What’s your brand backstory?

The accelerating nature of technology and media convergence will have a resultant entropic effect relating to the perception of “brand” within and outside an organization. This premise will underpin several forthcoming blog posts. This blog post will discuss how this entropic effect affects brand storytelling.

Craft your backstory

For easily a decade 1000Watt Consulting and Matthew Ferrara & Company have been challenging real estate organizations to define and embrace their unique stories. From executive tier discussions centering on core values and culture, previous and present technology choices, to operational issues, they have helped elevate their clients and the real estate industry at large in immeasurable ways. A decade of listening to these auteurs—accompanied at times with the privilege of sharing a dais here and there with them—has been particularly instructive around the concept of “brand.”

However, it was not until recently listening to Marc Davison (of 1000Watt) and Matthew Ferrara on two separate occasions that I fully realized some of the foundational constructs underlying a “brand,” particularly its “story.” Both occassions (at the Wothshop 5 and Leading Real Estate Companies of the World conferences) focused on the core elements of storytelling and brand narratives. In particular, Davison elucidated the power of the backstory of a brand in his unveiling of the new Harry Norman Realtors web and mobile presence (soon to launch publicly). What I took away from his presentation is that the backstory of a brand functions as an anchoring element and values-driven catalyst to all facets of a brand’s expression—internally (privately) and externally (publicly). It’s the backstory of a brand that is one of the most critical components of ensuring brand consistency across the new media convergent universe.

Media convergence theory posits that:

[C]hanges in communications and information technologies reshape and change everyday life, altering patterns of creation, consumption, learning, and interpersonal interaction. New technology redefines media content and alters human interaction with social institutions such as government, education, and commerce. citation

Implicit within this definition is the concept of entropy. And as the impacts of media convergence continue to manifest (e.g., more time spent on media and devices than there is in a 24-hour day ) the potential for attenuated, particlized, and repulsive effects on brand messaging increases. Without some tethering or unifying aether, brand continuity will decrease, brand consistency will atrophy, and consumer trust of your brand will wither.

So what is this unifying aether? The backstory of your brand.

A useful definition of backstory is:

[A] history or background created for a fictional character in a motion picture or television program…similar background information about a real person or thing that promotes fuller understanding of it. citation

The latter half of this definition is the salient element for branding considerations. This element was poignantly made clear by Davison as he discussed the brand-level archetypes and triptych-like features of the new Harry Norman branding with the audience at the 2016 Leading Real Estate Companies of the World conference. While touring a branch office, he noticed a portrait of Emmaline Norman, who founded the company in 1939. Inspired, Davison began digging into the historical record and story of the company, unearthing several core values and cultural facets (artifacts?) that implicitly grounded the company from its inception. From these facets, 1000Watt created linguistic and visual narratives that described and framed the company in a new light. This revitalized linguistic and visual symmetry, interacting holistically, created the backstory for a new expression of the Harry Norman brand.

So how does this backstory ameliorate the potential negative or complicating impacts of media convergence? In its purest, elemental nature this backstory is device, medium, and platform agnostic. And this is the crux of the argument. In this elemental form, the backstory remains unaltered and unaffected by accelerating changes in media and technology. The brand backstory operates as a sustainable catalyst for consistency and continuity around your brand.

Photo credit: Very Quiet

Ten Mobile User Experience Issues Affecting Your Brand

mobileUX-brand

“Mobile first.” “Mobile only.” These are grand visions and mantras bandied about at industry conferences, consultancies, and within the confines of many brands’ marketing departments. What issues and implications ought a brand consider when undertaking an mobile-first initiative? What issues drive a consumer experience where the user truly is mobile-only in her mindset? How have brands like Burberry, Durex, Macy’s, Google, and Movistar leveraged mobile to create a mobile user experience that enhances their brand reputation with their targeted audiences? This lecture delves into these issues:

Some top considerations and implications discussed in the lecture:

  • Whether to design for HTML5 or native app
  • “Real time” personalization is becoming a consumer expectation
  • Native apps still give brands the most control over consumer experience
  • Consumer “experience” is more than a mantra, it’s a core value, a philosophy

How big data and statistical teams support brands that operate as media publishers and producers

David Armano of Edelman Digital, in this post, makes a compelling argument that brands will have to create and nurture internal team structures that resemble big media companies so as to deliver compelling and meaningful marketing in the future.

