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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Are You Really “Recommending” That?
Brandweek reported this week on a Millward Brown poll in which, FedEx, Downy, Huggies, Tide, Tylenol and Toyota (study conducted in late 2009 prior to current quality problems) ranked highest in “Trust/Recommendation” among American brands.

I can perhaps understand that and FedEx continue to provide new solutions that consumers suggest to one another, and that young moms talk a lot to one another about things like diapers and baby formula, but I can’t imagine who is going out of their way to “recommend” products like Downy, Tide and Tylenol.  They probably are trusted, quality brands, but it’s hard for me to believe that folks are actually taking actions to “recommend” these products to friends, neighbors, relatives, co-workers and strangers.

Are people really asking for advice? Are these brands just coming up in conversation? Do we really mean “recommendation”?  It’s all difficult to comprehend.

Based upon our work we do know that parents “recommend” orthodontists to one another, and that a combination of online and offline word of mouth has a major impact on which colleges and universities high school students apply to and ultimately choose to attend.  We know that laser eye surgery can be a life-changing event that drives plenty of word of mouth.  We recognize that golfers recommend new club designs to one another and that brides and their parents write and talk to everyone they know (and some they don’t) about THE wedding reception.  We recognize that a good or bad visit to a hospital emergency room generates plenty of discussion.  But we just can’t imagine (unless the study respondents somehow were all included in some type of promotion or all belonged to Online Customer Community), where the motivation to speak or write about Downy, Tide or Tylenol would comes from, nor what drives the motivation to "recommend" such household products and provides the content for discussion.
1:03 pm est          Comments

Friday, February 5, 2010

Tropicana Juicy Rewards – Really delivering VALUE?
Tropicana just rolled out a new marketing effort called Juicy Rewards.  Company representatives characterize it as the largest marketing investment for its orange juice brand.  It’s a points based program that promises to reward purchase behavior.  The program strategy is reportedly driven by a survey in which “98 percent of participants said they wanted more value from the products and services that they buy”.   Tropicana further states that the program is “about engaging with them (customers) and building a relationship”. 

I could only shudder as I read the announcement.  There are a lot of smart people over at Pepsi and I can’t believe that someone hasn’t pointed out to the managers at Tropicana that customers are always in search of more value (in fact you have to wonder if the 2% who didn’t report that they wanted more value actually read the question before responding).  After all, as consumers we are always seeking “value” in one form or another.  If we aren’t getting some form of rational or emotional value in return, why in the world would we be willing to part with our hard earned dollars?

Perhaps the real question comes down to understanding value.  We encourage clients to think of value in the form of an equation.  The numerator including the entire product and service experience delivered by the brand, and the denominator being everything you give up to acquire the product or service.  In order to provide more value and thereby increase purchase behavior the company can either add to the numerator or reduce the denominator.  Sounds simple.  It’s not.

The “experience” in Tropicana’s case includes the look of the orange juice, the smell of the orange juice, the taste, the look of the packaging, the feel of the packaging, the memories that are stirred by the packaging, the feelings created through advertising, the freshness of the product, the availability of the product, experiences with Tropicana customer service at headquarters, and more.  The denominator surely does include price, but  for a product like Tropicana orange juice it could also include any special effort required of the customer in finding a convenient location to buy the brand, any negative reactions they would encounter from their family upon changing brands, and any risk that might feel personally in switching brands.

When you consider all that you might wonder what, as the market leader, Tropicana is hoping to gain from a points program. How valuable are those points really going to be?  Exactly what behavior is this program attempting to drive?  Considering that the company admits that it doesn’t expect current customers to buy any more orange juice as a result of the program, why are they making the investment (remember they’ve characterized it as the largest marketing investment ever for the brand)?  Do they expect that the customers of their competitors will make a switch to Tropicana (perhaps even pay a higher price) to be part of Juicy Rewards?  (Based on what has been announced to date it sounds like rewards will come in the form of discount coupons to be used for active lifestyle goods and services.)

One final thought.  I always challenge the creators of points programs like this to prove that they have delivered a reasonable ROI.  In most cases we hear about how much product participants in the program buy.  But weren’t those largely loyal customers purchasing even before the points program?  Did the points program really provide incremental sales?  New customers?  How do those incremental sales compare to the dollars (and time) spent to fund the points program? 

I seldom get answers to those questions. 

It’s difficult for me to envision a scenario in which Juicy Rewards will truly build “relationships” with customers.   It’s even more difficult to believe that it will produce an acceptable ROI.

9:49 am est          Comments

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