact that Pringles had been able to turn what might have been perceived as a negative (bulging lid = altered product inside) into a positive, through this simple message.
In today’s world of social media, most companies are jumping onto the latest craze and extending beyond the creation of br and websites, to Facebook pages, Twitter and many other forms of online / on-the-go communication. It was therefore a double pleasure for me to see a company making use of its most intimate form of communication to its customer, that of its packaging.
Nestlé adds valuable information on pack
If I am not mistaken, Nestlé was one of the first companies to see the value in communicating not just promotional content on its website, but actually providing useful information to its consumers on its packaging. According to their website, the “Nutritional Compass” provides their consumers with four valuable pieces of information:
a st andardised nutrient table giving amounts per 100g, per serving and as a percentage of Guideline Daily Amount;
a “Good to Know” panel explaining ingredients or nutrients relating to the product, such as fat, sugar, fibre or calcium content;
a “Good to Remember” panel with tips for responsible product enjoyment and its place in a daily balanced diet;
a “Good to Talk” panel with contact details and links to consumer services, websites and other materials.
Nestlé started working on this initiative back in 2004 and by the end of 2008, they were claiming that its Nutritional Compass had been added to 98% of its global product packaging by total sales volume. This is an incredible achievement in such a huge and diversified company, and shows what can be achieved with passion and dedication.
The often forgotten media channel
Packaging is a wonderful medium for communicating with your audience and yet many companies seem to be ignoring it, whilst at the same time significantly increasing their investments in online media.
My question to all marketing people is therefore “Are you aware you are doing this”? I am sure many of you see packaging as purely a product protection mechanism or a facilitator of shelf impact. Whilst both of these are important of course, the opportunity of engaging with your customers whilst they are in the process of using your product has enormous value. Isn’t it time you took another look at yours?
If your company is effectively using its packaging to communicate more than ingredients or usage instructions, why not share it below and let your br and get into the spotlight?