In his post, Armano describes what he calls “the social-creative newsroom” and discusses how Oreo has incorporated this concept:

Oreo has done with its Daily Twist initiative, where in honor of the cookie’s 100th anniversary, agency teams get together daily to decide how to riff off of relevant, often newsworthy, subjects that, by day’s end, produce a new piece of clever, highly shareable visual content that’s sent out into the digital ecosystem.

This social-creative newsroom process that Armano describes has synergies with SCRUM software development. Indeed, the social-creative newsroom process–as embodied in the Oreo use case–is essentially a “SCRUM creative development” process.

Armano identifies three core roles of the creative newsroom: community managers, editors, and creative producers. I would suggest adding a big data and statistical (“BDS”) team to support the creative output. The BDS team is responsible for delivering the necessary daily or hourly input that the creative team needs so as to make logical, informed, and timely decisions in their daily creative SCRUM.

For example, the BDS team could provide input such as semantic analysis, characterization, and categorization of Twitter hashtags, which could aid the creative SCRUM team in responding to positive, negative, or neutral brand sentiment as it relates to a branding campaign. Similarly, the BDS team could perform spatial-temporal data analysis of social media, which could support immersive mobile experiences delivered via a native app. For example, refer to section 7.6.4 in the latter cited paper and imagine a series of rich media delivered to users via NFC on their smartphones when the user is at a particular locus (e.g., Big Ben or the Palace of Westminster). Now imagine if the rich media content was personalized based on a user’s identified interest categories (e.g., a military history buff would receive rich media content tailored to his or her interest).

The possibilities and applications of a BDS team are virtually limitless, which is why the creative-social newsroom (or nerve center) needs to drive the creative SCRUM process. The newsroom provides guidance, context, meaning, and consumer relevance to the input provided by the BDS team.

Related posts: Creating agile entrepreneurial teams promotes creativity and innovation , Creating a culture of creativity and innovation

Photo credit: aussiegall

 

Location based services yield more accurate rankings than algorithms used by top review-ranking sites

It’s always fun to find cutting edge research that—when applied—has the potential to disrupt established business models. The subject matter of this research (.pdf download) has the potential to do just that: disrupt review-ranking services like Yelp and Zagat.

The researchers point out several negatives with these review-ranking services: they’re subject to expert bias, spoofing the system (i.e., marketers posting the reviews as opposed to genuine users), etc. As an alternative model the researchers developed a service called “SocialTelescope” which leverages location based services to track user interactions.

SocialTelescope used geo-tweets generated by Twitter users who also used services like Foursquare to discern popularity of locations. The basic premise is that the more check-ins a place has the more popular it is. Users are not taking any other action aside from checking-in to demonstrate their vote for a place.

Understandably, there’s also a qualitative issue to address: even though someone checked in they may still have hated the experience and, thus, a review site is more accurate (the premise being that a purposeful and explicit action taken by a user is more meaningful and accurate). However, the researchers tackled this issue by focusing on a inferred methodology:

 SocialTelescope does not consider all users to be the same, when computing popularity of a location. Instead, users are assigned a score based on their expertise on the search keyword. For a given search key- word, SocialTelescope assigns expertise scores to users as the number of times that user has visited any place that matches the search keyword. The intuition behind computing expertise is that, say, when ranking restaurants that serve seafood, people who visit lots of seafood restaurants can be considered seafood connoisseurs, and so their choices can be given a greater weight.

The researchers compared their results against the review-ranking sites and found that SocialTelescope was at least as accurate as these sites. The potential for disruption resides in the fact that a new company can now leverage location based services at a fairly low cost and return results that are just as accurate as their competitors. Thus, the barrier to entry in this space has been significantly lowered. I highly recommend everyone who is an analysis junkie to read the entire paper, as the researchers have done an excellent job describing their methodology and made great use of visuals.

Photo credit: TechCrunch

 

Privacy expectations regarding mobile apps, insights through crowdsourcing

This research article, written by a consortium of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Rutgers University, outlines core issues related to users’ expectations regarding privacy and mobile apps. The researchers used the concept of mental models to frame their study.

Here’s how the researchers describe “mental model”:

All people have a  simplified model that describes what people think an object does and how it works (in our case, the object is an app). Ideally, if a person’s mental model aligns with what the app actually does, then there would be fewer privacy problems since that person is fully informed as to  the app’s behavior. However, in practice, a person’s mental model is never perfect.

The researchers posited that when there’s a disconnect between a user’s mental model as to how an app operates with respect to information users would regard as private (e.g., location or contact records) users view such an operation as illegitimate and, thus, a breach of privacy. To address this issue the researches formulated a new concept in mobile privacy called privacy as expectations, where they determine these expectations via crowdsourcing. Previous research has focused on using automated analysis to discern users’ privacy thresholds. But the researchers argue that this purely analytical method is flawed and, thus, proposed a crowdsourcing model.

The end result of their study yielded a proposed interface when downloading apps:

Figure 2 from research article

Having a clear and concise understanding of privacy issues relating to apps during download (like Figure 2 above) improves a user’s experience. Using such an interface gives users notice and choice. I agree with the researchers that this model of displaying privacy issues related to downloading mobile apps is a bit of a break-through in regards to the issue of users’ controlling their privacy, and deciding when and under what circumstances to give up their privacy.

Photo credit: Michael Francis McArthy

Mobile app ecosystem allows real estate brokerages to deliver excellent consumer experiences

Over the last year or so there’s been an ongoing and well-publicized debate between proponents and opponents of real estate property listing aggregators and whether brokerages have ceded too much “control” over the consumer relationship to these entities. In my mind this is a debate with no clear winner and no clear loser, as both sides make excellent and valid arguments. This wonkish debate can continue, but it’s time for brokerages to take action within the mobile environment.

It’s clear that some real estate property listing aggregators have done an excellent job with presenting real estate related information in a novel manner. Many of these aggregators are well-capitalized, have taken SCRUM software and product development to new levels, and continually evolve. These companies have done a really great job monetizing the consumer and agent experience within their brand environment. As such, these entities have seemingly taken ownership over brokerages’ property listings, the consumer experience, quick response times, and engaged and informative customer service. They are a seeming Juggernaut of continued market dominance.

Yes, these entities have garnered a significant piece of consumer mindshare since 2005. But this continued quasi-dominance will not continue forever. And to this point, brokerages need to stop focusing on and obsessing over what the property listing aggregators are doing. Brokerages need to look inward. Brokerages need to look to their core values and creativity as a brand and build on those values and that creativity. Last time I looked real estate brokerages still have the same opportunity as aggreagators to delight consumers with an exceedingly excellent experience, and continue to deliver on this experience, thus gaining customers for life. When brokerages consistently deliver on this value proposition, consumers “reward” them with their business and referrals. Real estate is a still a local, relationship-driven business.

I will concede the point that some property listing aggregators have brilliantly leveraged brokerages’ property listing assets and created compelling social+web+mobile presences. But brokerages have always had an opportunity to similarly deliver something unique, compelling, and useful to consumers. The Internet is the Great Leveler of the Playing Field. Given this, what should brokerages focus on now in their drive to deliver an excellent experience? Build another listings portal? Embrace Facebook as a primary advertising venue? Build a kick-a$$ mobile app? Here’s a proposed answer: brokerages should consider all of these tactics, but should focus on creating a series of mobile apps that leverage a rich database of property, demographic, lifestyle, neighborhood, and predictive information.

According to this Mashable article, mobile is the ascendant platform of choice for consumers. Thus, brokerages should focus now on leveraging this platform. Brokerages should define what is “broken” (with the consumer experience value chain) with mobile apps released by the various real estate listings aggregators. Similarly, brokerages should define what’s “right” with these apps. Disregard or “fix” what’s wrong, and make better what is right. In other words, “build a better mouse app.” ;-D Next, brokerages should analyze what Sawbuck Realty has done with its HomeSnap app, as this informs brokerages as to what makes a successful app. According to this Scobleizer interview, the HomeSnap app was the top real estate app on iTunes for a period of time. What makes the HomeSnap app so successful with consumers? Simplicity + Motivation. This is a concept proposed by Stanford University Professor BJ Fogg. The HomeSnap app is simple to use (take a photo and retrieve information about the home) combined with satiating a consumer’s curiosity—motivation—to “know” the details about a home (what was paid, what’s the history, etc), delivered in a manner that costs the consumer as little time as possible.

Simultaneously, brokerages should focus on building the richest database of home-related data thus created. This database would focus on compiling core up-to-date and ACCURATE property-related data, neighborhood-related data mashed up from several different data sources (like EveryBlock, NabeWise, StreetAdvisor, Walkscore, etc) and then normalized, combined with socialgraphics and demographics and psychographics (supplied by companies like Facebook, Acxiom, or Experian), and further enhanced by behavioral and predictive analytics. This database will power the mobile app ecosystem. This database could also power a website that’s very SEO-friendly and optimized for mobile, but the website is secondary to the mobile app. Sounds weird? Yes, to me too. But consumers are telling us with their purchase patterns and platform utilization patterns that mobile is precedent. Thus, brokerages need to play to this whim.

Finally, an integrated CRM would underlie this mobile app ecosystem for brokerages and agents to use. The key is for the mobile apps to tie directly to a CRM module so brokerages and agents have an opportunity to immediately respond to consumer inquiries. The mobile app ecosystem would promote collaborative CRM and drive consumer brand loyalty. And it is this latter point where the mobile app ecosystem has the ability to transcend—jump the chasm if you will—traditional modes of service delivery in the real estate industry. Brokerages are better able to control the overall experience via a mobile app. By allowing consumers to control their experience via personal settings (e.g., notification via text but not email, or notification via message pop-up but not text, etc), brokerages are tapping into the consumer DIY meme (i.e., having “control” over their brand experience). More importantly these behaviors not only inform brokerages as to how to segment their database for true one-to-one marketing opportunities but deliver an excellent service experience to the consumer when he or she decides to engage the brand. Integrate a mortgage services component and a transaction management and notification layer, and the experience gets richer. The consumer wins. The brokerage and its agents win.

Finally, what happens when a deal closes? A brokerage can give the consumer an option to continue the relationship across a variety of complimentary, meaningful, and informative channels such as refinancing opportunities or co-marketed offers with entities like Home Depot, Target, etc. If a brokerage has delivered an exceedingly excellent experience for a consumer through the entire home buying or selling process, that consumer has an incentive for the brokerage brand experience to continue. All delivered through the mobile app ecosystem.

The opportunity for brokerages is here just like it was in 2005 when the “age of the aggregators” dawned. And like then, brokerages can grab an opportunity now to deliver on consumer expectations.

Photo credit: w00kie

Collaborative CRM strategies and concepts

Collaborative CRM strategies offer firms unparalleled opportunities for establishing more meaningful relationships with their customers and clients.  Mobile CRM is closely aligned to collaborative CRM concepts. This research paper characterizes collaborative CRM as:

The notion of collaborative CRM is still in discussion and has two interpretations that are often mixed…The first is closely connected with communicative CRM and focuses on interaction channels (e.g. phone, fax, e-mail, self service portals) between a company and its direct customers. The second extends the CRM concept on the level of value chains and business networks. This approach consolidates concepts of networked organizations and marketing to enable the creation of customer relations and value at a network level by sharing or pooling of network resources and capabilities…It enables producers, distributors and service providers to extend their customer acquisition, retention and development beyond their company borders and even to involve the customer directly.

Fundamental concepts of Web 2.0 and the social web such as transparency, authenticity, trust, engagement, and listening underpin collaborative CRM concepts. Similarly, customers’ demands for immediacy and relevancy in communications further support collaborative CRM. And mobile technologies have the potential to be the catalyst to firms’ implementation of collaborative CRM practices. But as pointed out in the research paper mobile technologies are not a panacea for collaborative CRM. The researchers point out that to facilitate collaborative CRM goals, existing business processes must be redesigned so as to take advantage of the unique characteristics of mobile technologies while delivering additional value to customers. Many companies are simply using mobile technologies to deliver information in a one-dimensional manner (i.e., a messaging service) as opposed to a multi-dimensional manner.

The authors conclude with several recommendations to consider when setting up a collaborative CRM strategy:

  1. Set up appropriate customer segments, which allows firms to deliver individualized services
  2. The CRM system must integrate mobile data (mobile sales, mobile content usage, location based services, etc)
  3. Ensure customers understand that a firm’s mobile services offer enhanced value so they will make use of these services
  4. Firms should consider specialized mobile CRM data analytics platforms that integrate with core CRM systems because current core CRM platforms lack sufficient sophistication to account for mobile CRM data needs

Photo credit: The Lightworks

1) Set up appropriate customer segments, which allows firms to deliver individualized services
2) The CRM system must integrate mobile data (mobile sales, mobile content usage, location based services, etc)
3) Ensure customers understand that a firm’s mobile services of enhanced value so they will make use of these services
4) Firms should consider specialized mobile CRM data analytics platforms that integrate with core CRM systems because current core CRM platforms lack sufficient sophistication to account for mobile CRM data needs
Photo credit: The Lightworkshttp://www.flickr.com/photos/leonardlow/1142365603/